ATLANTA -- Thoughts on hunting and fishing are apropos with a four-day break for the All-Star Game coming up following Sunday afternoon's series finale with the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
While Reds Manager Dusty Baker wasn't recommending either activity to his players during his Sunday morning press conference, he did recommend looking into the approach of both activities in helping fix one his team's struggles on the field, specifically the recent difficulties hitting with runners in scoring position.
The Reds were hitting .178 with runners in scoring position over their last 27 games (39-for-219) heading into Sunday, and littered the basepaths at Turner Field over the series' first three games, stranding 21 runners while hitting .259 (7-for-27) in such situations and only .208 (5-for-24) since going 2-for-3 in the first inning Thursday night.
Baker cited the lack of a plan as a big problem, which spirals into lack of discipline, playing into opposing pitchers' hands.
"You have to have a philosophy, you have to have a plan," he said. "I just feel a lot of people are going up there with no plan or not realizing what they're trying to get you to do. They're trying to induce you into a double play. So there are certain pitches that are more conducive to a double play pitch. They have to realize that they're in trouble, not you. I've expressed all of these things for like four or five years now. Hit the ball up the middle with two outs or concentrate up the middle, stay out of the air or stay off the ground at certain times. It's a mindset that you have before you even get into the box."
Baker, who hit .280 in RISP situations during his career, recalled a wide variety of advice given to him from advisers, ranging from former teammates and Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda to Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh before settling in on the approach of the successful hunter and gatherer at rabbit hunting and fishing.
"If you chase this rabbit all over everywhere, he'll stop and start," Baker said. "Just stand in front and he'll come back to you. But as long as you're chasing him all around. … It's the same way in hitting. Or fishing. To catch the big bass, you've got to have the proper worm presentation, proper color at the time of the year, proper speed or you're not catching anything but the little bluegills."
Baker pointed to Detroit Tigers third baseman and defending American League MVP winner Miguel Cabrera as one of the "big boys" who has separated himself with a plan and a disciplined approach.
"You watch Miguel Cabrera. He has a heck of an idea what he wants to do," he said. "He'll shoot you to right field and take a single one time then he'll turn on you the next time looking inside or back off the plate if they're throwing him sinkers, get up on the plate if they're throwing him breaking balls. That's what I mean by the big boys don't just go for the bait because you know they're baiting the heck out of Cabrera."
Baker also recalled his nickname for a guy who wasn't as patient.
"There was a player I called 'Bluegill' for a long time here. He didn't know why I was calling him 'Bluegill,'" he said. "It was because he'd swing at the first piece of bait they'd throw out there. You catch the big boys because they don't go for the bait. The little guys get themselves out because they go for the first piece of bait they throw out there. That's the Bluegill. So that's what you can do. They say sometimes you get so wound up that you just lose sight of the thought process and over a period of time, over a period of years you should be getting better at it or else you'll forever be a bluegill."