True confession time: Two and a half months ago, I was out there defending my manager. Much of my defending was to one friend in particular—very baseball literate, despite being a Cubs fan. Somehow, she has assigned blame for the past 103 seasons of Northside Chicago Futility on the shoulders of one Johnnie B. Baker. In her eyes, he can do nothing right.
But for me, Dusty was the guy that got the Reds in the playoffs in 2010, and that earned him a pass (or six) in my eyes on some questionable decisions in the first half of this season. Now the calendar has turned to September, and for the Redlegs it will not turn to October. So let’s partake in America’s REAL pastime: the blame game. Subject: Dusty.
Here are his worst decisions of 2011:
1. Edinson Volquez—number one starter: The first evidence of Dusty’s poor evaluation of Volquez’s ability came last October when he handed him the ball for the first game of the playoffs. 1 2/3 innings later the Reds were down four runs and our half of the Josh Hamilton trade was taking a shower. Look, I hoped that this being Edinson’s last year before becoming a free agent might turn him into the Volquez of three years ago. But I am not with him every day. Dusty is. He should have seen signs that Volquez wasn’t ready.
2. Waiting too long to call up Cozart at shortstop: Despite Edgar Renteria displaying the range of a vending machine and Paul Janish desperately trying to rename the Mendoza line, he wouldn’t budge. By the time Cozart came up, the season was nearly lost.
3. The never-ending Fred Lewis experiment: As it turns out, just this week Fred was sent down to Louisville. Of course, the Bats’ season ends Monday so he will probably be right back up after that. But you tell me this: of the following options for starting left fielder for the Reds in 2012, which of them are you most certain will NOT be on the roster come spring: Alonso, Frazier, Heisey, Lewis, or Sappelt? You got it: The famous Mr. Fred. The same guy that had been getting the majority of starts before being sent to the minors.
4. Insisting on batting Drew Stubbs at leadoff: I get it. You desperately WANT Drew Stubbs and his ridiculous speed to work. Problem is, he is a mere 20 strikeouts from reaching 200 on the season. Speed only works when the ball is put in play and you reach base. Things got better when Brandon Phillips moved to the top of the order, but only when DatDude went to Dusty and requested the move. And it’s not like this is a crazy idea. Phillips led off 72 times last year. Their record when he led off? 43-29.
5. Calling up Yonder Alonso and then NOT PLAYING HIM: It is well documented that Alonso will never be mistaken for Ozzie with the glove. His most natural position is currently being occupied by the reigning MVP. But no one has claimed ownership of left field (which was his primary position in Louisville before getting called up), and Yonder professes to be more comfortable at the hot corner than anywhere else. So what has Dusty done? Given him a handful of turns in left field and exactly ONE game at third base. And why, pray tell, did he allow him that one game? Because he DIDN’T THINK ALONSO WOULD GET MANY BALLS HIT TO HIM! Wow. What a perfect strategy to try him out to see how he does.
Granted, there were a lot of other problems with this season that were out of Dusty’s control: sub-par performances by Arroyo and Wood, an occasional shaky bullpen and (most significant) the injury to Scott Rolen. But many issues could have been avoided. So, Dusty: I forgive you for 2011. But I am expecting a title in 2012.