ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 4: Manger Dusty Baker #12 of the Cincinnati Reds exchanges line-up cards with manager Tony La Russa #10 of the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 4, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
I'm sure most of you are growing tired of the "All Star snub controversy." Much of the argument has run it's course. Still, Bernie Miklasz (STL Post-Dispatch) didn't mince words in his article posted yesterday in which he describes Dusty Baker as being "obsessed" with Tony La Russa. While Miklasz makes a compelling defense for La Russa regarding the All Star "snubs" situation, he also makes some claims that are a bit unfair to Baker and the Reds.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for Bernie Miklasz. His baseball coverage throughout the years will likely result with his inclusion in the baseball hall of fame. He was also kind enough to answer some questions for me (one year ago today) when I was writing at Blog Red Machine. Moreover, Bernie Miklasz is an all around good guy.
Nonetheless, a few things from the article need to be addressed.
POINT (MIKLASZ): "Baker's obsession honors La Russa...Even after he's gone, and out of the way as a threat in the NL Central, the Reds are obsessed with La Russa. They're still taking him on."
COUNTERPOINT (RR): Sure, Baker has a long history of making incendiary comments about Tony La Russa. But let's not kid ourselves, the feud between these two managers isn't a one-way street. This video from the MLB Network confirms that these two have been feuding for years, and La Russa has instigated his fair share of the fights. It is disingenuous to paint a picture where Dusty Baker is the "obsessive," jealous little brother while portraying La Russa as an innocent bystander, simply going about his business.
POINT (MIKLASZ): "After discovering that the NL All-Star team roster did not include Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips or Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, Baker became dispossessed of his mind."
COUNTERPOINT (RR): Dispossessed of his mind? All of us use hyperbole at times, but Baker hardly came off the hinges. In fact, his comments are fairly diplomatic and entirely logic. Baker told reporters, "A snub like that looks bad. Johnny and Brandon were at the center of a skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of the Cardinals who aren't there anymore are making some of the selections." Had Baker been, "dispossessed of his mind," he would've started preaching the virtues of on-base percentage and the belief that "clutch" is a myth.
POINT (MIKLASZ): "This is hilarious. The Reds are convinced that La Russa is out there, somewhere, plotting against them."
COUNTERPOINT (RR): Read Baker's comments again. His comments in no way suggest that he believes La Russa is "plotting against them." Is it really that unreasonable to think that La Russa still holds some ill will towards Brandon Phillips (called the Cardinals "bitches,") and Johnny Cueto (kicked Jason LaRue, ended his career)? Baker never said La Russa has planned revenge on the Reds. Instead, he's pointing out that two deserving All Stars were not selected by a manager who has a clear conflict of interests. Is it a conspiracy? No, but human beings are creatures of emotion. It's hard to believe that La Russa was completely objective when analyzing the merits of Cueto and Phillips.
POINT (MIKLASZ): "The bottom line? To fill his few available roster spots, La Russa did not give preferential treatment to players from his immediate past. No Cardinal was added via manager's choice. But La Russa did honor Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce by putting him on the NL squad... If La Russa was burning to disrespect the Reds, then why did he choose Bruce?"
COUNTERPOINT (RR): Jay Bruce is irrelevant to the accusation that La Russa was biased. No one is claiming the La Russa, "hates the Reds." The argument is that La Russa has good reason to view Cueto and Phillips in a negative light. The "skirmish," resulted from Phillips' comments, and ended with Cueto's kicks. We have no reason to think that La Russa dislikes Bruce, Votto, or any other Reds player. When the Reds visit St. Louis, which two players receive the loudest "boos" from the crowd?
POINT (MIKLAS): "If Baker wants to be mad, why isn't he raging against NL players who voted for Altuve instead of Phillips? I'm confused. If Phillips is so richly deserving, then why did the fans and the NL players snub him? Was this another conspiracy? Did the insidious La Russa find a way to fix the vote?"
COUNTERPOINT (RR): Fan votes and player votes are notoriously bad. We can't expect players to get it right. Does anyone really think players are combing through stats, working diligently to determine the most deserving All Stars? Players aren't even expected or required to vote on the merits of the player. They can vote for the friendliest players if they choose. The manager is expected to choose on merit.
POINT (MIKLASZ): "Instead of merely losing baseball games to La Russa, Baker may be losing his mind to La Russa."
COUNTERPOINT (RR): I'm far from a Dusty Baker apologist. In the grand scheme of things I don't think he is a good manager. Nonetheless, Baker leads La Russa 103-102 in head-to-head match-ups. Sure, La Russa has 3 World Series rings and Baker has none, but to suggest that La Russa has owned Baker over their careers is misleading. Also, as already noted, Baker isn't anywhere near "losing his mind," over the situation. I read a manager defending his players and speculating on La Russa's lack of objectivity, a perfectly reasonable response.