Pinch-hitter Freddie Lewis hit a ball to dead center. As he has done so often this year, center fielder Willy Taveras broke poorly on the ball, running laterally to his left before realizing the ball was over his head. It fell for a double.
He doesn’t get on base. When he does he doesn’t steal when it is needed. He was brought in to be a leadoff hitter and couldn’t do it and is now batting second. And he is below average in the field. What can Taveras do? He has a nice stereo set in the clubhouse that plays loud, headache-inducing salsa music.
And holy cahooties. Taveras just hit a ground ball to the mound and trotted toward first base. Didn’t run. Jogged. Stopped before he got to the bag. Manager Dusty Baker immediately yanked him from the lineup, replacing him with Laynce Nix.
The Reds later announced that Taveras has a strained right quadriceps muscle. I don’t question the injury, but it was awfully convenient
As far as I’m concerned, and many other fans are concerned, Taveras can rot on the bench the rest of the season. I’ve seen nothing to merit the millions the Reds have flushed down the toilet when they brought this guy in.
Baker said Taveras hurt himself early in the game when he bunted and dove head first into the first-base bag as the ball rolled foul. He stayed in and couldn’t run the next at-bat.
“I knew something was wrong when I saw him not run, because that’s not Willy,” said Baker.
It's refreshing to see that type of unapologetic, honest criticism in the coverage of the team. The wheels have completely come off for this team over the past month and Hal is giving voice to the mounting frustration of the fan base. Even in sports coverage, the purpose of the fourth estate is to inform people of what's going on in the world and to keep the powers that be honest.
I saw Willy T's swinging bunt and leisurely stroll down to first base and he didn't look hurt. He looked completely and utterly disinterested. Like Hal, I can't deny that he was injured, but it's not the first time Willy T has completely underwhelmed.
It's difficult to imagine a player with absolutely no hitting ability who feels so secure in his job that he's comfortable giving less than his all. When you are a marginal player (to put it generously), it's a good idea to give it 110% in everything you do. Willy T just isn't that type of player. For a small ball player whose game is predicated on doing the "little things," it's remarkable just how poorly he does many of those "little things."
In this case, we have a front office and manager who don't quite seem to get it. When Dusty was hired, I almost couldn't believe it. He was quite literally the last person I would want managing my baseball team and this is part of the reason why. It seems to be obvious to everyone not named Dusty that Willy Taveras is an atrocious ballplayer. Willy is in the conversation for worst everyday ballplayer in all of Major League Baseball. But, Dusty keeps running him out there. Every. Single. Day.
The blogosphere continues to rail against Willy T and the ignorance of Dusty Baker, but it's refreshing to hear the criticism come from inside the established media. Hal McCoy has a much louder megaphone than the rest of us combined and when he picks up the chant, maybe the organization will finally start to listen. At this point, the fans aren't asking for much. The season is over, but most of the fan base would still enjoy watching the young guys get their feet wet.
It's time for the Reds to recognize the sunk cost on the roster (Willy T, I'm looking in your general direction) and call up the young players. The Reds need to use the remaining 6 weeks wisely and getting as much time to evaluate Drew Stubbs, Chris Heisey, and a few others would be the wise thing to do. Unfortunately, only those on the outside of the organization seem to recognize it. At the very least, Hal McCoy is saying what we are all thinking. Unfortunately, that won't be the case for very much longer. You will be missed, Hal.
JUMPING THE SHARK AND GENERAL VENTING
It is truly remarkable what has happened to this team over the past month or so. Granted, we were never the most talented team. Even so, the team was hanging around and on the cusp of contending through the first 3 months of the season. Things changed in a big damn hurry.
On July 1, the Reds were 38-38 on the season, which was good for 3rd place. They may not have been quite that good, but their Run Differential on the season was only -14. So, they weren't too far from legitimate .500 ball.
Fast forward to July 10 and the decline had begun. The Reds were still a respectable 42-43, but the Run Differential had collapsed to a -43. Obviously, the slide was on.
Fast forward to July 24 and the W/L record began to reflect the Run Differential. The Reds had fallen to 44-51 with an eye popping -68 Run Differential.
Perhaps not surprisingly, as the W/L record went into free fall, the fan frustration level increased at an inverse proportionate rate. It seems everyone can point to a specific game or moment in the 2009 season when they became bitter and frustrated with the Reds.
Some fans point to the July 3rd game against the Cardinals when Homer Bailey tossed 7.1 strong innings only to see the game slip away when David Weathers served up an Albert Pujols grandslam. The combination of Homer taking a step forward only to see it go for naught was simply too much for some. Personally, I lasted a bit longer. I flipped my lid over the July 6th game against Philadelphia. Surely you remember, the 22-1 shellacking? That was the moment I knew that the season was over.
Good teams are tough and gritty. Good teams demand respect. Good teams show some fight when they're getting kicked around. They have pride. If the Reds were a good team, then they would have sent a message to the Phillies that game. They would have brushed hitters off the plate. Knocked a few guys down. They would have let the Phillies and everyone else know that the Reds don't appreciate getting kicked around.
What did the Reds do?
Well, Dusty Baker trots out Paul Janish to close out the game. Not surprisingly, Janish gives up 6 runs in an inning to make the Reds the laughingstock of the league that day. To me, that was the turning point of the season. Instead of showing fire and toughness, the Reds rolled over and died.
What was your "Jump the Shark" moment for the 2009 season?