Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reds Do Good Pitch Baseball In USA!

Although I've only watched one Reds game as a Vegas resident, I'm less than enthused about the idea of spending the season without Franchester Martin Brennaman. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those multitaskers who listens to Marty while watching the game -- my ADD simply won't allow it -- but I do need Marty in my life. For the past twenty-plus years I've run to the radio any time I suspected Marty would be bitching about the Reds (September is an underrated month for Reds fans). And if I'm the car when Marty starts ranting, you can bet your sweet ass I'm not getting out of the car under any circumstances. I've lived in Vegas for ten weeks, and I'm shocked at how little I've missed Skyline Chili. The Reds' season, by comparison, is one game deep and the lack of Marty Brennaman in my life is wrecking my insides.

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Two quick thoughts from Opening Day before addressing the remaining 161 contests:

1. I watched Opening Day on ESPN, and witnessed Brent Musberger refer to Cards second baseman, Skip Schumaker, as a "pepper pot," whatever the F that means. Actually, I know exactly what it means (although I've never heard that particular expression). It means that Skip Schumaker is the type of annoying little gaywad that tends to find his way into Tony LaRussa's lineup on a yearly basis, but that isn't the point. The point is that George Grande retired last year and I was excited about never again being subjected to such old-time nerdiness emanating from a broadcast booth. Stick to Ohio State-Michigan, Brett. You still do that exceptionally well.

2. Of all the available arms in the Reds' bullpen, why was Mike Lincoln the first mammal to get the call in relief of Aaron Harang? Mike Lincoln. Seriously. Mike Lincoln. It was still a two-run game, and after escaping a base hit and two line-outs in the 6th, Dusty Baker allowed Lincoln to pitch to Albert Pujols in the 7th with a man on base. Ballgame.

How many tape-measure home runs does that idiot have to give up before he's no longer a part of this team? He's allowed 58 earned runs and served up 18 HRs in his 94 innings in Cincinnati. That's not only embarrassing, it's unacceptable (or should be). Making matters worse: Lincoln's only struck out 66 batters over those 94 innings.

Every time I consider Mike Lincoln a useless pitcher, I check out his statistics, which reveal that he's actually worse than I thought. At least he's not making a few million bucks this year (sarcasm). Pass the dynamite, please...

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Okay, the 2010 Reds. Sure, I'm a day late, but I'm not a dollar short. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (laughter). But anyway, I'm pumped about this season. Not because I think the Reds are going to shock the world (i.e., winning more than 81 games), but because baseball gives me something to do. Unless you're poolside, summer is a pretty stupid season. But if your baseball team is somewhat competitive through August, things aren't so terrible. This is coming from a guy who hates baseball. I really do. I just like the Reds. I don't watch regular season games (not since Pedro was in Boston), and I haven't seen nine consecutive innings of a World Series game in probably five years. The sport bores me to death.

That said, I was a remote-throwing lunatic all day on Monday and I've read 100 percent of Rob Neyer's last 50,000 words, so, despite hating baseball (and that's not an exaggeration), I still know a thing or two about it. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further...

While I'm not guaranteeing the Reds' 2010 pitching staff to drop a Palmer-Cuellar-Dobson-McNally on your face, I'm certainly pleased with not only the present-day starters, but also the organizational depth. In years past, Travis Wood would have been pencilled in as a No. 3 or 4 starter before March. Now? He's in the minors, where he should be. But forget about Travis Wood, whose future has me encouraged, and focus on the following gentlemen.

Mike Leake: First round pick, outstanding spring training, opening the season as the No. 5 starter despite spending a total of ZERO days in the minor leagues...and yet the city isn't eagerly awaiting his major league debut. I'd be shocked if local TV ratings that night are any different than the days before and after. Trust me, in the days of "9 Million Dollar Man" Eric Milton, a fresh-faced rook like Leake would probably put asses in the seats (if only for one start). Now? He's just another in a long line of promising young pitchers.

Edinson Volquez: Whether he returns to his brilliant from of '08 or not, Volquez will go down as one of my five favorite Reds (but behind No. 11, obviously). I loved watching him work. I loved how his changeup puzzled opposing hitters. I loved watching him dig down after he mindlessly walked a couple of nobodies on four pitches. In short, I thought he was capable of just about anything. Anyway, he's out 'til August, which should have me counting the seconds until his return. But I'm not. And if I can be honest here on my American website, I'll tell you that I don't spend every second waiting until he's back on the hill. And if and when he returns, it's very possible that he won't be needed down the stretch (assuming the Reds are a little better than .500). Here again I would explain my occasional misremembrences (not even Roger Clemens would attempt that word) by pointing to Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, etc. Edinson Volquez is gone...and he's kind of forgotten. Can you imagine reading those words twenty months ago without diving off the nearest cliff?

Daryl Thompson: In case you've forgotten, Daryl Thompson is the once-promising 24-year-old righty who's still in the organization. Thompson might never pitch another day in the bigs, but that isn't really the point. I didn't hear his name mentioned all spring -- not even in a "what ever happened to Daryl Thompson" way -- which never would have been the case six or eight years ago, when vagabonds like Osvaldo Fernandez were counted on to contribute.

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Since my junior year of high school I've attended Opening Days where Mike Remlinger, Joey Hamilton and Paul Wilson started for my Redlegs. I'm 29 now, so were not talking about "Since the Korean War" or anything. But Remlinger, Hamliton and Wilson...that's brutal. It's also typical. For a team with a proud history like the Reds, the chapter on greatest pitchers still includes names like Tom Browning and Danny Graves. Not bums by any stretch, but certainly not guys you'll be telling your grandkiddies about, either.

But history is about to change.

Okay, that's a stretch, because every starting pitcher has a question mark. But there are more reasons to be encouraged about the current staff (and the arms in AAA Louisville) than at any point of my life.

Mike Leake might be a savior, he might not; Edinson Volquez might return to All Star form, he might not; Daryl Thompson might pitch three perfect games for the Reds this year, or maybe he went to jail for robbing a liquor store last night. In all three cases (and in Wood's case), it's not critical to the Reds' success in 2010 that any of them record even one victory. It would certainly help, but it's not critical.

The Reds might not hit enough to break .500 this year, but they have enough pitching that 85 wins or so isn't out of the question. Low-scoring games might not be entertaining, but they prove a team's legitimacy. Jay Bruce might be a year away, and they'll definitely need another stick to go with he and Votto, but I can't imagine feeling any better about the future of the organization than I do right now. And for once, it's because of pitching.

Aroldis Chapman, John Cueto, David Bailey, Ed Volquez, Aaron Harang, Bronny Arroyo, Travis Wood. That's not a misprint.

Gimme a little luck in regards to health, mix in a smart trade, and my Cincinnati Reds might be a legitimate contender sooner than we ever imagined. In related news, Joey Hamilton was a stupid idiot.

-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)
4/6/10