I don’t know about you, but I feel like Charlie Bucket, standing outside the chocolate factory, wondering what confection is being fashioned inside.  Or perhaps I’m feeling more like one of those unwashed children in a Charles Dickens novel, hands outstretched, offering a simple plaintive wail:

More starting pitching please, sir.  “Sir” being GM Walt Jocketty.

Jocketty is ever the mysterious Wonka to me.  I have no idea what he’s thinking.  Ever.  He says nothing.  He sits high above the action in his Ray-Bans and Tommy Bahamas shirt, cell phone at the ready.  What’s going on up there?  Why is he talking to Coco Cordero’s agent?  Doesn’t he know that teams have been winning games in the 9th inning today with essentially the same consistency as they did in the 1950s when the word “closer” meant you were a successful aluminum siding salesman?  Surely he knows Cordero’s peripherals are heading south.  Why are we even thinking of extending the contract of a player whose best years are almost certainly behind him?

At the very moment I’m composing this, two guys who played the game at a very high level, Ron Darling and John Smoltz, are yakking it up on TBS, lobbying the Tigers leadoff hitter to give C.C. Sabathia a free out by bunting with nobody out and a man on second, even as the overstuffed Yankee hurler, who can’t find home plate with a GPS and a sherpa, having already walked five men in the first two innings, is in the process of blowing his pitch count sky high.  Bunt?  Really?

The whole exchange leaves me bummed.  Because, if these two former players and a revered guy like Jim Leyland can’t get it right, is it too much to expect a 60-something old school GM to embrace the BABIP numbers of Johnny Cueto and see the urgency in finding someone else who can get into 8th inning with consistency?

If I could get a private audience with Cincinnati’s Wonkanator, here would be my Charlie Bucket List of questions:

Now that the Cuban Missile will finally be launched in the first inning instead of the seventh, what’s the plan after he’s shut down in August?

2012 is surely DatDude’s swan song in a Reds uni, right?  We’re not going to do Bronson Arroyo’s contract all over again at second base, are we?

You and Dusty are fully committed to the kids, right?  No more old guys as shortstop when Cozart goes into a slump?  Correct?

Does Chris Heisey ever get the kind of look Gomes got last season?  Or has the organization decided he’s never going to be an everyday player?

Hernandez or Hanigan?

Whose head is closest to the chopping … er, trading block?  Volquez, Bailey or Wood?

Will you stand up to Bob and insist “no more Dusty Baker after 2012?”  And do you have Pete Mackanin on your speed dial?

“Yeah, I always look to improve the club the best I can – whether it’s starting pitching, a bat, bullpen, whatever it is,” general manager Walt Jocketty said.  “As I told Mr.Castellini. I want to make sure that we build this thing into a first class organization, so people want to come here to work and come here to play. We’re not that far away.”

Not that far away.  This is classic Walt Jocketty-speak.  It tells you absolutely nothing.  You could waterboard the guy and all you’d get is “We’re close.”

I’m a Starting Pitcher Kinda Guy.  It’s a role that has more impact on wins and losses than any other aspect of the game of baseball.  So, my golden ticket comes in the form of a top-of-the-rotation guy, somebody the Reds can afford, a ground ball pitcher who can throw strikes.  Everything else is just dessert for me.

How about you?

22 Responses

  1. Steve Mancuso

    I’d add this question:

    “Considering the Reds are destined to be a team with an average payroll and will need to deftly take advantage of young players and strong development, and can’t afford the mistake of giving too much playing time to veterans based on loyalty, is there any manager in the league less well equipped to execute that strategy than Dusty Baker?”

  2. shinsnake

    I too am being drug into this brave new BABIP world, but the rest of the questions I have no qualms about asking (even though the Phillips is hard for me to stomach as he’s my favorite current Red). A top of the rotation starter should be the single goal this offseason if it requires all other items to be tabled. If you can’t get a right handed, power hitting LFer because you traded for James Shields, then so be it. And I would assume that whoever is left from a trade would be the logical post-August Chapman replacement, so probably Travis Wood.

  3. brm7675

    I continue to find it interesting how there are those joe fans out there that for some reason with very limited information about teams, players and such have this idea that they know what is better then those in the profession. I mean all we have are very base numbers to look at and weather we want to admit it or not, baseball or any sport is more then just numbers. Unless you have full access to all the information you can’t make a fair judgement on how to handle a team.

    • Matt WI

      joe fans out there that for some reason with very limited information about teams, players and such have this idea that they know what is better then those in the profession

      Right, because one’s occupation limits one’s intelligence only to his or her specific sphere. Nobody say anything unless you’ve played the game or been in Walt’s office please. Of course Walt is privy to budget info we aren’t, and there are management of people issues that stats can’t capture… but shoot, while we’re at it, let’s stop participating in the political process unless we’ve been in office and never speak to anybody of anything unless we have been in that exact situation. “Dad, can you come wipe me?” “Sorry honey, you’re a girl, I can’t help with that, there’s too much information I don’t have about all of that.”

  4. Dave Lowenthal

    @brm7675: Walt Jocketty has access to *all* the information, and he’s doing a bad job of running the team.

    There’s actually quite a bit of info out in the open.

    And what would you like this site to be? One where we all sing “Take me out to the ball game” and pledge allegiance to Jocketty and Baker? What inside information is there about Cordero that I don’t know that tells you, for example, that the Reds should sign him to a deal? What double secret info that isn’t available in the form of his statistics is there? I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but you can’t sign guys based on that.

  5. brm7675

    There is more to this game then just Stats. Looking at just Stats isn’t enough, if it was the A’s would be doing much better.

  6. Dave Lowenthal

    @brm7675: Wow, did you read that somewhere? The A’s hired more scouts since the statistical revolution. There are exactly zero teams who look at only numbers.

  7. pinson343

    @Dave Lowenthal: I know you weren’t rooting for the Cardinals, but congratulations anyway for predicting their win over the Phils. I don’t really mind, I kind of like the idea of an all NL Central NLCS.

  8. pinson343

    I agree that this off-season needs to be about a top-of the-rotation guy. Look what Carpenter did tonite. Halladay too for that matter. What a difference having an ace makes. I don’t know enough to spell out the particulars, but the Reds have enough tradable talent to land one.

  9. Dave Lowenthal

    @pinson343: It’s painful. But anyone that thinks that the 2 year 20M contract for Carpenter is going to be a bad deal…I think that’s very, very unlikely. Anything’s possible, he is older, but sheesh. On the other hand, the Reds will pay nearly that much for Francisco Cordero. Excuse me while I get the fork for my eye.

    It was interesting listening to the announcers for the series, I think it was Smoltz and Darling, state that the Phillies are vulnerable in a 5 game series because you can beat them with 2 great starters. Well, the Phillies have lost the last 2 years, first in a 7 game series to the Giants (which was flukey), and in this 5 game series to the Cards, who threw 4 different starters, and while they won both games Carpenter pitched, he got bombed in the first one. No mention of the bullpen superiority (Phils warmed up Cliff Lee because they trusted him), and no mention of the fact that the Phils can’t hit and have huge splits. It’s got nothing to do with 5 games, but everything to do with a short series (5 or 7 games, same idea).

    Now, the Cards will take out Milwaukee, and I expect it to be rather easy. I’m guessing 5 games. They are a much better team right now. Yes, the Reds need an ace, also. Once the Cards sign Pujols, I just see very little chance the Reds are going to beat them next year. It’s depressing. The Cards have a good bench behind those top line starters, too.

  10. Jason Linden

    @Dave Lowenthal: I’m less worried about the Cardinals. Certainly, they are going to be a force, but not an unconquerable one. That is an old team. Anyway you cut it Pujols looks like he’s on the decline (though, obviously, he’s still a great player) and I don’t see anyway Berkman repeats this season. They’ll be good, but not that good. They can be beat.

  11. Dave Lowenthal

    @Jason Linden: I don’t know, Jason; if you slice it as first half/second half, his second half is only a very slight decline from typical Pujols numbers, especially considering offense is down this year. Maybe the outlier is this year’s first half. Maybe he wasn’t 100% healthy. It doesn’t seem that likely he’s going to fall that far in 2012, at least to me. Berkman, sure, he’ll likely fall somewhat, even possibly a lot. But the team had a lot of injuries, and if Wainwright were to come back as his old self (a big if), that would make up 100% of Berkman’s fall. *If* that happens, I do not think the Reds can beat them, even if they make fairly intelligent moves, which I don’t see happening. Not impossible, but I’d list the Cards a pretty heavy favorite.

  12. OhioJim

    @Dave Lowenthal: The Cards are the poster child for all the talk above about nonquantifiable positives. The team is greater than the sum of the parts right now. I agree that they will take out the Brewers who I expect will be thinking too much about how they mopped up the floor with the Cards in the second half until it is too late.

  13. Dave Lowenthal

    @OhioJim: How are the Cardinals greater than the sum of their parts? They basically won the expected number of games for them to win this year (1 more than their expectation). In the postseason, they underachieved in my opinion—they should have won all 5 of the games played; LaRussa blew game 1, and they couldn’t hit in the clutch in game 3. I really don’t get where you’re going. Nonquantifiable positives? Pujols, Berkman, and Holliday are pretty quantifiable. Carpenter, Garcia?

    The Cards are in the playoffs because the Braves are the poster child for nonquantifiable negatives. A team shouldn’t lose out when their magic number is 3 with 5 games to go, especially when playing the Nats two of those games.

  14. Matt WI

    Logic is fine. But here’s a great reason to be all in with the Brewers:
    Speaking to reporters at Miller Park on Saturday, Greinke said some of his Brewers teammates don’t like Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter when he shouts at batters from the mound.

    “They think his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude,” Greinke said. “And then he yells at people. He just stares people down and stuff. And most pitchers just don’t do that. And when guys do, I guess some hitters get mad. Some hitters do it to pitchers. But when you do that some people will get mad.

    “There’s other pitchers in the league that do it, but, I don’t know,” Greinke said, “a lot of guys on our team don’t like Carpenter.”

  15. OhioJim

    @Dave Lowenthal: Because just as the Braves so woefully under achieved down the stretch, the Cards over achieved in the same time frame. It was six of one and a half dozen of the other. If I counted it correctly the respective records for September were one game off of exact inverses of each other (18-8; 9-18).

    It defies quantification that a team could put up a run of either extreme over a month.

  16. OhioJim

    @Matt WI: Well at least he didn’t borrow the WLB phrase from BP even it he said the same thing. And while we can agree, remember the Reds lost that immediate series but it seemed like BP’s comments lit a fire under the rest of the league when it came to standing up to the Cards.

    Personally, I realized as I was watching the Brewers finish off the Snakes Friday night that I dislike them as much as I dislike the Cards.

    Maybe my anger needs to be focused more on the Reds. How do you finish 11 and 16 games behind two teams in your own division when you split down the middle with one of them and won the season series outright by a couple of games over the other one??

  17. yoobee

    @OhioJim: Actually, the Brewers didn’t mop up the floor with the Cards in the second half; the Cardinals won 6 of the last 7 games between the two teams, and they finished in an even 9-9 split.

    @Matt WI: I can think of a few reasons not to like Carpenter, but this just seems like Greinke is being whiny. So batters don’t like it when pitchers are intense and stare them down? Boo-hoo! I would love to have a pitcher with that sort of presence on the mound. According to MLB, Carpenter shouted at Nyjer Morgan after striking him out because Morgan was showing him up the three at bats before that (taunting Carpenter, dogging around the bases, etc.). Personally, I’d rather the pitcher settle it with the batter that way than complain about it in the media later.

  18. Matt WI

    @yoobee: I’m not saying it makes sense, it’s just pure mutual hatred of the Cards.

    @OhioJim: Really? I can see how the whole “Beast Mode” thing has gotten out of hand, but other than that, I’ve got no problem with Roenicke and the Brewers, except for maybe Gomez. He’s a prima dona, but I complained about him during the regular season so I’ll leave him alone now.

  19. Dave Lowenthal

    @OhioJim: Going 18-8 defies quantification in general? I haven’t looked it up, but if a team plays well, why? Jim, that just doesn’t seem reasonable. If a team scores 200 runs and gives up 50 over 26 games, for example?

  20. Dave Lowenthal

    @Matt WI: Greinke’s right, I’m sure, but LaRussa’s right that every team would love to have Carpenter. You can hate the guy, but when he’s on your team shutting out the Phillies in game 5, you can celebrate, pour champagne on him, and then go out with the guys on the team you like and talk about what a jerk he is.

    Berkman also said he hated the Cards before joining them.

    You guys can be all in with the Crew, but they’re going to be all in on their couches in about 5 games, I figure. I think the Cards are going to have two of the luckiest WS titles in the last 5 years; the 83-79 year, and this year where the Braves collapse handed it to them.

  21. OhioJim

    @Dave Lowenthal: The Cards September record comes out to .692+. That just doesn’t happen very often over a month. Everybody was at the top of their game basically the whole month to make it happen. They even got some help from a call up a guy or two.

    They are good. Darn good, make no mistake about; and they know how to grind. But they had 4 with Brewers and won 3; 4 in Phillie and won 3; and 3 with the Braves and swept them (early in the month before the Bravos were apparently cooked). That’s half their wins for the month.

    If you put the numbers for those matchups into a simulator crunched them. Your are not going to see that outcome as very likely. It also means they went only 9-6 against the likes of the Cubs, Mets, Pirates, and yes the Reds (who got them 2 out 3 early in the month. The only series they lost all month). That’s actually about what would have projected for those match ups but not what one would expect to see from a team on a 18-8 run.