In Dusty We Busty

October 14, 2017


There comes a point where even if you can’t explain exactly why something is happening, you have to stop and do something else. If you were to pick up a gun and immediately shoot yourself in the foot, that would be an accident. If you picked up a gun a second time and the same thing happened, well, that would be a coincidence. But if every time you picked up a gun and shot yourself in the foot… a third time, a fourth, a fifth… well, then most people would think, “gee, I must be doing something wrong. I may not know what it is but perhaps I should stop trying to pick up any more guns.”


Even if you believe that Game 5’s loss was due to just weird, unforeseen things happening and that Dusty Baker’s decisions had nothing to do with the outcome - which, of course is not true, but assuming it is… - then you have to wonder why this keeps happening to teams he manages.


Game 3 of this series


Last year’s Game 5 debacle.


His Reds team leading 2-0 over the Giants in the 2012 NLDS and headed back to Cincinnati for Games 4 and 5.


Game 6 (The Bartman game) in Chicago against the Marlins in the 2003 NLCS.


Game 7 of that same 2003 NLCS.


Game 6 of the 2002 World Series


Losing out on the playoffs on the final day of the season in 1993.


That doesn’t include the wipe-outs he’s been on the wrong side of in 1997 against the Marlins, 2000 against the Mets and 2010 against the Phillies. All totaled his teams won one game in those series.  In 22 years as a manager, Dusty Baker-led teams have gone to the playoffs nine times and have seven first round exits. In his last ten elimination games his teams are 0-10.


So how many times can the same bad penny keep showing up?


“We thought it was the right move.”


“I’ve never seen anything like that.”


How many more times is that an acceptable answer? How many more times do you want to hear him utter it?


The thing that impresses me the most about the St. Louis Cardinals, and the New York Yankees to a certain degree, is that they never beat themselves. They might be under-talented some years but they never seem to throw to the wrong base, or take a lackadaisical route to a ball or run into an out or do any of the ridiculous things that have happened to the Nationals this series (and last year), and that have happened to every other Dusty Baker led team. And if something weird does happen in a game, those storied teams usually take advantage of it. And even if they were the victim of the weirdness, they never get rattled over it. They simply go on to the next pitch and play just as hard and just as focused without trying to make up for the mishap by overplaying. That has not been true with the Nationals. That might be an organizational issue and not Baker’s sole responsibility but the manager is the one who sets the tone at the major league level and the one who must demand a certain level of competence on the field.


So even if you dispute that Baker makes terrible decisions in critical moments of big games, there’s no denying the evidence that his teams always collapse, always come up short, always do something that leaves success just out of reach. At what point is that not his responsibility? At what point do we stop making excuses?


The question now that Baker’s contract has expired is how many more times will the Nationals shoot themselves in the foot? They have more than enough talent to make it to the post-season. They only need a manager who won’t stand in their way once they get there.


The epilogue to this is that if the Nats decide to re-up with Baker, the most talented Washington player since Walter Johnson (Bryce Harper) will eventually realize he will never win a championship in Washington and will no doubt seek greener pasture and paydays elsewhere. There’s already a chance that happens, but this would make it a certainty. It’s highly ironic that the management team that put together such a talented team and farm system doesn’t understand the value of paying for good management.