The blog Pittsburgh Lumber Co does a regular round-table of Pirates bloggers in which they had a half dozen of them or so to answer a question. They sometimes also ask bloggers from other teams to chime in to get an outside perspective.
Last week they asked me to weigh in on how I thought the teams in the NLC would finish out the season from first to last. My response and the those of the other non-Pirates' fans will appear tomorrow, but the Pirates bloggers' responses appeared on Monday. You can check them out here.
At the risk of ruining the surprise, four of the five responders placed the Reds last in the division. And these are Pirates bloggers--they ought to know from bad.
Even though the Cubs get credit for all of the moves they made this season (even signing Jason Marquis!), our own general manager Wayne Krivsky is taking a lot of flak for his moves. Matt from Wait 'Til Next Year says:
Cincinnatiâ€™s Wayne Krivsky has been battling Dave Littlefield for title of worst GM recently. He might have won that battle this year, simply by signing 57-year-old Mike Stanton to a contract worth more than $5 million. He also gave up Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez for some relievers last season. Outside of Harang and Arroyo, the pitching staff is pretty thin, and this team will rely mostly on the long ball this year. With Krivsky in the lead, I canâ€™t see this team being competitive in 2007.
I know it was just an example, but who cares about signing Stanton? Like so many of Krivsky's deals, it seemed like too long a contract, but it did address a need of the club and the price wasn't so high that it would interfere with signing anyone else. If this kind of low impact move is what people are using to evaluate Krivsky, then I think they're missing the point.
Perhaps my favorite part, though, is “this team will rely mostly on the long ball this year.” This year's team is the least dependent on the homer since Barry Larkin retired. If you were going to take a jab at the Reds' offense, it would be that it *is* dependent on the long ball, but won't be nearly as capable of producing it this year.
We get a similar comment about Krivsky from Steve from The Parrot says:
Last seasonâ€™s surprise team, the Reds, tanked in the second half and made no good moves in the off-season. Ken Griffey is already hurt, and their rotation goes nowhere after Harang and Arroyo. With Wayne Krivsky ready to wrangle the title of worst GM away from Dave Littlefield, the Reds will be in last for years to come.
The problem that I have with this reasoning is that it takes all of the other teams in the division out of consideration. For example, the Reds may have “tanked” in the second half last season, but everyone else did, too and so, in fact, they hung in there until the end. For another example, let's say you accepted that the rotation didn't go anywhere after Harang and Arroyo: what NLC team has a better rotation? All five of them? I think not.
The one guy who didn't rank the Reds last, Randy Linville from Pittsburgh Lumber Co., still took issue with Krivsky:
I think the Reds will be the surprise team in the division. The first two starters (Harang and Arroyo) are pretty good. If they could undo the trade that sent Austin Kearns to Washington, they would. Then theyâ€™d move Brandon Phillips to shortstop, have Ryan Freel at second base every day and have an outfield of Kearns/Griffey/Dunn. Thatâ€™d be a tough lineup. But, they canâ€™t undo it. The lineup is weaker with Freel in the outfield and Alex Gonzalez manning short. Of course, the year Phillips had last year mightâ€™ve been a fluke.
I hate to point out the fact that the opinion that ranks the Reds highest is also the most clearly nonsensical. If the Reds undid the Kearns-Lopez trade, they wouldn't move Phillips to short; Lopez would be there. I might also point out that if with Kearns in RF, there wouldn't be a corner position for Griffey to move into. And how, precisely, is the offensive line-up weaker with Freel in the outfield instead of the infield?
Even more shocking to me than the lack of respect the Reds are getting is the number of the guys who are “drinking the Cubs' Kool-Aid,” to quote Joe. Three of the five predictions have the Cubs topping the division; the other two have them coming in second. But even so, the write-ups on the team are hardly glowing. Consider this from Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
After Zambrano, the Cubsâ€™ rotation is a disaster. If Prior starts the year in AAA, this team is doomed and could be the biggest disappointment. They have more firepower on offense, but have fewer left-handed bats than the Pirates in the starting lineup. Will they drive in some runs? Leeâ€™s being healthy should help there considerably. Soriano will be a beast in Wrigley. 80 to 83 wins.
Which touches on why ranking the NLC teams for next season is so difficult: they all suck.
The way I see it, at the end of last season the division fell into three groups:
- The Cardinals, Astros, and Reds all finished so close to each other, that I consider them approximately equal.
- The Brewers were OK.
- The Cubs and Pirates were both disasters.
- the Cardinals have gotten worse through age and attrition. Look for them to move down
- the Astros come out about the same if you think the losses to their pitching and additions to offense equal out. Look for them to stay about the same
- the Reds have gotten better with the addition of Gonzalez (the crazy moves Krivsky has made won't actually hurt, since they're just replacing crazy moves he made last year). Look for them to move up.
- The Brewers have improved themselves with the addition of a year's experience and Jeff Suppan. Look for them to move up.
- The Cubs have gotten much, much better, but they were pretty gawd-awful to start with. Look for them to move up.
- The Pirates are just as much of a mess as they always were. Look for them to stay the same.
Which is how I came to my ranking:
I may have the Reds a little too high (boundless optimism is the providence of the fan, after all) and the Cubs a little too low (deep in my heart I don't believe they can ever win), but I'm closer than those guys.
The amount of discussion this has generated in my house alone tells me that this is a contentious question. I'd love to hear some further opinions.