Got Young Pitching? Keep It Away From Dusty Baker!

Cody NielsenContributor IIIMarch 23, 2010

GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 08:  Manager Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds watches from the dugout during the MLB spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at Goodyear Ballpark on March 8, 2010 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Royals 14-5.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When Aroldis Chapman took the $30 million dollar offer from the Cincinnati Reds during the 2009 offseason, I couldn't help but think "Dusty Baker manages the Reds...he's going to ruin that kid." 

While that may seem a bit harsh to a casual baseball fan, let's weigh the evidence against Mr. Baker for a moment. 

In 2003 Baker took over as manager of the Chicago Cubs after a successful run as manager of the San Francisco Giants, which saw him lead the Giants to a World Series in 2002. 

At the time, the Cubs had two of the most promising young pitchers in baseball in Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Both were considered potential aces, both threw gas, and both were strikeout pitchers. 

Baker rode them hard for the entire season, sometimes allowing them to throw 120-125 pitches per start, something that baseball's medical professionals urge against for young pitchers due to the tendency for the arm to get injured through overuse. 

Let's take a look at how the two prospects fared under Baker:

In 2004, Kerry Wood went on the DL for two months with a strained triceps. 

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In 2005, Wood underwent shoulder surgery in August and missed the rest of the season, and in Spring Training 2006, he again incurred arm injuries. In June 2006 he was placed on the DL with what was later diagnosed as a partially torn rotator cuff and missed the remainder of the season. 

The story wasn't much different for Mark Prior, who was the most heralded college pitching prospect ever. He was Strasburg before Strasburg was. 

In 2003, Prior finished third in the NL Cy Young voting, posting an 18-6 record for the Cubs. 

In 2004, he started the season on the DL, missing two months for what was listed as an Achilles tendon injury, but some have speculated was actually an arm injury. After coming off the DL, he didn't pitch up to expectations which led to even more speculation about his arm. 

In 2005, Prior took a line drive off his elbow from the bat of Brad Hawpe, resulting in a compression fracture. 

In 2006, Prior went on the DL with tendonitis not once, not twice, but three times. He finished the season with a 1-6 record and a 7.21 ERA. 

In 2007, after having noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews perform exploratory surgery, it was discovered that Prior had structural damage in his shoulder. After one start in the minors, Prior underwent season ending shoulder surgery to repair the damage. He would never pitch in a Cubs uniform again. 

After leaving the Cubs to be manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Baker was again given another young star pitcher to ruin. 

Edinson Volquez was traded to the Reds in December 2007 as part of the Josh Hamilton trade with Texas. During the 2008 season, he posted a 17-6 record with a 3.21 ERA.

Sound familiar? 

In 2009, he posted a 4-2 record with a 4.35 ERA before being shutdown on June 1 in preparation for Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. 

Needless to say, having young pitchers maintain such large pitch counts and high innings counts is not the smartest thing to do. Sports medicine specialists have been saying this for years, but Dusty Baker has continued to ignore them. 

Baker prefers to do things "old school" or rather, to do things his way, ignore the people who know about such things, and ruin the careers of some of the most promising young pitchers in baseball. 

He once said that "high on base percentage guys just clog up the bases for the other batters unless they know how to run." That's almost as idiotic as saying that the offensive line just gets in the way of the running back unless they can keep up with him. 

If I were the owner of the Reds, with 4 of the most promising young pitchers in all of baseball on my roster (Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Aroldis Chapman) I would be getting rid of Dusty Baker as fast as possible. 

If I were Aroldis Chapman, I would hope that the Reds owner wises up, otherwise he'll be injured more often than he's on the field. 

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