Dusty Baker Talks About The 2011 NL Central Race


Former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker is coming into the season as the manager of the National League Central Champions, the Cincinnatti Reds. Baker did an interview with the Chicago Tribune, and among the things he touched on was the Cubs improvement from last season to this season.

"“Our division is tougher. The Cubs are better, they have picked up some pitching, and they’ve got some healthy pitching coming back, and they have some new players,” Baker said Tuesday in an interview with the Tribune from his Northern California  home. “You look at the Cardinals and they’ve got (Ryan) Theriot and they added (Lance) Berkman. That’s a powerful bat right there. And they already have a very good team. CHICAGO TRIBUNE"

The National League Central has indeed turned into a very tough division. While it certainly is the not the best division in Major League Baseball, it is one that could have as many as four teams be in contention by the time the last month of the season comes around. Unlike Baker, I am not too fond of the Cardinals additions of Lance Berkman or Ryan Theriot. Berkman has been dealing with nagging injuries for most of the past two seasons, and I question if he will be able to withstand a full season in the outfield. As for Theriot, besides a career year in 2008, he has proven to be no better than an average middle infielder.

"“You look at Milwaukee and they are a year older and more experienced with a great offense already. They have added some big-time pitching. Our division is going to be one of the tougher divisions. Seems like whoever was trading somebody was trading to our division. It’s going to be a tough fight; it’s going to be a tough division. But, hey, that’s what it’s all about.” Chicago Tribune"

I would say that it was more so the Brewers and Cubs that were doing most of the trading this winter of all the National League Central teams. Both the Brewers and Cubs did come away with two of the biggest trade pieces in Zack Greinke and Matt Garza. But, the Brewers addition of Shaun Marcum also will pay off for them, as they may have the best rotation in the entire division.

"“I just look for us to get better,” said Baker, whose young Reds team features NL MVP Joey Votto and the talented Jay Bruce. “The toughest time to win is the first time. Then after that you’ve got a better idea about how to go about your business. You have a better idea about what myself and my coaches have been talking about. When things sort of come to fruition, it is easier to go forth from there.” Chicago Tribune"

To be honest, I do not see the Reds being better than what they were last season. I think a number of the Reds were the beneficiaries of a career year, and I also do not think their pitching staff is on the same level as the Cubs, Cardinals, or Brewers. In fact, I would not be completely surprised if the Reds were to finish the season in third place.

"“I know Quade,” Baker said. “He’s a good guy. He did a good job for them when Lou (Piniella) stepped down at the end of the year. I mean, they played well under him. It’s a long year, man, and a lot of things can happen.” Chicago Tribune"

Despite most of the fans being disappointed with the Mike Quade hiring, I think it will turn out to be one of the better decisions of the winter. The thing that will be different is that Quade will command accountability from his players. As he did last season on a handful of occasions, Quade is not afraid to bench someone if they did not do what they were asked. Plus, I think the players are believers in Mike Quade. Towards the last two seasons under Lou Piniella, it became evident that Piniella had lost his grip on the team.