Ha, ha, ha. Daryl Thompson took the wrong subway. Wow, never heard that before. First time it¹s ever happened to a new player in a major city.
It would be a cute thing to expound upon, but Daryl has nothing to be ashamed of, for a very simple comparative reason: DUSTY BAKER DOESN'T KNOW WHAT STREET HE WORKS ON. Literally? Yes, I would bet that he does not know that the legal address of Great American Ball Park is 201 E Pete Rose Way. But the street number is not the important part here, as we are not discussing how to deliver the Reds manager a Hawaiian Pizza (he no doubt orders it with extra pineapple, just for the amusement of picking pineapple chunks off unsuspecting friends' slices using his ever-present toothpick).
What IS important, is of course, the Pete Rose part. Is Pete Rose important to Cincinnati fans? Maybe a little. Just enough to name a major thoroughfare after him and forgive him of nearly every sin imaginable, even a few that require a clever imagination and a donkey to properly execute. Why? Hustle. Rose won over fans instantly, not with his immense talent, good looks, no charisma. For those of you scoring with us at home, he has never had any of these qualities, not that he didn't smell fabulous after a shared shower with Bernie Carbo and a generous splash of Aqua Velva - by Mennen. Gosh, it's hard to re-read the end of that last line without singing the catchiest two-note jingle in American history but I digress.
Reds fans love the guys who hustle. First it was Rose, then Chris Sabo, then Chris Stynes, then Ryan Freel. Heck, Freel is fabulously popular with fans despite multiple alcohol-related police encounters to his credit, along with advertising online his sexual availability to discreet ladies: looking for a woman to enjoy the morning with. Can be married or single,disease free is important. Read the whole ad here:http://thebiglead.com/?p=1843 Cincinnati is a conservative town, yet they universally LOVE Ryan Freel, despite his foibles and flakiness. Perhaps not as much as sorta-single sluts in the Sunshine State, but they do love him and Farney, the midget that lives in his head. Yes, really:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Freel#Farney
Why? Hustle. OK, why do they love hustle? Because hustle doesn't cost a damn thing, and EVERYONE can do it, despite their level of baseball talent. Hustling is the one thing ANYONE can do. And it's the right way to play the game, as every manager, coach, and father in America can tell you. In a blue-collar town that for decades was known as Porkopolis, fans have rooted hard for nearly 140 years for their boys in uniform, and all they ask is one thing: hustle. Not World Series rings, a winning record every year,big personalities, nor big bats. All the Reds fans have ever wanted was a team that had a shot at the pennant and guys trying their best. And for the last five years or so, they've been deprived of exactly that.
Why isn't this team hustling? Because of loafing players and the fact that Dusty Baker doesn't know what street he works on. He doesn't think hustling is important. Does hustling have value to Dusty? Yes, just not enough for him to do his job by speaking up about it. And he's not media-savvy enough to know that his inaction is damaging the franchise by alienating the fan base. And make no mistake: Reds fans are now venomous. They are angry about the losing, bitter about being lied to by a series of penny-pinching owners, and disappointed that this generation of players can't be bragged about to future generations. That last one's a biggy, as even though few current Reds fans don't even realize it, they'd love to have some accomplished team they could use to shade themselves from their parents' beaming pride in the Big Red Machine of the mid-seventies. But all of that can changes instantly. All you have to do in Skyline Country is try, and try hard. It helps if it at least appears that you're trying. It will kill you with these fans if they think you are giving less that full effort.
And THAT is why things are heating up so precariously for Dusty's warriors. Fans hate seeing Ken Griffey, Jr. watch his home runs, especially the two this year that didn't clear the fence. The same is true of Adam Dunn, who watches all of his bombs. Brandon Phillips is not without blame, and Edwin Encarnacion would be smacked in the head by ME if he were close enough. Ed E has even been yanked for not hustling (by a previous manager with larger testes), yet sure enough, just last week he was nearly thrown out at second while trying to stretch a double into a single, even carrying his bat with him halfway down the line. And how about in May when Javier Valentin hit a laser off the wall in the right field corner that he thought was a homer? He stood at first base with an embarrassing single that might have been a triple, and Dusty admonished the player gently, privately after the game. And nothing changed. Why? Because Dusty doesn't really care about hustle, at least not enough to say something about it AND MEAN IT.
Wow! Dusty Baker doesn't know what street he works on. Cincinnati is not New York, where winning is everything, or Chicago, where Wrigley Field (instead of winning) is everything, or San Francisco, where the finale of Project Runway is everything. No, in Cincinnati, especially on Pete Rose Way, hustling is EVERYTHING. My mother can hustle, and she is a little old lady in a wheelchair with leukemia. She ain't quick, but you can sure tell that she's trying. It's about effort.
In a business where public perception is key to a healthy fan base, especially for a recently-meager franchise, here's how you fix things, Dusty: you go back in a time machine about 40 games, and you take the pariah that is our crappy-fielding, occasionally-hitting, roster-spot-hogging, third-string catcher and you make an example out of him. You rip him in the clubhouse in front of the youngsters with great vengeance and furious anger. You release him unceremoniously at a press conference. Javier is a talented hitter, but with two better defensive catchers on our roster and a youth movement in place, we simply cannot afford to instill anything less than a stellar work ethic in our future stars.
Veterans leading by example is the ONLY way that work ethic is instilled. Javier has repeatedly shown less than a complete effort between the lines, and that's not how we do things in Cincinnati. This is a storied franchise, with a great history, playing in front of some of the most passionate, well-versed fans the game has ever known. Every fan in the ballpark knows you have to hustle on every play. Every fan who paid their hard-earned money for a ticket deserves to see the best effort we can put forth during a ballgame, and Javier has shown himself on multiple occasions to be incapable or unwilling to put forth that effort. We thank him for his service, and we wish him luck in the future with another franchise. He has been designated for assignment, and has played his last game in the Reds system. I apologize to the fans, and I promise that lack of hustle will not be tolerated on my watch. That's not how we play in Cincinnati. Boom. Message sent. EVERY Cincinnati fan now in Dusty's corner. Veterans suddenly hustling. Talk radio in Cincy rallies behind the new manager, and the fans eat it up. Also, there is political coverage for any fallout from eating Javier's salary the smallest salary the Reds would have to eat to make this point. Then Dusty goes privately to Griffey, Dunn, and Phillips to ask them each, "Did your daddy teach you that you should hustle? 'Yes.' Well, your daddy ain't here to beat your ass, but I am. Every game. The next time you admire a home run while still in the batter's box, I'm gonna pinch-run for you when you're rounding first. And if you ever again stretch a double into a single by not hustling, I'm yanking you straight out of the game and benching you for a week. Now get the hell out of my office once you're done apologizing, and don't come into work tomorrow unless you're ready to play the game the right way. 'Sorry, Dusty. It won't happen again.' Damn right it won't, or next week your shirt will read 'Pittsburgh.'
Ken Griffey, Sr. may have taught his son an iconic swing, but what he taught him about hustling was ineffective or inadequate. I can teach my son Junior's swing, but I can't show him many game highlights, because Junior is always dogging it. That might be Senior's fault, it's definitely Junior's fault, and it's entirely on Dusty's shoulders, because Junior is still the face of the franchise. Dusty doesn't like to call out players, but that is EXACTLY what is needed for him to do his job. But he's 'a player's manager', which means that guys like playing for him, and he cuts them slack. But this is a roster filled with underachieving veteran slackers prone to long slumps, during which we witness multiple players hitting .105 for a few weeks at a time while hustling rarely. Hitting .105 while hustling is a tough stretch. Hitting .105 while loafing is horseshit. And if you can't speak up to your own players to fix THAT, then you're not a player's manager, you're a tremendous sissy.
Hustling matters in Cincinnati. This team doesn't hustle. That needs fixed. It's the manager's job to fix it. I doubt Baker has the guts to fix it. So, Dusty, next time you hop into a car to drive you to the Stadium, you might want to check the address first. It will not only help you avoid an embarrassing Daryl Thompson-type delay, but it might help remind you what it takes to win over the fans in Cincinnati. They already know the address of the stadium they paid to have built. It shares its name with the right way and the ONLY way to play baseball in Cincinnati the Pete Rose Way.