Baker confident in Reds' postseason chances
AUG 11, 2013 12:12p ET
CINCINNATI — It is the time of year when scoreboard watching is about as prevalent as an ornithologist watching birds.
And, of course, there is a similarity with Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker because he is bird-watching ever day, watching the progress — or lack of progress — of the St. Louis Cardinals.
But the Cardinals aren’t the only team Baker follows because; “It’s no different for me because I watch the scoreboard every day, right from Opening Day. That’s just what I do.”
And as the season progresses, Baker becomes a fan as he watches the scoreboard, “Rooting against the teams ahead of us and closest to us.”
That means Baker roots hard against the division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates, six games ahead of the Reds in the National League Central. And he roots hard against the second place St. Louis Cardinals, two games ahead of the Reds.
The Reds are comfortably ahead for the No. 2 National League wild card spot, 4 ½ games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks. But Baker says he pays little attention to the D-Backs, other than to notice their scores.
“I don’t believe in looking back because it’s like Satchel Paige always said, ‘Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.’ So why would I look backwards? The fans can look back, but I ain’t lookin’ back.”
But he does notice all the scores, especially teams the Reds are scheduled to play in the immediate future, “To see who is hot and who is not.”
When Baker goes home after games he doesn’t go straight to bed, especially Saturday night when sleep would be difficult after his team made four errors, a base running blunder and lost to the San Diego Padres, 3-1.
But he always stays up and even when he goes to bed the television is on in the bedroom.
“I watch baseball until I fall asleep,” he said. “Every night. I’m always trying to pick up something — how is a pitcher pitching certain guys, pick up any tendencies. Hey, that’s my job and I like my job. Contrary to popular belief, I’m very aware and try to stay ahead of the game. I try to know what’s going on all the time.”
Baker smiled and recalled Saturday’s nightmare. He benched third baseman Todd Frazier because the Padres pitched Tyler Ross, a slider-throwing machine and Frazier has difficult putting sliders into play.
In Frazier’s place Baker inserted slick-fielding Jack Hannahan. He was not so slick on this night and made three errors and left the tying run on base with two outs.
“It may not always work, like last night,” Baker said. “Sometimes it just ain’t going to work. Guess what? Sometimes it just doesn’t work. But I study it. I read it and watch it, I like watching baseball.
“You can see a manager’s tendencies, see a catcher dropping to his knees on pitches before he throws the ball back to the pitcher. If you really watch in depth there is a whole bunch to see,” he said.
“For those panicking about this team, well, we’re in pretty good shape,” Baker added. “We could be the San Francisco Giants (last place, 14 games out), we could be the Washington Nationals (second place, but 14 ½ games out). What if we were them?”
While watching the scoreboard Baker noticed that the Cardinals have lost 14 of their last 17, and two of those wins were over the Reds. Despite the St. Louis slide, the Reds have made little progress in catching them.
“It’s up to us to win,” said Baker. “Simple as that.”
And to do that his team can’t make four errors and continue to make a plethora of base running blunders. On Saturday the Reds had runners on first and third with no outs when a shallow fly ball was hit to right field.
Xavier Paul, perched on first, saw a throw heading home. He tagged up at first and broke for second. The throw was cut-off and Paul was wiped out at second base.
“I’m not going to call it dumb baseball because I hate that term,” said Baker. “It’s the lack of quick thinking that bothers me. That’s something you can’t teach. You have to think while the play is in process. Xavier was trying to be aggressive and I’d rather have that. It was an aggressive mistake.”
And there are those that believe Baker isn’t aggressive enough or reactionary enough when his team makes mistakes. To that he smiled and said, “Fortunately, on that play they didn’t put the camera on me.”
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