Friday, August 31, 2007

All Undervalued Team: Kevin Frandsen, 2b

If I had written this prior to the 2007 season, I would have selected Kelly Johnson. I always liked Johnson's swing and approach at the plate, both of which he's demonstrating with aplomb this season. Now that Johnson has arrived, he's not really underrated any longer, so I'm turning my eyes West to the second baseman of the future for the San Francisco Giants, Kevin Frandsen.


Frandsen was a standout player at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose and then moved on to excel at San Jose State University. At San Jose State, Frandsen posted the following lines:

2002: .317/.409/.522/.931 with 7 HRs
2003: .332/.413/.455/.868 with 4 HRs
2004: .321/.421/.444/.865 with 2 HRs
The Giants selected the hometown kid in the 12th round (370th overall) of the 2004 draft.


In 2007, Frandsen has played 88 games in five different positions (2b, 3b, ss, lf, rf) and logged 213 plate appearances. His numbers over that time period aren't very impressive, as he has posted a line of .230/.294/.340/.634. To go along with that rather uninspiring line Frandsen has posted 4 homeruns and been thrown out in 2 of his 3 steal attempts.

While he will improve upon his stats, it's undeniable that Frandsen lacks tremendous power, great speed, and massive on base skills. That said, Frandsen compensates for what he lacks in tools with his makeup and baseball IQ, which are both off the charts. Frandsen also has the uncanny ability to put the ball in play. His tremendous bat control could make him an ideal #2 hitter in time.

Frandsen's bat control makes him the type of hitter that frequently brings about an early conclusion to his Plate Appearances. That kind of approach reduces both walks and strikeouts, as it is not possible to strikeout without seeing at least 3 pitches or walk without seeing at least 4. While his approach does limit strikeouts and (unfortunately) walks, but it also makes him a very good candidate to post a high batting average.

Over his minor league career, Frandsen has a line of .328/.393/.459/.852. His lowest average in the minors was .287 and his highest was .403 over 67 ABs in AAA Fresno.

In 2007, Frandsen has walked in 7.5% and struck out in 8.9% of his plate appearances. He has also seen just 3.44 pitches per plate appearance and has made contact on 86% of his swings, all of which evidence his great contact skills and his "early consequence" approach at the plate. I'm not sure there is a better bet to be a consistent .290-.300 hitter around, as Frandsen has posted very high averages at every level of his playing career. It seems only a matter of time before he starts cranking out very high batting averages at the MLB level.

Recent statistical analysis has proven that there are more important measures than batting average, which has been largely overrated throughout baseball history. That said, the value of having a player who hits around .300 with tremendous bat control and a very high baseball IQ still cannot be overstated. Placido Polanco is proving just that for the Tigers in 2007.


Frandsen should develop into a very good defensive second baseman and he's already the best defensive second baseman on the roster. The presence of Ray Durham on the roster has forced Frandsen to play numerous different positions in 2007 in order to get playing time. The Giants even moved Frandsen up the defensive spectrum by having him spell Omar Vizquel at shortstop. Frandsen may ultimately lack the range to play short, but he has acquitted himself admirably in 114 innings there this season. Still, Frandsen is likely to push Ray Durham to the bench or another position in 2008, as neither Durham's bat nor salary justify giving him playing time at the expense of Frandsen. Now that Bonds has gotten his tainted record, the Giants are likely to start the rebuilding process by turning to youth in 2008.


Frandsen was ranked the #6 prospect in the Giants system by Baseball America in their 2007 Prospect handbook, where they had this to say about him:

"Frandsen was one of the Giants' most heartwarming stories in 2006. He dedicated himself to making the big leagues to honer his brother D.J., who lost a lifelong battle with cancer in 2004. After he got there, pitching coach Dave Righetti, who was D.J.'s favorite player, quietly insisted that Kevin take his unform number 19, which he had worn since 1981. Frandsen has marvelous bat control and profiles as a solid number 2 hitter in the mold of Robby Thompson. He puts the bat in play consistently, uses the whole field and has occasional gap power. His baseball IQ is off the charts and he has plus makeup and maturity. Even when temperatures hit 112 degrees at Triple-A Fresno, he pestered the coaches for extra infield practice. Frandsen knows he must improve his on-base percentage and limit himself to pitches he can drive - a difficult task because he can put almost any pitch into play. He focuse on working couts in the Arizona Fall League and had success. While he also played shortstop and third base in Triple-A, his range and arm are merely adequate and limit him to second base. The Giants would like him to polish his bunting skills. By hitting .388 in the Arizona Fall League, Frandsen improved his chances of opening 2007 as San Francisco's second baseman. But, the Giants subsequently resigned Ray Durham, so Frandsen will apprentice in a utility role."


While he's unlikely to ever be a great fantasy baseball player or perennial All Star, but he's the type of player that you need to be successful in Major League Baseball. Frandsen is quickly becoming a fan favorite in San Francisco (as he was at Triple-A Fresno and probably throughout his baseball life), for his intelligence, hard work, and always leaving it all out on the field. The only thing Frandsen doesn't leave out on the field after a game is the dirt that covers his uniform.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Random Thoughts in August

*** Through Thursday's games, the only team in the NL Central who has scored MORE runs than they have allowed is the Chicago Cubs (RS: 607, RA: 559). Even the mighty BrewCrew has faded to the point where they have allowed more than they've scored. The Comedy Central lives on.

*** The Reds have been playing great baseball as of late, it's just unfortunate that it took them so long to play up to their potential. They've always had the talent, but the bullpen never allowed the team to succeed.

*** Aaron Harang continues to amaze. After the Pirates took both games of the Tuesday doubleheader, Harang stepped forward and played the role of stopper to perfection. We haven't had a top flight pitcher like Harang on the Reds in a long time. If the Reds had a better team, then he'd be in the mix for Cy Young consideration. Jake Peavy is having an unbelievable season and should win the award in a walk, but Harang should at least be in the discussion.

*** Brandon Phillips is quickly approaching a 30/30 season. He has 26 homers and 25 steals on the season and ranks as one of the great acquisitions in baseball over the past decade. Hopefully, the Reds will keep him in Cincy for years to come.

*** Much like 2006, the bullpen this year has taken a big step forward after the All Star game. The emergence of Jared Burton and Billy Bray coupled with the continued excellence of David Weathers has given the Reds something resembling a solid bullpen. Bray and Burton have finally given the Reds a bridge from the starters to the 9th inning and David Weathers. Bray, Burton, Coutlangus, and Marcus McBeth could be the foundation of a rock solid bullpen in the future.

*** Interesting to see Bud Selig weighing in on the future Houston manager. In an interview, Selig threw his support behind interim manager Cecil Cooper and pointing to the importance of minority hiring in baseball. While I agree about the importance of bringing minorities into the ranks of MLB managers, it seems odd and inappropriate that the commissioner would express his preference before the hiring process has even gotten underway.

*** Another day, another loss for the ChiSox, another tirade from Ozzie Guillen. As much as I enjoyed watching him as a player, I can't imagine it would be much fun to play for Ozzie the manager. Here's a glimpse:

"I'm tired of seeing that [expletive], day in and day out. And I don't want to spend a miserable September seeing the same [expletive]. If I have to see the same [expletive], I told [team GM Kenny Williams], 'Bring somebody up. [Expletive] it.' If it's my fault, I should be moving out of here then. If it's my fault, [expletive] fire my ass and I'll be fine. I have the job to do, and I get paid a lot of [expletive] money to make this club work, but it's not easy to work with people like that. It's not easy.'' ''You see this since April,'' Guillen said. ''I keep giving people a chance to succeed. A pat on the back. I wish I played for a manager like that. I swear to God I wish I could have played for a [expletive] manager like that. Every time you fail and keep putting guys out there who fail day-in and day-out, that's easy to play."
Ozzie Guillien isn't the type of manager that seems likely to have a long tenure. That kind of volatility doesn't play well in a losing clubhouse. If the Sox don't turn things around soon, Ozzie might not be long for the job.

*** It's still very earlier, but despite the Reds recent resurgence they are still likely to have a high draft pick. At this point, UCLA shortstop Brandon Crawford looks like the real deal. As of late, the Reds have been focusing on adding prospects who play premier defensive positions (Stubbs, Mesoraco). Crawford looks to have the complete, well-rounded game that would make him a fine addition to any team. Maybe the Reds will give him a look in next year's draft.

*** Homer Bailey continues to rehab at High A Sarasota, but the results haven't been great. At this point, the Reds might be better off leaving him in the minors and letting him start fresh next year.

*** Sad to see Bobby Livingston injured, as he was just beginning to establish himself in the big leagues. Livingston had to shut it down with a torn labrum of his left shoulder, which could be career threatening. His numbers had fallen off as of late, but he was interjecting himself into the picture for 2008. Livingston never survived on pure stuff, but rather guile and control. Whether that technique makes it easier or harder for Livingston to comeback remains to be seen, but I'll be pulling for him.

*** Early returns indicate that Wayne Krivsky may have found another diamond in the rough. In 15 ABs in Cincy, Jorge Cantu has posted a line of .400/.471/.667/1.137. While his glove may never enable him to be a full-time starter, the bargain basement price that Krivsky paid makes it acceptable for the Reds to use him in any role. Any production they get him out of him is pure profit. Krivsky strikes again!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Should the Reds Go Moose Hunting?

There's an interesting situation unraveling in the Bronx. Mike Mussina has been pulled from the rotation and elite prospect Ian Kennedy called up to take his turn in the rotation. The Yankees are saying that it could be a one start demotion only, but if Kennedy pitches well then it's difficult to imagine the Yankees pulling Kennedy and putting Mussina back in the rotation, especially with the success they have had with their other elite pitching prospect, Joba Chamberlain.

If the Yankees decide to stick with Kennedy, then there is a good chance that Mussina will be dealt, as he is not an option in the bullpen. In his entire MLB career, Mussina has never pitched even a single inning as a reliever. Given the Yankees potential desire to move Mussina and the Reds need for another quality starting pitcher, the situation begs the question of whether the Reds should attempt to acquire Mussina.


Given that the waiver trade deadline is approaching, it would seem to make sense for the Reds to attempt to acquire Mussina now. Given his lower level of performance in 2007 and his high salary, Mussina would likely clear waivers. That would enable him to be traded before the deadline on August 31.

The Yankee bullpen currently lacks lefthanded pitching. Given that, the Reds could try to trade Mike Stanton to the Yankees for Mike Mussina. Mike Stanton also is likely to clear waivers, as his performance does not justify his salary. Also, Stanton has a long history of pitching for the Yankees, so he might prove to be an attractive option.

The Yankees would be able to shed payroll in the deal and possibly improve their bullpen, by adding an left-hander with substantial post-season experience to the team. Given that the Yankees are pushing for the playoffs, Stanton is someone who could improve their chances of reaching the post-season.

Maybe the Reds would have to add something else to the deal for it to make sense for the Yankees, but I think those should be the two principle players. Both teams subtract a player they don't need, improve their salary situation, and add a player who may be able to help them reach their respective goals.

Given that the structure of the deal makes some sense, the question then becomes, is Mike Mussina a good bet to bounce back in 2008?


Mussina's performance in 2007 has not been stellar, but how much of it has been his fault and is it indicative of a poor 2008?


Mussina has maintained his walk rate, groundball/flyball ratio, and his homerun rate. His ERA and WHIP have skyrocketed because his strikeout rate has fallen. His K/9 is currently about 1.5 strikeouts per nine innings below his career rate. A 5.5 K/9 is still high enough for a pitcher to maintain long-term success, but clearly Mussina would like to miss a few more bats.

Mussina's declining strikeout rate means that he is allowing more contact. More balls in play typically means more hits allowed. That said, Mussina seems to be giving up a disproportionate number of hits, given the number of balls in play.

Year:___H/9__Strand Rate

Given that Mussina's strikeout rate has fallen by ~1.5 K/9, you would expect some increase in hits allowed. However, Mussina is giving up almost 3 more hits per nine innings than before, which seems too high.

If you look at Mussina's Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) for 2007, it is very high at .348, which indicates that Mussina has been unlucky. A greater percentage of balls in play than statistically expected have fallen in for hits. A .280-.290 rate is the average rate, so Mussina is well above that. Given enough time, that .348 rate can be expected to fall and his performance improve.

Another problem with his 2007 performance is his 63.5% Strand Rate, which is well below his career rate of 71.9%. If BABIP is a measure of how many balls in play will fall in for hits, then Strand Rate is a measure of how those hits are distributed. Obviously, clusters of hits will result in more runs allowed than a more well dispersed pattern. Mussina has suffered from both poor hit luck and poor distribution of those hits in 2007, neither of which is really attributable to him.

All things considered, Mussina's biggest problem in 2007 has been his poor luck. Of course, his declining strikeout rate ensured that his season wouldn't be as stellar as his previous seasons, but his peripheral stats do not support an ERA of 5.53 and a WHIP of 1.49. Given those peripheral stats, he should have better overall numbers.

If you look at his pitch data, his 2007 season has seen him throw a similar amount of both strikes (66%) and first pitch strikes (64%). He's also been consistent in the types of counts in which he has worked, as 2% of the Plate Appearances he has seen have been 3-0 counts and 19% have been 0-2 counts. All of those rates are in line with his career performance, but the one statistic that stands out is his Contact Rate.

This season, Mussina has just been more hittable. He is getting fewer swings and misses than in years past. In 2007, when batters have swung at Mussina's pitches they have made contact 86% of the time. This is up from 81% in 2006 and an 81% career average. It is difficult to be successful in the majors if you aren't missing more bats than that, so it is cause for concern.

However, the increased contact rate could be do to nothing more than the hamstring problems that have plagued him this season. His injury problems could be preventing him from getting the leg drive he needs to get good velocity on his fastball or the same snap on the breaking ball. Also, Mussina would likely see a reduced contact rate in switching to the NL, so that would be a benefit. The higher contact rate is a bit of a concern, but it also could be a statistical outlier and Mussina's track record may warrant taking that chance, especially if he isn't suffering from any injuries.


In the offseason, the Yankees signed Mike Mussina to a two year contract extension. The terms of the contract included salaries of $11,000,000 in 2007 and $11,000,000 in 2008.

The Reds signed Mike Stanton to a contract which included a $2,000,000 salary in 2007, a $3,000,000 in 2008, and a $2,500,000 club option for 2009. The 2009 option comes with a $500,000 buyout.

So, if the Reds could use Mike Stanton and his contract to reduce the amount of money and the inherent risk in acquiring Mike Mussina. If the Reds swapped Stanton for Mussina, then they would save around $3.75M on Stanton, which would reduce their net salary obligation on Mussina to $7,250,000 for 2008. Given the contracts handed out to free agent pitchers last offseason, $7.25M could be a bargain for a pitcher of Mussina's caliber.

By lowering the amount owed to Mussina in 2008, the Reds would also be reducing the inherent risk that he won't provide the amount of production needed for his salary. The lower the salary, the more likely the Reds will get their money's worth out of Mussina.


Another factor at work in determining the risk on Mussina is the switch from the AL East to the NL Central. Given the payroll explosion in the AL East and the existence of the DH, there are some strong offenses in that division. By moving from the AL East to the NL Central, Mussina would be facing weaker offensive lineups and his numbers would likely improve.

In 2007, the non-Yankee AL East teams have scored 4.8 runs per game (2528/528). The non-Reds NL Central teams have scored 4.5 runs per game (2981/657). A switch from the Yankees to the Reds would allow Mussina to face offenses that score fewer runs per game. The Reds found similar success in Bronson Arroyo, who came over from the AL East.

Mussina would also benefit from such a move.


Given the needs of both teams, this might be a deal worth considering. The offseason free agent starting pitcher pool is weak and the Reds may need to look elsewhere to fill out their rotation. The Yankees have three young starters in Phillip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy who could be ready to fill out the rotation with Andy Pettite and Chien-Ming Wang in 2008. Accordingly, they may not have much need for Mike Mussina. However, the Yankees could be interested in fan favorite Mike Stanton as a situational lefty to help them out in October.

Mike Mussina does have no trade protection, but if he isn't in the starting rotation for the Yankees, then a trade is the only logical option. He may need some convincing, but maybe Cincinnati could be the place he'd call home in the future.

All in all, it may be a deal that would be worth considering for both sides. It'll be interesting to see what happens to Mussina as the waiver trade deadline approaches, but a 1-2-3 of Harang, Mussina, and Arroyo could be a big improvement in Cincy in 2008.

It all depends on risk and Mussina seems to be a lesser risk than throwing ~$10,000,000 at a league average starting pitcher in free agency.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All Undervalued Team: Jayson Werth, RF

Jayson Werth has long been one of my favorite undervalued players in baseball. The common thread running throughout these undervalued players is that they have some flaw upon which the market focuses. The flaw drives down the value of the player past what his other attributes dictate that it should be.

Th flaw in Jayson Werth is his inability to stay healthy, which can actually be one of the more desirable flaws, as it may not require the player to make any changes to his game. As odd as it sounds, flaws can be desirable for smaller market teams. They can be "something devoutly to be wished", as they can create opportunities for bargain hunting.

In fact, getting more production per dollar spent is the big key to the success of the smaller market organizations. If the A's get the same amount production per dollar spent as the Yankees, then the A's lose because of the far superior financial resources of the Yankees. The A's and all smaller market teams have to develop talent and find bargains.

As for Jayson Werth, I shudder to think what value the market would place on him if he could stay healthy. To me, Werth is a unique player, because his game grades out very well in both traditional scouting and statistical analysis. Adam Dunn generates so much discussion because his production flies in the face of traditional scouting, which wouldn't rate him very highly.


Traditional scouting focuses on the process (mechanics, body type, etc), while statistical analysis focuses on the outcomes of that process (HRs, strikeouts, walks, etc). Both techniques are designed to determine a player's value and likelihood of success at the next level, but go about it in very different ways. At the nexus of these two different paths sits Jayson Werth.

Werth is 28 years old, 6-4, and 210 pounds. Werth has great tools, including a very strong arm, good speed, the projectible body type that scouts like, light-tower power, and the pedigree (he's the grandson of Dick Schoefield). At the plate, Werth possess a quiet stance and a smooth swing. In short, Werth looks good playing the game. He's a natural out there.

Werth's throwing motion is a bit of a short-arm, but that's because he came up as a catcher and he certainly seems to have the high baseball IQ of a catcher, as he is a very good percentage player.

Personally, I'd recommend checking out the following link and watching a few of his highlights under the multimedia section. (Jayson Werth video highlights)

In addition to how he goes about playing the game (i.e. the process), Werth also provides several intriguing outcomes. From a statistical perspective, there is much to like about Werth.


For his career, Werth has seen 4.48 pitches per plate appearance, which is a sign of a disciplined hitter. Recently, John Dewan did a study that took a look at how a team's number of pitches seen per plate appearance correlated to runs scored. In short, the teams with the highest number of pitches seen per plate appearance scored the most runs. That's because the more pitches you see, the more disciplined you are. The more disciplined you are, the higher the your On Base Percentage. And, as countless studies have shown, on base percentage correlates most closely to runs scored.

His career line of .257/.346/.431/.777 also indicates strong on base skills. His career Isolated On Base percentage (OBP-BA) is 0.089. Given what he has done during the extended periods of time when fully healthy, Werth could consistently post an OBP that is .100 points higher than his batting averge.

Werth also has tremendous power, which he hasn't demonstrated very often due to his injuries. That said, when he was healthy in 2004 with the Dodgers, Werth hit 16 homeruns in 290 ABs, which works out to a homerun every 18.1 ABs. For comparison, on his career, Adam Dunn has hit a homerun once every 14.0 ABs and Ken Griffey, Jr. is at one homerun every 14.8 ABs.

In addition, h
is career secondary average is .315, which works on the same scale as batting average and attempts to measures the value of the production provided by player.


For his career, Werth has stolen 19 bases and been caught 4 times in his career. That's an 83% success rate, which is very impressive. He's fast for a tall player and intelligent on the bases.


In 2007, Jayson Werth has posted very strong defensive numbers in both leftfield and rightfield. His Revised Zone Rating in leftfield was .929 and in rightfield it was .925. For comparison sake, Eric Byrnes was one of the best defensive leftfielders in 2007 and he had .923 RZR, which is lower than Werth. As for rightfield, Jeff Francoeur was one of the top rightfielders and he only had a RZR of .893. In addition, Werth has thrown out 9 runners in only 573 defensive innings, which is a testament to the strength and accuracy of his arm.

While he has been very strong in leftfield and rightfield, he would likely be above average in centerfield as well. In John Dewan's Fielding Bible, Werth fared well in all three outfield spots in 2005 for the Dodgers, when he was well above average in each slot.


While Werth has long been one of my favorite undervalued players, he may no longer fit under that label if he continues to play like he has in 2007. Werth has seen increased playing time with the Phillies due to the injury to Shane Victorino and he has made the most of his opportunity.

Earlier this week, Werth went 9 straight ABs with a hit. He had a 5-for-5 game and followed it up with a 4-for-4 game. The NL record for consecutive ABs with a hit is 10, but Werth's 9 AB streak was ended by the crafty Tom Glavine.

On the season, Werth is up to .311/.404/.478/.882 and is seeing 4.52 pitches per plate appearance. If he continues to perform at that level, then his value will skyrocket.

Werth seems to finally be healthy, but now he just needs to stay that way. If he can do so, then he's likely to have a strong MLB career.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Phil Dumatrait's Struggles and Demotion

After four starts, 13.1 innings pitched, and 21 earned runs allowed the Reds had seen enough, as they demoted Phil Dumatrait back to AAA Louisville.

Given his poor situational pitching, weak K/BB ratio, and general lack of command in the minors, his struggles at the MLB level shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. Unfortunately, at this point Dumatrait just is not good enough to be an asset at the major league level. Granted, it's a small sample size, but let's take a look at his pitch data to get a handle on his performance.

During his MLB stint, Dumatrait threw 294 pitches, 168 of which were strikes and 126 of which were balls. So, Dumatrait threw a strike only 57% of the time (Harang: 66%, Arroyo: 65%, Livingston: 65%). It is sometimes said that the most effective pitch in baseball is the first pitch strike. Getting ahead early in the count puts the pitcher in control of the PA and opens up many more options from his arsenal. Unfortunately, Dumatrait only threw a 1st pitch strike 55% of the time (Harang: 65%, Arroyo: 65%, Livingston: 64%).

Accordingly, it seems only logical that Dumatrait would spend more time behind in the count, which is evidenced by the fact that 5% of the plate appearance involved a 3-0 count (Harang: 4%, Arroyo: 4%, Livingston: 1%) which is a bit disturbing when you consider that he issued no intentional walks.

Dumatrait did manage to strike out 6 hitters and all were swinging strikeouts. Dumatrait only managed to get to an 0-2 count in 12% of the plate appearances (Harang: 23%, Arroyo: 19%, Livingston: 18%) and wasn't able to effectively finish off the hitter, which raises questions about the lack of an out pitch. In 33% of 0-2 count situations Dumatrait allowed a hit (Harang: 5%, Arroyo: 6%, Livingston: 4%).

Unfortunately, Dumatrait was done in by a lack of control and just being to hittable. It is very difficult to be successful in the majors if you can't miss bats. If a pitcher gives up too much contact, then he will struggle to maintain consistent success. Dumatrait just allowed to much contact, as 86% of the time contact was made by the hitter when swinging (Harang: 78%, Arroyo: 81%, Livingston: 82%). It may not seem like a big difference, but around 85% seems to be the tipping point, above which sustained MLB success is difficult.

Again, it is undeniably a small sample size, but it does reflect many of the same problems he demonstrated in the minors, only amplified by a better caliber hitter. Hopefully, Dumatrait will head back to the minors, work on his game, and be able to contribute to the Reds in the future. However, at this point, that seems like a bit of a long shot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Down on the Farm: Devin Mesoraco

Now is as good a time as any to check in on the Reds' first round draft pick, Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco is a catcher that the Reds drafted straight out of Punxsutaweny high school with the #15 pick.

As a senior, Mesoraco put up huge numbers (.467/.632/.911 with 4 HRs and 21 RBI) and captured the Gatorade Player of the Year, which honors the best player in Pennsylvania high school baseball. A season which is even more remarkable, considering that he underwent Tommy John surgery in his sophomore season and spent his entire junior season rehabbing his arm. Obviously, he's made a complete recovery.

Personally, I would have preferred to see the Reds draft Oregon State catcher Mitch Canham, as he has been an integral part of the past two College World Series championship teams and has a pure swing.

High school catchers are about as risky a selection as you can make, as they have a tremendous amount to learn and need a great deal of development time. The only thing that comes with more risk is a high school pitcher. Mesoraco was highly regarded by scouts, but unfortunately a lot can happen before a high school catcher will reach the majors.

That said, it is refreshing to see the Reds draft impact talent at premier defensive positions. As of late, all the Reds good prospects have played corner spots. The more valuable prospects are the ones that play up the middle of the field (c, ss, 2b, cf). Over the past couple of drafts, it seems the Reds focus has shifted towards prospects that play these premier defensive positions (Stubbs, Mesoraco, Frazier, Vailaka, etc), which is nice to see after watching such poor defensive play in Cincinnati over the past few years.

The Reds started Mesoraco with the Gulf Coast League Reds, which is about as low as you can go in minor league system. Unfortunately, Mesoraco has still struggled mightily with the bat. On the season, he's hitting .211/.307/.260/.567 with 14 runs, 1 homerun, and 7 RBI in 123 At Bats.

Given his age and the fact that it is his first taste of professional baseball, his poor performance means very little. Not to mention, he's been dealing with lingering thumb problems, which could also be impacting his performance.

While his performance has been poor, expect a big step forward next season from Mesoraco. He'll be healthy, experienced, and be ready to play. This half season is just for him to get his feet wet, so take the subpar performance with a grain of salt. Next year is when we will be able to see what we've got with Mesoraco.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reds Deal Jeff Conine to Mets

Today, the Reds completed the much needed trade of Jeff Conine, which frees up a roster spot and badly needed playing time for the remainder of the season. In the deal, the Reds acquired shortstop Jose Castro and centerfielder Sean Henn from the Mets, both of whom are low level prospects.

According to Baseball America, Sean Henn was the 23rd ranked prospect in the N.Y. Met farm system. Castro was unranked, but he has taken a step forward this season. Castro is only 5'8 and seems, at best, to be a backup infielder at the Major League Level. Here is what Baseball America had to say about Sean Henn:

"Henry has one of the better amateur pedigrees of anyone in the Mets system and hit .481 for USA Baseball's 2003 junior national team that included Billy Butler (Royals) and Neil Walker (Pirates), among others. He has tantalized the Mets with his athleticism, but it took him almost three seasons to get out of rookie ball. Henry is an aggressive hitter with good bat speed and impressive pop for someone of his size. He's a smart baserunner with above average speed that plays well on the bases and in the field. The former shortstop moved to CF last year and showed excellent aptitude there. His clean routes made him look like a natural, but he needs to make an adjustment with his footwork on throws, which differs from the infield. Henry also needs to stay within himself as a hitter because of his tendency to swing for the fences. The Mets were pleased with Henry's progress on both offense and defense in 2006 and he'll finally get a shot to open a season in a full-season league."

Conine, the 41 year old veteran, was no longer of use to a Reds team that is very likely to finish well below .500 this season. Accordingly, the Reds need to use the rest of this season to let prospects get their feet wet at the MLB level. This strategy also enables the Reds to evaluate talent to determine what they need in the offseason.

The Reds called up Jorge Cantu to fill Conine's vacated roster spot. Cantu seems likely to step right into Conine's role on the team and get ABs as the right handed platoon partner of Scott Hatteberg. It remains to be seen what will happen in September, when Joey Votto may well be called up to play 1b. That said, this is another good trade by Krivsky, as he got value (such as it is) for Conine, who was lost to the Reds after the season anyway, and freed up room to play younger prospects.

This is just the latest trade that looks like a winner for Krivksy and the Reds, as the Cantu and Lohse trades are both paying early dividends for the Reds. While a strong case can be made that Krivsky should have been more active at the trade deadline, it is hard to argue that the deals he has completed have been anything other than positive for the Reds.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Down on the Farm: Juan Francisco's Big Day

Reds' prospect Juan Francisco had the best day of his young professional career on Sunday, as he went 3-4 with 3 homeruns and drove in 7 runs for Single A Dayton. The switch hitting Francisco hit two homers from the left side and one from the right side against the Lansing Lugnuts. On the season, Francisco is batting .268/.305/.461/.765 with 21 homeruns and 80 RBIs, which is very solid production out of the 20 year old from our Latin America academies.

Francisco is an intriguing prospect, to say the least, as he's a switch hitting third baseman with good offensive potential. As he matures and fills out, his power potential should increase from its already impressive level. Not only does Francisco have good raw numbers, but so far this season he has demonstrated the ability to rise to the occasion. The more crucial the situation, the better Francisco has performed this year, so his approach at the plate has had very successful results.

2007 Splits
Bases Empty: .256/.290/.441/.730
Runners On: .280/.318/.480/.798
Scoring Position: .343/.397/.606/1.003

Francisco is certainly opening some eyes and is one to be followed as he ascends the organizational ladder. The Reds overseas scouting efforts are beginning to bear fruit, as both Johnny Cueto and Juan Francisco were signed as international free agents. Adding these types of prospects in addition to prospects via the draft can have a substantial impact on the fortunes of a farm system. In fact, signing international prospects is vital to the building of a well stocked farm system. The efforts of the Reds' player development department finally appear to be heading in the right direction after years of ineptitude.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Baseball and Abuse of the Media

I recently finished reading two baseball books. The first was "A Whole Different Ballgame: The Inside Story of the Baseball Revolution" by former MLBPA director Marvin Miller and the second was "Baseball and the Media: How Fans Lose in Today's Coverage of the Game" by George Castle.

If you are interested in aspects of Major League Baseball that exist outside the chalk lines, then I would definitely recommend both books. Marvin Miller's book details the labor revolution that occurred in Major League baseball and is a must read for people interested in the business of baseball.

George Castle's book discusses the state of media coverage of America's pastime. An intriguing book for those interested in baseball and in the dissemination of information about the grand old game. The book tackles many interesting topics, including the decreasing newspaper coverage of professional sports, the relationship between the players and the media, and impact the media can have on the fortunes of a franchise (one interesting idea presented by Castle is that the Cubs long title drought is not due to a "curse," but rather the unwillingness of the Chicago media to publish critical articles about front office incompetence).

I mention these two books not only because I found them to be informative and enjoyable, but also because they overlapped each other in one surprising respect. Both books discuss the manner in which the media has either been a willing mouthpiece for the owners or at least allowed itself to be manipulated by Major League Baseball throughout its history.

Miller's book discusses the propaganda that Major League Baseball owners have long been foisting on an unsuspecting populace, while Castle's book discusses the methods and mediums that have been used to disseminate this propaganda.

Over the years, MLB has used the media as a mouthpiece for its views on labor relations. The writers were fed "talking points" that MLB wanted to get out to the public, which the media was only too happy to print. One of the main strategies utilized by the owners in their labor battles with the players was to win the war of public opinion. Controlling the flow of information provided to the baseball public made it infinitely easier to keep the players under their collective thumb.

Before the newer mediums (television, internet, etc) came into existence to increase access to the game, writers were customarily at the mercy of the owner of the ball club. The owner provided access to the game and the players, so newspapers were typically unwilling to take a critical stance against the owner for fear of losing access.

Accordingly, writers willingly published articles from an owner's point of view, which were designed to convince both the public and the players themselves that the status quo in labor relations was both fair and equitable. One of the most egregious examples of owner propaganda is one that still remains to this day, which is the idea that the Commissioner of baseball is an impartial steward of the game.

The owners have long pushed the idea that the Commissioner is an impartial figure who can sit above the fray and make decisions that are in "the best interests of baseball." The reality is much different, as the commissioner is chosen by the owners, paid by the owners, and subject to removal at the whim of the owners if his performance does not meet with their approval.

This is the reason why sports having commissioners with absolute power, like the NFL, are inherently unfair. Those sports have a commissioner who is supposed to act fairly with regard to issues involving both the players and the owners, but his compensation and livelihood is dependent on the approval of only one of those sides. It is a substantial conflict of interest.

This legal fiction and conflict of interest was eliminated from the game of baseball when Marvin Miller and the MLBPA won concessions in labor negotiations to implement a binding, independent grievance process to MLB. Accordingly, in baseball, the commissioner does not have absolute authority, but rather has to "rule" in accordance with the law. The commissioner does not have the power to punish with impunity, as his rulings are subject to appeal to an independent arbitrator. Unlike other sports, there must be direct evidence of a violation of CBA rules or a legal judgment before punishment can be imposed in baseball, which seems only right in a country founded on the rule of law.

Unfortunately, it seems that there is still a bit of inaccurate, misleading reporting going on in professional baseball to this day. Once again, it seems that the media, whether knowingly or not, is again helping to propagate the owner's propaganda of an all powerful commissioner.

NEW YORK (AP) -- With a bright-eyed smile stretched across his rosy face, Jason Giambi bounced around the field during batting practice and posed for photos with fans.

The New York Yankees slugger had plenty to be happy about Thursday.

Giambi escaped punishment from commissioner Bud Selig because of his charitable work and cooperation with baseball's steroids investigator.

"It's over and done with. I'm thrilled with it. He did what he needed to do -- now I can go forward," Giambi said before the Yankees hosted Detroit in the opener of an important four-game series. "I can go forward and not hurt the ballclub with a suspension."

Selig, speaking on the second and final day of an owners meeting in Toronto, called this an "appropriate decision."

Giambi has acknowledged a "personal history regarding steroids." He agreed to speak with former Sen. George Mitchell last month after Selig threatened to discipline him if he refused to cooperate.

"He's doing a lot of public-service work, and I think that's terribly important," Selig said. "I think it's more important for us to keep getting the message out. He was, I thought, very frank and candid with Sen. Mitchell, at least that was the senator's conclusion. Given everything, this is an appropriate decision."

Giambi said he already was involved with most of the charity work in question "before any of this."

"I felt they were good programs. They were great for kids," he said.

Selig said June 21, before Giambi met Mitchell, that he would take "Giambi's level of cooperation into account in determining appropriate further action."

Selig said Mitchell was not expected to speak with any other active players.

"This was a special circumstance," Selig said. "I have no other plans."

This article, written by the Associated Press, leaves the reader with the impression that the Commissioner of baseball actually has the power to punish Jason Giambi. In reality, despite his assertions to the contrary, Selig lacks the power to impose any kind of meaningful punishment on Giambi. If he did have such power, he would have used it long ago on Giambi and Barry Bonds. In reality, any attempt by Selig to impose punishment on a player on whom there is no direct evidence of a violation of an expressly stated rule of the CBA or been found guilty of a crime in a court of law would be reversed on appeal by an independent arbitrator.

Regrettably, this AP article simply advances the owner created fiction that the Commissioner is all powerful, rather than disclose the fact that the commissioner's power is limited by the American rule of law. Selig's "choice" not to pursue additional punishment for Giambi was not driven by Selig's conclusion that Giambi was undeserving of additional punishment, but by the fact that any attempt to impose punishment would be reversed, which would reveal Selig to be less than all powerful.

In a day and age in which the media tries and commissioners convict athletes long before the legal system renders a verdict, it is regrettable that the article fails to mention that MLB has a system in place to ensure that the accused is afforded his day in court before punishment is doled out.

Dumi, Livingston, and Homegrown Pitching

After years of futility and a number of false starts, the Reds are finally beginning to build a productive farm system. The Reds have struggled for years to develop quality pitching, but slowly there is a trickle of talent beginning to reach the Majors.

The two blue chip pitching prospects in the Reds farm system, Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto, have both seen substantial success in the minors. Homer reached the Majors earlier this season, but is down in the minors on a rehab assignment. Johnny Cueto has been dominant at just about every level this year and is poised to make his big league debut either in September or in 2008.

Cueto is also emblematic of another vitally important development for the Reds organization, as he is one of the first prospects to be signed out of Latin America by the Reds revitalized international scouting effort. Adding good international prospects to the farm system each year in addition to those out of the draft is vital for the development of a good farm system. The Reds are finally back to doing so.

The Big Red Machine benefited greatly from international scouting, as Tony Perez was signed by the Reds in 1960 as an amateur free agent, Dave Concepcion was signed as an amateur free agent by the Reds in 1967, as were a few other lesser lights like Manny Sarmiento. Unfortunately, that stream of talent would eventually be dammed up by a shortsighted owner.

Under former owner Marge Schott, the Reds scouting and player development budgets were slashed. Marge believed that she could save money in these areas and plow some of the savings into the Major League roster by doing so. In actuality, Marge wasn't saving money at all, rather she was simply shifting the cost of her actions onto the backs of future Reds' teams. The Reds' organization has had to carry that heavy burden around for the past decade or two.

The Reds enjoyed some short term success, but they mortgaged the future to do so. The cost effective flow of young talent dried up, leaving the Reds struggling to fill holes at the Major League level with expensive free agents (Eric Milton, anyone?). The true cost of Marge Schott's decision is impossible to calculate, but the Reds certainly paid a heavy, heavy price.

While Bailey and Cueto are on the cusp of making their impact at the Major League level, it is a good idea to see what the Reds have to fill the void until they are ready. Bobby Livingston and Phil Dumatrait were both acquired from other organizations, but both are being viewed as potential starting pitchers for the Reds. So, let's take a look and see what we can expect out of them.

Phil Dumatrait has control problems and average stuff. In AAA Louisville this year, he had a 70/48 K/BB ratio in 118.2 innings. Earlier in the year, it was even worse and at times it was almost a 1-to-1 ratio. His promotion to the majors and a more advanced level of competition has only exacerbated the problem. On the season, Dumatrait has a 8.74 ERA, a 2.56 WHIP, a 7.2 BB/9, a 5.6 K/9, and a 0.56 GB/FB ratio in the majors. Granted, it's only been 3 starts and 11.1 innings, but it isn't an encouraging start.

Another disturbing trend is Dumatrait's performance with runners on base. At AAA this year, Dumatrait had a 44/24 K/BB ratio in 60.0 innings pitched with no one on base. However, in 58.2 innings pitched with runners on base, Dumatrait had a 26/24 K/BB ratio. In 31.0 innings pitched with runners in scoring position, Dumatrait had a 12/17 K/BB ratio.

In short, the more crucial the situation, the worse his K/BB ratio. His HR/9 rate also worsens in crucial situations.

Phil Dumatrait 2007 AAA Performance
Situation:____K/9___BB/9 ___HR/9
Bases Empty: ___6.6 ____3.6_____0.6__
Runners On: ____4.0____3.7_____ 0.8__
Scoring Position:__3.5____4.9_____0.9__

That is not a positive trend and to expect much out of Dumatrait would be unwise. He's a flyball pitcher who walks too many, strikes out too few, and seems to pitch worse the more crucial the situation. At this point, it seems unlikely that Dumatrait is ready to be a successful major league baseball pitcher. So, our nation turns its lonely eyes to Bobby Livingston.

On the season, Bobby Livingston has a 4.70 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP, a 4.0 K/9, a 1.4 BB/9, and a 1.36 GB/FB ratio.

In 56.2 innings pitched at AAA with the bases empty, Livingston had a 38/8 K/BB ratio. In 47.2 innings pitched with Runners on Base, Livingston had a 25/9 K/BB ratio. In 26.2 innings pitched with runners in scoring position, Livingston had a 17/6 K/BB ratio.

In short, Bobby fared a bit worse as the situation got more crucial, but overall performed better than Dumatrait. Livingston also did a much better job avoiding the homerun in crucial situations.

Bobby Livingston 2007 AAA Performance
Situation:_____K/9 ___BB/9 ___HR/9
Bases Empty: ____6.0_____1.3_____0.6__
Runners On: _____4.7_____1.7_____0.6__
Scoring Position:___5.8____2.0_____0.7__

It is often said that Dumatrait has better stuff, but that Livingston is a craftier pitcher. Perhaps these numbers begin to bear that out, as Livingston was able to maintain his level of performance more successfully than Dumatrait.

At this point, even though he was roughed up today, Bobby Livingston seems to be a more viable option to fill the 5th spot in the rotation in 2008. Livingston walks few and gets a heavy percentage of groundballs, but needs to do a better job of missing bats. That said, his performance and his baseball I.Q. make him a better bet for success in the 5th slot in the rotation.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Matt Belisle Sent Down to the Minors

In order to bring up Everyday Eddie Guardado, the Reds option Matt Belisle to Triple A Louisville. GM Wayne Krivsky has taken some heat over the past few days from fans not pleased his decisions. However, I think bringing up Bray and sending down Belisle are exactly what needed to happen.

Reds optioned RHP Matt Belisle to Triple-A Louisville.
Belisle belongs in the bullpen, not the minors, and he'll probably rejoin the Reds as a reliever in two or three weeks. He was 6-8 with a 5.40 ERA in 23 starts for the Reds, but he did have a solid 91/32 K/BB ratio in 135 innings. With Homer Bailey not yet ready, reliever Mike Gosling or minor leaguer Elizardo Ramirez could take Belisle's spot in the rotaiton. Victor Santos is a less likely possibility.

Belisle has good stuff, but has yet to find his niche. However, we can certainly cross "starting pitcher" off the list. The bullpen may be his best option, as he has the stuff to be an effective setup man. At this point, it is good to see the Reds recognize that he isn't an asset in the rotation. Pulling him from the rotation also enables us to see what else we have in the system.

We need to see if Phil Dumatrait, Bobby Livingston, and Elizardo Ramirez have anything to offer for 2008. Once again, the Reds seem to understand the need to use the rest of 2007 to evaluate what we have for 2008. That's a good sign.

Billy Bray Rides Again!!!!

Finally! After three months of waiting, Reds' fans will finally get to see lefty Billy Bray at the Major League Level. The Reds have been hemorrhaging from the bullpen all season, so Bray could have been very valuable in stopping the bleeding.

"Reds recalled LHP Bill Bray from Triple-A Louisville.
Bray missed the first three months with a broken finger and then shoulder woes before he resumed pitching at Louisville in July. He ended up with a 4.26 ERA and a 29/6 K/BB ratio in 19 innings for the Bats. If he can stay away from the walks, he could be ready to help Cincinnati's pen."

Oddly enough, Everyday Eddie Guardado returned from Tommy John surgery before Bray returned from his finger and shoulder ailments. It is a bit remarkable and very unfortunate that it took Bray so long to get healthy. It took him so long to return that the season is already over for the Reds, which might not have been the case if he was healthy this year.

At the very least, the Reds should have another reliable arm in the bullpen. The rest of this year should be used to evaluate all the options we have in the bullpen. Billy Bray, Jon Coutlangus, Gary Majewski, Marcus McBeth, Jared Burton, Todd Coffey, and others all need to be evaluated with an eye towards 2008. We need to know what we have and what we need heading into the offseason.

Reds Record by Month

April: 12-13 .480
May: 9-21 .300
June: 10-16 .385
July: 14-12 .538
August: 4-4 .500

If the Reds hadn't had such a disastrous May, then the season might be different. At the very least, we'd be respectable. Unfortunately, it's not easy to recover from an entire month of playing .300 baseball.

Friday, August 10, 2007

All Undervalued Team: Fernando Cabrera, RP

Some interesting and rather surprising news came out of Cleveland today. The Indians released 25 year old reliever Fernando Cabrera. Personally, I'm very surprised they cut him loose and even more surprised that no one traded for him.

"Traded INF Russell Branyan to the Philadelphia Phillies for cash considerations; Claimed INF Chris Gomez off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles; Sent INF Mike Rouse outright to Triple-A Buffalo; Released RHP Fernando Cabrera; Optioned LHP Aaron Laffey to Buffalo."

Given the Reds struggles in the bullpen, picking up Cabrera as fast as possible would seem to be a no-brainer. Cabrera is a young reliever with a power arm, something which is in short supply in the Reds' bullpen. In 2007, Cabrera struck out 10.4 batters and walked 5.9 batters per nine innings. Clearly, he has a tremendous arm, but also some control problems. In his career, Cabrera has posted a 4.6 BB/9 and a 10.0 K/9.

Given his age and upside, this is clearly the type of player on whom the Reds should roll the dice. If he improves his control only a tick or two, then he would likely be a tremendous asset in the bullpen. Not to mention, a switch to the NL should only help, as he would not have to face the DH.

Here's what the 2006 Baseball America Prospect Handbook had to say about Fernando Cabrera:

"The Indians had a poor draft in 1999, as their top pick never made it out of Rookie ball and just one player signed in the first 20 rounds made it past Double-A. That exception is Cabrera, who reached Double-A as a starter but has been groomed as a late-inning reliever since mid-2003. He has been impressive in late-season callups the last two years. Cabrera operates with two plus pitches, a lively 92-96 MPH fastball and a hard, diving splitter. His fastball command has improved since his days as a starter, and he pitches effectively to both sides of the plate. He has both the stuff and the demeanor to close. Cabrera's slider and changeup aren't nearly as effective as his other two offerings. When he stays on top of his slider and doesn't slow down his arm speed with his changeup, both pitches grade out as major league average. He rarely concerns himself with holding runners close to first base.There's no question that Cabrera is Cleveland's closer of the future. The Indians will ease him into the role, however, after re-signing all-star Bob Wickman to finish games in 2006. Cabrera will help set up Wickman this season."

Given the low cost and the substantial upside, it would seem to be exactly the kind of move at which Krivsky excels. Cabrera would be a great risk/reward acquisition. And, if he works out even half as well as the last undervalued player we grabbed from the Indians, then Cabrera would be a huge asset to the bullpen in 2008.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cantu, Dickerson, and uber-prospect Jay Bruce

Well, so far, Jorge Cantu's performance is lending a lot credence to the idea that he just needed a change of scenery. At AAA Louisville thus far, Cantu is hitting .317/.364/.463/.827 in 41 ABs.
Whether or not he becomes a quality regular, it is hard to view the deal to acquire him as anything other than a win for the Reds. They gave up little of value to get him and Cantu should, at the very least, be a quality bat off the bench.

Chris Dickerson is an interesting prospect. He has great tools and strong on base skills, but he just isn't putting the bat on the ball often enough to be quality regular. At AAA Louisville, Dickerson is hitting .269/.371/.427/.798 with 19 steals in 24 tries. Dickerson is also a tremendous defensive centerfielder and could be the leadoff option that Cincinnati has lacked over the passed several seasons. Of course, he'll need to reduce his strikeouts to raise his batting average in order for this to happen. Still, even though he's a long shot to do so, it's still a good idea to keep an eye on Dickerson, as he may still surprise and make an impact at the Major League level.

Finally, Jay Bruce continues to crush every pitcher at every level. He is truly one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He is 20 years old, but is crushing AAA level pitching. Right now, he is posting a line of .312/.379/.624/1.002 at Louisville. Despite his age and level of experience, it seems Bruce is pushing hard for a chance to start in the 2008 Cincinnati outfield, despite the fact that it would create another logjam of talent. Bruce is one of the rare prospects who does not need much development time due to his extraordinary abilities.

While the outlook remains bleak for the Reds at the Major League level, there is still hope to be found, especially in the farm system.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Uncle Bud Getting His Just Comeuppance

Maybe there is a just bit of justice in the universe, because to me, Bud Selig is getting exactly what he deserves. The steroid debacle in Major League Baseball could hardly have been handled any worse, as the scandal taints everything with which it comes into contact. Not even Bud Selig's decision to be in attendance gets away unscathed, but given his role in the scandal, that seems rather appropriate.

For essentially all of the 2007, Bud Selig has straddled the fence and remained non-committal about whether or not he'd attend the game in which Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's all-time homerun record. Basically, this stance mirrored the one he has taken throughout his tenure as commissioner of Major League Baseball.

During his time as commissioner, Selig has put profit ahead of all else. In general, the profitability of baseball and increasing revenue streams for the owners has been at the center of his decisions. Selig's motto may as well be: "Cash is king."

While it is unfair to state that owners tacitly approved of illegal performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) because of the positive impact IPEDs had on their cash registers, it is not a stretch to state that monetary considerations were behind MLB's unwillingness to confront the issue. Clearly, MLB was unwilling to expend a valuable bargaining chip in collective bargaining with the MLBPA on an issue that had no detrimental impact on revenue. In fact, far from being a detriment to the owners, IPED usage may indeed have been a financial boon for the owners.

Given the strength of the MLBPA (who are equally to blame for this scandal, but that is a discussion for another day), the owners chose to use every weapon in their arsenal to increase their financial position. Accordingly, the IPED issue was never pushed to the forefront by the owners, who focused instead on the growing of revenue, rather than protecting the game.

Selig's primary concern about the profitability of baseball results in an ultimate goal of pleasing the consumer. Accordingly, Selig continues to do whatever necessary to avoid rocking the boat. Selig's attendance at the game is largely overblown, as in the future, no one is going to know or care that the commissioner of baseball was in attendance when the record was broken. Accordingly, Selig could have taken a stand against an event that symbolizes much of what is wrong with professional sports, rather than to join in its "celebration." To have taken such a stand would have created little ill-will or negative fallout for the commissioner, but Selig instead chose to avoid rocking the boat.

Instead of making difficult decisions on the basis of either moral considerations or what is in the best interests of the game, Selig instead waits for public opinion to dictate his course of action. When your only consideration is to avoid actions that will reduce the value of MLB franchises, then you are likely to come down on the wrong side of important issues. What kind of leader waits for others to dictate his course of action?

In short, Selig seemingly decided that taking a stand against an achievement attained in large part through cheating would have taken the focus away from the event itself. Accordingly, Selig relented, deciding to be in attendance for the record breaking moment. To do otherwise would have generated additional stories about the illegitimacy of the record and caused additional public relation problems for MLB. Bad press is bad business.

Since that time, Selig has attended 8 straight games Giant games, but Bonds has yet to even tie the record, much less break it. Despite his frustration about his homerun drought, you have to wonder if Barry Bonds is enjoying the thought of Selig following him around game after game. Selig certainly had to humble himself in order to attend the games. Selig's decision once again demonstrates that Major League Baseball is a business above all else, and a business that can even embrace steroids when it's in its own financial interest to do so.

To me at least, it seems some how appropriate that Bud Selig, to his detriment, is trailing behind a steroid fueled record chase. After all, Selig spent years trailing behind the steroid issue in Major League Baseball, much to the detriment of the game. Unfortunately, there may not be enough cosmic justice to prevent Bonds from breaking Henry Aaron's record, but at least there's enough floating around to give Selig his just comeuppance.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Random Thoughts

**Nice to FINALLY see the Reds call up Mark Bellhorn from AAA. I've long wanted to see what Bellhorn could do in GABP, as he has the right type of swing to benefit from the park. The Reds have been wasting a roster spot on Juan Castro, who provides nothing more than solid (at best) defense, all season long. Given the state of the Reds, wasting playing time on someone like Castro is a mistake we can't afford to make. Bellhorn or Keppinger should have been given that roster spot long ago. That simple change could conceivably have earned the Reds another victory or two.

**The Reds have dumped the last four games in a row, so it looks like the Dead Cat Bounce or the uptick in performance gained from a change in manager is over. If you want to seriously consider Mackanin for the manager slot, NOW is the time to start evaluating him. The honeymoon is over, so it's time for Pete to work his magic.

**The Reds face 4 lefthanded starters this week (M.Chico, J.Lanan, M.Bascik, T.Gorzelanny). Given their struggles against southpaws, perhaps this losing streak shouldn't be a surprise. Perhaps the Reds can benefit from the incompetence of the Pirates, as they were scheduled to face a 5th lefty before the Bucs drastically overpaid to bring in righthander Matt Morris.

**It's finally time to see what we have in Phil Dumatrait. Personally, I'm rather skeptical. Dumi seems to walk too many and strikeout too few, but maybe he can be a serviceable, inexpensive back of the rotation starter. Whether he is a solid option or not, it's long past time the Reds brought him up so we can see if he should be included in the future plans.

**Cleveland reliever Fernando Cabrera was Designated For Assignment yesterday. It's unfortunate that it happened after the trade deadline, as it would've been great for the Reds to acquire him. He's got a live arm and tremendous velocity. If he can harness his stuff, maybe he'd be the setup man the Reds so desperately need. Unfortunately, now he has to clear waivers before he can be dealt, so the Reds are behind all the AL teams and couple of NL teams in the pecking order. Hopefully, he'll slide all the way through to the Reds, but that seems like a longshot.

**Two of my favorite players had huge days on Wednesday, as Jayson Werth went 3-6 with 4 RBI and a SB and Morgan Ensberg clubbed 2 homers in Petco Park. I must admit, it puts a smile on my face to see these two do well, even if it is too small of a sample size to be indicative of anything. I've long wanted to see each in Cincy, but I still enjoy their successes with other organizations.

**The Padres did very well at the trade deadline, as they added several undervalued players, rather than pay the exhorbitant cost for the big ticket items. Milton Bradley and Morgan Ensberg have paid immediate and substantial dividends for the Pads. Given how close the NL West race is, these moves could be enough to put the Pads over the top.

**Jay Bruce continues to pound the ball, regardless of the caliber of the competition. As a 20 year old at AAA, Bruce is now hitting .305/.374/.610/.983 with 6 homers and an 18/8 K/BB ratio. At this point, he is pushing for a chance at a starting job in the 2008 Reds outfield. I can still hear the sound of the triple he hit in the Futures Game at PacBell park thundering in my ear. It sounded like a rifle shot coming off the bat. Bruce is looking like the best prospect the Reds have produced in quite some time.

**It's rather sad to read that Adam Dunn's family can't listen to the Reds games that are being broadcast by the Brennamans. Both Marty and Thom are so hard on him that his family can't stand to listen to it. Someone should tell Marty and Thom that it is one thing to be objective, but it is an entirely different thing to be hyper-critical and negative. I don't think many would accuse Vin Scully, Jon Miller, or any of the other great broadcasters of being homers, but I also doubt those great broadcasters drive the families of players away from the telecast with their never-ending negativity. There's a fine line between "telling it like it is" and being an obnoxious loudmouth, sadly, far too many people (including, evidently, the Brennamans) mistake the latter for the former. Someone should remind them that it is possible to be objective without being negative and meanspirited.