Chris Jaffe is releasing excerpts of his book Evaluating Baseball's Managers at The Hardball Times. Today, he looks at Dusty Baker, and even though it doesn't talk about his time with the Reds, I found this passage relevant:
Much of the commentary on managers (including, admittedly, much of this book) presents a reductionist view of their job, portraying a skipper as someone who has the same impact on all environments at all times. In reality, managers are better at some parts of the job than at others. Place a man in a situation that fits his strengths, and he will look like a savant. Put that same individual on a team that highlights his weaknesses and people will call him a dullard. Dusty Baker’s experiences with the Giants and Cubs provided ample evidence of this phenomenon.
Many of us knew that when Baker was brought to the Reds as a Big Name Manager™, he may not be a good fit for the team that he was given. I think we have seen that at times with him, especially in his first season when he declared that "this is Wayne Krivsky's team, not Walt Jocketty's and not mine" (that sentence still pisses me off). It is unclear to me whether this team is molding into "Dusty's team." There are some pieces that suit his style, but I'm not sure the team as a whole is "in his wheelhouse" as a manager.
The real issue that I see with Dusty, strategically, is that he seems to be very dogmatic in his commitment to a certain style of play, regardless of his personnel. I see very little creativity out of him. He seems to manage strictly to the book. That's not to say he can't be successful - obviously he has had success elsewhere - just that the pieces within the team need to be specifically aligned to his style in order to facilitate that success (plus it helps to have the best player in the game). The Reds might be able to get there with Baker, but given their lack of budget, I'm not all that confident that it will happen.
Rather than spending time talking about what Dusty does wrong though, let's talk about what the Reds need to add in order for Baker to be successful as the manager. What do you think the Reds should be doing to build a team that suits his style?