It’s what get’s us out of bed in the morning, what pushes us to run farther, try harder, test our very physical and psychological limits. It’s what allows underdogs to topple giants, silver to turn to gold, and records to be shattered.
Motivation is what he;ed Torrey Smith, wide receiver of the Baltimore Ravens, to have the game of his life on Sunday night, 12 hours after the passing of his younger brother. It is what led Lance Armstrong to defeat cancer and win yet another and another Tour de France (I’m not one to say whether he juiced or not, but either way, what he did is unbelievable).
Right now, the Cincinnati Reds are coasting to the end of the season, some breathing room rightfully earned through one of the most dominant regular seasons in Reds’ history. The last few weeks of Cincinnati Reds baseball has been without urgency, and understandably so. With the largest gap of any division leader, the Reds can afford the luxury of taking the gas off the pedal. They are not dominating the win column as the did in the mid-summer months, with the ball leaping off the bat of Frazier and Phillips, Votto cheering from afar as the team did what know one believed could without him. The bullpen has relaxed, with Chapman making his well-rested return on Sunday night.
The Reds are the NL Central League Champions, and they finished it out without the man who captained them there, who believed in his team when no one believed in him. Dusty Baker is constantly under scrutiny in this town, even with questions of whether he is the man for the job next year. Second best record in baseball, and the criticism of his coaching techniques does not subside.
While in Chicago on Wednesday, Baker was checked into the hospital and diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). As he was being discharged on Friday, he suffered a mini-stroke and immediately was treated by the hospital’s stroke team, which minimized the effects of the stroke.
Baker, the man who has led this team the entire season, the person who is questioned most when the Reds lose, but receives the least credit when they win again and again, released a statement today.
"While at Wrigley Field I was blessed to have our trainer, Paul Lessard, have the good sense to call in Cubs team physician Dr. Stephen Adams, who examined me in the clubhouse, immediately determined how serious by condition was and personally rushed me to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Broderick and Dr. Kereiakes are going to make sure I'm ready to handle the duties of managing before I return full time. My family and I are very grateful for the support we've received the past few days from Mr. Castellini and our ownership group, Walt, our friends, the baseball family and especially Reds fans. I'm feeling much better, and it's great being back here in Cincinnati. Chris Speier and my staff are doing a terrific job, and I look forward to getting back to the dugout."
I speak now to the Cincinnati Reds organiztion. Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals used the motivation of the underdog role to propel them through the playoffs, a rouge bunch that couldn’t be stopped in October. Dusty Baker is your leader, your manager, your friend. He has missed out on the best part of the season, the clinch, the celebration of what he worked towards all year.
It is not time to coast. It is time to press even harder. Time to score even more runs, strike out even more batters. The postseason starts in a week and a half, likely against the Giants. Momentum is a key to the game of baseball. Gain it. To turn it on and off again will not do, another Halladay haunt will put you back again at home, with everyone wearing NL Central Champs t-shirts. It’s not enough.
Not for the man who has been your friend. The man who has led this team to a .601 win percentage, who has taken the heat when a pitcher get’s rocked, who has to face the press when the game of baseball turns its ugly head, and who listens to 700 WLW talk of how great Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini are for the team whenever the Reds win.
You need motivation? Look to the end of the dugout tonight. The man standing there doesn’t have a toothpick hanging out of is mouth.
Dusty is believed to be recovering fine, hopefully to return for October’s St. Louis series. If all goes well, he will be a lucky, healthy manager.
Motivation. From today until the day you hold that World Series trophy, it’s what you’ll need. Dusty Baker, the man who has led all season, again has provided the tool that the Cincinnati Reds need for success.
Don’t do it for yourselves, the fans, you’re teammates, or even the city.
Do it for Dusty.