You know you shouldn’t. It’s wrong. It’s soul-killing. But, you do it anyway. Maybe the monotony of your everyday existence makes you hungry for a little manufactured controversy. Maybe it’s a hankering to ponder the social or cultural ramifications of mothers who don’t diaper their children. Perhaps its as simple as the enjoyment you get feeling superior to the mental-midgetry emanating from your car radio. Whatever the reason, you succumb. As you head down I-71, up I-75, or points between, you turn the dial to listen to some guy named Willie. Or Seg. Or Eddie. Or Tracy. Admit it.
It’s okay. I do, too. And, of course, you know full well the boys aren’t there for your edification. They are there for three things and three things only:
Raunchiness. Ratings. Revenue. The three R’s of talk radio.
When Homer Bailey stiffed WLW, the Big One threw the Big Fit. They went after Homer. They repeatedly ran an announcement congratulating Ryan Hanigan on successfully catching his second no hitter. This is what passes for knee-slapping humor in the post-Burbank era. They could have had an honest discussion on the reason why Bailey wanted no part of a WLW interview, why a certain person in the service of the Cincinnati Reds on Reds Radio finds it necessary to bury certain players for not performing up to his HOF standards. Now, THAT could have jacked up the ratings. They did neither. They chose to circle the wagons.
Speaking of circling the wagons, Kemosabe, I should confess I am part Native American. Santee Sioux. Not a lot, mind you, but I can report with conviction that I have some mad Native American skillz in my quiver. And when I put my ear to the ground, I can hear things. And what I hear right now is a distant thunder. The Reds aren’t hitting, if you didn’t already know. Someone is to blame. Lance McAlister is beating the war drums because he thinks he knows who is to blame—Brook Jacoby.
Yeah buddy. Brook Jacoby is all that is wrong with the Cincinnati Reds. Don’t believe me? Well then, you haven’t been paying attention to the comment section of almost every Reds’ blog over the past five years or so, have you? Every time Jay Bruce has gone on one of his monthly sojourns to the Mendoza Line, there’s a chorus of folks claiming it’s Brook’s fault. Every time Stubby was caught looking? Yep, Brook’s behind it. Every time the Reds’ offense went into a collective funk—there was Jacoby, channeling his inner Lord Voldemort, practicing the dark arts on the Reds’ bats.
Lance knows. Earlier this week, McAlister called for the firing of Jacoby and the hiring of Eric Davis.
Give Me a Different Voice
Nice. You see, Lance doesn’t really believe Brook Jacoby is the problem here. In fact, he went waaaay out of his way to make the point that Mr. Jacoby is but a VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCE. That phrase was repeated ad nauseam throughout the afternoon, just so we’d know this wasn’t really about Jacoby and the job he does. This was most certainly not scapegoating. Oh, good gracious, no. Just a little change, Bubula. What could it hurt? As McAlister said:
“I’m doing something so miniscule, what’s the big deal?”
Sweet, huh? Go after the guy you know the fan base already routinely buries and replace him with the universally revered “E.” I mean, you gotta hand it to Lance sometimes. You really do. The argument went thusly: “we’ve had 7 years of your voice and your eyes. This team’s approach, this team’s philosophy—you think it’s going to hold up? We must change the vision, the eyeballs looking at this offense. Here are your parting gifts.”
Thanks, Brook. Don’t let the bullpen door hit you in the strike zone on the way out.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Cozart
Lance then dove headlong into the pool of the obvious, suggesting that batting Zack Cozart in the 2-hole was lunacy… you’d have to be in a coma … nobody in his right mind, etc.
Once more, McAlister courageously opines, knowing the vox populi is squarely behind him, pitchforks in hand. Duly noted. Cozart at the top of the order is a fool’s play. This is fish in a barrel stuff. Am I right? But, is it asking too much to expect Lance to connect the dots? I mean, the same man who scratches the name “Cozart” into the rocking chair between Choo and Joey each night is the same man who dictates the team’s hitting philosophy. Jacoby may wear the title, but let’s not kid ourselves. Dusty Baker is the de facto hitting coach of the Cincinnati Reds. Dusty Baker made his MLB bones as a hitter. He played and studied at the foot of the great Aaron. He knows hitting. He’ll tell you. His words fairly echo off the hallways in the bowels of GABP:
“It’s not called walking, it’s called hitting. You’re trying to get a hit.”
“The name of the game is scoring runs. Sometimes, you get so caught up in on-base percentage that you’re clogging up the bases.”
Baker has been urging Votto to swing more and take less since 2008. When informed just last week that the Reds swing at more first pitches than any other team in Baseball, Baker was reportedly stunned. The Reds may be dead last in batting average on first pitch balls put in play, but according to Dusty, if you ain’t hacking, your swing is lacking.
Brook Jacoby ain’t the problem. When Mickey Hatcher was summarily dumped as the Angels’ hitting instructor early last season, it wasn’t because of what Mickey was doing, but rather what he didn’t do, which was stay out of the way of the Angels’ shiny, new $240M hitting diva, Sir Albert. What fixed the Angels was not a new hitting instructor, but Pujols adjusting to his new league and the promotion of one Mike Trout. None of that is applicable here. And to think things would be any different under Eric Davis is to simply not understand the moribund methadology of Dusty Baker. If anyone thinks Davis would instruct contrary to Baker’s wishes, you need only to rewind to the end of Spring Training and the fight over Chapman to understand that what Dusty wants, Dusty gets.
To want to fire Jacoby is to buy into the myth that a hitting instructor has some svengali-like hold over players. In fact, by the time they reach the majors, players are for the most part fully formed. I don’t ever remember Bobby Tolan going into a slump and seeing Reds’ hitting instructor Ted Kluszewski messing with that iconic “hands-high, bat-to-the-sky” approach. No, they are there to tweak, to help a player identify adverse changes when things are going off the rails. They are another set of eyes. As Big Klu himself once said: “I just study their styles and see that they don’t deviate. They have pretty well established styles by the time they get up here.”
As the nasty boys in the media swing wildly from Jacoby one day to chemistry issues the next, you won’t see any acknowledgement that although the Reds have one player who is a bright, shining example of plate discipline—there is absolutely no way he is going to proselytize to his fellow players as long as his manager publicly advocates the opposite approach.
You’re not going to change the hitting styles of Chris Heisey, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, or any of the other young players the Reds are counting on to lift this team in the absence of Ryan Ludwick. You might be able to change their approach. But to expect Chris Heisey—or any young player who depends upon his manager’s approval for playing time—to take pitches just off the plate that he knows he cannot handle, may be asking too much. If Dusty says swing, you swing.
Earlier this week, Baker’s pregame chat included the latest assessment of the team’s hitting woes, including, but not limited to, an examination of whether it’s the “personnel not doing what they are supposed to do, or the instructors not instructing properly.”
Well then. Can’t imagine what that means.
91 down. 71 to go. The wheels on the bus go round and round. One guy is hoping Brook Jacoby doesn’t end up underneath it.