Monday, March 31, 2008

Reds Open Season Not Great, Snakes 4-2

While there still isn't much question that this is the year the Reds set the record for most wins in baseball history, enroute to convincing World Series victory, they didn't look all that great against the Snakes today.

Harang threw the ball well enough but gave up a couple of home runs, one to Chris Young and another to a party whose name I'd prefer not to repeat. The offense looked like they need Miguel Tejada to give them a B-12 shot in the ass, managing only three hits off Brandon Webb (one by Harang - he's dangerous), who is a liar, and the pretty good Snake bullpen. Encarnacion opened the year with a throwing error in the first which lead to an unearned run, so don't be surprised to see Juan Castro and his crossed eyes (fell down a well, eyes go crossed) get the start tomorrow. Hopefully, he gets kicked by a mule in the interim.

After a much-deserved vacation tomorrow, Wednesday, we have much to which to look forward. Arroyo takes the hill. Conor Jackson should be in the lineup again and his one hit of the week is out of the way. And won't have to see Webb again until at least September. The offense has some big plans, starting with you Corey Patterson. Big plans for Wednesday, indeed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Big day tomorrow, Reds open the season at home versus the defending National League West champs, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Snakes return much of last year's team, which includes nearly all components of a very quality, strike that, reverse it, brutally inept, offense. Chris Young leads off but is allergic to getting on base. Upton is a big time talent, but is like 15, and Eric Byrnes? Come on, give me a break. I won't even address the infield.

For the third year in a row, Harang takes the ball in the opener. Wouldn't appear to be much debate in that choice. He's like a stepping razor, you know, dangerous (he's dangerous). Our pal Dusty announced that Hatteberg will get the start at first, which is fine and probably doesn't necessitate an announcement. Mr. Hat had a nice spring and Votto said he needed some time to get his head together. Though the lineup does suffer from contamination due to high Patterson levels. He's a recognized carcinogen. As was done last year, here is a preview of the predicted Snake lineup generated by Redsbot 5000:

1. Chris Young CF - this offseason, fooled around a fell in love

2. Orlando Hudson 2B - can't get enough of the McSkillet burrito with sausage

3. Eric Byrnes LF - thinks Brandon Webb is beautiful when he sleeps

4. Conor Jackson 1B - dreams about one day ending a post-season game with a strikeout

5. Chris Snyder C - is qualified as a first-class helmsman

6. Mark Reynolds 3B - invented a time machine but can only show it to you in the dark in the closet of his apartment

7. Stephen Drew SS - has a learning disability but it’s not going to stop him from taking the SAT's

8. Justin Upton RF - is a daughter of the American Revolution, he’s traced it back and has a certificate

9. Brandon Webb P - his beard is weird, his 'stache is trash

Friday, March 28, 2008


As I did in 2007, to preview this year’s club, I’ve broken the team down positionally into categories of how they can best benefit me. I believe this is the best and most relevant way to preview any team.

Which Reds infielder will agree to bring a salad to next week’s potluck?
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).

Thursday, March 27, 2008


As I did in 2007, to preview this year’s club, I’ve broken the team down positionally into categories of how they can best benefit me. I believe this is the best and most relevant way to preview any team.

Which reliever would I most like to see guest host an episode of the View (my favorite hour of television)?

Gary Majewski: last season the Polish Nightmare picked up where he left off when the Reds acquired him from Washington. Over his 32 appearances, he continued his generosity to opposing hitters, giving up roughly 2 hits an inning while maintaining an ERA over 8.00. At least it looks like he worked hard during the offseason to make himself even less effective, as he’s been getting hammered all spring. The nerds at Baseball Prospectus, however, plugged Majewski into their math equations and predict with 62% certainty he will improve in 2008 and 42% that he will breakout. When I plug his name into my math equations, all I get an 80% possibility that I’his favorite lunchmeat is smoked turkey, so I’ll have to take their word for it.

*Update: looks as if Gary is going to begin the season at Louisville and ABC just isn’t interested in someone who can’t make the 25 man roster.

Bill Bray: After a long season of getting injured, rehabbing and getting injured again, it’s no surprise that Bray’s arm began to show signs of fatigue down the stretch (1.93ERA in his first 11 appearances, 14.40 after). He began the season on the DL with a non-displaced hairline fracture of his left index finder and later missed some more time with tendonitis. Overall his numbers look like this: 19 G, 3-3, 6.28 ERA, 9/11 runner stranded, 14 IP, 16 H, 14 K/5 BB. But he was able to grow a sharp-looking goatee once Kyle Lohse was traded to Philadelphia. This offseason, Bray began a new conditioning program which began with the removal of his appendix. The organ is unnecessary (in relief pitchers it can be especially counterproductive) and removal coalesces with goals of the program. Under the new program Bray should be able to quickly return from injury so he can immediately get injured again, then repeat the process several times over the course of the season. Unfortunately for Bray, ABC requires an appendix for all television personnel.

*Update: looks like Bray is going to have to start the season getting injured in AAA. Management insists that he first show that he's earned the right to get injured in the majors.

Todd Coffey: it was a tough season for the undisputed most handsome man in baseball (it seems like all recaps begin with this sentence). He made five separate trips to Louisville and, though he showed the ability to dominate the kids at AAA (1.33 ERA over 19 appearances), he was slightly less effective when facing major league hitters (58 G, 5.82 ERA, 2-1, 51 IP, 43 K/19BB, 12 HR). Not ready to go back to the family asparagus farm in North Carolina, Big Frucking Nasty (the very appropriate name given to him by failed Japanese import Junichi Iwasachi in rookie ball) spent the off-season becoming Medium Frucking Nasty. He stopped eating in bed, gave up both the morning and evening glasses of melted butter, and bought a Bowflex machine. He worked out for thirty minutes, three times a week and now he’s 28 and in the best shape of his life. And while there are few of us who won’t miss his boiler hanging over his snug-fitting baseball pants, the weight loss has taken a tenth of a second off his sprint from the bullpen. If he can learn to get along with Barbara Walters, there’s nothing this guy can’t accomplish including an anticipated 2011 transition from the diamond to television.

Jared Burton: after the Reds dug Burton out of the A’s farm system, he showed up in Cincinnati, grew a beard, put on a braided necklace and after some time on the farm with a legitimate, non-Rule 5 violating injury (diagnosed with “an inability to get out Major League hitters”) and figured out how to throw the ball past some people. In his last 27 appearances (over 26.1 IP) he posted a 1.37 ERA, with only 16 hits allowed and 21K/8BB. And only 2 home runs allowed over the entire season? Someone just didn’t fit in with last year’s bullpen. What you may not know is that Burton has had a subscription to US Weekly for 3 consecutive years. What’s wrong with Brittany Spears? Would working on Hillary Clinton’s cabinet be a super fun job? Which cream makes my face look less old and at the same time shiny and weird? He’s got answers for all of them: 1) her upbringing; 2) no ‘cause Hildog’s too uptight; and 3) Shiseido Bio-Performance.

David Weathers: last season Weathers was as good as he was fat and shit was he fat. In between putting on 30 pounds of chili dogs and becoming the oldest pitcher in MLB history to record 30 saves for the first time, Weathers put together a very attractive statistical line with the exception of the win/loss record): 2-6, 3.59 ERA, 70 G, 33/39 saves, 77.2 IP, 67 H, 48K/27BB. Sure he doesn’t strike anyone out anymore and for some reason the Pirates absolutely kill him but his return to set-up should help the team retain a few more leads. Based upon his versatility, there’s no reason to believe that his skills wouldn’t also properly suit him for a spot on the View. Here’s a shot from his publicist:

Looks like we’ve got a winner but, of course stay tuned for the other members of the bullpen.

Mike Stanton: as with Castro, injury limited the amount of time we got to spend with Stanton last season; he strained a hamstring jogging his fat ass down the first base line after he got a rare opportunity to swing the bat. He did still manage to show up in 69 games, but as his line illustrates, he isn’t all that concerned about pitching effectively at this stage of his career (69 G, 1-3, 5.93 ERA, 57.2 IP, 75H, 40K/18BB). However, the Reds Rocket is happy to report that Stanton and long-term partner, Jesse Orosco, have announced that they will be tying the knot following the 2008 season. The two met at a left-handed reliever conference back in ’03. Both have pitched in over 1170 major league games and enjoy gardening and international travel. The author expects that, with his new peace of mind that comes with a fulfilling relationship, Stanton will be much more reliable this season.

*Update: according to the rumor mill, looks like Stanton is going to be set free and Castellini is going to have to sell a few more wholesale vegetables. Apparently, the Phillies have some interest, for whatever reason. If nothing else, Stanton deserves the opportunity to become the reliever with the most game pitched not as a Red. Give the boy a shot. We're sure going to miss him and his unreasonably high salary.

Francisco Cordero: after the signings of Affeldt and Fogg, some people forget the Reds’ other offseason acquisition, getting Cordero away from the Brewers. Dr. Tiffee put this together following the signing:

The author doesn’t necessarily share his opinion but would be interested in meeting Shelley Long and/or repairing a run-down and possibly haunted mansion. The move simultaneously strengthened the bullpen and downgraded Milwaukee’s, as they were forced to sign sans steroid (though the goggles remain) Eric Gagne after being confronted with the possibility of having an entire season of Derrick Turnbow giving back leads. As both pitchers throw the ball as hard as they can hoping that it isn't hit off the Chevy Tahoe in deep center, either option would work just fine for me.

Last year Francisco became the eighth pitcher to record at least 40 saves in a season in both leagues, joining the exclusive club which includes: Bryan Harvey, Todd Jones and Joe Table. With number like these [0-4, 2.98 ERA, 66 G, 44/51 saves, 63 IP, 52 H, 86K/18BB, 4 HR] and the fact that Cordero hasn’t watched the View since Debbie Matenopoulos was canned (she brought life to the show with her razor-sharp wit), he has earned the right to consider other offers.

Kent Mercker: the Reds Rocket was happy to see the return of Kent Mercker. Sure he spent 2007 pulling his fifth wheel around the county – Branson, Missouri just has so much to offer – and recently received his AARP card in the mail (or some other document which would provide evidence, and thus a segue for a bad joke, of his advanced age) but he has always been loyal to the Reds and has had a nice spring. Should he make the team (which it appears he has, unless Jim Brower's career line reveals "special" time with Dusty), it will mark his fourth tenure in Cincinnati. In 2005, he pitched in 78 games with pretty decent success for an old guy (3-1, 3.65ERA, 45K/19BB in 62 IP). Even if he’s throwing with his right arm this time around, he’s an upgrade over Stanton. And there just aren’t enough guys named Kent around anymore. Brockman and Clark (first name) are fictional, the country (though considered the "Garden of England) is suspect at best and the band from Sweden was initially named the Coca-Cola Kids, which is a terrible name for a band. Fortunately, Mercker classifies himself as a feminist (he drives a Subaru Forester which get s a robust 15 miles to the gallon) and, therefore, demands consideration for ABC morning television. Good luck to you Kent and keep fighting the good fight.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Dream Of Dusty

It's time again for everyone's favorite wise-cracking manager and his magician wife, in the Dusty and Char Baker Variety Hour...

"He'll coach your team and kill your dreams, he learned that back in school. See my gloves, it's me you love, now it's Dusty's rules! Doo doo doo doo, duh."

This week: Dusty's big press conference (or alternatively, Dusty's Back in Business Bitches). Will the media and fans welcome him in Cincinnati or send him back home to mama? (this week also features.....extra small writing. Yeah!)

PREVIEWS: Catchers

As I did in 2007, to preview this year’s club, I’ve broken the team down positionally into categories of how they can best benefit me. I believe this is the best and most relevant way to preview any team.

Which catcher would like to help me solicit members for my cult?

Javier Valentin
: the Reds Rocket offers a cult narrowly tailored to meet the needs of today’s angry loner. It’s more social club than restrictive pseudo-religious organization, like the Elks but with fewer old people. Sure, there may be some brainwashing and door to door solicitation (with monkey sales) but it’s also a place where you can show up and just hang out. We’re not here to judge you. You can finally be yourself. Aren’t your parents a drag? Mine too. Let me level with you, there’s not going to be anything crazy like forced procreation and the issue of mass suicide isn’t even an absolute certainty. There will be severe limitations placed upon your free will, but if you ask our members, it’s not something they miss or even remember. The impact a personable Latino can have upon our angry, young Hispanic demographic far outweighs any liability behind the plate (threw out 5-44 base runners attempting to steal, 11%). Welcome aboard Javy. Let’s get brainwashing.

David Ross: Ross, or Ragweed to friends, suffered from a bad case of cold stick last season (112 games, .203/.271/.399, 92K/30 BB, 10 2B, 17 HR, 39 RBI). But, in addition to playing a little defense (threw out 23 of 54 potential base stealers, 43%) and adding his name to records books (hit into the Reds’ first triple play since Eddie Taubensee on 9/19/97), Ragweed brings other things to the Reds which, as color announcers everywhere like to say, don’t show up on the scorecard. Just call him Mr. Intangible, like Derek Jeter but without the on-field performance. For example, Saturdays remained bullpen barbecue (‘Hey assheads, grub’s done, come and git it’). The Reds likely wouldn’t have quality back end of the rotation Josh Fogg (they were both on the UF Gator baseball team and Fogg, according to Ross, is “the shit”) without Ragweed’s recommendation. And he continues to bring the ladies out to the ballpark, the importance of which cannot be underestimated. But is he truly cult material? We’ll get him fitted in a fuchsia robe and then make a final decision.

*Update: Ragweed's down! Looks like Ross begins the season on the DL but we're hoping for a full and speedy recovery. I don't think it qualifies as Saturday without a hearty portion of ribs.

Paul Bako: the Reds finally realized the mistake they made 10 years ago when they let Bako go the first time. After drafting him in the 5th round of the 1993 draft, a rare lapse in judgment allowed Bako to escape to the Tigers in 1998. And look at what he has done since then; he’s hit .233/.306/.315 with 9 teams in 10 seasons. Last year with the Orioles, Bako put together the following line: .205/.277/.256, 60 G, 156AB, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 50 K/15BB. Fortunately for Reds fans, Bako crossed paths with Dusty Baker during his 2003-2004 tenure with the Cubs and as we know by now, Dusty takes care of his friends despite the demonstrated detrimental impact such relationships have had upon previous employers. That sort of loyalty is certain to endear him to Reds fans over the course of the next three seasons. Unfortunately our cult has one rule, people with the first name Gabor cannot join. Sorry man, it’s a weird name.

PREVIEWS: Outfield

As I did in 2007, to preview this year’s club, I’ve broken the team down positionally into categories of how they can best benefit me. I believe this is the best and most relevant way to preview any team.

Which Reds outfielder would like to help me pick out some casual slacks?

Ken Griffey, Jr.: last year, even though he did find time to contract pleurisy and miss a few games with a bad tract, he stuck it out for 144 and swung the bat pretty well as the new everyday right fielder (.277/.372/.496, 30 HR, 93 RBI, 85 BB/99K). He’s only 7 bombs away from 600 which would be a pretty significant accomplishment as he would become the first lactose intolerant player with diverticulitis to reach the milestone (Willie Mays did suffer from peanut and pet dander allergies). And as anyone who has suffered a torn coin purse knows [“Would you say the pain in the onions was like getting zotted with the cattle prod or getting conked with a ball peen hammer?”] ample room in the compartment is a necessary aspect for casual slacks. Should he be able to find time in his schedule, he’s my first choice to watch me model slacks.

Ryan Freel: as we all know, Freel only wears clothing from the animals he’s able to catch and kill. He’s doing it partly to reduce his personal impact upon the environment and partly because he’s just good with a knife. There’s been some talk this spring of selling Freel and Farney to a team more in need of traumatic brain injuries. Last year wasn’t his best season statistically (.246/.308/.347, 15/23 SB, 3 HR, 16 RBI) but he did miss 81 games and was able to kill that family of rabbits that took up residence under the visitor’s clubhouse. The Reds Rocket has always been impressed with his style of play and versatility and would prefer to see his fate decided via donnybrook with fellow utility player Jerry Hairston, Jr. Dusty’s reportedly a “player’s manager” and we’ll get an early chance to see if that’s accurate.

Adam Dunn: Last season Grande Burro became the first player in franchise history to hit 40 homers in 4 consecutive seasons. He also drew over 100 walks (101), scored 100 runs (101), and drove in 100 (106). All this in the fewest games played since 2004. He even increased his batting average (.264) and his strikeouts were only fourth worst in the league. Unfortunately, he’s more of a denim for all seasons and occasions type of guy. In fact, later this season he’s introducing the new Dunnim line of denim socks, boxer shorts, and bras. The slogan for the new line is: “Let Adam Dunn cup your balls.” He’s not afraid to say, why should you be afraid to wear it?

Jay Bruce: not hard to be excited about the (more or less) unanimous top prospect in baseball. Last season over three levels (67 at high A Sarasota, 16 in Chattanooga, and the final 50 at Louisville) Bruce ranked among all minor league leaders in extra-base hits (80, 2nd), total bases (306, 2nd), doubles (T7th), hits (166, 10th) and slugging percentage (.587, 14th). Seems like the real deal but that’s also why the Reds brought in Corey Patterson to Spring Training. “Hey kid, at one point people were pretty sure I was going to be good at baseball. Can’t miss prospect. But look at me now, I’m washed up. I couldn’t even play in Baltimore and that team is horribly bad. You know what my teammates called me behind my back? Loose Stool. Can you believe that? They said it’s because I am worse than regular shit. You don’t want that kid. You don’t want that at all.” Jay, listen to the man. A healthy Larry Walker with more power is the ceiling, Corey Patterson is the floor. You simply don’t wish the latter upon anyone. Now when are we going Dillard’s to look at some slacks?

*Update: the appeal of Corey Patterson proved to be too strong for Dusty to resist. Bruce will be opening the season in Louisville but once he becomes the efficient out-producing machine Baker’s looking for, he’ll be back up with the big club.

Norris Hopper: in a recent spring training interview Hopper was asked to discuss his bunting style and technique but declined. He implied that he’s got some bunting secrets hidden away under his hat. That or Patterson was hanging around, rumor has it that he led the AL in bunt base hits last season. Apparently, there’s more to it than using a wooden stick to deaden a thrown ball at approximately an 80-degree angle towards first base, then running like hell. My ignorance is showing. No reason to question a rookie season with numbers like these: 14/20 SB, .329/.371/ .388, 14 2B, 51 R, 14 RBI. Included in that batting average is 17 bunt singles and another 20 infield hits. Like all players that rely on their speed, Hopper knows the importance of a versatile pair of pants. Can you say with confidence that I can run a 4.4- 40-yard dash in these chinos?

Corey Patterson: unlike most players, Corey Patterson doesn’t care about what you, the fan, think of him. Many years of playing professional baseball at such a high level has given him a particular insight. Corey is very wise. He knows that you think he was just brought into camp because he and Dusty used to go water skiing together over long weekends when their wives were out of town. He knows you think he’s an awful, just flat awful, baseball player whose “skill set” was well-represented in camp before his arrival. He knows that you are plotting his death, should he make the opening day roster, as you type another hilarious blog entry. But that’s not going to change anything. From his page: “Corey oozes with so much talent that he makes the game look easy. He doesn’t like to slide back into first on pickoff attempts because they are an insult to him. He never fully extends on his dives in the outfield because he simply does not have to.” If Corey only wants to get on base 29.8% of the time, then Corey is only going to get on base 29.8% of the time. When you get your name in the record books (168 strikeouts in 2004, 20th all time) then you can talk to Corey about getting on base, or finding pants for that matter. Corey doesn’t have time for this.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PREVIEWS: Starting Pitching Staff

As I did in 2007, to preview this year’s club, I’ve broken the team down positionally into categories of how they can best benefit me. I believe this is the best and most relevant way to preview any team.

Which member of the Reds starting pitching staff would like to join the Reds Rocket on their Sunday morning in-line skate? Tiffee straps on the boots and skates as fast as he can around a two mile circle, one hand behind his back to increase speed, like an Olympic speed skater. Yelling at the kids and dogs that force him to slow down. The author prefers to cruise, hands behind my head just enjoying the breeze brushing against my elbow pads and comfortably revealing short. There’s always room for another.

Aaron Harang: the resident monster of the pitching staff continued to choke opponents into submission during the 2007 season. Over 34 starts, he managed to improve over 2006 when he was the second best pitcher in the NL; he won 16 again, lowered his ERA (3.76), struck out a career high (218) and gave up 30 fewer hits in very nearly the same amount of innings (242 in 234.1 in 2006, 213 in 231.7 in 2007). He even got a couple of Cy Young votes after holding a press conference to announce a post-season killing spree for members of the media who fail to recognize his greatness. All that and, as you can tell from the picture above, he looks great in pair of fruity boots.

Johnny Cueto: over 28 starts at 3 different levels, Cueto combined to go 12-9, 3.07 with 170 strikeouts in 161.1 innings. He throws that fastball in the mid to high-90’s, has a plus slider and a quickly developing change. The author can just picture Baker’s reaction upon first spotting Cueto throwing off the mound at spring training. Doing a double take and rubbing his eyes while slow motion images of Cueto’s throwing motion repeat in his mind. Images of what overuse can do to that small frame - rotator cuff, Tommy John, compound humeral fracture. He could be Mark Prior all over again. Dick Pole finally pokes him, “Dusty, you’re staring.” So, even though he’s been lights out this spring, might not be a bad idea for him to start and finish the season at Louisville where his innings will be a little more closely monitored.

If you think the caliber of athlete churned out by the Dominican baseball academies is impressive, you should see their rollerblade instruction. Top shelf.

Josh Fogg: sure he’s a terrible option, but Daggum Ross will vouch for his high moral character and how can you turn away this guy? It looks like there’s something awry with his brain and if you don’t take him in he’s just going to wander around the parking lot and probably get hit by a car. I’d invite him roller blading Sunday but I’m afraid he wouldn’t be to find his way home afterwards.

Edinson Volquez: rather than his biography beginning with “originally from the Dominican Republic” or “loves Canasta” his starts by stating “first name is Edinson” There must have been some confusion or maybe it’s simply to draw some attention to the high quality of his first name. After making a fine case to be out of professional baseball to begin last season, Edinson took a vacation down to A-ball, continued to pitch shitty for a while but eventually figured it out and improved dramatically at each level. In the combined 26 starts he made at Class A Bakersfield, Class AA Frisco and Class AAA Oklahoma, he went 14-6, 3.67 and led Rangers’ minor leaguers in strikeouts with 166 in 144.2 innings. He even turned in two quality starts (out of 6) with the big club. Good for you Edinson. And all the Reds had to do was give up Josh Hamilton who was only fantastic 75% of the time. Apparently, there were some questions regarding the long term effects of a shitload of crack on the body of an athlete. And how would the Reds have gotten the 30 new sets of rollerblades (one for each of the players and coaches) if they weren’t included in the trade from Texas? Now ask how do you feel about the trade? Pretty good is my guess.

Homer Bailey: the Reds Rocket may have been slightly, very slightly, disappointed with last year’s performance of the Reds’ first actual prospect in many moons [4-2, 5.76, 45.1 IP, 43 H, 28K/28BB]. But he has plenty of excuses, yanked groin, small sample size (9 starts), age, doesn’t like dealing with coaches or making necessary adjustments. You try listening to Dick Pole yammer about balance and mechanics when you’re a 21 year-old mega talent. “What do you think I am, an idiot! How do you think I got here Pole? Balance and goddamn mechanics.” So, remember that before you mention those high walk and low strikeout rates. I think I’ll wait and see if he makes the rotation before I ask him any questions, including those about rollerblades.

*Update: as anticipated Bailey will begin the season with Louisville. He is both pleased and surprised with the decision.

Matt Belisle: for the second half of the season B-Liz was pretty bad. Not Eric Milton god-awful but at least regular awful. It seemed like he wore down as the season dragged on, even earning a vacation in Louisville. His numbers for the year looked like this: 8-9, 5.32 ERA, 30 starts, 177.2 IP, 212 hits, 125 Ks, 25 HRs. The cause of the dip in productivity? Late night rollerblading. He’s hooked and it has gotten to the point where he has to choose between his job and his passion. Let’s hope he makes the right decision by first turning down my invitation.

Bronson Arroyo: sure he rocks it like a masochist and is named after Charles Bronson (no doubt due to his performance in Chino, “They took his land, his horses, his woman, but they couldn’t take Chino”) but last year he pitched half the season like he didn’t know the cost of his diabetes testing supplies may be covered by Liberty Medical. Your testing supplies are delivered right to your door with no charge for shipping. He still led the team in quality starts (22) but was also in the top 10 in the NL in losses (15), hits (232) and home runs allowed (28). While those are still kinds of accomplishments, I’m not sure you’ll find the same amount of respect throughout the league. But again, I’m no expert. This season let’s keep the quality high throughout we don’t have a repeat of the 4th of July cancellation of the baseball player concert spotlight. Have you seen the Rolling Stones’ concert movie Gimme’ Shelter? It will be like that, times ten. The music comes first.

Jeremy Affeldt: as I stated last year with Keppinger, I’m always welcoming to Royals’ castoffs. Sure you got run out of town by the worst franchise in baseball for the past 5 years but come on in, sit down, relax. Try it here in Cincinnati without all those heightened expectations that come along with being a Royal. Affeldt actually spent last season and part of ’06 with the Rockies and wasn’t all that bad coming out of the pen (though his biography does feature the following highlight “on 8/16 at SD allowed 5 earned runs without retiring a batter”). His ERA was reasonable, especially at Coors’ (1.74 ERA in 37 appearances at home), he held righties to .211 BA and gave up just 3 bombs all season. However, he was brought to Cincinnati with the intention of starting him because he uses his left hand to throw a baseball. Fortunately, he’s been getting hammered all spring so I vote bullpen, where he may not be quite the melanoma. If that’s where he ends up, especially if he runs Stanton out of town, we’ll consider making an invitation.

*Update: looks like Affeldt will begin the season in the pen, which is a good place for him.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Buenos Tardes

When the Reds Rocket thinks about welcoming people we're always reminded of that show with the theme song by John Sebastian, Sanford and Son. My recollection is a little foggy, since the show aired before I was born, but the episode where Mr. Redlegs replaced Boom Boom as a regular character was hilarious and emotional. I think it may also have been the episode where Mr. Kotter was arrested for possession of child pornography.

Anyway, welcome back to the Reds Rocket which now features not only our extensive archives but also new content. We look forward to hearing from all of you: Last Unitard, that foreign guy who thinks we write good and wants us to buy some product, the guy who thinks hating Dusty Baker makes you a racist (we also hate George Lopez but don't tell anyone or if you're Hispanic forget what you just read), and the other three people (who aren't members of my family) who visit on a semi-regular basis.

We have a lot of really big things planned for 2008. For example, we will continue to follow the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. We realize that the Reds Rocket has become your source for factual, unbiased baseball reporting. We plan to continue to make groundless threats to other teams and also imply that players who are not Reds are either homosexual or crap their pants when they get nervous. Like Mark DeRosa, he fits into both categories. But, we're going to try some new things as well. Like politics. Did you know Barack Obama used to go by Barry? Like the real-life Greg from the Brady Bunch, Barry Williams. That is just one example of the versatility of this particular blog.

So you barbarians, stop by once in a while but, if you're too busy, we understand. We'll probably write regardless but you never know.