Monthly Archives: December 2007

December 31, 2007

TOP 10 Moments of 2007

Happy New Year, everyone! I have been granted publishing permission by Red Hot Mama, so watch for my periodic articles here as I continue my penchant for analysis, occasional humor, and frequent vitriolic diatribes.

I think we can all agree that the Reds 2007 was not so much a disappointment as it was a horrible yet somewhat fascinating train wreck. So let’s close that chapter of our collective history by reviewing the most memorable moments from that ill-fated year.

10. Let’s start with the most recent news. The Reds trade Josh Hamilton to the Rangers for young hard-throwing Edinson Volquez a native of the Dominican Republic. Whatever your take on this trade, you have to admit it was high stakes poker on Kriv-dawg’s part to take a shot at a inexperienced pitcher by dealing a 5-tool player in Hamilton. Yet the Reds got Hamilton as a rule 5 pick so even if Volquez busts the Reds really don’t lose much of an investment. With the Narron brothers gone, there would have been no one to really watch over Hamilton to keep him out of trouble, and perhaps there was fear that he could relapse. Or perhaps the Reds just dealt from a position of strength, having an abundance of outfielders, and addressed their most obvious weakness. Volquez sounds like the perfect student for Mario Soto this spring, as he throws extreme heat (able to hit 97 at will) and a complimentary change-up that drops 30 mph off his base speed. Scouting reports seem to indicate that he needs to improve his curve ball and harness his control. They peg him as a future #2 pitcher.

9. Reds launch their new kids club – the Reds Heads. For those of us with kids this was an awesome program. My son got a cap, a t-shirt, a sweatband, posters, a team calendar, and a bunch of other stuff. We were given a free tour of the ballpark where I had the opportunity to stand at the dugout rail like a manager, at which point a bolt of lightning appeared south of the river, forever etching that view in my memory. You get free game tickets and invited to special events such as a Q&A Pizza Party with reds ace Aaron Harang. I can’t recommend this program enough so if you have kids and plan to go to some games in ’08 you should definitely sign up for the Reds Heads kids club.

8. The Josh Hamilton story. In hindsight maybe this was an unnecessary distraction, a concern expressed by Brandon Phillips in July, but for the first half of the season the guy making all the headlines and getting national media attention was former drug addict Josh Hamilton. While some started calling him Roy Hobbs, he was really just a talented kid trying to make a comeback. His talent was still there and he showed a combination of power and throwing arm that made me think of someone like Dave Parker in his prime as a comparison. I attended a game where he threw out a lead runner who tried to take 3B on a single, which ended the inning. Later Hamilton hit the go-ahead home run. That was the day I borrowed a pen from an usher so I could write his name in on the all-star ballot. I wasn’t the only one because he led all players in 2007 for write-in all-star votes. We all wish Josh the best in Texas and we hope he stays clean and serves as a positive inspiration and role model for the community. Maybe his path will cross with Cincinnati again, as he stated he will always consider Cincinnati his home.

7. Jared Burton emerges as set-up man. Another guy from the Rule-5 draft (kudos to Krivsky). He didn’t contribute right away and if memory serves they hid him off the roster for awhile with a minor injury, but by the second half of the season he was David Weather’s primary set-up man and next to Weathers the only reliable arm out of the pen. He could be a future closer but why take chances when the 7th and 8th innings are really just as important? He’ll get the opportunity to pick up where he left off.

6. Dusty Baker is hired as manager. Unfortunately this story broke on ESPN well before the Reds could prepare a public relations front (i.e. a feel-good press conference and positive articles on the website, the now defunct Cincinnati Post, and the Enquirer). Thus, the fans began to chatter amongst themselves and the initial reaction was one of the ugliest things I have seen in quite awhile. No one came right out and said anything racist, but how can you otherwise explain why so many people thought Baker was an absolute terrible choice? His resume shows he is a winner, and in fact both of his previous gigs as manager he took over a struggling team and managed them to the playoffs in his first year. But don’t try to argue facts with people who are reeling with emotions that they probably don’t understand themselves. “Harang and Arroyo’s arms will fall off!” the peanut gallery hollered in unison. “And Bailey is doomed!”

“OK,” I responded, “you do realize Harang and Arroyo already lead the league in innings pitched, right? They are proven workhorses that go into the 8th and 9th innings almost everytime out. They both also have dictated that they know when they are gassed and tell the manager when they want to come out.” Somehow, I think Dusty will handle them just fine. Call it a hunch. As for Bailey, he will be towards the bottom of the rotation. He is not Mark Prior because Prior was at the TOP of his rotation. Any #1 pitcher is expected to give you about 220 innings. With Prior’s medical history I agree that probably wasn’t a recipe for long-term health, but what can you do, these are the Cubs we are talking about and they smelled their first World Series in something like 130 years.

Anyhow, the main thing about Dusty’s hiring is it shows that owner Bob Castellini is pulling out all the stops and going for the gold. They could have very easily trotted Pete Mackanin out there and saved themselves millions of dollars, and Pete did such a decent job we couldn’t have been too critical if they chose to go that route, but they didn’t. Why didn’t they? Because they wanted to show the fans and the media that the Cincinnati Reds are playing to win. We aren’t going to be the Kansas City Royals of the national league. Before Castellini took over, I think that last sentence was very debateable.

5. Jerry Narron is fired. I’ll be the first to admit that Jerry fooled me when he first came on the scene. I think I called him a gunslinger. The reason I became infatuated with him was because he was an actual major league manager, whereas Dave Miley was a minor league manager that clearly had no idea how to run a clubhouse or a professional organization. To sum up the Miley years is simple: the massage chair fiasco. So in comes Narron and it was such a nice upgrade that a lot of us got fooled into thinking this guy was a winner. He did make a nice run in early 06 but something happened as that season wore on. Jerry stopped showing fire. He seemed to accept that the Reds just didn’t have the karma or luck or whatever you want to call it to outplay the Cardinals. I watched as LaRussa pretty much had his way with the umpires while Narron would just look down and shake his head when they would blatantly manipulate the strike zone. I am sure there is more to it than that, but Jerry just seemed to lose the edge as 06 closed out and 07 was just a train wreck right out of the chute, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph. So adios to Jerry and good luck doing whatever you are gonna do next. We do thank you for transitioning us from “total laughing joke” to “somewhat scrappy and dangerous”. You did better than Miley that is for sure.

4. Brandon Phillips joins the 30/30 club. I liked this kid as soon as he joined the Reds. He has surprising power, speed to steal, and plays great defensively. I call him “Lightning in a Bottle” because he was like a magic antidote for our annual “who the heck is gonna play second base” query. Remember when the answer to that question was Tony Womack? I bet you do. Anyhow, Phillips exeeded even my optimistic expectations by clubbing 30+ dingers in 07. He’s proven to be instrumental in the Reds’ emergence as a somewhat respectable team.

3. Aaron Harang is a legitimate Cy Young candidate. Last year was good, but 07 is the year when Aaron Harang put it all together. Even national media pundits throw his name out when discussing the best pitchers in the league. Maybe he will never win Cy Young playing for the Reds because GABP will inflate his home numbers, but we know what we got and management’s decision to sign him long term last off season is looking rather brilliant.

2. Freel nearly kills himself making spectacular catch while crashing into the wall. In a season with few pleasant memories, this is a moment that will stick out forever. I personally consider it to be the greatest catch I have ever witnessed but history will probably not agree simply because the game was mostly meaningless as the Reds’ season was doomed from the onset. Hopper and Freel both dashed to grab the ball which was hit to the right-center alley just short of the wall. Freel made the grab but Hopper arrived at the same moment and also would have gotten his glove on the ball. Instead they collided and Freel whirly-birded and crashed into the wall. I believe his head and neck hit the base of the wall as he went down. He lay motionless on the field for what seemed like forever. I was truly scared that his career or even his life might be over. The umpire raced over and looked down and apparently seeing the ball in Freel’s glove as he lay unconscious on the ground signaled that it was a catch. Video would later show that Hopper might have nudged the ball a couple of inches into Freel’s glove, but I will argue that he made the catch as you could see it clearly in his glove as he spun a full rotation, and perhaps as he lost unconsciousness on the ground the ball trickled out and Hopper wanted to ensure the ump made the right call so he tampered with the evidence a little bit. That’s my take on the greatest catch ever.

1. Reds sign Francisco Cordero to richest contract in franchise history. It was also the most money league-wide ever paid to a relief pitcher. The high stakes almost desperate signing was a direct result of the Reds horrific bullpen. Honestly I can’t remember the last time the Reds had a respectable bullpen, but it very well may go all the way back to the Nasty Boys. If I never see Gary Majewski throw another inning it will be too soon. Hopefully with Cordero closing it out the Reds bullpen woes will become a thing of the past. That is what we sincerely hope as we head into 2008. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


December 28, 2007

Prior Signs with Hometown Padres

Mark Prior has landed back in his hometown of San Diego with the Padres. The deal is for 1-year, $1 million, with a whopping $4.5 million in incentives. It must be nice to feel so believed in. On the other hand, he didn’t throw a single pitch last year, so maybe $1 million sounds pretty good.

The headline of the story on is “Padres sign Prior to one-year deal: Right-hander will look to avoid injury bug for hometown team.” Certainly a lack of Dusty Baker in his life will help that. A complete retooling of his mechanics wouldn’t hurt either.

Thanks to C. Trent’s blog for pointing me to the story, since I’ve hardly been paying attention to the sport the last month. And best of luck to you, too, sir. I’m confident that your post-Post career will be very bright.

December 26, 2007

Pass The Catch-Up, Please

Thanks to the holidays (and my own basic laziness), I neglected to post the weekly summary of transactions this past Sunday. Fortunately, RHM already gave you the big stories, and it wasn’t as busy as the previous week, so we’ll just catch up on things today. It’ll make next Sunday’s summary that much easier to do. So without further ado, the NLC player transactions from 12/17 thru 12/25/07:

On Monday 12/17, the Astros signed RHP Jack Cassel to a $400,000, one-year contract.

On Tuesday 12/18:

  • The Cardinals jumped into the market for former Reds players, signing free agent IF D’Angelo Jimenez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
  • The Astros signed RHP Chad Paronto to a one-year, $500,000 contract.
  • The Pirates re-signed free agent RHP Masumi Kuwata to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

On Wednesday 12/19, the Cubs signed OF Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year, $48 million contract, as previously reported by RHM. Fukudome has no page on yet, so I’ve linked to his page on The Baseball Cube instead. To me, that just seems like a lot of money for a guy who’s 29 and has never seen a major league pitch. In fact, for that money he better be good, because if not, the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley are going to have a field day with that surname of his.

On Thursday 12/20, the Brewers coaxed OF Gabe Kapler out of retirement with a one-year, $800,000 contract. The eight-year veteran spent last year managing the Red Sox’ Class-A Greenville farm team in the South Atlantic League, A.K.A. the Sally League. Greenville went 58-81, finishing 14th in a 16-team league, but I’m sure that had nothing at all to do with Kapler’s decision to give up managing and become a baseball player.

On Friday 12/21, the Pirates signed C Michel Hernandez, C (and ex-Red) Miguel Perez, RHP Mike Thompson and INF Jorge Velandia to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training. And of course, there was that trade involving the Reds and Rangers, on which RHM has given us the details in another thread.

That’s been it in the NLC, unless you are a Cardinals fan and are stockpiling ammunition with which to villify and condemn John Mozeliak, in which case you need to know that the Phillies snapped up OF So Taguchi two days before Christmas with a one-year, $1.05 million contract. Is it my imagination, or does it look like the Cardinals are trying to meet the Pirates in the basement?


December 24, 2007

Episode 84: Merry Christmas

A very short episode tonight as Jon and I use a few free minutes to keep the podcasting momentum going. When we aren’t shooting the breeze talking about our holiday plans and the new Screaming Mimes album that came in the mail today, you’ll hear our take on the one NLC-related story: the Reds trading Josh Hamilton to the Rangers for a couple pitchers

December 21, 2007

Reds Trade Hamilton for Pitching

Finally, a move from Wayne Krivsky that I find neither inexplicable nor completely insane. And I suspect Hamilton will do very well in Texas. But how jealous is Dunn about now?

Check out the Reds’ press release:

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Reds Executive Vice President and General Manager Wayne Krivsky today announced the acquisitions of RHP Edinson Volquez and minor league LHP Danny Herrera from the Texas Rangers in exchange for OF Josh Hamilton.

Volquez, 24, last season won the Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year Award as the best minor league pitcher in the Rangers’ organization. In 26 starts at Class A Bakersfield, Class AA Frisco and Class AAA Oklahoma he went 14-6 with a 3.67 ERA while allowing minor league opponents to hit just .190 overall. He also went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 6 starts for Texas.

Among Rangers farmhands in 2007, Volquez ranked first in strikeouts (166 in 144.2 innings), second in victories and fifth in ERA. He entered 2007 rated by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the organization. Following the season he was ranked as the 13th-best prospect in the entire Pacific Coast League.

Herrera, 23, was selected by the Rangers in the 45th round of the June 2006 first-year player draft. He was named by Baseball America as a 2006 Draft First-Year All-Star after posting a 1.45 ERA in 5 starts and 12 relief appearances for the AZL Rangers and Class A Bakersfield. He spent most of last season, just his second in professional baseball, at Class AA Frisco and went 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 34 relief appearances.

Hamilton, 26, last season for the Reds hit .292 with 19 HR and 47 RBI in 90 games. He was on the disabled list twice.

And the one from Texas:

Arlington, Texas — The Texas Rangers announced today that the club has acquired outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez and left-handed pitcher Danny Herrera. Hamilton completed a physical examination today.

“It’s an exciting day for the Rangers family,” General Manager Jon Daniels said. “The addition of Josh Hamilton gives us another youthful, charismatic and impactful player to build around. We expect Josh will be a critical part of a bright Rangers future.”

Hamilton, 26, hit .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBI in his rookie season in 2007. He hit 19 home runs in just 298 at-bats this past season, as his ratio of a home run every 15.68 at-bats was the 10th-highest figure among Major League players with at least 290 at-bats. Hamilton had the 2nd-highest slugging percentage (.554) among all National League rookies last season, trailing only N.L. Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun. Hamilton’s slugging figure was higher than that of any Texas batter in 2007.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound left-handed batter also ranked among N.L. rookie leaders in home runs (4th), walks (5th, 33), on-base percentage (5th, .368), extra-base hits (7th, 38), total bases (8th, 165), and runs (8th, 52) in 2007. Hamilton led both the Reds and all N.L. rookies with 7 outfield assists, a figure which ranked 2nd among all big league rookies despite appearing in just over half his team’s games. He endured a pair of disabled list stints, once with gastroenteritis and once with a sprained right wrist, and also missed the final 17 games of the season with a strained right hamstring and a sore right wrist. He received 151,245 write-in votes for the All-Star Game, the most of any player in the National League.

Hamilton was acquired by Cincinnati in a Dec. 7, 2006 trade with the Chicago Cubs shortly after the Cubs had selected him in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft. Prior to making his Major League debut in 2007, Hamilton had appeared in just 98 professional games over the previous 6 years combined due to injuries and an MLB suspension. The first overall selection in the 1999 June draft, Hamilton was the recipient of numerous awards in his Minor League career and was ranked as the top prospect in several categories by Baseball America in 2000 and 2001. Following his senior season at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1999, Hamilton was named USA Baseball’s Amateur Player of the Year and Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year. He is one of just 22 high school players in the 43-year history of the amateur draft to be selected with the first overall pick. Others on that list of 22 high school players include Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, and Joe Mauer.

Hamilton played primarily center field in his rookie campaign, appearing in 71 games with 64 starts in center. He also had 9 starts in right and 2 starts in left field. His first career start on April 10 at Arizona produced his first career hit, a 2-run homer off Edgar Gonzalez. He made the Opening Day roster for Cincinnati after batting .403 and hitting safely in 21 of 25 games in Spring Training.

Volquez went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA (17 ER/34.0 IP) in 6 games/starts as a September call-up for Texas last season. He spent most of the year at the top three levels of the Rangers farm system, combining to go 14-6, 3.67 (59 ER/144.2 IP) in 26 games/starts. Originally signed by Texas as a non-drafted free agent on Oct. 29, 2001, Volquez will be entering his 7th professional season in 2008.

Herrera has gone 11-5 with a 2.59 ERA over his first 2 professional seasons, mostly pitching in relief. He split last season with Bakersfield and Frisco, going 2-0, 3.27 in 7 games/one start in the California League and 5-2, 3.78 in 34 relief appearances in the Texas League.