Sep 20, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney (15) is forced out by Cincinnati Reds shortstop Didi Gregorius during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. The Reds won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
The Reds are only a half game behind the Nationals for the best record in the National League. However, is it worth homefield advantage in the NLCS if the Reds have to play the winner of the play-in game? Yes, the winning wild card team is supposedly weaker than the division champions. Yes, there are two wild card teams that will likely waste their best pitchers in the play-in game. Nevertheless, the Braves and Cardinals* are both good teams that might be better than the Giants. Both Atlanta and St. Louis sport higher first, second, and third order win percentages than San Francisco per Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Standings. Would you rather the Reds face the Giants in the first round before playing the survivor of the Washington v. wild card series? Or would you rather the Reds face the wild card winner before playing the victor of the Washington v. San Francisco series?
*Neither the Braves or Cardinals have clinched, but they are the wild card leaders and favorites at this point. The Brewers or Dodgers could make a miraculous comeback in the final two weeks, but the odds are against them at this point.
Dusty Baker filled out the lineup for Chris Speier before going to the hospital on Wednesday night. David Bell may have contributed as well, given the number of Louisville Bats in the lineup. Regardless, the back-up lineup slapped nine hits including three doubles while also drawing four walks. On an even brighter note, McCoy reports that "Zack Cozart tested his left oblique before Thursday’s game and is pronounced ready to return to the lineup after missing 14 games."
More on the lineup:
We’re in a really good position where we can afford to do that," said Chris Speier, the bench coach and acting manager. "We had a tough one last night. You get to this time of season it’s really nice to be in a position where you can rest guys, make sure that we get ready physically before the playoffs. Having this kind of lead gives us a chance to play some of the younger guys. The other bench guys will get some at-bats, which is very, very important.
The article also mentions that Marty Brennaman will likely miss Clinchmas 2012 as he has the weekend off. Jim Kelch will fill in for the elder Brennaman. Finally, Speier added that there are no concerns about Ryan Ludwick's health after the leftfielder experienced tightness in his groin during Wednesday's game.
The headline is old news, but there is a nice narrative beneath the big story. One cannot help but feel a little sorry for Jason Berken. The twenty-eight year old right-hander spent the first three years of his major league career as a replacement level innings eater for the hapless Baltimore Orioles. He appeared in one game (on May 7th versus Texas) for the O's, but otherwise whiled away his 2012 season at AAA Norfolk. Baltimore became the best story in baseball, and Berken could only stare up at the orange, feathery belly of success. Somehow, his fortunes took a turn for the worse. On September 7th, the Chicago Cubs, the worst story in baseball every year, claimed Berken off the waiver wire. Then, during yesterday's game, Berken performed a punch-out feat that has eluded even Aroldis Chapman: He struck out four batters in an inning. Berken fanned Denis Phipps before striking out Ryan Hanigan on an out of control breaking ball that allowed the Reds catcher to reach via a dropped third strike. The Cubs starter then struck out Didi Gregorius and Johnny Cueto to end the inning. Perhaps the Orioles can win the AL pennant, and Berken will pick up something else that's rare on the Northside: a championship ring.
Walt Jocketty visited Dusty Baker in the hospital yesterday and reported that the Reds skipper is doing well. Baker is scheduled to return to the Queen City sometime this morning. Jocketty does not believe that Baker will manage tonight's game against the Dodgers saying, "We’ll wait and see. He will be at the ballpark." Get well soon, Dusty.
Have bats, will stay close to home.
Again, the compact geography of the Midwest gives a distinct advantage to teams in the NL Central. The Cincinnati Reds will log only 22, 505 miles next season, while the St. Louis Cardinals will go only 500 more. The San Francisco Giants, on the other hand, will travel just over 45,000 miles, more than double the Reds’ total. The teams in the NL East fall somewhere in between.
Here is a nice little story on the Reds great from the Daily News in Jacksonville, NC. Best of all, Bench avoids going into full-blown "get off my lawn" mode.
But while he is an avid fan of the Reds, Bench still keeps track of what’s going on in baseball. He likes some of what he sees, although not everything. Still, he said the game itself hasn’t changed over the years.
. . .
Bench also said that while players today are "bigger and stronger," players in his time could still compete with today’s talent.
"Are they better? No," he said. "We would have all played."
Around the league:
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria on Friday all but denied a published report that Larry Beinfest would be fired as the team’s president of baseball operations and replaced by assistant general manager Dan Jennings.
. . .
The Marlins have an 874-895 record in Beinfest’s 11 seasons heading up the team’s baseball operations department. But Loria has been involved in major personnel decisions, advocating the signing of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, John Buck and Randy Choate, among others.
One would think that Beinfest would have no trouble finding a job as a general manager or president of baseball operations given his track record. If he does experience difficulty, maybe the Reds could find a spot for him in the baseball operations department before another team does.