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Cincinnati Reds

An Ode to Billy

Jeff

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a big fan of Billy Hamilton. I’m a Phil Ervin guy, but honestly, Billy came first. Today’s baseball is a game ran by numbers. Statistics back up front office decisions to save payroll and to make winning games more cost effective. Billy is likely to be a casualty of analytics and that’s a total bummer.

You don’t have to dig deep into the statistics to know Hamilton is in trouble. His career batting average is .245 and he’s gotten on base less than 30 percent of the time (.298). He will still go down as one of my favorite Reds that I’ve ever watched. I first saw Billy when he was playing for Double-A Pensacola in 2012 (the team’s first year). I lived in Huntsville, Alabama and the Brewers double-a team resided there (the Huntsville Stars). Scooter Gennett played for the Stars, so I can call total hipster and say “I saw them before they were cool.”

Interestingly enough, Billy was still playing second base back then. He just got promoted from High-A Bakersfield after batting .323 and stealing 104 bases in 84 games, and was already lauded as the Reds lead-off hitter of the future. Another fun fact – Jim Riggelman was the manager of the Blue Wahoos in 2012. Cool Papa Bill was showing off his wheels in the five games the Blue Wahoos played at the Stars’ Joe Davis Stadium. I saw him do something I will never forget.

Billy, batting from the right-hand batter’s box, hit a soft, but not necessarily slow, ground ball to the second baseman, Gennett. Scooter, unfamiliar with the young Mississippian, fielded the ball fundamentally. As he transferred the ball from his glove to his throwing hand, Billy crossed first base safely. The man, the myth, the legend beat out a ground ball to the second baseman. Suffice it to say, Billy didn’t stop impressing me. I got to see all five games he played in Huntsville (tickets were $5). Those five games began a fandom that has not stopped. Sadly, logically, Billy will go down as one of the Reds all-time what-could-have-beens.

The Reds future lead-off hitter extraordinaire, the man who was supposed to steal 100 bases on the regular, maybe that guy is still in there, somewhere. He was runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014 (he lost to Jacob DeGrom). Remember that? Runner up! He hit .250, with a .292 OBP, but stole 56 bases and scored 72 runs. Kind of a microcosm of Hamilton – a player that numbers will never fully explain. I was reminded of my inability to be objective about Billy when all this talk of trading him started up this last offseason, and continued through this year’s deadline (I’m happy he remains a Red). People stated he should be a late-game defensive sub and pinch runner. Sure, that would make logical sense, but as an irrational, blinded fan, I would miss the long-running, diving catches, the scoring from first on a bloop single, or what he did on August 10th.

That’s vintage Cool Papa Bill. Nobody, but Billy, pulls that off, and that’s a scientific fact. So to wrap this biased, gushing piece up, sure, make Billy a super sub. Bring him off the bench to pinch-run for Joey Votto after he’s singled in the bottom of the ninth and there’s two outs. Hamilton will manage to score, all the way from first, win the game, and make us all wonder what life could have been, because Billy is and will always be awesome.

Jeff has spent his entire life around sports. From playing baseball and golf in high school to traveling with college softball, volleyball, and men’s basketball teams as their media relations guy, sports have always been his focal point. He’s pumped to be bringing Reds content to the Locked on Sports Podcast Network!

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Cincinnati Reds

Have Some Faith in The Rotation

The Cincinnati Reds are going to have eight bullpen arms on the everyday major league roster. Let’s make heads or tails of this.

Dave Pemberton

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© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

For a large portion of the 2018 season the Cincinnati Reds carried eight relievers. While I absolutely hated it, I completely understood it. The Reds starting rotation was lucky to finish the sixth inning. Pitch counts often were creeping towards 100 pitches by the end of the fifth inning. The rotation itself, outside of Castillo and Harvey, seemed to be in constant flux due to injuries and poor performances.

On paper, the 2019 Cincinnnati Reds rotation appears to be about as middle of the road as you can get. Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Disco, Alex Wood and now Tyler Mahle are all at least middle of the rotation guys . They will eat innings for your team if nothing else. I am expecting these guys to put up 6 innings nearly every appearance. Hopefully they will add plenty of quality starts, to boot. Why would you need eight relievers to back them up?

Madison Bumgarner said it best when referring to the idea of a bullpen opener, “If you’re using an opener in my game, I’m walking right out of the ballpark.” I think it’s an insult to starting pitchers for their goal to be complete 5 innings and hand the rest off to the bullpen. This leads me to believe there will be one bullpen pitcher that is extremely under utilized when he could be getting innings in the minors.

Meanwhile, the Reds are showing more roster depth on the bench than we have ever seen in the past 20 years. Rather than opting to have a fifth bench player, with a solid bat, you would rather use that position for an excessive amount of relievers. Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler, Jose Iglesias, Derek Dietrich, Phillip Ervin and Nick Senzel are all bats that could be getting significant playing time in the majors. All of which will have a significant impact on scoring runs and winning games for this team. It makes zero sense to me how you can justify using that roster spot for a player who will, maybe, pitch one or two innings a week at most. I think it also shows little faith in a rejuvenated rotation. While I don’t believe or expect this rotation to be as good as the 2012 Reds. I do expect them not to be warming up the bullpen in the fifth inning nearly every night.

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Cincinnati Reds

Opening Day: Cincinnati’s Holiday

Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds means so much more to this city than, pretty much, any other day.

Dave Pemberton

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No one does Opening Day like Cincinnati.

As an adult Opening Day is the only day I get to act like a kid again. No matter how good or bad the team is going to be, Opening Day in Cincinnati is always treated the same by the fan base. The one day of every year everyone who lives in the city has there minds on one thing…Cincinnati Reds baseball.

This year in particular is marked with serious celebration. The Cincinnati Reds are celebrating their 150th season since their beginnings in 1869 playing at the Union Ground close to Union Terminal. The annual holiday is also marked by the biggest yearly parade the town has to offer in the Findlay Markey Parade. The parade itself is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this season. For a kid this is one of the coolest things you can witness as a Reds fan. All kinds of local high schools, kids baseball teams, local celebrities, local charities, veterans, former and even current Reds players participate.

Thanks to the lovely development of the riverbank area we are now able to take place in the most exciting party of the year. The Reds Opening Day Block Party at the Banks is THE event for Reds fan. Which, if you’re a baseball fan, is a guarenteed blast. Even better, the party raises a huge amount of money for the Reds Community Fund. There you can find all your local favorite foods (Skyline, LaRosa’s) lining the Banks with the cheapest alcohol you can find all season that close to the stadium. Live music and plenty of giveaways are passed out among the crowd. If mingling in the streets isn’t your fancy there are plenty of overly crowded restaurants where you can hang out. Most of them provide an exciting atmosphere during the game just like any other packed Reds game.

I personally have many experiences with Opening Day. In 1992, Opening Day also happened to fall upon my younger brother Adam’s arrival to planet Earth. When I arrived at the hospital I had zero interest in the newest addition to our family. I was more concerned about getting home in time to watch Opening Day and the NCAA Finals. At one of the mid 90’s Opening Days I was interviewed by the local news. The interview made me feel like a celebrity at the time. In 1996 I was a infuriated when after just a few pitches the game was cancelled because the umpire keeled over and never got back up. As an adult I feel terrible about that moment because he died from cardiac arrest. In the moment all I cared about was Opening Day.

I remember in 2000 being there to witness Ken Griffey Jr. for the first time in a Reds uniform. The Reds got what seemed to be a dream come true in the best player in the MLB at the time. Junior was the guy whose video game you owned, cleats you bought, and swing you emulated. We were going to be able to see him every night instead of just the highlights on Sportscenter. The team seemed to be on it’s way to becoming a powerhouse of the NL Central for years to come with his addition. The game itself was lackluster. It’s the only recorded tie 3-3 in the teams Opening Day history. Ultimately the hype exceeded reality with Junior’s tenure in Cincinnati. However, when he walked out on the field that day you would have thought the rebirth of the Big Red Machine took place.

I was present for Aaron Boone’s sac fly scoring Larkin in 2002, Joe Randa’s walk off homer in 2005, and Ramon Hernandez’s walk off in 2011. I have awkwardly ran into teachers and ex girlfriends during this holiday. However, my all time favorite Opening Day moment took place last year.

Opening Day 2018 I was interviewed by the local news. My brother was kind enough to take several still shots of my interview. Before I had even seen the footage he was kind enough to post a picture so amazing I want it shown at my funeral. Whenever they interview you on the news it usually will say your name and a short description about you. My description originally read Dave Pemberton: Reds Fan. My brother’s edited version said Dave Pemberton: Local Fat Kid. All of my close friends and family thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. I loved it so much I used it as my fantasy football name. I guess this is payback for not wanting to hang out at the hospital with him when he was born on Opening Day all those years ago.

I hope all of Reds Country is able to participate and attend Opening Day at some point in their lives. Even those fair-weathered fans who have attended Opening Day will probably tell you it’s a must if you live in Cincinnati. For this Local Fat Kid it will always the best holiday of the year.

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Cincinnati Reds

Scooter Situation

Losing Scooter Gennett for the chunk of time they are about to, puts the pressure on the Cincinnati Reds from the word go.

Dave Pemberton

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Scooter Gennett went down Friday afternoon with a groin injury. It was announced Saturday afternoon that he would be returning after 8-12 weeks. At best that puts him back in the middle of May and at worst middle of June.

Scooter is a vital part of this team. In his two years with the Cincinnati Reds, Scooter’s career has seen a revival. Gennett’s career in Cincinnati has totaled him a .303 AVG, .351 OBP, 50 HR, and tied a team best with Suarez for highest WAR in 2018 with 4.2. He was almost able to win a batting title last season on his way to an All-Star season. We must not also forget this guy wants to remain a Red after the 2019 season when his contract’s up. All the signs point toward Scooter putting up more amazing totals this year for the Reds. Missing Scooter for 2-3 months will have a significant impact on the teams win total.

On the surface there were three real options to replace Gennett till his return. This is in the order of how I expected the Reds to make this decision.

  1. Move Senzel to 2B for Opening Day. Get Senzel at least two months of playing time at the position he may very well start Opening Day in 2020. When Scooter returns move him back to CF.
  2. Derek Dietrich being left handed would be the second best option. Dietrich also has similar numbers to Iglesias at the plate.
  3. Jose Iglesias has played little at 2B but is a better glove than Dietrich. Move Pereza to 2B and Iglesias to SS as a temporary fix till Senzel is called up.

Dick Williams and David Bell announced today that the last option was what they are going to implement. As a part of that though they also announced Senzel will continue to play CF in Louisville and the Reds will roster Kyle Farmer on the bench to start the season. This move seems to go against the entire direction of moves the team has made this offseason. That direction being we are ready to win NOW.

This move to me says they are playing the baseball economics over winning now. On the surface this move can be justified as gaining one more year of contract control over Senzel. Schebler for what it’s worth put up stellar numbers in Spring Training. On paper he would be the better choice to start CF.

However as I said before Senzel’s time is NOW. If the Reds front office is serious about winning now there’s no reason Senzel doesn’t start in Scooter’s absence. Nick Senzel is ranked the number 6 top prospect in all of baseball. Many believe he could win batting titles in the future. Senzel has shown he’s willing to play anywhere to get himself on the roster. He’s put up a .314 AVG and .390 OBP during his minor league career. I personally think once he is given the opportunity he’s going to be the frontrunner for the Rookie of The Year. I’m a big fan of history. History shows when the Reds tried doing this last year it backfired horrendously when Senzel ended up needing season ending surgery. Why wouldn’t you want that guy on your team as soon as possible?

I truly hope this is just us getting worked up over nothing. Leading to Senzel seeing serious playing time in just two weeks as the starting 2B. While in between Iglesias, Dietrich, and Farmer are able to start out the season on fire. Otherwise the front office needs to be more up front with there plans on Nick Senzel. Finally I probably shouldn’t complain about this at all. None of these options are bad at all. After all none of the players mentioned as replacements were named Gosselin, Pennington, Kivlehan, Alcantara, Dixon, or Herrera.

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