Cincinnati Reds: 8 Reasons Dusty Baker Is Skating on Thin Ice to Start 2012

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2012

Cincinnati Reds: 8 Reasons Dusty Baker Is Skating on Thin Ice to Start 2012

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    It’s no secret to Cincinnati Reds fans and the entire MLB that Reds manager Dusty Baker is now beginning the final year of his current contract with the club.

    If the team performs poorly, he won’t be back in the Queen City.

    Baker has brought prosperity to the Reds during his tenure in Cincinnati, with the peak of success coming the form of a 2010 National League championship. With that being said, Baker has made a number of questionable moves and managerial decisions over the years that have left fans scratching their heads.

    That trend continues in 2012. A variety of moves, decisions and expectations are now weighing on Baker’s shoulders, and the results will have massive implications on his future in Cincinnati and the MLB.

    Here are eight reasons Dusty Baker is skating on thin ice to start 2012:

Mediocre 2011 Campaign

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    The Reds had a horrible 2011 season that saw them stumble to a 79-83 record en route to missing the playoffs.

    That mediocre season occurred with an almost identical roster to the one from 2010 that won the National League title. That was the first time the Reds had made the playoffs since 1995, so expectations were high going into the 2011 season.

    Baker needs to rebound with the 2012 club or he won’t have a job in Cincinnati. This is arguably the most talented roster he has ever had during his tenure in Cincinnati, so the time is now for Baker.

Weakened National League Central Division

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    The Reds have had the unfortunate luck of having to deal with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Prince Fielder for quite some time.

    Now both have exited the division.

    Pujols is now a member of the Los Angeles Angles and Fielder joined the Detroit Tigers. That doesn’t mean the Brewers and Cardinals are suddenly horrible teams, but it means the Reds no longer have to deal with two elite players who have been the proverbial “thorn in the side” of Cincinnati.

    The departures mean Dusty Baker now arguably has the most talented team in the NL Central. If he doesn’t bring home the NL crown, he’ll be in trouble.

History of Bad Lineup Construction

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    Dusty Baker has had what many consider to be questionable lineup construction throughout his career, with last season being a prime example.

    Historically, Baker prefers to place his batting order based on position rather than ability. Common sense says that isn’t the best idea in most scenarios.

    For example, Baker refused to put anyone besides Drew Stubbs as the leadoff batter for the majority of last season. Stubbs proceeded to strike out 205 times. Leadoff batters need to be able to get on base. Striking out 205 times doesn’t accomplish that goal.

    Baker has started 2012 with a smart approach to the lineup. Brandon Phillips is leading off and Stubbs is buried in the back of the order. If Baker keeps up this smart approach, he may live to manage the Reds beyond 2012.

Trading for Mat Latos

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    Trading for Mat Latos is a move that immediately upgraded the Cincinnati Reds' roster, without a doubt. However, the club gave up a plethora of talent in exchange. It’s a huge gamble, and one Baker could pay for dearly.

    Latos was shipped to Cincinnati from the San Diego Padres in exchange for infielder Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal and starting pitcher Edinson Volquez. Alonso was a great talent who couldn’t find a home at third base and Volquez was expendable, but the loss of Grandal hurts. He was an amazing catching prospect who could have started for the club in a few years.

    The Reds and Baker broke the bank to win now by acquiring a potential ace in Latos, and if they don’t, Baker will be the one who inherits the blame.

Demoting Todd Frazier for Alfredo Simon

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    Todd Frazier was arguably the most versatile player on the Reds, with the ability to play first, second and third base and shortstop. He was also efficient at the plate during his spot duty last season.

    Instead of keeping Frazier as talented depth, Baker and company sent Frazier down so they could make room for Alfredo Simon.

    Simon appeared in the second game of a series against the Miami Marlins earlier this week and promptly gave up two runs, as the Reds proceeded to lose. So far, the decision is backfiring on Baker. It’s early, but the move hasn’t been popular with fans, and now they have ammo to back up their displeasure.

Aroldis Chapman Stuck in the Bullpen

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    The Reds have been flip-flopping on what role Aroldis Chapman will play for some time now. Not surprisingly, the team has elected to keep him in the bullpen, just like they did last season.

    The Reds would like Chapman to be a starter, but the season-ending injury to closer Ryan Madson seems to have influenced Reds brass to keep Chapman in the bullpen. Chapman also could have been the closer in place of Madson, but Baker elected to give that position to Sean Marshall.  

    Reds fans have been clamoring for Chapman to see a bigger role on the team, but they aren’t getting it just yet. If Baker’s decision to keep Chapman in the bullpen backfires, Baker will take the brunt of the backlash.

Bronson Arroyo as the 3rd Pitcher

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    Bronson Arroyo had a very average 2011 season. He was suffering from injuries, but that didn’t stop Dusty Baker from giving him 199 innings.

    In 2011, Arroyo gave up career highs in home runs with 46 and earned runs with 112. His record was a mediocre 9-12. This is in stark contrast to the 2010 Arroyo who went 17-10.

    Baker has an affection for playing veterans, and Arroyo is the prime example. He’s the third pitcher in the rotation when he should be lower. The younger guys below him, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey, are arguably better options at this point.

High Expectations

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    The Reds' outstanding offseason has given the fans a new hope after a disappointing 2011. So much so that World Series predictions are begging to pop up here and there. That’s bad news for Dusty Baker.

    The re-signing of Joey Votto, the trade for Mat Latos and a weakened division has given the city of Cincinnati an unprecedented amount of hype around this year’s Reds. Not only are the Reds expected to win the NL crown, they are expected to win that and more in 2012.

    These grand expectations are not usually met, and Baker will be the one blamed if they aren’t fulfilled. If the team starts off sluggish, Baker could be out of a job by July.