Welcome to "Thporths Thurthdayths"
I'm really not sure how to out and say this, so I'll just do it....
I hate Adam Dunn.
I know it's irrational, but I hate him. I think he's overrated. He's lazy. He's attrocious in the field. The worst base runner on the Reds. A clubhouse cancer. Oh.. I know he's loved by teammates, but he's also the worst possible role model for any young, promising player. Just ask his best friend Austin Kearns.
I know he's productive (mostly) at the plate. I know he walks a lot and scores runs. I get that. I don't care.
We're free. The great city-wide nightmare is over. And now... much as the citizens of San Francisco had to figure out how to rebuild after the earthquake, we as a city, as a baseball team have to figure out how to rebuild after Adam. For once, though, we have reason for hope.
Well, I am but a humble fan, but here are my suggestions...
-- As of Sunday evening, when the season ends, there are no guaranteed jobs for next year. None. I'm sure that Bronson Arroyo has a gig to get to somewhere in his beloved Boston, but he's gonna have to show up next Spring pitching like he has for the past 2 months. He's clearly a capable pitcher, but I question his desire to be here, and I don't want that on my team. Players should want to be here. Should TRY every time they go on the field. They have to know they're ALL replaceable.
What did playing the old, comfortable stand-bys get us? ZERO winning seasons since 2000. Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the greatest players ever, and I do think that it means something that he took less money to play here... well...that favor didn't matter once he stopped being a contributer (about... well... was he ever really?) Adam Dunn? Same thing... I have always driven Alan crazy about Dunn, because he insists that he's exactly what should be expected of him. That's fine and well and great, but I really think there's something about him that is a vacuum of desire. I recall, a couple of years ago, when Homer Bailey was still in low A ball, and Alan said he worried about Bailey because Homer said he'd rather go fishing than play baseball. I used to disagree that this was a problem. “A job is a job” I said. If you did your job, who cares if it's your passion... Well... I was wrong. Baseball is a mental game. Just ask Ted Williams. When a pitcher who doesn't care faces a batter who wants nothing more on Earth than to crack one up the middle... who's got a better chance in this game of millimeters? More than every strikeout drove me insane. More than every botched fly ball made me irate... The thing I hated most about Adam Dunn was that he knew he was safe and had a job every day no matter how he played, and he played just like that.
-- Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Phillips... These guys are the future. Let them play evey day. Let them work out their kinks. Let them go through their growing pains. Let them bond through their shared traumas. Look at the Tampa Bay Rays. They lost 96 games last year, but they sent the same young team out there every day to take their lumps. This year, they're playoff bound. They're exciting. The 2003 Marlins were the same way. The 2002 Angels.
The best Reds team of the past 10 years was exactly the type of mix I'm looking for... A lot of young, hungry guys with talent (Aaron Boone, Sean Casey, Pokey Reese, Mike Cameron) mixed with a few strong veteran leaders (Barry Larkin, Greg Vaughn). I'm convinced that it's the only mix that can work for a team with a limited budget. The Yankees can afford to pick off all star players from other teams. The Mets will make at least one big free agent signing every year. The Reds can't. They need a little creativity, and I honestly believe that now that Griffey and Dunn are gone we've got a chance to see what can happen.
-- They may not be able to do it every year, but the Reds do need to get one big, really good free agent. If I had my way, it'd be either a shortstop or a third baseman. Sadly, it looks like both positions are pretty light this year coming up. The only guys I'd consider picking up at either position are David Eckstein (The lead-off guy we need) or Casey Blake... not really an improvement over Edwin (though... ideally, Edwin moves to first.) The other position we need is starting pitcher. I don't think the Reds have enough clout to pull a #1, but maaayyybe Ben Sheets could be affordable because of his injury history. I know it's a risk. Sabathia is out. Maybe bring back Dempster. I dunno...
The point is... the fans need a reason to be fired up from the start. The energy is always electric for opening day, but there's often a let down afterward, because...well... what's the point if there's no one new? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So... give us something new to look for.
Here's my ideal starting Lineup for opening day 2009
1) CF- Chris Dickerson. I like him. He's not going to be as great as he's been since they brought him up, but he's the fastest guy on the team. He doesn't swing at the first pitch. He gets on base. The closest thing we may have to a lead-off guy...at least for now.
2) 2B- Jerry Hairston Jr.. I'm not convinced that he's durable enough to be here permanently, but he's proven to be a spark plug for this team. He gives effort like Ryan Freel. Unlike Ryan Freel, he's got actual ability to back it up.
3) RF- Jay Bruce. The guy is the logical choice for the glamor spot in the order. He's the new star.
4) 1B- Edwin Encarnacion. Has 35 homer power. Has never consistently had men on base in front of him. I am convinced that he's the biggest head case on the team, and by moving him to first will greatly reduce that inevitable connection between his mental errors in the field psyching him out at the plate.
5) LF- Joey Votto. Yep. I moved Joey to left. In this spot in the order he protects Edwin. He hits for average. He's got experience playing the outfield from the minors. He's quickly becoming my favorite Red.
6) SS- Brandon Phillips. He's bound to have some struggles at the plate as he adjusts to playing shortstop again. That's okay... He's going to win his first Gold Glove at 2nd this year. It'll look great next to his 5 or so from Short that he'll have when he retires. Plus, with Joey Votto and Edwin hitting doubles left and right in front of him, Phillips may not try to do as much as he does hitting in the 4 spot. He can be a consistent 25/30 guy.
7) 3B- Casey Blake? A good fit for this team's new profile, and maybe the best 7 hitter in the NL.
8) C- Ryan Hannigan. A space-filler for 2 more years while Devin Meseoraco works his way up. I'm okay with that. I like Hannigan well enough.
9) SP: Edinson Volquez. Don't get me wrong, I like Aaron Harang, and I don't think his issues this year have all been his. He's consistently the most tough-luck pitcher on the team. Still..he's getting older and Volquez has earned his stature as the number one. I'm all for giving him the ball on opening day.
So... hopefully things this past month have been a harbinger and not a mirage. I like the Reds right now. I'll always love them, but it's been a while since I've liked them. Even Dusty isn't bugging me right now.
Wait til next year.