In an interview with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker revealed some desecrating details of his final few months in charge at Wrigley Field.
At the very end, somebody took a dump right where I stood in the dugout every day. That was the low point. The grounds crew guy cleaned it up. He said, ‘Oh, I think it’s dog crap.’ I said, ‘No it ain’t. That’s human crap.’
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Baker’s crapdar is accurate. Who might be responsible for such a heinous act? Was it Gregg Maddux taking his urine leg shower routine a step too far? Or maybe it was Mark Prior’s agent?
Speaking of Prior, Baker also opened up about the criticism he’s faced for his handling of young pitchers.
It really hurt my reputation. Ever since then, all of a sudden, ‘I don’t know how to manage. I don’t know how to handle pitchers. I don’t like young players.’ They don’t even have a clue about it. I never heard that in San Francisco.
I’ve tended to keep my [Getting Blanked]ing on Baker in the realm of the metaphorical, largely because of that reputation for shredding young arms, which continues to this day with Cincinnati. However, does Baker actually keep his young starters on the mound for too long?
The Hardball Times looked at this issue a few years ago, and justified the high pitch counts from Prior, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano by claiming that as better pitchers, they should be expected to throw more innings than an average pitcher. By taking into account several factors, the study figured that “Baker’s pitchers still throw 3.68 more pitches per start than expected.”
However, the study doesn’t account for the difference between young arms and more experienced ones, and even the author admits that “Baker’s lack of caution with high-pitch outings is certainly disconcerting.” Still, it’s probably not as much of an “and you will know him by his trail of dead arms” situation as you might think.
There are several factors that can contribute to an arm injury, and blaming Baker solely because of the high pitch counts his young pitchers end up accumulating may be short sighted. I like the ideas that Will Carroll offers in this piece for Sports Illustrated about the importance of investing in medical staffs, but I wish he could’ve put together some more hard numbers in his analysis.
While there is certainly some recklessness in the way that Baker handles his young pitchers, it’s probably not worth dumping on.