May 25, 2009

The State of the Reds

Even from this angle.Memorial Day morning 2009 and being a Reds fan is more exciting now than it has been at this time in years. The Reds’ third place in the division doesn’t sound that awesome, but compared to previous years, the future looks so bright.

At this time last year, the Reds were 23-28 and were bringing up Jay Bruce for some much-needed offense. It was even better on Memorial Day 2007 when I had this to say in a post on Red Hot Mama:

So, how ’bout them Reds, huh? It took a head injury to Ryan Freel to even get them to win one against the Pirates after, what, a five-game losing streak? And, in a way, I was sort of disappointed to see them win. They’ve fallen so far already that I just want to see them keep dropping until the ownership has no choice but to make a change. On the other hand, it seems like they already have no choice but to do that and we see all that’s gotten us, so there you go.

I also just have a little bit of a sick fascination with seeing what new way they’re going to find to blow it this time. It’s painful but sort of irresistible, like worrying a sore tooth.

But not so this year. The Reds have just emerged the winners of the Ohio Cup. The in-state rivalry may be manufactured, but Brandon Phillips’ rivalry with Cleveland is genuine and he’s taken great satisfaction in being a Gold Glover in general and cleaning their particular clock specifically. The one game of the series with the Indians that the Reds did lose was the one where Phillips took a ground ball off the thumb and had to leave the game. Coincidence??

Well, Homer Bailey’s performance probably had a little to do with it, but we’ll come back to that.

The over .500 standing is even more special since it comes after the team’s first west-coast road trip, which has traditionally been the event to start them on their downward spiral. While on this trip, they swept the second-to-worst team in the NL, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and looked like they may really be on to great things. We were all happy to see them continuing on their trip to see the worst team in the NL, the San Diego Padres. Alas, the Padres took their turn in sweeping, but amazingly, even that didn’t send the Reds on the death march.

In fact, it doesn’t seem to much matter how good the team is that the Reds play; the Reds are as good as Joey Votto is healthy. This guy deserves the heaps of praise he’s receiving: he’s got a great work ethic, he performs on the field, and he rivals Jason Romano for the best-looking-Red of this millennium. Meanwhile, though, he came down with some mysterious dizziness that it took the Reds medical staff way too many days and way too many tests to diagnose as an inner ear infection. If Votto can just avoid colic, croup, and the other ailments that typically only infants suffer from, this team could really have a shot in the long run.

But even the Herculean Votto couldn’t win all these games by himself and the starting pitching has been turning in some stand out performances. Aaron Harang, always solid but long-plagued by lack of run support, has finally inspired the bats on his team to come out for him. And Bronson Arroyo continues to be his same old predictably unpredictable self: completely lights out all the time when he isn’t walking half of the opposition.

Edinson Volquez, the hot rookie who tore it up in a completely unreproducible way last season had been reproducing his success to start the year. He’s just gone on the DL with back spasms, inspiring the team to bring up Homer Bailey, the hot shot hot prospect who’s failed to show the majors what’s to get so excited about. Bailey still hasn’t quite figured this Big Show thing out yet, and he’s getting dangerously close to being declared in need of a “change of scenery.” Maybe to Cleveland.

As if all that weren’t enough to keep the fanbase on its toes, Dusty Baker has stopped saying so many stupid things. Unless maybe I’m just blocking them out (entirely possible), Baker hasn’t made a big pronouncement of his hatred of baserunners or his desire to see guys swing at anything in the area code. And the stupid things he does have been limited almost exclusively to poor line-up construction, which isn’t actually so bad considering what he’s got to work with. You can send them up to the plate in almost any order when you’re working with promising young players instead of veteran flame outs.

All-in-all, it’s a good time to be a Reds fan. Next year, maybe we’ll be looking back at Memorial Day 2009 saying, “Who ever could have guessed that the third place Reds could have eventually benefited from the Cubs’ inevitable crash?”

5 comments to “The State of the Reds”

  1. KC2HMZ says:

    It’s Memorial Day – so first of all, many thanks to our troops, past and present.

    Bailey has already gotten a change of scenery – he’s been optioned to Louisville. Volquez is expected to be ready for his next scheduled start.

    Wilkin Castillo, a guy who can play almost anywhere on the field (in the minors he’s played C, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, and RF) has been called up to the Reds. That’s no surprise, since 3/4 of the Reds’ starting infielders are either already on the DL (Encarnacion), or have one foot in the doctor’s office and the other foot on a banana peel (Votto, Phillips). Besides, he gives the Reds that all-important third catcher they’ve been missing lately.

    Despite the lengthy medical report, the Reds overcame a rain delay and a homer by regular nemesis Lance Berkman to take an 8-5 decision over the Astros today, largely because the Reds played defense and the Astros didn’t. All eight Reds runs were unearned, the result of two fielding errors by Miguel Tejada and a pickoff throw by Humberto Quintero that went off Jerry Hairston’s foot and into a camera well.

    This was the kind of game that the Reds would have been on the losing end of not so very long ago, and it’s a lot more fun being a Reds fan when they’re winning these games instead. Now if they can only just finally smack Roy Oswalt around tomorrow. Then B-Yo can mow ’em down on Wednesday and we can break out the brooms again!

    As far as Baker goes, there’s only been one thing he’s done this year that I really didn’t like…and even that was actually something he didn’t do. In that 16-inning game against the Padres, he changed pitchers twice in the eighth inning and didn’t double switch.

    The pitcher’s slot came up in the ninth. That burned Danny Herrera, who only faced one batter. Herrera struck out Giles and that was it, only one batter faced by the long reliever in a 16-inning game. But if that’s the worst thing I can find about Dusty for me to gripe about, that’s fine with me. By this time a couple years ago, I already had enough gripes about Jerry Narron to fill an encyclopedia.

    Hope the Red Hot Family, and everyone else out there, has had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

  2. Mark T says:

    It’s probalby a good idea to start non-regulars against Houston. The regs seem to have it in their mind that they can’t beat these guys. Someone forgot to tell the Newbies.

    Adam Dunn could not say enough nice things about Roy Oswalt when he was a Red. He was way too submissive.

  3. Well its not as bad as quotes past, but here are a couple recent Dustyism’s worth remembering in future generations:

    “I ain’t no front runner” — when questioned about starting hot-hitting Nix over slumping Dickerson.

    “Where would he play?” — on bringing up uber-hot Adam Rosales when 3/4 of the infield were struggling mightily. He added that Adam needs to learn to “slow down the game” as further reason why he needs to stay down in Louisville. As soon as Rosales was promoted and Nix began starting more often the team went on a huge winning streak and found themselves tied for first place (albeit very briefly).

  4. Also, RHM can we change the poll question?
    How about “who should be starting in left field on a regular basis:”

    1) Chris Dickerson
    2) Norris Hopper
    3) Johnny Gomes
    4) Lance Nix
    5) Platoon Gomes/Nix
    6) Trade for someone else
    7) Adam Dunn

    (you can eliminate Dunn and Hopper if that is too many choices)

    Another good one:

    Who should be the starting shortstop

    1) Alex Gonzalez
    2) Jeff Keppinger
    3) Jerry Hairston Jr.
    4) Adam Rosales
    5) Paul Janish

  5. Red Hot Mama says:

    Your poll question wish is granted; long live CTS.