Dusty Baker Manages, Fails; Observes, Succeeds
It doesn't get much more painful for the keyboard-toting baseball enthusiast living in Mom's basement than the bottom half of the eighth inning of Monday night's Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game. Down 3-2, the Reds pieced together a walk and a single to start the home half of the inning against the Bucs' Damaso Marte with Joey Votto (.283/.343/.483 in 2008), Edwin Encarnacion (.246/.332/.462) and Jay Bruce (.286/.356/.437) coming up. In 2,985 Minor League plate appearances, Votto lays claim to one (as in, one), sacrifice bunt. He has zero in the Bigs. Here is what unfolded:
Reds Manager Dusty Baker put a bunt on with Votto at the plate.
Votto offered and fouled off a Marte pitch. He offered and missed the next. He fouled off an 0-2 pitch and then struck out on Marte's fourth pitch to him.
Encarnacion came to the plate and battled through an impressive at-bat, only to strike out on the eighth Marte pitch he saw.
With two outs and Bruce set to come to the plate, Baker sent the reigning #1 Baseball America prospect back to the dugout in favor of...wait for it...Javier Valentin. "It couldn't possibly be the Javier Valentin with the .222/.275/.286 line," you say? It was. I watched it live. Valentin grounded out to end the inning.
Baker supporters might be quick to point to Bruce's .623 MLB OPS against southpaws but he has pounded lefties his whole Minor League career. If one were to think long and hard enough, a basis for Javier Valentin appearing in a baseball game might come to mind, but I know one thing: Jay Bruce's track record in 44 Big League plate appearances against lefties is not one of them.
So now, get this. In the ninth, the Reds would win the game. You know how? Dave Ross doubled and Ken Griffey Jr. homered. Just like that, in two plate appearances and as Dusty Baker watched idly, Cincinnati had won.
Do you think Baker might have learned a lesson? Nah, I doubt it.