Baseball is a funny game.
Not “ha-ha” funny. That’s reserved for things like professional wrestling and the WNBA.
No, baseball is that mind-twisting, face-scrunching kind of funny. That pull-out-your-remaining-hair-‘til-your-head-bleeds kind of funny, where every night we have no idea whether to settle in for an easy win or brace ourselves for another nut-shrinking disaster.
It’s a game where five or six teams lie on the outskirts of the predictability spectrum, either having proven they will win consistently in any number of improbable ways (the Phillies) or fail so often that the act of failing loses its very meaning (the Cubs).
The other 25-odd teams, of course, fall somewhere in the middle. On any given night of the 162-game marathon, these clubs are just as capable of pulling off a W as getting shellacked for 10 runs by the third inning.
It’s baseball. Parity and unpredictability are the name of the game.
I shouldn’t then be miserable over the current state of the Reds, but I am.
See, that’s the thing about baseball (and sports in general). Fans, despite all statistical guidelines and historical roadmaps, will continue to hope for the improbable. Because of moments like the Music City Miracle and Reggie Miller’s eight points in 11 seconds, we assume that things don’t have to go as they always do, even though, well, they pretty much always do.
So, even as the Reds sit today at two games over .500 and as many games behind division-leading Milwaukee (a respectable position at this juncture), I can’t help but feel like the first 76 games of the season have been an absolute waste of my time.
For every brilliant stretch of dominant pitching by Johnny Cueto, there’s the colossal disappointment of Travis Wood. For every scorching Brandon Phillips April (.360 BA), there’s a frigid May/June (.248).
Yup, this club has been average. A bastardly distinction, to be sure, but one that’s held by 80 percent of the teams in the sport.
The middle months of summer then, are spent searching. Searching for answers. Searching for a spark. Searching for any reason to believe that maybe, just MAYBE things will start clicking.
For the 39-37 Reds, the problems have been many.
Pitching depth has gone shallow, due to a grisly combination of injuries and ineffectiveness.
2010 supernovas Scott Rolen and Jonny Gomes have plummeted back to Earth.
Yet, here in June, the scorn of fans that rip through the message boards (with a fervor only a newly invigorated then quickly deflated fan base can display) has focused solidly on the shortstop mess.
Mind you, these are likely the same people who, about three months ago, were busy installing “VOTE JANISH” signs on their front lawn.
Alas, in our “what have you done for my fantasy stats lately” world, Reds shortstops Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria combining for a .230 batting average just ain’t cuttin’ it.
And, to compound such an abject failure, touted prospect Zack Cozart (known for his defensive aptitude) has been lighting up AAA Louisville (.320 BA).
Many think Cozart is at least the beginning of the answer to Cincinnati’s recent offensive woes. That, despite the revolving door in left field, a Reds lineup lacking for consistency would be righted by the installation of the young stud.
That may well be.
However, having just resurfaced after drowning in obscurity for years, Reds fans can’t be faulted for entertaining some quick-fix delusions of grandeur.
Therefore, when I received a text from my brother today saying, “Reds trade Janish and Bailey for Reyes,” my heart skipped a few beats.
Now, to be clear, I am NOT in support of bringing New York’s dynamo of a shortstop to Cincy. He’s having a career year, which means his free agency price tag will be astronomical.
Also, I’m not naïve enough to think the Mets would part with him for the player package my obviously-bored brother suggested. Nothing about Reyes’ brilliant season (.335 BA, 13 triples) says “I can be had for an oft-injured pitcher and a shortstop with a feather for a bat”.
Yet, for several reasons, many Reds faithful have jumped on the high-powered Reyes train, and I can’t say I blame them. Simply the thought of him wearing a wishbone C and leading off raised my heart rate a tad.
So, against my better judgment (surely Reds management won’t open up the purse-strings THAT much, will they?), the news my broseph delivered with his fake-out text got me thinking about the implications such a move would carry.
As I see it, there at least five…
1. The lineup would be JUICED
This one may be obvious, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. After thundering out to first and second in runs scored for the months of April and May, respectively, the Reds offense has dropped off markedly in June. (Prior to a 10-2 drubbing of the Yankees Wednesday night, Cincinnati’s offense was eighth in the N.L. for the month.)
Reyes is pure, unadulterated electricity at the top of a lineup. If he were to bat first in Cincy (and, he would), the Reds would have the leadoff hitter they’ve been searching for for years, and the Janish-to-Jose production increase would be staggering.
Imagine if management were to then call up elite prospect Yonder Alonso to fill the left field void. A lineup of Reyes, Phillips, Votto, Bruce, Rolen, Alonso, Herndandez?
2. Renteria would be GONE-a-ria
Let me just put this one out on the table: NO ONE likes Edgar Renteria.
There, I said it.
As much as the Paul Janish allure has quickly worn off, Renteria seems to have become Cincinnati’s undisputed whipping boy. With his .222 batting average and penchant for treating routine grounders like hackey-sacks, I think it’s safe to say Renteria is worthless.
The only POSSIBLE reason I can think of that El Graybeard remains on the roster is that he’s 35 and might provide some of that oh-so-unquantifiable “veteran leadership.”
However, in a clubhouse completely owned by Miguel Cairo and Scott Rolen, I’m not sure how much Renteria is adding in the leadership department. Reyes, however, is a veteran in his own right, so that point would be moot.
Peace, Edgar. Deuces.
3. Pitching depth? All dried up
Anyone remember the day when all we could do was brag about the depth of quality arms the Reds had? No? A distant, fading memory?
Couldn’t agree more.
Back in March, Cincinnati’s starting pitching ranks looked to be set for years. With Johnny Cueto coming off a good year, the always reliable Bronson Arroyo re-upped, and Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood and Mike Leake all showing promise, the SP coffers seemed to be overflowing.
Then, 2011 happened.
Cueto and Bailey got hurt, Leake and Wood lost their way and Volquez and Chapman lost their heads.
Slowly, sporadically, the Reds starters have begun to pick up the pieces, but not before sending a very clear message to any gun-jumping fans making World Series plans: there is no such thing as pitching depth.
As hard as Dusty Baker and Friends have worked recently to cobble together a stretch of quality pitching, the task would increase dramatically should the team be forced to deal some of their young arms.
A deal for Reyes would almost certainly include a starting pitcher (Bailey? Wood? Both?), kick-starting the all-too-familiar hand-wringing that goes along with having an unsettled rotation.
4. Tough financial decisions get tougher
If the Reds traded for Jose Reyes, the first thing anyone would ask is if they intended to sign him to a deal.
Acquiring him as a two-month rental doesn’t seem like a move General Manager Walt Jocketty would be down with, but, then again, signing an injury-prone, 28-year-old shortstop for $15 million a year doesn’t sound very Walt-like either.
One way or the other, the futures of Brandon Phillips (free agent after this season) and
Joey Votto (a free agent in 2013) would have to be part of the equation.
No matter how much they win (insert bitter 39-37 joke here), the Reds can’t afford to pay all those guys. Hell, they might not even be able to keep Phillips as it is.
Sign-ability is question numero uno when it comes to Reyes, especially when the Reds have such important unfinished business in-house.
5. The future is NOW
Even if he were just a rental, the Mets would require at least a couple quality pieces from the Reds system. So, by trading high-profile prospects and/or major league level starting pitching, the Reds would be putting a crap ton of eggs in the Jose Reyes basket.
Leake, Wood, and Bailey all have the potential to be number two or number three starters. Sending any of them away in exchange for two months of a player’s services would be quite the risk.
Likewise, any prospects included in the deal (Alonso, Cozart, or third baseman Juan Francisco are all equally likely) would certainly deplete what is considered to be a very stout Cincinnati farm system.
And, again, that’s just for the rental.
If the Reds wanted to SIGN Reyes (let’s say for three years), they could all but kiss Phillips goodbye. Not to mention, they’d probably be seriously handicapping themselves for the foreseeable future as it pertains to signing any additional pieces.
Indeed, for the Redlegs to even consider trading for Reyes, it would have to be on the belief that this club could compete for and eventually WIN a World Championship sometime in his Cincinnati tenure, preferably this year.
While that level of success wouldn’t be unfathomable, it sure would be a lot to put on ol’ Jose’s shoulders.
At the end of the day, I think I’d feel comfortable betting the deed to my house that the Reds don’t land Reyes. From a baseball perspective and from a financial perspective, it just doesn’t make much sense.
However, you can’t tell me that at least INITIALLY, your pulse didn’t quicken at the thought.
Again, I’m 99 percent sure I don’t want it to happen and 90 percent sure it won’t.
But, then again, let’s face it…baseball IS a funny game.