Leaning Left


Scott Rolen, Paul Janish and Jonny Gomes. What do they all have in common? They all have question marks coming into the season. Will Rolen make the 120 game mark hopefully set by Dusty Baker? Will Paul Janish be able to hold onto his position at short with newcomer Edgar Renteria? Will Jonny Gomes be able to solidify his defensive role and maintain the enthusiasm & offense that he showed for the better part of last year?

Scott Rolen is turning 36 this year, we all know that. He also had some injuries last year, a couple of them were nagging regardless of the fact that he tried to play through them. We saw evidence of the results of that fight in his 1-11 performance against the Phillies in the playoffs. It also showed in his defense hitting a slump at the worst time of the year by making errors in each of the last two games of the playoffs. Granted, he only made 8 all year, which is tremendous, but Rolen has traditionally been the person who steps up at the end of the season instead of falling off.

Paul Janish plays solid defense and has been improving with the bat over the past few seasons going from hitting .211 two years ago to just over .260 in 2010. The problem comes in with having World Series MVP Edgar Renteria added to the mix. With a similar situation happening last year to Janish, it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult for him to NOT look over his shoulder throughout the spring.

Jonny Gomes is another story entirely. Swing hard, run hard and run over anything that gets in the way. I’m not seeing a problem with that mentality at all. The problem comes in when it’s a 162 game season and hopefully as much as 181.

So what’s the solution to solidify the left side of the field? Here’s an idea. Use Janish, Rolen and Renteria as a 3 man rotation for 2 spots. Rolen is obviously only a 3rd baseman, but both Janish and Renteria can play 3rd. Why not keep all of them fresh for the entire season by rotating them through much the same as Baker did with right & center field before Bruce came up and Adam Dunn was the only solid part of the outfield. As long as they are getting regular at bats and the schedule is fairly regular (since almost all baseball players are very ritual oriented), it should be a good solution to keep them active and give them all enough rest to be healthy and productive when it matters most.

As for Jonny Gomes, his defense is only going to get better with work. We’ve all seen that he is not afraid of hard work and willing to do what it takes to get better. So let’s assume that the defense will get better with time and effort. What we can’t assume is that he will be consistent from an offensive perspective. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, we all love the 500 ft home run, but when there’s a runner on second, all that matters is getting him across the plate. That can happen by hitting the ball roughly 85ft in the right direction. Much of that comes with pitch selection, but a lot can be attributed to a proper swing as well. They key to Gomes’ game this year is going to be swinging within himself – if that makes sense. The reason that Pete Rose had as many hits as he did was because his swing was smooth and consistent. When Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Ramon Hernandez are all in the groove, their swings are short, smooth and consistent. When they start forcing swings or attempting to do more with the pitch than what they are being given, that’s when they get into trouble.

Overall, how those three positions go is generally going to be a good indicator of how the Reds go this year.