When trying to figure out where the Cubs are going to finish in the future, you’ve got to take a look at the rest of the division. Not that it’s worth a close look yet, because the off season may change things, but you can pick up trends of where franchises are going.
The Brewers are obviously going to be pretty good for an extended period of time. I’d set a baseline of 80 wins for them; if everything goes completely wrong (like they don’t fix the pitching), they still should be around 500. They’ve got a high ceiling from there, and will surely be the consensus pick for the division in ’08.
On the other side, Houston doesn’t seem to be going in the right direction, but I’m not sure it matters with the talent they have left. Pittsburgh could still pick smart people this off season, but they’d have years of rebuilding. St. Louis kinda seems to be now in the same situation, except they’re going to waste the prime years of a top flight Hall of Fame player in the process.
The Reds are the wild card; they’re always close on talent, maybe a starter and a solid guy in the bullpen from being competitive. (I always think of them as a strong offensive team, but they could use some help there as well.) The Reds usually put up a run of very good baseball during the season, usually early, before turning into their usual disappointing season, seven straight of those now. Still, a few smart moves and some luck, and I think they could be the third strong(ish) team in this division.
Thankfully, the Reds are not going to let that happen.
Reds hire Dusty Baker – Cincinnati Enquirer
[Reds GM Wayne] Krivsky said Baker “embodies winning, leadership, credibility.”
“We’re going to play exciting baseball. We’re going to play fundamental baseball,” Baker said.
“He had two of the most high-profile players ever to play the game when they were going through rocky times,” [Jeff] Brantley said. “I’m talking about Bonds and Sosa. Dusty handled them both well.
“That’s the key. It ain’t going to be the pitching staff. It’s going to be about how he handles (Ken Griffey Jr.).”
I don’t even need to have witty/sarcastic remarks. This is so awesome.
Reading more in the Cincy papers, you can find Reds personal saying things like
– Wood had “the worst mechanics in baseball”, so it’s not Dusty’s fault. (You’d think a coach might want to catch and correct that before he breaks his arm. Guess not!)
– Prior “hurt himself”, whatever that means
– Kent Mercker thinks Dusty is great. In Chicago, Mercker confronted Chip Caray and Steve Stone, and Dusty protected him from punishment, so I hope Mercker would be appreciative.
– oh, the Chicago newspapers had it in for him, of course.
– Marty Brennaman may still heavily dislike Dusty, because no one can get him to say a quote otherwise.
I’m glad Dusty got this job, because it means Adam Dunn will be gone from the division very soon (surely to the Nationals as part of Jim Bowden’s master plan to recreate his old 70 win teams). Maybe Josh Hamilton will be gone too – Dusty is much more a Norris Hopper guy. I’m not looking forward to the first Reds trip to Chicago (April 15) and am already rolling my eyes at the “how dare you boo a guy who brought you within five outs of the World Series” columns, but mostly I’m thrilled to discount a contender. It’s not even specifically because they signed Dusty, though I love the idea of being able to watch him implode a team from a safe distance this time
The Reds problem is more talent evaluation than managers. The last couple of interim managers have turned things around for a while, and then dropped off in following seasons. The managers haven’t changed how they run things during those stretches, and changing managers gives the same results, so you’d think it’d be time to try something else. By making a splashing manager pickup instead of going after more talent, the Reds management show they still don’t have a clue. They could’ve used the extra money they’re paying Dusty over what they would’ve given Pete Mackanin on improving the players on the field and it would’ve made a lot more difference.
The bonus is one less bad person on Baseball Tonight. You know, the Cardinals still need a GM and Steve Phillips is right there…