It's Not Second Guessing When It's True

By JCB on Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On Monday I asserted that Dusty Baker hasn't managed the 2005 Cubs like a team that was certain to play in a lot of close games. A request came in for examples, so I went back through and spot-checked my Game Notes, looking for specific instances that I had noticed in real time. I found more than a dozen of them in short order.

Before we get to that, though, I want to repeat that I don't think that Dusty Baker is a bad manager. I think he has managed the 2005 Cubs badly, and there's a big difference.

I'm inclined to agree with Bleed Cubbie Blue's Al Yellon, who has been saying consistently that firing Dusty isn't the answer. I'm not convinced he should be fired, and I won't be until someone proposes a better course of action than keeping him around for 2006. Firing Dusty leaves a whole other mess of problems.

Anyway, about how Dusty has managed the 2005 Cubs badly: What the Cubs needed were balanced lineups, a running game of some kind, and a bullpen strategy that played to relievers' strengths. What Dusty gave us were leaky lineups, an abundance of runners stranded at first or second, and bullpen moves that felt like a parlor game.

This is not to excuse the players by any means, but the Cubs went weeks, for example, without using a hit-and-run. When there were day games after night games, Dusty would blitz through the bullpen, leaving it weakened for the next day(s). All of this without even bringing up the double-switches that were lateral moves at best, and often much worse.

Here are the examples, complete with the relevant notes I wrote at the time.

* * *

Game 4

Synopsis: Dusty uses Wuertz, Remlinger and then Hawkins as closer, who blows the save. Furthermore, Dusty double-switches, taking Nomar out of the lineup for extra innings. Jon Leicester is left to continue the 11th and 12th, and runs out of gas. I watched this unfold in the bleachers.

At the time:
Dusty just took out Nomar in a double switch. Keeping score, I realize this and point it out to everyone. No one can figure out why he did this. I hear comments of "That's just a bad move." "That's just very bad managing." I agree. This makes no sense. A double-switch is unnecessary, but if you have to double-switch, you should put in Todd Walker for Hairston, not Neifi Perez for Nomar. Dusty just sabotaged his lineup for the extra innings. Fans in the bleachers, including myself, are furious. We're becoming very negative.

Not only did he double switch, but then he pulls Rusch for Jon Leicester. The ONLY reason he might have double switched is because he needed Rusch to pitch more than 1 inning, but he pulled him after 3 batters with 1 out.

Result: Cubs go on to lose 6-3.

Game 7

Synopsis: Dusty uses an unbalanced lineup, with Patterson and Neifi at the top, and Lee batting sixth.

At the time:
I don't understand why Dusty doesn't switch CP to second in the lineup, and bat Perez or Hairston first.

Result: Cubs lose 1 - 0, the only run allowed by Dempster being unearned.

Game 10

Synopsis: Bullpen meltdown. Wuertz, Remlinger and Fox blow up. Then, Dusty substituted the Cubs better chances out of the game for the late innings.

At the time:
Macias just threw out Duffy at home from right field (after a Dusty double-switch special).

Wait: so with 2 outs in the 9th, down 3 runs, Dusty brings in Patterson to pinch hit? Laying his 9 game hit streak on the line for one at-bat in a game that hardly seems winnable? And how is Patterson an advantage over Hairston at this point, needing 3 runs with 2 outs?

I'm not happy about this game. They needed a W, and they let it go. Complete bullpen meltdown. Plus, Dusty is confusing the hell out of me. I can't figure out what advantages some of these moves are supposed to give the Cubs.

Pursinator: Is it me or is Dusty still really fixtuated on Wuertz. I have no clue what his ERA is, but if he has not improved from last year he is at best a mediocre middle reliever. If I remember right Dusty did the same thing last year-putting Wuertz in a lot of the early games, but as the year went on he saw less and less action.

JCB: Wuertz looked sharp the first week of the season, but I agree that Dusty isn't using him right.

Result: Cubs lose 8 to 5.

Game 13

Synopsis: Cubs have a chance to win behind a decent outing from Kerry Wood, and Jon Leicester blows it.

At the time:
It's a tie game, Rusch just went 1-2-3, and so you pull him? Why?!? Why, Dusty why? He's due up to lead off the next inning anyway -- you can just let him pitch another inning and then pinch hit for him. I guess the double-switch is OK, but it was unnecessary, plus now Leicester is in a tie game, Rusch is out, and your bullpen is off kilter. This is a mistake. Dusty just sabotaged our best chance to win.

Sure enough, Leicester walks Randa. I swear, I was screaming at the TV before this walk even happened. My roommate can testify.

Now Leicester walks Dunn on 4 pitches. I'm telling you, Dusty has sabotaged this game.

Leicester hits Pena with a pitch. Seriously Dusty, how could you do this? You honestly thought Leicster was ready to come in a tie game, that he was a better option than Rusch for another inning? How could you think this?

The gods give Leicester a double-play that keeps a run from scoring with the bases loaded and no outs, then he gives up a double to their eight hitter. Dusty: I'm not concerned with helping Leicester learn through tough experiences, not in a winnable game. You really screwed this one up, Dusty. I thought so before this all happened, and then I watched it happen. Do you have any idea how frustrated I am right now?

This loss goes on Dusty. Sure, it's up to Leicester to pitch when he puts him in. But it's up to Dusty to put in the players that give them the best chance to win, and he completely misused his bullpen, sabotaging their best chance. Plus, he used another double-switch when he didn't have to. It's almost like he doesn't even know what inning it is when he does these things.

Result: Cubs lose 7 to 6.

Game 20

Synopsis: Dusty blitzes through the bullpen in a high scoring game.

At the time:
What does it say when I've watched all but 11 innings this season and I have no idea what the lineup might be?

[In the 6th] Wuertz is warming up. So, who will close? Back to LaTroy? Remlinger? This cannot be good. No, this looks very bad. I thought it was Wuertz's turn to try closing.

[In the 9th] AWL: "Who's in now, Bartosh? I'm taking a piss."

Dusty just double switched...again. 2 double switches. 2 double switches can never be appropriate in a 9 inning game. It means someone did something wrong.

Dusty: What if? Extra innings? You thought about that? No one's left but LaTroy.

Dusty: now, with Dempster going tomorrow (who CANNOT go 9 innings) you've used your entire bullpen except for LaTroy. This is not good. In fact, it's very bad.

I don't want to rant about Dusty, but those double-switches seriously screwed things up, and now our bullpen is in complete disarray with a quick-turnaround game tomorrow (day after night) and with a starting pitcher who hasn't gone longer than 6 innings in his first year back as a starter after surgery. How could this have seemed like a good idea?

Result: Cubs lose 11-9

Game 23

Synopsis: Wood leaves early, but Dusty refuses to use anyone for long relief, despite the risk that blitzing through the bullpen poses.

At the time:
So apparently it is going to be Bartosh. Why again is he bringing in a situational lefty in the 4th inning? Did Dusty lose track of time during his nap? Is he getting kickbacks from the team by making sure Glendon Rusch doesn't the fulfill incentive portions of his contract for innings pitched?

When Bartosh dwindles, don't say I didn't warn you. He did that once already this year. (Please prove me wrong!)

Bartosh gives up a walk and then a double to Tavaras, and we're down a run. If Wood is hurt, Rusch is your guy to pitch every fifth day anyway so why not get him in there now?

Bartosh is back and promptly gives up a single to Bagwell. It's an ominous start. (Prove me wrong! Please prove me wrong!) Time to warm up the bullpen.

They are warming up the bullpen, but it's the fifth. That means we're going to cruise through the bullpen yet again. Dusty: there is a day game tomorrow after the night game tonight. Please reconsider your bullpen strategy.

After Wuertz gives up two more (intentional) walks to load the bases, a single brings it to 7-3, Astros.

Result: Cubs lose 7-5, and starting a 7 game losing streak. The refusal to use a long reliever when appropriate would become a chronic problem, and the intentional walks came back to bite him again in Game 26 (lost 4-3)

Game 39

Synopsis: Dusty tries a new lineup, with Hollandsworth batting second. It proves to be awful.

At the time:
[About Hollandsworth] Dusty: one fortunate hit does not a turnaround make.

Result: Cubs lose 5-1

Game 40

Synopsis: Dusty goes on a substitution binge, trying to use everybody.

At the time:
Macias pinch runs. Jesus. I have 8 people used so far in the 7th lineup spot today on my scorecard between double-switches, pitchers, and subs. Only Dusty could pull that off.

Result: Cubs lose 5-3

Game 67

Synopsis: Dusty tries another poor lineup, and the Yankees get extra runs on hustle plays, setting the tone for the series.

At the time:
Hollandsworth is up to second in the order, Patterson is down to 8th. I'm still not happy with either of them.

Giambi walks, and takes third on a hit and run. If the Yankees can do that with frickin' Giambi, why can't the Cubs do it with anyone?

Result: Cubs lose 6-3.

Game 71

Synopsis: Dusty was willing to bat Patterson leadoff again, despite all the signs that this wasn't going to work. He also makes curious moves in pressure spots.

At the time:
Day two of the "CP at Leadoff, Revisited" experiment.

Wait, Macias is going to SAC bunt? He lays down a good bunt, but why not have Rusch bunt and then pull him? Dusty? Can you please explain this?

Alright Corey -- a runner on third with one out. GET THIS RUN IN!

Nope -- K on a neck high fastball. Again. Screw this. Can Hairston play centerfield and start every day this weekend? Give CP some time to figure his shit out. I mean, he's wearing the frickin' golden sombrero today.

Innings the Cubs threatened: 7. Not getting it done. All the help from getting Prior & Wood back doesn't help this lineup create runs, does it?

Result: Cubs lose 8-7.

Game 77

Synopsis: Another wacky lineup. Another failed intentional walk. Then, Remlinger was brought in a spot that was stacked against him, to face the lefty Prince Fielder. Everyone knew Fielder was going to pinch hit. Remlinger was the wrong choice, right there.

At the time:
Apparently today is a scrimmage. Cedeno starting for Perez? OK. Hairston in for Walker? Not so sure since Walker can hit lefties, but at least he's hitting leadoff. Dubois for Hollandsworth? Not so sure about this one either since Hollandsworth is one of the few Cubs driving in runs lately, but I understand they're platooning him for the lefty (although, again, Hollandsworth can hit lefties and Dubois can hit righties). But under what circumstances should Macias start in right field? I can think of very few and most of them involve Burnitz missing a limb or wearing an eye patch.

With two outs, Maddux walks Overbay intentionally. I am against this. Now, how exactly is Miller a better percentage to make an out than Overbay? There are few times when this move makes sense, and while this is by no means clear cut, I would err on the side of pitching to Overbay rather than putting extra guys on base with the wind blowing out. Plus, I think the Cubs have now intentionally walked Overbay like 6 times this season, with like a 67% rate of failure. Do people keep track of this stat? I'd like to see it.

Miller laces an RBI single to right field. I'm cussing profusely.

Remlinger is in, and on the first pitch he gives up an RBI single to the pinch hitter, Prince Fielder. HELL.

Result: Cubs lose 10-6.

Game 79

Synopsis: Dusty persists in batting Patterson first and Neifi second, despite the fact that neither of them are hitting.

At the time:
CP Ks on a high fastball. Dusty, how long must we endure? I mean, we have Todd Walker. He can hit at the top. At least, we can try something new.

Patterson pops up to the shortstop. My note to myself says "RANT" but I don't have it in me now. I'm tired of being tired with Patterson.

Neifi grounds out to first. They stranded two more RBIs-in-waiting.

Result: Cubs lose 4-2.

Game 80

Synopsis: Dusty sabotages the lineup for the late innings. He finally gave Patterson the day off, but then brought him in late to run. Patterson is caught stealing and the lineup is weakened in a close game.

At the time:
Patterson runs for Barrett. WHAT? DUSTY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? With 0 outs, maybe, OK, but with 1 out already? Barrett's not that slow. It's a tie game for god's sake. We need Barrett to stay in this game. This is going to backfire. I can see it already. I am EXTREMELY pissed off at Dusty here. Is he trying to make CP feel good when he scores the winning run? Nice idea, since we all want CP to feel happy again more than anything else (sarcasm), but you also risk sabotaging the lineup for extra innings. HELL.

Patterson is caught stealing. AHH! DUSTY?!? Don't you remember how many plays Schneider has already burned you with? How did this seem like a good idea?

The Nationals intentionally walk Perez to get to Blanco. THEY WOULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS FOR BARRETT. DUSTY, HOW DID YOU NOT SEE THIS COMING?

Blanco grounds out 6-3.

Result: Cubs lose 5-4 in 10 innings.

Game 95

Synopsis: Dusty decides to blitz through the bullpen, risking Wuertz and Novoa in pressure spots. He left Novoa in for a second inning, and then double-switched his better chances out of the game.

At the time:
[in the 6th] Wuertz is in for Maddux. Hmm...that's odd. I thought at least Maddux would finish the bottom of the order.

Valentin hits a solo HR with two outs.

[In the 8th] Novoa stays in.

Pena singles and Valentin walks with no outs.

Olmedo lays down a SAC bunt. Barrett barely got the out at first.

Novoa balks. Are you [effing] kidding me?!? A run scores. Then Novoa walks Casey. This game is falling apart.

Dempster is brought in.

Macias is in for Walker on a double switch?!? What? Again, are you [effing] kidding me?!? It's a TIE GAME. And you take out your third or fourth best hitter? How can this make sense? I know you need Dempster for 2 innings, but his spot is due up fifth. AHHH! If I was watching this at a bar, they might have had to ask me to leave. I'm in full rage.

Lopez is out 1-3. Then they intentionally walk Griffey to load the bases. That's the third walk this inning. I don't like this move. It's not as bad as some intentional walks since Griffey is good, but there are also two outs. You're not trying to create a double play opportunity. Kearns is also up next, and he's been as hot as anyone. I have a bad feeling about this.

Kearns singles. 2 RBI with 2 outs. Neifi could have gotten to that one, too. I'm not sure why he didn't make that play. Usually he does. Sonofabitch.

Now they intentionally walk Dunn. HELL. The Reds bat around. Why are they intentionally walking someone like Dunn with two outs? Any handicapper in the world could tell you that Dunn is about eight times as likely to make an out than to hit a homerun. We're just spoon-feeding momentum to the Reds. Screw this.

Aurilia singles. 2RBI. It's time to open the whiskey, a.k.a. novacane for the Cubs fan's soul.

The Reds have scored 5 runs on 3 hits. My blood pressure has to be like 160/95 right now. The Cubs have done everything wrong in the second half of this game.

Result: Cubs lose 9-6.

Game 96

Synopsis: Dusty's lineup allows the Cardinals to walk Lee intentionally, and after the Cubs leave the bases loaded, Eckstein ends up laying down a suicide squeeze to win the game. The lineup made it easy to work around Lee, and it seemed like the Cubs never saw the bunt coming.

Game 101

Synopsis: The Cubs won this one, but only because Felipe Alou made more mistakes than Baker. He left in Zambrano when I thought he was pretty clearly done. He also pinch ran for Ramirez, which would have crippled the lineup for extra innings (which were likely). Then he brought in Dempster in a spot where he either had to bat the next inning, or be taken down, also hurting the Cubs chances in extra innings.

At the time:
Wait, Zambrano is batting? He's going another inning? I have a bad feeling about this. I thought Z was done.

Durham singles. 3-2 Giants.

Remlinger is in. A bit late, isn't it?

Ramirez hits a hot shot that gets past Vizquel. E6. Lee takes third.

Perez is running for Ramirez?!? It's a TIE GAME. AHH! Why take down one of the best hitters in the league in a tie game? Down one, in the bottom of the ninth, maybe you think about pinch running here, but otherwise you're sabotaging your chances in later innings.

Dempster is in. With the way Dusty screwed up the lineup, he's due up first, too, so either he hits or he can only go one inning if he holds the score at tied.

Gerut pinch hits for Dempster. The one time we needed a double switch and Baker blew it.

Alou brings in Fassero. If Dusty knew Fassero was coming in, I take it all back. I love how this is shaping up.

Result: Cubs win 4-3.

Game 104

Synopsis: More double switch and intentional walk madness in a close game, as Baker refuses to let Murton log any playing time, among other bad moves.

At the time:
Gerut stays in left field after pinch hitting. I'm not sure why, since Murton didn't even bat last inning. Novoa is also in, and is now due up fifth. Does Dusty think Murton is a defensive liability or something? Why take him out right here?

The Cubs intentionally walk Green. Let me say (once again) that I'm against this type of intentional walk. It just keeps backfiring, and doesn't make all that much sense in the middle of the order.

Jackson doubles. RBI, and now they're second and third with one out. HELL.

Rusch is in. Then they have Rusch intentionally walk Clark. This walk at least makes more sense, but why not have Novoa walk him and then come out so Rusch doesn't lose the strike zone? Little things! Bob Brenly is also annoyed about this.

Hollandsworth is also in, on a double switch... for Gerut... who was brought in for Murton. The pitcher's spot is now ninth again, and this leaves Cedeno or Macias to hit for the pitcher. This is a screw-up.

Result: Cubs lose 4-3.

Game 107

Synopsis: Dusty pinch hits Macias for Williams in the top of the fifth. This is the one that upset me more than any of the others. I thought this move sabotaged not only the game, but the rest of the series.

At the time:
[In the 5th] Rusch is warming up. I think this would be a bad move.

Sure enough, Macias comes up. I am ticked off. They have a quick turnaround day game tomorrow. There's a good chance Hill won't go deep tomorrow. The Cubs don't have a bench slugger to justify this move. On top of that, Dempster isn't at full strength after an arduous ninth last night. The odds of this many Cubs relievers holding down the Phillies for at least five innings are NOT good. The way I see it, Dusty just sabotaged not only tonight's game but also tomorrow's.

Macias hits a SAC fly. RBI.

Lawton pops up. Only one run. The Cubs are in a deep hole now, getting only one run and having to use the bullpen in the fifth.

Result: Cubs lose 4-3

Game 108

Synopsis: The Cubs skipped Hill for Prior to start, but Prior couldn't go deep, leaving the wounded bullpen no chance to recover. Dusty also sticks with Neifi and Macias in the lineup.

At the time:
That means Neifi, Macias and Blanco are hitting 6,7,8. That's not a leak so much as an open window for RBIs to escape. I hope the middle of the lineup catches fire.

A Michael Wuertz at-bat?!? Wow Dusty. We sure are glad you pinch hit for Willimas in the top of the fifth last night. I thought we would never get to see if Wuertz could hit. I'm so excited.

Result: Cubs lose 6-4.

Game 109

Synopsis: With the bullpen still in bad shape, and this time Hill pitches. Unfortunately, he only lasts 1 1/3. Dusty uses the entire bullpen, rather than letting anyone go long relief in a game where they're down 7-1 in the second. This is despite the over-use of the bullpen the last two days, which in turn was a result of his gambling on pinch hitting for Williams so early. It was exactly the worst that I feared, coming true.

At the time:
[In the 4th] With two outs and two more runs in for the Mets, Dusty brings in Novoa. This baffles me. How can this make sense? Maybe Dusty was listening to the Beastie Boys on his way to Queens: "Listen all of y'all it's a SABOTAGE."

Result: Cubs lose 9 to 5.

* * *

So there you have it. Well over a dozen games where we wondered what he was doing at the time, and then we watched his decisions backfire. What a mess.

I get no enjoyment out of watching his decisions backfire as I predict. I would much rather predict the backfire, and then watch the move work out in the Cubs favor. More than that, though, I would like to see him make better decisions so we don't have to question them at the time so much. A manager has to make a lot of decisions, and some will inevitably end up badly, but these were blatant low percentage moves. And I hardly had to spend any time to find these examples.

There are plenty of times I was wrong as well, and there have certainly been moves that worked that we don't give Dusty credit for. I'm not trying to sound uppity, like I'm smarter than anyone else. Although, part of being an everyday fan is thinking that you're smarter than the manager when the team is losing. That's just the nature of being a fan, and we all do it. Still, what sticks out is how often these easily recognized poor decisions have occurred this season.

To reiterate, I don't think Dusty is a bad manager. He's been consistent, but his style hasn't fit this 2005 team. Where that leaves the team for the future, I'm not going to speculate. I just wanted to bring up specific examples of what everyone is talking about, as evidence for why I suggested that he has managed this team badly.

Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2005 by JCB


Thanks for this synopsis. I lived these moments too and it explains why I think Dusty is a terrible manager. How about how long it took him to move Lee up in the lineup to begin the season. Lee was batting over 400 in May and Dusty still kept penciling him in the 6 spot. My question to you is WHY after this do you feel Dusty is a good manager?

wow! what a post.
there are states in the union where, with this kind of evidence, the jury will hang a guy.
i can't wait to see the post that explains why you still think dusty is a good manager.i'm sure you'll never get an acquittal but maybe you'll manage to commute the sentence to life with hard labor.good luck.

Well, I'm not willing to go so far as to say that Dusty is a good manager, either. It's just that bad managers can have a good year, and good managers can have a bad year. It doesn't follow from A) the fact that Dusty has managed the 2005 Cubs badly that B) he's a bad manager. I think that's taking the logic a step too far, that's all. It's narrowing our focus too much. Over the course of his career, he's had success with his managerial style, and I thought his style helped the 2003 Cubs overachieve. There might be a strong case for the Cubs firing Dusty Baker, but to me his performance in the 2005 season alone isn't enough, and I have yet to see someone expound on the bigger picture.

One main criticism is that he didn't adjust his style to work with the 2005 Cubs: the weak bench, the weak bullpen, and the missing lineup pieces (like a leadoff hitter). He tried to fit players into roles that worked against their strengths, and he gambled in spots that a team with a different make up might have cashed in, in spots where the Cubs weren't likely to succeed. Certainly a good manager should recognize and adjust to his team and Dusty never seemed to do this, but I'm not sure whether firing him wouldn't just make things worse. To me, it's an open question, either way.

JCB, you are being too kind. Do you realize that your explanation basically says that with a team that includes all the players necessary to win Dusty does well and with a team that has a few holes, Dusty doesn't fair as well. I think we need to consider the role of a manager in baseball and how that effects the performance of the team. Nobody picked either the White Sox or the Cardinals to do as well as they have, but I contend that they both are managed well. On the other hand, Dusty took similar talent and managed it poorly. Hence he is a BAD manager.

That was a very uncomfortable read...but I'm glad someone wrote it. I too lived these sickening moments. I LOVE close games...but I CAN'T watch when the Cubs are involved. I find myself praying that the team will take the game out of Dusty's hands so I don't have to watch him manage. My understanding is that Dusty's not known as a "Manager", but rather a leader and a motivator. His teams succeed when he doesn't have to manage, because he's already made them they achieve...or so the legend goes. When he "manages", his teams lose (see 2002 World Series, 2003 NLCS, 2005 Cubs). Keeping that in mind, the only thought that allows me to sleep at night is my NEARLY whole-hearted faith that Jim Hendry knows what he's doing, and he's not about to let Dusty Baker cost him his job. I have to believe that Hendry watches the games through the same microscope that we all do. He has to know who should be playing, when, and in what situation...please God Jim...please know that. I concur with Jean's comments above...this team has the talent to win. Compare the Cubs, position by position, with any team in the NL...look at statistics. Every team has can't have a marquee player at every position. the members of the Braves' bullpen. The Nationals?...Cardinals?...Astros? What do those teams have in common? GOOD MANAGERS.

Fire the dumbass...think of all the good that can come of it...Leyland is still available, all his idiot coaches go away, the trainer they fired last year for all the injuries looks like a genious compared to this year injuries...Fire the dumbass!!!



I won't go so far as Bill or Mike. Those opinions are a bit extreme. But the fact is, when you look at the Cubs' payroll and the talent it's bought, even the proverbial 'blind squirell' can find the .500 nut (unless you're Dusty).
I'm from Milwaukee, and I see a guy like Ned Yost who has as little game-time managerial abilitiy as Baker. The difference is, Yost seems get his underachieving Brewers team to leave it all out on the field every night, which is where Baker fails miserably. I loved reading your posts about Dusty's game-time managerial failures, but the fact is, I have seen MANY games where the players just seem like they don't care one way or another if they win or lose. Team attitude comes straight from the boss(Baker). Just like any other job. If the boss doesn't care about your performance, why try? That's where it looks like the Cubs team is at now, and that's where Dusty's biggest failure lies. He needs to stop being everyone's buddy, and start LEADING a profession sports team.

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