Shortstop has probably been the strongest position in Cincinnati Reds history. We have had all-star quality shortstop play virtually continually since the 1880’s…Frank Fennelly, Germany Smith, Timmy Corcoran; Larry Kopf, Hod Ford, Leo Durocher, Buddy Myers, Eddie Joost, Eddie Miller, Roy McMillan, Leo Cardenas, Dave Concepcion, and Barry Larkin through the years.
It’s been amazingly stable…and the years where the above guys weren’t on the job, the position changed almost annually. Why?
Because Cincinnati fans have not been willing to tolerate bad shortstop play…but, man we’ve been spoiled…spoiled to the tune that one of the top ten shortstops in MAJOR LEAGUE HISTORY has been taken to task the last few years (Barry Larkin).
Well…Reds fans haven’t seen anything like they’re about to see for about 30 years now…since the days Woody Woodward played, sharing the job with an extremely young and erratic (yet talented) Dave Concepcion.
We’re in for some really bad shortstop play this year…and with our “pitch to contact” philosophy, we may be really exposed.
Felipe Lopez is talented and is a real possibility to take the job, but we have to commit to him for that to happen. Joe Morgan wrote in his autobiography that he couldn’t understand why Sparky Anderson stuck with Concepcion at shortstop. Morgan said Concepcion was always dreaming, out of position, making poor throws, late on the double play…you name it…Morgan was already an all-star and he was frustrated with his keystone mate.
But, Morgan also says…Sparky knew what he had and stuck with him. I’ll tell you that Concepcion belongs in the HOF, no questions asked. He was the best shortstop during the “true shortstop era”…when runs were hard to come by and defense really mattered…he was the best in the field and near the best with the bat during his day (Templeton was better with the bat). During the 70’s, the glove was revered at shortstop to the tune that one year seven shorststops were chosen to the squads over the sluggers of the outfield.
If Lopez is to make it, he’ll need the same commitment…or we change him at season’s end.
However, I think it’s already been decided….Aurilia will get the job to provide veteran leadership, contact at the plate, and steadiness (if not quality in the field). I just think that Encarnacion is erratic in the field; Lopez is, too, but we’re not going to have the option of sending him down for an extended period due to Lopez’s veteran status.
A lot of us were excited about Lopez’s second half of last year after his recall. I think we were fooled…he had an outstanding one month and then went back to career norms for the rest of the year.
Having said that, if Lopez is to be the guy we have to give him a real chance. Contrary to Reds management, I think it would have been easier (and cheaper) to have kept Larkin as Lopez’s mentor, rather than bringing in Aurilia. My feeling is that the job is Aurilia’s for Lopez to take rather Lopez’s to lose.
Reds management has already said they want Aurilia to provide what Larkin was giving but wasn’t wanted. We did our HOFer, our fans, and our team a disservice by trying too hard to say good bye to the past…
My prediction is that Lopez will be gone before next season.