Hello. Garmin here. Before Bud Selig broke the Midsummer Classic by handing the winner home field advantage in the World Series, the All-Star game was nothing more than a diversion, a little cotton candy if you will, a rest stop on Route 162 on the way to the end of September —- and for a handful of lucky teams, beyond.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Because I cannot find anything Ralph might have said about the DH or RISP, I’m going on the assumption that Mr. Emerson doesn’t know much about baseball. So, I choose to focus on the journey only insofar as it helps us understand how the Reds got to where they are: 9 games over .500 and a game back of first place —- and where they want to be —- playing deep into October. Because as much as Mark Sheldon is going to hate this, baseball in Cincinnati these days is about the Destination with a capital D. We all enjoyed the “Journey” back in 2010. Now, it’s time to finish the trip.
I’m your GPS if you haven’t figured it out by now. Punch in 85 games and Garmin says: a stout bullpen, an ironman rotation and merely the most exciting everyday player in baseball today have resulted in 47 wins. Possible detours off the road to 90+ wins center around a homer-centric offense that too often finds itself shut down faster than a strip club in Hamilton County. This team should be close to 15 games over .500 with a nice cushion in the NL Central.
The potholes have been identified. An aging Rolen. The failed Drew Stubbs Experiment. A bench that befits Louisville Slugger Field, not Great American Ballpark. A manager with a curious method of marshaling his resources.
Yes, Rolen needs to give way to Frazier. It is indeed Scott’s time to “sweep the streets he used to own.” Is it the no-brainer everyone insists it is? Remember where you are. You are here. You are in Cincinnati. This is not a place where the venerable are discarded like so many worn down bars of P&G soap. If you think today’s ballplayer wants to make 100 Joe Nuxhall Way home just because Johnny Bench once played here, you’re fooling yourself. Just as Jim Day hawks the city as “the” summertime travel destination, so do the Reds use their relationship with their players as a message to potential future ballplayers (and their agents) that Cincinnati is a welcoming organization that will treat a player with respect —- no matter the circumstance (see, e.g., Jonny Gomes). All of this makes things decidedly more complicated than simply handing Rolen a gold watch and a permanent seat next to Gapper.
The bench is hard to fix simply because everyone is looking for the same thing: players who can make a difference for a Walmart price. The Reds’ GM gets hell for not putting together a better collection of part-time players. However, Brian Cashman, he of the loaded NY Yankees, just picked up Darnell McDonald (remember him?), recently DFA’d by the Red Sox. If baseball’s penthouse can’t do better than a Reds castoff who is hitting .214, what are we flogging Walt Jocketty for again?
The Reds have two roads they can go down. One is to simply put their offense together better. That’s something the GM can and should do. Hold the manager’s feet to the fire. Insist that Baker get the best hitters the most at bats. Put the people who can best get on base in front of their Canadian hitting machine. Cost per mile: nothing.
The second is to make a trade. Who do the Reds part with? Bailey, you say? Mike Leake? The Reds have 5 starters and a prayer behind them. The starting staff is a major part of the reason this team is where it is. If you think Chapman can start, remember once again where you are. You are here. You are in Cincinnati. The Reds have nixed that idea for this year. You’ll pry closer Chapman from Dusty Baker’s cold dead hands. Trading one of the current starting 5 to improve the hitting would go against everything that has gotten the Reds where they are now. It would be a major whiff. If anything, the Reds need to find insurance for the rotation, unless they think they can do for the remainder of the season what 28 other teams have been unable to do up to now: compete with only 5 starters.
The one place of depth is the bullpen. GMs covet pitching above all else. Assuming Walt is willing to part with an important cog in the bullpen, assuming the front office is finally weary of the Drew Stubbs Experiment, assuming another GM believes he can teach the stubborn Texan to hit, and further assuming the Reds are willing to hand centerfield to Chris Heisey (a somewhat large assumption), the Reds might, MIGHT be able to find the valuable bat they so desperately need.
Perhaps the Reds are willing to dip further into their dwindling pool of prospects. That seems to be a very high price that will have deep ramifications further on down the road. And any trade is based on the assumption that a viable partner exists. The addition of a second wild card team would seem to suggest that fewer teams will become active sellers.
So, while you are planning Scott Rolen’s exit, Aroldis Chapman’s first start or waiting for Walt Jocketty to trade Homer Bailey, Didi Gregorius & Chris Heisey for David Wright, just remember where you are.
You are here.