In theory, I agree totally with what Dusty Baker is trying to do.  He’s been around the block once and twice and knows he has to keep everyone of the 25 players on the Reds roster sharp and ready, just in case.   But Monday, Baker appeared to get ahead of that curve a bit too much.

Against the Pirates, a team that the Reds should beat just about every night (if you don’t believe that, look at the talent up and down each roster) Baker elected to sit Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier and instead started Wilson Valdes, hitting .195 at the time and Miguel Cairo, who entered Monday hitting just .143.   Defensively, neither has what would be described as expansive range.  Mix in the pitcher (Arroyo), and in essence Baker put his team at a severe offensive disadvantage, all in the spirit of trying to keep players sharp for later in the season.   OK, but why do that at two positions?  Why not spot start Valdes (Cairo started Saturday night against the Rockies) and save Cairo for another day?   And worse, why bat Valdes second?  Isn’t the game plan to get runners on base so Joey Votto has runners to drive in?   What we got was Drew Stubbs leading off (haven’t we been down that road enough to know it leads nowhere) a strike out machine and then Valdes.   Not suprisingly, Stubbs was 0-4 and Valdes and Cairo were a combined 1-8.

Here’s why this wasn’t such a good idea:  you HAVE to win series against teams you’re better than.  Period.  Coming up soon will be a couple of series against the Indians and the Tigers.  Down the road, the Reds have home and road series against the Dodgers and still have road trips to San Francisco and Philadelphia.   If you don’t think one game can make or break a season, then you obviously don’t remember 1999

Chances are, this was just a bad idea that didn’t work out all that well.  But for a team that has done well with a precarious balance of shaky starting pitching for the first month of this season and coupled it with an alarm inability to drive in runners in scoring position, it can’t take many more adventures like the one Baker gave us Monday in Pittsburgh.

I raised this question Saturday on 700 WLW and the reaction ranged from “why are you worried about this now” to “it will not be a problem”   The question was:  since Walt Jocketty confirmed late last week that Aroldis Chapman will not start any games the rest of this season, where do the Reds turn if they need a pitcher for their starting rotation.   Know this:  few, if any, teams get through an entire season with just five starting pitchers.

The easy answer would be simply plug in Sam LeCure, who has started before.  But LeCure has been pitching out of the bullpen this season, usually just an inning or two at a time and infrequently at that.   How realistic do you think it will be to expect him to make an emergency start and go five innings?   And then, how realistic do you think it would be for him to come back from that and pitch again in five days?

Trade for a starter?  With what?  Have you seen the Reds farm system?  Louisville has been decimated with injuries.  Pensacola has some talent, as does Bakersfield.  But some of those players, like Billy Hamilton and Daniel Corcino (and you’d have to part with players like that to get a decent major league starter in return) are now the ‘crown jewels’ of that Reds minor league system.

Call Ups?  The logical option there would be former major leaguer, Jeff Francis.  But Francis has hardly been blowing through AAA line ups, and until May 24th had an less than spectacular month.   He was rocked again today for eight hits and four runs in 6.2 innings of work.  No pitcher in AA appears close to major league ready.   The most likely candidate to come to Cincinnati, if needed is….drum roll please…..Brett Tomko!  Yes, the same Brett Tomko who, on a wintry February night in 2000, was part of a trade that brought Ken Griffey, Junior to the Reds.   Now 39, Tomko was a spring training invitee who pitched well enough to earn a spot on the Louisville Bats roster.  He’s currently 0-5, but has been the victim of poor run support.  His 3.18 ERA is workable.  And he’s gone at least six innings in five of his last six starts.  Tell me that wouldn’t be a blast from the past for a number of reasons, if Tomko eventually pitches for the Reds again.

OK, this isn’t as random as you think

70 years ago today, Bing Crosby recorded this song.   He went into a studio in Los Angeles with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and recorded the song in just 16 minutes.   It isn’t odd, by the way, for Christmas music to be recorded in spring or summer.  It all depends on artist, orchestra and studio availability.   This version of White Christmas has sold over 50 million copies world wide making it the best selling single record in history.   Crosby had sung this on live radio, but had not recorded it until 70 years ago today.   It was released several weeks later with other songs from the movie “Holiday Inn”, which is where the song made its debut.  The writer was none other than Irving Berlin.    By the way, just 210 shopping days left until Christmas, 2012.

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Please make all this “what if we hadn’t traded Josh Hamilton” talk stop.   What if Napoleon had B-52 bombers?  What if the sun explodes and we all live off solar energy for three days and then die?   “What ifs” are for people who can’t deal with reality….

Here’s the reality:  the Reds bought low and sold high on Hamilton.  They needed pitching after the 2008 season.  Period.  Joey Votto had already arrived and Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs weren’t far behind them.   Adam Dunn was consistently hitting 40 home runs and driving in over 100 runs a season.   Ken Griffey, Jr. was untradeable.   I think this team was well stocked with outfield talent.   The catchers on the roster were pedestrian.  The infield had Brandon Phillips and Aaron Boone.   That’s it.  And is it really necessary to get into what made Hamilton available to the Reds in the first place?

Pitching?  It was Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo and a lot of guys named Kirk Sarloos.

Here’s a headline, breaking news:  You need pitching to win in Major League Baseball.  Hamilton was the only real piece that could be dealt to bring in a decent starting pitcher, which, I might add, Edinson Volquez was for his first season here.  He was an All Star, remember?

This is what happens when you don’t develop your own starting pitching.  You have to make trades that, far too often, don’t happen.  The cause of all of this was former Reds General Manager, Jim Bowden and his crew’s inability to develop pitching.  Period.  Their strategy was apparently to draft any sore arm gasoline can they could find and then watch the Tommy John surgeries begin.  Ty Howington, Richie Gardner, Ryan Wagner, shall I go on?   They even drafted a pitcher they knew full well they couldn’t get the money to sign (Jeremy Sowers) and selected him anyway.  THAT’s why the Reds had to make a deal in 2007 to unload Hamilton for pitching.

And it simply worked out better for the other guy, the Texas Rangers, than it did for the Reds.   The moral of this story is NEVER put yourself in a position to have to trade for pitching.  You draft wisely and develop pitching and, if you must, trade for everyday players.

Don’t know about you, but I think Mike Leake needs to show a pulse tonight…

Next person who tell you “the Reds CAN’T put Aroldis Chapman in the starting rotation because the Reds bullpen is sooooo good”, ask them this:  Is Chapman one of their top five pitchers?  Is he one of their top two pitchers?

Chapman can’t start a game now.  He has to build up the arm strength to start (which ironically he had done all through spring training until they sent him to the bullpen).  But he could be ready inside of three weeks.  You wouldn’t have to take him out of the ‘pen to get that done.   All you need to do is pitch him gradually longer each time out for the next three weeks.

And when somebody tells you “the Reds CAN’T take Chapman out of the bullpen because they have lost Bill Bray indefinitely”, ask them this:  How tough do you think it is to find a left handed reliever?   You may not find one as electrifying as Chapman, nor as effective.  But you can find a quality major league bullpen arm, left or right, just about anywhere.  And do you mean to tell me the Reds ‘smart guys’ got all the way to the end of spring training without a contingency plan, not involving Chapman,  in the event that Bray wasn’t ready?  He was in danger of missing significant time in early March when I was in Arizona.   Where were the ‘smart guys’ all winter long?

And when somebody tells you “the Reds CAN’T take Chapman out of the bullpen and make him a starting pitcher NOW because he’ll surpass his 150 inning team imposed limit in August”, ask them this:  What happens if you ride with Leake and a shaky Homer Bailey until then?  The Reds could be out of it by August.  Here’s an idea:  you worry about August when you get to August.

Or as Stevie Wonder would sing….

RIP Chuck Brown, the genius behind the funk “Go Go” music genre.  He died today at the age of 75 from complications from pneumonia.  When I lived in DC, Brown was big, huge.   He influenced an entire generation of musicians and you could trace the origins of ‘hip hop’ right to Brown’s doorstep.   No doubt, heaven is “Bustin’ Loose” tonight.  But it was far too early for that celebration to begin.

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Over/Under on how many of the 10 draft picks the Bengals just selected make either the final roster or the practice squad?   I’m setting it at seven…..

The one rookie I really want to see this weekend wasn’t drafted.  Vontaze Burfict was projected to be a first round pick, maybe as high as tenth overall.  But he ran up a lot of personal foul penalties at Arizona State and then had an awful Combine, where he ran a 40 yard dash in excess of five seconds, plodding for a linebacker.   But he connected at the Arizona State workout day with Marvin Lewis (I can see your eyes rolling now) and apparently said or did the right things there for the Bengals to take a flyer on him.   Check him out

Whether or not any of this translates into what it takes to be a great NFL player will be determined over the next year or so.  But the Bengals are out nothing, only a few more guffaws if one of their “projects” fails to pan out.

By the way….I’m going with the over on draft picks…..

Who’s the most vulnerable in the Reds starting five man rotation?   If you did want to take one pitcher out and insert Aroldis Chapman, whom would it be and why do I keep hearing Homer Bailey’s name almost all of the time?   Until his clunker of a start in Milwaukee, Bailey has pitched reasonably well, certainly well enough to be the ‘fifth starter’.

Bailey’s 4.93 ERA is exactly the same as Mat Latos and better than Mike Leake’s.  He’s walked the exact same amount of batters are Latos (13) and allowed the exact number of earned runs as both Leake and Latos (19).  So why does Bailey get brought up first when the conversation turns to which pitcher should go?   Is it because he’s been here the longest and we’re simply tired of him?   Discuss….

Will Ferrell hosts Saturday Night Live this week on WLWT Channel 5.   Here’s the song/bit that Ferrell did years ago that still holds up.

Critics call him a ‘one trick pony’ in that his characters all tend to be the same (kind of doofy) and his movies all tend to have the same plot line (which I never gave any credence to.  How can anyone say that Talladega Nights is the same as Anchorman), but he never fails to make me laugh.   Jackie Moon?  Come on!   And the guy has made a ton of money for himself.

Here’s some breaking news:  Tiger Woods is unraveling before our eyes.  Could we be witnessing a career collapse that was self inflicted.   And as he stood before those cameras in the spring of 2010 to apologize to everyone under the sun, who would have envisioned the monument collapse his career has suffered?  Woods will win a tournament again, maybe several.  But he’ll never again be what he was before that fateful Thanksgiving night in 2009 and he won’t beat Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.  You can make book on that…..

Reading a book right now on the history of the World Hockey Association called “Renegade League”.   It makes me wonder if the NHL would have made it in Cincinnati.  History lesson:  the NHL announced it was going to expand in the early 70’s by two teams.  The cities in play where whittled down to three:  Kansas City, Washington DC, Cincinnati.   The other two towns got the team.  Cincinnati got the….well, promise that the next round of expansion would include us.  But Riverfront Coliseum was already built and looking for a tenant.  The money men chasing the NHL, Bill DeWitt, Jr and Brian Heekin, along with Bob Castellini opted for immediacy and took a franchise in the WHA.   When that league “merged” (the NHL called it that to avoid using the word expansion) DeWitt-Heekin-Castellini were offered a chance to join or take a cash settlement.   The group staged a season ticket push that fell short of their goal, the Stingers folded and the group took the money and ran.   Would the NHL have worked here, along with the NFL and MLB?  Maybe initially it would have.  But I wonder if, long term, the franchise would have survived, knowing the amount of business that’s left the greater Cincinnati area since 1979….

Meantime, a little nostalgia…

Old Time Hockey, eh?  Eddie Shore…..

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