A conversation I had yesterday concerning the Reds went something like this:
Friend: At this point, I consider myself a moderate Reds fan. I just enjoy watching good baseball.
Me: Yeah, same here. If you want to see good baseball, watching the Reds is not what you want to do. They set the game back 75 years every time they take the field.
That’s the type of Reds-related conversations I have every day and they always begin with “Man, the Reds suck.”
But how could they not suck, honestly? Their lineup consists of a few couple solid guys (Votto, Phillips) and a plethora of AAA players, yesterday’s news, and old vets who have given up PED’s in favor of Geritol.
Welcome to the club Mr. Rolen! (I’m not suggesting that Scott Rolen has taken PED’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised at the latter.) The men “setting the table” for Joey Votto couldn’t get a hit if they were playing underhand softball – and they’ve got the numbers to prove it.
The starting rotation, which was once regarded as one of the club’s few strengths, is in shambles. Of course you know by now that Edinson Volquez had Tommy John surgery yesterday. He’ll be out for at least a year. Is it fair to blame the WBC yet or not? Johnny Cueto seems to have lost his groove. Bronson Arroyo is more miss than hit nowadays and even if Aaron Harang pitches well enough to win, he continues to get no run support. Micah Owings is out but I’m not sure which this hurts more, the pitching staff or our pinch hitting options.
So now that this season is a wash, what are the Reds brass looking at now? Perhaps the better question is what should they be looking at now? The problems that Walt Jocketty must deal with this off season are numerous, but here are some issues that any Reds fan with a brain should be able to point out.
Problems that must be dealt with in no specific order:
1. Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez is done. Surely Walt Jocketty is not stupid enough to pick up this guy’s 2010 option. The question is, who will replace him? Chris Valaika or a free agent signing?
In case you were wondering, here are the available shortstops on the free agent market as of this Fall:
- Bobby Crosby
- Orlando Cabrera
- Adam Everett
- Khalil Greene
- Marco Scutaro
- John McDonald
- Miguel Tejada
- Jack Wilson
My vote is for Valaika.
2. Center Field: Can anyone remind me why we signed Willy Taveras in the first place? Who, exactly, were we in competition with to sign him? There had to have been some competition in order for us to offer the ludicrous two years/$6.5 million ($4 million of which he earns in 2010).
Here we are stuck with Corey Patterson, Jr. for another season while guys like Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey are lighting up the International League. I love being a Reds fan!
3. Left Field: In my opinion, Nix and Gomes have served nicely in the corner outfield spots this season; Gomes especially. (This reminds me of what a brilliant move it was to place Darnell McDonald on the Opening Day roster and keep him there for two months or however long it was. But that is neither here nor there.)
However, is Jonny Gomes or a platoon of him and Laynce Nix the answer for the Reds in Left Field? I’m not one to believe that. This club still needs some pop from the right side of the plate. Some would argue that comes from our newly acquired third baseman, but I would argue against that. I’m sure the Reds’ answer will be in the form of either a pricey free agent or a washed up spring training invitee.
4. Catcher: While I wouldn’t consider Ramon Hernandez the Reds’ biggest problem or even say the trade for him was a bad one, I would advocate that Ryan Hanigan should see more playing time. Hernandez’s numbers have gotten progressively worse since 2005 while Hanigan remains the Reds’ only .300+ hitter aside from Joey Votto. Additionally, Hanigan is better defensively and none would argue as to how he calls a game and handles pitchers.
Speaking of catchers, did anyone else find the Jerry Hairston trade for minor league catcher Chase Weems interesting? I didn’t think so, but what I found interesting was how might this affect Devin Mesoraco. Are the Reds’ feelings towards Mesoraco souring a bit?
5. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang: Similar to the situations at shortstop and center field, the Reds have hamstrung themselves by offering these two players large contracts making them difficult to trade. There is no doubt in my mind that clubs who are in the mix would take a flier on one of these two had it not been for their unappealing salaries. Right now, they are commanding nearly 30% of the Reds’ payroll and I’m pretty sure that $20 million could be spent on better performing pitchers. I must say that if I had to trade one and keep the other, I’d move Arroyo and keep Harang.
6. Manager/Coaching Staff: The odds of Dusty Baker getting fired this off season are about as good as the Reds finishing above .500. While Baker shouldn’t be blamed for everything, he is in part responsible for what we see on the field and the strategic portions of the game.
Take last night against the Cubs for example; Baker visits Harang on the mound in the eighth, leaves him in to face Derek Lee, Harang gives up an RBI double. Again, the Reds down three runs with two men on, Baker sends out Janish to pinch hit instead of the Reds’ savior, Scott Rolen.
I know Rolen took a shot to the head the night before, but surely he can take an AB. Yet again, in the bottom of the ninth with two on, two out, down two runs, couldn’t Dusty have found someone else to bat for .237 Willy Taveras? Is there not anyone who could play center field in the event that the pinch hitter actually ties the game? Maybe not, but it’s things like this that make you think Dusty’s already mailed it in. Forgive me for turning my Dusty Baker rant into a mini-recap of last night’s debacle. Besides, Dusty didn’t lose the game on his own, he had some help.
Regardless of whether Baker stays or goes, I feel this coaching staff needs to be shaken up. The problem with someone like myself making the point about the coaching staff is that it’s difficult to quantify the effect that a coaching staff has on the players and on the outcome of each game.
It’s not Chris Speier’s fault that Alex Gonzalez has lost a step in his range; a coach can only do so much. Outside of Dusty Baker, the coach who obviously has the most affect on the outcome of a game is Dick Pole. At times, his tactics have been questionable at best (i.e. allowing Justin Lehr to walk the bases loaded and fall behind 3-0 to the next batter before even visiting the mound).
You don’t have to have Dave Duncan and Rudy Jaramillo on staff in order to win, but you do need coaches with at least some semblance of baseball knowledge.
Positives – the Few and Far Between
There are some things to be positive about. Joey Votto continues to be a stud. He has MVP potential. Brandon Phillips, while not a cleanup hitter and sometimes frustrating, is brilliant in the field and would be fantastic at the plate were he in the six or seven hole.
For the most part, the bullpen has been a stopping force. No one is complaining about the Arthur Rhodes signing. Cordero is an All-Star even though the Reds are paying him way too much. Homer seems to have finally found it, whatever it is. Gomes has been a pleasant surprise and Jay Bruce’s .207 average surely can go nowhere but up.
So there are a few things to be pleased with that offer some sort of hope for next season and beyond. But I, like you, am content with being negative about what I see on the field right now and hate myself for wasting hours of my life watching it. All we can hope for now is the right moves to be made once this awful season is behind us.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote by Mark Twain given to me a couple weeks ago. It might make you feel better when you see GABP packed with Cubs fans again tonight.
Satan to newcomer, with discontent:
"The trouble with you Chicago people is that you think you are the best in Hell – whereas you are merely the most numerous."