Reality bites

Here’s what the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Morrissey passes off in his column today as “a little eye opener to go with your daily dissatisfaction with Dusty Baker”:

A month or so ago, Baker opened a letter from a Cubs fan. He gets a lot of letters. This one was different. This one was uglier, nastier, viler than the normal fare. This one … well, this one was almost beyond comprehension.

“This guy wrote that he hoped I would hurry up and get my cancer back and die so the Cubs could get a real manager,” Baker said.

A vile sentiment, no doubt, but not exactly the dose of reality Morrissey promised. Yes, there are lunatics who write letters to public figures. Welcome to Earth, Rick.

The reality is that just about nobody worth listening to believes that Dusty Baker is entirely at fault for the Cubs’ mediocrity. That’s a classic strawman, just as this anecdote so willingly dished out by Baker and happily lapped up by Morrissey is classic misdirection.

The Cubs have suffered devastating injuries to key players and disappearing acts by others. That is largely responsible for their subpar performance. But on the margins, Baker does deserve some blame. Baseball is a game of averages, small differences in which make the difference between success and failur over the course of a 162-game season.

Baker, for example, is responsible for fielding yesterday’s lineup. That lineup included Jose Macias starting in centerfield and leaving Matt Murton and his .500 on-base percentage on the bench. The way things played out, the choice didn’t make much of a difference to the outcome of the game. I suppose the best that could be said about Baker’s recent tenure is that his bad management of the club has been overshadowed by factors beyond his control.

Baker’s like the captain of a submarine that simultaneously crashes into an iceberg and gets hit by an incoming torpedo. We can’t honestly say that the sub’s sinking is entirely his fault, but neither can we honestly say his captainship was stellar.