Friday, March 31, 2006

Hey Cincinnati ... are you ready for some baseball?!?

As I write this, April is less than one day away. For baseball fans, this means baseball -- the first sport in Cincinnati -- is here, too. After the Bengals flew into the playoffs last season as AFC Central Division Champions, the Reds may now be playing second fiddle to those guys for the first time in many years.

Obviously, the Bengals have yet to win a Championship at the highest level (the Super Bowl), but the Reds have a long history and World Championship trophies as well. Given how long the Reds have been a professional organization (1869), one would expect the Reds to have won a number of WS titles over the years (since WS began in 1903), but, sadly, the last one came in 1990. The "drought" is longer than most of the faithful Reds' fans would like, but most baseball fans are happy that at least we're not the Cubs (none since 1908 and holding).

As a "good" baseball fan would do, check out the statistics. There have been 101 World Series played since the first in 1903. The winningest team, by far, is probably the most love-hate team in baseball: the New York Yankees, 26 wins in 39 appearances. The next closest teams have nine (9) titles each: St. Louis Cardinals (the best NL team, in 16 appearances) and Oakland (/Philadelphia) Athletics (in 14 appearances). After those top three, whose combined titles at 26 + 9 + 9 = 44 of 101 is 43.5% of all titles won, the next tier of teams (with at least 3 titles each) make up most of the "chunk" up to 100%. The Reds, among others, are one of those teams. Those mid-tier champions (eight of them) are: Dodgers (LA & Brooklyn, 6 of 18), Red Sox (6 of 10), Giants (NY & SF, 5 of 17), Reds (5 of 9), Pirates (5 of 7), Tigers (4 of 9), Braves (Boston, Milwaukee, & Atlanta, 3 of 9), Orioles (3 of 7), White Sox (3 of 5), and Twins (/Senators, 3 of 6). Combining those Championships yields another 43 titles. Clearly, the other 14 titles were won by teams with two or fewer titles to their credit, which is the case. Two-time World Series champions include: the Mets, Marlins, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Indians. That accounts for 10 more titles, meaning that 4 teams (Angels, Royals, Phillies, and Diamondbacks) in the history of the World Series have only 1 title and the other teams still in existence not already noted have none. I don't need to mention anyone else -- you can use process-of-elimination to figure that out for yourselves.

There has been an interesting trend over the past decade of either first-time champions or teams that had Cubs-like droughts before getting over the hump. Between 1997 and this year, there have been three first-time winners (Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Angels) and two "it's been a really long time" winners (Red Sox and White Sox in the last two seasons). Other than those five teams, it's been the Yankees. So, the basic trend has been (with the exception of the second title for the Marlins in 2003): win your first title, win your first in a long time, or be the Yankees.

Since the Reds have won before and they're not the Yankees, I am not sure it has been long enough to qualify in the "long time" category yet. The Cubs have been overdue in forever (haven't even seen the World Series since 1945), and the current long streak in the AL is now the Indians (who last won in 1948). Maybe we'll get the Cubs versus Indians World Series, but I'm not banking on it.

What do Reds fans have to hope happens? Well, short of all-out collapses by both of the division front-runners (the Cardinals and the Astros), the division title looks pretty unlikely. I'm not a betting man (usually), but the chances are not with the Reds.

I have no doubt this team has offense. The reality is that last year's team had offense, too, but, like last year's team, there is still very little pitching depth. I would rank this year's starting rotation as about a half a letter grade better (maybe from a C to a C+), but it takes a B or better staff to get the job done historically. The 1990 Reds had an ace - Jose Rijo - that this staff has not produced (yet, anyway). Is Aaron Harang that ace? Is Brandon Claussen that ace? Bronson Arroyo was the fourth or fifth-best pitcher in Boston before he left, so I have to hope he's not the ace. Paul Wilson, who was considered the "ace" a couple of seasons ago, wasn't really an ace. Eric Milton has been a bust, but given his history with allowing home runs, that shouldn't have been a shock. This team could benefit greatly from a Roger Clemens / Randy Johnson / Jason Schmidt / Johan Santana type of starter that you could rely on for a strong outing almost every time he went out to the mound. The Reds don't have that.

To add insult to injury, this team still doesn't have a closer either. If David Weathers is the best we can do (no offense to him), we're toast. I had high hopes for Ryan Wagner to develop into a Brad Lidge /Billy Wagner -type performer, but it hasn't happened.

Oh well ... pray that this team overachieves by a lot. Otherwise, we'll be waiting (and praying) for the Bengals by July.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Baseball's Opening Day Less Than Week Away ... Hopes Renewed for New Season

Baseball fans are the eternal optimists of sports. Every season begins with the renewed hopes that this will be the year -- the division is their team's to win, the playoffs are in reach, and a World Series is in the cards. Of course, with the exception of the wild card being added just over the past decade, there are only three divisions in each league to be won, and eight spots make the playoffs out of 30 possible teams. Unfortunately, the odds are slightly worse for a National League team (16 teams for 4 spots) versus the American League (14 teams for 4 spots), but the odds are roughly the same (1 in 4 or 25% ... about 30% in the AL). Do you bet the farm on a 30% or less chance? Compared to the NFL (6 of 16 in each conference - nearly 40%) or the NBA (8 of 15 in each conference - more than half at 55%), the odds are not nearly in the favor of being a playoff team.

Inevitably, some teams (like the KC Royals or TB Devil Rays of the recent past) have been eliminated seemingly before the first month of the season was over. Having a much longer schedule than every other major sport -- at 162 games -- makes Major League Baseball success a grueling task. The longer schedule may give some teams unrealistic hope to turn things around, but, invariably, the streaks of bad luck only seem to be perpetuated over time and the cracks of a team become gaping holes.

The favorites going into this season pretty much read like the "who's who" of the most recent seasons. Breaking down the respective divisions is a pretty easy task, although expectations don't always match the final outcome (e.g. my beloved Reds back in 1990 for example).

AL East:
If you don't start by talking Yankees and Red Sox here, you haven't been paying attention. Although the Blue Jays are making some noise with off-season moves, the teams in New York and Boston are getting the typical nods as the favorites. From top to bottom, this division is probably the most talented and deep, making success that much more difficult when it comes to the playoffs. It's doubtful the Orioles or D-Rays have enough to stick with the big boys, but maybe one of the two could be better than expected. Only one of the bunch can win the division and a second is probably a favorite for the wild card spot. I will go out on a limb here and say the Blue Jays can exceed expectations and sneak into that wild card spot. The Yankees will do their typical thing and win the division yet again.

AL Central:
Arguably, this has been the most exciting division in recent years with a rotation of winners, and it produced last year's World Series champion, the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox are probably the team to beat again, and the rest of the teams will battle for potential runner-up. That's not to say that the Indians or Twins can't compete, but their odds are better for making a run at the wild card for the league. If the AL East doesn't beat them to it, the Indians or Twins could snatch that wild card spot if not make the White Sox sweat a bit in earning this division. Forget about the Tigers and Royals ... more same old, same old.

AL West:
The wild, wild west ... where the small-market exploits of the Athletics continue to prove that it takes more than just money to be successful. This division manages to produce playoff-worthy competition over the years, and the A's have the pitching talent to do it again. It's hard to say if the Angels can challenge the A's here, but they might. A wild card from the West is unlikely with the loaded decks in the other two divisions.

NL East:
You cannot talk about the East without talking about the Braves. Do they ever lose this division? Maybe the loss of pitching coach Leo Mazzone will have some lingering effects on the pitching staff, but the rest of this division looks too weak to be serious competition for Atlanta. Enough said.

NL Central:
Baseball's biggest division, with six teams, has a pretty talented pool of teams. If recent history holds true, the top teams will remain the top two from this division: the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals made the WS two years ago, while the Astros did it last year. Both teams lost to those darned Sox teams (Red and White, respectively) ... but this just might be the year for one of these two to crack the code and win the whole darned thing. Word on the street has been that perennial division also-ran Milwaukee just might be a contender this year ... now that would shake things up, to say the least.

I am a bit partial to my Reds in the Central, but I am realistic enough to know that Cincinnati lacks the pitching to be a real contender here. I DO believe they are better than the last place team, though, as I keep seeing predicted for them. Put them somewhere around mid-pack, but the offense has a lot of firepower to score some runs. Combine the lackluster starters with the extra run support ... either equals lots of high-scoring losses or possibly surprising wins.

NL West:
This used to be a fun division to watch but lately seems to produce the team that gets knocked out of the playoffs with relative ease. It is questionable as to which team will step up to win the division that no one seems to want to win, but the Dodgers seem to be a favorite, if not for the Giants and their great "Bonds question mark" hanging over the team. An average division will produce an average champ will little hope to be league champion.

It is a dangerous prospect to say who will win in the playoffs when they don't start until October and a whole season is yet to be played. Let's go out on a limb and then edit this post to look like a genius later (just kidding)...

East: Yankees [and Blue Jays for Wild Card]
Central: White Sox
West: Athletics

East: Braves
Central: Astros [and Cardinals for Wild Card]
West: Dodgers (or maybe Giants, doesn't really matter)

League Champions:
Athletics (just because I want someone new) and Astros (a second chance)

World Series:
Astros, for redemption from last year

Best of luck, Cincinnati Reds ... you're going to need it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

2005 Retrospective - Part II (2nd Half 2005 & Part of 1st)

August 08, 2005
Breaking My Silence: The Lost Journal Entries are Coming (Eventually)
I know, I know. What the heck has your faithful author been doing over these past two weeks while the Reds have actually been playing some decent baseball. Well, I really don't have any good excuses, to be truthful. I guess I got into a mid-summer slump, per se, while suffering through the hot summer days and nights.

I had one legitimate excuse and distraction during the time period -- the US Senior Open was being played up the road in Dayton (Kettering, to be exact) at NCR Country Club. I was a volunteer worker for the three shifts during the week: Monday's opening practice rounds, Thursday's opening Championship round, and Friday's second round. I also attended play on Wednesday (an entertaining day with a clinic by Peter Jacobson, the 2004 Champion) and the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday proved to be the most exciting as Allen Doyle (a relative no-name with a short, hockey-like swing) charged from behind with a closing round record 63 to capture the Open from a who's-who list of leaders. Given that all of this has nothing to do with baseball, I will digress ...

Getting back to those Reds, how about them?!? Let's see -- my last post was on July 23 after the Friday night game on 7/22 against the Brewers. At that point, the Reds had won their last 3 games. What happened next? Well, here is the quickie recap (I promise) ...

7/23 - An 11-7 Loss at home versus Milwaukee (no pitching, again -- awful outing by Claussen)

7/24 - A 3-2 Win to win the series against the Brewers 2 games to 1

7/25 - A 4-0 Loss at Los Angeles as Derek Lowe shut down the Reds (despite a decent outing by Aaron Harang, no offense)

7/26 - Another Loss, this time 7-4 with a so-so effort by Eric Milton

7/27 - The start of an impressive string starts tonight with a 7-6 hard-fought win at LA

7/28 - The Reds salvage a series split (2 games each) with a 6-1 win over the Dodgers with a much more solid effort by Brandon Claussen

7/29 - Luke Hudson helps lead the way as the Reds win their 3rd straight game in the opener versus the NL West-leading San Diego Padres in an 8-3 victory

7/30 - The Reds match their season-high win streak with 4 in a row, again defeating the Padres in game 2 of the series with a triumphant 9-1 margin and very good pitching by Aaron Harang

7/31 - The Reds have a season FIRST -- 5 STRAIGHT WINS! With this 7-1 victory, Eric Milton snaps back, the Reds sweep the Padres in 3 games, and the month of July is the best since April (finishing at 16-11 for the month)

So, how do they follow-up July to start August? Well, the even-quicker and dirtier version is losing 2 of 3 from Atlanta at home (12-2 clobbering loss in the opener 8/2, 8-5 squeaker win on 8/3, and a 7-4 loss on 8/4) then losing 2 of 3 from Florida over the weekend at home as well (5-1 loss on 8/5, a 4-3 win on 8/6, and a 2-0 tough loss on 8/7).

All of this recap brings us to summarize that, despite the gains of July, August hasn't been pretty so far. 2-4 in the first 6 games -- all at home -- with the Reds not looking like the team that won its' last 5 games in July, including 9-3 in their last 12 in the month. Tonight was minor redemption, playing spoiler to the Chicago Cubs in Chicago with a 9-4 victory.

Given that this post has been mostly catch-up on my part, I'll top this one with a game recap in a follow-up post.

Posted by JD Rentz on August 08, 2005 at 11:55 PM in My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2005
No Shortage of Power as Reds Continuing Winning Ways Over Brewers
Great American Ball Park has been very, very good to the Cincinnati Reds. Although the pitching hasn't benefited much from it, the batters and the offense sure have. Friday night's game was another example of the offense winning with a combination of hitting (15 hits) and scoring (11 runs) being enough to overcome a pretty good offensive night for the visitors (6 runs on 11 hits).

Starter Ramon Ortiz delivered a solid pitching effort for the Reds, allowing only 3 runs on 7 hits with 5 strikeouts and no walks in his seven innings of work. His counterpart, Tomo Ohka, did not fare nearly as well versus the Reds' offense, allowing 7 runs on 10 hits with 5 strikeouts and 3 walks in only six innings of work. Both bullpens had a bit of struggles -- notably 3 runs allowed each by Ricky Bottalico for the Brewers and by Kent Mercker for the Reds. Mercker is likely suffering from too much work (too many innings), so bringing him into a game with the Reds leading by 7 runs (10-3) at the time didn't make much sense.

The final score of 11-6 was much more indicative of an offensive battle than a pitching duel (clearly). The Reds offense was highlighted by two more homers by Adam Dunn (his 26th a solo shot in the 3rd and his 27th a 2-run blast in the 7th), a solo homer by Felipe Lopez (his 16th in the 6th), and a closing solo shot by Joe Randa in the bottom of the 8th. Randa and Dunn drove in game-high 3 RBI each to account for over half the scoring. Javier Valentin, our regular star these days, drove in 2 RBI as well while Lopez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Jacob Cruz had 1 RBI each. The Brewers countered with 2 RBI each from Rickie Weeks (a 2-run homer in the 7th) and from Geoff Jenkins. Carlos Lee contributed the only other RBI, with the sixth run coming on a double-play ball fom Jenkins in the 8th.

Riding a 3-game winning streak and now winners of 6 of their last 8, the Reds hope to continue the uphill battle towards the middle of the NL Central. Games like the last few will certainly help in that effort. With Friday's win, the Reds climbed out of last place (by a 1/2 game) over the Pirates for the first time in over a month and a half (since the May swoon). The Brewers, their opponent for the next two games, are clearly next in their sights to move up into 4th place in the coming weeks.

As I close out another post, I will finish by saying my mantra -- let us hope we keep moving in this direction and the winning continues. It is much more enjoyable to write about wins than losses.

Posted by JD Rentz on July 23, 2005 at 12:56 PM in Ballgames, Ballparks, My Team(s), Players Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

July 14, 2005
The 2nd Half is Here ... Do We Surge or Do we Swoon?!?
After this year's All-Star break, the real question seems to be this:

When does the fire sale begin?

Yes, much like two seasons ago, we appear to be headed towards more bad days ahead as the remaining talent this team has might be traded away. My hope is that we can manage some great big blockbuster with an organization having pitching depth (particularly some lower MLB rotation or AAA aces in the waiting) or possibly a series of mini-trades to get the kind of pitching to last over the next two to three seasons (at least, if not more).

Of course, with GM Dan O'Brien at the helm, I have to pray really hard that he can make something happen that will satisfy the Red Rooters in the Tri-State area and beyond. I am quite certain I will be a harsh critic, given my history ... although good trades are often not determined fully until multiple seasons come to pass. Anyway, I don't need to make two consecutive posts on the exact same topic, so onto the topic of surge or swoon ...

My personal belief is that the team will do anything it can to surge knowing that the roster is going to be shaken soon. Unless the team rolls off an unlikely stretch (like 10+ straight wins ... I can dream, can't I?), the trades are looming. Then, if a trade or two happens, the follow-up probably will be a swoon UNLESS the new talent (whoever they might be) can contribute from day one and make some major impact.

I feel like my writing impulses have slowed as the team fell further into the doldrums, but a positive to consider (if there is much positive) is that the Reds looked respectable right before the break and were playing around .500 (again). The only way to make up their hole, though, is to win, and win, and win some more. Odds of that happening? Pretty darn slim, I might say.

I must keep a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind that the Reds could still be respectable THIS season ... as hard as that has been. Regardless of the first half of this season, the Reds CAN win more games than they lose in the second half. There is not much more to lose ... and my fingers are crossed.

Posted by JD Rentz on July 14, 2005 at 07:11 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

July 12, 2005
All-Star Break - A Review of Where The Game Stands
At this point in the season, a serious baseball fan like myself needs to make a true assessment of the "state of the game" from an overall perspective. The actual All-Star game notwithstanding, it appears that MLB has made some serious gains in attendance (generally speaking) relative to the losses from the past decade after 1994. Although I am quite certain baseball is not the fan favorite it once was, there are good reasons to remain a fan these days.

Observation #1: The baseball action has been exciting, and the teams are positioning themselves for runs at the playoffs.

Traditionalists (if many are left) will say that most changes to MLB over the past quarter century have been bad, but I will say that the Wild Card was, by itself, the most exciting thing Bud Selig could have done post-1994's strike. The very thought of your team having the opportunity to compete for the postseason in a tough division (such as past champions like the Marlins, Angels, or Red Sox) changed the complexion of the game as we knew it. Were the Red Sox less deserving of the World Series Championship last year because they were the Wild Card team? Heck no ... that added to the excitement in the ALCS against the AL East champion Yankees. This year, while the White Sox and the Cardinals are dominating their respective Central divisions, teams like the Twins, Indians, Astros, still have a chance to make the postseason, too. Speaking of that...

Observation #2: How good are the White Sox and Cardinals this year?!?

I knew the Cardinals were good last year (minus their collapse versus the Red Sox in the Series), but I did not know the White Sox would be this strong. They are the BEST team in baseball at 57-29 (86 games down, 76 games remaining). The Cardinals have one less win at 56-32, although they have only 74 games remaining after the break. Undeniably, based on records alone, the Cardinals could be facing Sox again -- just White ones and not Red ones.

Observation #3: Can the Red Sox make it again?

Speaking of the Red Sox, they are leading a very tough AL East with three teams (the Orioles, Yankees, and Blue Jays) still in the running. The 2nd place team in this division is not a lock to get the Wild Card this year ... especially with the next tier in the Central (Twins and Indians) poised for that spot as well. This could truly be interesting to watch before all is said and done.

Observation #4: How about the Washington Nationals?

Are these guys legit?!? I hope so, as they might break the Braves' stranglehold on the NL East. Of course, don't tell that to the always-there Atlanta team ... they're only two games back of the Nats. This division might just produce the Wild Card this year.

Observation #5: How bad are the Devil Rays, Royals, Rockies, and (ugh) Reds???

The Devil Rays don't seem to deserve to be in the league anymore ... they simply don't compete well, and Lou Piniella looks to be ready to quit. The Royals were so bad that Tony Pena simply quit out of the blue ... and, yes, this team (once a great competitor) is going nowhere fast. The Rockies fire their manager (Hurdle) and hire an also-ran (sorry, Buddy Bell, but let's face facts) as proof they have no idea where they are going. Now, that brings me to my beloved Reds. Time to start a new (and last) paragraph...

The Reds, on paper, should have been competitive this season. The offense was (and still is) solid, the pitching was improved, and the remaining question marks could be resolved with minor league help and some key acquisitions during the season. Well, on July 12th, we are more clueless as to this moxie of this team than I thought we would be. Who exactly is the LEADER of this team? I apply that "leadership" both on the field and off of it. Dave Miley was a scapegoat to an extent but clearly failed to rally the troops this year. Of course, having a disabled "ace" (Paul Wilson), an underperforming starter (Eric Milton), and general inconsistency from the others (Brandon Claussen, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Harang, Luke Hudson ... and a cast of thousands), Miley's days were numbered in mid-May. It became a matter of when and not if after the May swoon. The bullpen (with "former closer" Danny Graves, was simply awful. Unfortunately, they still are weaker than they should be. Where have you gone, Nasty Boys??? The offense can click (score 10+ runs often), but then they go cold (check out the recent shutouts) the very next game. Jekyll and Hyde applies to the bats on this team. Most frustrating has been the leadership void by GM Dan O'Brien ... where has he been in all of this?!? Release Jimenez, then Graves, then Miley, followed by a demotion of Austin Kearns (for being too fat?!?). I'm sorry, but Austin Kearns, fat or not, deserves a spot on this roster. If not, then trade him for some pitching help. They are punishing him for his lack of "discipline" ... can the same be true for O'Brien? Where can the fans demote him?!?

Oh well, enough venting for one day. As a die-hard Reds fan, this season has been very frustrating to say the least. The sooner this misery is over, the better. At least I can follow the Indians as they turn their season around. It's a shame my hometown team cannot say the same.

Best of luck to all playoff contenders for the remainder of the season. I have no doubt this year's playoffs and World Series could be among the best, and most competitive, we have seen for some time. If things stay are they are right now, the NL would feature the Nationals, Cardinals, and Padres as division champs and the Braves would be the Wild Card. The AL would feature the Red Sox, White Sox, and Angels as division winners and the Twins would squeak into the Wild Card spot. Will this be the final outcome when the season finishes? Hard to say, but I like the potential for fireworks that could ensue. Major cities (Washington D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles / Anaheim) might all be represented in the post-season. Ratings could be great this year.

Major League Baseball can capitalize on a tremendous season and continue the turnaround ... one season at a time.

Posted by JD Rentz on July 12, 2005 at 06:36 PM in All Star Game, Ballgames, My Team(s), Players, Stats Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2005
Father's Day Surprise ... Reds Continue Poor Play
After abysmal play in the previous six games (losing those six straight to the Red Sox at Fenway and the first three of the four games versus the Braves at home), Sunday was an indicator that the hemorrhaging had stopped. Not that the Reds are any better now than they were one week ago, but I had predicted (foolishly) that this team could turn around the season by this upcoming series versus the Cardinals at home. Clearly, I was mistaken.

Despite taking two of three from the Orioles the previous weekend, being swept by the Sox and then losing three of four from Atlanta just isn't going to get things done. The Reds' season -- OFFICIALLY -- is now over. I give them ZERO chance of turning this one around (prove me wrong, guys).

The players don't seem to care anymore. Actually, I'm not sure that they have cared much all season. The pitching is horrendous. Even my "saving graces" of Harang, Wagner, Ortiz, have been rocked on multiple occasions. I have run out of words to express my frustration, so, to bring this post to a close, here were Sunday's only bright spots:

-- Griffey hits another Father's Day homer en route to helping the Reds win the game 11-8 in regulation nine innings. They tried to give this one away (as usual), but the offense saved it.

-- Adam Dunn hits yet another homer ... so be prepared to be traded, my friend. Your salary is soon to be too high for this team to afford. It has been a pleasure to watch you hit the ball. Maybe it's not too late to try your multi-sport career yet? Football might be even more lucrative for you.

-- Pitching?!? Was there anything positive about giving up 8 runs in this one? I don't think so.

Oh well...since the Reds aren't worth following for the rest of the season, maybe I'll start watching those darned Indians from up by the Lake. I heard they just won their 9th straight game. I heard those other (White) Sox aren't playing too badly either. Sorry, Reds ... the AL Central might be the one I start watching. Between the Twins, White Sox, Indians, and Tigers, I might need to switch my allegiances soon.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 20, 2005 at 12:50 PM in My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 17, 2005
Is Anybody Still Watching These Guys?!?
After listening to another pathetic loss by the "good guys," I am beginning to question my allegiance to this sorry group of losers. Now, we watch as the home team cannot even win a home game. Can it get much more sorry than this? My heart says no, but my head says it probably will get worse before it gets better.

How do the Reds lose 5-2 versus an Atlanta team in the series opener when that team is last in the league in scoring? Well, apparently, if your offense is bad (although they shouldn't be) and your pitching is weak (which it is), you have the perfect combination for losing.

John Smoltz is a good pitcher, don't get me wrong, but how can the Reds fail to score any runs against him and especially against that Atlanta bullpen. Does the name Chris Reitsma mean anything to anyone reading this? Well, another former Red bites us AGAIN. Just wait until we face the Mets again ... Graves will be foaming at the mouth to face this gang.

I have very little in a positive tone to write about this team. I HOPE that something POSITIVE happens ... and SOON. Losing four straight now (3 on the road against the WS Champions (Red Sox) and this last game at home against the Braves) is enough to make any Red-blooded fanatic upset. It is "fun" watching your team being the laughingstock of the league with the level of talent this offense has.

SHAPE UP, Gentlemen. You are making way too much money to be this awful. Wouldn't you like to see a performance-based contract *standard* in MLB (or in ANY sport for that matter)? I know I would ... these bums wouldn't be making anywhere near $5 Million+ a year (or more, for the "superstars" of the game). Why should professional sports be the equivalent of celebrity actors and musicians? Yes, what they do is entertainment but exactly how much talent does it take to strikeout 150+ times a year, hit under .250, and play shoddy defense? I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing a multi-million contract isn't worth that level of talent (i.e. most of the league).

Posted by JD Rentz on June 17, 2005 at 01:53 PM in My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 09, 2005
So Where Do We Go From Here?!?
I would hope the obvious answer to the question of "where do we go from here" could be answered over the next week to 10 days. Last season, the swoon didn't occur until very near the All-Star break; however, the team seemed to stumble out of the gate this year. Despite a 3-game sweep of the Mets in the season-opening series, the Reds are riding a very interesting roller coaster. The past three games are indicative of the season to date.

Allow me to preface the following discussion with an apology to any "loyal" readers out there who may have stumbled upon The RentzFree Zone purely by accident. Yes, my loyalty to the Reds is without a doubt. I have been a fan for a LONG time -- 20 years through 2005. I was 11 when I attended my first game in 1987 versus those aforementioned New York Mets, in which the Reds won 7 to 4. I saw both Eric Davis (my favorite that year) and Darryl Strawberry (the enemy, albeit Davis' friend from LA) hit homeruns while John Franco closed out the game with a save. In the time that has spanned that gap, I have followed other sports (gasp!) like football, basketball, golf, auto racing, etc. but my heart always returns to my first love of baseball. That being said, I have been "distracted" over the past few weeks with my NASCAR obsession and attended two races (Charlotte two weekends ago and Dover last weekend), so I must admit my journal suffered in the interim. Granted, the Reds were heading in the wrong direction in that same time period (some ugly, frustrating losses), but my only excuse was being on the road without a good Internet connection. I hope to rectify the situation for my fellow Reds' rooters (the remaining loyalists out there) who believe that this year's team can STILL make a run at the post-season. And, no, I'm not smoking any funny substances ...

Here is where we stand on June 9, 2005 (my birthday, as an aside):

-- The Reds completed a 3-game sweep of the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays in very impressive fashion tonight. Each game featured a high-powered offense versus less-than-stellar pitching. Poor Lou Piniella ... lucky Reds.

-- The Reds stand 5th out of 6 teams in the NL Central. The Cardinals have this division under control, but I question their "invincibility" over the season. Don't get me wrong -- their .644 winning percentage is 2nd-best in MLB -- but the Cubs appear to be coming around, too. Can the Reds win this division? My guess is NO ... but anything is possible.

-- Can the Reds win the Wild Card if they don't win the division? Maybe, I say, because the overall National League has bright spots like the Cardinals (.644), Padres (.583), and the surprising Nationals (.567), but I watched the Reds play some very solid games (despite some BAD games, too) against each of these teams. Why am I convinced this team is better than it's 24-35 record? I have watched them play multiple games in person at home, and I know what this team CAN DO in the right situations. Only time will tell now...

In a nutshell, the Reds have had an up-and-down roller coaster season. Every good stretch is followed by an uglier bad stretch. Look at the month of May for some proof ... 5 L, 1 W, 2 L, 1 W, 1 L, 1 W, 1 L, 1 W (see a pattern yet?), 4 L, 1 W, 2 L, 3 W (post-Graves release), 1 L, 1 W, 1 L, 2 W, 1 L. 18 Losses (5 by one run) and only 11 Wins (3 by one run) set the tone for the season, and we are here at 11 games under mostly because of late April and all of May. In the first two weeks of June so far, 4 straight losses (actually 5 with the last game of May) and 3 straight wins (matching the season high) continue the steaky play.

Can the Reds actually win a 4th (or more) straight game? If this team reaches 6 straight (i.e. sweep Baltimore this weekend), then we have a legitimate contender. If they take 2 of 3, I am encouraged as well, but anything less than 2 wins this weekend is a bad omen. The series at Boston does not bode well unless miracles happen, although I like their chances in the subsequent series first versus Atlanta and then versus St. Louis at home. Watch the next four series to know what to expect the rest of the season (IMHO) ... they need to win each series to get back into contention (2 of 3 for three series and 3 of 4 for the Atlanta series). I think it is very possible, and I HOPE to write on June 23 that this team is no longer 11 games under ... they SHOULD HAVE won 10 of their last 13 and stand only 4 games under .500 and back in contention for the division and the wild card.


Posted by JD Rentz on June 09, 2005 at 11:11 PM in My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 01, 2005
A Blessing in Disguise ... or An Eventual Curse?!?
Will the Reds regret releasing Danny Graves when all is said and done? My current answer would be NO, but, at the same time, the euphoria over winning 6 out of 9 since the release of Graves could be an omen of better times ... or worse times if the team has another letdown. Will another player need to be let go if that happens?!?

Well, regardless of my speculation, seeing a team winning at a .666 clip is evidence enough that the team made a pact with the devil before releasing Graves. All kidding aside, winning 2 series (versus Cleveland and Washington) and splitting the third (versus Pittsburgh) has to be seen as overcoming great complacency earlier this season. More specifically, the move of Graves was a trigger that has sent the Reds flying faster than a speeding bullet over the past two weeks.

Yes, this team still has issues, but I stand by something I said on my personal blog at the start of the season: the Reds are still playoff contenders. What I will say now that I also alluded to then was this: the Reds' pitching staff will make or break them ... period. Not that the fact that pitching almost always wins in a playoff scenario makes that statement any less significant, but I do know that quality pitching is what the Reds have lacked for the past 5+ seasons. Paul Wilson is not, and has not been, a bonafide ace. Eric Milton was an "ace" with the Phillies, but, again, that isn't saying much. Aaron Harang, if folks may remember, was an Oakland Athletic at one time alongside the likes of Hudson, Zito, and Mulder (the Big 3 that rivaled Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz as multiple aces on one staff). Harang has lived in the shadows for some time ... might he be the new ace of this staff? I can only hope. Claussen has been the "next big thing" for some time ... maybe he'll pan out eventually.

All of these guys bring me to Ramon Ortiz. Ortiz had a very good season in 2002, especially given he was instrumental for the Angels winning the Championship that season. I give Ortiz the credit he deserves -- he was a good pitcher on a good team that paralleled the success of previous "underdog" teams of their kind (e.g. 1990 Cincinnati Reds). Underdog teams have nothing to lose and everything to gain ... they're not expected to win, so the pressure is on the other teams to beat them. Ah, aren't Cinderella stories grand?!?

I used to like Atlanta Braves' baseball until they became so darned repeatably good. However, given that they have only won one Championship in all of those years of divisional and league championships, I still admire the consistency they display despite a changing cast of players. The Yankees try to buy wins ... but MLB proves money doesn't buy success, or championships at the highest level, either.

Small-market teams, like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, KC, and, particularly, St. Louis, are proof that lack of money can cost victories BUT not necessarily cost championships. Yes, the Yanks and Sox will be "better" without a salary cap; however, the Cardinals, Pirates, Reds,, manage to do more with less. Baseball IS a TEAM GAME ... let us hope that the good GM's out there don't forget that.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 01, 2005 at 02:08 PM in My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

2005 Retrospective -- Part I (Compilation from 1st Half 2005)

July 05, 2005
You Win One ... You Lose More
Although this season for the Reds has been the most disgusting to watch in recent memory, I would be remiss to not mention that the last-place Cincinnati squad actually won a road game on Monday, July 4th -- the day of American Independence.

Alas, this has been a season of my personal discontent, not to mention the discontent of thousands more in the Tri-State area of Cincinnati / SE Indiana / N Kentucky. To see the Reds win an offensive battle 11-10 on the road against the SF Giants is somewhat heartwarming, but then I realize that it represents only the 32nd win of the season (versus an ugly 50 losses) and only the 8th road win (versus 28 crushing defeats). It only takes some simple math to realize that with an 8-28 road record, these Reds are 24-22 at home. The amazing thing about that home record -- the pitching has been better at GABP (not known for being pitcher-friendly) than at many road venues.

How can this team be this bad? The pitching stats say a lot -- second worst team ERA to only the TB Devil Rays in all of MLB ... even worse than the Rockies! Based on the offensive stats (5th BEST in runs scored, 3rd in HR), why can't they win more games?!? Simply put, they score lots of runs in the meaningless blowout games and then struggle to score (like Sunday's shutout from Roger Clemens) in others. They cannot score when they need runs most and pile them on when only a few runs is enough.

Needless to say, my worst thoughts have come to pass. Dave Miley's departure hasn't changed this team at all -- if anything, I believe they have played more sloppy games since. 3-7 in their last 10 games isn't anything Jerry Narron can be proud to claim. 20 games back of the 1st place Cardinals is depressing. The Reds' season is now just for passing the time (low entertainment value) and listening to Marty preach on the radio about inane subjects (sorry, Marty, but you know it is going to happen).

I remember those late summers well with Marty and Joe talking about anything but baseball in August and September as the Reds drifted out of contention. Now, we are only in the first week of July, and the same thing is happening already with Marty and Steve up in the booth. I'm guessing the fire sale is soon the begin around the All-Star Game as weakened GM Dan O'Brien tries to garner some talent for the future around which the Reds *might* be able to build. My hope is for some talented pitching prospects who can win some games in 2006 and beyond. Pitching in general, especially the starters and middle relievers, has left a lot to be desired.

If Austin Kearns can sit idle down in Louisville while Dunn, Griffey, Pena, can play in Cincinnati, is he implied to be expendable?!? Otherwise, why is he there? An OF is due to be traded ... another IF might be as well (does anyone want a utility guy like Ryan Freel or our new All-Star Felipe Lopez). My bet(s) are on Adam Dunn (the biggest name with some bang for the buck) and probably Sean Casey (I hate to say it, but, if Graves could go, the Mayor can go as well). If Casey is not a catch, then Griffey is once again becoming one. Will the Reds let him go? Well, the teams that let the biggest names go seem to reap the benefits eventually (like the Mariners post-Griffey and/or A-Rod, That's not to say I don't want to keep Dunn, Griffey, or Casey, but I think at least one of them has to go to get enough pitching talent to make a trade worthwhile.

Enough ranting for now. I can tell my interest is waning when I don't cover a single game from the Astros' series this weekend. Losing three out of four tends to do that to someone, especially when I attend Sunday's fiasco in a 9-0 loss that featured a crowd cheering more for Roger Clemens (future HOF'er) than for any of the Reds' players (including Griffey).

Posted by JD Rentz on July 05, 2005 at 01:08 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 27, 2005
Deja Vu in the Battle of Ohio
Anybody else notice the consistency with which the Reds have been losing to the Indians? In a game on Sunday that the Reds could win without a doubt, the offense went silent. Given that CC Sabathia was on the mound, I might have forgiven them, but they seemed to find cracks in his armor early in the game and could not capitalize. Separately, after a series of weaker starts, Aaron Harang bounced back with a positive start, allowing only 3 runs in 6 innings. The final result of 4-3 in this one confirmed the outcome -- the Reds lose the season series at both parks the same way with 1-2 records at each and 2-4 overall.

This time, the bullpen couldn't stop the scoring when David Weathers gave up a run-scoring single to pinch hitter Victor Martinez in the bottom of the 8th. The Cleveland bullpen responded by closing the door on the Reds, with Bob Wickman recording his 21st save and Bob Howry (who worked only a 1/3 of a inning in the top of the 8th) notching the win.

The Reds get a day off after playing more consistent inconsistent baseball. As in the past, they win a few and then lose a few. The pattern continues. Jerry Narron notwithstanding, this team is proving to be not much better than a .500 club (at best) and still stands 30-45, worst in the NL Central and near the bottom of all of MLB.

The Cardinals have the Reds by a 17-game margin (yikes!), and it's not even July yet. For comparison, the divisional leaders in the NL have 47, 44, and 42 wins, respectively (St. Louis, Washington, and San Diego). The 2nd-place clubs aren't too shabby, either, with 38, 41, and 39 wins, respectively (Chicago, Atlanta, and Arizona). The NL East has a division full of teams competing for the wild card with the Mets in last place but with 37 wins (only a game under .500). The wild card race should be exciting down to the finish, with more than a half dozen teams in contention now.

Can the Reds compete for the division? As stated before, the answer is a definite no. The Cardinals are almost gone and 8 1/2 clear of the Cubs. Can the Reds get the wild card? At this point, the chances are slim and none ... and slim might be leaving soon (or has gone already). The wild card leader is Atlanta with 41 wins, and the Reds trail that mark by 11 games. Clearly, this team needs to win ... hmm ... every game in July to get back into contention?!?

When a team is 17 games back in the division, is 11 games back in the wild card, and, relatively speaking, has no pitching depth, there is nowhere to go but down. I wish I was more positive on this one, but I don't see a cloud with a silver lining. The ship was sinking before Miley was fired ... I can only hope that maybe Dan O'Brien gets a "reassignment" as well for botching so many moves this season.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 27, 2005 at 04:46 PM in Ballgames, My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 25, 2005
Too Little, Too Late
Despite winning their last 3 games in a row (two against the Cardinals and the first game of the series versus the Indians), tonight looked more like same old, same old with the Reds. In this one, the Reds went down early and stayed there all the way until the end. If not for a late 9th inning rally, the margin of the loss would have been worse. As it ended, a 12-7 final was all they could muster.

As usual, the pitching staff fell to pieces. The Reds' starter (Luke Hudson) got roughed up in a very bad 3rd inning that saw the Indians score 8 runs. The Reds had been leading (briefly) before that half inning. Given the 9-3 deficit, the Reds never really threatened for the remainder of the game. If not for the 4 runs in the 9th, the 12-3 score would have been the final, but a 12-7 final is not going to make the coach happy either.

All in all, the pitching on this team is atrocious. I don't really agree that Dave Miley was at fault completely for the team's pitching woes considering he didn't get to pick his pitching staff. That is the job of Dan O'Brien.

Clearly, O'Brien is not capable of doing his job or this team would have acquired some better pitchers. No offense, but Eric Milton gives up homers ... GABP is a homer-friendly park. Did anyone put two and two together on that one? Paul Wilson's injury notwithstanding, Harang (in general but not recently) and possibly Ramon Ortiz (ditto) have been the most reliable. Hudson, Claussen, have had moments but clearly nothing consistent. After today, the Reds are dead last in pitching ERA ... it has not been pretty to watch. If not for an offense with the firepower this one has (Dunn, Griffey, Pena, Lopez, etc.), the season record would be even worse.

Like I said before and will say again, let's hope they get their act together for next year. This season is not coming together without pitching help.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 25, 2005 at 11:35 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 22, 2005
Whew...Reds Hold Off Cardinals Rally
The seven-run lead that the Cincinnati Reds built up after three innings on Wednesday afternoon was enough to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals. Thankfully, they had that 7-0 luxury due to some timely hitting by a lineup that featured two RBI each from Rich Aurilia, Ken Griffey Jr., and Adam Dunn. Dunn's two RBI came on two solo HR, not unusual for Dunn given that most of his homers are solo shots. Dunn now has 20 HR on the season.

Rich Aurilia was the clear star of this game, going 3 for 5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored en route to the Reds' victory. Ramon Ortiz pitched a solid 7 innings of work versus his opponent, Mark Mulder, who fared far worse in giving up 7 runs in only 4 innings of work. Mulder falls to 8-5 (1-4 in his last five decisions) while Ortiz lifts his record to 3-5.

Things got interesting in this one after Mulder left the game. The bullpen combination of Reyes, King, and Tavarez allowed only 1 hit combined and held the Reds' offense without another scoring opportunity. Meanwhile, after Ortiz struggled through a bad 5th inning (allowing 3 runs), the Reds' bullpen didn't provide much initial support. Ryan Wagner faced only 3 batters, yielding a HBP, a walk, and an RBI single, while not getting any batters out. He relinquished the mound to David Weathers, who appeared to have induced a double play, but SS Felipe Lopez threw the ball away and allowed Weathers' two inherited runners-on-base to score. However, unlike Wagner, Weathers retired the side in the 8th and came out to close the door in the 9th.

As the Reds started the 9th inning, they clung to only a 7-6 lead, despite having that 7-0 lead earlier in the game. Weathers allowed a runner to reach in the ninth, which prompted Manager Narron to call upon Kent Mercker to close the door. Mercker did just that, striking out Jim Edmonds to preserve the Reds' victory.

The Reds now move on to see the Cleveland Indians for a weekend series to renew the Battle of Ohio after an off-day tomorrow (Thursday). Let us hope that the Reds can continue their improved play. My fingers are still crossed.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 22, 2005 at 05:50 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

Can You Believe This? Reds Starting to Play Again...
OK, this post might be jumping the gun a bit, but I have to admit I am excited again. Is Jerry Narron the cure for this team's ills? Did he light the fire under the players' behinds? Are these guys motivated to win FINALLY?!? All I can hope to answer is YES, YES, and definitely YES. The Reds are playing the role of giant-killers in the series finale versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

After a surprising 11-4 victory last night, the Reds have jumped out 6-0 in the rubber game of the 3-game series this afternoon. Nix that ... now it's 7-0! Man, what got into Rich Aurilia in this one? It must have been his spinach because Mark Mulder is very close to being pulled as the pitcher in this one. Who would have guessed that Jason Marquis in the second game and Mulder today would be rocked so badly?!? Not me ... not the way this offense had been sputtering along.

Well, with a 7-run lead, I am guessing that Ramon Ortiz can rest much easier. So much for the pitching duel I expected ... Ortiz hasn't given up a hit so far, but Mulder hasn't fared anywhere near as well. Although given the offense of the Cardinals, the Reds could use any help they can get.

My fingers are crossed for more offense from the good guys or, if not, no offense from those guys who are visiting. Never know ... maybe I can be right about this team yet. Jerry Narron: Keep it up, whatever you're doing!

Posted by JD Rentz on June 22, 2005 at 01:50 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

A New Manager, A New Pitching Coach, ... and A New Attitude?!?
Faithful readers:

I sit here today assessing the fallout of the events that transpired yesterday. First and foremost, the first day of summer (June 21st) also brought with it the first day of the Jerry Narron era. Dave Miley, as I anticipated in recent weeks, was the scapegoat in a situation that had evolved from bad to worse. Along with Miley's dismissal, long-time pitching coach Don Gullett, a critical member of the 1970's Big Red Machine, lost his job as well. As noted previously, none of this is a real surprise -- the Reds are worst in their division AND the pitching has been awful. I am a bit more surprised that Dan O'Brien is not in this mix as well ... he has not exactly been the "sparkplug" for the new Reds' "machine," but my guess is that his job is not particularly secure in the grand scheme of things.

What does all of this mean for the average Reds' fan? Well, my guess is that last night's game was an immediate response by this team to support the new coach, but, like the Graves' aftermath, immediate success with a new cast probably will not make much of a difference for the season. My belief at the start of this season was that this team could be a legitimate division contender AND make a run at post-season play. Did I think the World Series was a possibility? Not really, but I saw this team as a wild-card fighter. Now, given their awful record, the hole is that much bigger to escape, and I no longer see it happening.

Congratulations to the Reds in winning the first game for Jerry Narron on Monday night with an impressive 11-4 victory over the division-leading Cardinals. Instead of giving these guys the benefit of the doubt, I am going to be the Doubting Thomas until this team can restore my faith in them. I wish sincerely that this team can turn things around. I have doubted Dave Miley's decisions on multiple occasions, and I believe this team has more potential than their record has shown.

As I said once before and will say again, I expect things may still get worse before they get better. Miley was not the only "leader" of this team. Without the leader of years past (i.e. Barry Larkin), I didn't see the same team on the field at the start of this season. Sean Casey and/or Ken Griffey, Jr. -- if you want to be the leader(s) of this team, prove it. There is not much more to say than that. I still believe the All-Star break and the eventual trading deadline both loom large in the minds of Reds' ownership. Turn this team around, and the roster will be safe. Keep playing like losers, the fire sale begins (again).

In my humble opinion (IMHO) ... JDR

Posted by JD Rentz on June 22, 2005 at 01:27 PM in Ballgames, Coaching, My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 16, 2005
And This Series Sweep Belongs to the Red ... Sox!?!
Thank goodness we aren't playing those 1975 World Series games with the 2005 team (the 30th Anniversary of the accomplishment, no less). Given that 1975 and 1976 epitomized the peak of the Big Red Machine, 2005 will go down as the season of our discontent. NOTHING, and I mean nothing, has gone well this season. What on this team can we be happy to have seen so far?!? I have NO idea at this moment.

For as "above average" as the Reds are able to be while playing at home in the GABP, they are horrific while playing any games on the road. Think back to the opening games of the year ... sweep the Mets in three at home and then lose three straight to the Astros on the road. We should have known then what is painfully obvious now ... this team STINKS!

Whatever it was that I was smoking back in early April to think that the Reds were a playoff contender must have drifted into some of my previous posts over the past few weeks. The Danny Graves move (aka fiasco) is going to be regrettable based on what I am reading about his pitching in New York (with the Mets) so far. Before you know it, the "core" of this team is going to bite the dust. I think this much is a given: Griffey, Dunn, Casey, need to WATCH their BACKS. The trading block is inevitable at this juncture, and these three guys have the best chance of bringing a sliver of pitching talent to a team devoid of such skills.

Let's see ... I am not ashamed to admit my bad judgment at this point, given that I thought Ryan Wagner was worthwhile (or NOT). This team is FALLING APART ... how many teams ADD payroll and lose MORE games than the previous year?!? Well, I guess the Cincinnati Reds qualify.

I am so disgusted at this point that the last three games make me want to regurgitate my dinner. This team is playing without energy, without passion, and without commitment. The Reds as an organization need help all around, and the changes are coming any day now (especially for a team that stands an absolutely pathetic 6-24 on the road -- ugh!).

Miley, Allen, and O'Brien (as well as the bench coaches) should be prepared for the fallout ... somebody will get the axe soon. My bet is on Miley (and possibly O'Brien) ... too bad it needs to come to this.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 16, 2005 at 02:41 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 13, 2005
Will the REAL Reds Please Stand Up?!?
After a weekend that saw the Reds take an impressive two out of three from the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, one might think that they were turning the corner and playing better. That is, of course, until tonight's titantic struggle was played. With deference to Marty Brenneman and the "King" (Elvis), this game deserved a big "have mercy" from us fans. The final score of 10-3 in favor of the 'Sawks' said it all -- the offense was weak and the pitching was weaker.

From this fan's perspective, the last week of games has been somewhat surreal. Sweeping the Devil Rays was a nice perk, although not a shock realistically. Taking two games from the Orioles proved to be fortuitous given tonight's series opener at Fenway Park in Boston. Winning five of six seemed like a very big positive step in the right direction ... until tonight. The Reds have glaring problems -- they CANNOT win on the road (period) AND the pitching (e.g. Eric Milton) is inconsistent at best.

The 2005 Cincinnati Reds are truly a Jekyll and Hyde entity. The home games are usually the Dr. Jekyll side while the away games are almost always the ugly side of Mr. Hyde. Above .500 at home and abysmally under .400 on the road is proof enough of the home versus away issue without regard for the pitching staff effects. Can Luke Hudson make a difference in the important Tuesday night second game? I have to hope so.

Eric Milton has NOT delivered time and again ... an utter disappointment versus the expectations I (and others) had for him. Matt Clement outpitched him head-to-head in what could have been a matchup of two good pitchers. Clement has become an ace for the Sox ... Milton has become a has-been for the Reds (kind of like poor Paul Wilson). Is Milton nursing any injuries, too?!? I sure hope not ... although the AAA guys look pretty good these days. The last time I saw something like this was in 1989, and most of us remember what happened with the team the next year under new management.

Miley has to be on a very short rope these days. If he is not, I am very surprised. Kansas City changed managers (bye Pena, hello Buddy) ... Tampa Bay is falling apart (Piniella sounds disgruntled) ... Colorado is out-of-control and truly a shell of a once-respectable team trying to rebuild. What excuse does Cincinnati have? I don't think there is an excuse at this point ... other than the lack of pitching talent (is that broken record still playing???).

I hope that Mr. Hyde shows up for the next two games in Boston. A sweep will end the season effectively, while a single win is nothing more than a moral victory. Two wins is what this team needs ... and there are only two more games in which to get them. Let's be blunt -- the Reds need to WIN at least seven of the next nine to make this race anywhere near interesting against the rest of the NL Central.

The ship is sinking, Captain Miley ... what are you going to do next?

Posted by JD Rentz on June 13, 2005 at 11:22 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2005
Reds Win Again ... 4 of Last 5 Signal of Things to Come???
Thursday night, it appeared that the same old Reds were back as they fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opening game of their weekend series by an 8-4 margin. After an impressive sweep of the steady Washington Nationals the previous three days, one had to wonder if the momentum had halted. Friday night's game proved otherwise.

At long last, the Reds' players appear to be playing somewhere near their respective potentials, albeit better late than never. The match-up of starting pitchers Ramon Ortiz and Josh Fogg for the Reds and Pirates, respectively, proved to be an interesting one. Not necessarily stellar but acceptable, the two pitchers had reasonable starts, particularly for Ortiz. Ortiz, going 6 1/3 innings, gave up 3 runs, all earned, on an ugly 10 hits. However, coupled with only 1 walk and 4 strikeouts, this was a quality start deliverd by the Reds' starter. Fogg's line was better through the first 5 innings, although the 3-run sixth inning finally did him in after failing to retire a single batter.

From the sixth inning on, the game looked quite normal ... until the ninth. In the ninth, Dave Miley elected to bring on the closer-of-the-future in Ryan Wagner. Wagner has been pitching well over the entire season despite some shaky outings along the way. Friday night was a shaky effort, although far from anything former closer Danny Graves would have done.

Coming into the game with a two-run lead (5-3), Wagner promptly gave up base hits to both Castillo and Sanchez, leading to both runners being in scoring position (with Sanchez the tying run). Wagner looked as if he could still get out of the inning with the save until Ross, the next batter, reached first on a throwing error by Ryan Freel from second base. In the process, both Castillo and Sanchez scored (earned and unearned, respectively). Then, Wagner beared down and delivered the rest of the inning without fault. With Ross on second, Jack Wilson came on to pinch hit, produced a sacrifice to third, and Ross moved to third base via the out of Wilson. The winning run was 90 feet away with only one man out, but Wagner shined. Matt Lawton grounded weakly, fielded by the catcher and keeping pinch runner Cota on third. With two outs, Wagner fanned Wigginton swinging to end the threat. A collective sigh of relief from the faithful as the Reds came to bat in the home half of the inning.

In the bottom half of the ninth inning, the Pirates brought in Mike Gonzalez to hold the tie until extra innings could be played. The Reds made that point moot. After Valentin struck out swinging, Jason Romano doubled to left. Freel reached on an infield single, allowing Romano to move to third on the play. With runners on the corners and only one out, Felipe Lopez came through with a hard grounder towards shortstop on broken-bat contact. Romano broke towards the plate while the shattered bat fragment (and the ball) headed towards the Pirates' shortstop Sanchez. Sanchez fielded the ball cleanly but failed to get enough on the throw to home to get a sliding Romano, who was safe with the game-winning run.

With the win, the Reds look to take advantage of the home field again tonight with a 7:10 PM start on Saturday. The Reds have struggled with the Pirates within the brief history of GABP, but the tide may finally be turning. Tonight's matchup features Reds' "ace" Eric Milton versus the Pirates' Dave Williams. Williams has the better season mark with a 4-4 record and a 3.83 ERA. Milton came out of the gate poorly but appears to be getting his house in order in recent starts.

Cincinnati fans -- support your team tonight. Oh, and by the way, show up for the game because of the number retirement for #10, Sparky Anderson, who deserves the respect from an organization that let him go without fanfare. Let's show some love for the man who captained the Big Red Machine of the 1970's.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 28, 2005 at 06:56 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 25, 2005
Swish Those Swatters ... Reds Crush the Nats!!!
A three-game series sweep by the Reds over the Nationals ... how 'bout that?!?

In a 12-3 dominating performance, the Cincinnati Reds closed out the series this afternoon with a 3-game spectacle versus the Washington National (fka the Montreal Expos). Yes, this isn't exactly like sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals out of town, but it is significant considering that it has hinged on the release of former closer Danny Graves.

Who would have guessed that releasing Graves would inspire this team to greater things?!? Not me ... although I must admit his blasé attitude was his downfall. Giving the single-finger salute didn't help, either. Of course, this would all be moot if he had not blown multiple saves (with subsequent losses) while acting pious about the situation. In any case, his absence doesn't seem so bad so far.

Anyway, I have written WAY too many words today, so I will conclude with this thought:

The season is not over -- every team plays 162 games. The post-season is not determined until those 162 games are played and completed. The team with the best record on June 1st doesn't always (or usually, for that matter) win the division, the pennant, or the championship. Of the last four World Series winners, three were wild-card teams. The moral of the story: Don't give up until the last game is played. Nobody expected the Red Sox to win last season either.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 25, 2005 at 04:07 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (1)

Mr. Miley's Wild Ride
So, if you're the Cincinnati Reds, how do you top your Monday night performance against the Washington Nationals?!?

Well, if you're Dave Miley and the "new look" Reds, you go out the next night (Tuesday, 5/24) and win the unexpected game versus those Nats again. Of course, you don't do it in "conventional" fashion -- that would be too easy. Instead, you play your longest game of the year head-to-head with those D.C. boys and their manager (ex-Red and HOF'er Frank Robinson) ... and manage to win in the end. Needless to say, after 14 innings at the GABP (since I was there myself), I was ready to go home.

After getting to the game a bit late (in the middle of the third inning, after meeting up with my partner in crime), we had to buy seats in the more expensive section down the right field line ($25 each, to be exact ... ouch!). Well, at least I got my money's worth this night: a game that started at 7:05 PM and ended near the midnight hour (sometime around 11:30 as I recall). Not to fail to mention that this was also Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead night ... that was the reason for the "cheap seats" being sold so quickly. But, I will digress...

The game itself was generally an exercise in futility, although I could not tell if both teams' offenses were that weak or the pitching was that good. I would lean towards the former versus the latter since I have watched the Reds' pitching too many times this year already, but even the blind squirrels find nuts once in a while. In any case the game was 3-1 (Reds) after one inning, then 3-2 after six innings, and, after a pair of solid relief innings in the 7th and 8th by Wagner and Mercker, the 9th inning rolled around.

Mercker faced one batter in the 9th -- Nationals 1B Nick Johnson -- who promptly led off with a hit. He was advanced to third after consecutive outs delivered by reliever David Weathers until, unfortunately, he didn't get a called strike three against batter Marlon Byrd (as the moans rang out) and walked him instead. That brought PH Carlos Baerga (the ageless wonder is still playing?!? Was Julio Franco or Ruben Sierra not available to play???) to the plate to face Weathers. Baerga delivered an RBI single before Weathers could get the third out.

That series of unfortunate events in the 9th inning led to the playing of 5 more (!) innings of watching the grass grow. Neither team truly threatened again until the 14th inning, when the Reds led off the inning with a hit by Kearns, a Fielder's Choice allowed LaRue to reach. Then, with LaRue on first, light-hitting Luis Lopez delivered a gapper double that RF Guillen nearly caught but allowed to bounce away. That allowed LaRue to "motor" his way to third base and Lopez was on second. The next batter was the pitcher's spot, but the Reds has depleted the bench and really had no one else (besides possibly Eric Milton) who could be a pinch hitter. Since Randy Kiesler, fresh from AAA Louisville, had pitched the top of the 14th (and the 13th as well), he stayed out to hit for himself. Singlehandledly, Kiesler drove a liner up the middle (past the outstretched glove of SS Carroll), and LaRue scored easily from third base.

The Reds pulled themselves back from the brink and won their first back-to-back games since April 16th and 17th series versus the Astros. Miley became a genius in the same game he could have been the heel. The choice to go *closer-by-committee* has got to stop on this club. Designate Ryan Wagner as your default guy and THEN allow Weathers, Mercker, to set him up. Wagner was not the right guy to use in the 7th inning ... I second-guessed him then, and I still do now. I believe the Reds win in regulation (9 innings) if the sequence is Claussen - Weathers - Mercker - Wagner -- which would have been L - R - L - R sequencing (and which does work most of the time).

Regardless, I am very happy to see another Reds win at the ballpark, and I am encouraged further by a game in progress versus the Nationals in the *finale* today at 12:35 PM in a Business Day Special. The Reds lead 3 to 0 through 3 full innings, with Matt Belisle the *emergency* backup after Aaron Harang was scratched due to flu-like symptoms ... and so far, so good, with Belisle's efforts. Thank Felipe Lopez (2-run HR) and Ryan Freel (scored twice) so far.

Maybe my post-Opening Day / series prediction could still happen?!? You never know, stranger things have happened that could have the Reds seeing the post-season.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 25, 2005 at 10:31 AM in Ballgames, Coaching Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2005
The Battle of Ohio Returns
With an abysmal 14-26 W-L record, not much has gone well lately for my beloved home team. Since I moved to Cincinnati officially in 2004 after being a Reds fan for nearly 20 years, I have been to the ballpark more times than in the previous 5 years combined; however, this season has been a struggle to say the least. Finally, the Reds appear to be shaking things up on a team that needs some help at this stage of the season.

What happened today? Well, in my opinion, some things that should have happened sooner, honestly. Paul Wilson is going to get a rest for his spot in the rotation on Sunday, and Elizardo Ramirez will pitch again on Saturday followed by Ramon Ortiz on Sunday. I find this particular news encouraging, since Ramirez pitched well in his first MLB start last time around. Wilson has pitched horribly after mid-April and needs a rest, if nothing else. Ortiz seems to be gaining momentum as well ... now, if only Milton gets his act together, we might have a real starting four (with Harang tonight) worth having.

Anyway, the Cleveland Indians, that team from up north off I-71, has returned to town. It is hard to say which team is better liked in Ohio these days ... the Reds? ... the Indians? ... the Pirates?!? ... heck, maybe the Cubs?!? After the last series against Chicago, there were more Cubbies' fans than Reds' fans ... it bummed me to see that in GABP for the home team. This series is a battle of teams with less-than-stellar records ... with the 14-26 Reds versus the 17-22 Indians in what are likely to be "Titantic Struggles" (thanks Marty).

I am listening to tonight's game, like I usually do, with Marty and Steve on the play-by-play. There remains no score in the bottom of the 4th (0 - 0) with both Aaron Harang and Kevin Millwood pitching quite well, respectively. So far, only 2 hits for Cleveland and 3 hits for Cincinnati ... the offenses for both teams have been sputtering lately.

Well, enough about what seems like a meaningless game so far, but I would be remiss without discussing the designation for assignment of D'Angelo Jimenez by the Reds and calling up Luis Lopez from AAA. What does this mean? Jimenez is either going to be released or traded in the next 10 days. This is a turning point (not unlike the release of Jimmy Haynes some time ago in a different season). Will the Reds make more moves? I have to hope so, since change would be welcomed if it delivers more wins.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 20, 2005 at 08:33 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (2) TrackBack (0)

May 16, 2005
Complacency Strikes Back
Ah, the Reds are back to their .500 winning ways. Win a game, lose a game, win a game, lose a game, etc. As evidenced by the weekend series versus Philadelphia (which took place in the time since my last posting on Thursday), the Reds are acting like a better club with spurts of brilliance (such as Thursday's 7-5 come-from-behind win with Dunn's homer or Saturday's 12-4 clinic with pitching and hitting excellence by multiple players)). However, every quality win is followed by an equally crushing defeat. Friday night's game was a classic "here's what NOT to do when you play a game" game. A 12-2 final score is evidence enough that this team is Jekyll and Hyde game in and game out.

Yesterday's game was more in the style of the late-1990's Reds, with a close game and 1-run outcome. The primary difference between this team and the 1999 Reds (for instance): this team loses too many 1-run games. Actually, they are losing too many games in general, but I hope you get my point. Their record in 1-run games this season is 6 wins, 8 losses. This does not include multiple 2-run (or more) losses where the bullpen simply blew good leads from quality starts. Those 8 losses (such as yesterday's 4-3 loss versus the Phillies) is evidence of complacency in this team. My Reds of 1999 made their mark with comeback, 9th inning rallies that would turn losses into victories. The 1990 club had that ability as well.

Who used to make that happen? Well, for starters, Barry Larkin. The team captain was very good at inspiring his team's to play better than their abilities in some key games. If he himself didn't help win the game, other key contributors did. Don't get me wrong -- the manager(s) had something to do with the team's success as well. "Sweet" Lou Piniella and "Trader" Jack McKeon have done what they do best with teams of limited ability by demanding a lot and receiving more. Piniella *willed* the 1990 Reds to a World Series victory ... he could still be the manager today if the front office had been smarter. McKeon was deemed "too old" and "out of touch" yet he managed to win his own World Series in 2002 with the Marlins after the Reds let him go. Needless to say, the Reds organization has let some quality management slip through it's fingers over the years (Sparky Anderson after 1979 ... then a 1984 championship in Detroit, need I say more).

The current Reds are managed by Dave Miley -- a loyal minor league manager for many, many years who deserved to be given a shot to manage a Major League club. It is not clear to me after two years who I blame more: Miley for his lineup shenanigans (Griffey in the two slot?!? Randa at cleanup?!?) or John Allen, the GM, for not acquiring better pitching talent. No offense, fellow Reds fans, but this team's pitching (in general) stinks.

Allen should be held accountable for some poor acquisitions that have not bolstered this bullpen as hoped (promised). Ben Weber has been a disaster, while David Weathers has been a roller coaster ride. Joe Valentine is now gone (thankfully) while Ricky Stone (Valentine's replacement) is getting himself reacquainted with the Majors. Kent Mercker and Ryan Wagner have been godsends relative to their abilities to get people out, but they cannot do it alone and may get overworked by season's end.

Of course, I haven't mentioned everyone's favorite son, Danny Graves, who has become the darling of Reds baseball. Graves thinks the city of Cincinnati should bow before him for blowing leads on a regular basis while not understanding why any sensible fan might boo him on the occasions when he fails (miserably, I might add). I am a fantasy baseball addict, and Graves is NOT on ANY of my teams this year. In fact, he hasn't been a fantasy regular for me since the 2001 season (pre-starter experiment) when he WAS Mr. Reliable for saves. Blown saves are associated with Graves more than any other pitcher in recent memory. After the days of Franco, Myers, Dibble (and Charlton), Brantley,, maybe I just got spoiled by quality closers on this club. Those guys had their moments (to be sure); however, Graves is a spinning wheel that might land on "no runs, no hits, 1-2-3" one night and "5 runs, blown save, loss" the next. Need I say more?

As I have said before and will say again, the Reds need pitching help from dependable players. After watching Elizando Ramirez pitch yesterday in his first career start, I have a glimmer of hope that this team CAN turn this season around. However, the offense seems to sputter when the relief crew is better and the starters / relievers seem to blow up when the offense clicks.

If this team finds consistency and can avoid complacency, we might see an offseason contender yet. Otherwise, this season WON'T belong to the Reds.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 16, 2005 at 11:42 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2005
Another Day in Paradise
Paul Wilson no longer deserves the status of "ace" for the Cincinnati Reds. Actually, I am not sure he was ever deserving of the ace of this pitching rotation. Yes, Wilson was the best starting pitcher on last year's club; however, who was second?!? Well, it depends on the how you look at the stats, I suppose. Here is an interesting comparison between Wilson and three of his teammates: Aaron Harang (still here), Jose Acevedo (gone), and Cory Lidle (gone).

Paul Wilson 29 63 798 1 4.36 29 192 26 183.2 1.86 6 .647 0 11 1.39
Aaron Harang 28 53 711 1 4.86 28 177 26 161.0 2.36 9 .526 1 10 1.43
Jose Acevedo 39 45 704 0 5.94 27 188 30 157.2 2.60 12 .294 0 5 1.48
Cory Lidle 24 44 656 3 5.32 24 170 24 149.0 2.11 10 .412 1 7 1.44
[stats obtained from]

Now, Wilson had the most starts (29) but the other 3 were close (24+ starts). Wilson's ERA was "best" at 4.36, but this is hardly what an "ace" should have. Lidle had the most complete games (3) while nobody else had more than 1. The most telling statistics, IMHO, are for K/BB ratio and WHIP (Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched). Wilson had the best WHIP on the staff at 1.39 (respectable); however, he was worst in K/BB ratio at 1.86 versus his peers who all were 2.00 or greater. I would argue that Aaron Harang, as evidenced by his performance this year as well, is the new "ace" of this staff. Why? His record last season was 10-9 compared to Wilson's 11-6; however, this season, here are their stats:

Wilson 32 CIN 8 8 0 0 41.0 60 34 9 15 28 1 4 0 7.46 1.829
Harang 27 CIN 7 7 0 0 44.3 37 17 4 14 34 1 2 0 3.45 1.150
[stats obtained from]

Wilson is now 1-4 after yesterday's loss; Harang is 1-2 but should be better (thanks to Graves and the boys). The disparity in WHIP is glaring: 1.829 for Wilson (ugh) versus 1.15 (stellar) for Harang. K/BB ratio? 28/15 for Wilson (1.87) versus 34/14 for Harang (2.43) -- again, Harang is better. Oh, and for good measure, K/IP? 0.683 for Wilson (ugh again) versus 0.767 for Harang (not much better BUT it's better).

Clearly, Harang has assumed the Reds "ace" moniker for now, despite the Reds (and Dave Miley) betting the farm on Paul Wilson. Why have they done this? The answer is beyond me.

And, oh, btw...the Reds lost yesterday by a final score of 7-2 to the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park. That marks Wilson's fourth consecutive loss, with a line score of:

May. 11 SD L 7-2 5.0 12 5 5 1 1 4 9 6 96 29 26 L(1-4) - 7.46
[stats obtained from]

Need I say much more?!? 5 IP, 12 hits, 4 walks, and 9 K's with 5 ER allowed on 96 pitches. Not exactly the stuff of an ace, I would say. Roto stat translations:

K/IP = 9 / 5 = 1.8 ; K/BB = 9 / 4 = 2.25 ; WHIP = (4 + 12) / 5 = 3.20

Considering he has not had a quality start since a 4/30 no decision at Milwaukee, Paul Wilson should be demoted to long relief, and a new starter (anybody else with more talent at this point) should take his place.

Harang, by comparison, did this in his last outing:

May. 9 SD L 6-5 8.0 3 1 1 0 2 8 9 6 115 29 78 - - 3.45
[stats obtained from]

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 12, 2005 at 10:23 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rounding Third and Heading for Home (Deja Vu All Over Again)

[Editor's Note: I wrote the following (verbatim) on May 11, 2005. Some of the same statements hold true starting this 2006 season as were true early last season. While some names have changed (notably Danny Graves, thank goodness), some have stayed the same (like Eric Milton or Paul Wilson). More to come on this front ...]

The words of Joe Nuxhall echo through the room as he signs off at the conclusion of Reds' baseball game, after interviewing the "Star of the Game" for every broadcast he does. Granted, Joe is no longer an *active* radio broadcaster for the Reds; however, his words have been "immortalized" on the GABP in Cincinnati such that every car passing by on Interstate 71 can see them. Nevermore have his words been more meaningful with regard to this current team and the recent years of struggles.

The current squad of Reds has problems. First and foremost, the Reds lack a quality number one starter -- an "ace" of the starting rotation. While Paul Wilson sufficed last season, the belief was that Eric Milton and/or Ramon Ortiz would take the reins this season. Unfortunately, it has not happened. Aaron Harang leads the staff with a 3.45 ERA (hardly the stuff of an "ace") but has only one win to his credit. Brandon Claussen looked like he was coming around last night (versus the Padres), but, unfortunately as well, he was hit by a comebacker in the 4th inning and left the game with an ankle sprain. Milton is being himself so far ... 13 homers allowed in only 7 appearances (ouch!). Wilson has fallen apart completely, including an awful performance again today (5/11) versus San Diego, with an ERA over 8.00(!). Ortiz has been hurt (already), while I have suspicions that Wilson may be ailing as well. The starting pitching needs help ... big time.

Secondly, and equally important, the Reds lack bullpen depth. While they have "veteran" pitchers, Weber, Weathers, are not living up to expectation. Kent Mercker (who seems to bounce between clubs, including the Reds) is the bullpen "ace" with a sub-3.00 ERA ... and is the only one who can say that. The total staff ERA is atrocious, while Danny Graves (giving new meaning to the "Cardiac Kid") bemoans being booed for giving up runs and blowing saves / victories. Graves coming back to the bullpen, after failing as a converted starter, seems to be sliding slowly into retirement and/or middle relief. The power pitcher of the bullpen is Ryan Wagner -- case closed. Wagner is to the Reds like Brad Lidge is to the Astros: a hard-throwing pitcher with the "closer of the future" label. Lidge didn't get the opportunity until Octavio Dotel was shipped away ... maybe the Reds could do the same with Graves.

Third, and finally (for this post), the Reds lack speed. Ryan Freel is the only legitimate speedy threat on the bases, while Felipe Lopez trails significantly (although he is better than most others). Dunn supposedly has some "hidden" speed and Junior stole bases historically ... neither does much stealing now. Freel can make or break a game with his play ... the Reds need at least another player like him in the middle to back half of the lineup to make things happen (LaRue, Aurilia, Jimenez, etc. aren't cutting it).

With deference to Mr. Nuxhall, this is the *young righthander*, rounding third and heading for home ... let us hope the Reds figure out some ways to prevent the opposition from doing the same so often.

Friday, March 24, 2006

And This One Belongs to the Reds...

A good author should provide some background on himself or herself, especially in an "autobiographical" sense. Given that provision, allow me to introduce this journal post by beginning in the beginning.

My love for the Cincinnati Reds goes back more than 20 years, with my earliest memories of the teams from the 1984-1985 seasons. I recall with great admiration when Peter Edward Rose, the "king" of Cincinnati baseball, broke the unbreakable record for all-time hits -- 4,192 -- that year. Of course, he would go on to establish the new record (likely unbreakable for some time) of 4,256 hits in his long career -- a career worthy of Hall of Fame induction. Regardless of your personal feelings on Mr. Rose's personal misgivings, his career accomplishments merit induction. However, I will digress on that subject.

My first vivid memories of Reds' baseball came during the 1987 season, when I attended my first professional MLB games at the now-demolished Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. That year was an incredible year for me to watch my "local" team play for the NL West crown versus a tough San Francisco Giants club. It is hard to believe that in 18 short years, the Reds now play in the NL Central versus a very different set of teams (like the Cubs and the Cardinals).

The star of that 1987 team, without a doubt, was Eric Davis, arguably the best all-around player of that year (comparing quite favorably versus Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, et. al.). Given Eric's performance and declining health due to injuries in subsequent years, the 1987 season was the pinnacle of his career. Other stars were just beginning to shine, such as Barry Larkin, while others were fading into the sunset, like Davey Concepcion. This was a transitional team made up of established players (Concepcion, Dave Parker, Tom Browning, while moving further away from the Big Red Machine era. The Pete Rose managerial era was, without a doubt, an interesting one.

The 1990 season, in my memorable lifetime, was the best as a Reds' fan. Unquestionably, the year stands out for many reasons, not the least of which was the last (through 2004) World Series Championship for Cincinnati. Less obviously, I was born at the apex of the Big Red Machine era (1976), so, given the history of more "seasoned" Reds' fans, I would not deny them that 1975 and 1976 were the best in Reds' history. However, the 1990 team did things that those teams did not. Most significantly, the Reds established themselves as the only National League team (along with the 1984 Detroit Tigers, managed by Sparky Anderson, in the American League) to win a Championship in wire-to-wire fashion (never dropping out of 1st place during the entire season). This team was undeniably special.

The starting rotation of 1990 was anchored by Jose Rijo and Danny Jackson, as well as additional starters Jack Armstrong, Scott Scudder, Rick Mahler, and a cast of thousands (a sign of things to come). The strength of this team was clearly the bullpen, with the "Nasty Boys" of Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, and Norm Charlton. This trifecta rarely gave up a lead when given one ... especially when sequenced in the 6th / 7th innings through the 9th from Charlton (LHP) to Dibble (RHP) to Myers (LHP). The lefty-righty-lefty sequence worked very well, and the manager of that club -- "Sweet" Lou Piniella -- was this fan's dream come true.

The 1989 season had been a debacle in so many ways. Pete Rose, as the manager of the team, was indicted on tax evasion and gambling charges -- leading to his subsequent banishment from MLB indefinitely by Bart Giamatti (a respected baseball man / historian). Giamatti descended in the line of MLB commissioners from the days of Kennesaw Mountain Landis and the 1919 Black Sox scandal to take a very hard stance of baseball's no-tolerance gambling policy. However, during this same time period, baseball had more than its' share of behind-the-scenes drug problems from major stars (such as Darryl Strawberry or Steve Howe) that seemed to be pushed aside. This does not even begin the consider the *likelihood* of steroid use / abuse starting to be present within the league during that same time period (e.g. Jose Canseco on the WS Champion Oakland Athletics that same year). The 1989 World Series was marked by tragedy -- as the Bay Series between Oakland and San Francisco was delayed by a disastrous earthquake that fall. Needless to say, MLB needed some *positive* news the following season to re-generate fan interest and involvement.

The 1990 Reds featured a very capable starting line-up. Eric Davis continued to anchor the outfield, along with established talent in Paul O'Neill and Billy Hatcher and "lesser" talents in Glenn Braggs, Rolando Roomes, and Herm Winningham. Arguably, team leadership had transitioned from Davis (almost exclusively) to the starting shortstop, Barry Larkin. Larkin was the field general, and this team's infield was rock-solid. Chris Sabo played the hot corner (third base), Mariano Duncan manned second, and Todd Benzinger / Hal Morris platooned at first. Todd Benzinger, Bill Doran, Ron Oester, et. al. were solid platoon / bench players who played multiple positions as needed.

Expectations for this team were NOT high. In fact, the 1989 Reds had been so bad that most "experts" felt the Reds would be a mid-pack team in the NL West. Not only were they wrong in that regard but also wrong against the slightly favored Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS (with Bonilla, Bonds, and Van Slyke in the outfield). Then, the World Series came, where the Reds should have "crumbled" against the heavily favored, defending Champion Oakland A's. It didn't happen ... as history shows us, it was a four-game sweep by the Reds with highlight performances by Eric Davis, Billy Hatcher, and WS MVP Jose Rijo (winner of 2 games in the series, including the finale). Although the series itself lacked much drama (the Reds crushed the A's in many ways), the David versus Goliath element of the lowly Reds versus the "dynasty" A's was compelling.

Not once in the intervening years from 1990 to present (2006) have I ever denied my passion and commitment as a fanatic of MY Cincinnati Reds. There have been good years (1995 and 1999 were notable) and multiple bad years (too many to mention). Through it all, this fan has remained loyal to the team (and it's many players) who have provided indelible memories for my lifetime.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Welcome to the MLB Journal for the Ramblings of a Reds Fan!

After paying Major League Baseball ( for the privilege of using their website (via to post my insights and opinions, I decided that I really didn't need to go that route. Yes, it was nice to see my name in "lights" on their webpage alongside some of the names of the game (such as Tommy Lasorda), but I really don't need to pay more to publish my ideas when my own website works just fine, thank you. As a result, I am pulling some of the "best" of what I had there into what I have here to provide the same content without the extra personal cost. I hope you enjoy what you find here ...

I will start off the journal with a bit of a retrospective in a "best of" to pull in previous posts from the old blog. This should help new readers get up to speed and provide insight into yours truly in the process. Enjoy the ride!