So far we’re covered for main dishes, Krivsky’s bringing a ham and Dusty agreed to bring some of his grandma’s creamy potato chowder but we need some side dishes. It can either be a green salad, or it could be potato, pasta, or 3 bean. It’s up to you, it’s your party just as much as it is mine.
Brandon Phillips: last season Phillips put together one of the finest seasons turned in by second baseman any time, anywhere. He was doing the lean to the tune of .288/.331/.485, 107R, 187H, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 32/40 SB, He established single-season club records for a second baseman in total bases (315) and home runs (30) and became only the second 2B in Major League history (the third Reds player overall: Larkin and ED) to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season. And just to show a little versatility, he decided to lead NL keystone tenders in fielding percentage (8e, .990), total chances (782), putouts (341) and assists (433) qualifying him for the NL's Ralph Ellison Award. Too pretentious, okay, how about the Aaron Harang "Doesn't He Live on York Street and Sell Insurance for Nikopopolous and Sons" Award? Regardless (or irregardless) of his omission, he’ll get the party started right with a punch bowl of his famous purple drank and orange soda (twice the caffeine!) for the ladies.
Juan Castro: unfortunately, Castro had some injury problems last year so we didn’t get a full season of .180/.211/.236 from the utility infielder position. But he’s back again this year, complete with the new robotic elbow that was fitted during the offseason. With Gonzalez’s infected seminal vesicles keeping him out of the early season and Keppinger’s possible limitations at shortstop, it looks like we have plenty of no hit to look forward to. An interesting note from Juan’s bio, he is the only active player with more than 1,000 career plate appearances (2,298) who has never been hit by a pitch. This is in no doubt due to his agreement with National League pitchers that he will never put a good swing on a pitch in exchange for guarantees of personal safety. He’s bringing beef jerky sandwiches, a popular item at last year’s potluck.
Edwin Encarnacion: last year Encarnacion struggled through an April where he hit only .218 (1HR, 14 RBI) and committed 6 errors. He was examined by team health officials and it was discovered that he had suffered a stroke which directly affected the hitting and throwing areas of his brain. Emergency surgery was deemed necessary in order to save his career. Fortunately, his injury coincided with the with the unconditional release of a talented but defensively challenged pig shortstop, P.J. McPorkington, from the Blue Jays organization. McPorkington was claimed by the Reds and promptly slaughtered. The relevant portions of his brain were salvaged and transplanted into Encarnacion’s head. After a brief rehab assignment, Eddie and his new pig brain were recalled and performed at a high level for the remainder of the season (in 139 games, he finished at .289/.356/.438, 25 2B, 16 HR, 79 RBI, a club leading .360 average with runners in scoring position (9th in MLB) and only 16 errors, down from 25 in 2006). He’ll be bringing pork ribs to the potluck.
Scott Hatteberg: 2007 marked, statistically, one of Hatteberg’s strongest seasons at the plate (.310/.394/.474, 116G, 10 HR, 27 2B) and that’s even before he took the last month of the season off to join the GAB janitorial staff. Janitorial studies is far and away the most popular major at Hatteberg’s Alma mater, Washington State University. “Turning boys and girls into men and women who mutter to themselves while cleaning up your vomit.” Go Cougs! There’s a reason that, when polled, maintenance crews from around the league unanimously voted the Reds as their favorite visiting team. Lockers and floors will shine and every morning when the players wake up, they will find that they have been freshly shaven with hands and feet cured. It makes a difference. He’ll take care of any post-potluck clean up, you need to see his skills with a mop to believe it.
Joey Votto: Votto finally hit his way onto the big league roster at the end of last season and found some pretty solid success once he got there (24 G, 4 HR, 17 RBI, .321/.360/.548 over 84 ABs). Management is confident enough in his ability that they put right-handed first base “option” Jorge Cantu out to pasture, leaving just the two lefties to man the first base bag. While the images of Cantu out ridin’ fences won’t soon be forgotten, Votto projects to be competent and likable first baseperson. The fact that he is Canadian does cause some hesitation, based upon the performance of loyalist Rheal Cormier last season. However, Votto is from Toronto whereas Cormier was from Shediac, New Brunswick. You know what people say about Shediac, New Brunswick; liars and no good tricksters. Votto will be bringing a sixer of Molson.
Jeff Keppinger: Last season, after the Reds boxed up the broken pieces of Chris Denorfia and shipped him to Oakland in exchange for the A’s kick returner, Marcus McBeth, Keppinger was asked to fill in as the white guy who wears his socks high. And fill in he did. Your play doesn’t get labeled as “adequate” or “as a passable temporary replacement” if you’re not doing something right. During 3 stints with the Reds, Kep hit .332/.400/.477, reached base safely in 55 of his 67 appearances and struck out only 12 times in 276 PA (best ratio in the majors - 1k/23pa). He demonstrated some versatility, making starts at 5 positions (43 at SS, 7 at 3B, 3 at 2B, 1 in LF, 1 in RF), and brought in a variety of fresh preserves from his family farm to keep late season moral high. Raspberry seems to be the preference for the potluck.
Jerry Hairston, Jr.: Hairston is not only a quality utility player (he is capable of sucking at 6 different positions - 73 G, .189/.249/.289, 30 H, 3 HR, 5 SB) but a solid guy (in his Mitchell Report deposition, Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski said that he sold human growth hormone “on two or three occasions” to Hairston in 2003 and 2004). I worry that he may be too valuable commodity for the limited role the Reds likely have in mind, so the Dustin Hermanson Express might be waiting for him at the end of Spring Training. Seems like a nice enough guy, though, I wouldn’t have any of that wine he brought, I saw him drinking out of the bottle and those cold sores around his mouth look active.
Alex Gonzalez: last year Gonzalez set out to prove that he is not simply a one-dimensional player, with his limited bat inflated only by GAB. Regarded for his glove work, Gonzalez took a different approach, making 15 errors and turning in his lowest fielding percentage (.963) since 2001. And though he hit .272/.325/.468 overall with 27 2B and 16HR, Gonzalez turned in a .242/.309/.440 line at home just to show people he doesn’t need GAB’s help. With his young son apparently recovered from the medical condition which required the care of both parents, Gonzalez has scheduled some early season vacation time to tend to an ailment of his own and to consider the results of last season. He volunteered to bring an old Venezuelan recipe, Skyline Chili. Weathers loves that shit (see below).