Ever since we started this most recent rebuild, the Reds have told us to BE CALM and DON’T WORRY, because (and repeat this with me now) “There is a plan.” This plan allegedly includes graphs and charts and other implements of destruction printed up on glossy paper in an official binder somewhere in Great American Ballpark.
Billy Hatcher and Jose Rijo stand guard over the plan when the Reds are out of town. They drink espresso and reminisce about the 1990 team. Or so I hear.
C-Trent Gildenstern even has a link to his article outlining the plan glued at the top of his Twitter feed for all to see.
But what if the plan is a bad one? What if the plan doesn’t take into account the ebb and flow of a player’s career?
What if the plan doesn’t work?
Here are a few things that might derail the Plan for Future Success™, throwing us all into another decade of woe, despair, and self-pity.
JOEY VOTTO STOPS VOTTO-ING
Votto is still Votto, despite this season’s numbers not quite matching his MVP year or even last year’s epic second half. The great thing about Votto is he’s adaptable. When his power dipped during his injury, he compensated by shortening his swing and getting more walks. I’m sure a few guys in the radio booth might have preferred that he swing for the fences more often, but the ability to change your game to match declining ability is another of Joey’s superhuman characteristics. He’ll likely continue to Votto all the way to the end, always eke-ing out the max value his skills can provide.
But Father Time catches up with everyone. Joey Votto is 32 years old this year, meaning his prime offensive years are likely in the not-so-distant past. He might surge for a season or two, but his skills will eventually decline. If his skills decline faster than we all hope, the Reds will be in big trouble with a hefty contract on the books for years to come.
He’s already seen a significant increase in K% and his BB% has dropped to only 16.8. That’s still not bad for a normal player, but for Votto, it could be worrying.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, RIGHT?
One central point of Das Plan™ is a focus on acquiring and developing new talent. Over the last season, the Reds certainly have seemed to be aggressive in this department, trading away a lot of talent in Johnny Cueto, Todd Fraizer, Aroldis Chapman, and more.
The returns seem to be good thus far. Our only All Star this year, Adam Duvall, was an also-ran in the Mike Leake trade, and there is a plethora of pitching talent in the minors to make it seem like the future is bright.
But is it? Raisel Iglesias, who was once billed as “the next Johnny Cueto” went down with shoulder problems and came back as a reliever. That, and the recent firing of pitching coach Mark Riggins, might make you question whether the guiding philosophy behind pitcher acquisitions and development has been thus far flawed.
Add to this question marks surrounding Duvall (he walks less often than most college kids change their underwear), Eugenio Suarez (who has, at best, a passing interest in defense), and Jose Peraza (will he ultimately be worth giving up on the #ToddFather?), and you have to wonder whether the Reds have bet the farm on a collection of not quite ready for primetime players who would fill in nicely as foot soldiers on a future championship team, but none of whom will strike fear in the hearts of opponents.
Except for John Lamb. He reminds me of an extra from a Freddy Krueger movie. I don’t know why.
WHAT ABOUT THE MES?
Devin Mesoraco was supposed to be a power-hitting core of future championship teams. He’s been, though no fault of his own, nearly nonexistent these last two seasons. Injuries happen. For catchers, injuries happen more often than they don’t. Which is why a backup backstop plan is necessary, doubly so if said backstop is a core offensive cog in your machinations for success.
Tucker Barnhart is a good guy. I like him. But he doesn’t make up for the offensive potential we expected to see from Mes for at least a few years. Who do we have beyond that?
Maybe Corky Miller is still available?
CRAZY LEGS HAMILTON
Billy Hamilton is fast. Real Fast. But all that speeds means nothing if he can’t get on base and around the basepaths. It’s a similar situation to what the Cleveland Indians faced a few years back with Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore. Tons of potential, but little in the way of results. You can’t win games on potential just like you can get out of trouble with the law of you claim good intentions.
If the Reds are going to be successful, they need a center fielder who can hit, get on base, and score. He doesn’t have to be #Awesometastic. Average offensive skill would be an improvement. Stolen bases are nice, and nobody will argue with Hamilton’s defensive prowess, but we’ve had a parade of fast yet ultimately unsuccessful guys in the lineup these last few years. If they’ve taught us one thing it’s that the ability to hit, even a little bit, trumps stolen bases every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
When we first went into the valley of the shadow of death to sell off our heroes in search of future success, the mantra was “wait for 2017 or 2018.” Now, the mantra is “2018 maybe. Or maybe not.”
The plan is nice and it makes sense. But there needs to be some adaptability for Real Life coming in and changing some of the bedrocks we all hoped would be here. Things change, and the plan must change with it.
Somebody get Billy and Jose an espresso while we flip through the charts and graphs in that nicel little binder to see what improvements we can make.