It was not too long ago that the Reds were threatening in the NL Central, but since the All-Star Break, they are 6-17 and are only above the perennial cellar-dwelling Pirates in the division. I know Cincinnati to be one of the biggest baseball towns in America, but these days, the only thing bringing fans to the ballpark is the fact that looking ahead to the Bengals season is even more depressing. I've been following the Reds a lot more since I've moved to Iowa, and watching them embarrass themselves on a nightly basis makes me feel much better about the Brewers' frustrating second half. Some of it is bad luck, but Dusty Baker and the front office have turned what little talent this team had into a huge mess. The final straw for me was the baffling Encarnacion-for-Rolen trade the Reds pulled off. Smaller market teams have to dump payroll during the season if they're not doing so hot -or even if they are doing decently, see Pirates - that's just part of baseball, and I understand that. So with that mentality, I immediately thought when the Reds started backsliding that Harang, Arroyo, and/or Cordero were all going to get traded by the deadline. Instead, they mortage their future by trading their young third baseman for a slightly better hitting but much older and injury-prone one in Scott Rolen. J.P. Riccardi was laughing all the way to the bank when he pulled off that deal, because now he gets to keep Halladay next year with all the money he saved getting rid of Rolen. Way to go, Reds.
So then you start to think, maybe the Reds think they can contend, wow they were actually buyers at the deadline. But no, shortly after that Corey Patterson gets released, and probably their best setup man, David Weathers, got traded to the Brewers. And then Jay Bruce goes to the DL, so comes the deal to bring it all together - the Wladamir Balentien trade. What? Who is this fuckin guy? Really, no other outfield options out there to fill that void? I seem to recall the Red Sox and Rays each having a large surplus of outfielders, all of which are of the popular mediocre-talent, past-their-prime if they ever had one, high-price variety that the Reds like. There's seriously nobody you liked on the Pirates? I'm sure they'd have thrown in a couple pitchers and a bag of bats in the trade too. Speaking of the Pirates, the only remaining member of the 2004 Reds (the first year I lived in Cincinnati) is Aaron Harang, and he leads the league in losses with 13.
Don't worry, it's not just Walt Jocketty that is terrible, you're in this too Dusty. Do you want to maybe stop running pitchers out there in the 7th and 8th with well over 100 pitches? I watched the game the other night when Justin Lehr, who is no longer a promising young prospect but is enjoying a fantastic year at AAA, was trotted out to complete a game in which the Reds were up by 4 and Lehr was at 103 pitches in his 2nd start with the team, and all the while $44 million closer Francisco Cordero was available on the bench, who was clearly fresh from his lack of save opportunities. Dusty Baker has always been known as a guy that ignores pitch counts, and his hiring coinciding with the promotions of Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto in 2008 was a BAD omen. Since Lehr's complete game, Eddy Volquez had Tommy John surgery, and former project Mark Prior was cut by the Padres. See also Kerry Wood and Shawn Estes. Part of the problem is that Baker has been blessed with an awesome starting staff everywhere he's managed, thus inclining him to leave his pitchers out their longer, and helping to blind the public to what a horrible manager, both of the game and of pitchers specifically, Dusty really is.
As with the case of the Brewers, despite press ridicule of the manager, there's still no clear-cut solution. In the end, a healthy 25 guys that all contribute throughout the course of the season is what makes the difference, and the Reds have just been very poor in both the categories of staying healthy and performing this year. I mean, Scott Rolen took a pitch in the head in his first game as a Red, and their best hitter Joey Votto was on the DL for a month with sadness - there's not much you can do about that. Willy Taveras has not been getting on base, and when he does, he's too hurt to steal, and guys aren't driving him in except for Votto. Even former #1 prospect Jay Bruce's average dipped to about .240 before he went on the DL. It will be interesting to see just how well the Reds ride out the storm and how many moves are made in the offseason, because the Reds will eventually need about 40% of their payroll to lock up Votto and Bruce.
STANDINGS & UPCOMING SERIES AS OF 08.10
Brewers 55-56, -6.0 (3 v. Padres, 3 v. Astros)
Reds 48-62, -12.5 (3 @ Cardinals, 4 v. Nationals)
Twins 54-57, -5.5 (3 v. Royals, 3 v. Indians)
RACE FOR 2009 "MOST GAMES ATTENDED" TITLE:
Erik - 36 (+18 worked)
Peter - 48