CINCINNATI — For a team that isn’t known for being thieves in the night — base stealing isn’t a weapon of mass destruction for them — the Cincinnati Reds have been besieged by base running blunders.
Or, as manager Dusty Baker calls it, “Bonehead Baseball.” And with the team struggling to find home plate, giving up outs on the bases is a big, fat no-no.
As an example of how the Reds are not terrors on the base paths, when the St. Louis Cardinals arrived at Great American Ball Park for the start of a three-game series Friday, the Reds had gone 25 straight games without stealing a base against the Cardinals.
It is the longest ongoing stretch for any team against any other team without a stolen base and it isn’t even close. The second longest streak is 12, the Chicago Cubs against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Reds, though, might think about that weapon more than usual against the Cardinals because catcher Yadier Molina, one of the best at controlling the opposition’s running game, is on the disabled list.
First, though, Baker wants his team to be more aware of what they do on the basepaths. For most of the season the Reds have had a plethora of base running gaffes — picked off base, caught rounding a base, trying to steal third with two on and no outs and Joey Votto at the plate, breaking for second too soon when they do try to steal and getting thrown out at second.
“You have to be heads-up on the bases,” said Baker. “You have to be in the game and pay attention. You have to have foresight on some scenarios that might happen.”
In other words, stay alert and pay attention.
“Those are things that you are taught at the lower levels, even high school and before high school,” Baker added. “You hope they become second nature so you don’t have to cover them any more.”
Baker said he notices that throughout baseball – all teams – that base running is a problem and that it is one of the things least practiced and taught, “Because it is all about hitting and striking people out.”
Of the faux pas, Baker said, “You only get 27 outs and when you start giving away three or four outs by bonehead base running…”
Baker said that on some teams on which he played, they had a Bonehead Award and bad base running would earn a player the award, “An award you didn’t want to get after the game. That doesn’t make you sound too smart.
“You have to be aware of situations, where everybody is playing because players move between pitches,” he said. “I’m always talking about that. You have to look around. You can’t be thinking about your hitting or what you did or didn’t do on defense. When you are on base you think of one thing. Base running.”
Baker said managers and coaches can work on it during spring training and re-enforce it during the season, “But they are out there making decisions on their own. Everybody wants to blame the staff, but sometimes the fault falls on the pupil. Our society now wants to blame the professor and the teacher, but sometimes the pupil has to handle it.
“If you are a good base runner you don’t even need a coach on the bases because most of the time before a coach can signal go or stop, it’s too late,” Baker continued. “Most of the time it is something you have to react right now.”
Several base running mistakes and miscues occurred on the just-completed west coast trip when the Reds went 38 innings with only three runs and 22 innings with no runs. Was that the result of guys trying to make things happen, eager to do something to score runs?
“Sometimes,” said Baker. “Sometimes that is the case, but it isn’t that all the time. You still can’t have it happen. No matter why you can’t have bonehead base running. I can’t express that enough. You can make excuses, but it is still bonehead base running no matter how you look at it.
“We just have to keep reminding them. Sometimes guys are a little more rushed to get up here from the minors. Guys with good offensive numbers may not be ready with a total game. Sometimes you can drive in runs and give away three with errors and bad base running. Now you’re looking at minus-one and it might show up as a loss.”
After all that, Baker paused and said, “It just isn’t here. It’s all over baseball. Bonehead base running. And our guys are better than most, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Like my kid says, ‘Everybody is doing it,’ but my answer is, ‘I don’t care what everybody else is doing.'”