Poke the bear long enough and eventually the bear roars. Years of lambasting the Reds’ front office for standing pat, for playing it too close to the vest, for standing idly by while the rest of the baseball world danced, it all came to an end as the Reds front office went rogue—or the closest thing to going rogue the Reds do. Do something, Reds. So, they did.
Taylor Trammell was supposed to be the future, or at least part of a future we were promised, a down payment for all the losing. He did his part, making himself the darling of the Futures game in 2018 and walking away with the game’s MVP hardware. But, baseball’s top 30 prospect regressed in Double-A this season and, well, who knows, maybe the Reds got cold feet at the altar and just gave up on him, only to run off with the wacky bridesmaid in the form of a mercurial pitcher who—and let’s be kind here—has difficulty controlling his emotions on and off the field.
Maturity issues stick to Trevor Bauer like a noontime shadow, his meltdown on the mound over the weekend apparently the last straw for the Cleveland Indians. Terry Francona tried pulling the short con, acting as if he desperately wanted his troubled hurler, while his overlords were flipping through the rolodex, looking for takers:
“This guy pitches his (butt) off. He stays out there longer than anybody in the league. You can go on time; you can go on anything you want…. I want to fix it.”
When the news broke, I immediately thought of the Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Mixon. That’s not to say that Bauer is Mixon because he’s not. Not even close. Mixon viciously assaulted a woman. Bauer “only” harassed one. And then I thought of Alfredo Simon, because, of course. But, if there’s one thing we’ve all learned watching sports, it’s that when talent is involved, especially big talent —exceptions, excuses and exemptions invariably get made.
You can read here about his irrational and despicable harassment of a woman on Twitter, his frat boy salary negotiations with the Indians and the rest of his boorish behavior. My keyboard won’t go there.
Bauer, poster boy for the analytic revolution, prominently featured in Ben Lindberg and Travis Sawchik’s new book “The MVP Machine,” is a disciple of Driveline Baseball, the performance training facility, where players go to reinvent themselves. And Bauer has done just that, having turned himself into a viable Cy Young candidate in 2018, nearly a 6 win player. Sporting a 2.21 ERA and a 2.44 FIP, Bauer was the talk of baseball. Bauer hasn’t been “that guy” this season, but his WAR is still the equal of Sonny Gray’s at 2.7. So, there’s that.
And while all this was playing out in real time, the Reds were doing real physical battle with the Pirates, who once again showed everyone what happens when you pair a manager short on character with an organization short on ideas.
After another predictable head-hunting episode from the Buccos, still intent on doing war on Derek Dietrich’s noggin, Clint Hurdle was interviewed after the game and offered his own special managerial word salad, circling the wagons with the usual false jock bravado, the sound of towels snapping and the stench of AXE body spray hovering over the entire sorry proceeding. I half-expected him to break into a chorus of We Are Family:
Interviewer: You think this might have been tied in any way to the fact that you came in with a pretty long losing streak? And those guys were not that far ahead in the standings. It’s been a tough year for both of these clubs, is this kind of a late-in-the-season-trade-deadline-letting-off-some-steam situation?
Hurdle: I don’t know. You guys can figure it out from your perspective. You’re gonna see what you see and write what you wanna write. I just know our intent going out tonight was to win a ballgame and a lot of different turns happened along the way. So, the melee on the field is nothing you pencil in to start the game, let’s throw in one of those. Sometimes they take place and sometimes they happen. I’m sure they’ll be more information coming from the commissioner’s office later—everything’s on video. So, it’s not like you’re gonna go out there and do something thinking you’re gonna get away with anything and people are gonna think what they wanna think. As I said before, you can’t control what other people say, think or do. Our guys wanted to take care of each other once it all broke loose. And that’s what they did. They took care of one another.
This is what passes for “taking care of one another” these days. Closing ranks. Playing the “us against the world” card. And, nope, you sure can’t control what other people think or say when you not only fail to control your own players, but celebrate their knuckle-dragging behavior in the dugout along with them.
Baseball has known about the Pirates for some time now. Who they are and how they ply their dangerous trade. But the suits on Park Avenue look the other way, just like they do when the subject is fan safety. Just as a young fan will have to die from an unholy exit velocity screamer into the stands before the league gets serious about netting, so will a player have to die from a testosterone-soaked fastball up-and-in, retaliation for some violation of a ridiculous “unwritten rule” before anything changes. By then it will be too late.
There will be meaningless suspensions, of course, as there always are. A pitcher will get a five-game suspension and the team will push his start back a day, rendering the whole disciplinary exercise the joke it was when it was announced. Just another cynical nod to the public that this behavior is unacceptable. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball stole the spotlight from the NFL for at least one day. That’s why the Pirates are given carte blanche to incite. It’s good television. It’s even better marketing.
Let the Kids Brawl.
It was phenomenal for baseball. https://t.co/88q2AC3ZqU
— Mo Egger (@MoEgger1530) July 31, 2019
Ken Rosenthal believes the Reds are keeping Bauer and going down the same path as they did this year, going year-to-year, aimlessly making it up as they go along.
MLB Network’s Joe Girardi thinks the Dick Williams is playing three-dimensional chess, looking to flip Bauer for a bigger payday with another team that just didn’t match up well with the Indians. They didn’t.
But this fact remains: the Reds now have a pitcher playoff-bound teams like the Yankees covet. The Yankees rotation is shambolic, having imploded against the Red Sox last weekend. And now, CC Sabathia is on the IL and another young starter is running up against an innings limit. The Yankees desperately need quality starting pitching and the Reds would probably love to have Clint Frazier and who knows who else New York might be willing to part with to get what The Bronx believes is the final piece of the World Championship puzzle. And make no mistake: the Yankees are under extreme pressure from fans and the New York media to get it done this season.
Trade or no trade, either way, you have to love that it’s the Reds who might have thwarted the Yankees. Makes a body feel all 1976 all over again. So, at least there’s that.
“I’m going to miss all my teammates here. This part of the year is amazing for me, being with this team with my teammates and the city leaving a lot of love… You know, I don’t do the things in the community to try to stay here. I do them because I know there’s a lot of kids outside, they needed help, and people like me, that god bless with a lot of different things coming from Cuba with nothing to get a lot of things in the United States. That’s the reason I try to go now in the community and help the community and help the kids, they don’t have the same opportunity that I have right now. Because when I come from Cuba I have nothing and thank god I have a lot of different things in the United States and that’s part of my family and all my friends—we like to help people. That’s made me feel good and I do it for that reason.”
Those are the final words of Yasiel Puig—El Guerrero Rojo—who despite his reputation, has been nothing but a joy in a Reds’ uniform. Now, he heads north up Interstate 71 while troubled Trevor Bauer heads south, passing each other in the trade deadline night.
Baseball shouldn’t make a fan feel dirty. But after last night, all I want to do is take a shower.