Gonzo: Baker's boys stumble at worst time

Reds manager Dusty Baker tries to settle down his rookie reliever, Aroldis Chapman, who surrendered the lead to the Phillies in the seventh inning of Game 2 at Citizens Bank Park.
Reds manager Dusty Baker tries to settle down his rookie reliever, Aroldis Chapman, who surrendered the lead to the Phillies in the seventh inning of Game 2 at Citizens Bank Park.
Posted: October 09, 2010

Of all the characters in Office Space, both human and inanimate, the printer is easily the most loathed by the downtrodden subjects of the cubicle kingdom. Before the infernal machine is taken to an empty field and given a brutal beating while Ice Cube plays hard in the background, the employees take turns wrestling and pleading with it to do its job.

The printer doesn't comply. The device displays a paper-jam error message even though that's clearly not the case. That infuriates everyone. Samir takes it the hardest. You're never sure whether he'll sob or seethe.

"No, not again," Samir says. "Not again."

Dusty Baker is sort of the Samir of his particular office. His New Big Red Machine keeps malfunctioning and causing him unneeded workplace stress. How long until the manager snaps and beats the lot of them with a fungo bat?

You could see the disbelief in Baker's face during the Phillies come-from-behind, 7-4 win in Game 2 of the National League division series on Friday. Things were going well for the not-so-fabulous Baker boys - until the seventh inning when they had the baseball equivalent of the dreaded paper jam.

First, Chase Utley reached base thanks to a phantom hit-by-pitch call that would have embarrassed even Derek Jeter. Then Jayson Werth got on after he grounded to third and Scott Rolen's throw to second was ruled late. Both scored when rightfielder Jay Bruce badly botched an otherwise-routine fly ball by Jimmy Rollins. There was also talk that Utley didn't touch third base on his way to home plate, but Baker said that by the time he was informed it was too late to discuss the matter with the umpires.

And that was that. The Phils put up three improbable runs in the inning and took a commanding, two-games-to-none lead in the series.

Before the game, Baker talked about how his team has had recent success against Roy Oswalt. He said he thought the Reds could do it again. And they did. They got to Roy 2.0 early and scored four runs off him, three of which were earned. Baker had to feel pretty good about that - especially after Roy Halladay made Cincinnati look foolish in Game 1.

But if Baker felt confident prior to the inauspicious seventh, he probably should have known better. The man has had a fine managerial career. Problem is, it's usually right after things go well for him that they end up horribly wrong.

When he was the boss in San Francisco, the Giants made the World Series - then they lost in seven heartbreaking games. In Chicago, after years of futility, he took the Cubs to the precipice of the World Series - only to have an entire season's worth of quality baseball undone by an oblivious, and now-infamous, one-name fan known as Bartman. And in Cincinnati, he resurrected a long-dead franchise and dragged the Reds back to the postseason after 15 seasons - at which point he was smacked down once more when he watched his crew dismantled during just the second no-hitter in playoff history.

After all that, after being punished and forsaken for so long by the cruel, intolerant baseball gods, he must have thought he had finished his penance. He must have thought he was due to be paroled from purgatory - particularly with a four-run lead, just three innings to play, and blindingly fast Aroldis Chapman on the mound. Baker must have thought all that - right up until he was reminded, once more, that's not the way it works for him. Ever.

When he's finally done with baseball, someone is going to offer Baker a lot of money for a reality show. It will involve him sitting in a chair while he watches random strangers kick his dog.

"In my mind, we outplayed them," Baker said. "We ended up giving them most of their runs."

He had the same familiar look on his face during the postgame news conference. It was that old distant stare - the one that shows up reflexively during the playoffs, the one that means, without him ever saying it: "No, not again."

Someone named Dan Rosenheck wrote a piece for the New York Times website and tried to make a case that Tim Lincecum's performance was "more impressive and more valuable" than Halladay's no-hitter. You can read it here if you like (though I wouldn't bother): http://nyti.ms/aeoyHk. And now we know the answer: The Old Gray Lady doesn't drug test. . . . Bronson Arroyo has the most exaggerated leg kick since Patrick Swayze in Road House. . . . In a karma-appropriate development, Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen got booed last night. A lot. . . . Tweet of game: "pet peeve: HR hit to cheap seats where kid is pressured to throw it back. then ball girl retrieves it and gives it to kid in expensive seat." - @baseball_ref. . . . Scrapple >goetta.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com

Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly

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