2013 Reds / Aroldis Chapman / Editorials

Editorial: On Aroldis Chapman and Unilateral Disarmament

[This post was written by Steve Mancuso and co-signed by the editors of Redleg Nation.]

Research on the brain shows that when we witness or learn of an emotional and shocking event, a surge of adrenaline encourages the formation of vivid, lasting recollections. They’re called “flashbulb memories” because of their nearly photographic nature. Depending on your age, you might have flashbulb memories about assassinations, the first moonwalk, the OJ Simpson verdict, and of course 9/11.

We carry flashbulb memories about sports as well and I have a few about the Reds. Some happy, some not so much.

Hal King’s dramatic homer, Joe Rudi’s catch at the wall, Joe Morgan’s bloop single in the ninth and Tom Seaver’s no-hitter. More recently, Jay Bruce’s homer and Drew Stubbs’ catch that same game, the Mat Latos trade and Homer’s no-no. Buster Posey’s grand slam.

It’s time to add another painful memory to the list: The day the Reds made the discouraging choice to keep Aroldis Chapman in the closer role.

And the organization’s reasoning is as obsolete as a 1950s magnesium filament.

Since the onset of Chapmania, everyone who has watched Aroldis Chapman pitch recognizes his immense natural talent. As a dominating left-handed ace, he would tremendously boost the Reds’ chances to win the World Series the next few years. Ace starters are really rare. Left-handed ones even more so. Bryan Price likes Chapman’s chances to become an effective starter, but no one is saying it’s a certainty. The Reds should give Chapman a legitimate look and find out. If it doesn’t work, they can move him back to the pen.

That’s it. The rest of the argument is window dressing.

The greater value of starting pitchers is convincingly proven by the size of the contracts that starters earn compared to those of elite relievers. The strategic importance of the role of closer itself has been fundamentally questioned by research covering decades of ninth-inning outcomes.

But in this case, no one is saying the Reds should do without a closer. The team has three other veteran pitchers who have been or could be successful closers. You think Sam LeCure couldn’t close? In a non-bizarro world, we’d be seriously talking about whether J. J. Hoover is ready to be the team’s closer. The Reds’ bullpen is so stacked the club may not take Hoover with them to Cincinnati, even though he has struck out 14 batters in 8 innings, with only one walk.

The “if it ain’t broke” argument for Chapman in the bullpen is the most brain-dead of all. Like most clichés, it’s utterly wrong. Remember the NLDS?

Dusty Baker managed the NLDS like the regular season, holding Chapman back for his carefully proscribed closer role. The Cuban Missile stayed holstered against the Giants, waiting and waiting for a small lead in a ninth inning to protect. The Giants, on the other hand, urgently and creatively deployed every arm in their arsenal, with devastating effect. They used Tim Lincecum out of the bullpen. Twice. The soon-to-be world champions got their best arms in the game when it mattered.

Try this counterfactual. Aroldis Chapman starting Game Four. Then tell me there wasn’t something broken in the Reds’ thinking.

The Giants won the World Series using a closer who had three saves going into 2012. The Cardinals, who faced the Giants in the NLCS, relied on a closer who had only 13 saves prior to last season. So yeah, established closers are essential.

Overall, the Reds’ front office has made fabulous strides – in financial commitment and assembling talent – that have propelled the team to the top of the NL Central and into MLB’s circle of premier clubs. Ownership and the G.M. deserve huge praise.

But a messy smudge now taints that big picture. Among elite teams, even the smallest edge can be decisive. By consigning Aroldis Chapman to 65 innings of work, mostly in games when the Reds are already ahead, the Reds are sacrificing a crucial competitive asset. You can’t play it safe and expect to beat the best teams, because they aren’t standing still.

The key players are all singing from the same hymnal now, but Dusty Baker’s role in this terribly mismanaged decision has been pivotal and public. Has there been a behind-the-scenes power struggle, with Baker coming out on top? Only the insiders really know. But outsiders can fairly judge that this process could scarcely have been handled any worse.

The most important take-away from this embarrassing and depressing episode though, is substantive, not procedural. It’s this: As long as the Reds continue to cater to Dusty Baker’s anachronistic ideas for assembling a team, they’ll never reach their full potential.

The acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo demonstrated that the Reds – at least for one season – ditched the archaic notion that the main quality for a leadoff batter is his ability to “create havoc” on the bases. In the Choo trade, they rightly paid a premium for a high on-base-percentage hitter.

With that move, the organization appeared finally to be breaking free of the crippling gravitational pull of old-timey baseball. But today’s Chapman decision profoundly calls that into question. Other teams are more modern about the closer’s role. A few of those – unlike Dusty Baker – have won the World Series.

But Walt Jocketty has won a World Series. And he’s the one person in the organization who is responsible for making sure the hard, up-to-date thinking about baseball gets done and implemented. That job is not on the owner, or the manager, or the players, pitching coach or scouts, or certainly not local Hall of Fame sportswriters. Practicing modern baseball falls squarely on the shoulders of the G.M. In this case, Walt Jocketty either made an awful decision or didn’t put his foot down.

We badly needed Walt on that wall.

Yes, yes, yes, the 2013 Reds are still a talented and exciting team. Barring a load of injuries, they’ll win plenty and may even be in it to the end. I’ll be there cheering all the way.

But because of today’s announcement, in the blink of an eye – one might say, in a flash – the Reds are greatly diminished.

Aroldis Chapman may have the best left arm in baseball. And the Cincinnati Reds just tied it behind the team’s back. What a self-inflicted waste of talent.

Yep, there’s the emotion … the adrenaline … and a new lasting, painful memory from when the Reds committed this act of unilateral disarmament.

125 thoughts on “Editorial: On Aroldis Chapman and Unilateral Disarmament

  1. I’m disappointed in thinking what Chapman could do in a full season as a starter in 2014, after he would have been limited this year. Bad, bad call. Not like we didn’t see this coming for the last week or so, though. … Apparently Walt and Dusty made the announcement together, be curious what the mood or Walt’s body language might have been. And what Bryan Price thinks of all this …

  2. Amen. But at least we won’t be utterly devastated the way the Giants were when they lost their closer last year…

  3. By far the biggest issue in this is that the Reds have done a complete 180-degree turnaround from what they said prior to spring training.

  4. What will really chap butts now is that Mike Leake has walked the first two batters he’s faced today.

  5. Backcast for a second … Whether Chapman is in or out of the rotation, the Reds have the pitching to win the Central and make the playoffs. Come playoff time, an innings limited Chapman as a starter is either on the shelf or in the bullpen regardless.

    Because with a healthy rotation otherwise, Arroyo goes at #4 and Chapman at 150 innings is back in the pen. That’s the way it would work, whether I, you, or Redleg Nation agrees.

    There’s two goals here – make the playoffs, then win some series. This decision doesn’t radically change the odds of the former whether I like it or not.

    It is the usage pattern in the former that will make this decision notable in the end.

    Perhaps we can hope this is the first step of the Reds Kris Medlen-plan. The organization has proven they won’t talk, so we can only type and hope.

    • @lthedaug: Yes. But 2013 is not the only year remaining on the calendar. 2014 is one year closer to the end of his contract, and all of the same limitations will be in place again.

      I kind of think this closes the book on Chapman EVER starting a game for the Reds. And that’s as near to criminal as any baseball decision will ever be. On par with trading Robinson. Utter foolishness.

      • @RC: I wouldn’t say utter foolishness. And, I was one for Chapman to stay at closer. But, I do believe they should have given him some time to start, to see what he could do.

        I will say this, also. In 2 years, when Baker’s current contract comes due, without a WS title, I really wonder if he will be re-signed. If he is re-signed, I’m not so sure Walt will come back. Again, without a WS title.

    • @al: HR and 2B to start the 4th against Leake. That’s 5 hits. Pretty standard effort by the Reds 5th starter.

  6. Last year’s decision to move him back to the pen was a bad decision. This year it’s a flat out travesty. These are the kind of things that should get people fired.


  7. In this moment, I truly believe Baker being hired was one of the worst decisions I have witnessed the Reds make.

  8. I guarantee one day a book will be written about how the Reds screwed up the entire Chapman era. And it will be a doozy. What a waste.

    • I guarantee one day a book will be written about how the Reds screwed up the entire Chapman era. And it will be a doozy. What a waste.

      If a book is written about struggles by the Reds in the 21st century I think it will focus on 2001-2009, when the Reds couldn’t finish over .500 or seem to develop any pitching prospects. Chapman being left out of the rotation is a sign of how much the rotation has improved.

      The Reds, with Dusty Baker and Walt Jocketty, have finished in first place in two of the past three years – is this a dark era in Cincinnati Reds history? No, recently we’ve seen a drastic improvement over Reds teams of the past decade.

      I, for one, am glad that this issue is behind us. Now we can look forward to baseball and less-controversial predictions like who will get remaining roster spots – particularly JJ Hoover, Logan Ondrusek, Jose Arredondo, Alfredo Simon, and Manny Parra.

  9. This is a well written and well thought out statement. I’m disappointed in the decision for sure and even more disappointed in the handling of the entire situation. I’ve given my opinion elsewhere on how I think this has played out, but people who I respect on these boards have disagreed and they may very well be right.

    I’m glad it’s over and I pledge to not bring this up a single time in a game thread when Leake is getting whacked around like he is today!:lol:

    I’m ready to get this thing started and I hope to see the Cuban Missile pitch at least a couple of times when I’m at GABP for Opening Weekend!

  10. None of this makes any sense. We knew he was raw when we signed him. If we were never going to be serious about letting him at least try to develop as a starter then why would a mid-market team like us dump that kind of money on him? The silliest argument in any of this is that as a starter he’d have an innings limit this year. First of all, we don’t even know if that’s true (see Chris Sales) and second of all, so what? We need a 5th starter next year anyway to replace Arroyo. You think we’re going to find one better than Chapman? I also saw a great article recently that pointed out that with Chapman heading for arbitration after 2014, 2 years of great starting pitching would still make him far cheaper than 3 seasons of All Star closing pitching. Not only doesn’t this make baseball sense, it doesn’t make ANY financial sense. I can’t imagine Walt signing off on this and in my mind it pretty much answers the question about who Big Bob really listens to.

    I only hope that some big market team loses their closer early in the season and we’re able to trade Broxton. I don’t even care if we get anything in return. We can’t afford to have a $7 million setup man being setup by a $6 million specialist setup man setting up freaking Aroldis Chapman. George Steinbrenner would look at those numbers and laugh.

  11. Making that decision last season may have cost the Reds the World Series. If Chapman had been part of the starting rotation in 2012, the loss of Johnny Cueto would have been less of a factor.

    Baker whined and got his way. Despite his skills of managing player egos he is easily baseball’s most immature manager.

    • @Y-City Jim: I totally agree with this, and with the part of the post above that addresses this. How could anyone say that “it ain’t broke?” Did they not watch game 4 last year? Having Mike Leake pitch in that game sure looked pretty broke to me.

      • @al: Many are talking about Game 4 last season and talking about Chapman as a #1 starter. None of that was definite. Why would it be, just because he can throw 100 mph? The league is littered with guys like that who flamed out. There would still be so several conditions to meet for Chapman to be the Game 4 starter last season. Most notably would be he didn’t start any game prior to that. For, if he did, he wouldn’t have been available. And, with Baker, if Chapman was one of our starters, I can’t see him holding Chapman behind Homer and Arroyo. I do believe if Chapman was starting last season, Baker with his “off balanced” approach would have gone Cueto, Chapman (a game we won anyhow), and Latos, maybe bringing Homer along for the pen, leaving Arroyo at home, where Leake wouldn’t have even been on the roster for the season. Given that lineup, with what happened, Baker would have gone to Arroyo for game 4 to bring Chapman back in game 5.

        Now, did Leake blow in Game 4? Sure. But, I never would have gone to Leake myself. I would have gone with Latos on short rest, then Homer with short rest after that. It’s not an uncommon use of starting pitchers on 4 days rest during the playoffs. Just consider, Leake on “two weeks rest” (much too long) and Latos on regular rest, or Latos and Homer on one day short rest and a bullpen you could bring in early? I would think the latter is the obvious choice. But, our manager chose the first. We lost game 4 not as much as because Chapman starting IMO. I do believe it was lost more along the lines of mismanagement by Baker bringing in a young player who hadn’t pitched in 2 weeks, who wasn’t even suppose to pitch, into a high pressure situation.

        • @steveschoen: People lament the fact that Chapman wasn’t in a position to start game four because he has a unique set of skills that lend themselves quite nicely to getting major league hitters out. He may not have panned out as a starter, but at least they would have a more informed sense of what he was capable was had they ever given him the chance to start.

    • @Y-City Jim:
      only problem with that is Chapman would not have been available.
      and if he was then you would have been saying Dusty was ruining him by over using him like Prior.

  12. I wonder if the Reds will cave again if/when Mike Leake sucks in the regular season. They seem to have no ability to stick with a plan whatsoever. What if Leake is 0-4 with a 5+ ERA in April? Do they change course for the 10th time?

  13. There just seems to be this mentality among traditionalists that the closer has to be some guy who comes in to strikeout the side in the ninth when the most effective closer would be some guy who came in and threw three pitches to get out of the ninth.

  14. and for the record.. I am not a Baker fan either.
    And at this point the Broxton deal looks stupid. but all said and done.. I actually think the reds are better for 2013 this way. now 2014, who knows?

    • @JoshG: I agree. Broxton was just in case Chapman starting was going to happen, so the team wouldn’t have to go out to get an established closer.

      This is sort of why I don’t care for Baker, also. I do believe in the pen last season (if not this season) we had a couple of guys who could possibly be good-if-not-great closers themselves. Now, I am considering that, while Chapman did look dominant, he did blow some saves last season, along the same percentage that Coco did. But, Baker seemingly never looked for any of them to close any game while Chapman was the closer, same when Coco was the closer. He had no plan B if the closer went down. A good manager would never do that to themselves. A good manager would look to test 1-2 other pitchers anyhow, definitely not a majority of the time but enough so that if plan A goes down, he would have confidence handing the ball to plan B.

      My first hope is still a WS title. Without a WS title within the next 2 years, my hope is that Baker isn’t extended again. Who would take his place? I have no idea. But, with the talent in this organization right now, I couldn’t help thinking the list of candidates would go down I-75 to Dayton. I couldn’t help thinking we would be able to have an ideal pick for our organization, regardless of who it was.

  15. “I would like to be a closer, but that’s not in my hands,” Chapman said, via CBSSports.com. ”At the beginning, when I started closing, I didn’t know. Then I started getting into the late part of the game, and I liked it. The adrenaline goes up.”

    http://tracking.si.com/2013/03/16/reds-chapman-wants-to-close/

    How much of a factor do you think this played in the decision to send him back to the pen?…

    …IMO ‘The Chapman Situation’ has been terribly mishandled since day one. I think he could have been a truly dominant starting pitcher if handled correctly…oh well….Either way – I’m also glad this issue is behind us…

  16. Well I’d be shocked if Tony Cingrani isn’t in the rotation at some point this year. The Reds were remarkably lucky on the injury front last year (excepting Cueto & the playoffs).

    How many effective pitches does Tony Cingrani have? 2.

    Hmm….

  17. Boy, Broxton for $7MM for each ofthe next 3 years sure makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? What a waste. . . Maybe they should trade him to the Tigers – they need a closer!

    • Boy, Broxton for $7MM for each ofthe next 3 years sure makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?What a waste. . . Maybe they should trade him to the Tigers – they need a closer!

      Wouldn’t be surprised to see that.

  18. As irritating as it was to see the organization abandon it’s plan for Chapman last year, at least there was a reason with all the injuries in the bullpen. Why’d they give it up this year? Because the manager whined to the media? Because some crusty old baseball writer from Dayton said they should? Does this organization not have the testicles to stand up to internal and external pressures? If Dusty Baker and Hal McCoy told Mr. Bob to jump off a cliff, and whined about it long enough, how long would it take Mr. Bob to jump?

  19. I guess this puts me in the small camp of liking this decision.

    The Reds pitching rotation and bullpen is one of the best in the league. Only the Nationals are better at this point.

    I don’t care what anyone says in response to this, you won’t convince me to think the other way.

    Neftali Feliz. Plain and simple.

    • @rfay00: Chris Sale. Plain and simple.

      Just saying there is no plain and simple answer, but the fact of the matter is we spent the money we did on Chapman to see if he could be a top end starter. Now it’s pretty likely we will never know. And maybe no one will. Just as a baseball fan that’s sad.

        • @rfay00: Again, just saying there’s no plain and simple answer. Chapman is a freakish physical specimen. You can’t say that in your heart of hearts you aren’t curious to see if he could become a Randy Johnson-like talent. Again, forget the Reds…just as a fan of the game. Seems like a waste of potential. And I can’t get over the argument that if things were REALLY not working (Chapman struggling with control, Broxton blowing saves) it would be the easiest thing in the world to make this move in May.

        • @eric nyc: Your right, as a fan of the game it’s sad to see him not get this chance.

          HOWEVER

          The Reds have a better chance to retain him in a few years if he is a closer, not a starter. They have the starting pitching to make a playoff run now, and with this dominant bullpen, there is nothing that should stop them from winning a world series.

          I don’t care about the long term, but in the next few years, this decision in my opinion is for the best.

          Why would I want to see Chapman become Randy Johnson, and then the Yankees steal him away because they have a bigger checkbook? That would be more sour than anything.

    • @rfay00: Joakim Soria, Ryan Madson, Brian Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, Sergio Santos, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera — closers who had TJS or some other big injury in 2012. Closing does not make pitchers immune from injury. Far from it. Here’s an article by Tom Verducci in Sports Illustrated about how the way clubs use closers makes them more prone to injury.

      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/tom_verducci/04/17/closers/index.html

    • @rfay00: Adam Wainwright . . . CJ Wilson . . . . Ryan Dempster . . . We could use examples to support our positions all day long. However, Chapman’s “stuff” is historically elite, so let’s use some other examples. . . . I am convinced that Baker (and I do believe this is a Baker call) would have kept Sandy Koufax in the bullpen, with his two pitches and lack of command. Baker would have moved Randy Johnson to the bullpen, given the number of walks he gave up early in his career and his reliance on fastballs and sliders.

    • Boy, Broxton for $7MM for each ofthe next 3 years sure makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?What a waste. . . Maybe they should trade him to the Tigers – they need a closer!

      Closer or not Broxton remains an important part of the 2013 Reds bullpen, as does Sean Marshall. The Reds today argued that leaving Chapman in the bullpen is in the best interest of the 2013 Reds (which is in dispute), and if they’re prioritizing winning in 2013 I definitely don’t see them trading any key pieces. Including Broxton.

      @rfay00: Well, I’m on your side. Sorry, that doesn’t mean much. I’m just glad that, for the time being, this topic is behind us.

  20. First off, I concur with each and every point made in the editorial. Great job.

    This decision is preposterous on several levels. . . I am disgusted in both the decision and how the decision (and the many weeks leading to the decision) were handled.

    Imagine, for a moment, a scenario. A young man has met the girl of his dreams. This girl, the man is certain, is the embodiment of everything that he is looking for in a woman. He is convinced she will be a great companion. He is also convinced that she will be a great lover. She will be a great mother as well. His life with the girl plays out in his mind over and over. In his heart, brain, and bones, he is convinced that this girl is the closest thing to perfect that exists on the planet. He is also not stupid. He understands that people aren’t perfect and that he does not even know the girl. However, more than anything, he know he wants, no, needs to be with this girl.

    Now, suppose this same man is simply too afraid to ask the girl of your dreams out because she may say no and he already know another, much less attractive girl, will say yes. That’s what this situation is. In the short run, he may go out with the girl that says yes. He may even marry her and spend thirty years with her. She may be a serviceable wife. However, on his deathbed, do not think that this same man will not lament the fact that he didn’t even ask the girl of his dreams out.

    The convenient and “safe” choice is not the right one when the opportunity cost for forgoing the “risky” choice is higher than the benefit derived from the “safer” short run option.

  21. Whats hillarious is that Walt Jocketty said that Chapman could still start “sometime” in the future. Give me a break, come on, I can’t even believe he said that.

    • Whats hillarious is that Walt Jocketty said that Chapman could still start “sometime” in the future. Give me a break, come on, I can’t even believe he said that.

      Once again Chapman will be a starter some day, pointing off to the horizon. Everyone just keep your hope up, it’ll come some day. Maybe we can look forward to the same debate next winter! Won’t that be exciting?

  22. The thing that stands out to me the most after thinkinga bout it some, is that it has been shown over an over that for a club to be successful, you have to have a plan, the plan has to be good, and you have to stick to it.

    I think the Reds had a good plan. Chapman as 5th starter could improve the team, and they got Broxton to close, so there wasnt’ going to be to big of a drop off in the pen.

    Now that they’ve reversed course so close to the start of the season, the team that they’ve put together doesn’t make nearly as much sense. I don’t think this was a purely baseball decision (as in, the best player gets the job), and it’s this kind of flip flopping that can lead to teams being really poorly constructed.

    If Chapman was going to close they should have spent the Broxton money elsewhere. Obviously I think the Reds are still going to be very good, but this is not the kind of decision making process that I want the Reds to have.

  23. I would have liked to have seen them push Chapman back into the pen and used him in multi-inning stints as first man out of the pen over the first few weeks of the season when the starters are generally on a pretty short leash anyway.
    Maybe this would have just been kicking the can down the road; but it would have also allowed the team more time to evaluate Chapman multi-inning situations that was not at the end of the game; and more importantly Chapman more time to acclimate to the role.

    I think for folks who want to take a step back and look at the situation, there are plenty of reasons to believe Chapman might not be ready to pitch in a major league rotation at this point in time. Chief among those reasons to me is that when last seen in a starting role in the minors a couple of years back, he performed on the low end of mediocre, and that is probably being generous.

    Because as the the GM said today, the Reds are a team built (and hopefully set) to win now,if Chapman were to have continued as a starter for the Reds at this juncture, it was going to have to be at AAA for probably at least a couple of months until he could establish that he could perform and flourish in that routine. However, the team has made the decision that given their situation his talents are better used as the MLB closer than as a developing starter in AAA.

    So, I don’t really agree with the decision but I don’t think it is as earth shaking as it is being painted here by many folks. I do agree that the way the entire process was handled was less that one would have hoped for.

  24. Chapman wasn’t competing for a 5th starter position, he was auditioning as a potential staff ace, and I am including Cueto and Latos in that rotation. For the past two years, Chapman’s only track record as a starter has been in spring training. Spring training is not a good measure of any player’s effectiveness, but it is the only measure we have for Chapman as a starter. This is the only time when he worked on multiple pitches and actually focused on his secondary pitches rather than simply relying on his fastball. He had the BEST results of any of the Reds’ starting pitchers and it wasn’t even close. In 2012, Chapman had a 2.12 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. In 2013, Chapman had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He made hitters look foolish and incompetent. Would he or could he put up similar numbers as a starter during the regular season? I certainly don’t know, but the only evidence available says he could and would. Now we’ll simply never know.

  25. Meanwhile.. Leake continues to ride his 6.75 ERA and like .400 AVG against during spring training as he backs into the starter’s job…. while some schmoe named Daniel Wolford successfully got a save attempt today. Proving someone with 1/20th the talent of Chapman could also make saves.

  26. Makes no sense, what a waist of talent. I wonder what the plan is if god forbid one or more of the starting pitchers gets hurt. Cingrani and Corcino aren’t ready yet. Going through the hole season with out a starter getting hurt a second year in a row is highly unlikely. Oh wait one did, Cueto in the postseason and that didn’t work out so well. Having this Ferarri of a closer wont matter if you can’t take him out of the garage, and thats exactly what happened in the playoffs. Its always about starting pitching, Always.

    • @B-town Fan: Management has made the decision to use the Ferrari to do the baseball equivalent of delivering pizzas. The delivery guy doesn’t take the order, make the pizza, or pay for the pizza. He probably does about 1/18th the work required when all is said and done, just like the closer. A Ford Focus would do just as well.

  27. 2012 Giants-Sergio Romo

    2011 Cardinals-Jason Motte

    2010 Giants-Brian Wilson

    2009 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

    2008 Phillies-Brad Lidge

    2007 Red Sox-Jonathan Papelbon

    2006 Cardinals-Adam Wainwright

    2005 White Sox-Bobby Jenks

    2004 Red Sox-Keith Foulke

    2003 Marlins-Ugueth Urbin

    2002 Angels-Troy Percival

    2001 Diamondbacks-Byung-Hyun Kim

    2000 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

    1999 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

    1998 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

    1997 Marlins-Robb Nen

    1996 Yankees-John Wetteland

    1995 Braves-Mark Wohlers

    1993 Blue Jays-Duane Ward

    1992 Blue Jays-Tom Henke

    1991 Twins-Rick Aguilera

    Aside from Rivera (and this is arguable . . . and Chapman simply ain’t Rivera), which closer was essential? . . . Broxton is as good as most of these guys.

    • 2012 Giants-Sergio Romo

      2011 Cardinals-Jason Motte

      2010 Giants-Brian Wilson

      2009 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

      2008 Phillies-Brad Lidge

      2007 Red Sox-Jonathan Papelbon

      2006 Cardinals-Adam Wainwright

      2005 White Sox-Bobby Jenks

      2004 Red Sox-Keith Foulke

      2003 Marlins-Ugueth Urbin

      2002 Angels-Troy Percival

      2001 Diamondbacks-Byung-Hyun Kim

      2000 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

      1999 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

      1998 Yankees-Mariano Rivera

      1997 Marlins-Robb Nen

      1996 Yankees-John Wetteland

      1995 Braves-Mark Wohlers

      1993 Blue Jays-Duane Ward

      1992 Blue Jays-Tom Henke

      1991 Twins-Rick Aguilera

      Aside from Rivera (and this is arguable . . . and Chapman simply ain’t Rivera), which closer was essential? . . . Broxton is as good as most of these guys.

      It’s more then numbers, its also attitude, and with Marshall, Broxton then Chapman in the 7-8-9 teams feel they must have the lead or thier odds of winning are very slim…

  28. There is one individual in this entire fiasco that looks absolutely foolish AND incompetent. That bothers me a lot, because that one person holds the keys to the factory. Uncle Walt signed Broxton to close, period. Broxton did not give the Reds a discount to play for them. He signed a hefty 3-year contract to close in a bullpen already fully loaded and with proven talent to the point that the Reds were comfortable in trading their top minor league relief pitchers. They didn’t need Broxton unless he was going to close for the Reds. The Reds now have more experienced, proven, talented relief pitchers than they can place on the 25-man roster and I believe only one of them (and possibly one of the best) has any options available. That makes Uncle Walt look pretty foolish and incompetent. Uncle Walt spent the entire off-season proclaiming that the Reds would try Chapman as a starter and the off-season actions backed up those statements. Chapman spent the entire off-season preparing as a starter, just as he had in 2012. During the same time, Mr. Baker, the team’s manager, took every opportunity to publicly refute Uncle Walt’s assertions without directly confronting him in public. If I’m not mistaken, the manager works for the general manager in the professional baseball hierarchy, right? Then low and behold, Chapman does not start and will not start. Uncle Walt looks very foolish and incompetent.

    Incongruously, incompetent and foolish are two adjectives I have never associated with Uncle Walt, ever. Either I was completely wrong about Uncle Walt’s capabilities as a GM or something smells rotten to the core. I find either of those two alternatives to be a disaster in the making for the Reds. If Uncle Walt is actually running the show and is actually that foolish and incompetent, then I’m afraid the Reds return to glory will be short-lived. If Uncle Walt is really as competent and professional as I believed he was, I’m very concerned about his long-term prospect as the Reds’ GM and that could also result in a short-lived return to glory for the Reds.

  29. Would somebody please post the link where everyone gets their crystal balls. I really feel stupid just surmising what might happen in the future. I was sort of thinking Chapman might be a good starter. But I didn’t know he was going to be the next Koufax. I was a little concerned last year when he needed some time off. I think he had already pitched a ton of innings, like you know maybe fifty or so. However I am certain going another 120 innings or so would be no problem. I hope you will help me out here. Yours truly Ain’t no Nostradamus.

    • @bigklu18: That’s precisely the point. There is no way to know what Chapman could be without (at least) attempting to start him for an extended period of time.

    • @bigklu18: AMEN! As I said I would have liked to see them take the experiment further but the projections of what Chapman might have done are based on wht??? until/ unless we some tangible reason to believe in them.

      It sure looks like they have the bullpen to risk letting him go into the AAA rotation. However we don’t know all the political, financial, and contractual things that might have played into the decision that was made.

  30. This assumption that Chapman would have been available to start game 4 is very unlikely as like Strausburg the Reds would have had an innings limit on him and I doubt would have even been on the playoff roster.

    Second, this idea he Ace level is not known as very few Aces are that level with only one pitch that they can throw consistenly which is where Chapman is at right now and do you really want him learning during the regular season on the major league level.

    Lastly when No one with a much stronger and knowledge view of the the game and abilties thinks he is useful to the tean more as a starter over closer that speaks volumes.

    Oh and do you really want to put Chapman in a position he has said he is not comfortable with?

  31. Whoa…let’s back up here. First of all, Bronson Arroyo, a pretty decent pitcher questioned the Reds’ decision in the off-season. He gave very compelling reasons on his position. Brandon Phillips questioned the decision as well. Arroyo was talking from a pitchers’ prospective and Phillips was speaking from a hitters’ prospective. I would respect their opinion because they are players. Many of the baseball experts were questioning the decision as well as Chapman does not really have a “fourth pitch”. I am okay with the decision because I love the bullpen. You can bring in Broxton to shut down the right handed hitters and Chapman can work the left handers. If we win 104 ball games and Chapman saves 45 and Broxton saves 42, we will be watching the World Series from GABP. The 2012 LDS was not lost because of Chapman not being involved. The LDS was lost because our entire team went cold collectively and Joey Votto was only on one good leg.

    • Many of the baseball experts were questioning the decision as well as Chapman does not really have a “fourth pitch”.

      I hope not. Nobody has a fourth pitch, except junkballers like Bronson. Cueto, Latos, and Homer have 2-3 pitches.

  32. Silver lining: Can Parra now go away? Trade immediately. For whatever. Balls, beer, bobbleheads, whatever. Beer. And give it us.

  33. I can say that I had wished Cueto could have pitched in that NLDS … seems like not many people think that was a big deal. Guess not … he only pitched to 1 batter.

    But I think if you get 87 saves out of your closers, you have really nobody to thank but God.

  34. In some alternate reality somewhere Dusty is managing the Angels. I can almost hear his press conference: “Well, you know, Trout was 49 for 55 in stolen base attempts so we like to keep him on the bench and save him for big pinch running opportunities.”

  35. I hated the Broxton overpay when it happened, I hate it even more now.

    This is just asinine. Tons of $$$ tied up in a bullpen with too few spots for too many quality arms, but a rotation that’s one sore shoulder away from having to press rookies into service*…….on a team built to win the World Series. *facepalm*

    *Speaking of rookies, why is Leake being handed a rotation spot after his weak 2012? Why isn’t Cingrani even being considered?

  36. This is ridiculous. The stat heads wanna jabber about how more innings equals more bang for the buck. Whatever. Chapman is a head case. We should count our lucky stars we are getting anything of quality out of him. He knows the value of a starter vs a reliever and he came out publicly that he would prefer to keep being Rick Vaughn. Well what is up with this joker?

  37. So the bottom line is, Chapman is a victim of being a member of a successful team.

    If the Reds didn’t feel they could ‘win now’, they would let him start, is that the message?

    Ok, then…..

    • *Speaking of rookies, why is Leake being handed a rotation spot after his weak 2012?Why isn’t Cingrani even being considered?

      Because they’re starting off with the basic pitching staff that was so successful last year and Tony Cingrani had a disappointing spring training. Cingrani made 10 starts in single A and 15 starts in AA last year before being promoted to the Reds, and he has yet to even appear in AAA.

      I hope Cingrani gets off to a strong start in Louisville. If he pitches well and Leake struggles they might switch places.

      So the bottom line is, Chapman is a victim of being a member of a successful team.

      If the Reds didn’t feel they could ‘win now’, they would let him start, is that the message?

      Ok, then…..

      Yes, that’s the basically the way I feel, except to some extent I think he’s also a victim of being a successful reliever, if he struggled there wouldn’t be such interest in keeping him in the bullpen. If the Reds were rebuilding, needed more starters, needed some extra boost early in the season to get off to a hot start (with no concern whatsoever for the playoffs), and if their sole priority was competing in 2014, then I think he’d be a starter now.

      Remember Mike Leake’s rookie season, when they started him despite knowing he wouldn’t be allowed to pitch a full season? They were fine with it then, but they’re clearly not fine with a similar situation now, now that they’re in ‘win now’ mode. Yes yes, Chapman has a better arm, no question about that, but he also faces the inning limit Leake faced as a rookie.

      • Because they’re starting off with the basic pitching staff that was so successful last year

        I actually don’t doubt that this is the logic. As if Johnny Cueto’s success is somehow dependent on having Mike Leake pitch (poorly) two days before him.

  38. Anybody considered whether Chapman might be back in the pen in part because there could be a trade coming?

    What about those rumors that the Reds were in on Lohse? Walt denied them but doesn’t he always; and wasn’t he able to get something done with Boras last year when Boras was high and dry on the Madsen situation?

    • @OhioJim: I thought Walt Jocketty’s message today was a vote of confidence in Mike Leake rather than a hint that he was actively searching to replace him.

      Does anybody really want Kyle Lohse signed? He’s coming off two strong seasons but he’s the same age as Ryan Ludwick, who I keep hearing is too old. Lohse struggled with the Reds a few years ago. In my opinion the Reds would be paying a lot of money for a name, NOT for an upgrade over Mike Leake. In addition to cash they’d have to give up a draft pick. Kyle Lohse sure doesn’t seem like a logical choice to me.

    • @OhioJim: A trade of who? If anything they decreased Chapman’s trade value with Friday’s announcement. They wouldn’t send Chapman to the closer’s role if they were about to trade a starting pitcher or a key starting prospect (like Cingrani or Corcino). They wouldn’t move him to the bullpen if they didn’t prioritize a strong bullpen (which Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are key pieces of – trading them would be contradictory). I don’t see a trade of a position player as being relevant to the pitching staff.

      I think all we have left is minor tinkering to find who gets the final few bullpen spots.

    • @OhioJim: This is a good thought. As Leake was getting beat on this afternoon, I thought that Lohse would look mighty good in that 5th spot.

  39. I don’t wish failure on anyone who plays for the Reds, but if Leake blows up this year, I wouldn’t necessarily be upset if it meant management doing the sensible and proper thing and getting Chapman into the rotation.

  40. I couldn’t have been more firmly in the Chapman should be a starter camp. That said, I think it is way too easy to rip this decision with half of the facts, and furthermore to blame this decision on Baker. We are not going to get the reasoning behind this decision until WAY into the future. Mananagement ain’t gonna come out and say that Chapman doesn’t have enough command of his second and third pitches to be truly effective as a starter. Or that they don’t think he can hold up over a full season of starting. And to think that Baker has the loudest voice in this decision seems off. Walt is the GM, and I’ve gotta believe that it’s his decision to make. Yeah, Baker has input, Price has input, the ML scouting guys have input, the minor league pitching coaches have input, Chapman has (a little) input, etc., etc., but it’s Walt who would ultimately make the call. And Walt just may have a bit more baseball knowledge, as well as knowledge of this situation, than us.

    While there “might” be some conflict of interest involved, Arroyo was outspoken in his belief that Chapman should close. As was LeCure. And Phillips.

    Who in the Reds’ organization was outspoken in favor of Chapman starting?

    However, I still like the idea of Chapman with 160 IP, not 60 IP in 2013. Still like the idea of a dominant lefty in the rotation. Damn. Don’t like this decision, but not ready to condemn it either. Is there some other development coming down the pike, either personnel wise or Chapman specific? Dunno, so I’m going with “in Walt we trust”, until he proves to be untrustworthy.

    • @earmbrister: Well said. IMO many normally rational folks are going off the deep end over the metrics of the value of a starter versus a reliever without taking a step back to evaluate just what kind of starter Chapman would be in the right here and now without a stint at AAA to round him into form.

      Even then we don’t know what his form would be; but, I think the pen depth is there to have had a go at it. However as you point out, we don’t know what the other inside considerations were.

    • @earmbrister: Thank you for your very reasonable and well thought out post. I completely agree. We certainly don’t have all the information. Just because we aren’t convinced he couldn’t start doesn’t mean that a reasonable person with more information couldn’t come to a different conclusion.

      And all the Dusty hate is getting ridiculous. We have no idea what the internal discussions were, and I doubt it was simply Dusty throwing a temper tantrum to get what he wants over Jockety and Price like many are saying.

    • @earmbrister: Putting my vote in with you guys. Looking only at the numbers and from the perspective of a non-baseball player, this seems like a silly decision. But we don’t know what else went into making this decision. It’s possible that this has been well thought out, and there is a compelling reason to keep Chapman in the pen. It’s very possible that Dusty is not solely to blame for this decision, and I’ll note that throughout the discussion this preseason, many people have pointed out that if Jocketty wanted Chapman to start, he could have forced the issue.

      And I love reading this blog. I think the analysis, thought and effort put into it is great. I won’t stop reading. But once in a while the tendency towards hyperbole is a little much. This is your 9/11? Your Kennedy assassination? Take a deep breath. Besides, with all the chatter all winter (some leaning toward starter, some leaning towards closer), I think you guys, being stat-heads, could have seen that there was a decent chance that this was going to happen.

    • We are not going to get the reasoning behind this decision until WAY into the future.

      That’s probably true. Though if they thought he was somehow incapable of being a starter, I’d think Walt Jocketty would’ve said something other than this:

      “Who knows, one day he may start,” Jocketty said. “But this is the best decision for us to be successful.”

    • I couldn’t have been more firmly in the Chapman should be a starter camp.That said, I think it is way too easy to rip this decision with half of the facts, and furthermore to blame this decision on Baker.We are not going to get the reasoning behind this decision until WAY into the future.Mananagement ain’t gonna come out and say that Chapman doesn’t have enough command of his second and third pitches to be truly effective as a starter.Or that they don’t think he can hold up over a full season of starting.And to think that Baker has the loudest voice in this decision seems off.Walt is the GM, and I’ve gotta believe that it’s his decision to make.Yeah, Baker has input, Price has input, the ML scouting guys have input, the minor league pitching coaches have input, Chapman has (a little) input, etc., etc., but it’s Walt who would ultimately make the call.And Walt just may have a bit more baseball knowledge, as well as knowledge of this situation, than us.

      While there “might” be some conflict of interest involved, Arroyo was outspoken in his belief that Chapman should close.As was LeCure.And Phillips.

      Who in the Reds’ organization was outspoken in favor of Chapman starting?

      However, I still like the idea of Chapman with 160 IP, not 60 IP in 2013. Still like the idea of a dominant lefty in the rotation.Damn.Don’t like this decision, but not ready to condemn it either.Is there some other development coming down the pike, either personnel wise or Chapman specific?Dunno, so I’m going with “in Walt we trust”, until he proves to be untrustworthy.

      @earmbrister: Very well stated and thanks for putting it out there.

  41. Great, great, great post!!! Chapman was useless in last year’s playoff series and the Giants’ Bruce B. knew how to manage in a winner takes all game (then another, then another). The easiest question is do you want Leake to pitch an important game or Chapman? Do you want Chapman pitching for six innings or one?

  42. I’m sorry. The more time that passes, the more utterly disgusted I am with this decision. Well, not really *this* decision so much as three solid years of incredibly wrong-headed and frankly incompetent management. Three years where this organization has completely failed to find out what an important asset is capable of. I cannot understand how we got here. It is beyond explanation.

    This is not “old school” baseball vs. sabermetrics. It is old school baseball vs. COMMON SENSE.

    And one other thing that’s driving me nuts: All the comments about Chapman’s lack of 2nd/3rd/4th pitches. The guy doesn’t call his own pitches. When Chapman’s almost exclusive use of fastballs was questioned during the 2012 season, Dusty got angry about it, saying Chapman didn’t *need* another pitch. Dusty has actually, literally stood in the way of Chapman’s professional development.

    This is wrong on every possible level.

    • @RC: Now with Chapman essentially done as a starter for the Reds they’re paying three closers. Before last season they extended Marshall and it was reported that he was set to be their closer of the future, then this year they extended Broxton for the same purpose. A team with the Reds finances can’t really afford to be overpaying guys to fill rolls that they don’t. My hope is that before year end one of these guys is traded for something that can help them. Either a bat or some salary flexibility for next year and beyond. Of course, if Chapman has another good year as a closer any savings would have to go to paying him when he goes to arbitration.

  43. Did they address in the press conference any reason for the decision? If it’s simply that they’re built to win now, wasn’t that true the day they made the Choo trade?

  44. Don’t overreact. They’re going to be a great team that makes the playoffs. After that, the chips will fall were they may. I’m excited at the potential, and you’re either an absolute fool or a curmudgeon if you don’t see it that way. To look for negatives at this point means you either are not ready to win or you just won’t allow yourself to be happy in general. We’ve not had a team like this in at least 10 years, and they’ve been few and far between. My point is that I won’t forget to enjoy the hell out of this season.

  45. While we’re on the topic of potential starters, it’d be a shame if the Reds sent JJ Hoover to AAA as a reliever. He was a starter throughout the minors until just prior to when they traded for him. The Braves didnt switch him because he wasn’t able to handle it- they did it because they were loaded with starters and wanted his arm, his talent in the majors as soon as possible. He was a potential 2 starter.

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