On Second Thought, Let's Nix ThatOk, maybe the Reds aren't ready to be NL Central Division champs just yet.
As the Birdos were behind early yesterday to the Marlins 2-0, the Reds were pasting the Braves 8-0 in the second inning. Joey Votto hit an opposite field BOMB for a grand slam that was simply awe-inspiring and the Redlegs were off to the races. Hey, I will not pretend to hide my jealousy of the Reds' offense.
The Reds' young players are starting to figure this game out and they are simply an exciting ballclub. Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and Jonny Gomes in the outfield will be downright scary in two years - each guy probably has more actual power than Matt Holliday.
Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen are more than veteran stopgaps. They are also teaching the young guys how a major leaguer should do his job day in and day out and Rolen, in particular, is having a revival year so far.
The Reds have some great hurlers. Rookie Mike Leake is a stud already. Bronson Arroyo is a poor man's Adam Wainwright and I really mean that as a compliment. He's lanky, is a great athlete and can beat you in a number of ways. Arroyo can have a one bad inning and then shut a team down the rest of the way. Edison Volquez is electric if he can stay healthy and Johnny Cueto is coming along very nicely and is still only 24.
Cueto's only problem, historically, is he's a flyball pitcher in a homer-friendly home park. His ERA last year was a mediocre 4.41 but he was very effective on the road (away ERA 3.83, home 5.16). He was very hard to hit as he only gave up 172 hits in 171 innings. This year, Cueto has really reigned in those issues with a home ERA of 3.96 (away, still great at 3.38). He has 40 Ks against 13 walks in 49 innings and he's only given up 5 homers so far, 4 of those, of course, coming at Great America Ballpark.
And you know with Walt Jocketty at the helm, the Reds are going to stop doing what nearly all the teams in the NL Central do: two steps forward, three steps back, repeat forever.
All that said, let's go back to the Reds' blowout of the Braves that was in process in Atlanta yesterday. It's was 9-3 still in the bottom of the ninth when the Reds started choking some fielding chances, turning outs into errors.
With the Reds' lead now trimmed to 9-6 and the bases loaded, somebody named Brooks Conrad hit a fly ball to the wall in left, and outfielder Laynce Nix had a bead on it. Or so he thought. Perhaps thinking he had less room than he did, Nix did a little hop in front of the wall as he reached up to make the catch and the ball bounced off his glove and over the wall for a game-winning grand slam for the Braves. Conrad was already in lament at first base, his hands on his head as if to say "Ohhh so close". Lament turned to shock and then jubilation as he found out what had actually happened.
If Nix doesn't touch the ball, it's probably just a double. If he doesn't hop, maybe he catches the ball cleanly. At any rate, the Braves, shockingly, scored 7 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 10-9.
Too bad there probably were only 5,000 or so fans left in the park to see the drama unfold.
Too bad for the Reds they still have some growing to do. Hopefully the Cards will figure out how to fix their offensive woes in the meantime.
At any rate, this is what I really want to know: is it IMPOSSIBLE to give an outfielder an error on a ball he touches that goes off him and over the wall for a home run? Enlighten me after...
The Hard Nine
1. Service with a...Scowl - I think it goes without saying that Chris Carpenter is a warrior. He is the model starting rotation ace. He's a hard-working New England-er and ex-hockey player with a bulldog mentality. You could easily imagine him and Chris Pronger patrolling a blue line together and doing some head-hunting of any forwards that dare enter their end of the ice.
But I wonder if Chris is starting to go off the deep end a bit. When his stuff was top-shelf, his performance could stay ahead of his insanely competitive intensity. But at age 35 now, his stuff is falling off ever so slightly which has brought some occasional ineffectiveness which has lead to more screaming by Carpenter on the mound. Here's to hoping we get Carp some run support. We don't want him to succumb to those voices in his head.
2. Hits, Errors, and Other Mysteries of the Universe - Official baseball scoring can be more art than science when it comes to errors. What I need to know right now (before my brain explodes) is why a misplayed fly ball that ends up over the wall is a home run and not an error? This ranks right up there with the Theory of Relativity, Nuclear Fission and Ryan Seacrest's sexual ambiguity.
If an outfielder simply stands and does nothing and the ball falls in 1 foot from him, it's a hit and not an error. Why isn't that hit taken away for "fielder indifference"? If the ball glances off his glove and falls its an error , UNLESS the outfielder ran a really long way and it becomes a "tough play", you can't assume the out, so they say. So a dropped ball in that case is a hit .
But you ask any outfielder that has played a ball off their glove or head over the wall accidentally for a home run (that would not have been otherwise, of course) they will say its an error ! I did extensive research online for about 5 minutes today and I found no good explanations. Some said it has to be a home run because the ball is now out of play. What? If you drop a foul ball it is out of play, but can still be ruled an error if they say you should have caught it. So it seems to me that the home run is a special case. If an outfielder accidentally or even purposefully deflects a fly ball over the fence it's ruled a home run - period. Someone please explain this to me!
3. Rolen Right Along - Great interview on SI.com of Scott Rolen. I'd have to say if guys like Grady Sizemore or Hanley Ramirez have the perfect ballplayer's body, Scott Rolen has the perfect ballplayer's soul.
"In 2004 I played on the best team I've ever played on'' in St. Louis, says Rolen. "We got swept (by Boston) in the World Series. Stars all over the field, and we got pounded. I told my wife after that, 'I'll never win a World Series.' That was the best team I'll ever play on. A couple years later, we back into the playoffs'' with 83 wins. "We were probably the worst team in the postseason that year. And we win the World Series in a walk'' over Detroit.
I'm just happy that man does have a ring.
4. Missing 100% of the Shots You Don't Take - I realized this week that it seems to me the Cardinals aren't taking good, hard rips at 2-0 or 2-1 pitches. And poof, like magic, another column appears confirming this has been a problem for us. We're doing fine on 1-0 and 3-1 counts, but the Cards are batting only .244 on 2-0 counts and .231 on 2-1 counts. This also explains our power outage somewhat as well. 2-0 and 2-1 are your meatball/fastball/Tball home run-eligible offerings and we're batting under .250 on those pitches? That's just awful, and right now I'm regularly seeing Holliday and Pujols not even swinging at 2-0 pitches. Why? If you're not comfortable with a pitch, even if it's a fat strike, you don't swing. And here's the problem: right now, Albert and Matt aren't comfortable with ANY PITCHES.
5. Ex-Cards Update - I should wait until after the Cards-Angels game tonight, but I'm fairly confident Joel Piniero will do just fine against us. Scott Rolen is up to 8 home runs on the year and is on pace to top 20 bombs for the first time since 2006. Troy Glaus finally came around and he's batting .289 with six homers. His OBP is a healthy .374. I miss greasy-haired Chris Perez sometimes. He's been doing pretty well in Cleveland with a 1.98 ERA, 5 saves and only one homer given up in 13 innings of work. I was not happy to see Mark DeRosa move on in the off-season but Giants news sources say he's still struggling with his wrist injury from last year. So maybe we dodged DeBullet.
6. Blue Cat People are Neat-o - Finally saw Avatar last night. Not much to say, except, I just don't get excited about movies anymore and this is more proof why. When a super mega blockbuster movie that garners multiple Academy Award nominations and wins and breaks all kinds of box office income records is merely "good", its time to move on. The magic is gone. The effects clearly out-shined the acting and story - it really felt like I was watching a two-hour cut scene in the middle of a Halo video game. Not that that's a bad thing - it just is what it is.
7. Put Your Head Between Your Legs and Walk Backwards - Hindsight is 20/20 they say. I say the Cards should have re-signed Joel Piniero and let Brad Penny tease some other team's fans. I also say the Cards should have waited to see if Kyle Lohse could repeat his lucky 2008 season before throwing $40 million dollars at him.
8. Lack of Roids Rage - Runs and home runs are down all over baseball. The per-game home run rate is at 1993 levels. I wonder if fans like the "pure" game it is now or miss the "WWF" MLB of the 1995-2005 "juiced" era.
9. Mt. Carmel Wildcats Team Update - I help coach my 5-year-old son's T-ball team. We've worked hard coaching them in the fundamentals of the game and they've come a long way this year. We had a four-game winning streak end this week. The other team was better - our best players are in the infield and the kids that like to play with the dirt are generally in the outfield. As long as the infielders can stop the ball, we do well. This was not the case this past Tuesday as we got beat 21-9.
I just want to say to other T-ball coaches out there: I understand teaching kids to play 100% hard the entire time. Play a HARD NINE, right? This is the right thing to do. But when you send a runner from first to second every time the fielding team runs to third to tag the runner, that's just a little bit obnoxious. You're not teaching the kids good base running. You're sending them to second because the fielders can't cover two bases at the same time - not because the play dictates they should take an extra base. Besides, you're wining by 10 runs anyway...