It’s too bad it took a mini-stroke for Dusty Baker to get a little bit of relief from his critics. Baker will be leading the Reds to their second postseason appearance in the last three years, but he’s far from beloved in town — he’s hardly even respected.
Managers across baseball are maligned, in part because every move can be and is instantly judged, blessed with hindsight. Twitter has made this practice even worse, because the 162-game marathon is instantly analyzed on a pitch-by-pitch basis. So what is a manager’s role? That’s a question I’m constantly coming back to and have yet to find a satisfying answer.
I recently polled several people in baseball about what makes a successful manager for an article at Baseball Prospectus, a website that studies various statistical analyses for its site, blogs and publications. There was no real consensus, as everyone has a different opinion, each influenced by one’s particular specialty. The word that got thrown around the most was “communication.” That communication can be from manager to player, player to manager, manager to general manager or even manager to coaching staff to player. It is in this particular category that Baker excels.
Of the comments about managers in general and Baker in particular, one stuck with me. It was from Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan said Baker is a “chameleon.” It’s true — there are few people I’ve been around who have the ability to meet a person and automatically make them feel comfortable. Baker can talk to just about anyone and find some common ground, be it about Jazz, Rock & Roll, history or, yes, even baseball.
“He’s getting his players to believe in an idea and a way of doing things that everyone’s on board with,” Hanigan said.
“He’s creating an attitude and he’s trying to congeal personalities, really. Every team has different styles and personalities and bring them all together.”
It’s also a shame that Baker wasn’t around to celebrate either the team clinching its second National League Central title under his leadership or Homer Bailey’s no-hitter, but both of those had his large fingerprints on them. While Cincinnati has a sizable baseball tradition, it should be noted the Reds have managed to make just 13 playoff appearances, and two of those have been under Baker. This is not to diminish the roles of Jim Bowden, Dan O’Brien, Wayne Krivsky and Walt Jocketty in assembling these teams, but Baker should be given his due in leading this team to the playoffs once again.
Thinking Out Loud
I’m guilty of it here too, in part because of how deadlines fall, but also by what I perceive as a lack of interest in this city. Once again it seems a large part of Cincinnati is missing the fantastic story that is the University of Cincinnati football team. The victory over Virginia Tech (which would have been better had the Hokies not lost to a bad PIttsburgh squad) gives UC a clear shot at an undefeated regular season. The Oct. 26 game at Louisville could be for a BCS spot. ... Munchie Legaux’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Damon Julien should have been on a constant loop in this town, but thanks to the Reds and Bengals, it was hardly a blip on the local landscape. ... Johnny Cueto won’t win the Cy Young, but he put together one of the finest seasons by a Reds pitcher in team history. Finishing the regular season 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA, he has the most wins by a Red since Danny Jackson’s 23 in 1988 and the lowest ERA of a qualified starter since Jose Rijo’s 2.48 in 1993. ... Anyone else remember those “Got Homer?” T-shirts people wore when a then-21-year-old Homer Bailey made his debut in 2007? There was so much hype around the right-hander so early that it’s easy to forget he’s still just 26. His no-hitter in Pittsburgh was something that seemed almost destined to happen at some point in his career, but I’m glad to see his hard work rewarded with that kind of moment. Two side notes about the no-hitter: Bailey was the fourth pitcher from the 2007 draft to throw a no-hitter, and the third this season. Justin Verlander (second overall pick) has two no-hitters, while Philip Humber and Jered Weaver both have no-hitters this season. Also, it was the seventh no-hitter of the season, tying the most in one year. The only other time there was seven no-hitters in one season was 1990. ... How will Chris Crocker fit on the field? That’s yet to be seen, but you better believe there were some happy people in the media when the Bengals brought back the veteran safety. In my career, there are few that have been as good to the media than Crocker, and none better.
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