As I read various articles about the Reds coming into this season, one of the things I am struck by is the selfless attitudes some of the players have shown. You might argue that being selfless is part of the job description for an athlete: they are paid a lot of money and so they should do whatever is asked of them without complaint. Here’s the thing though: that’s not always the way it works. There are stories all the time about disgruntled players who aren’t happy with their roles.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Reds, from stars down to role players. They all know what part they are auditioning for or what role they are to assume, and everyone seems on board. I just wanted to look at how the various moving parts have reacted to their new situations.
Jack Hannahan: Hannahan can play first, second and short and is open to the idea of bouncing around. He’s happy to be on a team built to win. Jason Donald has a similar attitude if he ends up making the team.
Chris Heisey: Heisey is a player that fans at various times have wanted starting instead of coming off the bench. Hal McCoy opines in an article that some teams would consider him an everyday player. Of course, Dusty Baker has said several times that he values Heisey more off the bench. For his part, Heisey has a good attitude, saying that he believes the Reds eventually will give him a chance if he can prove himself. He takes pride in what he brings to the table and appreciates the fact that Cincinnati gave him a shot in the big leagues to begin with. So while Heisey would like to start, he knows where his place is and seems alright with it for now.
Three pitchers have had their names linked together in the endless debate over whether Aroldis Chapman should be a reliever or a starter.
Jonathan Broxton: Broxton doesn’t know what his role will be yet, but he acknowledges that anything can happen because the Chapman situation is fluid. He’ll just prepare as normal. He’s looking forward to training camp and the season. This doesn’t sound like someone torn about what his role may be, whether it ends up being closing or setup.
Aroldis Chapman: My official position on Aroldis Chapman is this: why are some people getting so worked up about the idea of him starting? Spring training is going to go on for another five weeks, and there will be plenty of time to at least get an idea if this could work. If he flops, send him back to closing. Whatever my feelings, or your feelings, or the feelings of ESPN pundits, the man at the center of all this is fine either way. He has gone from wanting to start to feeling comfortable in the bullpen, but is open to whatever the team needs.
Mike Leake: Leake is very aware that Chapman is penciled in as the 5th starter and that his role might change this year. To his credit, he is focused less on Chapman potentially taking his spot and more on improving on last year.
There has been much consternation about Shin Soo Choo’s perceived inability to handle the move from right to center field. My official position number two: let him play some spring training games before you write him off. Pundits have condemned his centerfield defense before the season has even started. One guy affected by the arrival of Choo is Brandon Phillips, who will bat second now instead of leading off.
Shin Soo Choo:
Ken Rosenthal’s article about Choo revealed a couple of things. The first is that he’s a thoughtful guy. He wrote Indians GM Chris Antonetti a letter after being traded apologizing for the team not performing better, and expressing gratitude for being given the chance to blossom into a great player. He seems like a stand-up guy, and he has indicated he will give his best effort to make the transition to center. At least one former Reds great has faith in him in the person of Eric Davis. Davis says Choo has the footwork, anticipation and intelligence to get the job done. That must carry a little weight, right?
Phillips will scoot down to the two slot in the lineup with the arrival of Choo. He says he’d rather hit third, but will do whatever the team needs to win games. There is a difference between having a preference, as Phillips does, and being unhappy. Phillips will do whatever is asked of him with a smile on his face.
The point I am trying to get at is that everyone seems to be all in. New players are coming in and wanting to contribute in whatever way they can, and established Reds are shifting into new roles without complaint. It’s all very “Kumbayah” right now. Being part of a winner helps foster that attitude, but there are some genuinely team-first guys on the roster. It’s nice to read about players wanting to do whatever it takes to help out as opposed to “I won’t play there” or “I want to play more.”