Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

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Thursday, June 01, 2006



Somewhere in northwest Indiana, a man just blamed the players for a team's execrable performance, not the manager. That's good. It's a basic FJM principle that the impact of baseball managers is largely overstated in the media.

On the other hand, the manager that this northwestern Indiana man is defending is none other than Dusty Baker. That's bad. Because, well, Dusty Baker is.

So you can see why I'm conflicted. Fortunately, this man -- his name is Justin Breen -- makes it pretty clear whether he's on the side of good or evil. Let's take a look.

Many of the Cubs' fans say it's time for good ol' Dusty Baker to go, and I will say it is not.

Chicago's North Side manager should stay because he knows what he's doing.

I'd like to see your rationale for such a statement, Justin Breen.

Do not blame Baker for the injuries to Derrek Lee, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

Don't fire the guy for the inadequacies of soon-to-be-starting-catcher Henry Blanco, whose .051 batting average is almost one-sixth as good as pitcher Glendon Rusch's .286, whose ERA, by the way, is 7.31.

For goodness sake, don't let this guy depart, even when Lee's replacement, John Mabry, is batting a whopping .186.

Yes, the Cubs have had injuries. Pretty devastating ones, actually. Although by this point, they really should start making plans to play most of their games without Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

This mess is not Baker's fault, and I can't say that strongly enough.

What I know about Baker is the following:

1. He's a winner.

Uh oh. This is the kind of boilerplate non-analysis that'll get you written about on a site that makes fun of poor sportswriting.

2. With good players, he'll continue to be a winner.

I actually agree. If a team has good players, they'll be a good team, almost completely regardless of what the manager does, short of putting all the guys' names in a hat and making them play random positions. No credit for this, though, since it was preceded by the "He's a winner" nonsense.

3. With this current group of Cubs, he has no chance to win.

Again, sort of true. These guys are terrible. Did you know that as of right now, the Cubs ranks last in the NL in OBP and SLG, as well as second to last in ERA?

The Cubs are one of the worst teams in baseball -- maybe the worst -- playing for one of the game's best managers.

Please don't forget that when Baker came to Wrigleyville, he took the Cubs to within five outs of the World Series. But I guess some Cub fans would hold him responsible for Steve Bartman's bonehead play, Alex Gonzalez's key error and the rest of the collapse, too.

And can we just remember that Baker guided the Cubs to consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1971-72? Or that, in 2004, Baker became the 50th manager to win 1,000 games? Or that he's a two-time winner of The Sporting News Manager of the Year award?

Wow, he's the 50th guy to accomplish a feat that's mostly about longevity? Wow, he won an award that, by my count, has also been won by nine other current managers -- as well as, get this, the third base and first base coaches of the Yankees? One of the best in the game, indeed. (Bobby Cox has won the Manager of the Year award eight times.)

Because this guy -- a player who was in the on-deck circle when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record, and a manager who very easily could have won the World Series with the Giants in 2002 -- deserves better.

And now Dusty gets credit for being in the on-deck circle when someone else did something totally unrelated to managing a baseball game? Did you know that Bruce Bochy was watching on a TV in a Houlihan's in Wichita Falls when the U.S. pulled off the Miracle on Ice? And he was drunk off his ass. That's what I call managing.

Any club searching for the right guy would simply have to look at Baker, who's not Jim Leyland, but he's pretty darn close.

Jim Leyland? Jim Leyland is the new gold standard for managerial excellence? Jim Leyland, who before this season had a career record of 1069-1131, for a magical winning percentage of .486? This is the guy Baker is "pretty darn close" to? Regardless of what you write in the first fifty paragraphs of your article, if you close with this, you're pretty much saying, "Ignore anything that comes out of my pen, because I deserve to be institutionalized and it's possible that my only experience with baseball comes from playing one game of RBI Baseball for the 8-bit Nintendo in 1989 (although I don't believe that game included a role for managers at all, but the point still holds)."

Anyway, the moral is: just when you think you can quietly write an ill-informed sports article for the Northwest Indiana Times and get away with it, some asshole picks it apart sentence by sentence on the internet.

You're welcome.


posted by Junior  # 9:27 PM
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