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Cincinnati Reds: Their Ideal Everyday Lineup

With a bad team, arranging the batting lineup is akin to rearranging deck chairs on the titanic, but on a contending team like the Reds, I believe there are a few adjustments that could be made that will help the team as a whole.

Without further ado, with numbers to back up my thoughts, I present what would look like a good everyday starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds.

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Cincinnati Reds’ Jonny Gomes: Jonny B Goode

You gotta love early-season baseball statistics.

At Jonny Gomes’ current pace, he will end the 2011 season with 58 home runs and 150 RBI. It would go down as one of the greatest seasons of all time, and Gomes would be celebrated as a hero around these parts.

I’ll make a fearless prediction, and say he falls somewhat short of that.

However, at least in the early going, Gomes is displaying a different approach at the plate that reflects in his numbers.

Saturday’s 2-for-4 against the Pirates brought his overall batting average to .268 to go with five home runs and 13 RBI.

We all knew he was capable of putting together the occasional hot streak, but what’s the difference?

Gomes leads the National League in walks with 15. For the entirety of last year, he had 39. That is a large contributor to his .456 OBP.

Everything about the man at the plate suggests he’s dying to swing—the helmet tugs and gyrations, combined with the fact that he’s always had to fight for a job.

From personal observation, he’s taking a lot more borderline pitches. Last year, he was popping those up.

The increased success comes with a bit of scrutiny, as he started off last year hot, and then faded down the stretch. 

Will that be the case again?

Power comes and goes. Hitters slump, but a patient batting eye doesn’t, and if Gomes has truly figured out an approach that works for him mentally, he can put together a nice season for the Reds.

Just don’t expect him to knock on the door of Roger Maris’ old home run record.

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Cincinnati Reds: Hurtin’ Homer Bailey To Go to DL

There hasn’t been this much anticipation for a Reds season in years, but for anyone who has been paying attention to spring training, the news hasn’t been very good and it continues to get worse as starting pitcher Homer Bailey was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder impingement.

For Bailey, who has shown flashes but is still seeking consistency over the course of an entire season, it’s another setback.

The injury is only supposed to sideline him for a few starts, but it’s always something with this guy, who has a great competitive zeal but keeps getting injuries that always seem to sidetrack any progress he’s trying to make.

Suddenly, a probably Volquez-Arroyo-Cueto-Wood-Bailey rotation has turned into Volquez-Arroyo-Wood-Leake-LeCure.

Sam LeCure has league average stuff, and can help a team out for a short stretch at the bottom of the rotation, but suddenly, the staff doesn’t look nearly as fierce, and a quick glance at the Spring Training numbers reveal that not a single starter has an ERA below 4.00.

Some may dismiss that, and say “oh, it’s just spring training.”  However, outside of Arroyo, all of these guys have short track records, so we can’t assume that they will be able to “flip the switch” once the real games get underway.

The Reds had a lot of things go right last year, one of those being remarkable health. Even in a watered down division that doesn’t nearly have the firepower of, say an AL East, it’s still a relatively bad sign.

As I mentioned in a prior article, never trade away what may be perceived to be “excess” pitching, for the word truly doesn’t exist as it pertains to the marathon known as the Major League Baseball season.

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Cincinnati Reds: Team Can Handle Short-Term Loss of Johnny Cueto

Recent news surrounding the status of Johnny Cueto, as it pertains to his inflamed shoulder, has Reds fans a bit concerned.  

It was announced that Cueto will take 7-10 days off before he resumes throwing again. That will keep him Arizona-bound when the rest of the team breaks camp to head off to Cincinnati for opening day.

The diminutive righty, a target of respected publications such as Baseball Prospectus, ends their bio about Cueto with the following:

“The Dominican managed his first season free of arm problems, but his build doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence in a pain free future.” 

Cueto grew up admiring the legendary Pedro Martinez, and upon being drafted, some scouts compared him to his idol.

Though he has yet to get anywhere close to that stratosphere, Cueto has turned into a rock solid No. 2 starter for the Reds. He hasn’t been great, but his youth and talent inspire confidence that we, perhaps, have yet to see the best Cueto has to offer.

Those plans are on the temporary backburner, as right now the biggest thing that Cueto has in common with Martinez is the same propensity for injuries.  

Last year was Cueto’s sole season where he enjoyed complete health.

Until he returns, which sounds like it could be soon, the Reds should be fine. A rotation of Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey is still long on talent and depth.

In my opinion, this is why you don’t trade the young pitching. Every so often, there is talk about them moving a Homer Bailey, or another one of the young pitchers, but in my opinion, you can NEVER have enough pitching depth.

The moment you think you do, could become the moment you suddenly don’t.

This whole situation is hardly enough reason to pull the fire alarm, but in a banner 2010 season which featured remarkable health, lets hope that this isn’t the first sign of things to come. 

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Cincinnati Reds: It’s a Make or Break Year for Edinson Volquez

Heading into 2011, the Cincinnati Reds have a deep rotation, not necessarily loaded with aces, but with arms who are definitely strong enough to get a team through the 162 game ringer.

Common consensus is that Bronson Arroyo will continue to be a solid, extremely durable pitcher.  He’s no ace, but he will take the hill every day and probably give you six/seven innings of three runs allowed.  Johnny Cueto may take another leap forward in his own development, but even if he doesn’t, he should be able to produce a similar season to what he did last year.

Those are really the sure bets in the rotation, as Travis Wood, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake will all battle for the final two slots in the rotation.  

All of the aforementioned pitchers are very good major leaguers, or in the case of the younger guys, certainly have the potential to be.

However, there is one man, who, on his best days, is better than them all.

In the controversial Josh Hamilton trade, one on paper that looks pretty bad right now, Edinson Volquez burst onto the scene, and put together a first half to the 2008 season that Reds fans will never forget.

Three years later, we are waiting for the sequel.

In baseball years Volquez is young, but not THAT young.  Are we expecting too much from a soon to be 28-year old who has put together one half of a great season in his career?  I mean, how many careers really take off at that age?

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee is an example of someone who got off to a bit of a late start, and future hall of famer Randy Johnson didn’t necessarily show ace stuff until his mid/late 20s. So there are guys who blossom at an age where many are as good as they are ever going to be.

What we do know is, Dusty Baker gave Volquez the ball to start the division series, and will entrust him with opening day responsibilities. That speaks volumes.

For the Reds to get where they want to go, they need someone to match a Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay on their best days.  A clear message has been sent that the Reds think Volquez can be that guy.

As he becomes further removed from Tommy John surgery, a procedure not nearly as daunting as it once was, it will be fascinating to see how his season unfolds.

As mentioned, they are constructed solidly enough to win another NL Central title, but what Volquez does may determine if they can go places that Reds fans haven’t seen for nearly a generation.

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Cincinnati Reds: Can This Team Handle New Expectations in 2011?

In the 2010 season, the Reds surpassed everyone’s expectations, winning 91 games in not only posting their first winning season since 2000, but also making it to the postseason for the first time since 1995.

For the first time in years, we are being sold something legitimate heading into a season. For years, it was merely a desperate hope and promise of something that seemed so vague and far away, but it’s a new bill of goods now, where merely achieving respectability will no longer do the trick.  

With money committed to the young talent, older vets brought in/retained and after what happened last year, this team is now expected to win.

Fan events such as Redsfest and the Reds Winter Caravan have drawn rabid interest, ticket sales are up, and I’d imagine Spring Training will draw numbers unlike any year in recent past.

The question is, can the Reds live up to the hype?  Can they handle being the “hunted” as opposed to being the “hunter?”

The St. Louis Cardinals are always a dangerous team, the Milwaukee Brewers put together a good offseason, and the Chicago Cubs added pieces.  They have the Reds circled on their calenders, and want their lunch money back that the Reds stole.

It is paramount that the Reds start off well.  In a market such as Cincinnati, where the revenue streams have limits, they need good attendance numbers.  These salaries have to be paid somehow.

The organization didn’t make a huge splash this offseason, but beyond that, they did everything in their power to draw more paying customers, and when you pay attention to your market like the Reds did, through the aforementioned fans events, those efforts will go a long way.

Most important of all, they are a good team. Without talent on your squad, offseason PR moves to try and drum up interest is like putting perfume on a pig.

Though the 2010 season will always have a special place in the hearts of Reds fans, its time to start thinking about the encore act, as the curtain is soon to raise.

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Cincinnati Reds: This Is One Organization in Town That Gets It Right

Only a parking lot separates Paul Brown Stadium from Great American Ballpark, but it may as well be an entire time zone.

One organization is owned by a man who rarely talks, but when he does, I get about as much joy from it as being placed on hold while waiting to speak to someone from a credit card company.

He offers nothing but excuses for the failures of the organization.  Excuses, half truths and simply laughable justifications when asked why he does things the way he does.

It somewhat reminds me of my own recent car shopping experience.

Meanwhile, the organization continues to get lapped by the Steelers, Ravens, Jets and Patriots, among other teams in the AFC.  They are progressive, innovative and hold people accountable.  Meanwhile, we bring back a head coach coming off a four-win season.

All I can say is, thank goodness for spring training, which is less than a month away.

While the Reds are far from a perfect organization, they are legitimately trying.  Bob Castellini, from all indications, cares about the product on the field and has made smart moves in an effort to bring a championship back to Cincinnati.

Ultimately, with how the finances work in Major League Baseball, he will never be able to do what some teams are capable of, but for the next few years the Reds will have a young nucleus in place that should continue to get better.

It’s not just about the kids, though.  Bob and Walt Jocketty know that a good ball club also has a mixture of veterans, as there isn’t a scenario that Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Bronson Arroyo haven’t faced.

These men will once again be led by Dusty Baker, who tactical decisions can drive fans crazy, but his players will run through a wall for that man.

The ground is hard, cold and snow-covered, and the stench of the Bengals season still lingers in the air, but the worst is behind us.

Spring Training not only signifies new life for a sport, but in this case, new life for the Queen City.

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MLB Rumors: Why Yankees’ Rafael Soriano, Manny Ramirez Whispers Make No Sense

Many of the big names in MLB free agency have already signed with teams, and as widely reported, the Yankees haven’t had their usual success.

A few names still float out there.  Mostly aging or battered pieces, but there is still intrigue with some of them.

Should the Yankees give Manny Ramirez and Rafael Soriano a look?  Some evidence suggests that maybe it could work out, but a lot of it points in the other direction.

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Cincinnati Reds: What We Learned About the Reds from Winter Meetings

The winter meetings have come and gone, and as predicted, the Reds didn’t make any major moves, outside of the Bronson Arroyo, Jay Bruce and Miguel Cairo contracts.

All signs point to the Reds sticking to the current plan—developing players from within and banking on their success.

That formula worked in 2010, as a division title was the end result.

With the crazy money being thrown around last week in Orlando, the Reds will never be that team to go out and pay $100-plus million for a Carl Crawford.

All is okay, though. We can still be fine, but the margin for error is razor-thin.

I think we know what to expect out of certain components of this team, as it’s safe to say that Joey Votto will continue to rake, Brandon Phillips will bat his usual .280 and provide Gold Glove defense and Scott Rolen will put it together for stretches.

In terms of pitching, Bronson Arroyo will be Bronson Arroyo, I think Johnny Cueto has cleared some hurdles and I’d imagine that Nick Masset, Arthur Rhodes (if he remains with the team) and Francisco Cordero will turn in performances similar to this past season.

Outside of that, the direction of this team depends on what the young guys do, and if they fail, the Reds fail.

They cannot go out and sign pricey veterans, so their improvements had better come from these guys.

Reds fans are all happy that Jay Bruce will spend his prime years with the Reds, and obviously he had his great late season finish, but he needs to show day in, day out consistency.

Fellow outfielder Drew Stubbs needs to cut down on his strikeouts, and though he made great strides, he will need to continue to get better.

As for the young arms, what they did in 2010 will have to be repeated. Will Edinson Volquez become the pitcher we think he can become, will Mike Leake bounce back and will an offseason of teams scouting Travis Wood have a detrimental effect on him?

Oh yeah, and there is some other guy named Aroldis Chapman—perhaps you have heard of him. As excited as Reds fans are about his potential, though, there are lots of questions about how he will be used next year.

So there you have it: The team stood pat in Orlando, a clear sign that one winning season won’t raise payroll significantly.

Outside of a few proven commodities, this team will live and die by the individuals who are homegrown.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Is Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder the Better Move?

The annual winter meetings have come and gone, but what happened in those few days will have long-lasting implications.

Guys such as Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes, who are free agents following the upcoming season, have to be licking their chops at some of the dollars handed out, as that will bode well for them.

Long-term, what does each man have to look forward to, and who would provide the best bang for their buck?

Let’s rewind for a second: Jose Reyes, who is 27 years old, is a talented ballplayer, but he’s one of the faces of what has turned out to be a very disappointing New York Mets team the past few years.

Injuries short-circuited his 2009 season, and he played 133 games this past year but still had oblique issues to go on top of a .321 on-base percentage, his worst figure since 2005.

For a player who relies on speed, his various injuries certainly are troubling, but he’s still young enough to recover and have a nice career, but for whom?

A conversation between the Mets and Giants occurred last week, as it pertained to the services of Reyes, but what the Giants had to offer didn’t meet the requirements of the Mets.

In shifting the focus over to the big bopper in Milwaukee, Prince Fielder, 26, is the prototypical slugging first baseman, so much so that 32 home runs was considered to be a bit of a down year for him.

As he enters the final year of his contract, he sees what Adrian Gonzales and Carlos Pena got, and with Scott Boras representing him, he has to be feeling pretty good.

The Brewers, a mid-market team, have a tough decision to make.  Do they bank on trying to re-sign him after the season, or do they trade him and get some value out of it, as opposed to possibly losing him for next to nothing?

With Boras as his agent, it doesn’t look good for the Brewers, and trading him might be the direction to go.

He can fetch a lot more than Reyes, at this point, who needs to have a bounce back season to regain his past hoopla.

Power-hitting first baseman are a big part of what championship ball clubs are built of, so anyone looking for a deal may be advised to look towards towards Fielder.

At this point, he’s the better trading chip, with the better long-term prospects.  He will be the most costly of the two, yes, but his track record suggests that unlike Reyes, he can back up those dollar signs with consistent year-to-year production.

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