Thursday, April 28, 2005

FIRE DUSTY? (an incoherent rambling)

The answer might not always be in the next man in line.

Trust me, I feel your pain.

It's the bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Runners at the corners. Down three. With your season hanging in the balance, it all comes down to...Jose Macias? A situation that calls for a power hitter can not be executed because 'The Dust' wasted using Jason Du Bois in the sixth in a meaningless pinch-hitting situation.
You've seen it before, you've heard it before, and now you're fainting through it. The Chicago Cubs and their mismanagement: a season long heart attack, headache, and heartache!
Let's take Tuesday night's game for instance. Bases loaded, two outs, and the Dust brings in Jon Leicester to close out the inning? A man who's having head and arm troubles? Do you want to ruin a young man's career by putting him out there in a situation where a walk means a run, and probably his professional well-being?
What about consistently putting LaTroy Hawkins into situations that he can not excel in? Has the once great set-up man now lost all of his marbles due to mismanagement? Will he even work effectively as a set-up man again?
Or the slip-sliding movement of Corey Patterson in the batting this a way to handle a twenty-something phenom year after year after year?
And let's not get started on the handling of the starting pitchers, that can be for another day.
What about the mish-mosh of 'giving someone a day off'. I get the fealing Dust would MAKE Lou Gehrig sit if it were 1931!
Still hard truths on Dusty:

Through all of these well-mentioned remarks, the truth remains about Dusty Baker year after year: he's a winner. Yep. In that Tony La Russa-like 'I can't believe this :#%*@ wins all the time' he seems to always have more wins than losses.
Here are some facts on Dusty that we should remember from his managing past:

1. Dusty was NEVER supplied with great pitchers, and STILL won:
1993 starters from 103 win team: 1. Bill Swift, 2. John Burkett, then a rotating circus for the 3, 4, and 5 slots with these winners: Bryan Hickerson, Jeff Brantley, Scott Sanderson, Trevor Wilson, Buddy Black, Salomon Torres, and Greg Brummert. It should be noted that EACH of these guys had at least eight starts.
Example 2, 1997: 1. Shawn Estes, 2. Kirk Reuter, 3. Mark Gardner, 4. William Van Landingham?, and a rotating fifth hole.
It was only in 2000 and 2002 that Dusty began to get supplied with some pitching when the Giants worked Russ Ortiz into the rotation, and then in '02 with Jason Schmidt's uprising.
2. It's very tough to get on a man who has NEVER been in a situation where he didn't have a true closer. Rod Beck from '93-'97, and Rob Nen from '98-'02 were his closers. Dusty never had to really manage a 9th as much til now.
3. Many comment about Dusty's collapses or inablility to handle a pitching staff, but it should be noted that Dusty's winning % past Sept. 1st, exceeds his normal winning percentage: 58%-54%.

Some of these facts still may not convince you that Dusty Baker should be sticking around Chicago for the remainder of the 2005 campaign. But you must consider the Cubs' results in previous mid-year hires. Here are the past hires since the Cubs decided to do away with Frankie Frisch in 1951:

Frankie Frisch35-45 Phil Cavaretta 27-47 1951
Charlie Grimm 6-11 Lou Boudreau 54-83 1960
Bob Kennedy 24-32 Lou Klein 48-58 1965
Leo Durocher 46-44 Whitey Lockman 39-26 1972
Whitey Lockman41-52 Jim Marshall 25-44 1974
Preston Gomez 38-52 Joey Amalfitano25-46 1980
Lee Elia 54-69 Charlie Fox 17-22 1983
Jim Frey 23-33 Gene Michael 46-55 1986
Gene Michael 68-68 Frank Luchessi 8-17 1987
Don Zimmer 18-19 Jim Essian 59-63 1991
Don Baylor 34-49 Bruce 'Lil' Kimm33-45 2002

As you can see the results have not been so flattering. Maybe Cub fans could use this history lesson in looking over their options for the remainder of the season?
A last point that needs to be made in sticking up for Baker is this: The historical trend of managers and success.
Let's take a peak at the results of some oddities in managerial history:
Example 1: Connie Mack. Mack won FIVE world championships with the Philadelphia Athletics, but left baseball with a losing record. That happens. Why? Connie wasn't supported with great players. Just as Dusty isn't surrounded by that great of a team now.
#2: Sparky Anderson. You think it's tough for Spark here, you just catch wind of how he was treated in Cincy after the '75 and '76 titles. After losing out to LA twice for the NL West title, he was shown the road. Smart move for Cincy. All Sparky did was bring success to Detroit. (It should be noted that Sparky lost 103 games with the Tigers in '89. Does that make him a bad manager?)
#3: Tony La Russa. After guiding the Sox to the '83 division championship, La Russa was cut following a sub-par start to the '86 season. Was La Russa the failure of this club? I think most of us know that Floyd Bannister and Richard Dotson as aces didn't help either.
#4: Earl Weaver. My example is this. One of the greatest managers of all time can't lead Baltimore past Milwaukee in the '82 race. The next year, with virtually the same team, future Cub coach Joe Altobelli leads them to the championship. Was the team worse off with Earl Weaver??
#5: Terry Francona. Francona just managed a World Series champion. Did he make the right moves? Did he OUTMANAGE Tony La Russa? Or did the Red Sox just do everything right in eight straight games? I choose the latter.
These things make you wonder.

Let me just recap,
After looking at the results of Baker's past: He makes something out of nothing.
After looking at the Cubs history of mid-year hires: Our luck is not contagious, just hereditary.
After looking at how teams have reacted with or without managers: It makes you think...

The Chicago Cubs do not lose because of Dusty Baker. They lose because as an organization they have not surrounded Dusty Baker with men that can win. On top of that, it should be noted that the managerial position may be one of the more over-rated positions in all of baseball. The manager is still the motivator, the leader, the quick fixer-upper guy. Yet, he is not the one who can't bunt with 1st and 2nd and nobody out. He is not throwing a belt high fastball to Jason Bay. He is not getting caught in run-downs. He is not missing the pitch on the hit and run. The players are. And unfortunately, the players, with all do respect, are mediocre.

Jim Hendry has surrounded Dusty Baker with a mediocre team, hence, mediocre results. It should also be noted that when a player can't get a bunt down it isn't just the bunter's fault, or Dusty's fault, or Sonny Jackson's fault. It's an ORGANIZATIONAL fault. From top to bottom each mistake is a microcosm of the Cubs' futility as an organization.

No replacement can help. It will come down to the players, and the organization as to where this team ends up.

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