We humans like abridged history, the Cliff’s Notes version of the past. Napoleon was short and posed for portraits with his hand in his vest. Teddy Roosevelt was a rugged outdoorsman.
And Dusty Baker, the new manager of the Nationals, is the toothpick-sucking guy who murdered Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
Wikipedia, that teller of the whole truth and nothing but the truth, has a paragraph on Baker’s alleged misuse of pitchers while he was manager of the Giants, Cubs and Reds:
“Many fans, commentators, and writers have blamed his tendency to overuse pitchers for damaging the careers of Robb Nen, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Edinson Volquez. Wood and Prior suffered serious arm injuries following their first full seasons under Baker. Wood and Prior averaged 122 and 126 pitches per start, respectively, in their final six regular-season starts of 2003.’’
Therefore, the idea of Baker the Dead Arm Maker must be true. Right?
Look, Wood and Prior would go on to prove again and again that they could get injured all by themselves. They were walking, talking, limping subjects for a med-school class. And some experts are even questioning whether pitch count relates to injury at all. Wikipedia actually mentions that, too, which is nice of them.
The Nationals hired Baker on Tuesday, the second franchise to do so since his departure from Chicago after the 2006 season. He is either good at what he does or another example of how baseball likes to recycle skippers. I’ll go with A) he’s good.
The cheap version of events is that former general manager Jim Hendry is the blithering idiot who tried to buy his way to a World Series. The nerve of him! And the cheap version has Baker playing a big hand in the Cubs’ monumental collapse in the 2003 National League Championship Series. Just know that the two of them got the franchise closer to the World Series than any Cubs team in the last 70 years.
There’s some room for nuance here, but something tells me there’s no room in the abridged history for that. There’s only Dusty’s ubiquitous toothpick and his reputation with pitchers.