Dusty Baker is well-known for his patience and loyalty with players. Some might even say “infamous.” Do the names Neifi Perez, Corey Patterson, or Willie Taveras ring a bell? If they do, it’s not because their visages are enshrined in Cooperstown. These are all players who Dusty Baker stayed with too long as manager to the detriment of the ball club.
It’s the end of May, and in a week’s time the Reds have gone from sweeping the Cardinals to go 1.5 games up to losing five straight and trailing by 2.5 games. With the majority of a challenging stretch of games left over the next three weeks, it’s time for Baker to “cut bait” on a couple of guys he’s been hoping would turn it around.
Jonny Gomes put together an incredible stretch a year ago where he drove in runs at an amazing pace. His hard-nosed style brought some personality to a young team looking for some fire. Since the middle of last June, however, Gomes has reverted back to his “baseball card” stats, leaving a gaping hole in the Reds lineup. This year he’s hitting .171 overall and just .175 with runners in scoring position. The Reds also have a hole at shortstop, but getting rid of Paul Janish or Edgar Renteria is a dicier prospect (that said, word this morning is that Todd Frazier is being called up from AAA). Despite Gomes popularity with the fans and in the clubhouse, it’s time for him to go. He’s not providing any value to the team right now. Chris Heisey is hitting .273 and out performing Gomes in every offensive and defensive area. It’s a no-brainer for him to at least enter into a platoon set-up with left-handed Fred Lewis. It would represent a tremendous defensive upgrade and left and occupy the two-hole in the lineup which has been problematic all season.
The other move regards Edinson Volquez. Yesterday in Cleveland he experienced his worst outing yet, which is saying something given Volquez’s puzzling inability to get cleanly out of the first inning. Volquez lasted just 2 2/3 innings against the Tribe, surrendering 7 runs on 7 hits and walking 4. Then, inexplicably, Volquez complained of a lack of run support to reporters following the game. Being in the front of the rotation is no place to work out the mental kinks plaguing the one-time all-star. With plenty of good arms in the system, the Reds couldn’t do much worse with Dontrelle Willis or even Sam Lecure taking Volquez spot every fifth day. Perhaps Dr. Kremchek will find some “shoulder inflammation” with Edinson and allow him to work things out while rehabbing.
Dusty Baker needs to realize the Reds aren’t the Cubs or the Giants, his previous stops. It’s taken decades to finally build a contending club and the window of opportunity with them is narrow. He can’t afford to give up games in the standings to the Cardinals by stubbornly clinging to players who have performed in the past but haven’t been contributing anything for some time now. Patience is one thing. Being mule-headed is another.