Reds Round Table: The Reds…Part I

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You might be wondering why the “Part I” is attached to this one. Reason being is two-fold. First, I asked more questions since the Reds is where our collective interest is most prominent. Second, I received so many excellent answers that I didn’t want to short change the readers from seeing how varied we all are in regards to the team. And there was more variance than you might think. Hence, my decision to split this one into two parts.

All that were on hand yesterday are here with one exception and we have an addition. Tina from Rockin’ Redlegs, Ronnie from Big Red Redemption, Chad from Redleg Nation, and BK and JinAZ from Red Reporter return. The addition is Red Reporter’s RijoSaboCaseyWKRP. Justin of BRM takes the day off (excused, of course). The rest of the BRM holdovers (Alex, Kerry, Kevin and John) are back for this round.

So…let’s get going!

My first issue covers one that is on almost every Reds fans mind: What, if any, moves should the Reds pursue. There was one answer that had more reaction that any. a starting pitcher. Since RijoSaboCasyWKRP is the newcomer to the table, we’re sending him out first.

When you consider the defensive efficiency has been excellent, that the offense is scoring a lot of runs on a per-gam basis and the bullpen has been pretty solid, Cordero’s Milwaukee Meltdown notwithstanding, it’s the starting pitching that needs a pretty massive shot in the arm.

The most obvious move, in my mind, is to find a starter capable of doing what Volquez did in ’08 or something close to it. Cueto has been great, but he’s all alone right now as the Reds only pitcher with a sub-4.00 ERA. Peripherals/history suggests this will even out a little, but that may just mean Cueto regresses. This phantom pitcher might not be available, but you have to shake the tree hard. Or cut down the tree and start thinking about next year.

I’m hopeful, for the time being, that at least half-a-move has been made upgrading the offense at SS. Zach Cozart just has to hurdle a very low bar to improve the production there. The closer he gets to hitting like he has in Louisville this season, while playing better-than-Renteria defense, could mean a more dramatic improvement.

Seems an arm is a good consensus, but Kevin offers a series of moves…

Move number 1 would be to give up on Renteria or Janish at shortstop and let Cozart play shortstop for the remainder of the season. In his short time with the Reds, Cozart has proven that he’s just as good defensively and he’s got the bat that will be—at the very least—no worse than what the Reds already had. The second would be getting a starting pitcher. There aren’t that many out there, put the Reds are so loaded with prospects that (assuming they want to win this year) they could make an offer impossible for anyone to refuse.

All of those in favor of DFAing Edgar, raise you hands? That many, huh? Those for letting Cozart be the guy at short?

That is kind of a step toward the next issue. No question that a lot of Reds fans have felt a little frustrated at the team’s performance so far in 2011. I wanted to know what aspect has provided the most frustration.

There was a commonality, the consistency. But there are reasons some of my cohorts feel that way. Tina explains in great detail about her main frustration.

The most frustrating aspect of the 2011 Reds is the lack of a solid, consistent, daily lineup. The guys get jerked around on an almost daily basis. The two positions that are the weakest, shortstop and left field, are the ones that do not have starters. At the other positions, we know we’re going to see Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce every day (except for the occasional day off), but at the weak spots, that is almost unheard of.

Take LF, for example. We have three different players sharing the spot and they alternate on a daily basis. Between Gomes, Heisey, and Lewis, we hardly ever get to see any of these guys start more than one day in a row. Some people have a problem with Jonny Gomes’ offensive numbers – but how are we going to know if he can hit if he only gets the chance every third day or longer (and I don’t count pinch hitting, because only having one at-bat a game isn’t enough to accurately represent offensive ability)? Aside from the fact that this arrangement is detrimental to the consistency of not only the individual players, but also the lineup, it is also detrimental to the team as a whole. By doing this, the management seems to be driving a wedge between the players.

These three guys are essentially competing against each other for playing time, which cannot be (and demonstrably is not) good for the general attitude of the team. The biggest difference between 2010 and 2011 is the glaring lack of that special spark of team cohesiveness, which is absolutely essential to winning.

The other prominent aspect was the Reds inability to win one-run games. Almost half the panel eluded to that fact as well. Kerry explains his little personal issue in a short way, but one we feel on almost a daily basis.

The 1-run losses are the most frustrating part of 2011. You can argue the 1-run losses are due to an inability to get key hits, but “luck” plays a part as well. To see this team lose these games the way they have is simply infuriating.

This was an area where the Reds did perform at a better clip last season as BRM’s newest writer Derek Olsen pointed out to us recently.

The next question contained four separate answers. I requested that all the panel attach a letter to grade to a certain individual within the Reds organization. I took these grades and averaged them. What I then proceeded to do was select a higher grade explanation and a lower grade explanation.

First up was Reds skipper Dusty Baker. His average grade fell at a C+. One who thought Dusty has performed admirably is BRMs Alex.

Dusty Baker (B+)-Dusty takes on waaaaaaay too much criticism from Reds fans. He does not get an A because I thought he should have asked for a promotion of Cozart or Sappelt or Alonso sooner, but he has done well with the hand he has been dealt. His positive attitude is great for players, and his trust in his guys is very reassuring to his players. Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs responded well to his confidence in 2010, and guys like Bronson Arroyo, Drew Stubbs, and Francisco Cordero will reward Baker for his confidence in 2011 as well….at some point.

But there was a little dissent within the panel. Alex gave Baker the highest grade with his B+. The lowest was a D. BK provides his grade and the reason he’s on the low end.

Dusty Baker: C- (and falling) – To his credit, he’s kept the clubhouse together (as far as we know), and this team is still within striking distance. However, there’s no doubt that this team has underachieved and ultimately some of the blame for that falls on Dusty’s shoulders. His curious in-game management has probably cost the Reds at least a game or two, and in a division this tight, it’s really not something this team can afford.

The next, GM Walt Jocketty. The average grade was a solid C, with BK delivering an incomplete and not figured into the final average. But it is interesting to note the broad range of grades here: B to F. Wow. I was blown away by the huge contrast of opinion on Walt. Well, here’s JinAZ for his take on Uncle Walt.

I don’t like making moves for the sake of making moves, and Jocketty isn’t someone who does that. I think they’ve done well in using a patient approach to handle both Volquez’s struggles and Chapman’s. Willis has looked like a good find, and I think the Reds’ outfield situation has been a best-of-a-bad-situation thus far. He hasn’t made any desperation trades (yet). I think you have to give him credit for building what he has, and sticking with it. But I doubt I’ll ever understand what the heck took so long with Cozart. That move came at least a month late. I don’t know if it really will matter, but it’s frustrating. I also would hope we’ll see him make a move soon to bring in some talent…this grade is based on the assumption that he will do something.

I really don’t think more can really be said in regards to Jocketty. A lot of us were puzzled at the length of time to call up Cozart. The one aspect of Walt I like was in JinAZ’s first sentence.

And let’s not forget this…last season, Walt did make a proposal to the Mariners for Cliff Lee. Will he call on Seattle again in order to obtain Felix Hernandez? I read on one blog (yes, just one) that Seattle would be better to keep King Felix and trade Michael Pineda. Also, small rumblings about the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez emerged yesterday. Hmm…

There’s another great take I got on Walt, but I’m saving that for the “Best of”.

Bob Castellini was next, and it should come as no surprise that almost everyone gave Mr. Castellini a high score. Range: A+ to C-. Not sure I get the C- though. Chad puts this to bed really fast…

He’s proven himself willing to spend the money, and he has completely changed the way this organization views its fan base. He’s a great owner.

The final grade was assessed to the Reds fans. We all know what a frustrating year it has been considering so much was expected of this team. Well, Ronnie went a little extra on this.

As far as the fans go I have to split them up into 3 different groups with 3 different grades. The first group, local fans, gets a D. They get this grade because they continue to follow the same path with every sport in this city. They come into the season with the absolute highest of expectations without taking a look at the reality of the team. As soon as one thing goes wrong they freak out! You start hearing statements like “The season’s over,” “Fire the coach/manager,” “This team is awful! Let’s get ready for next year.” This is the most frustrating thing in the world to me. Now this doesn’t apply to everyone in the city, just the majority.

Then you have our national fans (outside of Cincy). These fans get an A for the mere fact that they are the realist fan. They don’t over react, they don’t freak out and they are still following this team even though they don’t play in the city in which they live.

The final fan is the bandwagon fan. These fans get an F. They weren’t around before last year, which is in no way a bad thing! I will welcome new fans every day of the year and I do my best to make every person I meet a Reds fan. The grade for this group is based on the fact that they tend to act like they know everything there is about this team and they are the expert.

So is this an overall C-? That’s what I take away from it…

BRM’s John takes a similar approach but delivers just one grade.

Reds fans are far too critical of a team that is vastly superior to the team of two or three years ago. We are three games behind the Pirates now but for the past month Pirates fans are doing cartwheels in the streets of Pittsburgh while fans of the Reds on Twitter tend to complain a lot and micromanage. I know because I am guilty of the same crimes. I too wanted to jump through the screen and strangle Cordero after the third blown save. But consider this: Cordero’s collapse came after he felt he had performed well this season and was snubbed for the ASG. I firmly believe his attitude set the table for his collapse.

I brought John’s POV in here because he’s in Pittsburgh and a Reds fan.

But there was one last impression I got among comments regarding the fan base. Since Chad had so little to say before, we’ll give him the floor on this, too.

the Reds fans: I don’t know how to grade this one. There’s a lot of passion, and too much impatience.

Again, short and to the point. I will also note that Chad did not assign a grade.

Well, the first half is down. The second and final installment of the Reds Round Table will be tomorrow.