Of Mice and Men and Beating the Reds

So I have some thoughts about the weekend series against the Reds that I want to jot down.  These are mostly random and in no particular order, but I hope they come together in some coherent, readable fashion.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike Matheny be proactive with his bullpen usage.  Rather than leave pitchers in situations where they were not suited, he mixed and matched them quite well.  No unnecessary double switches, no leaving Randy Choate in to face a succession of right handed hitters.  Perhaps he has learned something, (or perhaps he was given offseason marching orders by Mozeliak?).  I hope to see this continue.  No backsliding, please.

As for the aforementioned Choate, I imagine his early season failures have gotten the fan base quite riled up.  Memories are short, though, as many are not recalling how poorly Seth Maness pitched at the beginning of last season.  He turned it around, and I suspect Choate will as well.  If he doesn’t, then Mozeliak will probably take care of it.

One area where Matheny hasn’t shown improvement is his penchant for bunting too much and in the wrong situations.  What in the world was he thinking having Yadier Molina bunt in the 8th with two men on and no outs?  Matheny’s love affair with giving up outs has got to stop.  It has become pathological.

As it is early in the season, I will refrain from making judgments about the Cardinal offense.  There are enough Chicken Little fans on this subject as it is.  Offense has been declining for some time, and that trend is likely to continue.  Fans looking for big offense are just going to be disappointed.  This is not something that is particular to the Cardinals.   Better use of what speed the Cardinals possess would help in the run scoring department.  I am going to be careful here because I don’t want this post to become another rant about Matheny’s use of Peter Bourjos. I think my opinion on this subject is quite clear.  I will only say this; making playing time decisions based on Spring Training numbers is one of the most imbecilic things a manager could do.

However, I will segue that into something else of note.  Quite a few have been making a big deal about the catch Jon Jay made in yesterday’s game.  Make no mistake, Jay is not a bad center fielder; I have never said that he was.  He is about average, which isn’t a bad thing.  On many teams he would be quite an asset.  On teams that have well above average defenders, however, he sticks out like a sore thumb.  As for the catch, it was a good catch, no doubt about it.  Kudos to him.  What is the but, you say?  It is this.  Great American Ball Park has one of the smallest outfields amongst all of the major league ball parks.   Did anyone notice that even Matt Holliday was making catches that he doesn’t normally make?  Let me just end by saying this.  If a ball to the wall had been hit in say, Coors Field, or ATT &T Park, it would have been so far over Jay’s head it would have required a separate zip code.  GABP makes a lot of outfielders look good.

Okay, I have stepped into the Centerfield Wars as far as I am going to.

Pitching.  I thought Carlos Martinez did a very good job yesterday.  He did give up a couple of long balls, but referencing my previous statement about the size of GABP, that isn’t as big of a deal as it normally would be.  I thought his stuff was very good.  He has a ways to go with efficiency and durability, but I think that will come.  His stuff is filthy nasty.

Reds manager Bryan Price was quoted as saying he thought Jason Heyward’s slide into third base was “dirty”.  I think Price needs to stop channeling Dusty Baker before it’s too late.

The Cardinals meet up with the Reds again this weekend at Busch Stadium.  The Reds don’t have a great track record at Busch.  It must be the Clydesdales.  Or maybe it’s that Arch looming over centerfield.  Whatever it is, the Cardinals need to take advantage of Busch’s voodoo magic over the Reds.  I really, really like beating the Reds.  Almost as much as beating the Cubs.

That’s all for now.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

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The Rivalry That Isn’t

I guess the Cardinals and the Reds have a rivalry.  The media keeps saying they do, often harking back to the infamous fight of 2010 as evidence of it.  I hate losing to the Reds, but no more so than I hate losing to the Pirates, the Brewers, or the Cubs (maybe even less than).  If it is a rivalry it is one that I personally don’t think much about.

The Reds appear to me to take this so-called rivalry way more seriously than the Cardinals do.  The Reds apparently have a dish that it is served at the ballpark called “Smoked Cardinal”.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but obviously it is not actually a Cardinal bird.  If the Reds have dishes named after any other team in the NL Central I haven’t heard of it.  There are no foods at Busch Stadium named after the Reds that I am aware of.

Reds fans that I know talk of every upcoming series against the Cardinals like it is the playoffs.  They have specific Cardinals players, both past and present that they constantly refer to with sarcastic quips on Twitter.  Yadier Molina seems to be the one they love to hate the most.  His part in the “fight” no doubt is the genesis of those feelings.  They still boo Molina at Great American Ballpark.  Cardinals fans still boo Brandon Phillips as well, but it seems like those boos get less and less every season.  I have never booed Phillips; I frankly don’t see the point, it is only giving him the attention he wants but doesn’t deserve.

The other Cardinal many Reds fans fixate on is Chris Carpenter.  Of course Carpenter is no longer with the team as a player, having retired at the end of 2013.  Reds fans have this saying about Carpenter that I see repeated again and again on Twitter.  It is something to the effect of “What will Chris Carpenter tell his son?”  To this day I haven’t the slightest idea what that means.

Old grudges are constantly dredged up.  The “slick balls” controversy, the smoke from the fireworks that caused Chris Carpenter to leave the mound (told to do so by an umpire, not his choice).  There is the fight of course, and the nickname that Reds fans have for the Cardinals that came from that—“whiny little bitches” (or WLB for short).  I always find that somewhat ironic coming from a fanbase that whines about perceived slights to them and their players on a regular basis (are they still crying about Johnny Cueto not making the All Star team?).

I find all of these things more amusing than annoying.  I just don’t get that worked up about the Reds or Reds fans.  I get more agitated at losing to the Cubs than I ever have losing to the Reds.  To my way of thinking the Cardinals/Cubs is the rivalry.  Most Cardinals fans spend way more time making fun of the Cubs with Twitter hashtags (#cubssuck) and sarcastic jokes about the Cubs not winning a World Series in over 100 years.  They even play a game between innings at Springfield Cardinals games (the Cardinals AA affiliate) called “Are you smarter than a Cubs fan?”.  Now that’s a rivalry.

The only Reds player that I truly have a distaste for is Johnny Cueto.  His cowardly actions of kicking at Chris Carpenter and Jason LaRue with his cleats during the 2010 fight has never been completely avenged by the Karmic Universe.  Jason LaRue’s life and career was forever changed by that act.  Johnny Cueto’s life and career has not been similarly affected.  Alas, an eye for an eye is a nice concept, but it rarely plays out that way in the real world.  I’m still waiting to feel better about all of that but I suspect I will be always disappointed.

No, the Reds just don’t push my buttons the way the Cardinals appear to do to the Reds and their fans.  The Cardinals lost to the Reds on Friday night in the first game of a three game series and like any other loss, I didn’t like it.  It was game number 48 and there are 114 more to get through is the way I look at it.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.

So the Cardinals and the Reds have a rivalry.  You couldn’t prove it by me.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Reds Series Post Mortem

There aren’t a whole lot of conclusions that can reasonably be drawn from the first three games of the season, so I am not going to draw any.  Most players are shaking off the cobwebs from the offseason and a  Spring Training that really does nothing more than get you physically ready for a new season.  Those first few games or even weeks of regular season competition take some re-acclimation, and understandably players are not generally at their best.

So what I am going to do is make observations, not conclusions.  My observations are not going to be the same as those others might make, as mine are based on those things on which I tend to focus more.  I will also admit to some bias, as I am a human being and all human beings are biased.  If you think you are not, then you are either not human or you are lying to yourself.  So being the biased human being that I am, my observations may slant more in one direction than another.  Just follow along as best you can.

 

Monday, March 31—–Cards 1 Reds 0

Adam Wainwright looked like Adam Wainwright for the most part.  I wasn’t thrilled with all the walks, even if two of them were on purpose (one intentional, one unintentionally intentional).  I am going to expect that to get better.  Relief pitching was lights out, except for the brief Pat Neshek period.  I will talk more about Neshek later in the post.

The defense was very much in shake off the cobwebs mode.  The Bourjos error was more or less just a fluke, a function of having the ball hit the wrong part of the glove.  That he got to the ball at all and got a glove on it was more than Jon Jay would ever be able to do (see, this is where my bias is rearing it’s ugly head).  The error by Wong, well he should have made that play, but I am going to give him a break seeing as it was the first game.  The error by Adams, I don’t know what to make of that one.  I just hope he never does it again.

The offense didn’t quite make it to the party.  I always like Yadier Molina home runs.  I especially like Yadier Molina home runs in Great American Ball Park, in front of booing Reds fans who couldn’t find their butts with both hands and a road map.  The rest of the offense needed NoDoz.

The Cardinals won this one with pitching and Molina.  The rest of the team just watched.

 

Wednesday, April 2—-Cards 0 Reds 1

Rain delay to start.

Monday’s game looked at in the mirror.  Pitching again was great, but no Molina dinger this time.   Martinez was a little sloppy, but that will happen once in a while.  Once again there was no offense.  This was unfortunately a pattern last season; I hope we aren’t going to see a repeat performance this season.  Too many strike outs.  Only three hits.  Not the offense’s best effort.

But Michael Wacha was terrific.  He just excites me so much I can’t contain myself.

 

Thursday, April 3—Cards 7 Reds 6

Another freaking rain delay.

There was more offense today.  Unfortunately there was more offense by the Reds, also.  In addition, the pitching wasn’t so great this time.  Now before I say what I am about to say, let me make it clear that I am not a Lance Lynn hater.  I think Lance has terrific stuff, and if he ever gets to the point where he can put it all together more consistently, look out major league baseball.  But he just has this tendency that I can’t put my finger on.  The sabermetric community frowns at putting the dreaded “psychological” label on it.  You can’t quantify psychological, so they prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist instead, or just chalk it up to bad luck for the nth time.  How can one guy have so much bad luck and still be alive?

I don’t care much for the sabermetric community’s pychophobia, I am pretty much my own gal and go my own way.  I think Lance Lynn—-ducks——-loses focus sometimes when things don’t go his way.  His mechanics start to stray and he throws across his body, or he grooves fastballs down the middle of the plate in frustration.   I don’t think he is a “head case”, a term used by the intellectually lazy.  I think he just gets frustrated a little too easily, and hasn’t yet figured out a way to control his frustration.  But yet he still manages to win ball games, a confounding thing (I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the “win” as a pitching stat, but that’s another post).

Anyhoo, Lynn wasn’t very good, but the offense got him through it, as they often do.  For a while there I thought this was going to be an easy win, but then the bullpen happened.  Kevin Siegrist, usually a given, faltered.  It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Then came Pat Neshek.  I am not too sure about the Cardinals’ newest bullpen member.  Maybe he will grow on me.  But there is a reason Neshek couldn’t find a major league job (there usually is) and had to come in through the minor league back door.  So he came in and gave up a 3 run home run, and crushed my hopes of an easy and painless win.  Trevor Rosenthal had to come in and pull his savior routine.

There were more errors.  That mini collision in the outfield between Holliday and Jay didn’t need to happen.  Jay received the error, more than likely because he was the center fielder and it was his job to direct traffic.  I think it was both their faults, but you can’t split the baby with errors.

The offense was much better.  Every one of the starting 9 except Lynn got a hit.  That’s progress.

 

So the series was won and it’s on to Pittsburgh.  The pitching match ups look interesting, especially the Wainwright/Volquez one on Sunday.  Hey Pittsburgh, are you sure you want to do that?

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

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