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Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds: On the Road Again

Dusty Baker‘s Reds currently own the third-best record in the National League, 2.5 games behind the Cardinals and one full game behind San Francisco. The Reds’ regular season is 23 percent complete—breakneck speed for sports fans who dedicate their year-long activities around the baseball events.

When playing in their home stadium, band box Great American Ballpark, the Reds sport an NL-leading record of 16-and-6.

Away from their cozy confines their record sits at 6-10—fourth worst in the NL—ahead of only the Marlins, Mets and Padres.

On the road the Reds’ hitting has been nothing short of abysmal. A .224 batting average is second worst only to the Cubs. Their nine home runs rank dead last in the league. Their slugging percentage is a full .016 behind the Marlins—again, good for last in the league.

When a fan’s favorite team is even mentioned in the same breath as the Marlins it is bad. Not just bad—more like a horribly painful toothache.

The news gets worse for Reds fans. On Tuesday night they begin a nine-day, nine-game road trip, playing three three-game sets against cupcake teams with losing records: the Phillies, and the aforementioned Mets and Marlins.

Each of those series fall into the “should win” category.

To the credit of Baker’s Reds, their limited road schedule has been rough: six games against the Cardinals, four vs. the Nationals and a three-game series with the Pirates. Each of those teams have impressive winning records. The Cards are 11 over .500, while both the Nats and the Bucs are four over.

There is another silver lining for the Reds while playing away from Cincinnati. Capping off their last road trip—a 10-gamer—they did sweep three from the “should win” Cubs.

Tuesday night the Reds will test their road moxie in Miami against the NL-worst Marlins.

To call that series a test is just plain sad. But nine days from now Reds fans—one way or another—will have a better gauge of, what so far, has been a cruel case of the on-the-road-again blues.


Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Yahoo Sports.

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Dusty Baker: Your Cincinnati Reds World Series Window Is Closing

Dusty Baker‘s sweet tooth for giving guys chance after chance to prove themselves capable of a role which are not well suited has driven a many Reds‘ fan mad. There are times where conspiracy theories pop into our heads. “How is owner, Bob Castellini paying these doozy contracts?”

Bingo! He is in cahoots with Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia psych wards.

Patience is a luxury for teams in a neutral or rebuilding plan—not for a team that falls into the “Win Now!” category. And especially not for a ball club who has been in that mode going on three consecutive season. If something’s not working, one normally tries to fix it.

When your number two hitter, shortstop Zack Cozart, has an on-base percentage .031 points lower than the 2009 Reds’ lead-off man Willy Taveras, it’s time to tinker the lineup and hope to find an attractive alternative.

Say you have a slop pitcher in the pen who is hittable as a punching bag—like Logan Ondrusek. A sane team would take advantage of their minor league system and look for a more viable option.

Baker, year after year, has shown faith in lackluster players for remarkably extended periods of time. During his tenure as Reds’ skipper only once has he pulled a quick trigger; last season inserting Aroldis Chapman in as closer in place of Sean Marshall.

Cozart is an excellent glove at short. In no way is this advocating his removal from the starting lineup. But where do you see great fielders with low lumber numbers bat? Before the pitcher in the eight-hole—assuming you have no worse sticks.

Solution: Move Xavier Paul into the two slot against righties. Against lefties lead-off with Derrick Robinson and bat Shin-Soo Choo second. The results may or may not be better, but it’s at least worth a squint.

Will the ever-stubborn Reds’ manager try this? Not likely. Reds’ fans may see the Robinson/Choo experiment, but Baker’s bizarre phobia of placing lefties back-to-back in the line-up would surely prevent Paul batting after Choo.

As far as Ondrusek is concerned, ship him to Louisville and give Chad Reineke or Justin Freeman a ticket to the Queen City. Or just take a flyer and point and click. Anyone has a better chance than Ondrusek.

It was exciting to see Ondrusek start the year in AA Pensacola. That thrill died when it was greeted with the news that the only reason he was down there was to work with a pitching coach who had helped harness his control during his journey to Cincinnati.

If a pitcher needs help from a minor league coach after three unspectacular seasons in the majors, he most likely is not ready to don a big league uniform.

Noah Webster defines insanity as, “great folly; extreme senselessness.” Many people define it as, “Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.” Both cases fit Dusty Baker like a well worn Rawlings.

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Cincinnati Reds: Besides Joey Votto, Who Do These Guys Think They Are?

Unless you’ve forgotten to pay the electric bill, by now you have seen the Jay Bruce monster shot that gave the Cincinnati Reds their first division title in 15 years.

But just who are these guys that some team’s fans will watch for at least three games?

I am an expert when it comes to this team.

This season, I have lived vicariously through all of them, I’ve tried to call them, I send them gifts, I’ve stalked, and currently I wear an ankle bracelet.

So if you’re interested in reading the greatest scouting report ever, follow your old buddy Illya on over to the next slide and let’s take a look-see at the lineup the Reds will use in their first playoff game.

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Jay Bruce Walkoff Home Run, Cincinnati Reds Clinch Division

Dusty Baker said, “We were hoping to celebrate here. It’s better to do it at home, in front of the home people.”

Jay Bruce tanked the rest of the NL Central with a solo-shot over Great America Ball Park’s deep center field wall.  Quite fitting for a team that has rubber stamped this season on last at-bat heroics.

The home run came on the first pitch from tough lefty Tim Byrdek.

Edinson Volquez pitched six quality innings, striking out eight. He left after the sixth inning on the losing end of a 2-1 score.

After scratching a run across in their half of the sixth, the Reds tied the ballgame.


The bullpen took over. Seventh inning zeros by Arthur Rhodes. Nick Masset nailing the eighth. And in the top of the ninth, Aroldis Chapman.  A dominant three innings, one from each, and in that order. Three innings, no runs, no base runners, and four strikeouts.

In the bottom of the ninth, not a sole in Reds‘ country wasn’t thinking the same thing when they saw Bruce step to the box.

Rarely do fan dreams and their player expectations come together in such perfect synchronicity.

Tonight was different. Bruce’s walk off home run sent the stadium into a state of pandemonium celebrated only vicariously through other teams for 15 years, and for the first time since the stadium was constructed in 2003.

The most exciting play for Reds’ fans until the Bruce jack, was a first-inning, home-run stealing defensive play courtesy of Drew Stubbs

Tonight provided a microcosm of the Reds season. Good pitching, great defense, and their 45th come from behind win.

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2010 MLB Playoffs: Joey Votto’s Reds Drop Magic Number to Sexy Seven

Joey Votto, nor any of the Cincinnati Reds, needed a hit to cut their magic number to seven on Monday afternoon as the St. Louis Cardinals were shut out by the Florida Marlins in a make-up game played due to an early August rain-out.

Lucky seven.

Quick definition of the magic number: Any combination of Reds wins or Cardinals losses. For example, if the Reds win on Monday night in Milwaukee the number drops to six. If they lose, it remains at seven.

Either way, if one is looking for some longshot odds—take the Cards as the NL Central champs.

As mentioned earlier the Reds start a three-game set in Milwaukee on Monday night. After an off day, they play three in San Diego. After another off day, they come back home for three against Houston and a regular season-ending series, again vs. the Brewers.

Thus far this season, the Reds have a combined record of 22-6 against the aforementioned clubs.

Contrary to the Reds rest and favorable record against the opposition, the Cards, who have not had an off day since Sept. 2 and will not have that luxury for the remainder of the regular season.

In large part due to Monday’s make-up game, St. Louis will have played a nearly unprecedented 31 games in a row to finish the season.

That’s a lot of jet setting with minimal rest. Making matters worse on Tony La Russa’s team, they have a combined record of 16-17 against the teams they will face in their final 13 games.

The Reds are winners of only five of their last 15 ballgames. Still though, thanks in large part to Mother Nature’s cruelty and the Cardinals schedule, they are primed for their first divisional championship since 1995 when they were swept by the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.

Unlike the American League, where it does not take an MIT mathematician to get a general idea of who will be playing where and against which teams, the National League is a jumbled mess.

In the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies are easily the hottest in all of baseball. Starting Monday night, they go against the second-place (and wild card hopeful) Atlanta Braves.

They also play the Braves in their final season series. Not a good time to be playing the Phils.

The Reds have all but won the Central. It would take a Reds collapse of Roman Empire proportions combined with a Cardinals streak of Robert Opel proportions for the Reds to lose.

The NL West is either belongs to the Giants, Padres, or Rockies.

The NL Wild Card probably will not be decided until the final weekend of the the regular season. And the post-season schedule can not be determined until then.

It’s ironic that the coldest contender has pretty definitely clinched their division.

Can the Reds win it all? Of course they can.

All it takes a party invite and three series wins to be crowned World Champions.

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Brandon Phillips Incorrect in His Assessment of St. Louis Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips complimented the Cardinals before our last series, saying they were a fun team, akin to playing with your female dog. He was wrong.

The St. Louis Cardinals are sissies.

Before I get started, this is in no way a jab at fans of the Cardinals. Cincinnati and St. Louis are sort of kindred spirits when it comes to their fandom. Both team’s fanbases are mostly Midwesterners who are by nature respectful and polite.

I have friends who are Cardinal fans. Unlike Reds fans, you people simply had the misfortune of being raised in a geographic location closer to a team full of sissies.

I feel your pain, and do sincerely feel sorry for Cardinal fans.

Take your manager, Tony LaRussa, for example. His zealous envy of Dusty Baker is pitiful to the point that he felt the need to alter his rotation so the Reds will face the same three pitchers they saw in the last series. 

In doing so, Jeff Suppan pitched the final game of the Houston series and you people saw your team get swept by the lowly Astros.

A man less mature than myself may say, “Suppan throws like a girl.”

Congrats, Tony, for making the Labor Day series taste like a PBJ on store-brand white bread.

Cards catcher Yadier Molina is a sissy. Why? In our last series together, Phillips tapped Molina’s shin guard. That’s the baseball way of saying, “Have a nice day, friend.”

Instead of smiling and exhibiting an appropriate greeting, Molina jumped to his feet, pulled his mask up, and started barking face-to-face with a dumbfounded Phillips—a serious violation of social protocol.

Molina had to be restrained.

Once cooler heads prevailed, starting pitcher Chris Carpenter flitted to the field in a crying sissy fit. After his paranoid temper tantrum, he hilariously stated that Johnny Cueto was out to harm him in a physical fashion. 

I usually watch and enjoy every Reds game. Since this weekends outcome is predetermined (a three-game sweep in favor of the Reds), I’ll just stare outside and count pigeons.

Thanks a lot, sissies.

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Aroldis Chapman Sizzles in Debut as a Cincinnati Red

The electric debut of lanky Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman lasted only seven innings into his first day as a Major Leaguer. Reds‘ skipper Dusty Baker said he would not use him in a tight ballgame.

With millions of goose bumps in Reds’ country, ChapMania began on Tuesday night with an 8-3 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Chapman’s inning of work seemed faster than than the 103 mph fastball he threw to Brewers shortstop, Craig Counsell. It took only seven strikes in eight pitches—half of which clocked triple digits.

After a quick strikeout of Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy and two measly grounders to short and second it was over. But, holy tomoley, was it ever memorable.

The typically small crowd at Great American Ball Park went berserk when the scoreboard showed that he was warming in the pen.

During Chapman’s slow jog toward the mound to start the eighth inning, flashbulbs burned, grown men felt like eight-year-olds, and the ladies swooned like teeny boppers at a Justin Bieber concert.

For a small-market team like the Reds this is big stuff.

The 30-plus million dollar signing of Chapman in January came out of nowhere. Most just assumed he would land in a place where money flows like crude oil from a BP oceanic disaster.

Not the case.

Reds’ General Manager Walt Jocketty and principal owner Bob Castellini shocked the baseball world when they brought the 21-year-old to Cincinnati with their whopping contract.

During spring training, Chapman was thought to be a strong candidate for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Ineffective command dashed those hopes and the job ended in the hands of Mike Leake.

Chapman continued to work in the minors as a starter. After some mostly mediocre starts, he was moved to the bullpen.

His control improved with the help of Triple-A pitching coach Teddy Power, and he adapted quickly to his new role.

True or not, in Chapman’s final Triple-A game, radar guns registered a 105 mph fastball.

The minor leagues are now a memory for the now 22-year-old.

After the game, Cincinnati closer Francisco Cordero said, “Even before he started throwing, they (the crowd) were calling ‘Chapman, Chapman!’ It was amazing.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Chapman said, “Of course I was nervous…It’s a big thing for me.”


“Big thing.”

For Reds fans that now see their team with a seven-game lead over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, those words are serious understatements.

“The Cuban Missile” is the biggest thing to hit Cincinnati since its creation of beanless chili.

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Cincinnati Reds Reliever Aroldis Chapman Gets the Call: AroldisMania Begins

Aroldis Chapman is coming to The Queen City. As if the Reds’ biggest division lead in 15 years isn’t enough to have fans in a tizzy, this is the quintuple cherry.

“Look for the city of Cincinnati to explode when Aroldis does get the call.” Back on March 6, those words were written in a Bleacher Report article.

At the time “The Cuban Missile” was in hot contention for the fifth spot in the Reds starting rotation. When camp opened the job was his to lose.

Inconsistency, trouble finding the zone, and a bad back landed him with the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, the Louisville Bats.

While down on the farm, he continued to struggle with control—as a starting pitcher.

In a move that turned out Einstein-esque, Chapman was moved into a back-end bullpen role.

While the Reds hope the crystal ball shows Chapman as a starter, for this season’s stretch run, it’s doubtful that anyone will complain when the 103 mph lefty enters from the bullpen.

In 13 Louisville starts, his numbers had many Reds fans Googling, “dead baseball player does contract still need to be paid.”

Since the early-July move to the pen, the Cuban emigree’s stats suddenly turned from chunks of coal into fine diamonds—a process that usually takes millions of years.

In 26 relief appearances, Chapman has held opponents to a .156 batting average. He’s struck out 49 in 30 innings pitched, yielding only one long ball, allowing 17 hits, and 12 walks.

The walks are still up there. However, standing in the box facing a guy humming trips and not exactly having the best control is, well, sort of bloodcurdling.

Adding to the Aroldis lore, in his last game for the Bats, Chapman supposedly hit a Sidd Finchian 105 mph on the radar gun.

Tinkering with radar guns has long been used to artificially inflate the speed of the pitch. So it would be suspicious if he had hit 105 on the stadium gun.

But Chapman was clocked at 105 by both the stadium’s radar and a handful of scouts.

Which either makes it true, or a vast conspiracy.

Regardless, Chapman throws pure Hydrogen Peroxide—not the diluted stuff purchased off the store counter.

“Look for the city of Cincinnati to explode when Aroldis does get the call.”

While it is unlikely that Great American Ball Park will spontaneously combust when the bullpen door opens and Chapman starts his way to the mound, it might be wise for Reds catchers to switch to a special extra-padded Aroldis mitt.

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Aroldis Chapman: Why the Cincinnati Reds Need Him on the Playoff Roster

Aroldis Chapman needs to be playoff eligible. And before anyone starts an inner dialogue—yes, the Reds will be in the playoffs.

Secret weapon. Remember those?

Being a former secret weapon myself, as a cannon-armed quarterback for my flag football team in college, I am fully aware of their value. I remember being down late in a game. I was brought in to start a monumental comeback against the TKE fraternity’s team.

I was 3-for-3 with two touchdown passes.

Sure, both touchdowns were interception returns for the TKE’s, but still they were TD passes and completions.

On August 18th, it was reported by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that Aroldis Chapman would be called to the majors on September 1st, thus making him playoff eligible.

UPDATE: I thought to be playoff eligible one needs to be either on the 25-man roster, disabled list, or bereavement list before September 1st.

Fay explained, “He can replace anyone who is injured (even if they are already on the DL). He’ll replace Jose Arrendondo, who is on the 60-day DL.”

In an earlier version of this article, I said Fay erroneously stated that Chapman would be on the playoff roster. I was incorrect. And I apologize to Mr. Fay for doubting a long time beat writer.

As far as the 25-man playoff roster is concerned, Bill Bray will be removed in favor of fellow lefty Chapman.

Back to the secret weapon.

No one, barring a minor leaguer or two and the guys who saw him in spring training, has faced Chapman at the plate.

Much like my own cannon-arm, Chapman has hit 103 on the radar gun in Louisville. But this isn’t football. He can’t throw interceptions.

Since Louisville moved him from a starter to a back-end bullpen pitcher, Chapman has pitched 26 innings allowing 15 hits while registering 41 Ks. Yes, he has issued 12 walks. And he has hit five batters in his 91 and two-thirds innings pitched as both a starter and reliever.

However, when a guy is running his gas in triple digits—a little wildness is a good thing. There aren’t many major leaguers found of stepping to the plate and facing a 103 MPH pitcher who really has no idea where his pitches will end up.

To me, that is the definition of “effectively wild.”

Reds General Manager, Walt Jocketty is no dummy. Chapman will be called up before September 1st. Not that Bill Bray is a bad pitcher, he is simply average.

The upside of having Chapman during the playoffs would be enormous.

During September the Reds should use him only enough to keep him fresh. And never against teams that they may see in the playoffs.

Well, with the exception of the Labor Day weekend series versus the Cardinals. Where, if the opportunity arises, he should definitely be called upon if that whiney little girl, Chris Carpenter is at the plate.

I’ll let you guys figure out the rest of that story.

The secret weapon will be on the Reds post-season roster. And opponents will be shaking in their cleats when he is called out of the pen.

I guarantee it. And I also would enjoy kissing Suzy Kolber.

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Another Cincinnati Reds Crisis: Paul Janish Pipping Orlando Cabrera?

What does a team do with so many talented starting pitchers? Uber-rookie Mike Leake has already been relegated to bullpen duty.

The Reds just plain have too many talented starting pitchers. And now this?

Paul Janish trying to Wall Pipp the shortstop position?

When Orlando Cabrera (The O.C.) landed on the DL on August 3rd with a strained oblique, Janish took his spot in the lineup as the everyday shortstop.

The O.C. has been a great clubhouse addition. He’s always loose and joking around at opportune moments—teams need veteran guys like The O.C.

It’s not The O.C.’s fault, but in baseball years, he is approaching elderly status. Worse, his production at the dish is finally starting to show at an ugly tune of a .302 on-base-percentage.

The O.C.’s defensive skills (even though he has lost a step) are still top-notch.  Especially turning a 4-6-3, not sure there is a guy who gets rid of the ball quicker in the league.

If there is a true baseball fan out there who does not appreciate the way Brandon Phillips picks it, shoots it over to The O.C., who then guns it to Joey Votto, well, it’s a safe bet that they are a Cardinals‘ fan.

Along comes Paul Janish.

All winter long Janish thought the shortstop job was his to lose. Even entering Spring Training he thought the same.

Out of nowhere, The O.C. was signed at the beginning of Spring Training. Rendering Janish as annoying background noise. The O.C. is a solidified veteran. A former two-time Gold Glover with a better stick than Janish—or so popular theory had it.


On August 2nd, The O.C. strained his oblique swinging into a double play.

On August 3rd, Janish began the Wally Pipping process.

One may look at Janish’s 43 at-bats as a small sample size—which it is—but those 43 ABs constitute just over 40 percent of his season total.

Entering the August 3rd contest versus the Pirates, Janish had a grand total of 63 ABs. Or around 12 a month.

In his 43 ABs from August 3rd to August 17th, Janish has been hitting at a .302 clip. His on-base-percentage is .362. Slugging? .488, that’s an .850 OPS. 

In the 12 games Janish has played since The O.C. went down, he nailed two home runs in 43 at-bats.

The O.C. has gone deep three times in the whole of 2010, or 416 ABs.

Another standout stat is their comparative strikeout rates: Janish one per every 15.77 ABs, The O.C. one per every 9.6 ABs.

You’re probably sitting there saying to yourself, “Well, Illya, screw mainstream media, YOU are the new voice of the Reds!”

But pertaining to this article, you’re probably questioning Janish’s defensive skills at short against the former Gold Glover.

Janish is as slick as they come at short. A very strong case could be made that his D is better than The O.C.’s—not knocking The O.C. at all. Janish is simply that good.

He has better range and a slightly stronger arm with the same pinpoint accuracy.

Still on the D.L., The O.C. is starting to swing the bat again. Likely meaning his return is imminent.

Reds‘ skipper Dusty Baker has long been known as a guy that will not allow a player to beat out another while he is on the DL.

By playing so well in the heat of a pennant race, Janish is making Dusty’s normal stance quite difficult.

What if Miller Huggins had never replaced Pipp with some guy named Lou Gehrig back in 1925?

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