By Kyle Lovern
October 3, 2013
There are many Cincinnati Reds fans in the area and most of them were extremely upset or felt sick after Tuesday night’s loss in the one game wild card playoff to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Social media was lighting up during the game with many negative comments. I agreed with most of them.
First, Dusty Baker may be the most overrated manager in major league baseball. The Reds were not ready for the game and played with no heart. They have no leadership and that all starts with the manager.
Baker needs to be sent packing.
The Reds limped into the one-game playoff with the Pirates. First Pittsburgh swept them in the final 3-game series of the season to gain the home field advantage in the wild card playoff. (I think it should be the best 2-out-of 3, but that’s a story for another day.)
Then it was announced last Friday that the Reds best starter had a bone chip in his elbow and would not be able to pitch in the game. Baker had to know this. So, why didn’t he save Homer Bailey for the game? Bailey has pitched great against the Pirates including throwing a no-hitter versus the Central Division rival.
Or, throw seasoned veteran Bronson Arroyo or even steady Mike Leake. Instead, Baker chose Johnny Cueto, who has been on the disabled list most of the season. Then the first reliever he brings in is Sean Marshall, another pitcher who has spent most of 2013 mending an injured shoulder.
Then Baker decided to bat Ryan Ludwick in the second spot in the order. Ludwick, who has also been injured, is more of a power hitter. He has came back strong from a severe shoulder injury, but he is not very fast.
The Reds have plenty of faster players that could have batted No. 2 in the lineup: shortstop Zack Cozart, who has been hitting well as of late, third baseman Todd Frazier or lighting fast Billy Hamilton, who came up from Triple A and has won several games with his legs.
For some reason, Baker does not want to bat Joey Votto and Jay Bruce back-to-back. Apparently he thinks having two left-handed hitters batting third and fourth is not good, so he puts right-handed hitter Brandon Phillips in the cleanup slot. Phillips did get over 100 RBIs this season, but is a much better No. 2 hitter.
Then you have Joey Votto, who was the NL MVP in 2010, but last year suffered a bad knee injury. He has not returned to form. Votto only had 24 home runs and 73 RBIs. Not bad for a major leaguer, however Votto bats third in the lineup and needs to drive in runs.
Votto signed a 10-year, $225 million contract extension with the Reds, running through the 2024 season. Usually long-term contracts do not work out. The first baseman did not earn his salary this year. He seems to want to draw a lot of walks. He had a NL high 135 this year with a very high on-base percentage, but that is not what you want from your No. 3 hitter. He either needs to be moved to No. 2, or down in the lineup.
There was a short period when Baker batted Votto and Bruce back to back, and the Reds went on a winning streak during that stint. But, Baker went back to the old lineup. There is an old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Baker likes to tinker with the lineup and platoon players. The catching situation is a good example. Ryan Hannigan is a great defensive catcher, but his offense is not up to par. Devin Mesarco seems to hit well – when he gets to play in a few games. He did when Hannigan was hurt and started to hit more consistently. However, when he sits, he seems to get out of his groove. Many players are like that. Plus, Mesaroco’s defense improved as the season progressed.
The Reds front office will also have to decide if they want to resign Shin –Soo Choo in the off season. He had a great season for the Reds after coming over in a trade with the Indians for Drew Stubbs. But, he is a free agent and he will likely demand a huge contract. Will GM Walt Jocketty spend the money to keep Choo?
They could move him to left field and give Hamilton a full-time shot in center field. However, you never know about the Reds - especially Dusty Baker.
I think most Reds fans think the Reds underachieved this season and that Baker shoulders much of the blame. This team has enough talent to win it all, but many times they did not play with any heart or sense of urgency. That starts with the coaching. You need to light a fire under your team.
Baker is supposedly a “player’s manager” and that is not necessarily a good coaching style.
I have to agree. It’s time to send Baker down that dusty road and have a change in the Cincinnati dugout in 2014.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)