For the fourth time in ten years, the Cardinals will represent the National League in the World Series. Does that make you hot, Reds fan? It should. The Redlegs have won the NL Central twice in the last four years, but let’s not kid ourselves, okay? The Cardinals are the standard bearers for excellence in the NL. Deal with it, Reds fan. Don’t disillusion yourself with words such as “luck” (good or bad), or “injuries.” As Loretta Castorini said to Johnny Cammareri, “Snap out of it!”
They are an arrogant bunch, these Redbirds. The smug and self-entitled nature of their fans has reached critical mass. It’s irrelevant. They are taking center stage once again, while the Reds sit home and spectate. And that’s not so bad, if it effects some serious soul searching here at home.
I hope Bob Castellini and Walt Jocketty were watching as the Cardinals and their fans celebrated. I hope they saw the sign a fan held up that said “Busch Stadium – The Baseball Capitol of the World.” I hope they didn’t turn the channel and begin catching up with the final season of Breaking Bad. That would be redundant. No, I hope they watched the entire bacchanal unfold on the field and in the clubhouse. I hope it hacked them off as much as it did the rest of us.
When Walt Jocketty came to Cincinnati after he and the Cardinal front office parted ways due to irreconcilable differences, you know he had designs on proving a thing or two to his old club. I’m sure he had 2012 and 2013 circled on his calendar. He has work left to do.
Bob Castellini—the Fan—walked up the aisle and out of PNC Park red-faced. Bob Castellini—the Owner—walked into his office and gave the go-ahead to dismiss his hand-picked manager and find a new home for his outsized second baseman less than a year after rewarding both with shiny, new contracts. Talk about breaking bad.
The Reds had better get this managerial search right. Nobody on the outside can possibly know who that should be. Everybody on the outside will roast them if they get it wrong this time around. While the story of the next skipper is getting the lion’s share of the debate, the decision regarding who will be the next hitting coach awaits. While someone like Eric Davis is appealing to some, you’d like to think they replicate the success that came with looking outside the organization when replacing Dick Pole. When the Dodgers tapped Mark McGwire to be their new hitting coach, do you think they worried he wasn’t clad in bespoke blue?
Then, there’s the Brandon Phillips soap opera, which has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. If it’s to be done, it’s best that it be done quickly and deal with the grieving “little debbies” later. Now that the news has hit the media, there is no turning back. The distraction of having him around come Spring will trammel the new manager and touch the organization negatively in every other area until resolved. If you think this relationship can be salvaged, you might want to think again. There’s not a Snickers bar big enough to hand to Brandon now. Make no mistake: it’s likely a done deal even if it doesn’t happen soon. Forget how many or how few the suitors might be. Forget how good or poor the deal. In the end, the move will be made because they have to improve the atmosphere around the team for the sake of the new manager. If they can dump salary in the process and receive something in return as well, all the better. But even if it means taking on a bad contract to get rid of Phillips and his, I believe they will do it. The well has been poisoned.
They better have a plan to make sure Johnny Cueto’s physical and mechanical problems are addressed over the winter once and for all. This team can’t bear the burden of another season with Cueto MIA.
The owner can ill-afford another emotional signing. Yes, we’re looking at you, Scott Boras. If you and your client are willing to make a deal that benefits both sides, perhaps there’s a deal to be done. More likely, the Reds find another single season stand-in for centerfield while Billy spends one more year marinating in Louisville because …
Billy Hamilton isn’t ready. The Reds cannot afford to spend April and May waiting and hoping Hamilton’s bat somehow catches up with his feet. They can’t afford to have another bat in the lineup learning on the fly. The organization will already be dealing with one callow hitter, as they will surely now have to turn young Mesoraco loose and allow him to make the pitching staff and the batters’ box his own. Two young bats fighting the learning curve as well as well as Wainwright’s curve? No thanks.
While all the above is going on in the background, the Reds will quietly have to find out if they can keep Homer Bailey. Trading him now would make the team perilously thin in the rotation. With Cingrani expected to replace Bronson Arroyo, who would be the sixth guy when injury strikes if David Dewitt Bailey is gone? In 2011, half the pitchers in baseball spent some time on the DL. We will hold our breath each time Cueto takes the mound—at least for the foreseeable future. Moving Chapman to the rotation doesn’t change the fact that he’s not going to go from throwing 63 innings to 163, much less a full season. Anybody feeling confident seeing Greg Reynolds in the rotation for two or three months when someone goes down?
Meanwhile, for the next two weeks, you won’t be able to turn on your TV or fire up your browser without hearing or reading about the Cardinal Way. The way out of irrelevancy for the Reds will be to answer all the questions above successfully, navigate all the unforeseen landmines ahead and forge a winning way for themselves in this post-Dusty era.