By: Travis Thayer (@TheTravisThayer)
Cincinnati Reds fans are calling for Dusty Baker’s head following a 6-2 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Tuesday’s Wildcard game, instead of congratulating the Pittsburgh Pirates on a well deserved win. Reds fans have become really good at blaming Baker for losses, but never praising him for his wins. It’s the nature of the game. Blame always goes to a manager or a head coach before the players that actually play the game because they are supposed to hit all the right buttons. Some might ask why Johnny Cueto started last night’s game after being hurt for much of the year. Cueto pitched the game because he is the team’s ace and he has dominated Pittsburgh (13-4) throughout his career. Yes, Mat Latos was originally supposed to pitch because it was his turn in the rotation, but a bone spur on his throwing elbow prevented him from pitching. The only other option Baker had been to throw Mike Leake, who had his best season as a big leaguer. In that situation, it is fair to say Baker made the choice any knowledgable person would make – you go with your ace. The Pittsburgh fans did a tremendous job of rattling Cueto early with a series of CUE-TO chants. He ultimately struggled to get through 3 1/3 innings, and the Reds were doomed from there on. So, ask yourself one question – Was it Dusty’s fault Cueto pitched so poorly?
Next, the Reds looked foolish at the plate for most of the night except for a few bright spots from Ryan Ludwick, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jay Bruce. The Reds 3,4,5 hitters combined to go 1-12 with four strikeouts, with the only bright sport being Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the top of the fourth. Dusty may set the lineup, but it’s the players responsibility to produce. Some would have liked to have seen rookie Billy Hamilton in the lineup, but let’s be realistic. Hamilton has had less than 20 at bats since being called up, and the moment was in all likelihood to big for the future star.
The fact of the matter is that the Reds played a one game playoff with a team that was much hotter, and just a little bit better. If the Reds didn’t have injuries throughout the year to such key players (Ludwick, Broxton, Marshall, Cueto) then they might not have been a Wildcard team. In the end, the Reds never got hot at any point of the season and they didn’t have many lucky breaks. Combine that with subpar pitching and non-existant hitting and you aren’t going far into October. One thing is for sure, there isn’t going to be much turnover on this team for next season and changing the manager would be a marginal help at best. Maybe next year with some health and luck, the Reds will have better success. Until then stop blaming a man who had nothing to do with the Wildcard loss, and give credit where credit is due.