Slyde leaves and all the good posts suddenly dry up. If you're tired of reading a slow-loading thread about whether or not God exists, then let's talk about something really important. Will Dusty Baker screw up the Reds this year?
This is, of course, Dusty's final year under contract. He was brought in to win, but has yet to achieve a winning record. His team this season will again be light on offensive production, but it will have several talented youngsters that got significant playing time in the last few seasons. It will have a veteran, Gold Glove third baseman. The pitching should be some of the best the Reds have had this decade. Dusty's in a position to succeed, but is by no means assured of doing so. Any manager would be hard-pressed to be assured of a winning season with the roster the Reds will have. It could be good, but it's by no means automatically so.
Dusty likely has to win this season. Let's not forget that Walt Jocketty was not the GM when Dusty was hired. Jocketty hasn't seemed tempted to bring in his own manager to this point, but if the Reds endure a third straight losing season under their expensive manager, Walt can be forgiven for changing course.
With this added pressure, do you believe Dusty will manage his team differently? Or are you in the pessimistic camp that expects Dusty to make Dusty moves despite better alternatives? For instance, Drew Stubbs played well in center field last season, but will Dusty be tempted to play Willy Taveras in center instead? Willy is largely seen as one of Dusty's guys, and is, like Baker, owed $4 million this season. The Reds haven't brought in any "Dusty guys" this offseason, and many who were brought in in previous seasons (Corey Patterson, Jerry Hairston) are now gone. What are the chances that despite Taveras's dreadful season, he gets meaningful playing time in 2010?
And if Drew Stubbs does play, will he lead off? Should he lead off? He only posted a .323 OBP in the majors. He may or may not be the best option, but what about the #2 hitter? Dusty has time and again used his center fielder to lead off and shortstop to bat second, no matter who is playing there. It increasingly looks like the Reds will be going with Paul Janish at short, he of the career .290 OBP. Will the pressure to win or lose his job force Dusty to drop Janish in the order?
So what do you expect from Dusty? Will he alter his managerial style? Will he claim he wasn't given the resources to win (and is he right about that?)? Is the roster sufficiently Dusty-proof? Our hopes for a winning season may rely on this man's decision-making.