Firstly, before we talk baseball, the bullpen, Bryan Price, J.J. Hoover, Billy Hamilton, anything Cincinnati Reds related, it is incredibly important that I say Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. I know that many of our readers are fathers (including my dad, so there is your shout out!) so enjoy dads, it is your day.
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Now then…what a gut-wrenching way to lose a baseball game. To stick with the Father’s Day theme, I remember watching games with my dad as a middle schooler and wondering why the Reds could not find anyone better than Todd Coffey, David Weathers, Kent Mercker and the like to save games.
In fairness, with the construction of the current club, we as fans have nothing to complain about. Imagine if Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman just did not exist at the backend of the bullpen, and then imagine trying to make it through the season.
On the surface, both Logan Ondrusek and J.J. Hoover have the physical tools to be successful Major League relief pitchers. As of right now, under no circumstance can they be trusted in a competitive ballgame—which is unfortunate, because when you play close games night after night, like the Reds have, they are thrust into roles in which they cannot be expected to succeed.
Sabermatricians will spew some garbage about how high-pressure situations do not exist, or that each time a pitcher takes the mound is the same, but ask Logan Ondrusek the difference between pitching the mop-up work when your team is trailing by seven runs, and pitching to the heart of the Brewers order in a tight game.
Bryan Price was virtually firing an unloaded gun on Saturday night. With his two bullets not in the chamber, whatever was thrown out on the mound was going to be a blank. (Reminder: he cannot actually pitch for anyone)
Where the confusion sets in is his handling of Mat Latos. Assuming both Broxton and Chapman (and Sam LeCure) were not available to pitch, that leaves an extremely thin bullpen of Ondrusek, Hoover, Manny Parra and Tony Cingrani. Expecting that combination to magically get nine outs in a tight game is not a calculated risk—it is asinine.
Mat Latos is a big boy; he knows when he is done. Unless he asked out after six innings, it was stunning to see him not take the hill in the seventh. I am completely aware of all his ailments and such, but with a severely depleted bullpen, that is when you need your starters to take the ball deep into games.
Unfortunately, for J.J. Hoover, bad things happen to good people. From all that are close to the club, Hoover seems to be an extraordinarily likeable guy. He just so happened to give up a game-losing home run to a classless cheat like Ryan Braun.
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The bigger picture at hand here does not involve just Bryan Price. Maybe it is apropos that on Father’s Day, we discuss the changing of the guard in baseball.
Baseball is not a game that can be managed with a lack of emotion. The game is sternly set in its ways, and any outsider attempting to crack that mythical wall, is shunned and ridiculed for breaking the mold.
Yet, they laughed at the shift. They laughed at specialized relief pitching. Hell, they still laugh at pitch counts, yet every manager follows their number as if it were written in the New Testament.
Bullpens are a complex creature that can sometimes be left to their own devices, but a radical thinker is needed—desperately.
For just a moment, follow the logic: If Bryan Price has confidence in Sam LeCure to pitch to the heart of the order in a three-run game in the seventh inning, would he not still have confidence in him to do the exact same in the ninth?
Many take it the wrong way when some clamor for Broxton and Chapman in the seventh inning—it is not a beckoning for either man to finish the game by any stretch of the imagination. Logically, if I am managing the club, I want my number one weapon (Broxton/Chapman) facing the heart of their order in a close game, regardless of the opponent. It is purely logical.
In case you have lived under a rock the last five years, Aroldis Chapman is as close to untouchable as we have ever seen in the history of Major League Baseball. I do not believe the difference between a fourth or fifth place hitter, opposed to a seventh or eighth is going to make much of a difference to him.
When things go smoothly, not a word is written about it. When things go as they did on Friday with the Reds somehow winning, not a word is written about it.
Yet, when they go awry, it becomes the topic of discussion. Unfortunately, Saturday night was an anomaly. Under normal circumstances, I cannot imagine Ondrusek was coming into that game in that situation. But the question begs to be asked: who would have? Following Price’s logic, it would have been Sam LeCure.
Facing the heart of a ridiculously potent Brewers lineup, you have to want Broxton/Chapman on the hill. You trust LeCure with a one-run lead in the seventh? Then surely, you would trust him with a one-run lead in the eighth against the bottom of the order.
If any of this seems like it makes sense to you, it is because it does. Clear as day.
But, like many things in life and sports; money, and pride drive the conversation.
The idea seems radical, but then again, what is so radical about simply winning?
Tags: Cincinnati Reds