I am finally going to take part in the whole blog stereotype by calling for someone’s job. I have yet to do it in all of my time as a blogger, but it needs to be done. Dusty Baker, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, needs to be fired. To make it even more clear, I’m not even a Reds fan, not at all. I live in Columbus, OH, so I get every Reds game on Fox Sports Ohio, but I usually just watch them if they are playing the Cubs or I see a guy on my fantasy baseball team up to bat.
Dusty Baker is like Godzilla destroying the Reds, one pitcher at a time. Last season, a lot of the experts expected the Reds to have a good season. Their pitching staff was rated as one of the best, since they had young arms like Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. The mood was high and every Reds fan was excited about the young arms and guys like Jay Bruce waiting in the minors waiting to be called up. Baker had success with the Giants and Cubs as the manager, even making it deep in the playoffs with both teams. After Baker left, it looked like a 100-foot lizard destroyed the entire franchise.
Let’s start with Baker’s destruction of young pitching. I would like to coin a word and say the “Bakerification” of a pitcher, which would be the utter and total annihilation of a young pitcher’s career. In San Francisco, Baker the only elite pitching prospect that the Giants had while he was manager was Shawn Estes. He was teh 11th overall pick in the 1991 MLB amateur draft. He made his pro debut in ’95, and had a great year in ’97 (19-5 3.18 ERA). He had a good 2 1/2 year run as an elite pitcher, but he fell off the face of the earth. Except one decent year in Colorado, he has bounced around as a 5th or spot starter. Baker used him and pushed him over 200 innings and kept him in games in which they were behind by a large number of runs.
In Chicago he had a full plate of young pitching prospects. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior being the best two young pitchers the Cubs had seen since Greg Maddux. They had high expectations and were going to be a great #1 and #2 starters for a long time. After the 2003 season, both pitchers were never the same. They have missed complete seasons each and have had a laundry list of arm problems. Prior hasn’t really pitched in the big leagues since and Wood was converted to a closer, but not as dominant as he once was (he is a closer for Cleveland and has a 4.72 ERA this season). The lone young pitcher that seems to be standing after the Baker era in Chicago is Carlos Zambrano. I think there must be some truth to the rumors that he is actually a zombie.
This all circles back to the present-day Cincinnati Reds. It was announced last week that Edinson Volquez underwent Tommy John surgery and could miss the entire next season, as well as the rest of this season. To add more fuel to the fire, Johnny Cueto has had arm troubles this season and he’s now injured with a hip injury. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang both had great season a few seasons before Baker became skipper, but the last two years they have been horrible. You can’t blame run support for their losses, since they have been sporting ERA around 5.00. So it’s not only the young pitchers who are prone to “Bakerification.”
You can’t blame GM Walk Jocketty for sticking with Dusty Baker. He was the man who hired Tony LaRussa in St. Louis, so he likes guys with winning experience. I think it’s time to let Baker go and find a man himself. The former GM Wayne Krivsky hired Baker as a last-ditch effort to save his job, kind of a desperate man’s final meal. He needed to make a splash, but he clearly had no plan for the future of the club. He was hoping that Baker could catch lightning in a bottle, but I think he more or less caught something else that needs some penicillin to clear up.
Once again, I would like to reiterate that I am not a Reds fan, I’m a Cubs fan, but I would like to see them competitive again. I have the same feeling about the Pirates too, but if both of those franchises ever get to a point where they are actually contending for the NL Central, I may not be too pleased. The Reds need to be blown up and get rid of guys like Harang and Arroya and build around some guys like Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and future-star Yonder Alonso. The start this process, fire Dusty Baker!