Last night’s spectacularly unexpected start from Justin Lehr notwithstanding, the Reds are in freefall. They’ve lost tons of games — they’re 5-22 since their high water mark on the Fourth of July — their putative ace is gone until 2011, and they’ve made trades that are perplexing to say the least. In such situations, a high-profile, expensive veteran manager tends to be in serious danger because, hey, anyone can lose with these guys, so why not do it with a cheap organizational soldier at the helm? That’s not an option currently on the table in Cincy, however:
Reds CEO Bob Castellini said Wednesday that manager Dusty Baker’s job is safe.
“Absolutely,” Castellini said.
He said Baker will be back for 2010 – the final year of his contract – as well.
“Absolutely,” Castellini said.
The Reds had lost eight straight and 14 of 15 games going into Wednesday’s tilt with the Chicago Cubs. They were tied for last place in the National League Central with Pittsburgh.
“The team has not quit,” Castellini said. “They are still playing hard.”
Contrary to a lot of the stuff you see written about him, Dusty Baker is not a bad manager, and the extreme positions people take to that end are kind of silly. Baker has done well with veteran teams and has served as a stabilizing clubhouse presence. He is underrated in that regard, as that skill (i.e. serving as a stabilizing presence) is itself underrated.
Dusty has not done well with young and developing teams, however, and for that reason is he is probably ill-suited to be the Reds’ manager. It’s not urgent or anything — the manager is not going to be the difference between winning it all and losing in Cincinnati in the next year or so — but if I were Bob Castellini I’d investigate buying out the last year on Dusty’s deal and finding a young teaching manager to keep around until the team has a plausible case for contention.
Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.
As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:
That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.