Culture Club

In the wake of the dubious story suggesting Skip Schumaker had to go into the clubhouse a few weeks prior to get a recalcitrant “superstar”—and could this be a reference to anybody but Joey Votto?—to partake in the practice of batting, I can’t help but feel another episode of Clubhouse Culture (Baseball Channel, 3-4pm, check local listings) is getting ready to air shortly here in the Queen City.

Grit. Leadership. The Will To Win. General Clubhouse Bonhomie. Whatever you want to call it, these are the qualities that are oft-listed as MIA in the Reds dugout, the missing DNA strand that is holding the Cincinnati Redstockings back from greatness—or at least the NL Wild Card. That these conversations invariably pop up when the team is struggling, is a matter to be addressed at a future date. What we do know—or what we’ve been told—is that the Reds had “clubhouse issues” last season. That perception at least partly led to Dusty’s demise. Which brings us to Schumaker. We’ve all been led to believe that Skip has this “essential” character quality in spades, the ability to transform laggard players into run producers the way plants employ photosynthesis to turn sunlight into fuel.

Whatever it is, it’s a mysterious tune, like the song of the humpback whale, decipherable to only the lucky few possessing the quintessential quality that informs such things as “gut” and “player motivation.”

Todd Frazier has it. He called out his teammates for lackluster play the other day, as reported by John Fay in the Enquirer:

“We were going through the motions. That’s not baseball. That’s not fun when that kind of stuff happens. You want to win. You want to cheer. But there wasn’t that extra gusto — like a playoff game or something. It was great meeting; a lot guys stepped up said some things. You take a lot away from that. You find out who the leaders are, how passionate guys are about the game. We are. But we hit a lull. We’ve got to make the game fun again.”

We buy into this stuff not only because the media keeps shoveling it to us and let’s face it, players believe it wholeheartedly. But we also buy it because it humanizes the game, makes it simpler for those of us on the other side of the rail to understand. It makes the unknowable knowable and gives these athletes the common touch that Lamborghinis and limos don’t. If we could only mark these players with harmonic radar tags and follow them around from team to team, pollenating their new clubs with all this grit and grinding grandeur that some believe is an essential component of winning teams, Baseball would have an organizational blueprint for winning on their hands and we could vanquish the monied teams who perennially sit atop of the standings once and for all. And advanced metrics? Who would need that nonsense?

I mean, Brandon Phillips smiles—a lot. So what’s the problem? An undisputed truth is that smiling faces sometimes, well, they don’t tell the truth—or so I’ve heard. My new favorite player, Brayan Pena, is a smilin’ machine. Pharrell’s “Happy” must play on a continuous loop in his head. Amirite?

It’s not that I think it’s a bad thing to have players of the grit persuasion—whatever that is. It’s just that I think it’s wildly overblown. It obfuscates a baseball team’s real needs, sometimes to disastrous effect.

Take the Arizona Diamondbacks, who the Reds just vanquished out in the desert. This was an organization that ditched players of value, like Tyler Skaggs and Justin Upton, and performed a complete team makeover that revolved around “glue guys” and players who PLAY THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY. How’d that work out? Now, they’ve brought in Tony La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer— a title that sounds suspiciously like the Special Assistant to the Owner title Walt Jocketty was given just before owner Castellini brought the hammer down on Wayne Krivsky—to “assist” GM Kevin Towers. Anybody want to take bets on the employment of Messrs. Towers and Gibson say, when the DBacks visit Great American Ball Park in late July?

Me, neither. The Character Experiment in the desert was just a complete failure. The entire weeked featured camera shots of La Russa looking down on the field with the same look General Patton had on his face as he surveyed troop deployments in Africa. So, the Diamondbacks look like a teardown coming in short order.

The local media has been blowing the Rebuild Shofar loud and long for the last week. It’s quieted down over the weekend, but expect it to escalate if the Reds fail to hold their own against the San Francisco Giants and their league-best won-loss record. I said over a week ago on Twitter, there’s no way on Pete’s green astroturf that Bob Castellini blows this whole thing up now. Not with the All Star game at the Ballpark Down By the River barely more than a year away.

Still, this team is going to need both help and health. It’s going to need the good guys already here—Affable Jay and Stoic Joey—to start producing that voodoo that the back of their baseball cards say they do so well. What this team doesn’t need is more grit and the distraction all that silly conversation brings, whether it comes from Bob Brenly or talk radio. It doesn’t need more controversy over how much fun Joey appears to be having or how much time DatDude is twittering away on Twitter.

This team needs to get healthy. And hit some. And keep pitching like they have for the last two months. As long as Skip continues to get on base some, Brayan Pena continues to rake when he plays and Todd Frazier keeps showing the better plate discipline he and Don Long have been working on, they will be valuable contributors to the club.

The grit & gusto stuff?

It’s all just noise.

Father. Iowa born, Kentucky raised, NYC finished. I write about baseball. I wonder what Willie Shakespeare would have written had he met Willie Mays. Richard resides in protective custody at an undisclosed location in New Jersey.

Join the conversation! 79 Comments

  1. Good read Richard. I too thought it ignorant to talk about something Bob Brenly said. It’s all speculation with no facts. We have better things to talk about, like the on field action, production, and results. Bob Brenly can stir up dust somewhere else.

  2. Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me there is no Tooth Fairy…

  3. The reds need someone like Schumaker, who won a bunch in hated St. Louis, to show them how a winning culture and club acts. Looks like the Toddfather is pushing the message as well. Good for both of them.

    • Yeah, because our big problem the last few years has been not enough ex-Cardinals.

  4. The Reds need to dump Ludwick, Bernadino, Santiago and Bruce. Keep Heisey for pinch hitting and call up Waldrop and Winkers from Bakersfield. Bruce will never be a great player because of his strikeouts. The others are not major leaguers. Bring up the kids, they could do no worse than those mentioned.

    • You realize that Jay Bruce has finished 10th in MVP voting in both of the last two seasons right?

      I get that people are disappointed that Jay Bruce hasn’t turned into the best hitter in the game, but I am always SHOCKED by these types of comments that link him with players of the caliber of Santiago and Bernadina.

      I guess Marty still has a lot of influence.

      • Even Marty wouldn’t say that. He has gotten on Bruce at times but I’ve never heard him say Bruce isnt valuable to the team.

    • Jay Bruce? I was with you until then.

      • I was with you until the “Reds need to dump’ part, other than venting it really is not going to get much attention. I just do not see the constant griping about Ludwick, maybe he should not be starting, but it would be idiotic if they dumped him. Now Bernadina is a bizarre keep, he is the 7th OF and 4th 1B, I seriously think he was kept because he was 7 for 10 against Arroyo and the Diamondback series was on the horizon.

        • when need to keep Bernadina for when we face Arroyo again. *rolls eyes*

    • Dump Jay Bruce, huh? Sure am glad you’re not running the team.

  5. I’ll gently disagree here. We’ve all played sports and we’ve all played with guys who are wired differently. But this much I know, at every level there is a pecking order and the ‘leaders’ set the tone. Oftentimes by virtue of their talent, the top players don’t have to work at their craft as much (looking at you Griffey). Maybe that’s our big 3, maybe it isn’t. From my experience coaching and playing, this is not the ideal scenario. But I get the other side of it too, where you have the Reed Johnson’s and Skip Schumaker’s of the world busting it day in day out. Why? Because they’re not talented enough to stick unless they do. Show me a team full of little ‘grindy’ dudes, and I’ll show you a loser. So there’s no one way to be or play, it’s a balancing act. You also have to consider that most of the writers/fans ragging the team have never played baseball EVERY DAY for 8 months straight–can they even relate??? But I would say a certain pall has settled over this club since Posey’s grand slam, a team going thru the motions. Best way to get out of that funk is to bring in energy guys who didn’t experience it—Frazier, Mes, Hamilton.

    That said, we’re about 10 days away from having our team intact for the first time all year. More to the point, look at the divisions—outside of the first place teams, everyone is muddling along around .500. The wild card is easily within reach, and we’re only 3 games behind the Cardinals. I’ll keep saying it, we have as good a chance as anyone.

    • Harumph Harumph!

      Its often forgotten that the game is played by humans. The mental aspect of the game is very important and impossible to quantify (and I try to refrain from doing so, failing sometimes).

      Yogi summed it up with his quote. ‘Half this game is 90% mental.’

  6. Two weeks in a row of winning series and a little slip up from the cards and Reds are in 2nd place. Not bad for not having big bat after big bat going down on injury and missing arguably our 2nd best pitcher so far this season. Nothing but optimism from me.

    • We’re only two games back of the Cardinals in the loss column.

      • Make that 1, the Reds will look back at all those series against the WLB and realize where the season was lost unless changes are made in their performance.

  7. So at first, it was thought that Bob Brenly was telling a story about something that happened that day. Something that maybe he even witnessed, and that couldn’t possibly be about Votto.

    But now it comes out that he was referencing a story that happened two weeks ago, which seems like it was about Votto.

    So that raises the question to me, where did he get this from? Did Shumaker tell him that? If so, that doesn’t seem much like leadership to me.

    • Exactly! Where did this story originate and how did it get to Brenly for public consumption?

    • How big of a story would this be if the phantom culprit stepped and said I did not feel like taking batting practice that day. Is this the equivalent of a pitcher not warming up before coming out? Does it matter that much if a MLB hitter skips 10 minutes of swinging at balls from a coach trying to give him his pitch when he may not bat for 2 or 3 hours anyway?
      What is next a unnamed stolen base artist did not touch his toes during team stretches? Please advise me on the dire importance of never skipping BP

  8. We’re in the playoffs! We’re in the playoffs! Hey Richard do a shave off ’cause we’re in the playoffs! Doot did a little doot doot!

  9. We can quote numbers and attitudes all day here. This team would be in first place without a Shadow of a doubt If Joey and Jay play average baseball. Just hit their career avg. Ludwick as well. Cozy is what we thought he would be. Hammy is better than we thought so far. The Toddfather is having a comeback of sorts year. Mes, and Pena have been better than advertised, Shumucker is what he is. Pitching is good. Not quite as healthy as we would like but putting up great numbers as a whole. Bruce has taken a huge step back in his career. Horrible to this point. Ludwick is what he is. Rolen with legs. JV was clobbering the ball at a .258 clip when he went out. Go ahead and tell me about the OBP and walks. Bottom line is he was playing way below expectations. B.P is being BP. No better or worse than projected. I have hopes for Votto, Not so much for Bruce.
    I guess my point is we are very close to contending. Just need a bit more offense.

    • And yet you don’t mention the bullpen at all. 9 Bullpen losses in the first 6 weeks, but we’re not pay Joey Votto $200 million so Hoover can give up grandslams.

      Also, second post of the thread: Jay Bruce has been 10th in MVP voting both of the past two years. He has described his knee injury as bothering him since the start of the season, had surgery, recovered from surgery quickly, and yet his performance just in this year has you saying you have not so much hope for Bruce.

      I just don’t get the irrational distaste for Jay Bruce that so many Reds fans have.

      • I have watched Bruce’s career day by day and had to sit though way too many slumps. Long slumps. 10th in MVP? Really? He put those numbers up in 1/2 of the season. I like Jay Bruce and root him on. I don’t think he goes away or advocate a trade, but I don’t see him stepping up this season, at least not for more than a series or two. I sure am hoping I’m wrong. I did mention the health of the pitching, We have good enough pitching to go very deep in the playoffs. My point was, the 2 guys we weren’t really worried about at the beginning of the season are the 2 that have really underperformed for whatever reason, It shows in the attitude of team.

        • I share your point of view. On offense, most everyone is what we thought they would be, except our two main horses. Where would we be if they were meeting or exceeding expectations. Bruce has been back a week…no change from previous DL stints. Does his bad knee make him swing at pitches out of the zone?
          Jose Abree came off the DL yesterday and hit a 2 run HR off Kershaw, so don’t give me “Bruce is just off the DL, he needs to get his timing back.”

  10. If the grit and guts wasn’t a thing, then why is it that the Reds clubhouse was missing a former Cardinal (Rolen) so badly and was on the edge of imploding at the end of last year/this offseason until they brought in another former Cardinal (Schumaker) to try and make it better again?

    Also it just so happens that the Cardinals are extremely successful. Coincidence?

    • Are you implying that somehow being associated with the Cardinals makes you a better leader?

      Seems like some serious cherry picking.

      • No, I am implying that the Cardinals built up a locker room that was very good and it led to lots of success.

        You’re saying it like being a Cardinal made you a good influence. I am saying it like being a good influence made you a Cardinal. (Being a WLB made you a Cardinal too, but that’s neither here nor there. Lol)

        But yeah, it doesn’t seem you don’t see former Reds go be the steadying rock of leadership for other teams. You do see that from former Cardinals.

        • I don’t think there’s any way you can say that they built up a really good clubhouse and it led to a lot of success, any more than you can say they built up really talented teams and it led to a lot of success.

          I called it cherry picking because there are lots of good leaders in the big leagues, not just on the cardinals, and lots of ex-cardinals that don’t have the reputation for being leaders. Pujols, Freese, Rasmus, Brendan Ryan, Mark DeRosa… some good, some great, some eh, but none of them have ever had great reputations for being clubhouse leaders.

          Also, there are probably lots of good leaders in the big leagues that fans don’t know about.

          What you can say for sure is that the Cardinals have ranked 11th, 2nd, 4th, & 10th in position player WAR the last 4 years.

        • Okay, what about Ryan Ludwick? He’s been here the whole time, and they (and he) have been terrible.

        • I’m not saying every single St Louis player is a leader on this team (Wilson Valdez, a leader? Haha) but I am saying the last three leaders the Reds have gotten were all former Cardinals. Rolen, Cairo, Schumaker.

          Has to be something there more than coincidence.

    • The Cardinals are successful because they have talented players, and a GM who continues to draft more talented players every year. That’s the Cardinal Way.

  11. This team has clearly lacked leadership for much of the last 10 years, going back to Larkin. The fact that Rolen came in from Toronto, at an advanced age and with decreasing production, and immediately became the undisputed leader of the Reds for a few years, that said a lot to me.

    I believe that the Reds would be better with stronger leaders, but by how much we’ll never know. I don’t believe that a lack of leadership is the biggest problem on this Reds team.

    For example, I don’t believe that a lack of leadership has anything to do with our bullpen struggles. Our relievers have already blown 7 saves this season, and if the relievers were performing as well as they were last year that would be 5. If that were the case the team would be 28-27 right now, and the alarm bells would be a lot quieter.

    • “This team has clearly lacked leadership for much of the last 10 years, going back to Larkin.”

      And yet, as Larkin got even more veterany and more leadery, the team got worse: They had 3 winning seasons in his last 10.

    • I suspect that, more than rah-rah guys, the culture of winning is what we’re discussing. Leadership is factor in that, of course, but it probably transcends the big league roster and filters through an entire organization. Thus the Cards. Thus the Orioles of old. The Yankees. Maybe the Red Sox.

  12. I completely agree. The Reds need their talented players playing well. Scrappy guys have their role—as talent sometimes needs a push and they seem to excel at annoying the other team—but you are not going to win with eight Skip Schumakers. You will win with eight Joey Vottos—and a pitcher or two.

  13. Seems like the modern camp discredits anything that cant be tracked by an advanced metric. Respecting the people you work with, looking up to a team mate, having someone you can confide in at work, people you can laugh and cry with… All make up components of winning teams and there will never be a stat that can measure it.

    • Yes, and being a jerk to an established teammate–a superstar, even–right after you join a team doesn’t seem like it shows a lot of respect or builds camaraderie.

      • Is there any evidence that this actually happened? Can you send me a video link or an audio file? How about comments from the team instead of from the media? Do you have any of those things to substantiate the whole “jerk” statement?
        The media loves a good story. Ken Rosenthal in particular. Looks at how he almost managed to get Phillips booted off of the team last year with his overblown commentary and speculation. I”m convinced in this day and age the media works just as much for the teams as they do for the agents and even sometimes the players. What an interesting tale we would have if we could look at bank records and see who is paying who for the baseball rumors that we hear.

        • Are you saying you don’t think Schumaker went and got someone for batting practice like Brenly said? I agree, that’s possible. But if the premise is that it did happen, and that it shows Schumaker’s heart and determination, then I disagree; it would instead be showing rudeness on the part of a new teammate.

          I don’t mean “jerk” or “rude” in the sense that I witnessed Schumaker shouting or using foul language, I mean it in the sense of I don’t think a new teammate telling anyone–much less an established star–that he should get himself in gear and get to practice is a very good way to build that sense of team you wrote about.

        • I agree with Eric. If this story really did happen, then it reflects much more poorly on Schumaker than on Votto. I mean, it’s stinkin’ batting practice! If a former MVP wants to skip BP, so what? And he certainly doesn’t need some career utility man telling him what to do.

    • “Seems like the modern camp discredits anything that cant be tracked by an advanced metric. Never stepping on the baseline, crossing your fingers for good luck, and rally caps…. All make up components of winning teams and there will never be a stat that can measure it.”

      My statement is equally capable of proof.

    • That’s what I was trying to say, Dale. You said it better.

  14. The Cardinals are successful because they replace the guys that the Reds seem so eager to gobble up. No one in St. Louis misses Ryan Ludwick because of a certain Matt Holiday. No one in St. Louis misses Skip Schumacher because of Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter. No one missed Rolen. Or Chris Carpenter. Or anyone else they’ve lost. Because the Cardinals have better players to replace them.

    This grit and gusto thing is always overblown, but it isn’t fruitless. I’m about to compare the Reds to the Blue Jackets, though it’s apples to oranges with hockey and baseball, but it tells a good story about culture. The Jackets had Rick Nash for years, a legitimate superstar and quiet figure that was only the face of the organization because he was the best player, much like our own Joey Votto. Eventually, the Jackets moved on from Nash for players who prioritized hard work and energy, guys who would hold the rest of the team accountable. My favorite stories are about Brandon Dubinsky fighting his own teammates during practice. That’s a guy who cares, about his team, about his own game, and about winning. He’d give it all for anyone on his team, and the other players follow that. Why?

    Because no one else around him is established enough to override him. All the young players look up to him, and the veteran guys follow his example. Brandon and Joey are legitimate superstars who will not change their attitudes or games. You could have a dozen Fraziers, a dozen Pena’s, a dozen Mesoraco’s, Ludwicks, LeCures, Schumachers. It wouldn’t matter. No one is publicly pressuring Brandon to work on his plate discipline, or publicly pressuring Price to move him down the lineup. No one can do that. As far as Votto goes, I want to make it clear that love his game. If his .OBP went down a bit and his slugging and homer numbers went up, I’d probably take that trade off. But I won’t complain about how he plays. But his whole schtick about not changing how he plays, makes him feel like a me-first type guy, even if stats back up that getting on base is the best way to help a team win. It almost feels like those stories about Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul, that they’ll only pass the ball if it’s going to be a guaranteed assist.

    I’m saying you need to get rid of Phillips. I’m not saying the same thing about Votto necessarily. But while those two are around, the culture will not be the blue collar, give your whole everything, every chance you get attidue it should be. And that’s a problem. This city is ready to embrace a team that gives their all, and this team has never felt like that. Maybe getting healthy will help to the point that we won’t care, because we’ll just be good enough to win. But I’d rather pull for a team that fights and claws and dies with every loss than a team that seems so nonchalant as this one.

    • you got it. Scrappy. We should have nine players at the end of each game with dirty uniforms. Inside pitching. Slides into first. willingness to take out the second basemen in order to break up a double play. first to third on singles. Hamilton isn’t very popular with the advanced metric boys that run this site. But I sure do enjoy watching the hustle style of play over a guy who walks every other at bat and then takes him time getting to first. (in fairness it is hard to tell when Votto is walking or running… the speed is about the same). We have ridiculed a few guys for bad base running and I get that. But I would take that trade off any day for watching the guys who don’t bother to hustle ever. I guess that is the problem with sports in general. A person making 20 million a year just isn’t as hungry as a guy making league minimum, and as fans apparently we enjoy watching the hungry guy more. 🙂

    • I’m in with your talk about Nasher and Votto in the same breath. For years the similarities in those two impressed me along with their impact on their professional home city. (For those into such things, the two guys were born about 10 months apart (Votto oldest) in the Brampton area of Toronto, although Votto’s biography has dropped the Brampton reference in last several years).

      There was a time when if you didn’t know which voice was speaking and they didn’t mention something specific to their sport that the words of one could have been easily taken for the words of the other when they talked about commitment, responsibility and the like.

      LIke Cincy with Votto, Columbus thought they had the hockey world on a string when Nash signed that “career” contract with CBJ only to see the house of cards collapse inside of 3 years because the org couldn’t get its act together and surround Nash with the right pieces. In the last 18 months or so, I’ve wondered several times if the Reds and Votto could be headed down the same road.

      • Didn’t make it clear that I agree that while Nash and Votto talked responsibility and commitment and seemed to personally practice it, they neither one seemed to instill it in those around them

        • And yet there Nash is, in the Finals.

        • The real irony is that 3 or 4 or Nash’s former compatriots on the CBJ are also with him on the Ranger’s having gone over after him; and, Dubinsky et al (to the tune of about 4 guys total) are ExRangers who switched sides in the same time frame.

    • “the culture will not be the blue collar,”

      This is a fan’s (and writer’s fantasy). The CBJ situation is completely different. Hockey is a TEAM sport. It requires that players be in certain positions at certain times, all doing the same thing. CBJ now plays a certain style that works for them. Feel free to call it “blue collar” if that makes you happy.

      But guess what? Teams, and players can play other styles and still succeed. Example, the LA Kings. They have two guys who couldn’t fit into the CBJ style, yet are starring in the Stanley Cup Finals. Oh, and about Rick Nash…

      Baseball is NOT football, basketball, or hockey. Joey Votto is not Russ Westbrook.

      “Fights and claws” doesn’t do you a hell of a lot of good if you can’t hit. This team can’t hit. It’s as simple as that.

  15. people say we don’t have talent in our minor leagues at the every day positions. What about this Ruben Gotay character? Top 5 in IL in R, RBI, XBH and TB

    • Not saying he would ever start for us he is 31 and been around the league a time or two. He just might make some very good trait bait for a team that is desperate for some infield help or just needing a solid bench player. He is no Taveras, not saying that at all.

      • I agree on Gotay, he cannot be much worse than Bernadina or Soto and he has MLB experience at 2b and 3b and got some pop- not sure how solid his fielding is, if you want accountability move someone off the roster, I bet he could play 1B

      • Meant to note that he would not be trade bait, most of the trades proposed on here are pretty ridiculous and the quicker fans realize anybody you would trade nobody else wants. Fire sales will get you nothing in return other than better draft picks for seasons to come

  16. My comment is awaiting moderation?

    • Maybe there is a random rotation now that the checking software does. I had two or three in as many days last week. I did notice they all involved posted links to other sites (twitter or the Enquirer).

  17. At least going by the Baseball Reference Pythagorean W/L is the same as the Reds record. I think with the injuries to the bullpen and losing both Votto and Bruce for a 1/3 of the games thus far and both below career average in the games they have played, you got about what you could expect. That said, they haven’t gone into a complete tail spin, which is really good and I suppose because they have gotten plenty of good stopper starts out of the rotation.

    Until they get Bruce and Votto back and hitting though, it’s going to be a big slog. I think they could potentially get more out of Ludwick, Heisey and Cozart but you got to think that Mesoraco and Pena will return back a bit.

    Bullpen seems to be solidifying ok. Hoover is still flirting with disaster, but it’s not the full train wreck of the first five weeks. He was a mess early last year too, hopefully he dials it in like last season.

  18. I’ll probably take some heat for this, but it seems like to me that BP’s “flair” has worn off on Votto. Perhaps there are other reasons, established/respected player, money, injuries etc. But it seems like Joey showed more hustle in his first couple of years than the last couple. And, not just on offense. It seems like at times he tries to be too cute on D with much less success as BP. I have been happy with BP’s production so far this year, but was turned off again with his interview with Jim Day taking the credit for calling the team meeting. It felt to me like he was trying to take all the credit for turning the team around. I know personally that I don’t follow those types of “leaders”, so I would be surprised if his teammates do either. In the end, we need talent and true gutty leadership to mesh to reach this teams full potential. And, yes that means Votto and Latos back and healthy. Soon, please.

    • “But it seems like Joey showed more hustle in his first couple of years than the last couple.”

      Or his knee has been hurt for 3 years.

  19. Despite some of the commentary on this site the Reds have a ton of pitching prospects working there way up the system. A single quality pitcher is worth quite a bit in terms of building the team and also for trade value. And it looks like the Reds scored pretty good on a pickup last week.
    Jair Jurrjens allowed a run in 5 innings with a walk and 8 strikeouts, I don’t think that we could have asked for a better performance for a guys first start with our AAA.

  20. Echoing Sparky’s comments above. On offense, most everyone is what we thought they would be or better, except our two main horses. Where would we be if they were meeting or exceeding expectations. Bruce has been back a week…no change from his performance, previous the DL stint. Does his bad knee make him swing at pitches out of the zone?
    Jose Abreu came off the DL yesterday and hit a 2 run HR off Kershaw, so don’t give me “Bruce is just off the DL, he needs to get his timing back.”

    • ” On offense, most everyone is what we thought they would be or better, except our two main horses.”

      That highlights my major problem: This team’s offense was NEVER going to be good enough to win. I don’t think that even if you plug Votto and Bruce’s normal numbers in, this team scores enough runs.

  21. Richard: Well written, as always, and thought-provoking as well. Of course you’re right that on-field performances determine a team’s success. The point, however, is that “clubhouse issues”–the way the players react to each other–do have bearing on the performance. These are human beings, after all, and they’re affected by many extraneous factors. It’s impossible to isolate–old metrics or new–the impact of intangibles, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. Arizona doesn’t prove the contrary: It might prove that a team needs pitching, too.

  22. I’m still trying to figure out how you play the game the right way.

    • Derek Jeter? Is he gritty? Chase Utley? George Brett? J.Molina? Hunter Pence? Do great talent and grittiness have to be mutually exclusive?

      To me, Jay Bruce shows a lot of the attributes we might call grittiness. Joey Votto? No. I can’t ever recall Bruce cadillacing or giving it less than his all. Same with Mes, Todd and BHam; this is one of the reasons I think we have a solid base to grow on but they will need help.down the road.

      If JV comes back strong, there will be no further mention of the Schumaker confrontation, whether real or imagined. If not, I would recommend getting in front of “all” ground balls and running out all plays.

  23. I have the most trouble with the correlation between comments on lack of hustle/leadership/etc and the team’s winning percentage. At some unknown line… .525, .575???? a team has leadership and gets along well. But at .490, that same team doesn’t have those qualities.

    Or…. “after the fact, therefore because of the fact…” is at play.

  24. Richard… what, no Culture Club song references? Karma Chameleon, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? There’s gold in there somewhere.

  25. “Grit”, or whatever else you want to call it, is real. And it does have a magnificiantly quantifialbe measure: the team’s bottom line:

    As a club, you have to be concerned about grit. I’m not talking so much between the lines as I am in the seats.

    Of course I want a winning product. Of course I want a championship. But truth is, very few teams in any MLB league will be in the post season. The team needs to be concerned about MY grit as a fan when the going gets tough. What is it that is going to keep me buying tickets and jerseys when we have a .490 winning percentage? What’s going to keep the ratings up in August if the team is 10 games back of the wild card? Grit. Fan grit. And if you as a team want my grit, then you must display some yourself. If you don’t want me to quit, then you better not either. I want frustration on display when things go wrong (not just mindless emotion, there is a difference, and yes I can tell if I am being patronized). I want guys going first to third regardless of the score or standings. I want to see outfielders lay out for balls at seemingly insignificant times.

    If I had a list of favorite Reds jerseys, they would include Doran, Weathers, Benzinger; to go alongside Soto, Rijo, Concepcion, and Griffey. If I buy a jersey this year, it will be a Pena. I would make that investment regardless of record.

    Grit, or whatever else you want to call it, is real. And it affects the bottom line. Especially when we aren’t on the top of the heap.

  26. Grit and determination are good qualities to have, sure. But talent is more important. I would take a lineup of 8 superstars and destroy a team of 8 Skip Schumakers.

    The problem is that I wouldn’t be able to pay them all. That’s where guys like Skip come into play. You have to have some players on their roster who get by on less talent but more heart. A blended mix, you might say.

    • I expect that, almost always, grit is a component of superstardom. The world is littered with people who can run fast, jump high, etc., and who never made it past high school sports. Sometimes that’s due to circumstance, and sometimes it’s due to the absence of enough determination to work at the craft. Grit, for want of a better word. Even the journeymen in mlb are amazingly talented, but not talented enough to make it look easy. It’s easy to see their grit. Somebody like JV shows his grit–sorry to disagree with you, Charlotte–by working hard to perfect his craft. None of these guys would be in the majors if they had no grit.

  27. Recalcitrant superstar – my first thought was DatDude.

  28. I have no problem Frazier calling out the team. First, he was including himself. Second, he’s exactly right. I’ve been saying this about the Reds for a while now (at least prior to this season), that they don’t play like they want to win, that they are stuck in that “marathon” mode that someone liked to talk about. And, guess what? Marathons are boring.

    As for Brandon, I still have no problem letting him go, as long as we have some sort of plan B in there. Brandon said it himself, he’s here to entertain. That should be absolutely wrong. He’s here to win games. If he can’t win games, if he isn’t going to work his tail off to win games, he needs to go by way of Chad Oh-no-dinko. Having someone on the team who thinks they are here to entertain, that can’t be good for the clubhouse environment you are trying to build.

  29. BTW – This picture of Mesoraco makes me like him more, if that’s even possible at this point. Where was it taken and what were the circumstances? Anybody know?

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About Richard Fitch

Father. Iowa born, Kentucky raised, NYC finished. I write about baseball. I wonder what Willie Shakespeare would have written had he met Willie Mays. Richard resides in protective custody at an undisclosed location in New Jersey.


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