“It’s not easy to give a big-league game away, but we did.”

Dave Miley

One that neither the Reds nor their 15,961 booing fans will soon forget. Cincinnati hadn’t blown a six-run lead in the ninth since June 29, 1952, when an 8-2 advantage turned into a 9-8 loss to the Cubs

Cincinati Post 5-3-2005

This is the story of cost effectiveness, a tale that should be known in every major league baseball city that doesn’t lay on the coast or have a super station in their back pocket.

This is the tale of how the Reds in a rush to be cost effective essentially flushed money down the drain.

Fact:

No team in baseball can get to the head of the class with the formula of players performing beneath what their contract is paying. A team in the middle or lower payroll bracket needs to have players that perform beyond what their contract is paying.

Every team has some players that are being paid for past performances, or proposed performances assumed by player projections or hunches based on voodoo or some other supernatural mumbo jumbo available to baseball insiders.

Danny Graves is the main culprit on the Reds.

In September of 2002, Danny Graves was 28 years old and had just finished the 4th season in a row as the main Reds closer, averaging over 30 saves a season with a 5.40 K/9 rate and a 1.71 K/BB ratio, his 3.21 era vs. the league’s 4.43 was accomplished in over 80 innings per season. Not a big man, the 5’11” Graves has also proved to be a healthy pitcher in an era of arm injuries on a team that had seen their fair share throughout the organization.

2002 also was the year that the Red Sox had moved Derek Lowe to the starting staff, where he succeeded beyond their wildest imagination. Jim Bowden (a man who seemed to know less about starting pitching than he did about fashion) found the end of the Reds miserable year a good time to try the same thing with Graves, who like Lowe was a sinkerballer who depended on the batters inability to get the ball in the air.

On September 10th, 2002 Danny Graves made his first start in the major leagues vs the Pirates. By the end of the month he had made three more and had reached 6 innings pitched in one of the games.

This magically convinced the Reds (Bowden/Gullet/Boone) that Graves potential as a starter was worth a raise and multi-year contract. In January of 2003 Bowden inked him to a three-year, $17.25 million contract

Tom Hume, the Reds’ bullpen coach, talks about Graves like the proud parent of a quirky son.

“He definitely beats to a different drum,” Hume said. “But he’s a good kid. I consider him another son. He’s been with me six years. I’m a little prejudiced, but I can be with him.

“He’s so laid back. But he has that intensity inside. When he crosses the foul line, a switch flips and he’s all business.”

“I have a lot to prove and a lot to learn, even though I’m penciled in (the rotation),” Graves said. “It’s not like when I was the closer when I just got my work in.”

Danny Graves as a starter in 2003 was so far from being good that the light from good would take 5 million years to reflect off his tattooed torso.

Graves as a starter averaged 2 less K’s per 9 than he did as a reliever and he gave up a HR every 5 innings (every 12 as reliever prior to that) Since the starting stint he still lingers in the 1 HR every 5.5 area code.

In short it was a monumental failure.

On August 23rd, 2003 on a flight back from Arizona (Where Graves had pitched 2 innings and took the loss to fall to 4-14) the decision was made to move Graves back to the bullpen.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I think (starting) was an experiment that didn’t go as well as we had hoped, and the people who wanted me to do it aren’t here anymore. I’m not saying it was a bad decision, but it’s just something that didn’t work.”

“I’m excited that my arm’s not going to hurt any more. It (starting) is something that’s just not for me.”

So… HE’S excited!!!!!

Nothing said about the how he came to camp unable to throw from the windup, nothing about the huge amount to hits and HR’s he had surrendered, or the starter pay he was now getting to close games, nothing at all.

In 2004 Danny Graves made 6 million dollars a year and faced his fewest batters in a season since 1997. For his money, Graves allowed more than 10 hits 10 every nine innings, the amount of money he received per batter played out to be $20,689.65 per batter.

Folks wonder what creates cynicism in today’s sports. I’ll venture to guess that Danny Graves is perhaps one of the reasons why a Reds fan might feel that way.

In his last nine appearances Graves has pitched 9.1 innings and allowed 16 hits, 8 walks and had only 3 strikeouts.

As Marty would say, “Folks that just ain’t getting it done”

Last night the damn burst and Graves was on the receiving end of the wrath of the angry Cincinnati fans.

Post game his comments deflected the performance of the second highest paid Reds pitcher … himself, Danny Graves and instead turned on the folks not making 20K per batter.

“It’s frustrating, but what’s even more frustrating is hearing the fans boo you in your own ballpark,” Graves said. “We’re out there trying the best we can. That’s not the first time it’s happened, and as long as I’ll be playing, it won’t be the last.”

Word to the wise, don’t bet on Mr. Graves, diminutive RH’s are a dime a dozen and the sooner the Reds shed themselves of the above attitude then the sooner they can right the ship and get on with it.

Good teams don’t lose 6 run leads in the ninth, and good players don’t pass the buck at every opportunity.

About The Author

Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the "American League".... but I digress. Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be. After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A's fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey. A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia

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8 Responses

  1. Heath

    Funny part about it – its a contract year, and next year there will be at least 8-10 teams after Mr. Graves in Free Agency. Bad ERA, WHIP, K/BB will be ignored – 40+ saves will not be ignored.

  2. Malott

    The Devil Rays or Royals can have him.

  3. Heath

    The Devil Rays already have Dannys Baez (Not related to Dennys Reyes). Jesus Colome can hit 100 on the gun and he’s off the DL here soon. The DRays are set at that position for a while.

  4. Chris

    Nice post. Paul Daugherty has a great columnn about Dan Graves today – apparently Graves was still complaining about the booing the next day, and brought it up to Daugherty… who promptly wrote a polite column calling Graves on his b.s.

  5. Tom

    I’ll admit it. I was one of the folks who thought moving Graves to the rotation was a great idea. I figured since he wasn’t a hard thrower that he’d be able to stretch out his pitch counts to eventually be able to last 6 or 7 innings a game. We were in such desperate need of starters, I figured 6 innings a game of Graves every 5 days was a boost our rotation could use. I expected he could put up 180 IP with an ERA right about 4.00, you know, ace material for us. I figured it was big mistake, and lost a lot respect for Graves, after learning that he was unable to pitch out of a windup. I also viewed this as a reflection on Gullett, what kind of pitching coach can’t teach a windup to a seasoned veteran? Turned into a huge mistake, but I definitely thought it was worth a shot at the time. Now the $6M contract, that’s a different story. The words Bowden Blunder come to mind.

    Later,
    Tom

  6. Dan

    Danny boy flips off the GABP crowd after yet another “stellar” performance 5/22/2005?

    Time to go, loser!

  7. Peter

    oh boy, we need a thread on this one.