2017 Reds

The Glorious Return of Bronson Arroyo

Zach Buchanan wrote about Bronson Arroyo for the Enquirer today:

Bronson Arroyo feels normal, and that’s pretty abnormal.

It’s been nearly three years since the 40-year-old has thrown a pitch in the major leagues. He’s spent most of that time fighting to come back from shoulder and elbow surgeries, unable to get his aging body to rebound.

But now he feels healthy, with nothing remarkable to report about his preparation for the regular season. Now, he’s on the verge of pitching in a major-league rotation – or in the majors at all – for the first time since 2014.

“I’m literally about to pull off the impossible,” Arroyo said. “That’s the way I see it.”

The entire piece is worth your time. There’s the obligatory Eddie Vedder reference in there, but this, from Reds manager Bryan Price, is the money quote:

“I don’t have any doubt at this point in time that he’s going to be pitching in the big leagues with us,” Price said.

So there you go. Absent extraordinary circumstances (and let’s be clear, the Reds haven’t actually made any official announcements to this effect), it appears that Bronson Arroyo will be on the Reds’ Opening Day roster.

And I couldn’t be happier about this turn of events.

My friend Steve disagrees with me on this point. And you know what? He’s exactly right.

Listen, he’s right. I get it. I can’t argue with any of those points. What’s the point of giving innings to a 40-year old when the Reds need to find out what the young pitchers can do? There’s no point, right?

How about this: Because it’s fun.

I know, I know: I’m supposed to be an analyst. I’ve written a lot of words about the Reds over the last decade-plus — both here and elsewhere — and much of it has been of an analytical bent. Often, I’ve criticized the Reds, and I’ve never been hesitant to say when I thought the club was making a poor decision. I may be wrong occasionally. I hope I stumble into good analysis every once in a while.

But I have always tried to be honest with you, the loyal reader. Any credibility I’ve been able to amass* has, I hope, been built on the foundation that you always know I’m giving you my honest opinion, for better or for worse.

*I know what you’re thinking. Shut up.

And I have to be straight with you: I love me some Bronson Arroyo and I’m glad to see him back in a Cincinnati Reds uniform.

Listen, I’m a fan. If you’re a long-time reader of Redleg Nation, this comes as no surprise to you. Then again, it’s what we have in common and why this community has become so special to me. We’re all obsessed with this baseball team, right?

Similarly, we all have our favorite players. The first guy that really captured my attention was Mario Soto. I remember seeing him on the cover of The Sporting News way back in the 1980s* with Joaquin Andujar, and being amazed that one of the players from the miserable early-80s Reds — a team with whom I had already fallen in love — could be getting national attention.

*You kids will need to find an adult who can explain “the 1980s” and “The Sporting News” to you.

In backyard wiffle ball games, I always pretended to be Soto. Some of those games ended in a fight with my brother, who was the stand-in for Claudell Washington.

In Soto’s final season, I discovered my next favorite player. He was a rookie on that 1988 team. You might remember him: he wore goggles, drove a beat-up Ford Escort, and won Rookie of the Year. Yeah, Chris Sabo. I wasn’t the only teenage Cincinnati Reds fan who was a Sabo devotee in the early 90s. That guy was the GOAT.

(If you’re interested, I wrote an “Ode to Spuds Mackenzie” over at Cincinnati Magazine a year and a half ago.)

After Sabo, Tom Browning was briefly my favorite player before I sensibly landed on Barry Larkin. After Larkin, it was Adam Dunn, then Edwin Encarnacion…then Bronson Arroyo.

By this point, my “favorite player” meant something different than it did when I was 12 years old. Generally, it was a guy who I felt was underappreciated in Cincinnati — Dunn and Encarnacion fit that bill; now it’s Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto. I tend to root for these players precisely because it seems like Joe Fan doesn’t “get it,” not because I want to wear their jersey.*

*Last Reds jersey I wore was a #17 Chris Sabo, I believe. Although I do wear a Malcolm Brogdon jersey to work about once a week.

Not so with Arroyo. There are lots of reasons to appreciate Arroyo, but the reason I couldn’t wait to watch him pitch every five days is simple: he was fun to watch. Arroyo didn’t overpower anyone. He had to think on the mound. He changed speeds. He changed arm angles. He outwitted some of the best hitters in the league on the way to a career that will eventually land him in the Reds Hall of Fame.

When Arroyo left after the 2013 season, I wasn’t bummed. It was time and, as I said, I wasn’t a 12 year old anymore, so I understood. It made good business sense to part ways with the crafty right-hander.

So here we are in 2017, Arroyo is 40 years old, and he’s on the verge of making his triumphant return to the scene of his greatest successes in the big leagues (if you ignore that pesky little championship he won while wearing corn rows). When I’m wearing my analyst cap, I have to acknowledge that the arguments against Arroyo on the 2017 Reds roster are compelling.

I’m not going to wear that particular cap today. I’m a fan, and I love baseball — Reds baseball, specifically — and the only reason I follow baseball is because it’s enjoyable to me. It’s a great diversion from the stresses of ordinary life. Baseball is supposed to be fun.

Fans at Riverfront Stadium had fun in 1984 when Pete Rose debuted as player/manager. It was fun when Eric Davis returned to the Reds late in his career. It was fun when Chris Sabo came back to Cincinnati.

And it’ll be fun to have Bronson Arroyo back in a wishbone-C cap, even if it’s only for a few weeks, while some guys get healthy (or get past their service-time dates). It’ll be fun to see if he can get out big league hitters, outsmart them with the slop he tosses up to the plate. It’ll be fun to see him inject a little personality into a team that has been difficult to watch for the last few years. It just might be fun to see him mentor some of the Filthy Five.

Welcome back, Bronson. Have fun. I know I will.

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42 thoughts on “The Glorious Return of Bronson Arroyo

  1. I guess I can see Arroyo as the #4 starter for 2-3 starts. Price has suggested he wants a vet in St Louis so game #4 might just be must see TV. Perhaps Arroyo can be the knuckleballer with out the knuckleballer….And mess with the Louie bats and timing enough to start a few slumps and make the other Reds seem a little faster. No way Arroyo can have sustained success…But I’ll definitely be watching him pitch.

  2. ……And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.
    ….
    The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
    ……
    Beyond all the advanced statistics and metrics, is the game. It is supposed to be fun, it catches at our hearts. Seeing Bronson go out there one more time to pitch reminds us all of the recurring hope of Spring, and that maybe none of us is quite that old. And the game reminds us of all of what was once good, and could be again.

    I remember the first time I went to a Reds game in old Crosley Field. I remember the LAST baseball game I saw with my Dad. I remember taking my kids to baseball games, and now they are grown men.

    In the end, all the people who think this is a mistake will undoubtedly be proven right, because Bronson IS 40 years old. But some of us long for that little bit of magic to touch the baseball field one more time, and for Bronson to shine again just a few more times.

    • Thanks, Chad, for saying what needed to be said and thanks, David, for the eloquent reiteration. Yes, baseball is supposed to be fun. Beyond that, there have been elderly soft-tossers (Moyer, Wilhelm for two) who have been effective for more than a game or two. I get the concern about his taking a spot that should be given to one of the young guys, but I also think that it’s likely that not all of the young guys will be ready. If they are, happy days, and in that unlikely event, Bronson becomes an effective middle-innings guy whose stuff contrasts sharply with the rest of the staff, as well as a good mentor (I know that mentoring and other intangibles are generally in bad odor around here, and I respectfully disagree). That’s if he proves effective and stays healthy. If not, it’s a moot point.

      • I hope that the three young guys in the rotation along with Feldman and Arroyo appreciate the value of the learning opportunity presented by working alongside BA and lap up every bit of wisdom he imparts with both words and actions.

  3. And you know ______, you get the feeling that Bronson isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the ______ . He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer. Paraphrased from V. Scully in “For Love of the Game.”

    Here’s to pulling off the impossible; which may just sum up the 2017 Reds.

  4. Chad, Chad, Chad. You are playing with fire. Flirting with the old love (Bronson) in front of the current love (BHam) can only result in disaster. It will make the current love very, very jealous. Be careful, we don’t want to see Bronson, Chad, and BHam on an episode of Jerry Springer.
    It will be nice to see Bronson back, if only for a while. My hope is that the 2017 Bronson is better than the 2011 Desert Flu Bronson.
    I understand the notion of wanting the younger pitchers to take the mound, but I certainly don’t want to see Romano, Garrett and Davis go through what Reed did last year. Although, I do want to see Garrett up in 2 weeks after the season starts. I keep circling April 18th as his call-up date to pitch against Baltimore at home.
    With Price fielding an 8-man bullpen, Bronson might be able to find a home for the season there.

    • I’ve never watched Jerry Springer, WV, but I’d make an exception for that episode.

  5. Fab Five versus fading vets? Unlike UM, the Reds do not have five young guns ready to go. Some of the youngsters continue with quite embarrassing outings. It is a fantasy to seem five as MLB-ready.. When the Reds find that they have five young guns who have earned spots in a starting rotation, then we will have a parallel to Steve’s Fab Five UM scenario. With luck and some continued growth, that will happen sooner rather than later. Until then, the Reds need someone–Bronson, Feldman, or someone else–who can pitch iMajor League games and maybe even go somewhat deep into the game. When a Fab Five actually shows that they are capable, they can take over.

  6. Living through that time, how could Eric Davis not have been your favorite at some point? I right there with you on Soto though. I loved watching him pitch, and that was a time when I only got a limited number of games on TV to watch.

      • That hurts me….

        Kal Daniels, Gary Redus, Eddie Milner, Paul Householder and of course, talk about unappreciated how about Nick Esasky. Long before their was Eric Davis we had 1/2 season of Gary Redus, but we got a couple of seasons from the the great Nick Esasky before he was sentenced to Boston. Worse than the Edwin trade because nobody knows who we got for Nick.

        The only Reds jersey I have ever worn….

        Will Bronson be the one guy on the team who has to wear the 1933 Reds uniform while the rest of the team will wear the 2017 uni?

          • I’ve got the newspaper clipping from that Best Record in Baseball presentation, along with a relevant “Doonesbury.” Both on the wall in the downstairs bathroom. No editorial judgment intended by the location.

        • Esasky was dealt for the man who would lead the NL in ABs in 1989 and made the final putout of the 1990 World series.

          Esasky and Murphy to Boston for Benzinger, Sellers, and Vasquez.

          I’ll always remember the trade since brought Todd Benzinger, who I played sports and graduated with from New Richmond High school, back to Cincy.

  7. I just want one more opportunity to raise a beer to him when he walks into Tin Roof a few hours after the game.

  8. First off, I really enjoyed Arroyo’s prior tenor with the Reds. Having him back on the field for the team now will just go to highlight what a disaster the rotation is in this stage of the rebuild. Factoring in the discussions of adding an extra catcher or another bench player to the 40 man and the 25 man, adding Arroyo makes it even more difficult to accomplish those moves.

    I say send him to the minors for the beginning of the season. Evaluate his pitching there. Then, if the Reds rotation is really the disaster it might become, make a decision of whether or not to option one of the young pitchers to the minors and bring Arroyo up. A few more wins, losses or innings pitched in April isn’t going to make a difference to this team this year.

  9. I’ll admit it – the idea of Bronson Arroyo coming back, if for no other reason than to mentor some of these young pitchers, is starting to grow on me. I *do* still remember, however, the years when he used to totally befuddle opposing hitters…for the first four innings or so – then by the 5th or 6th, they’d have figured out the cadence and start teeing off. And then, of course, Dusty would leave him on the mound for one inning too many. Just, y’know…Dusty being Dusty. Of course, his pitching coach back then was…um…who was that, again?

    As far as my “favorite” Red from my youth – I’d have to say the first guy who really grabbed my attention was Dave Collins.

    No, really. No, I’m serious. #29, man. Would have given Billy a run for his money on the base paths. I still remember.

    • Eric the Red and Vada Pinson, my two all time favorite Reds. Right now I would say Votto for his intensity and ability with a bat and Suarez for, heck I don’t even know why…as long as they never put him at SS again!!!

  10. While I appreciate Arroyo’s aesthetics as a pitcher, I don’t think it will be fun watching him run an ERA north of 5. Although, it might be more fun than watching one of our prospects run an ERA north of 5. Eh.

    • At the least the 2 or 3 pitching prospects in the rotation will get to see first hand how the ultimate professional deals with adversity. Who knows, if BA steps or is pushed aside by mid season, that experience might in the long run be more valuable to the young guys than the innings they lost in the process.

    • Our pitching prospects have collectively spit the bit these last few starts which has been discouraging. 😛

      I’m happy to have Bronson around as I think he adds value from the player’s side to the art of pitching. Another voice does’t hurt there IMO. As far as taking a spot on the roster, I’m going to trust the Reds brass to make sure that spot doesn’t cmd back to haunt them.

      It’s not like we are at the top of the 40-man. Yes, there may be an unpolished diamond there at the bottom, but I’m not going to sweat it. After this year’s draft there are going to be even more talented prospects to find a place for and tough decisions to be made.

  11. I think you have pitch as a starter until any service time or additional work is completed by a young starter. Then, I think he moves to the bullpen for long relief. His veteran presence will be a help to the youngins. And, you’re right, he’s fun to watch.

    I look at this way. We MIGHT see a championship Reds team in the near future. However, we ARE watching a HoF career in Joey Votto and we get to see some of the most exciting baseball players – Hamilton for one. Chapman was another – how lucky was that?! Now we get to see a 40 yo Arroyo make a last stand as a wiley junk ball pitcher.

  12. If Arroyo makes the 25 man roster, bad decision for the future of the Reds. Many fans write that he would be mentoring younger pitchers if he made the roster. Maybe true, but he doesn’t need to take a roster spot to do it. Hire him as a roving pitching instructor. He would not only help young pitchers on the Reds, he would be able to all pitchers in the organization. He would not count towards player salary and would cost much less than the league minimum. Don’t get me wrong, I like Arroyo, but making the roster would be detrimental to the future of the Reds.

  13. To me, Arroyo’s presence is another data point that the Reds realize internally it will likely be 2019 or longer before they are playoff contenders.

    If Arroyo makes baseball fun for people and keeps people (non-RLN readers) engaged during another non-competitive year, so be it.

    If the Reds were close to contending, and the young SP pitchers were truly developed, Arroyo would not have that slot to open the season.

    Mark Sheldon writing that “If the Reds feel their rebuild won’t be done within the next two years, it could be prudent to see what they can get for Hamilton (at the trade deadline).”

    http://m.reds.mlb.com/news/article/221040254/reds-could-be-an-opportunistic-trade-partner/

    I expect more hints and references to a longer re-build coming out as the season goes on.

  14. off topic, but interesting. The reds just claimed Scooter Gannet, a second baseman. I thought that had a glut of players contending for second base?

  15. With the injuries to this starting pitching staff, as well as how Bronson has been pitching, I wouldn’t be surprised if we keep Bronson. Just keep him on a short leash.

  16. I’m with Steve, in that I’d rather see a young arm out there.

    But I’m not going to bash a guy for having his favorite players. I loved Pokey Reese, and he is still one of my favorite Reds, against all evidence, although I will point out that Pokey had 52 extra-base hits and 38 steals in 1999.

    Pokey got himself the same World Series ring that Bronson did, in 2004.

  17. Great article, and I couldn’t agree more. Then again, I don’t play 3rd base or 1st base behind Arroyo. 🙂

  18. Feldman and finnegan start game 1/2.
    Rookie gets the home start game 3.
    Arroyo game 1 St Louis and Reed game 2….Stephenson in the bullpen but will pitch early and often and log lots of innings in April. Garret and Winker are on the “Service time Bat Phone” in Louisville as first call-ups when that day hits in April.

  19. I remember the photo of Soto and Andujar on the cover of the Sporting News, and the headline: “Mighty good, mighty misunderstood.” Soto my favorite Reds pitcher ever, the Reds had young Andujar in their system and traded him.

  20. I like having Bronson back, he’s such a sane guy it’s a calming influence (on me). But I admit it’s an emotional reaction that will quickly fade if he can’t help keep the Reds from giving up double digit runs so often.

  21. Knowing that Bronson was essentially guaranteed a spot in the rotation, I’m not sure why they didn’t honor him for his time with the Reds by giving him the start on Opening Day. In my mind, Feldman isn’t any better than he is (though younger) and he doesn’t have any history with the team like Bronson does. #6/7 starter = #6/7 starter as far as I’m concerned. It’s not like it even really matters to the bullpen with the traditional off day following the home opener.

  22. My hunch is that it’ll be a lot less fun when he’s yanked in the second inning after putting the Reds behind by five runs. Jason Marquis Redux.

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