Wired: Reds Try to Stop the Short in the Lineup


The Reds made an eagerly awaited decision today.  Inviting Shortstop Zach Cozart to hop on a plane in Louisville and travel northwest 400 miles to the occasionally frozen tundra in Milwaukee, WI.  This decision was not a simple one I am guessing.  First consider the possible pitfalls:

1)  Financial Management – Walt Jocketty made the decision to bring Edgar Renteria to Cincinnati after he had just won the WS MVP award with the Giants with the intent of providing an extra experienced bat to replace departing Orlando Cabrera.  The cost of this one year deal was $2.1 million.  Edgar was paid 10 million last year by the Giants so in spite of his advancing age, some felt this might be a good signing.  Result:  Renteria is batting .229 for the season, and his defense is suspect committing 8 errors in just 40 games.  Consider this when evaluating his deterioration, in 2010 with the Giants he committed just 4 errors in 68 games.

2) Heir Apparent – For 3 years Paul Janish has been working to fill the role of the Reds starting Shortstop.  He became agitated when Cabrera was added to the roster in 2010 as he felt the Shortstop job was his.  Now a year later and just months after being tabbed as the starter he is reassigned back to the Bats.  He is batting .227 which might possibly be forgiven if not for the regression in defense this season.  In 68 games this year, Paul has 8 errors while a year ago he committed only 4 at third base in 62 games.  When you are a starter due to your defensive prowess you need a fielding percentage better than .980 in my opinion.  For every ten points below a .250 batting average means you should have another point in fielding percentage to make up for it.  (I am making this up but I think you get my point.)  Janish currently has a .970 fielding percentage at SS.  The only member of the Reds with a worse fielding percentage who isn’t a pitcher is, you guessed it, Edgar Renteria.  The pitfall here is that Janish may be shot as a member of the Reds organization.  He may need a change of organizational scenery in order to regain the self confidence he must have to succeed at the major league level.

3) Too much, too soon – A lot is going to be asked, nay required of Zach Cozart.  The Reds are struggling to regain the swagger of the playoff run and Cozart will pressure himself to be a part of the solution.  This is where a delicate touch will be needed.  The Reds need Cozart to step up and they will work to boost his confidence in every way possible but the bottom line is the Reds must win.  Winning hides a multitude of flaws and if the Reds start winning consistently, even if Cozart struggles to find his footing in the Big Leagues he will be surrounded by confident players rubbing their confidence off on him.  Last night was a telling point in the 12th inning.  Marty Brennamen commented that the Cardinals players were lining the dugout rail while the Reds listlessly sat on the bench.  This is not an attitude that Zack needs to see.  Ramon Hernandez delivered the clutch game winning hit and the Reds won a game they could not afford to lose but the manner in which a team wins…or loses, is important.

Zach enters rarified air at Shortstop.  The Baseball-Reference.com website has a franchise page called Cincinnati Reds Yearly Starters that lists the player name who had the most starts at each position on the field for each season of the Reds existence. The Reds have only had 40 Shortstops over those 130 years.  The only position with fewer names listed is First Base at 39, while 4 of the positions have had more than 50 different starters.  Part of the reason for the stability at shortstop is the presence of two players in my lifetime who should both be enshrined in Cooperstown.  Davey Concepcion and Barry Larkin.  Concepcion redefined the position in the 16 years he roamed the infield and Larkin became the last captain the Reds have ever had becoming synonymous with Cincinnati for many baseball followers.  Combined these two icons played shortstop an amazing 4,264 games for the Reds.  For the last 5 years Shortstop has become a revolving door.  Brandon Phillips tweeted today that Cozart will be the 20th double play partner he has had during his time in Cincy.  Hopefully as he grows more comfortable he and Brandon will develop a strong working relationship.  The Reds will be better for it.

I often remember the stories of the Big Red Machine when I was a child.  The players on that team got along competitively.  I have never heard about them being close personal friends with each other, they were competitive businessmen coming to work and doing everything they could to work as a team to win.  This current team is a group of friends who want to win but they seem to be friends first, then competitors.  They do not have the fanatical fire that Rose, Morgan and Bench brought to the table.  They do have talent though, so the attitude and approach is what needs to be developed.