If Major League Baseball team owners get their way, we’re going to see some baseball in 2020, with the players likely to take the financial hit on the chin. If the MLBPA gets its way, we’re going to see some baseball in 2020, with the team owners likely to take the financial hit on the chin.
What we do know in certainty is that if and when baseball returns in 2020, someone is going to take the financial hit on the chin - and that it’s going to look much different than the baseball we’ve grown to love. There will be no fans in the stands. There will be no high-fiving, no spitting, no celebration of derring-do. There will be altered, expanded rosters, what with the minor leagues effectively ceasing for the year. And if the news is to be believe, we’ll have a trio of divisions defined geographically, with usual American League clubs clumped together with usual National League ones.
As a result of that last item, we’re going to see a Universal DH put in place for 2020, a rule change that had been looming over the NL’s head long before the coronavirus pandemic threw the world into chaos. Naturally, that news has been met with much consternation from NL traditionalists, and certainly with much merit. That said, the current iteration of the Cincinnati Reds seem quite well positioned to benefit from that rule, as they were set to enter the unmodified 2020 season with a position-player glut that was going to require a hefty juggle from manager David Bell just to keep all respective mouths fed, and adding a daily DH should help alleviate that logjam.
Today, though, I wish to write about perhaps the greatest DH in Cincinnati Reds history, one whose prowess in interleague play set the bar for our dreams and desires of future Reds DHs. Safe to say, if Nick Castellanos, or Jesse Winker, or Joey Votto, or Aristides Aquino, or Mike Moustakas reaches the level of this historic figure, we’ll all be telling tales of their exploits to our children’s children.
His name: Skip Schumaker.
It was a breezy, 59 degree day in Chicago’s south side, a matinee May 9th affair that served as the first game of a Saturday doubleheader - the perfect stage for a DH star to emerge. And emerge he did, as Schumaker was tabbed as the bat-only option in manager Bryan Price’s lineup, alongside such other offensive luminaries as 1B Kris Negron, CF Billy Hamilton, LF Marlon Byrd, and C Brayan Pena.
Never mind that the blind, modern calculation of WPA valued his overall performance as negative on the day, as Schumaker proved his true worth in a more important way - he arby-eye’d in a pair of runs as part of his 3 for 5 day, with one of them even coming in a clutchy 2-out situation. He scored a run, poked a double as one of his trio of hits, and didn’t even commit an error. Imagine that...no errors!
It was emblematic of what we’d come to expect from ol’ Skip, who finished the 2015 season having hit a whopping .375 with an .875 OPS in his DH appearances. And considering he hit just .242 with a .642 OPS for the season as a whole, it’s clear that Price’s mismanagement of Skip was more the reason why his overall stats struggled, since he clearly had the chops to be an elite DH.
Sadly, we were never given the opportunity to either see more of Skip, or to see him with the chance to be a full-time DH for the Reds. He hit free agency at season’s end before landing with the San Diego Padres, where he still is employed today. Still, the legacy of his DH exploits will forever loom large in Reds lore, as that .375 batting average sits better than the career marks of every Major League Baseball player in history - better than Ty Cobb, better than Tony Gwynn, better than Jack Hannahan, better than everyone.
Let’s just hope that when we see the Reds with a DH when the 2020 begins they can get even a sniff of the same level of production as those 2015 glory days.