This was discussed briefly in Thursday night’s game thread, but it deserves further consideration: Grant Brisbee decided to look for baseball’s most hopeless franchise, and the Cincinnati Reds were one of his contenders. He ultimately decided that the Reds "have just a little too much going for them" to wear that particular crown (which went to the Colorado Rockies), due to their pitching and some of their young players, specifically mentioning Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier, and oddly leaving out Devin Mesoraco. I think that analysis makes a couple of unfortunate assumptions, most notably that the one-time Big Three of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce will not improve much on their 2014 production. Bruce in particular will only be 28 next year, and given his remarkable consistency season to season, I find it a lot more plausible that this lost season is an aberration than that it’s what we can expect for the future. I’m not sure what to expect from Phillips going forward, except that, if healthy, he will be in the lineup every day, so if that’s the case, he should be batting lower than what we’ve seen since his return from the disabled list this year. As for Votto, befitting his status as the highest paid athlete in the history of Cincinnati professional sports, it’s clear that as he goes, so will the Reds go. As Brisbee points out, the Reds "might have tethered their hopes to him in a way that no small-market franchise has done since the Twins and Joe Mauer." While it's probably not a good idea to tie your fortunes to any one player, you could do worse than Joey Votto. Despite his injuries, his talent and well documented work ethic make him as good a candidate as any to shoulder that kind of responsibility.
John Fay caught up with the Reds last manager, Dusty Baker. Sadly, Baker chose not to go see the Reds when they were near his home playing the San Francisco Giants, understandably saying he "wasn't ready for that yet." But overall, Baker seems to be doing exceptionally well, keeping busy with his family and his farm and keeping tabs on the sport that's been his livelihood since 1967. To his credit, Baker refuses to take any pleasure in the Reds current predicament, declaring it "a waste of time and emotion to feel like that." Seriously, read this article, because it's chock full of great quotes that will remind you that, no matter what you thought of him as a manager, Dusty Baker is one of baseball's truly great characters.
Back in July, MLB named former player Billy Bean as its first-ever Ambassador for Inclusion, and asked him to lead baseball’s efforts in ensuring that it is a safe workplace for everyone, regardless of sexual identity. Bean, who retired from baseball in 1995 and came out publicly in 1999, has spoken extensively about the difficulties inherent in being a closeted major leaguer. Ken Rosenthal has a great story detailing how MLB came to realize the necessity for such a program, and how Bean came to be the man to lead it. Definitely worth a read.
In other, less uplifting MLB hiring news, baseball has appointed a new head of investigations, former assistant United States attorney Brian Seeley. MLB, to its very slight credit, has restructured the department in the wake of several extremely concerning ethical questions surrounding the way the Biogenesis investigation was handled. Outgoing commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig said in a statement that Seeley will "protect the interest of our clubs and players alike." It’s a good thing that was in a written statement, because I doubt even Selig could have maintained a straight face while claiming that the best interest of the players was ever a concern in decisions like this.
Jorge Arangure Jr of Vice.com looks at the ever present problem of the length of baseball games (he cites an average time of 3 hours, 2 minutes and 22 seconds) and expressed concern that MLB could wind up doing more harm than good in its attempts to fix it. Arangure uses the NFL’s recent domestic violence controversy as an example of a precedent of sports leagues allowing the public to pressure them into changing rules and policies. The money quote:
"Baseball's willingness to speed up the game to appease its audience will directly reflect just how much it is willing to sacrifice the foundation of the sport in order to make more money. Because nobody is necessarily claiming there is something inherently wrong with the game. It's just the way that we watch it that's been affected."
It's an interesting point. Do you agree?
This week saw the 21 year anniversary of one of the greatest accomplishments in baseball history. On September 4, 1993, while playing for the New York Yankees, Jim Abbott pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. Here’s the last out, and here’s MLB Network’s retrospective on the event. And if you don’t know much about Jim Abbott, here’s part of Drunk History’s look at his life, where he’s played by Matt Saracen from Friday Night Lights and narrated by Badger from Breaking Bad.
Finally, please enjoy this small gallery of photos of old ballparks ranging from the Polo Grounds in 1886 to Sportsman’s Park in full color in the early 1960’s. I never get tired of pictures like these.