From the Enquirer:

Something Sparky Anderson said to me Tuesday got me thinking about Jay Bruce on Wednesday.

I had called “The Main Spark,” former manager of the Big Red Machine, to talk about Bob Howsam, his longtime friend and architect of the Machine, who died early Tuesday at age 89.

Sparky said that in 1970, Sparky’s first season at the helm, he and fourth-year Reds general manager Howsam brought five rookies north with the big club. They also brought along three other fresh young faces, for a total of eight youngbloods.

The average age of all the players on that team was 25.9 years, youngest in the majors. Of their first 100 games, they won 70. They went to the World Series.

And so, in honor of Sparky’s 74th birthday Friday, I remind the Reds’ new manager and the third-year Reds GM of this:

There is gold in them thar greenhorns, whether they be named Don Gullett (19) and Wayne Simpson (21) or Jay Bruce (20) and Johnny Cueto (22).

The fact is, Kentuckians were the only baseball fans in Reds Country who got to see Bruce play in their home state last year.

I don’t know about you, but if Ryan Freel or Norris Hopper or Kenny Lofton is the Reds’ center fielder on Opening Day, I’m personally heading for Triple-A Louisville 12 days later to witness Bruce Almighty.


Bruce is wizened compared to the young Kentuckian on that 1970 Reds Opening Day roster: Don Gullett, of Lynn, Ky., grew up a few miles south of South Shore, across the Ohio River from Portsmouth, and celebrated his 19th birthday just five weeks prior to reporting to his first big-league camp. Eight weeks later, he made his big-league debut.

Every person I’ve spoken with who has seen Bruce play says he is ready for the majors. I haven’t talked with Reds manager Dusty Baker and general manager Wayne Krivsky – like you, dear readers, I’m enjoying the sunshine of Northern Kentucky right now, not the sunshine of Sarasota, Fla.. – but my gut and my brain tell me there is no way Bruce needs more seasoning.

True, all that we have to go on right now are “projections” and the fact that every team in baseball would love to have Bruce (he was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year) on their rosters.

Normally, I’m not a big statistics guy – it’s not that I don’t believe in numbers, it’s just that I’ve always felt baseball is Brandon Phillips going first-to-third, not what he hits vs. right-handers in May – but now is the time to share some math. Bruce’s minor-league stats are so good and his major-league upside so glowing that the statistical gurus predict Bruce will be 240-plus points better than either Freel or Hopper or Lofton this season when it comes to getting on base and smacking extra-base hits. To quote Lou Costello in Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine, “I don’t even know what I’m talkin’ about!” But I know those are big numbers.

And I know that no matter what Bruce does in his four weeks of exhibition games, it shouldn’t matter.

Happy Birthday, Sparky.

On April 3, Happy Birthday, Jay.

Nice timing – day game.

GABP. Good place to turn 21.

My belief in Jay Bruce is no secret on this blog, but I think Erardi makes the point very clearly. It makes no sense to play Lofton, Hopper (who appears from the media reports to be Dusty’s new “protege”), or Freel in front of Bruce.

About The Author

I've been a Reds fan since the late '60's, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in '84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in '90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.

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16 Responses

  1. Y-City Jim

    Especially since Baker is quoted saying “there is room for improvement” for the Reds. You won’t realize improvement playing anyone but Jay Bruce, who will bring a buzz to the stadium that has long been missing.

  2. preach

    Yeah, position players are different from pitchers in regards to readiness. Let him play. Spell him with Hopper. I think an outfield of Dunn, Bruce, and Griffey would be a force to be reckoned with., at least from the plate.

  3. Jason72

    What about this Bruce guy? Is he the next Cincinnati hometown hero ala Larkin or Casey, or is he the next BIG THING for all of MLB like Junior or Bench?

  4. Y-City Jim

    Jason, I think he is the next big thing for MLB. He’s future league MVP down the road.

  5. Tom

    Jay Bruce wore #9 in the Caravan. For whatever that’s worth.

  6. Aaron B.

    If Bruce is in the opening day lineup, who is our leadoff hitter? Phillips?

    Thing is Hopper had a TREMENDOUS partial season last year at the highest level, while Bruce struck out a ton in the minors. There are good reasons to believe that Bruce might be better off perfecting himself in AAA while Hopper (plus Freel) provide an answer at leadoff.

    This does not mean I want Bruce spending the entire season at AAA, no.. I def. want him up at some point hopefully when he is on fire down in Louisville.

  7. Dave from Louisville

    I think you have to start Bruce in AAA. Keep him down unless he is completely on fire.

    Same goes for Cueto and Maloney. None of these guys have spent close to a full season in AAA. I’m excited about these guys, but the last thing I want the front office to do is screw these guys up.

    Votto and Bailey should start with the club.

  8. Bill

    Why doest Bruce HAVE to start in AAA? I liken him to this guy who spent even less time in the minor leagues and almost zero time at AAA.

    Why would it “screw him up”?

  9. Tom

    Bill is right, if we were talking about your usual run of the mill prospect, you have him climb the ladder and go through the whole maturation process. But Bruce is definitely something special, and uber-prospects don’t always fit the normal prospect progression mold. See Josh Hamilton. If Bruce has a decent spring and he should come north and start.

  10. preach

    While Spring Training is not the best indicator of player readiness, in this case I think it is what we have to guage Mr. Bruce. With that said, I don’t want him to make the club just to languish behind Hopper or Freel. If you bring him North I think it has to be with the understanding that he is going to get significant playing time, otherwise put him in AAA for a month or so, or until we have an injury, and let him get some consistent work. It really feels like Dusty loves him some NoHo, and that may be indicitive of little playing time for Bruce. If he does start, where exactly would be the best fit in the lineup? I think he would strikeout way too much to be leadoff, and if we don’t start Hopper or Freel we certainly don’t have a prototypical leadoff guy, and I know Dusty loves prototypes in the lineup. I would be excited to see the potential offense generated by a healthy outfield of Dunn/Bruce/Griffey, no matter where in the lineup you put them.

  11. Bill

    The Reds organization should have seen enough of Bruce to know if they believe he’s ready. If they believe he’s ready, he should make this club. If they don’t, he shouldn’t. If he makes the club, he should play nearly every day. His making the club shouldn’t be determined on a few dozen spring ABs…ofttimes against pitchers that have no chance of making their teams.

  12. Chris

    I could see S/T games being relevant for Bruce, only b/c he doesn’t have any experience hitting off major league pitchers.

    I understand that S/T games aren’t the same as the real thing, but if Bruce were to look totally overmatched this March, I could certainly understand a decision to send him to AAA for a while.

  13. Justin Anderson

    From the Spring Training Photos Jeff Swinger of the Enquirer took today, it appears Bruce Almighty will be donning the #32. My old baseball #!!! 😀