Reds come back, hold on against Cardinals
The Reds showcased a well-balanced offensive attack yesterday, scoring in five of their final six innings to finish off a sweep of St. Louis. Despite a 9-2 lead going into the ninth, the game provided plenty of drama after Aroldis Chapman walked four of the five batters he faced. Seriously, Aroldis - enough with the walks, okay? Francisco Cordero, who pitched in each game of the series, nailed down the win by striking out Lance Berkman with runners on the corners. By sweeping St. Louis, the Reds reversed the top of the divisional standings and now hold a 1.5 game lead heading into a pair of two-game series against the Cubs and Pirates.
So you may have heard about some post-game shenanigans
Immediately after the last out, backup catcher Gerald Laird and possibly others from the St. Louis bench started shouting at Coco because Albert Pujols had been hit by a pitch earlier in the inning. Cordero explained the lunacy of the accusation after the game, pointing out that (1) he was up 0-2, and (2) was about to face two of the best hitters in the NL, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. ESPN's SweetSpot blog further notes that the pitch "wasn't that far off the plate ... maybe a couple inches. But like so many hitters these days, Pujols crowds the plate, his hands hanging over the black like a couple sides of beef." Lost in all of this is: we're talking about Gerald Laird. At least Jason LaRue had an actual career.
Mound condition, firework smoke, etc., etc. bother Chris Carpenter
Laird wasn't the only one grousing yesterday. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "A poorly conditioned mound bothered Chris Carpenter in the first inning. Lingering smoke from fireworks celebrating Ramon Hernandez' home run irritated him in the third. A string of defensive hijinks compounded by back luck led to another pain in the fourth." The first two points are nothing unexpected from the outspoken Carpenter, but the last point is worth further discussion. St. Louis faced series questions about its defense coming into the season. This weekend highlighted the Cards' weaknesses - fielding and relief pitching - at an inopportune time for the club. Again, from the St. Louis post-Dispatch:
Whether it was Tyler Greene playing a ground ball off to the side (badly) or Greene and Nick Punto failing to communicate on a chopper up the middle or Lance Berkman failing to run down balls in right field, the Cards confirmed your worst fears about their team defense.... The relief corps suffered wholesale failure against the Reds, leaving fans to wonder what the team’s next move should be.... Only Salas emerged from the weekend unscathed in the bullpen. So it would appear that he should be the team’s closer by default this week. In the wake of this disastrous weekend, change is needed.
Put another way, the Cardinals sorely lack the depth of its principal rival. The Cards have long been a top-heavy team but managed to succeed by employing a number of serviceable role/bench players. That doesn't seem to be the case this year. Switching shortstops from Brendan Ryan to Ryan Theriot, for instance, sacrifices much more defense than any gain from Theoriot's weak bat. Moving Kyle McClellan into the rotation isn't a terrible move in isolation, but the bullpen's meltdowns this year underscores how badly they need a quality arm in relief. It will be interesting to see if St. Louis makes any big moves this summer.
Fay - Cueto enjoys the "best outing of his career"
Cueto's quiet excellence on Saturday was perhaps the most significant on-field achievement this weekend. I wouldn't go as far as Fay here (his debut against Arizona is a game I won't forget in a while), but it was great to see Johnny's rockets befuddle the league's best offense to date. Ramon Hernandez thought Cueto had it all working: "He was locating his fastball, both sides. When he controls that, he can get ahead of the hitters. Then, later on in the game, he can go with all his pitches and get a little more aggressive. That’s how he gets lot of outs." I caught a few innings early on and thought Cueto worked the inside of the plate really well. He also showed some serious gas, striking out Tyler Greene (I think) on a 96 MPH fastball that caught the lower part of the zone. Captain Obvious tells me that if Cueto and Homer are on, this Reds team will be tough to beat.
Is Gomes done as the full-time Leftfielder?
After a scorching start, Jonny Gomes has stopped hitting and just about everybody else has started demanding that he be drawn and quartered. Yesterday, Fred Lewis started for the third time in a week. Dusty Baker isn't using the "p" word yet, but it sounds like Leftfield will at least be a time-share for now: "That's part of my job is to match guys up in a situation where they're most likely to succeed, to match guys' strokes against guys I think they'll probably hit good. Some guys are fastball hitters. Some guys are low-ball hitters, high-ball hitters. That's what I did with Jonny Gomes a couple of years ago, and I thought Jonny might be ready to play against everybody. Maybe that's not the case yet. I just have to pick and choose who I try to play guys against." There's been a lot of belly-aching about Baker's obstinancy with Gomes. But giving your presumptive starter just six weeks before a change of plans is not a strong indication of stubbornness.
Hal McCoy, who has long defended Jonny Gomes, is also ready for a new plan: I have staunchly supported [Gomes]through thick and thin, only now it seems to be thin and thin. Since last June he is hitting .235 and most of the time is hopelessly lost at the plate. It might be time for an extended rest while Chris Heisey and Fred Lewis either platoon in left or time for one to get the majority of the playing time. Now I’ll step down off my soapbox and let general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker do their jobs. Clearly, though, some adjustments and tweaking is needed. Quickly. Gomes tweaked his hairdo over the weekend by shaving his head. Let's hope that's the slump-buster.
Hal also mentions that he recently shared a meal with Wayne Krivsky, who apparently still pulls for the Reds even though he now scouts for the Mets. It's kind of touching to hear that. Kriv had his drawbacks but showed promise as a GM, and I'm a little surprised that he hasn't landed elsewhere in a prominent front office position.
Todd Frazier's poor timing
With Gomes, Fred Lewis, and Chris Heisey all in the mix for Leftfield, there doesn't appear to be room for Todd Frazier even if Louisville manager Rick Seet thinks that Frazier's the best leftfielder with the Bats. It's bad timing for Frazier, because his other position, thirdbase, also looks set at the major league level with Scott Rolen's return. Fay speculates that if Frazier had been hitting this well when Rolen went on the disabled list, he would've had a shot at third base. Still, with Rolen's iffy shoulder there's a chance we'll see Frazier in Cincinnati this year.
Reds declare radio contest in "bad taste"
Good. As a Reds fan, last week's contest on WLW for free (roof) shingles due to TLR's condition (he has shingles, you see) was embarrassing. Reds Chief Operating Officer Phil Castellini agrees: "The Reds were not aware WLW was putting together this contest. It is in bad taste and does not reflect the spirit of respectful competition the Reds and our fans have toward Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals. We are disappointed our rights partner would execute such a contest and fail to consult us in advance so we could have prevented it from happening. Reds ownership has asked WLW to remove the page, and they are cooperating."
Reds, USC honor Sparky
The Reds have honored the passing of Sparky Anderson by wearing black "Sparky" patches on their right sleeves this year. Before Saturday's game, the team played a video tribute and handed out Sparky statues. Sparky's influence extends far beyond Reds country, however. Last week, USC honored Sparky Anderson by naming the first base corner in its baseball stadium after him. Sparky started out his baseball career as a ball boy and then a bat boy for the Trojans under legendary coach Rod Dedeaux. Said one former player: "Working with Dedeaux I’m sure made him a Hall of Fame manager with Cincinnati."
Reds let fans get Ks at the ballpark
In increments of five or ten, with the qualification that "k" is short for kilometer ran/walked. Because this is completely unclear, let me just say that the tenth annual Redlegs Run will be on Saturday, June 11. The first race I ever ran was the Pepsi Homerun Challenge (c. 1986), a 2.5 mile run that started during the middle of a doubleheader and let participants finish on the field at Riverfront. Running on the actual outfield turf was the highlight of my year, I'm sure. I'd love to do the Redlegs Run one of these days.
RL Nation - In which I predict that the Reds will sign Brandon Phillips to a contract extension
Following last week's social media feel-good story of BP showing up at a little league game after one of the players invited him via Twitter, Chad at Redleg Nation predicts that the team will lock down BP before his current contract comes up: They are probably going to overpay him, but I fully expect that the Reds are going to sign BP to an extension at some point. I've long resisted the belief that Jocketty would extend Phillips, but I'm starting to change my mind. Phillips won't continue to hit quite as well as he has (his babip is about 50 points higher than his career average), but if he plays in his second All-Star game, wins another Gold Glove, and finishes the year somewhere around his updated ZiPS (290/340/450), the pressure will be on the front office. I still say there's no hurry because the team holds an option for 2012. But I won't have to answer to the media and fans asking about DatDudeBP's latest tweet about his contract status this winter.
BtB - Retired Uniforms by Division: NL Central
Beyond the Box Score continues its series on retired numbers by division. It should be no surprise that the Central, which contains four NL clubs that have been around for over a century, is stacked. The Reds are fourth in the division with seven reitred player numbers but fifth in overall WAR. If we include Rose and Larkin in list, the Reds shoot up to second (tied) in total retired numbers and third in WAR.
Dave Concepcion, whose number 13 was retired by the Reds, also makes Tom Verducci's all-time all-13 team.
It was between Davey and Omar Vizquel, and Verducci correctly goes with Concepcion because "only one number 13 is retired."
Pete Rose speaks at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, says he still wants to manage
Number 14 spoke this weekend at the annual gala of the OJ&PC, a "non-partisan, nonprofit, public interest law office," at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Rose might seem like a strange choice for a non-profit organization that advocates for the disenfranchised, especially considering that one of the gala's attendees was The Hon. Arthur Spiegel - the judge who sentenced Rose to imprisonment for tax evasion in 1990 ("I don't go to many banquets where I sit with the judge that sent me to prison," Rose said, drawing laughter). But with this year's theme of "making Cincinnati a city of redemption," Rose's selection becomes obvious. Pete discussed his battles with gambling and redemption, and couldn't resist a plug to get back into the game: "I want to be a manager, that's the only role. But I'm running out of time. I want to teach young players.... It's a like a singer getting caught running a red light and not being able to sing again." Specious analogies aside, Rose is now 70. There's no way he'd be an effective major league manager at this point.
He Is Legend: The Astros Fan Who Ran On The Field And Got Away?
Whenever announcers complain about an attention-seeking fan running onto the field, I tune them out and pray for the camera to cut to the runner. Baseball games are long, and I don't see a big problem with a little unscripted comic relief every so often. And truthfully, I'm both jealous of the fan's momentary spotlight and confident that my own playground jukes would serve me well in the open field. On Friday night, a fan in Houston appeared to have done the improbable. Running through right and then center field, the fan deked a security guard and sprinted up Tal's Hill and over the CF fence. He then hopped another wall before climing onto the concourse near the train. Did he get away? Just remember, hope is a dangerous thing.
Pitchers & Poets - Fake Interview with Hal Morris
For those into '90s nostalgia, P&P has published an impressive number of articles on the firstbasemen of that decade. This imagined interview with Hal Morris is unfortunately not one of its stronger pieces. E.g.:
Interviewer: What was it like being a rookie starting at first base for that 1990 Reds team?
Hal Morris: At first it was like Chris Sabo dragging you to the mall so he could shop for a new pair of ball googles, and sometimes it’s like your down in Sarasota and Eric Davis keeps crapping in your scooper.
Anyways, there's also some really good stuff in this series, including this article comparing the swing transformations of Jeff Bagwell and Japan's Sadaharu Oh. Also, Pos tells the story of Royals 1B Jeff King, who retired in May 1999 simply because he had collected enough service time to earn a full pension. Those two are definitely worth checking out.