Hello, Mr. Williams and fellow Reds fans! Did you know that Nick Senzel is particularly adept at hitting baseballs and is supposed to be pretty dang good going forward? Ok. Did you know that Nick Senzel is going to be 23 on Opening Day 2019 and will be 24 for the majority of the season? Ok. Did you know that Nick Senzel can reliable play 3B, 2B, SS, LF, RF and most likely CF? Hell, you could probably toss him at 1B on days you want to give Votto a spell. Did you know that Nick Senzel hit .310/.378/.509 in a chunk of season at AAA last year? Ok, we’ve checked all those bases.
I’m a Nick Senzel super fan. I was one of the first to call for the drafting of Senzel here at Red Reporter. I like the kid. I think he’s pretty awesome. It started with his profile as a draft prospect and led to where we are today.
Things have been written ad nauseam about Nick Senzel good and bad. Luckily, most of it has been good. Now, it’s speculative.
Things like his awesome offensive profile, defensive acumen but lack of position, power, lack of power, sneaky fast wheels, vertigo, bone chips, smashed finger, and so on and so forth. Now? Now, we’re talking about when Nick Senzel should start kicking it with the big boys. The argument? What baseball has become and not what it should be. Because we should only be arguing Nick Senzel’s aggregate worth as a baseball player.
I’ve not been paying attention to baseball for the last week so I’m behind on a few things. That’s my fault. However, yesterday afternoon I read a sweet interview that C. Trent Rosencrans had with Nick Senzel. There is one snippet from it that was incredibly grabbing when Rosencrans asked Senzel if he expects to make the team fresh from Spring Training.
“Do I believe it? No,” he said Sunday. “But that’s just my honest opinion. We’ll see.”
That’s raw. That’s a real dang thing real close to what Kris Bryant was saying about the Cubs several years ago and now. The same Kris Bryant that seemingly looks to snub Chicago since he’s now superstar good and who’s to blame him? Then there are a bunch of words about baseball being a business and all of that after Senzel’s quote. You know, the standard grouping of answers. And the easy excuse is that Senzel needs more reps in center field. At least that’s the easy excuse to gain an extra year of theoretical control. That and all the talent gained in the ten fly balls he’ll probably cover in that week or so and the immense knowledge he’ll gain of playing the chief defensive position of the outfield for a few weeks. I think you catch my drift and my obvious sarcasm. It’s dumb. So are baseball’s rules. The point of this argument is that you don’t have to follow the rules. The Reds shouldn’t. Senzel is good. Even if he isn’t in centerfield. Don’t mess this up.
Today in baseball there is a bunch of hand wringing about minor league salaries, player contracts, owner greed, free agency, Bryce Harper, not Bryce Harper, and what the hell is going on with teams and not playing young players when they’re ready. All of these things are important. If you hit up Twitter it’s basically all that stuff and the one week the Commissioner said something about the DH in the NL. That’s the 2019 off-season, it was a bunch of bitching and a bunch of nothing. I’m not meaning to waste a bunch of breath here complaining about baseball execs and the rules, but let’s make a few things clear.
If you don’t know there’s two important dates for rookies. One, gives you basically seven years of team control for a player if you wait about two weeks before you call them up at the beginning of the season. The other is about Super Two status, arbitration, and money. That date isn’t set in stone it’s based on a number of players and days and math and dumb. The Reds are supposedly not worried about the latter, but, as like most teams, are worried about the former. Because service time is more important than a few bucks, and I’ve always agreed with that. Super Two is not as important because that’s all about players getting paid and players should get paid their worth. For a small market team player control is huge because free agency favors the rich. As a fan of the Reds, I like my team being able to control their best players in their best years. As a human, I prefer humans making their own financial decisions. Ideally, if you’re good at a job you do, you do the damn job and you’re paid your market rate.
Now, the interesting part is Nick Senzel’s injuries. The Reds were prepared to start his clock in 2018 because he was ready. Vertigo, broken finger, and bone chips (bone chips were after season but still an injury) matter. If the Reds were planning on playing him in 2018, they can mentally excuse being aggressive in 2019. Hint: They should. Fans don’t care about the piddling dollars from Nick Senzel’s 3, 4, 5, and 6 seasons when he’s in his prime.
But I think this case of young players being called up when they are best served to play is incredibly important. Those other things definitely are but they’re issues of labor, issues of money, and issues of analytics. Young players being held back due to control is bad for baseball. It’s the anti-thesis to competitiveness and putting the best player on the field. Hopefully, the next CBA fixes this (and a lot of things) but we can only control rules of the world as we have them right now.
The issue of ten days of service time comes down to whether a young player is good or not, and good teams end up paying for good players whether that time comes in year six or year seven. Good teams put the money where their mouth is and they walk the walk as they talk the talk. Well, I’m once again talking about an ideal world not how baseball tends to work especially in a numbers-controlled environment and time.
I briefly thought about not writing about this because Mo Egger wrote something similar again for the Athletic. However, I thought I could take a different take and tone on this same subject. I’m sure the best of the blog-o-sphere is writing similar things, and I frankly don’t care. Seriously, though, if you haven’t paid for a subscription to the Athletic, you’re missing out. Give them money and read Red Reporter. They’re great and so are we. SBN pays enough to cover some of my light to moderate drinking habit, and I get to talk baseball with people I like. So, I write these articles. But, they also write super great professional content. We’re always here for your dick jokes.
I’m 31. I’m getting old, kinda in a way. I started writing here when I was 25 if it matters. I started commenting here when I was 22. December of 2010, according to my profile. I know I started reading RR when “The Trade” happened in 2006 or whatever. I grew to adulthood with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, and company being extended and a short window winning with them. I was fresh outta college when Jay Bruce was jackhammering Clinchmas dingers into the grass of deep center. I jumped for joy in those four sweet ass years the Reds were competitive.
For the rest of it, I’ve lived the hard fact the Reds are bad (2001-2009, 2014-2018), the Reds suck, but the Reds are my favorite team and I like baseball. Being a fan is sometimes living on the edge between a lot of despair and a lot of hope. I’m currently living with this hope and belief it will be Senzel, Castillo, Trammell, and Mahle going on in the future and being awesome. Obviously, I’m also including Joe Dan Votto. I write mostly about prospects because the children are our future and I like thinking about the incoming good times. If these guys are good the Reds will need to find ways to pay them because we want the good times to continue rolling when they happen and these guys are living our best dreams in reality.
However, then you have pragmatism rearing its ugly head. Good teams are expensive. Good players cost money. The Reds aren’t a large market and even when times were good, they didn’t draw large numbers. Cincinnati fans are fickle and they’re not the most coherent sorry to say. Even when the Reds are good, the fans make them middling. Luckily, the money is in tv.
The other day at work (I live in Twins country) I got in a minor argument about who the better Minnesota Twin was. Torii Hunter or Joe Mauer? As a Reds fan this is an argument we’ve fielded forever between Joey Votto and “pick our favorite gritty baseball player”. Obviously, most of us are all about Votto because he’s awesome. My coworker was all about Hunter. I was all about Mauer. Another chimed in with, “Who would you want at bat with two men on with two outs in the ninth?” Well, I went with a heavy argument about one game isn’t a season, OBP, 27 outs, blah blah blah - But, does the fan in me believe that and all of those things I said?
Only kinda. Leaning towards no. Cause the moment matters in baseball sometimes just as much as the 162. Sometimes the 162 is the situation. Baseball, like life, is just that finite and particular as it’s just that freakishly long lasting and the most grueling of American professional sports. Every day matters but there are those particular days that we remember most.
Does the prudent person in me pick Mauer?
Yes, I think so.
Should I be a prudent person or a fan?
That’s a damn good question and I’m going to leave you with the points below and how I’m going to lean with Nick Senzel. Because I think with this, I’m going to leave pragmatism in the dust.
Nick Senzel is trying his damnedest to help the Reds by playing center field, not himself. His future is almost assuredly in the infield. We’ve for years haggled over what baseball teams should do financially and with statistics. Most ardent baseball fans are statistically minded now-a-days, and I’m not different. Senzel doesn’t believe he’ll make the team because of the business environment of the sport today. That’s the problem with the business environment of baseball today. Money notwithstanding, it should always be about putting the best players on the field. The NFL is about it. The NBA is about it. Their systems are directly set up for it. The MLB waits about and gnashes teeth while paying minor leaguers less than that of the workers or your local McDonald’s burger cooks. The same as the NBA and NFL using the NCAA as an unpaid minor league system. The difference here is when you go to those two other leagues, if you’re good you play. No question. In the MLB your playing time has nothing to do with the team. It has to do with some bastardized idea of player control and the union agreed to it. The kicker is, teams don’t have to and players can award them for doing so. Let’s remember money and respect talks.
But, fuck all that talk. Let’s get down to sports. The Reds are breaking the baseball environment by trading for Puig, Wood, Roark, Gray, and Kemp. They weren’t supposed to. They did. They’re growing their budget with one-year deals to win now with a moderately haphazard, or at least semi-blind, outlook to the future. I kinda like it. It’s so volatile while being weirdly safe. It also kinda makes sense with how baseball is working right now. Teams are shitty passive outside of the Padres and Phillies. There’s a lot of cheap and dumb teams. Williams and company didn’t leverage their future while putting fake wins on the board before the season starts. All of that is different and it’s definitely refreshing. I want to watch more games this year than last year.
They’re changing the scope of how “analytical” baseball is supposed to work. I think Dick Williams and Nick Krall are damn smart. I think they’ve done things to make fans excited this season. They’re making baseball in general excited because a bottom dwelling team is making a push. They’re arguably the one team right now that I think players are looking towards as an example of what baseball should be doing. Trying to win. What a novel idea. They’re breaking some of those trends of monotony that baseball was growing because it’s hard to argue math. Three true outcomes and all that bullshit. David Bell might be a statistically oriented manager, and he might be looking to break the rigid trends of pitcher and lineup usage. Those things are wonderful. Those things matter. Baseball should be played based on its statistical efficiencies but we need to remember when and where the bunt can work and when we should use it.
Bell should be given the ability to have Nick Senzel on the Opening Day roster. Bryan Price was given a gutted team and he paid the price for it. We shouldn’t saddle another manager with that plight. Because while baseball is now a game of numbers, shifts, and pitcher changes, it’s still a game of a batter against a pitcher. Nick Senzel is one hell of a hitter and looks to be one hell of an athlete all things considered. Whether he plays in CF or rotating around the infield, I don’t think it really matters. Break that mold. Don’t be the Cubs (Kris Bryant). Don’t be Toronto (Vlad Guerrero Jr.).
There’s an old Chinese curse that says “May you live in interesting times.” It’s been espoused by many people, including Robert F. Kennedy, I think. Many people have used that quote as a negative. I believe it’s always been an omen in its usage, but I’ve never read it that way. To me interesting means exciting. Curiosity is provoking. To find and discover is invigorating. To learn something new is basically what human nature is all about even if it’s something from the past. Baseball used to play their best players from day one. Today they don’t. Don’t be today. Be interesting.
I don’t expect Dick Williams to ever really read this, but this is my public plea. Don’t worry about 2024 or 2025. If Nick Senzel is as good as we think he’s going to be you’ll try to lock him up anyway. He’ll have his price and you’ll have yours. Mike Trout is making like $35,000,000 this year and he’s way worth it. We forget Senzel is kind of a local kid (from Tennessee). The same thing kind of happened with Votto when Jocketty broke a damn baseball record for all time contracts. That wasn’t a Cincinnati thing. No one expected that, and it was awesome. You didn’t make these moves for the 2019 season to haggle over a few games here and there or to worry about the control of a player six or seven years from now. Hell, we could all be dead by that time. I could use a championship before that. I was two in 1990. I don’t remember it.
I think this is one of those monumental and tantamount statements a club could make to their fans. I can’t tell you it’s going to increase revenue. I can’t tell you if this will put more butts in the seats. I can’t promise the club and the club can’t promise me back. It’s all about the try and the do. But... You’ve increased payroll. You went out and got the pitching. You didn’t sell the farm. You got Yasiel Puig and marketed the shit out of him (thank you, btw). You have Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, one of the best lineups in the NL, and a ton of unfulfilled potential of arms waiting in the wings.
As much as he annoys me, it’s Marty Brennamen’s last year and let’s put it out on a good note. Don’t keep Nick Senzel down in AAA for a week and half because stats and money tell you to. This nerd is telling you to buck the math. That’s not baseball. It never was and it wasn’t meant to be. It’s game by kids for kids that happens to be watched by adults that still wish they were kids. And those players are kids and they’re good. Play the best.
We all grow up to bitch and gripe, pay bills and go to bed earlier, drink less beers and tuck our shirts in. And if we specifically don’t do those things others tell us to. That’s conformity and baseball has sadly given way into a certain conformity. But if you questioned us all I bet we all turn into kids on Opening Day. We’re all fans down deep. We only care about one thing and it’s winning and seeing the best.
Be that fan that rushed the field and got arrested for a brief moment, Dick. Take yourself back to your early 20’s. The same way I look back at a 22-year-old kid jumping around a gas station as Jay Bruce circled the diamond with his fists in the air and Marty B making the call. I’ll never be 22 again, but I’d like to feel like it. This Reds team might give me the opportunity. It gives me the feel of 1999 and that’s the year I really became a Reds fan and I’ll always relish it.
Start Nick Senzel in center field on March 28, 2019 and don’t think twice about it. I don’t think any fan will mind. You know you want to.