Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wow, What A July For Cincy!

July! It's a great month! Love the warm weather, even during this coldest July on record. Red White and Blue on the fourth. Parades, cookouts, swimming pools, drinks with limes, and nothing but baseball. It's a great month for codgers like me who love red, white, and blue. And baseball. The Reds are once again blue in July. A bruising shade of blue, soon to be black and blue. 10 games under .500 for the season, and falling faster than Aaron Harang's trade value. Quick!!!! What was the Reds record on July 3? It was a respectable 39-38 with the Cardinals rolling in for a three-game series for the holiday weekend. Yep, one game over .500. What a fateful Friday night it was. The Reds up 3-0 in the eighth inning, bases loaded, a fella named Pujols at the plate. Since Albert swatted that ball to the left-center field seats for a pre-fourth of July roman candle up the you-know-what, the Reds have amassed a record of 6-17. That's S-I-X and SEVENTEEN. What happened? The pitching that looked so promising has cratered, and Harang is at the head of the class. The Volquez injury aside, Aaron has lost it and that has been crippling to this team. I don't know if he has lost it for good, but Aaron hasn't had "it" for some time now. We go back to the relief appearance in San Diego last season, or the comeback after the rain delay on Memorial day 2009. Remember that? All for the sole purpose of getting one in the "win" column for Aaron. That was the last "win" in his column. I don't blame Aaron for wanting to go out there and pitch. In pro sports, there are adults and there are kids. The players are the kids. So guess who needs to be the adult?

Looking ahead, the Reds merely need a shortstop, third baseman, left fielder, and center fielder for 2010. As for the pitching,,,, wow,,, and I thought this organization was on the right track. Okay, here's the plan:
Dickerson gets healthy and plays center every day. At least then you'll know if he's a viable option for 2010, because Taveras has impressed no one.
Heisey comes up and plays left, (i know he generally plays center, but i've seen dickerson play center, and i KNOW that guy can track the ball like a champ. i don't know that about heisey)
Third and shortstop, i guess you better go get some people. I've been an Edwin backer for so long I almost confuse him with Wade Rowden and Nick Esasky. It seems like it's been that long since we've been waiting for him to turn it on. Not gonna happen. But please, I've always loved Scott Rolen, please, do not burn 11 million on a 35-year old third baseman with little power. You don't have that kind of payroll space to burn. In fact, you should be shedding luxurious salaries (CoCo) before you start adding them. Like they say, baseball is a funny game. I really convinced myself a month ago this team was built to make a decent run in 2010. Now I think Pete might have a plaque in Cooperstown (or maybe decent sunglasses) before the Reds make a run.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Reds Progress and The Cardinals Swoop Again

I've always felt the Reds are on a better path than they were a year ago. I still feel that way because of youngsters on the major league roster and a few guys in the minor leagues who are showing some serious promise. But if you compare the Reds last year to this year, it looks the same. I'll still take this year's Reds squad because I think the youngsters are one year closer to bearing fruit, but the slog from the depths of the national league is a long, slow one for Cincinnati.
2009 Reds After 94 Games
.......W.....L......Runs Scored......Runs Against...Net Runs

2008 Reds After 94 Games
.......W.....L......Runs Scored......Runs Against...Net Runs

So they were one win and eight net runs better at this point last season. Ugghhh!

The Cardinals swoop in and grab a bat for the stretch run. Matt Holliday will help the Cardinals, and what do you want to bet he's there for the long-term? He's a free agent at the end of the season, but you know how St. Louis operates. They'll find a way to make Holliday more than a rent-a-player. He'll see the big baseball-crazed crowds, the Cardinals commitment to winning, and he'll be ready to sign the dotted line. It's a shame the Reds have to be in the same division with an organization that has done it so right for so many years. It's similar to what the Bengals are up against when it comes to Pittsburgh. One of these years the Cincinnati organizations might figure it out. I say the Reds are a lot closer to figuring things out. But the Bengals haven't see the bar very high, have they?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Opposing Sluggers Get Fat Against Reds

I don't have a single stat to back any of this up, but I'm willing to bet it's so true. The Reds always get burned by the opponents' best slugger. Always. It sure seems like always. It stands to reason the other team's top slugger is going to get his share of big hits over the course of a season. Albert Pujols is good, and smokes many a pitcher in the National League. But every single time the Cardinals need a miracle against the Reds, Albert parts the seas, moves the mountains, and hits the key home run. Just like Prince Fielder seems to be doing for Milwaukee these days. Just like Manny Ramirez did for the Dodgers Wednesday night. A pinch-hit grand slam on the first pitch from Nick Masset. The ball didn't even have a chance to get dirt on it. From the umpire's hands, to the catcher, to Masset, to the left field seats. On Manny Ramirez bobble head night. You knew he would do it. The other team's big gun always shoots the Reds right between the eyes.

The upside, this should put an end to any thoughts the Reds had of rolling the dice and trying to bring in a veteran bat to make a run at the playoffs. I officially waved the white flag on the Sunday before the All-Star break. It was apparent injuries, lack of hitting, and struggling pitching had taken it's toll and the Reds were back in Nowheresville. As I posted earlier, improving this team with a bat or two would be like putting chrome wheels on a rusty Ford Fairlane. What's the point? Even if the Reds were to slip into the playoffs, they weren't going further than round one. The goal is to build a team that can win the World Series. So do not sell off one single piece that can help the cause over the next three to four years. Just keep planning and plodding ahead for next year, the year that never seems to come. They do have a good mix of young players that can be a true foundation of future success. But they have to find some veteran help. Good luck Walt.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Edwin and Eldrick, Who Would Have Thunk It? Oh, John Daly's Pants Too!

It's a crazy thing when Edwin Encarnacion is having a better week than Tiger Woods. Edwin storms out of the All-Star break with seven hits in two games. Bronson was big again too, as the Reds beat the Brewers 4-0 Friday night.

While Edwin was racking up seven hits, Eldrick "Tiger" Woods was suffering big-time at the British Open. He gets back to even par, then ends up 5-over, and just missing the cut. Soooooo, you think they may as well take in the pins and close up the pro shop since NOBODY cares about a tournament without Tiger? Enter Tom Watson, and the man with the crazy pants. If the 59-year old Watson is still hanging with the leaders going into Sunday, this will be unreal. If he wins the British Open, it will be the biggest sports story of the year. He would smash the record for the oldest player to win a major championship. Julius Boros was 48 when he won the PGA Championship back in 1968.
Meanwhile, how can you not get a charge out of John Daly? Those Loudmouth Golf pants must have some of those stoic British blokes blowing tea out their noses. Just for fun, let's take a look at some of John's drawers:

Monday, July 13, 2009

All-Star Break Boredom and Early College Football Talk

The All-Star break stinks for me. I loved the All-Star game as a kid, so I'm not sure at what point I lost interest, but it happened. I'm not even juiced about it deciding home field advantage in the World Series. That has had no bearing on Cincinnati since Bud Selig instituted that silly gimmick. I mean really, why should the All-Star game have any bearing on the fortunes of individual teams in October? It's ridiculous, but like I said, it doesn't have a bearing on Cincinnati. I know the Reds needed a break, but I want games that matter. Well, never mind the part about "games that matter", but Reds games still interest me. But how much longer will that last? They are teetering on the edge, and another 10 games like the last 10 and that will just about do it. But that will just about get me to Bengals training camp, and that seems to be the goal each summer.

As for what the Reds should do, see my previous post. Even without Jay Bruce, I feel that way.

A lot of people are down on Bruce, but I still think that once the kid gets it, he's going to take off. I'm not saying he's the next Mike Schmidt, but it's interesting to note Schmidt's batting average his first full season in the major leagues. Schmidt hit a robust .196 in his rookie season of 1973. He also had 18 home runs in 443 plate appearance at the tender age of 23. Bruce has 18 home runs already this season in 333 plate appearances, at the tender age of 22. Schmidt did have a better on-base percentage (.324 to jay's .283) by taking more walks. But Michael Jack Schmidt struck out 136 times, about once for every 3.3 plate appearances. So far in 2008, Bruce is striking out about once for every 5.2 plate appearances. That's enough stats for now.

As I write this, the home run derby is going on. Thank goodness there's not a gun nearby, since Berman just uncorked one of those annoying "back, back, back, back..." calls. If I had a gun, I'd have lead in my temple before this post was finished. But he does seem to be calming that tired act down some from years past.

There is an All-Star game in Cincinnati this week. The Cincinnati Steam host the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League All-Star game Wednesday night. If you haven't seen the Steam play, it's really worth checking out. They keep the game moving, and the baseball is good. They expect a healthy amount of scouts from major league teams at the All-Star game. It's Wednesday at 6:35 p.m., at Western Hills High School.

The latest Sporting News Magazine has the rankings for all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (Division 1-A, why can't it still be good old division 1-A?) college football team in the country. It's really a very cool read. They have Florida at #1 and Texas #2. They have a comment from Carson Palmer regarding Texas. Carson says he has Texas number one and believes Colt McCoy is the best quarterback in the county.
Ohio State is ninth, and U.C. is all the way down at 46. They have a quote from former Buckeye Bobby Carpenter saying that U.C. at 46 is by far the biggest travesty in the poll. Bobby says coming off their first Big East championship, the Bearcats deserve at least a top 20 ranking. It's good to hear a Buckeye have the Bearcats' back. But you should know Bobby's younger brother Jon is a grad assistant for U.C. and played for the Bearcats from 2004-2007. By the way, I think U.C. will prove to be better than 46th.
Some more teams of interest: Kentucky was ranked 61, Louisville 73, Ohio U. 100, Indiana 103, Miami Oh 104, and the team picked dead last by the Sporting News is Western Kentucky at 120. It's the Hilltoppers first season in the FBS.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Buyers Or Sellers? Here We Go Again.

Don't do it Reds! Don't reach out in desperation to take a shot at the playoffs in 2009! I implore you, don't mess this thing up. I admire you if you are thinking big, but don't do it, at least not yet. I can't even believe I'm thinking this way, but I'm thinking long-term, something I don't often do. I wish I could think long-term when I have money in my pocket, have to wake up early, or see a bag of donuts for the taking. But what the heck, I'll allow myself to think like an adult for a change.

It's common for baseball teams to reach out and grab a piece of the playoffs if the teams feels it has a decent shot to make it. I'm not sure the Reds have what I would call a "decent shot". But the Reds have a very good reason to go for it: They haven't made the postseason in 14 years. That's an embarrassment. Fans are starved, not only for wins, but for signs that management is serious about winning. But believe it or not, I'm hoping the Reds show restraint and don't go for it this year. Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I a glutton for punishment, content watching a team that is so-so at best? No. But at the risk of sounding silly, I see this team as a year ahead of schedule.

Do you really think the core of this team is ready for prime time? Me neither. But they are getting closer. The hope is Jay Bruce will improve next season and get his batting average where it needs to be. The hope is Chris Dickerson takes over one of the outfield spots, preferably center field. The hope is Phillips and Votto continue to grow as star players. The hope is the young pitching gets to a point where it is among the top staffs in the league, if not leagues. I think these are all reasonable hopes. Although Dickerson may be pushing it thanks to another, less attractive, plan in center.

But who do you think the other teams will want from the Reds in a trade? More than likely, young pitching. I don't touch one of my young pitchers. Arroyo or Harang? Maybe I would move them for the right guy. Edwin? Sure, but you would have to get a third baseman in return. I don't think Edwin is going to bring the Reds what they need. Garrett Atkins and Scott Rolen would not put the Reds over the top. I would love to see Rolen in Cincinnati, but let's face it: While he is hitting around .330, the injuries seem to have robbed him of his power. He would be an improvement, but I would not mortgage the future for that. But I would have to consider him, especially if the price is right. The Reds appear more interested in getting a guy with a big bat who can play the outfield than a guy who plants himself at third base.

Hey, if it's the right guy for the right price and it fits long-term, I have no problem. But I wouldn't mess with the future to make an improbable run this season. While the record doesn't suggest any sort of massive growth, the way this team plays most of the time shows a serious departure from years past. Keep moving forward with the plan. The plan is to make this thing work for the long term. The plan is to build for a World Championship. The Reds aren't there yet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just Over Halfway Home And I Know Nothing

The Reds have started the second half of the season with a win, and here they sit at 41-41. Dead even, probably about what I was expecting. So why does it feel like the Reds are better than this? I have no idea. It seems like this season has been a bit of a success to this point. Maybe that's because we in Cincinnati have a habit of thinking the season is over by July, if not June. But a look at recent standings suggest the Reds have generally "hung in there" for the first 82 games of the season. Here's what it has looked like recently:
....................W........L......Games Behind
2009............41........41.......3 1/2

2008............36........45.......13 1/2... (that's bad)

2007............31........50.......16 1/2... (that's really bad)

2006............44........37........---...(tied for first? really?)

2005............31........50........20...(Oh My God!, Good thing the Bengals had a good year)

2004............44........37.........5...(Imagine being 7 games over .500 this season!)

2003............39........42..........3 1/2...(The division was a lot like 2009)

2002............44........37..........--- ...(Tied for first again)

Sorry for the annoying dots, but not all computer programs are perfect. In fact, some are really horrible.

Anyway, five of the past eight seasons the Reds have had a reason to believe. But all of those years there was a feeling that we were looking at fool's gold. That was because they had a lack of pitching, and what strikes me about this is the following:

I really feel the Reds are making progress, yet they have their fourth best record at this juncture of the season in the past eight years. That surprises me. I keep telling myself they have young players who can carry the team into the future, and young players who will improve, but I'm not as optimistic as I was a half hour ago.
It's not a bombshell to say there has been some serious wheel-spinning in the past several years, but this really hits home to me. The second half of the season started with a win. There better be several more to come before I call this a season of progress.

By the way, stats will drive you crazy. It's amazing how crappy the Reds run production has been ranked in MLB over the past several years WITH Dunn and Griffey:

2009 26th (boy, wish they still had.... oh, never mind, see below)
2008 23rd (I know, they weren't here the whole season)
2007 14th (not bad)
2006 22nd (ughh)
2005 4th (how the heck did they not make the playoffs?)
2004 20th (mercy)
2003 26th (how many times did I hear Jim Bowden say they were building for 2003?)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nice Bounce Back, Nice Grit

That's the way you put a devastating, or potentially devastating loss behind you. But that's the way it's been happening all season.
The Reds, once again, showed some serious toughness by putting Friday night in a lock-box, tossing it over the right field moon-deck, and into the Ohio River.
The signs of that toughness actually came during Friday night's loss. The Pujols granny was a killer. But the Reds tied it in the bottom of the eighth. After allowing 3 runs in the top of the ninth, the Reds at least put themselves in a position to come back. Once again, no quit, no giving in.
Then comes Saturday and Micah Owings giving the Reds a steel-tough start on the mound. A game the Reds had to have, and Micah delivers big-time. Not to mention he belted another home run. Then there's Jay Bruce going hard into second base to try and avoid a double play, Jerry Hairston grabbing a ball on the bag at second with Pujols bearing down on him. Just all kinds of hustle, grit, and mental toughness that seemed to be lacking in years past.
David Weathers said he didn't see why people would classify Friday night's loss as devastating. In the grand scheme of the season, he may be right. But the Reds had to bounce back today to keep Weathers from looking like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Instead, his head was right in the middle of a clubhouse of players who seem to have a little mental magic. This team is far from great, but the Reds are the last to admit it. They take the field thinking they are Bench, Perez, Morgan, Concepcion, Rose, Foster, Griffey, Geronimo, and company. It's almost amusing, and certainly refreshing.

By the way, can you believe way the Reds' starting pitching has cranked it up again? It's going to have to keep cranking because the Reds face "Cruisin'" Chris Carpenter Sunday. He is certainly cruising this season, and last faced the Reds June 4. It was a complete-game three-hit victory for Chris and the Cardinals. Sunday it is up to Bronson Arroyo to keep this game close. It's time for Bronson to give the Reds what Owings did Saturday, what Bailey did Friday, what Harang did Thursday, and what Cueto did Wednesday.

Friday, July 3, 2009

That Was The Most Deflating Loss This Season

This loss was as brutal you can imagine. 3-0 lead, Homer and the Reds cruising to the eighth inning, and KABOOM! Pujols with a grand slam off Weathers. After a tying it up, SPLAT! Error on Janish instead of the third out in the ninth. That loaded the bases and BANG! Jarrett Hoffpauir gets his first major league hit to score a pair and BASH! Pujols again, this time a double down the left field line to score another run. How do they recover? You figure the Reds have to win Saturday since Carpenter is on the mound for St. Louis Sunday.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Even Votto Says This Series Is Big

The Reds were extremely fortunate to take two of of three from the Diamondbacks. Just one run Wednesday night, and three Thursday afternoon, and both are victories. That's not a recipe for success. But the Reds pitching made it stand up. (special thanks to the wall behind home plate for the ricochet back to Hernandez to keep Arizona from scoring the go-ahead run in 10th)
Now comes a large stretch of ten games before the All-Star game. Three at home against St. Louis, four at Philly, and three at New York against the Mets.

Here's Votto, Bruce, and a portion of Seg Dennison's svelte skull. (As they used to say on the W.W.F., "Look at the CRANIUM on that man!")
The topic is the upcoming weekend, three-game series against the Cardinals: