That lineup. Wow.
As I was leaving the ball park last night, reflecting on the lopsided loss, a losing record and who was in the starting lineup, I asked myself this:
How could the Cincinnati Reds organization, a surging playoff team last year, reach these depths? What has happened to the strategic plan for the future, let alone the present?
Consider these details about last night’s starting lineup, not by what they meant for our chances of winning last night’s game (although, sigh…), but rather what they say about the organization:
• The Reds started a 35-year-old shortstop, (.236/.295) with the worst fielding percentage of any SS in the major leagues. In the past 14 games his OBP is .158 — and, of course, he batted second, ahead of Joey Votto.
• On the same side of the infield, the Reds started a journeyman 37-year-old third baseman who is actually having a respectable year. That said, he is still a 37-year-old journeyman. This player batted fifth.
• The Reds started a 31-year-old LF who hits with so little power that his slugging percentage is actually lower than his on base percentage. Speed? He has 2 SB and 5 CS.
• The Reds assigned a 31-year-old catcher to play his 41st inning over four days, including fourteen innings on Sunday. Their other catcher, who is 35 years old, is hurt. Yet the Reds felt this situation didn’t present an excellent opportunity to call up their top AAA player.
Over the past 14 games, the healthy catcher had an OBP of .562 (you read that right) and last night he batted eighth, ahead of the pitcher.
• The organization’s top hitting prospect mostly rides the bench because the Manager decided after three games that he can’t play the position the organization had him play in 60+ games at AAA.
He did start a major league game at third base, where he had not played since high school. The Manager chose that particular game as a trial based on the theory that the other team wasn’t likely to hit the ball to him. The “plan” worked to perfection. He had no chances to make a play, thus the Reds gained exactly zero insight into whether or not he could play there in the future.
You can rightly blame the players for their performance this year. But not for last night’s lineup and what it says about the organization. I return to my question, how did this happen? As with most disasters, there is plenty of blame to go around.
The Manager has misplaced faith in old, obsolete theories and in old, past-their-prime players. The General Manager either shares or is a prisoner to the out-of-date theories, and has allowed these personnel deficiencies to accumulate on his watch.
The owner repeatedly declares how much he wants a winner but is unable to or refuses to spend the money it takes to produce a realistic chance at that.
(Don’t get me wrong. I realize and appreciate the world of difference between Bob Castellini and Mike Brown. The Castellini organization is doing a LOT of things right.)
A month remains in the lost 2011 season. Those thirty days could be spent accumulating valuable information about, and experience for, our young players — Alonso in left, Frazier at third and short, and Mesoraco behind the plate. It’s wishful thinking that Dusty Baker will sense the priority of doing that. He’s fixated on the short term. And it doesn’t appear the GM or owner will insist on a longer-term view.
All the evidence you need for that skepticism is the lineup the organization subjected their fans to last night.