After returning from a trip to Cincinnati last month during which I saw the Reds drop three games to the Cardinals, I offered several suggestions as to how to stop the bleeding. Granted, many of my bullet points were painfully obvious, but in the span of just two weeks, it’s been interesting to see how much has changed.

As I’ll have more opportunities to see the Reds play in person here in Los Angeles sooner than later, I thought it’d be fun to revisit my previous commentary and offer some updated suggestions.

1. Bryan Price should be fired immediately.

Status: To the surprise of absolutely no one, Price was dismissed on April 19 after the Reds began the season with a woeful 3-15 start.

New suggestion: Jim Riggleman should be dismissed at the All-Star break.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. In his first few games as manager, Riggleman echoed many of Price’s peculiar “Cro-Magnon” strategies, from needlessly sacrificing outs and lowering run expectancy via bunting, to calling for the worst bullpen arm available at a key moment in a close game, to inexplicably not using his best relief options at other high-leverage moments. When pressed for explanations, his reasoning is convoluted at best. What’s clear, however, is that Riggleman is a disciple of the book, and in a day and age when winning teams exploit every possible advantage, the Reds need to be led by someone who isn’t tethered to old-school ways of thinking.

2. The Reds need to figure out what to do with Cody Reed.

Status: After appearing in four games for Cincinnati, Reed was optioned on April 20. Since then, he has pitched twice – a three-inning appearance on April 24 in which he gave up one hit, walked two and struck out three, and an April 30 start in which he yielded two hits and three walks over four innings.

New suggestion: Let him pitch regularly.

Between April 10 and April 23, Reed threw just 27 pitches for the Reds. That’s nowhere near enough work. Hopefully in Louisville, he’ll have the chance to start every fifth game and achieve some of the potential he’s flashed.

3. Phillip Ervin should be demoted.

Status: Ervin was sent to Louisville on April 26.

New suggestion: End the four-man outfield experiment.

As many others have pleaded, Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler should start the majority of the Reds’ games. Platoon Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall instead. The primary down side of such a strategy is that it potentially lowers the value of two of the team’s trade chips, but Schebler and Winker have shown that they deserve to receive the maximum number of at-bats possible. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same about Hamilton and Duvall, whose batting averages more closely resemble blood alcohol content levels than what you’d like to see from major league outfielders.

4. Amir Garrett should not be a reliever.

Status: (bangs head against wall)

New suggestion: See original suggestion.

It made no sense coming out of spring training, and it makes no sense today. Maybe Garrett won’t be able to cut it as a starter, but he at least deserves the chance to try.

5. Joey Votto needs to be Joey Votto again.

Status: Over the last two weeks, Votto has reached base prodigiously, raising his slash line from .250/.292/.267 to .269/.408/.404 going into last night’s game against the Brewers. On April 27, he reached base during each of his six plate appearances against the Twins.

New suggestion: Never doubt Joey Votto again.

Here’s hoping the Votto we saw during the season’s first three weeks will be a temporary blemish on another “pièce de résistance” campaign.

6. If a Reds player gets hurt, he should go on the DL.

Status: As I was proofreading this write-up for the final time, The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans and MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon tweeted that Scooter Gennett underwent an MRI for a “tender right shoulder” and won’t be able to throw for a “few days.” Since then, nothing has improved. Considering that the Reds’ bench is currently down to four, it seems needlessly foolhardy to proceed shorthanded.

New suggestion: No need to revise this one. The 10-day DL is there for a reason. Use it.

7. Homer Bailey is back.

Status: Bailey has made three appearances since I wrote the above. He fell one out short of the “quality start” threshold on April 21, but in two starts since, he hasn’t pitched past the fifth inning.

New suggestion: To quote Magic 8-Ball, “Ask again later.”

Bailey has been one of the Reds’ three most reliable starters so far this year, but the fact that he hasn’t been able to pitch deeper into games as of late is worrisome. Still, while the Reds have yet to win a game started by Bailey this year, he’s typically pitched well enough to give them a chance to do so. Hopefully the team will give him some run support — and in turn, more rope — sooner than later.

With the first month (and change) of the 2018 season behind us, the Reds now await the returns of Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani, who should further stabilize a pitching staff that has been inconsistent and volatile. Meanwhile, roster dead weight Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin have been jettisoned, and it seems Alex Blandino will stick around for now – although I can’t see him remaining with the Reds after Nick Senzel is finally called up. Having too many good players on the active roster will be a refreshing change of pace and a nice problem to have, though.

I realize the turbulent first few weeks of the season tested the patience, if not the fandom, of even the most optimistic die-hards. As I wrote previously, I don’t believe the storm has yet passed, but the returns of Eugenio Suarez and Schebler, the recent hot streaks of Votto and Jose Peraza and the encouraging starts delivered by Tyler Mahle have provided some much-needed rays of light. Here’s hoping the forecast will continue to improve as we head toward the summer.

Join the conversation! 51 Comments

  1. Only a month? Seems much longer.

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  2. Duvall is hitting .198 since the all star break last year, .198.

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    • And why does everybody think Duvall and Hamilton have trade value? No team is giving up anything but a lifer minor leaguer. Those two are a dime a dozen.

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      • That’s the problem; they HAD trade value until the Reds went and Reds’d all over themselves and held on to them until they no longer have trade value.

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        • It’s truly baffling that they didn’t sell high on Duvall.

          Then again, “baffling” seems to be the standard response to most decisions made by this Reds team.

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          • Truly baffling they didn’t sell high on:

            Duvall
            Frazier
            Bruce
            Cueto
            Chapman (more baffling they sold at all time low value)

            If the Reds were a stock broker, they’d be Bear Sterns or some other out of business firm. Buy low and sell high is something they are not familiar with…acting SLOWLY, Walk Jocketty GLACIAL is what they’re all about.

  3. Riggleman is not bunt happy like Price and is at least trying to get this team better. Too little too late but I’ve noticed changes. Do they amount to wins? No but we are playing better.

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    • His lineups are not so different from those proposed regularly here, and he is evidently instituting regular drills and instruction, so I’m not so certain that it makes sense to can him just yet.

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      • I dunno, I saw Joey Votto leading off they other day…THAT is something Price wouldn’t do.

        I would bat my best hitters just as they’re ranked. Best hitter leading off, next best hitter batting second, etc. Get the best hitters a few extra at bates every week, which means 60 or so extra at bats over 155 games. I’d rather have a .300 hitter or a 40 HR guy getting those extra 60 ABs than Billy Hamilton.

        We haven’t seen enough of Riggleman to make any determinations. Anyone making one NOW is just doing it because they pre-judged it as soon as Riggleman was hired to be bench coach.

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  4. Amir Garrett still has a somewhat suspect hip. The Reds are apparently not eager to have him regularly pitch 6-7 innings based on that. He will likely relieve most of the year. Maybe later they will stretch him out. So sure, let him start, hurt his hip again (maybe) and lose another year of development.

    Bailey is what he is. He may pick up a few miles on his fast ball. His secondary pitches aren’t quite good enough to win.

    The Reds will lose 100 games this season, but that by itself is not a total disaster (although a pretty good disaster). I hope that a couple or three of the younger guys emerge, and somehow the Reds can find a way to either get rid of Homer or put him in the bullpen to ride out his huge contract.

    Right now, Tyler Mahle is their best pitcher. (Gary Nolan won 18 games in 1970 at the same age).
    Sal Romano is probably number two.

    And this tells you why the Reds will lose 100 games this year.

    Finnegan may be starting to turn the corner. He pitched “OK” the other night.
    Castillo will either progress or regress. The jury is still out.

    Count on nothing from Desclafani, and you won’t be disappointed.

    Sometime this year, Bob Stephenson needs to come up and get some starts.

    And frankly, I don’t care a whit about Cody Reed. He can’t throw strikes in the Majors. He can’t locate. So yes, let’s bring him up, let him start, and watch him get his brains bashed in. Maybe the Reds can lose 110 games.

    I frankly fail to understand the fascination with this guy. I watch him pitch and wonder why he doesn’t get it. It wasn’t Bryan Price, the pitching coach, or anybody else. It was and is on him.

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    • For me, it’s not so much a fascination with Cody Reed as it is a desire to definitively see what he’s capable of. He just turned 25 three weeks ago, so I’m not ready to cut bait just yet. In another year where wins and losses don’t really matter, I don’t see any harm in giving him steady work, but I think it’s important to determine whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever.

      As for Stephenson (who also recently turned 25), I was hoping that he’d put it together, but his numbers in Louisville this year aren’t encouraging. Still, as with Reed, I’d rather let him have the chance to continue starting games in Louisville than mop up meaningless big-league games in another lost season.

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      • Bottom line, we have a couple of pitching prospects that cannot pitch, at all, they just throw wildly. Reed is one of these. He is done, try including him as a throw-in on a trade to upgrade talent (a solid prospect and Reed for a better prospect, etc).

        Finnegan does not impress me either. He is just a thrower as well with no real quality pitches.

        It seems like most of the Reds pitching prospects are just straight-arrow fastball throwers that can only have a good game here and there on those rare days they can really pinpoint the location of the fastball. The rest of the time, they’re human batting practice machines.

        Mahle impresses me, though he desperately needs a solid breaking pitch, slider or curve…or at least a split-finger fastball/sinker.

        Garrett impresses me with better pure stuff than either Finnegan or Reed, but he too needs better secondary pitches and needs to use them more.

        I hope Bailey pitches well in May/June and we can somehow trade him (maybe have to pick up 5 or 10 million that remains of his final 1.5 years) and get a top SP or htting prospect.

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    • I keep hearling the occasional speculation that Garrett’s hip has not yet healed and this is the justification for not starting him. There are two issues with this speculation. The obvious issue is that such speculation is completely unsupported and wrong. The other issue is that such speculation is actually correct, albiet unsupported, and Garrett should not be pitching at all until the hip is fully recovered.

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      • Not sure there couldn’t be a third alternative: Garrett isn’t fully recovered and should ease into a full workload. This is,of course, unsupported.

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  5. Clay, you nailed the single most poignant issue for the Old Cossack, but that issue is not necessarily the most impactful move needed. The Reds need to find and hire a new manager and by the all star break is a reasonable timeframe. This nonsense about having to wait until the end of the season is unadulterated nonsense. Find the manager they want and hire the manager they want and do irt sooner rather than later. The only candidates that would be unavailable are current MLB managers and I hope the Reds are not even considering any current MLB managers.

    Hiring a new manager will not suddenly turn the Reds ibnto a juggernaut, but it will lay the groundwork for the next ten seasons. That could be good or bad, but at least we will know what to expect going forward. That’s immensely important to the Old Cossack.

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    • I always enjoy reading your comments, as your wisdom and passion are always crystal-clear. It’s therefore a huge relief to know I’ve managed to articulate a shared view! On one hand, it’s unfair to punish Riggleman for the mess he inherited, but this organization has dragged its feet on so many levels that I strongly believe drastic change is needed, and sooner than later. Obviously, the rebuild isn’t working in its current form, and adjustments need to be made.

      Also, thanks for doing the legwork regarding SLG and OBP that I was too lazy to do myself!

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    • Thx Cossack! The urgency needs to be amped up!

      I really try to remain positive when commenting on RLN – but the topic Cossack brings up is so common sense that it borders on maddening.

      Every successful business has succession planning. Businesses rely on it for a variety of reasons… people leave for another company, retirements, personal reasons, unfortunate accidents, etc. This is not some pie-in-the-sky Grad School technique – this is common accepted business practice and professional sports has as much or more “transition” as any business I can think of.

      If a succession plan were in place, the long-term manager would have been hired already. There is no urgency (unless Riggelman IS the long-term plan) and thus no clear plan to success for the Reds organization. And waiting longer IS NOT a plan. As above-ordinary Reds fans, we’ve watched the other NL Central teams better themselves while the Reds have done nothing. The result… 7-23 with a long road ahead.

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  6. The concerning thing to me is that people look at that 7-24 record and the initial reaction seems to be “Well, there’s only one way to go from here.” And “They can’t be this bad all year.”

    Both of those things are true in the sense that the Reds will win more than 37 games. I mean they went from a 27 win pace with Price to a 50 win pace with Riggleman. It’s an improvement, but the underlying problem is horrendous roster construction, and to that there seems to be no end in sight.

    The Reds, playing in the NL, have kept Scooter on the 25 man roster despite being unable to throw for about a week now. The Reds already only keep a 4 man bench, and 1 of the 4 cannot play defense (and when Billy/Duvall are on the bench, another 1 of the 4 cannot hit).

    Four years into a rebuild, the only player close enough to the big leagues to generate excitement is Nick Senzel and the Reds are too cheap to call him up. But even if called up, in the grand scheme of things, how much can we expect that to help this year? Reds 2B have hit .297/.343/.438 this year. We’d all gladly take that from Senzel this year, but even with that, the team is 7-24.

    The “young pitching” we had been waiting forever to develop just isn’t developing. Mahle is the only starter with a FIP below 5.00. Homer is atrocious. At the beginning of the season I thought he might work out well in the back end of the bullpen ala Smoltz, but he’s not even good enough for that. He is striking out fewer batters per nine than Bronson did last year, walking more, and throwing only slightly harder.

    The successful rebuilds are began with a foundation of drafting and developing position players while trading for and signing established pitching. The Reds thought they could cheap their way out of by loading up on cheap pitchers and assume at least 3-4 would pan out. They were wrong and this is the result; a 100 loss season.

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    • True, the pitching to this point is not there. Finding starting pitching via free agency will work each year if there are 2-3 core high level starters. That is the problem the Reds have at this point, do they have 2-3 high level starters?
      An offensive core of Suarez, Winker, Senzel, and maybe Schebler and Trammel may be enough. Excluding Votto since he will begin a decline over the next few years.
      it seems like there is potential on offense and the pitching is just way to unknown. As you noted, that is why the Reds are on their way to 4 straight 90 loss season.
      The Reds have to stop overvaluing their existing players and trade them even if the return is not high.

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    • A bit of hyperbole? Bailey is throwing 10mph or more harder than Bronson did last year. They loaded up on young pitchers. Young pitchers are usually cheaper for awhile, true, but if they pan out, they might be around and contributing for awhile, too. You seem to have given up on Garrett, and I wouldn’t just yet. Romano could easily turn into a solid and durable starter. Stephenson and Reed are perplexing, I’ll grant you (Stephenson particularly because he looked as though he was adding a bit of command to his superior stuff late last season), but even if they never contribute, they still have–probably–four keepers (I include Castillo) out of six prospects. Doesn’t seem hopelessly bad to me. Adding an established front-line starter this year wouldn’t have made them contenders, unless the pace picks up dramatically from here on out. It’s hard to watch some days, I grant you.

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    • You are exactly right about the plan for successful rebuilds. In fact, that is what Bob Howssm did in the 1960’s. He drafted position players as his first priority and those players became the nucleus of the Big Red Machine- Bench, Perez, Rose, Griffey, Concepcion were all home grown. Then he traded for pitchers- Jim Merritt, Jim McGlothlen, Tom Seaver. Interstingly, while drafting position players first, the Reds also had some great young pitchers that came through the system- Gary Nolan, Don Gullett, Rawly Eastwick, etc.
      Meanwhile, the Reds have drafters pitchers and only Mahle looks like he will make it as a major league starter.

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    • In my mind, it is imprudent to think immediately hiring a manager will right the ship. Just as “outlawing” the bunt will suddenly make them competitive.

      This team needs an impact hitter. (I would love to see Machado for instance.) And “number one” caliber pitcher to work the kids around would make this team viable.

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  7. The Reds have a team OBP of .326 (Thank-You Mr. Winker!), 5th in the NL and grouped with 4 other teams ranging from .322-.326. The last time the Reds had a team OBP in the top half of the NL, not to mention the top 5, was 2013 (Thank-You Mr. Choo).

    The players significantly above the team OBP average are Suarez, Winker, Votto, Barnhart and Schebler. If Schebler and Winker were playing full time and if Schebler and Suarez had not been on the DL, the team OBP would be even higher. The players slightly higher than the team OBP average are Gennett and Blandino. The player slightly lower than the team OBP average is Peraza. The Players significantly below the team OBP average are Hamilton and Duvall. If the combined playing time for Hamilton and Duvall is reduced to less than one full time player, the team OBP will would be even higher.

    This falls in line with Winker and Schebler playing full time OF positions with Hamilton and Duvall reduced to part time roles.

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    • I think the Reds can have a decent offense once Senzel comes up, and assuming he hits like we all expect. Suarez, Winker, Votto, Schebler and Senzel I hope will be the offensive core with Peraza and Barnhart as solid contributors. It also looks like Blandino can be a valuable utility player and right-handed bench bat. Scooter could be a decent left-handed bench bat but he’s not going to be very good defensively anywhere. Mesoraco is good enough for back-up catcher and another right-handed bench bat.
      Questions remain at SS where I included Peraza as a solid contributor but that is still up in the air and at CF. As much as I love watching Hamilton steal bases and play defense, an upgrade needs to be found.

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  8. The Reds have a team SLG of .359, 14th and 2nd to last in the NL. This is a significant offensive problem.

    The players significantly above the team SLG average are Suarez, Schebler, Gennett, Peraza, Votto and Winker. If Schebler and Winker were playing full time and if Schebler and Suarez had not been on the DL, the team SLG would be much higher. The player slightly higher than the team SLG average is Barnhart. The player slightly lower than the team SLG average is Duvall. The players significantly below the team SLG average are Hamilton and Blandino. If the combined playing time for Hamilton and Duvall is reduced to less than one full time player, the team SLG would be even higher.

    This falls in line with Winker and Schebler playing full time OF positions with Hamilton and Duvall reduced to part time roles.

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    • I’m pretty sure that their power numbers lately are significantly better than they were earlier in the season. Suarez and Schebler are back and Votto has started to hit. We can only hope that the power outage is old news.

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    • Well the old Cossack can’t get any plainer than that. He has given two posts on OBP and SLG and 2 guys are the common denominator. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that 2 people need to sit. But they keep running those two out there every night.

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  9. Its been said but we must be patient with these young pitchers.Anointing them as was done with Garrett and Castillo and now Mahle is just fools gold. Throwing them under the bus as has been done with Garrett last year and Castillo yesterday before his start shows our passion to win but it also shows how quick we are with our opinions.After we see them 20 or 25 more times this year then we can get a better understanding if they can or can’t.Bailey and Finny didn’t pitch much last year at all so everybody we throw out there is a wait and see kind of guy as will be Disco if he returns.I want to win and now but nothing was done last year so this year is the audition year for almost everybody short of Votto,Suarez and Iggy which are true pros with the data to back it up.Play Peraza,Scott,Winker and Senzel every day and we learn about them.Give as much time to Herrera,Blandino and anybody else from the minors that stands out and we learn more.Tucker is solid at catcher as well.One other thing Iggy goes to the highest bidder at the trade deadline and we will take anything for Billy and Scooter.I forgot Duvall because 30 homers are hard to replace but right now he looks more like a 10 homer guy and an average of 200.Also we will lose 90+ again while a long the way but it has to be done.

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    • Let me interject this idea: Once Senzel is promoted, presumably to play second base, move Gennett to left field, with Schebler every day in center and Winker every day in right. You replace the weak bat of either Duvall or Hamilton with a very good bat. Unfortunately, defense would likely be lacking, which would make this not a long-term solution. But your everyday lineup would be Votto, Senzel, Peraza and Suarez on the infield, Gennett, Schebler and Winker in the outfield, and Barnhart catching. Maybe worth a try.

      I’m just tired of the Hamilton/Duvall show. Something has gone very wrong with both of their hitting over an extensive period of time, and it’s like management believes continuing to run them out there will somehow reverse it. I just don’t see the point. In year four of rebuilding and sorting, you don’t continue to sort through the people who should have already sorted themselves out of the long-term picture.

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      • Regarding Hamilton: This article by Paul Daugherty yesterday nicely sums up why the Reds won’t move on from him: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/columnists/paul-daugherty/2018/05/02/paul-daugherty-amazing-and-aggravating-billy-hamilton-paradox/574965002/

        I have said this going back to last year. They are deathly afraid that he’ll go somewhere else, figure things out and become the threat that we all hoped he would become here.

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        • Thanks for posting that, even if this part gives me an instant migraine:

          “Riggleman said he’ll stay with the four-man outfield rotation for now, because if he ditched it, ‘It’ll look like we gave up on our message too quickly.’”

          Who cares how it looks? This reeks of stubbornness purely for the sake of being stubborn, but the more I think about it, the more it’s completely in line with “the Reds way.”

          I wrote something here last year about the Reds bringing to mind the definition of insanity, in regard to doing the same foolish things over and over again yet expecting different results. Quotes like this make me think that we fans are just as insane for hoping that things will ever get better.

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        • This is why I said they will give him his money and sign him to an extension. Buy him out of his last arbitration season. They love him and afraid he will become somebody. We are stuck with him. He needs a team built around him that hits and can hide his offensive deficiencies. A team like the 75-76 Reds.

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        • I get it and could believe it if I saw a guy who was getting stronger and putting on a few pounds.He is the same guy at 150 lbs soaking wet that he was 5 years ago which I envy of course.He has to know and the team must know that his only asset is his speed and your legs are the first to go.Why wouldn’t he try to get bigger and stronger and why haven’t the Reds insist he does just that which is the only way he can get better.There isn’t a coach anywhere that can fix a guy’s stroke that continues to get the bat knocked out of his hands.

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          • It’s amazing isn’t It? It’s as plain as day that he is not going to get better now that he is what 28? The only knuckleheads that don’t see it are the ones paying him.

          • Being bigger and stronger may not address why he is a poor hitter. This discussion has been repeated here ad nauseum, so I’ll say what I always say: Do you know for a fact that BH isn’t on a strength program? I’d bet he is, myself, because almost everybody is. Not everybody gains weight or bulk,

      • You are absolutely right about Billy in year 5 and I am beginning to believe the same thing about Duvall although I would give him a few more at bats.Neither are a part of the future and that’s for certain.

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      • Tom: That outfield has the potential to be memorably bad in the field. Gennett might be better in left than he is at second, but I wouldn’t count on it. Winker probably should be playing left, anyway. Schebler might get better in center than he is now, yes, but if he doesn’t, the Reds have a problem. The fielding is not good this year and that has already cost them runs. They need balance.

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  10. Schebler playing significant time in CF is a viable option this season, but is not a viable option going forward into next season and this situation must be addressed before next season. Unfortunately the obvious viable internal options (Trammell, Siri, Friedl, Fairchild) are still 2-3 season away from MLB readiness. Non-obvious internal solutions may be Herrera or Williams but both profile more as MLB utility players rather than starters. Another non-obvious solution may involve a position change for Blandino or Long, but both lack any professional experience in CF. Lacking experience is completely different from inability, but the only way to find out would be to play them in CF to get the necessary experience. That would need to happen now, rather than wait until no other option exists and a decision for a viable CF option needs to be made with the clock ticking. I would be fine with promoting Long to AAA and planting him in CF for a few months. I would also be fine with platooning Blandino and Herrera in CF at the MLB level for a few months.

    The wasted seasons when this type of sorting should have been accomplished have lead to another lost season in 2018, so the Reds might as well utilize the season for some advantage.

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  11. After reading today’s comments, I have to ask: Does the Red’s front office have a pulse?

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    • You’d have to ask them. If they answer, then they do.

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    • The removal of Pennington, Gosselin, Ervin, Quackenbush and Gallardo from the major league roster means they obviously realized they made mistakes. Many folks here at Redleg Nation believe the front office is more reactive than proactive, and this might be good evidence of that. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the discussions were going on that led to the moves I listed above.

      “Well, looks like these veterans we brought in aren’t going to move us back into contention. In fact, they’ve helped lead us to the worst start in the history of baseball’s oldest team. What do you think we should do now?”

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  12. God help us.

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    • I that is what it would take to have a good team in the next few years.
      It may be the only way

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  13. The All Star Game Festival in 2015 diverted the Red’s rebuild process and, in my opinion, it has never really taken off since. Last offseason was wasted by not trading Hamilton, Gennett and Duvall at least for prospects. The Reds current situation falls on the inaction of the front office.

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    • To not see that all 3 of those guys were near peak trade value last season (or perhaps before for Hamilton) and not part of the future Reds contender is unbelievably short-sighted.

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