Archive for January, 2006


Top Eight Riverfront Stadium Memories (Part 2)

Top Eight Riverfront Stadium Memories (Part 2)
By Thaq Diesel

4. I remember sitting the left field bleachers to watch Hideo Nomo and the Dodgers get beat by the Reds in 1995 NLDS. In fact, it was the last time the Reds won a post-season series. What I remember most about this game, however, was my friend Avi handing me binoculars he brought. I scanned the pressbox to find Marty and Joe. I remember actually being shocked to see Nuxhall drinking a beer in the booth. Ah, to be young and naive again.

3. It’s strange, but one of my favorite memories was the low-tech scoreboard advertisement that took place in the early innings. The umpire trying to make the call, “Yer a Big Red Smokie!!!! Yer a hot dog!!!!” with organ music playing during this sequence. It was total cheese, but these are the kinds of things that capture and hold your attention when you’re a kid. It set, I don’t know, an ATMOSPHERE of baseball. I looked forward to this sequence every time I attended a Reds home game. (Honorable mention – the lame ghost that warned “Walks will haunt” when the opposing pitcher walked the leadoff batter.)

2. I snuck down for a weeknight game. It was cold and windy and the Reds were losing in the early innings. A young Reggie Sanders smacks a pitch opposite field down the right field line. He gets a great jump and is closing on second base. The right fielder is trying to chase down the pinballing baseball. I realize as he passes second that Reggie is going for an inside the park HR try. I got goosebumps and I simply found this to be one of the most exciting sports moments I could recall. I yelled and cheered like crazy. The right fielder (who I believe was none other than Reds killer Mark Whiten) threw a rope to the cutoff man. Reggie slid headfirst into the catcher and was called out on a close play at the plate, though I think the catcher blocked the plate and Sanders never actually touched it. As exciting as this potential inside-the-park try was, the aftermath was equally as depressing. Reggie was down at home for a few minutes before slowly getting up and walking off. He was handed his glove and headed out to left field, but spent most of the time with his hands on his knees. Larkin spent the whole inning looking at Reggie between pitches. Luck would have it that no balls were hit to left, which was fortunate since Reggie left the game after that half inning to be admitted to the hospital with a collapsed lung. That ten seconds of excitement for me, though, were only exceeded in Riverfront by one other event.

1. Eric Davis was in his tobacco-chewing prime. His defense and power had won over the city who were just getting used to this new talent. Whoever was pitching for the Reds that game had already given up a run in the first inning and had a runner on third with no outs. The hitter smacks a long fly ball to deep left center. The crowd exudes that slowly rising nervous roar it makes when an opposing team hits a potential homerun. Davis tracks the ball and at the last minute skys upward and puts his glove over the wall. The entire stadium is silent for a full second. Davis comes down with the ball and throws it into the infield. Riverfront explodes with a roar unlike any I’ve ever heard. It was an amazing play by a talented player in his prime and I had goosebumps. Of course, the runner tagged from third and scored, but the stadium didn’t care and cheered Davis for the next two innings straight, every person saying to the stranger next to them, “Did you see THAT?” I don’t even remember if the Reds won that game and it didn’t matter. Moments like Davis’ over-the-wall catch are the things you see once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.



Dunn Plays 2005 With Broken Hand

Not too shabby. While you have to question Adam Dunn wanting to play most of the season with a hair line fracture in his right hand, you also have to be impressed with his production. It might also explain why his batting average dropped off this year.

The hand was checked this week and while the doctor wanted to put a splint on the hand, Adam Dunn eloquently said “The heck with that.”

Dunn’s going to hit 50 this year. You heard it here first. Although I’ve been saying that for the last four years, so go figure.



Austin Kearns Trade Rumors

The Akron Beacon Journal is reporting that the Indians are trying to work a trade that would send Jake Westbrook to the Reds in exchange for Austin Kearns. Thanks to Lee Sinins’ ATM report for the scoop.

Not sure how I feel about that deal. I just KNOW that as soon as we let Kearns go, he’ll turn into the player everyone thought he’d be. Kearns played in only 110 games last year, and that was a three year high. And while he hit only .240 and ended up getting sent to Louisville, he did paste 18 homeruns in only 387 at bats. With Adam Dunn probably moving to first base, that means right field is free and clear for Kearns this year. No four outfield shuffle.

And Westbrook is good but not great. I’m not sure how much he’d help this year, and honestly I don’t know his contract situation. He has been in the league for six years, so he might be set to become a free agent next season or at least after the 2007 season. He also doesn’t strike out a ton of guys and he pitched in a pitchers park last year.

So on the face of things, it looks like a good trade, but I do think it will come back to bite us in the you know what if we let if happen.



Top Eight Riverfront Stadium Memories (Part 1)

Top Eight Riverfront Stadium Memories (Part 1)
By Thaq Diesel

This list contains events that were witnessed in person at the late, great Riverfront stadium. Again, they only span my experiences with the Reds, so they won’t cover the Big Red Machine or Pete Rose’s record-breaking single. I also lament that I never personally saw Schottzie or Schottzie #2 take a dump on the worn astroturf. If I had asked her, I’m sure Marge would have said something to me like, “You know what honey, it wasn’t all that exciting. She does it every day…”

At this point, I have a confession to make: I have yet to make a trip to the Great American Ballpark. Life events (grad school, children, increasing job responsibilities) have simply precluded a trip to Cincy to make it happen. It will happen this season (the subject of a future article, in fact). I’m told balls fly out of there faster than at the Las Vegas adult video awards show. But I digress – on with the list:

8. I witnessed my first live triple play. Runners were on second and third, one-hop hard shot to Sabo who fielded the ball with his feet already on the bag at third. Boom – a 5-4-3 triple play. It happened so fast, I had to think for a minute about what I had just witnessed. I saved the scorecard for as long as I could, but alas, my wife eventually threw such “trash” away not long after we were married.

7. It was Griffey’s first (half) season with the Reds. I travelled to the ‘natti to see him live only to find he was under the weather and not starting. It was the seventh inning I believe, Reds down by 1 with two on. Griffey comes up to pinch hit. I would witness a classic Griffey at-bat that demonstrates in one stroke his incredible cockiness and unmatched raw talent. He takes two pitches; strikes down the heart of the plate. Griffey then does his patented two-strike step out of the box to call time just as the pitcher is getting ready to start his motion. (I promise, despite my bitching, that I really do love the guy. But come on! If I was a pitcher, I’d probably bean him or throw over his head if he was doing that to me; it’s so disprespectful) Still, this was the honeymoon period and this quirk was new to me. Griffey then takes three balls, never moving the bat from his shoulder. With the 3-2 count, he takes his first lazy swing and summarily deposits the ball in the right field bleachers directly in front of me. I remember feeling both awe and giddiness that we had ten more years of such greatness in front of us… (which of course would later be laid bare by a consistent barrage of freak injuries)

6. It was the magical 70 homerun season for McGuire. I went to Riverfront late in the season to see if Mac would hit a homerun, and it became one of the few sellout crowds I was actually a part of. Almost everyone was in their seats for batting practice. MacGuire gets in the cage and lays down a bunt on the first pitch(which, had people been paying attention, every single Cardinal had done to that point). People booed him mercilessly. The second batting practice pitch was a monster, I mean MONSTER 512 ft. homerun into the Reds seats in left. He absolutely destroyed that ball. He was walked most of the game so that was the lone highlight of the day. It didn’t show up in the box score, but that moonshot was still very memorable

5. I was watching the Reds play Pittsburgh and Barry Bonds in 1993 (this was the skinny, but still incredibly-talented-as-long-as-it-wasn’t-the-postseason Barry Bonds, mind you). I didn’t like him then and during the game (where he had to that point posted an 0-fer) I had deluded myself into believing that he was really not very talented at all. Barry cured me of this when, in the top of the 9th and down two runs with two outs, he smacks a two-strike bases-clearing triple. I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, we’re probably going to lose this game, (which the Reds did, in fact, do.) but I have to acknowledge that was a moment of greatness. “



See Ya DanO

Maybe this Castellini guy isn’t so bad after all. He fired Dan O’Brien today. While it’s hard to say who’s more to blame for the Reds recent woes, O’Brien or Jim Bowden, O’Brien is to definitely the cause for some of the more recent problems. Namely the worst pitching staff in the National League. He’s also to blame for not locking up a guy like Adam Dunn to a long term deal while holding on to Ken Griffey, Jr. for probably a bit too long.

Looks like a lot of the usual suspects are on the list of guys who will be brought in to interview. Jim Beattie seems to have the inside scoop because he’s pals with Red Sox president Larry Lucchino. Lucchino pegged Beattie as the team’s GM before the Sox decided to go to a GM by committee system.

Castellini also continues to kiss Lou Pinella’s ass. This isn’t neccesarily a bad thing as Lou’s out of a job and he is the last guy to lead the Reds to promised land.

So while little will change this year, maybe by the trade deadline we’ll have a handle where the team is going. Not that we should automatically assume we’re sellers, but we’re talking about having practically the same team as we did last year.

I just hope Castellini is the real deal. It’s sad when you long for the days of Marge Schott, but at least she brought us a World Series.

One last thing, there’s a new Cardinals blog that’s showing Brian up by about nine years. He’s going all the way back to 1926 to do his diary and that should be really cool. And Cardinals’ fans and Reds’ fans have one common bond. The last two times the Tigers made it to the World Series and lost were 1940 and 1934, when they lost to the Reds and Cardinals respectively.



New Ownership

The Reds new owner didn’t waste much time shuffling things around. It’s hard to tell whether Dan O’Brien will have more power or not but he’s reporting directly to the owner now.

Castellini also promised a championship. Doesn’t look like it’ll be this year though, because he told the crowd that the payroll is pretty much set at $60-65 million. He’s also promised to be hands on, which again, could go either way.

So it probably won’t be until 2007 that we see what kind of changes are in store for the team.



Reds Sign Austin Kearns and Aaron Harang

Four down, two to go. The Reds came to terms with two more arbitration eligible players. Aaron Harang, the best starter on the team last year, will be getting $2.35 million. Austin Kearns will make $1.85 million.

Both are pretty good bargains, especially considering their upside. I really think Kearns is going to do it this year and live up to his expectations (and actually play the entire season). If Harang throws like he did last year, I’ll be happy.

The Reds will square off against the Pirates in the Hall of Fame game this year. Pretty cool. One of my goals is to make it to an induction ceremony. Maybe when Adam Dunn gets voted in.



Reds Ink Javier Valetin and Wily Mo Pena

Looks like I jumped the gun Sunday afternoon. The Reds signed Wily Mo Pena and Javier Valentin to one year deals, and in the process, avoided arbitration with both players.

Pena will be making $1.25 million next year. In my mind, that’s a pretty good bargain. Granted Pena is our fourth outfielder, but he’d be starting on a lot of other big league clubs. The guy’s hit 45 homeruns in 647 at bats the last two seasons and that’s not too shabby.

Valentin will make $1.15 million and this is another good deal. Valentin broke out last year and belted 14 homeruns in only 221 at bats. He’s a switch hitter who hit mostly (and better) from the left side. Against righties he hit .301 with a .921 OPS.

So two pretty good pickups but nothing too out there. We would have had these guys anyway, but the Reds reduce the risk of an unfavorable (for them) ruling in arbitration and hopefully saved themseles some money.



Six Reds File for Arbitration

The Reds have the most players going to arbitration in the National League with six and there’s some big names on the list. Adam Dunn is the biggest name. I thought O’Brien was going to try to ink him to a long term deal but I guess not. Austin Kearns is also an interesting one because of his struggles the past three years. We should be able to get him for a bargain.

Felipe Lopez will be due for a nice raise as should Javier Valetin, who was very good as the backup catcher (.883 OPS!). Wily Mo Pena belted nineteen dingers in 311 at bats to round out the position players.

The only pitcher is Aaron Harang and he was only our best starter last year.

What makes me sick is, this is the core of the Reds and the front office is leaving things hanging by not inking any of these guys to a long term deal. I know Kearns has some risks but getting guys like Lopez, Dunn and Harang in the fold for three plus years is a neccesity. And knowing most of these guys will be walking in the next one to three years makes me want to vomit (yes, I know, I already said that).



Reds Sign Grant Balfour

I guess the logic is, if your starting pitching is horrible, you shore up the pen to make up for it. The Reds signed Grant Balfour to a one year, $340,000 deal. Pretty cheap for a guy who put up decent numbers in 2003 and 2004. Problem is, he’ll be pitching with a rebuilt elbow and missed all of last year. To clear the way, Josh Hancock was designated for assignment.

This is old news, but I didn’t want to steal Thaq Diesel’s thunder. The Reds also signed Rich Aurilia to one year deal earlier this week. With Ryan Freel’s extracuricular activities popping up again, this is a nice, safe pickup that gives us protection at second base. Aurilia actually had a decent season last year, so maybe he’ll follow it up with an encore.



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