Injuries

We got jack for that

If you’re a Reds fan and you’d rather simply relax, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday and see red, white an blue, instead of seeing just red, turn the dial to the right and get back to the family picnic. You won’t want to read the rest of this.

John Fay committed a important act of journalism this morning, writing a fabulous, thoroughly-researched article for the Cincinnati Enquirer about Joey Votto and his strained quad muscle. Fay interviewed several people, including an expert on sports injuries who analyzed Votto’s condition.

This post isn’t about that part of Fay’s article. But the short version (and you should definitely go read the entire article, every last word of it) is that the injury is going to limit Votto until he can take a long break to rest it. Longer than a regular DL stint. Quad strains are generally caused by overwork, usually from running. That’s why you apparently see them more often in soccer players than major league baseball players. That is, unless you’re Joey Votto, who likely conditioned his leg muscle to exhaustion. Preparing too hard.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s obvious from Fay’s reporting that Votto’s near-term future isn’t promising until his leg fully recovers. Sadly, that won’t be until 2015, unless he takes a couple of months off and tries to return for the post-season drive in September. Assuming there’s a post-season drive to come back to. Instead, expect the Reds first baseman to keep playing and get progressively weaker. Votto is already barely effective at the plate. He’ll get worse, though. And don’t expect another regular 15-day DL stint to work any better than the last one – which was 25 days long – from May 16 to June 10. And unlike his 2012 knee injury, there’s no indication the Reds have mismanaged this.

But that isn’t what this post is about either.

The Reds will certainly — not probably — certainly need a replacement for Joey Votto for meaningful stretches of this year. He’ll either require numerous days off all season, or one or two more trips to the DL, or a two-month rest. No matter what, there is NO CONCEIVABLE CIRCUMSTANCE where the Reds won’t need another first baseman. Believing that it will somehow get better, or that it really isn’t bothering Votto or that this will work itself out would require an astonishing amount of reality denial.

So who do the Reds have that can replace Joey Votto? Fay aptly and succinctly summarizes the Reds situation this way:

The Reds have no ready replacement on the roster or in the minors.

The Cincinnati Reds, a professional baseball organization, a professional baseball organization with the pretense of competing for the post-season, does not have a ready second-string first baseman. Sure, if the Reds want to re-arrange the Diamond Seats on the Titanic, they can play Todd Frazier at first, only to endure the pain of Ramon Santiago (.196/.274/.214) playing third base. Most major league teams try to avoid playing third basemen who have only one extra base hit in 65 plate appearance. Incredibly, there’s no back up third baseman either, in the major leagues or minors.

Or the Reds could play the affable Brayan Peña at first base, as they have on occasion. The problem with that plan is that Peña has predictably cooled off considerably since his improbable hot start. His 2014 hitting (.257/.291/.386) is now awfully close to his career (.258/.292/.363) numbers. And he’s a catcher who has never played first base. And Peña is Johnny Cueto’s catching caddy. So what do the Reds do for a first baseman in those 20 percent of their games?

[Out of a sense of patriotism and deference on this national holiday, I won’t belabor the fact that I just made light of the Reds’ second string catcher for slashing .257/.291/.386, meanwhile the Reds’ clean-up hitter is batting .266/.297/.394. God Bless America.]

But the lack of replacement in the organization for Joey Votto still isn’t what this post is about. Or what has me seeing red today.

No, that would be Walt Jocketty and Jack Hannahan.

When John Fay asked Jocketty if the Reds had looked at the (obvious and 100 percent necessary) alternative of bringing in another first baseman via trade, Jocketty (I swear, this is what John Fay reports) said these words:

“Not really. We got Jack for that. He’s going to be back. If we got someone else, that would put (us) in a bad spot when he came back.”

Sadly, the Reds general manager wasn’t referring to Jack Bauer, or even Jack Billingham.

Although, maybe in a moment of candor, Jocketty was using the word “jack” colloquially, as meaning “nothing, zero” like:

Q: What did you do at work today?
A: I did jack.

Q: Who’s your back-up first baseman?
A: We got jack for that.

Short for jack squat. Because that’s what the Reds actually have to replace Joey Votto. In that case, the Jack I’d recommend would be Daniels.

But it was clear from the full context that Walt Jocketty was referring to Jack Hannahan.

Remember him? Hannahan is a third baseman signed as a free agent for the 2013-14 seasons.

Let’s take a closer look. At his best, Jack Hannahan is a defensive backup. He has never been a good hitter. Ever. His career line (.232/.316/.349) is terrible. Awful. He’s a late-inning defensive substitute at third base on a team that needs a slugging all-innings first baseman. Jack Hannahan, at his best, is nowhere near enough.

Second, there’s pretty good reason to believe Hannahan won’t be at his best since, you know, he’s recovering from … major shoulder surgery. Jack Hannahan had a torn labrum muscle repaired. That’s a pretty important muscle when it comes to hitting. Jack Hannahan hasn’t played an inning of baseball since last fall. And even then, he’s 10 days to two weeks from coming back, rust and all.  But that’s Jocketty’s plan.

And that last sentence of the Jocketty quote — put us in a bad spot — that’s infuriating, too. The Reds front office doesn’t want to bring in a real replacement for Joey Votto at first base because, gosh, we’d be in such a spot, I tell you. We’d have that player and Jack Hannahan and Ramon Santiago to play the infield. So embarrassing. Such a bad spot. What would we ever do?

How about release Jack Hannahan? The guy makes $1 million/year. It would be a sunk cost loss of less than a half million dollars. I don’t need to tell you how insignificant that amount is in the grand scheme of winning the NL Central.

[You want a bad spot? How about relying on Jack Hannahan to play first (or third) base. That’s a bad spot, Mr. Jocketty.]

But I seriously doubt he was referring to the lost money. Rather, it’s like Jocketty was saying he wouldn’t want to hurt Hannahan’s feelings. Boy, that would sure be awkward to bring in another first baseman, what about poor Jack? This is the Jack Hannahan who injured his shoulder in spring training 2013 and didn’t disclose it to the team. He continued to play hurt all year and later admitted it affected his game. He’s now missed another half of 2014 because he didn’t tell anyone until the end of the 2013 season.

Poor Jack Hannahan, we can’t replace him. Poor Ryan Ludwick. Poor Logan Ondrusek.

If you’re a Reds fan, our best hope is that Walt Jocketty was just slow-playing his hand. We can pray that he was just dissembling (dissembling is a word you use when polite company or site guidelines prevent you from saying what you really mean).

Because if Jack Hannahan is Walt Jocketty’s real solution to Joey Votto’s strained quad muscle, if the Reds front office would hesitate for a Billy Hamilton second to replace Jack Hannahan with someone who can actually hit – because of awkwardness – well that tells you exactly what’s wrong with your favorite baseball team.

Now, take my advice forget I mentioned any of this. I’m certainly going to try. Let’s go to our picnics, Nation. Enjoy our spacious skies and amber waves of grain. Prepare the fireworks. And watch the Reds take it to the Brew Crew without mercy all weekend.

63 thoughts on “We got jack for that

    • There is not a great lineup available on this roster but there certainly is a better one. To continue batting Votto & BP third & fourth, is a bit nutty. There has probably been weaker combos hitting in those slots but I’m at a loss of remembering any of them.

        • And Frazier. I would have no problem with Joey batting second unless his OBP fades tremendously. Put your best 5 hitters at the top and pray they can carry you.

        • In my opinion, the best lineup would consist of
          Hamilton, Votto, Bruce, Mesoraco, Frazier, Phillips, Heisey, Cozart, and the pitcher spot, although Votto and Phillips or even Votto and Frazier could be swapped and it would be good

  1. Great stuff, Steve. You should just come on out and say it. Fire Walt Jocketty. Ever since my interview with him at Reds Caravan, when he told me he didn’t block the claim of Byrd but the Pirates because “We didn’t think the Pirates would claim him.”, I’ve thought he should go. I actually think he his trying to destroy the organization.
    The fact that there are no replacements at first or third in the organization is unacceptable. Someone needs to take responsibility.
    Someone needs to get in the ear of Bob Castellini and let him know what is going on.
    Jack Hannahan? Please.

    • Cant agree more. It is a myth that he was the reason for Cardinals success. Have they missed a beat since he left them, quite the opposite. The mistake of the Byrd waiver event was obvious to even the most casual fan, and there is no possible excuse. At worst, you block him! Better yet, add a guy for near minimum salary. Seen any of those valuable prospects given to Mets yet? Nope.

      The complacency of the front office is reflected in the lack of urgency on the field.

  2. As this season grddgingly evolves to a grossly disspointing conclusion, I see WJ’s tenure leading the Cincinnati Reds baseball operations becoming less tenable and more tenuous. Unlike Bryan Price, who lacks experience in his role as the manager, Wal Jocketty has had ample opportunity to demonstrate his expertise and qualifications as the GM. WJ has had his moments of success, but hisrepeated and consistent mismanagement of the DL, 40-man roster, roster depth, signing marginal (that’s being overly generous) talent for the major league roster, lack of activity to improve the roster during late-season and off-season trades and propensity to hire over-the-hill, ex-Cardinals to bad, multi-year contracts mkaes the Old Cossack really question his capability to effective run the Reds baseball operations.

    Dusty Baker also had his strengths as an experienced manager, but his shortcomings ultimately overshadowed his strengths with every team he managed. Walt Jocketty has his strengths, but his shortcomings as a GM are overshadowing those strengths. The organizational leadership assembled by BC (Dusty and Walt) were an unmitigated disaster working together (or more appropriately not working together). Dusty is gone. Dusty’s dismissal simply opened the barn door for a full glimpse of WJ’s capability as a GM and the view is not encouraging to say the least.

    • I have never been a Walt fan

      Wayne Krivsky was a superior gm.

      Could you imagine the moves he would have made the last 2 year with this team

  3. Well that sure fired up a slow news week in Red Leg Nation. It could be that somebody just took the bait. A little distraction now and then keeps the real plans under wraps.
    You know Jack Bauer would be an interesting choice for GM. I am sure he would be making offers to other teams that they couldn’t resist or say no to and that certain players attitudes and performance would change. Just saying :)

  4. One other thought, a new GM would want his own manager in place. BC has already tried this before and as the Cossack noted (unmitigated disaster) that didn’t work out too well.

  5. The really crazy thing is I can see this team making the playoffs despite all this nonsense. I really can. The pitching is fantastic. The defense is top notch. Our lineup is no longer the tamed tiger it was in the first half with Mez, Bruce and Frazier. Hamilton, if he can get back on the horse has been a real asset. Cozart has been doing better. It really absolutely would not take much of an uptick from Votto and Phillips to get to the promised land.

    Once you’re in of course, anything is possible.

    So don’t give up just because of mismanagement or lack of depth. Makes me gnash my teeth too but when you take a step back and look at the overall team it’s still very solid. We’d need to catch some breaks but it happens every year for a couple teams, so why not us?

    • If the current players step up and get it done it won’t matter who the GM is. The players Mez, Bruce, Frazier and Phillps need to make it happen. I said yesterday that if they don’t get it done it doesn’t matter who is on 1st.

    • I agree

      Disable Vottos now and bring him back in September

      Mesoraco and Pena play everyday at catcher and first

      Winker gets promoted and starts in LF 5 days per week

      • He’s batting .197 in 73 ABs in AAA. He’s 20 years old. Uh, yeah, he’s not ready, sorry. He’ll be out there in a year, more likely two (September 2016 call up, starts next to Hamilton and Bruce for a few years, giving us a very, very nice OF). Be patient – Ludwick, Schumaker (has come on of late), and Heisey are all better MLB OFs at this point.

  6. You only have to go as far as Ondrusuck and Hoover to know that Walt Jokerty is not gonna doing anything to improve the current status of this team

    • You point may be spot-on, but I for one would consider your comment to be much more credible if you would refrain from the derogatory terms such as “Jokerty.” That type of thing adds nothing to the conversation.

  7. Spot on Steve. Great article that put into words what makes me so mad about Walt. There is no reason for the bench to be as bad as it has been for the last couple of years. He signs guys like hannahan, schumaker, and Cairo in 2011 to multi year deals. They aren’t very expensive in baseball dollars but they are costly to the reds because Walt will never release them no matter how poorly they perform. It’s crazy.
    The bottom line for me is this: If Walt can’t find someone who can play first base and put up a league average or slightly better line without giving up any of his top ten prospects then he has no business being a GM. League average hitters who can only play first base are not valuable commodities because the offensive requirements for a starting major league first baseman are so high. But compared to the offense the reds are getting from that spot when votto is out, league average would be a big improvement. This should be an easy fix for any competent GM.

    • There are soon going to be 20 or more players available that could fill this void. Some may even be there as waiver claims in August. We dont need a star but a RH bat that could fill a gaping hole in this roster should not be left as the reason we come up short of the playoffs!

  8. Way to go Steve, you just ruined ‘Merica Day. Now all the fireworks are just going to remind me what I am NOT going to see happening when the Reds first baseman bats.

    But seriously, this goes back to what I was saying awhile back that Walt needs fired and there needs to be a major change of mentality in the entire organization.

    (Oh, and you forgot they totally DO have a backup 1B on the 40 man. Soto! Whoooo)

  9. Walt isn’t going to do anything for this club it’s sink or swim redlegs. How is Ondrusek still on this club? This bench makes the bad news bears look like a playoff contender! People will be crying when Votto isn’t performing like we all know he can. Fact is he cannot with the injury he has and he is lamb sent to slaughter thanks to the blunders of this front office!!! Votto just gives it his all every painful at bat and blames himself alone for his poor numbers and nothing else. The sad thing is so-called fans will cry and moan about his contract like he’s 100% right now!!!! Wake up!!!!! The crazy thing is a one legged Votto is better than what his replacement minus Todd or Mezz would be!! This is just terrible!!!!

  10. Steve, we often look at the same event or set of facts and each see the alternate interpretation of solution; but, I think our reaction to this situation is spot on the same.

    I about fell off my chair when I read that “bad spot” quote.

  11. Pile on, Get him, Where’s the rope, give me my pitch fork.
    Ask yourself this question,” What GM when asked about potential trades and with what team it would involve” is going to give an honest, direct answer. Other than “I really can’t discuss that”. Walt gave an answer to a question that he feels is not anybody’s business other than the parties involved. Misdirection is a trait that all good executives master early. Fay reports this and Reds fans go nuts. If you were the general manager would you be discussing your plans with any reporter? If your uncle Joe wants to know how much you make and what you owe, do you tell him or do you say, “Winning the Lotto would just about cover it”. It is none of Uncle Joe’s business. :)
    Keep at’em folks. Don’t forget the Jack Daniels, everything will make more sense with Jack. :)

    • You are right that WJ has been known to boldly obfuscate in public when he is in fact on the threshold of making a significant move. However after last season, a person has to be more inclined to take him at his word. And he doesn’t tip a thing by giving a throwaway “we are looking at all options” type quote versus one that is hard to take seriously unless one thinks he is a little looney.

      • Could it be that the budget is busted?? Let’s face it. that so far the high-dollar guys did not have great first halves: Votto, Bruce, BP, Homer… Bob C might be asking what Walt is doing with his money, I know I would.

        • I don’t think it is a money issue as the Reds have invested in the recent draft signings and the Cuban pitcher who is reporting to AAA. While I agree that Bob C might be asking a question but it is more likely that it is ” How are we looking against budget? and year end numbers.

        • I suppose we could be acting publicly in a passive aggressive mode if he had recently asked for money and after explaining why heard “I thought we had Jack for that…..”

        • I would guess BC probably breaks his budget into subsets: 40-man roster,25-man roster, player development, etc. At the end of the day business is business. If Bob C thinks Wat has handled him money unwisely then I would think he is not anxious to see WJ “invest” more of it. Just my opinion. It could be Walt could care less about winning or Bob is a cheapskate. Take your pick.

    • You’re right, I remember last year when asked if they were going to get a guy to play in LF, he said “Nope, we got Ludwick for that. He’ll be back!”… suckers.. little did we all know, he didn’t plan on waiting for Ludwick to return, he went out and picked up Byr—- oh wait. He DID just sit on his butt and wait for Ludwick to return and it turned out awfully, and they ended up getting beaten in the postseason by the team who actually DID go out and improve their team midseason even though Walt could have prevented it and chose not to.

      Talk about a misdirection master.

  12. I don’t understand this at all. Baseball is supposed to be a business. Feelings are going to get hurt but that’s baseball and these are grown men. I’m sure they know when their time has come. Hannahan is not the answer at all. He really has no place on this team ad the fact that Jocketty isn’t willing to bite the bullet with him and just find a replacement level player is astounding to me. Any other business knows to cut their losses but obviously the Reds are just in the business of not hurting feelings. It’s just weird to me.

  13. “Baseball is supposed to be a business” In the real world of business when anybody finds out “their time has come” they usually find out at 3pm on Fridays not from a reporter two weeks ahead of time.

  14. Same, same old (with Slugging Percentage):

    BHam – cf .400
    Frazier – 3b “.503″
    Votto – 1b .415
    BP – 2b .394
    Bruce – rf .402
    Mes – c “.645″
    Schu – lf .312
    Cozart – ss .305
    Simon – p

    I remember the good old days when the power hitters batted in the middle of the lineup, oh well – Go Reds!!!

  15. Brandon Phillips has once again demonstrated for all to see that he is an excellent 2B, but he is a league average hitter at best and regressing offensively. Quite frankly, I’m somewhat surprised by how good Phillips has been defensively this season. I expected him to still be good defensively, but not this good defensively. At $13MM for 2015 & $14MM for 2016, can the Reds afford to pay a premium for a <2 WAR player, not to mention the issue Bryan has with not batting him in the middle of the order? This is not a question related to Phillipsego or attitude. This is simply posed as an economic and best interest of the team question.

    The A's and Jays are both actively and aggressively seeking an experienced, capable 2B for a playoff run. This could be the last, best chance to move Phillips if such a move is deemed in the team's best interest. Daniel Robertson, a 20 year old SS in A+ ball for the A's or Franklin Barreto, an 18 year old SS in A- ball for the Jays, could probably be had (maybe more) in a trade for Phillips with the sparcity of good 2B options available and the number of teams looking for a starting 2B. Either would be a nice middle IF addition to the Reds minor league system. Of course such a move could jeopardize any chance the Reds have of making a run in 2014 since Schumaker or Santiago are the remaining major league options for 2B and neither hits nor fields on par with Phillips.

    • The remainder of his contract that the other team would need to pick up would need to be a bold decision on their part and may limit the quality of any return players plus the fact that REDS AA & AAA clubs don’t offer much help. Trading Philips with JV at 40% (possible extended DL) would be raising the white flag on 2014.

  16. So now we have to protect Bryan from himself the same way we needed to protect DB from himself?

    I’m amazed that you are willing to even go beyond giving up on 2014 in place and make a move which you acknowledge would take the Reds out of the 2014 playoff picture.

    In the last 6 weeks, the Reds have split a series with the Dodgers, taken 2 of 3 versus the Brewers and Pirates (on the road) and swept the Giants on the Giants home field. Barring a seismic event in the last two months, these are the teams (plus one or two from the East or maybe the Cards) which are going to be in the 2014 playoffs unless the Reds dislodge one them. Why do you want to throw in the towel when it looks like the Reds are reasonably matched with the prospective opposition?

    It has been said time and again that short series are about pitching, particularly starting pitching. I think the Reds top four match with any top 4 in the league. That bodes them well in a one game play in and right on through any any subsequent series.

    Again, why give up and hope for events to fall better next year?

    • If Votto misses an extended period such as a long DL stint, I’d like to see Mes play a bunch of first base. Is Barnhart ready for another look at the majors? He and Pena could split time, with Devin a quite convenient emergency catcher should the need arise. … And if Soto is not in the Reds’ plans, while is he still on the 40-man?

  17. I have never been a fan of Walt but ANYONE could figure out we have a problem. For Walt, either the problem is the Reds have no one TO trade or $$ issues. I am pretty sure Walt wants to win. However, most teams in contention would not sit back and do nothing. At least I hope this is not the case with the Reds.

    GREAT post Steve!

    • Most teams in contention would not sit back and do nothing… Sir, have you seen the 2010-2014 Reds? They enjoy not improving via in season trades!

      Joey is the cornerstone of the franchise. Rest him for two months – his health is too important. Play Mes at first or acquire an RBI bat to play there. This pitching staff is too good to waste, Walt. WAKE UP!

  18. All the debating over Jocketty is funny stuff in a cynical sort of way.
    Here is what we dont know that restricts Jocketty
    1. Capital expenditure allowance. Just how much is Jocketty allowed to spend?
    2. Are the Reds already considering that they are over extended financially?
    3. Could it be that what other teams want on our roster or in our farm system is to high a cost to give away this season?
    4. Could it be that the Reds ownership are already considering this season a lost cause and are blocking Jocketty from any upgrades? In May our playoff chances were around 10% not sure what the odds are now but if we stand at less than 40 percent and the Cardinals, Brewers, and maybe even the Pirates have a greater percentile odds of playoff contention then just maybe ownership is blocking Jocketty at the major league level.
    5. Are there specific players that Castellini has said are hands off and those ate the only pieces other teams are interested in?

    Questions that none of us have answers to and without those answers we cannot fairly criticize what Walt is or is not doing.

    • These concerns could be blocking Jocketty (lots of overlap between your five points). Of course, he could just say that. Instead of making the ridiculous statement that the organization doesn’t want to get in a bad spot with Jack Hannahan. I appreciate your broader point, that when we don’t know all the facts, we should refrain from criticism. I’ll keep that in mind as you continue to post comments.

  19. I guess Oakland wasn’t worried about the “bad spot” they’d be in with their #4 and #5 starting pitchers. The Reds are worried about Jack Hannahan.

    • Exactly. And what is the fascination with Hannahan? He hasn’t hit anywhere he has been and he certainly isn’t a defensive upgrade to Todd Frazier. So what does he bring to the table?

      His career numbers –
      .232/.316/.349/.665
      7 WAR in 7 seasons

  20. Very nice post. You don’t often complain about Reds management, so when you do it carries weight.

  21. Is no one here excited by the prospect of making it to the playoffs engineered in Little League fashion?!? Obviously our story this year will not resemble flawless execution of stylized play by specialized position players. The story is of a team that the Bad News Bears would envy. 6 games back people. Rarely does the plan on paper unequivocally balance with a championship in hindsight. Baseball players are baseball players and the road this team is on requires an all terrain vehicle, not a Cadillac. Let’s not get so overly obsessed with the fact the just because a plan is not panning out that the desired result is somehow out of reach. Deep breaths Nation. Sometimes you’re in the middle of the fairway and sometimes you need to hook a wedge 40 yards out of the woods to win The Masters.

  22. The premise of these kind of article I find strange, Walt can’t win. If he was mapping out trade scenarios he would be hung out to for putting the Reds in a position of weakness on the trade market. Better to publicly look content instead of looking like you are in desperation.

  23. While I completely agree with your article, in its entirety, could it not just be that WJ is keeping his negotiating leverage in tact? How would it help him if he said “Oh yes, we are desperate for a power hitting 1B and will do what ever it takes to get one.” That would we make fans happy but put the Reds in a very tough negotiating position.

  24. I have to disagree with something here, not sure who it would be but what it would be, and definitely someone should be held accountable. But, when coming back from injury, it’s not necessarily the right thing to overwork the injured part when initially coming back. That can only lead to more stress and straining. And, the medical staff should know this. Votto should be well aware of this and/or have been made well aware of this. I don’t care if it was the medical staff, the training staff, or Votto, someone or a combination of the people seemed to have entirely goofed on this thing with Votto.

  25. Before this piece comes down, I wanted to tip my hat to you, Steve.

    It was a classic, funny, sarcastic skewering of Uncle Walt and the seemingly endless inaction. I get that in high-stakes poker, one does not tip their hand. But eventually, inaction speaks louder than words.

    The other theme you lit up is the Reds mania for “fairness” (or roles). Dusty can only use Chapman in a save situation. You have to have a fast shortstop-type hitting second. Tavernas-Patterson equals lead-off. Price can’t use Chapman if Parra lets a runner get on, it “wouldn’t be fair”. Now, we have to be fair to Hannahan… I understand the need for loyalty, but the mission is to win ball games. This is not a volunteer food kitchen.

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