2013 Reds / Editorials / The Nasty Boys

The Nasty Boys

You know you shouldn’t. It’s wrong. It’s soul-killing. But, you do it anyway. Maybe the monotony of your everyday existence makes you hungry for a little manufactured controversy. Maybe it’s a hankering to ponder the social or cultural ramifications of mothers who don’t diaper their children. Perhaps its as simple as the enjoyment you get feeling superior to the mental-midgetry emanating from your car radio. Whatever the reason, you succumb. As you head down I-71, up I-75, or points between, you turn the dial to listen to some guy named Willie. Or Seg. Or Eddie. Or Tracy.  Admit it.

It’s okay. I do, too. And, of course, you know full well the boys aren’t there for your edification. They are there for three things and three things only:

Raunchiness. Ratings. Revenue.  The three R’s of talk radio.

When Homer Bailey stiffed WLW, the Big One threw the Big Fit.  They went after Homer. They repeatedly ran an announcement congratulating Ryan Hanigan on successfully catching his second no hitter. This is what passes for knee-slapping humor in the post-Burbank era. They could have had an honest discussion on the reason why Bailey wanted no part of a WLW interview, why a certain person in the service of the Cincinnati Reds on Reds Radio finds it necessary to bury certain players for not performing up to his HOF standards.  Now, THAT could have jacked up the ratings. They did neither.  They chose to circle the wagons.

Speaking of circling the wagons, Kemosabe, I should confess I am part Native American. Santee Sioux. Not a lot, mind you, but I can report with conviction that I have some mad Native American skillz in my quiver. And when I put my ear to the ground, I can hear things. And what I hear right now is a distant thunder. The Reds aren’t hitting, if you didn’t already know. Someone is to blame. Lance McAlister is beating the war drums because he thinks he knows who is to blame—Brook Jacoby.

Yeah buddy. Brook Jacoby is all that is wrong with the Cincinnati Reds. Don’t believe me? Well then, you haven’t been paying attention to the comment section of almost every Reds’ blog over the past five years or so, have you? Every time Jay Bruce has gone on one of his monthly sojourns to the Mendoza Line, there’s a chorus of folks claiming it’s Brook’s fault. Every time Stubby was caught looking? Yep, Brook’s behind it. Every time the Reds’ offense went into a collective funk—there was Jacoby, channeling his inner Lord Voldemort, practicing the dark arts on the Reds’ bats.

Lance knows. Earlier this week, McAlister called for the firing of Jacoby and the hiring of Eric Davis.

Give Me a Different Voice
Nice. You see, Lance doesn’t really believe Brook Jacoby is the problem here. In fact, he went waaaay out of his way to make the point that Mr. Jacoby is but a VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCE. That phrase was repeated ad nauseam throughout the afternoon, just so we’d know this wasn’t really about Jacoby and the job he does.  This was most certainly not scapegoating. Oh, good gracious, no. Just a little change, Bubula. What could it hurt? As McAlister said:

“I’m doing something so miniscule, what’s the big deal?”

Sweet, huh?  Go after the guy you know the fan base already routinely buries and replace him with the universally revered “E.” I mean, you gotta hand it to Lance sometimes. You really do. The argument went thusly: “we’ve had 7 years of your voice and your eyes. This team’s approach, this team’s philosophy—you think it’s going to hold up? We must change the vision, the eyeballs looking at this offense. Here are your parting gifts.”

Thanks, Brook.  Don’t let the bullpen door hit you in the strike zone on the way out.

 

Give Us This Day Our Daily Cozart
Lance then dove headlong into the pool of the obvious, suggesting that batting Zack Cozart in the 2-hole was lunacy… you’d have to be in a coma … nobody in his right mind, etc.

Once more, McAlister courageously opines, knowing the vox populi is squarely behind him, pitchforks in hand. Duly noted. Cozart at the top of the order is a fool’s play. This is fish in a barrel stuff. Am I right? But, is it asking too much to expect Lance to connect the dots? I mean, the same man who scratches the name “Cozart” into the rocking chair between Choo and Joey each night is the same man who dictates the team’s hitting philosophy.  Jacoby may wear the title, but let’s not kid ourselves. Dusty Baker is the de facto hitting coach of the Cincinnati Reds.  Dusty Baker made his MLB bones as a hitter. He played and studied at the foot of the great Aaron. He knows hitting. He’ll tell you. His words fairly echo off the hallways in the bowels of GABP:

“It’s not called walking, it’s called hitting. You’re trying to get a hit.”

“The name of the game is scoring runs. Sometimes, you get so caught up in on-base percentage that you’re clogging up the bases.”

Baker has been urging Votto to swing more and take less since 2008. When informed just last week that the Reds swing at more first pitches than any other team in Baseball, Baker was reportedly stunned. The Reds may be dead last in batting average on first pitch balls put in play, but according to Dusty, if you ain’t hacking, your swing is lacking.bobby_tolan

Brook Jacoby ain’t the problem. When Mickey Hatcher was summarily dumped as the Angels’ hitting instructor early last season, it wasn’t because of what Mickey was doing, but rather what he didn’t do, which was stay out of the way of the Angels’ shiny, new $240M hitting diva, Sir Albert. What fixed the Angels was not a new hitting instructor, but Pujols adjusting to his new league and the promotion of one Mike Trout. None of that is applicable here. And to think things would be any different under Eric Davis is to simply not understand the moribund methadology of Dusty Baker. If anyone thinks Davis would instruct contrary to Baker’s wishes, you need only to rewind to the end of Spring Training and the fight over Chapman to understand that what Dusty wants, Dusty gets.

To want to fire Jacoby is to buy into the myth that a hitting instructor has some svengali-like hold over players.  In fact, by the time they reach the majors, players are for the most part fully formed. I don’t ever remember Bobby Tolan going into a slump and seeing Reds’ hitting instructor Ted Kluszewski messing with that iconic “hands-high, bat-to-the-sky” approach. No, they are there to tweak, to help a player identify adverse changes when things are going off the rails. They are another set of eyes. As Big Klu himself once said: “I just study their styles and see that they don’t deviate. They have pretty well established styles by the time they get up here.”

As the nasty boys in the media swing wildly from Jacoby one day to chemistry issues the next, you won’t see any acknowledgement that although the Reds have one player who is a bright, shining example of plate discipline—there is absolutely no way he is going to proselytize to his fellow players as long as his manager publicly advocates the opposite approach.

You’re not going to change the hitting styles of Chris Heisey, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, or any of the other young players the Reds are counting on to lift this team in the absence of Ryan Ludwick. You might be able to change their approach. But to expect Chris Heisey—or any young player who depends upon his manager’s approval for playing time—to take pitches just off the plate that he knows he cannot handle, may be asking too much. If Dusty says swing, you swing.

Earlier this week, Baker’s pregame chat included the latest assessment of the team’s hitting woes, including, but not limited to, an examination of whether it’s the “personnel not doing what they are supposed to do, or the instructors not instructing properly.”

Well then.  Can’t imagine what that means.

91 down. 71 to go. The wheels on the bus go round and round. One guy is hoping Brook Jacoby doesn’t end up underneath it.

 

25 thoughts on “The Nasty Boys

  1. Richard, now there’s an editorial worth framing. I’m going out on a limb here, but I fathom that you’ve never been invited (or ever expect an invitation) to one of Dusty’s cliche-riddled, post-game press conferences.

  2. You seem to be critical of the Daugherty column you linked, but in fairness, he did defend his proposed trade of Joey Votto and Homer Bailey for Joe Blanton, which would have prevented the Reds from losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2010 and 2012.

  3. One of my worst fears has been realized during this recent stretch of games leading up to the all star break. The Dodgers are winning and winning a lot. They have turned their season around and with the Giants pitching staff in the toilet, the Dodgers are ready to lay claim to the NLWD lead after thrashing the D’Backs. With the Dodgers resurgence, Mattingly’s job appears safe and secure. I was afraid this would happen when Mattingly called out the player(s) for not doing their jobs. That may have been an act of desperation or an act of aggression. It certainly wasn’t an act of a player’s manager, but the Dodgers’ turnaround and surging performance followed Mattingly’s throwing down of the gauntlet. There may be no cause/effect relationship. The talent assembled with the trillion, zillion dollar payroll may have simply started producing, but the end result is that there will be no vacancy to fill as the Dodgers’ manager.

  4. Without going into such a lengthy diatribe, I agree with several on here that the WLW figure on Reds radio is getting to the end of his career. I noticed it with Nuxhall when he started complaining about the Reds play during the game. Radio figures are suppose to try to keep things positive, not analyze plays and especially not give their opinions (at least so vehemently).

    As for the hitting, the fact that Joke-oby and Bakerman are both hitting instructors and the fact that the strength of this team is defense and pitching only points to the fact that both Joke-oby and Bakerman are being useless. I would point to Bakerman first myself because he’s the one that leads the parade. If he didn’t like how Joke-oby was coaching, he would/should be informing Joke-oby how to do it better if not assisting Joke-oby himself. But, don’t think Joke-oby is away from the blame. Neither were spectacular hitters themselves. Bakerman had numbers that seem to be about Bruce’s (Baker a bit better contact, Bruce a bit more power). But, then, even with that, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t necessarily know how to coach and manage. Plenty of examples in the history of the league of successful managers who were poor players and vice versa. Shoot, both Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, basketball greats, losing records as coaches if I recall correctly.

    But, as for major league ball players are “for the most part fully formed” when they reach the major leagues, that’s absolutely wrong. Not only tweeks can be made but outright changes as well. Deviations always occur. Adjustments can and always should be made. For, if they aren’t, the other team learns your tendencies and pitches plays you as such to get you out. That could even include absolute notable changes. The history of the league is littered with guy every season who literally remake themself. It’s even been noted that Homer came up as a “power pitcher” trying to strike out everyone, but now he looks to pitch more to contact and keep the hitters off balance.

    What would be more likely is that the players don’t adjust their play, change their style of play, tweek their play, to their own ignorance or whatever. Stubbs is a good example himself. As a speedster, he should be concentrating hitting more ground balls and line drives, just making contact with the ball, not swinging so much for the fences and K’ing. It would probably drastically improve his hitting numbers. But, will he make the change? That’s another thing. Can they change their style of play? Sure. And, there are plenty of opportunities to do that. But, will they? Most likely not. But, it’s definitely not that they can’t change their style of play.

    • @steveschoen: Actually, from a hitting mechanics standpoint, yes, players are pretty much fully formed when they get to the majors. If they aren’t, they are going to be stuck somewhere down in the minor league system until they resolve those mechanical issues. Hitters will make small adjustments, such as changes to their stance or make changes to fix timing issues, but you don’t see much tearing down of swings. There really isn’t time to do that at the major league level. You’ll lose your job first. You’re talking about plate discipline, making adjustments to what is being thrown to you. Those get made constantly as you adjust to how pitchers are attacking your weaknesses. But they are two different things.

      And it’s not comparable to pitching. Pitchers may have to make big mechanical changes if failure to do so means a blown out elbow.

      Don’t tell Ryan Hanigan that Homer isn’t a power pitcher. He called almost exclusively fastballs to finish off the Giants at the end of that no-hitter.

      • @Richard Fitch: “pretty much fully formed”, yes. But, “fully formed” as in can’t change and get better (or worse), that is absolutely wrong.

        The history of the league is littered with players who make changes. That’s a given part of the game, making adjustments, making changes, learning to hit the breaking balls better, improving your hand-eye coordination, etc. If you don’t make adjustments, the rest of the league learn your weaknesses as a batter, pitch to those, rendering you useless as a batter.

  5. It’s interesting you bring up Stubbs when talking about changing his approach. Many people have been writing about Carlos Gomez and how he has morphed into this star player after being relatively average or below average for a few years. He said he finally went back to his original approach that got him to the big leagues. He went back to trying to swing hard and drive pitches rather than hit the ball on the ground and use his speed. He said it changed his mindset, was never comfortable and killed his confidence. It’s been said that the Reds (at least many fans have suggested) tried to have Stubbs hit more balls on the ground to take advantage of his speed. Perhaps, he could benefit from going back to his original hitting style and approach that made him successful when he first got to the Reds. Just a thought and all based on assumptions on my part that he actually has tried/is trying to change his approach and not just ignoring everyone a la Colby Rasmus in Toronto, former WLB.

    If it is true, it would go back to the argument about how hard it is for players to truly change their approaches successfully. There are success stories like Chris Davis, but I would bet there are the failed stories outnumber the successes by a huge margin. Approaches are just as ingrained into a ball player as a swing or throwing motion and just as difficult and arduous to change.

    • @DatDudeMP: I’ve thought the one guy who suffered the most from the Dusty philosophy has always been Stubbs. Stubbs GB% went from 44% in 2010 to 51% in 2012. His SLG dropped frmo .444 to .333. He also increased his zone swinging percentage and outside zone swinging percentage. It seemed he stopped trying to drive the ball and concentrated on simply making contact, which could be why is BABIP dropped from .330 to .290. Of course, he saw a lot fewer fastballs last year, but if you know a guy is going to swing, why groove him one? I’m worried we’re seeing the same thing with Zack Cozart.

      • @DatDudeMP: I’ve thought the one guy who suffered the most from the Dusty philosophy has always been Stubbs. Stubbs GB% went from 44% in 2010 to 51% in 2012. His SLG dropped frmo .444 to .333. He also increased his zone swinging percentage and outside zone swinging percentage. It seemed he stopped trying to drive the ball and concentrated on simply making contact, which could be why is BABIP dropped from .330 to .290. Of course, he saw a lot fewer fastballs last year, but if you know a guy is going to swing, why groove him one? I’m worried we’re seeing the same thing with Zack Cozart.

        Good post, Eric. I hesitate to look too deep into the numbers; I get surfing the net too much.

        One thing, though, that for a leadoff hitter, either 1-2 holes, I don’t worry about SLG at all. Those players aren’t paid to hit HR’s. They are paid to get on base so that the next 3 players can drive them in. In other words, have a good OBP. Thus, the frusteration with Bakerman, putting players with such low OBP that high in the order.

        • @steveschoen: A 2 hitter with pop isn’t bad, but Stubbs didn’t have any business hitting at the top of the order (not his doing obviously). He didn’t show major power in the minors but he didn’t have to be a slugger to be productive. Line drives near the gap with his speed can lead to doubles. If he could OPS even in the low .700’s and steal 30 bases, with his defense that’s a 2-3 win player. He never walked a lot in the minors, bat him 7th or 8th, let him drive the ball instead of trying to slash and dash, and he could have been a valuable piece. When you try to make him something he’s not, and hit him where he shouldn’t, you get results like last year.

    • It’s been said that the Reds (at least many fans have suggested) tried to have Stubbs hit more balls on the ground to take advantage of his speed. Perhaps, he could benefit from going back to his original hitting style and approach that made him successful

      Stubbs got up here because there was no one else for CF. His minor league numbers would show he was ready. But, his minor league numbers also don’t show he was any kind of HR hitter, hitting 28 in 4 full minor league season, 12 at Dayton. If anything, since getting with the Reds, Stubbs fell in love with the long ball and has stated he isn’t going to change his style of play. Another example of it, in 4 full seasons in the minors, Stubbs had 220 walks. In 4.5 seasons in the majors, 196. Pretty much shows exactly what he showed all of us, he’s turned into a “swinger for the fences”.

  6. Can somebody tell me what a hitting coach typically does? In general and/or with the Reds? Because I don’t know, and that’s part of the frustration. I rarely hear much about Jacoby. Bryan Price, on the other hand, seems to have some level of visibility, though maybe that was just brought about by the Chapman maneuvering and having all five of his starters go all last season with never missing a start.

    I’m curious about whether Jacoby approaches players who are struggling, or whether the player has to seek help first. And that’s not even factoring in whether Dusty is involved. The mystery behind this doesn’t do Jacoby any favors.

    • @vegastypo: my impression is that the hitting coach works with players at the level of intensity that the players want to work with him. Votto specifically has said that he works on his swing a lot with Jacoby and that they review tape together regularly. Other guys probably work with him a lot less.

      He does stand by the cage during BP usually, so he probably has a pretty good idea of all of the different guys swings, but I doubt he volunteers much to a guy if the player doesn’t approach him.

        • @Richard Fitch: The last time I heard that from a player about Jacoby, the player proceeded to go back into a tailspin that he never got out of. I wouldn’t put anything on Jacoby. It’s more likely Bruce decided to try to be more like Votto.

  7. Richard, with your ear to the ground, can you hear the trade winds blowing?? What are they saying?? Could there be a southeasterly trade wind blowing in from Miami soon??

    • @WVRedlegs: I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Walt to acquire Stanton. There’s not enough in the cookie jar. And I don’t think they want to part with him. Reds owe Ludwick $11M next season. I just don’t see a big trade in the Reds’ future.

  8. I have a hitting coach question…..

    Why have the Reds not hired Norris Hopper as a roving bunting instructor and assigned him to one Billy Hamilton?

    That was the most excitement we have seen at the top of the order since Bip and Neon.

    Hamilton could raise his 250 average to 280 with some Hopper skills.

    He would change the way the defense plays him

  9. Hitting woes….

    Look, I don’t have an answer, but personally I like Lance. I feel a bit awkward when people with a voice start asking for someone to be fired. Especially when I’m not certain that person can be blamed. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

    Again, though, I like Lance. I see him as a positive force in correcting what is wrong with fans in Cincinnati.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s