Dusty The Arm Killer wreaks more havoc

Updated 8/6/2009 6:49 PM

Sometimes the subject is approached like it's a grand mystery.

So every now and then, you'll hear someone ask, "What really happened to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood?''


But it's no mystery at all.

What happened to them was Dusty Baker.

The man who ruined Prior and Wood, not to mention Chad Fox and so many others on the road from San Francisco to Cincinnati, has done it again.

Baker, who once said he never hurt a pitcher's arm, has sent another young all-star to the surgeon, and again has managed to escape unscathed.

One of the very best young pitchers in the game, Edinson Volquez, is done for at least a year with Tommy John surgery, after Baker abused him unmercifully in 2008.

So let's examine the legend of Dusty The Arm Killer.

On May 25, 2008, the Reds lost in 18 innings to San Diego, but not before Baker pitched Aaron Harang - the team's ace the previous four years - on only two days' rest (after a 103-pitch outing) and pitched him 4 more innings (63 pitches).

Of course, Harang wound up on the disabled list with an arm problem a few weeks later, finished 6-17 last year and under the direction of Dusty The Arm Killer, Harang is 5-13 this year.

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Since Baker decided to pitch him on two days' rest last May, Harang is 9-24, after going 53-39 the four years before Baker arrived.

What he did to Volquez, in that same marathon against San Diego, was even worse, because he was so young.

Volquez received one entire day off - yes, one day off - after tossing 92 pitches, and Baker had him throw another 12/3 innings and 39 pitches against the Padres.

In August last year, Volquez - go figure - had a tired arm and had to be pushed back a couple days, and Baker was so concerned about the kid that when Volquez came back, Baker only let him throw 113 pitches.

The manager threw him 196 innings, or 50 more than Volquez had ever thrown in a season, and now he's done for at least 12 months with a giant scar on his elbow.


The tales of Wood and Prior are just as bad and far more numerous, but, of course, Baker insists he's not to blame.

Forgive us, then, for remembering that Dusty The Arm Killer put Prior back into a game just moments after he landed on his shoulder following a collision with Marcus Giles on July 11, 2003.

Prior grabbed his shoulder after the tackle and stayed on the ground for a couple minutes before walking off, but good thing Baker only pitched him 22/3 more innings that day.

Immediately following that extra 66 pitches - during which he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks - Prior missed a month with a shoulder injury.

This, by the way, was his first full big-league season.

A few months later, by Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS, Prior had pitched 227 innings, had suffered that July shoulder injury, and had averaged 127 pitches a start the previous seven outings.

But in Game 2, after 5 innings and 74 pitches - and with an 11-0 lead over Florida - Baker pitched Prior into the eighth and 116 pitches.

That extra 42 pitches might have been nice to have back in Game 6 when Prior was on fumes in the infamous eighth inning, which Baker also slept through, for those who have somehow forgotten.

In Game 7 against the Marlins, Wood said that he choked in defeat, which was a courageous attempt at taking the blame, but the truth is Kid K was exhausted.

Wood had absolutely nothing on the ball in that fateful Game 7, after throwing 238 innings in 2003, and averaging 120 pitches his last 9 starts, despite Baker knowing Wood's history of surgery and stints on the DL.

After 2003, Prior dropped to only 21 starts in 2004 and you know the rest of his story. He's now out of work after the Pads released him this week, and his career might be over.

Wood fell to 22 starts in 2004, 10 the next season, 4 after that and he was finished as a starter. That 2003 season under Baker was the beginning of the end for him in the rotation, though he has made it back as a serviceable reliever.

Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, the men who were to carry the Cubs to the postseason for a decade, didn't get them to a single World Series, thanks in large part to their manager, who will have collected $25 million between Chicago and Cincinnati by the time his contract ends next season.

The entire direction of the franchise has been altered by the injuries to Prior and Wood, jobs lost, careers derailed, pennants vanished, though it's no mystery as to where they went.

As for the Reds, well, you hate to see great young talent injured, but who knows what will become of Edinson Volquez and the other youngsters on the Reds pitching staff.

The reality is, you can't like their chances, not under the careful watch of Dusty The Arm Killer.

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