Hope Springs Eternal

With just three weeks to Opening Day and only four days until my annual “Die Hards” fantasy draft (My keepers are Tulowiski, Pedroia, Youklis, Kinsler, Sandoval), I want to take just a few minutes to discuss the state of my beloved Reds.  First let me direct you to the excellent Brewers site Brewers Bar where I answered some questions about the Reds. He is doing Q/As with all the teams in the NL Central, and the Cubs and Pirates have already been posted.  I did the interview a few weeks ago, and already I can feel myself getting sucked in to the season.  I still feel that the Reds are still one year away, but if they still had Adam Dunn in left the time would be now.  Sigh.

What interests me pertains to the discussion from yesterday about MLB parity and the lack of a salary cap.  As I stated, there were 7 MLB teams that did not make the playoffs in the decade.  The Reds are one of them.  Four of the clubs are so badly run that I don’t believe they could compete under any circumstances (Baltimore, the Royals, Pirates and Nationals).  Those teams are rarely competitive, but it doesn’t have as much to do with money as it does terrible ownership.

The other three non-playoff teams have a case for ‘economic predjudice’.  Toronto has had good clubs with lots of talent, but can’t get past the Yankees and Red Sox.  Of course, Tampa managed to do just that, so maybe the Jays should shut it.  The Rangers are a team on the rise now that they have Nolan Ryan running the show, so perhaps they’ll break through in the next couple of years.  Then comes the Reds.

If there is a poster child for economic injustice in baseball, the Reds are basically the only team that qualifies.  They’ve had lots of talent but little depth for a decade.  They had chances to pull huge trades, like when Scott Rolen was coming to Cincy, but the deal was voided by ownership thanks to salary pressure.  In the Reds favor is that they are in a division with other modest market teams.  Honestly, there is no need for ‘economic realignment’ in baseball.  There already is economic alignment.  It’s called the NL and AL Central divisions!  If the Reds had had $15-20 million more in revenue this decade, they would have made the playoffs.

Listen, it sucks being a fan of team that has been held back by economics, but ultimately, I don’t think the system is broken just because one team is caught in no man’s land.  What it has done is finally force the Reds to get smart about mining Latin America for talent and to focus on young pitching.  Now if the team could just figure out that Adam Dunn is cheap at $9 million per and Wily Taveras is expensive at $3 million, the arrow would be pointing up even higher than it already is.

It’s spring and I’m hopeful.  The Reds need a miracle to contend, but at least there is a visible path for once.  If all those pitchers can just…no.  I’m not going talk myself into it.  It just makes it hurt worse later.

Hope Springs Eternal

The record may not have shown it, but last year’s Reds club was not awful. It just had the worst bullpen in baseball. Fransico Cordero may not be JJ Putz, and I’m no fan of throwing money at closers, but when you are this bad in the pen, something must be done. Check out this piece by Jason Stark and note the stats:

This is a team that led more games at the end of the fifth inning last year (75) than the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks (among others). You could look it up.
• This is a team that got outscored by 71 runs after the seventh inning last season and by 92 runs after the sixth.
• This is a team that lost eight games it led after seven innings and went a ridiculous 7-17 when it was tied after seven.
• And this is a team that was last in the National League in bullpen ERA (5.13) — and allowed the highest opponent batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.360) and OPS (.807) of any bullpen in the league.

Arroyo had more quality starts last year (22) than Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt or Josh Beckett — and still wound up 9-16. Part of that was due to five blown saves.

Sometimes, you just gotta roll the dice. The Cubs won the NL Central with what, 85 wins? The Reds were just a bullpen arm or two from contention. Maybe now they have have it.