CINCINNATI — I feel bad for Dusty Baker Friday morning.
That’s on a personal level. He was by far my favorite manager to cover. Good guy, interesting stories, incredibly generous and well-versed in things other than baseball.
If you know the man personally, he's impossible to root against.
He’s getting roasted on Twitter by people who don’t know him personally, as you’d expect.
It’s understandable. Baker’s Washington Nationals lost 4-3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 4-hour, 32-minute marathon in which each manager made about 97 moves. LA manager Dave Roberts rolled the dice by using his closer early and going to ace to close it out. Roberts is being widely praised.
Baker is not.
He’s now lost nine straight games when his team had a chance to clinch it. He hasn’t won a playoff series since his Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves in the 2003 National League Division Series.
That was the Bartman year. Maybe Baker’s still living with that curse.
Of course, it’s easy to argue that it’s no curse at all, that Baker’s not a very good manager in the postseason.
The only fault I found with his playoff managing in his three appearances with the Reds was in Game 5 of the series against the Giants in 2012. I thought he went too long with Mat Latos. There’s a fairly good chance that if Sam LeCure pitches to Buster Posey in the fifth, the Reds win. Who knows what happens after that?
In 2010, the Phillies were simply much better. In 2013, he was forced to go with Johnny Cueto in the Wild Card game because Latos was hurt, and Cueto was not very good that day.
I started watching last night’s game right as Chris Heisey hit the home run to make it 4-3. You can question all the moves Baker made in the seventh, starting with pulling his ace Max Scherzer after 99 pitches. There are too many others to dissect, but the Nationals should have at least tied the game. If Jason Werth puts the ball in play in the seventh, they do.
Baker’s biggest mistake in my mind was questioning afterward whether Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw would be affected for the next series. That’s sour grapes.
But I've never been around anyone who takes losing harder than Baker. He had to be distraught. He probably regrets saying that.
Baker’s 67 years old. You figure he'll get one more chance. I hope he breaks the curse or makes the right move with his starter — whatever it takes to get that playoff gorilla off his back.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.