FanPost

Debating the merits of extending Dusty Baker

I really wasn't sure if this would be a comment, a FanShot, or a FanPost. For now, we'll see how it works out as a FanPost. Apologies in advance for the disorganization of what follows:

Reds.com says Baker is in extension talks.

Before this season, Dusty Baker was a pariah in Cincinnati. He mismanage(s/d) the bullpen, he mismanage(s/d) the lineup, and was(/is) partial to scrubby veterans and fast, single-tool center fielders. I am not sure that Baker's game management has necessarily improved. Gaffes this season include the early misuse of Ondrusek (against Albert Pujols) and other young rookies from AAA (so much for EDR), and the questionable use of Miguel Cairo as the first bat off the bench. Dusty may also deserve blame for Drew Stubbs getting too much playing time, but Stubbs is a reservoir of immense untapped potential, sort of like Jay Bruce (but not to that extent), which demands some PT. 

There have also been plenty of complaints from some corners of Reds fandom, including the one to which I subscribe, about the crazy late-game decisions Dusty has made this year, particularly the ones where Jonny Gomes and Orlando Cabrera get to play defense in the 9th inning of a close game. 

Are there reasons to re-sign Dusty Baker? It'd be a titanic struggle to find any that will convince a sabremetrician that Baker adds any value to the Reds. It's entirely possible that this season is a flash in the pan, and that an extension would be a death sentence for the Reds in the upcoming prime of Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. Dusty's inflexible role assignment of "Orlando Cabrera is the starting shortstop" and "the shortstop will hit second (unless it's that one guy)" may cost the Reds many wins in the future. Maybe I'm just looking through Dust-colored glasses since this year's Reds are successful, most players are exceeding expectations, and things generally feel like they're moving in the right direction. It's impossible, for me anyway, to figure out how much of the blame/credit can fairly be assigned to Baker.

Is it worth having an old-school manager if the players love him and it doesn't disrupt clubhouse chemistry (which appears to be playing a significant role this year for guys like Brandon Phillips)? If lineup optimization would win 2-3 more games a year for the Reds, how many wins is this worth

So you wake up in the morning, and if you do happen to read the newspaper, or check the Internet, you know that he's not going to throw you under the bus. That does two things: That gives you peace of mind to know that you don't have to look over your shoulder every time you make a mistake, and the other thing is you want to play for the guy. You want to play for him because he's got your back. He gives you more reasons beyond just doing your job to dig a little deeper, get a little more out of yourself.

If the best player on the team is extolling the peace of mind and extra incentive provided by playing for a player's manager like Baker, a viewpoint that seems to be universal in the clubhouse, is it worth it to suck up the game-managing mistakes for the high-level benefits of player comfort and extra effort? 

The Reds are 62-48 this August. If they (impossibly) continue to win and lose at this exact rate, they'll finish 91-71, which they did in the fabled 1990 Wire-to-Wire season. They're on pace to score the most runs (793) in a season since 2005, which doesn't mean much until you look in the runs allowed column, where they're on pace to give up 673, the lowest since 1995. Would you have taken a +120 run differential over 162 games (expected wins 94) before this season started?

I haven't made up my mind. I think replacing Baker after this season would upset quite a few Reds players that have really latched onto and bought into his leadership. Since they're winning with Baker, I don't see a reason to replace him. A manager is only responsible for so much - but if players lose faith in the organization that employs them, performance is sure to suffer. My thought is that with this team of mostly young players that are buying into something in Cincinnati that is resulting in winning ballgames, replacing Baker after this year will only lead to more angst next year when success could be maintained if Walt went out and signed a real SS/LF, or a few of the bats in AAA are ready to come be Chris Heisey p. 2.

So let's have the age-old debate: would you re-sign Dusty Baker, and for how long?

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