You can’t talk about the good side of the Cincinnati Reds’ 2018 season without talking about Eugenio Suarez. Dude established himself as the man who Joey Votto will pass the mantle to whenever the time comes (1,000 years from now).
For Suarez, last year began on a high note before a pitch was ever thrown. The Reds extended their hotshot third baseman for seven years with a total of $66 million bucks heading his way. The final year is even a club option (2025). The front office nailed this one, getting a promising third baseman for a reasonable amount of money. One overlooked piece of the contract, though, is that Geno will give 1% of his future earnings to the Reds community fund. Geno is a man of the people.
He didn’t take his money and chill, though, as 2018 proved to be a career year. He set new personal-bests in homers (34), RBI (104), batting average (.283), slugging percentage (.526), hits (149), OPS+ (135), and bWAR (4.2). He also made his first All Star Game and saw his name appear on the MVP ballot (he finished 18th). He even tied a franchise record by hitting a home run in five consecutive games, but how did he turn up the hitting in 2018?
The interesting thing is, since he flashed patience in 2017, Suarez built his successful 2018 on being more aggressive. His swing percentage was up to 44.6% from 42.1% in 2017. He still managed to layoff pitches that were outside the zone (25.9%) and bumped up his contact rate on strikes to 87.4%. His plate discipline is getting there, but he’s still catching up to Votto as he swung and missed on 10% of the pitches he saw whole Votto missed just 6%.
He also got recognition from a world record holder…for bubble blowing. Totally asking him if he got to meet Chad Fell, yet, when I see him at Redsfest.
Speaking of which, Redsfest is a coming! I’ll be there, but more importantly, most of the Reds organization will be there. It’ll be a baseball party Friday and Saturday at Duke Energy Convention Center.
As the clock hit 6:30 pm, last Saturday, I was ready to go to Great American Ballpark. That’s when my wife reminded me that it was December. Every year the Cincinnati Reds put on a first class party for their fans called Redsfest and they’re pretty good at what they do.
I got to meet Michael Lorenzen, Tyler Mahle, Ibandel Isabel, and Jimmy Herget. I got my copy of “The Big 50” signed by Chad Dotson and Chris Garber, made a video with Mo Egger, and talked shop with Doug Gray. Okay, I get it, enough with the name dropping. Basically, it was fun.
I made it a point to ask some light-hearted questions (or in Lorenzen’s case, make a light-hearted, but factual, statement) to see what their reactions would be.
I first met Lorenzen. I told him that he was the real silver slugger and I am attempting to get that other guy to mail him the trophy he deserves. Lorenzen responded with, “Well, that just gives me motivation to hit twice as many homers next year.” Might have to get me a Lorenzen jersey…
I then got Mahle’s John Hancock (or is it Herbie Hancock?) on a baseball and I asked him if we can expec upwards of three, or more, 20-strikeout games this year. He replied “Let’s hope so. I’ll see what I can do.” Hope you folks in the bleachers with K’s are ready to work, this season.
I then got autographs from Isabel and Herget. Isabel just gave me an awkward smile and a chuckle when I asked if he will focus on inside-the-parkers this year instead of traditional homers, since he’s already hit a lot of those. Herget gave me a classic answer to my simple question of what his favorite pitch was when he said, “A strike.” Well played Jimmy.
The main stage offerings were also enjoyable. The best was at the kids-only press conference. Joey Votto, Amir Garrett, and Eugenio Suarez were on stage for the show, and when asked what their favorite memory of 2018 will be, Joey decided it was “When Amir tried to fight the Cubs.” Suarez bumped in, “Yeah, when he struck out Baez and stared him down. That was awesome, man!” As much as we fans may have liked that moment, it seems to have been even cooler to the team.
Memorabilia-wise, there was a ton of stuff to get. I didn’t go too crazy, this year, but I did end up with a new hat that has a Jackie Robinson 42 patch on it. Definitely my favorite hat, now. All in all, a good weekend.
If you went, let me know how your experience went!
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Live (Sorta) from Redsfest with Mo Egger
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Instant Reaction: Bye, Bye Billy
Wow! It’s the first hour of Redsfest and there are fireworks, already! The world’s fastest man (probably), Billy Hamilton, was non-tendered by the Cincinnati Reds making him a free agent. I have a few instant thoughts on this.
Firstly, I am bummed. I watched his career develop in the minors all the way up til he got the call to the Bigs. He looked like a star in the making in Pensacola, but what we now know is that he was defensively gifted and offensively challenged. He will go down, in my book, as the foremost example of “You can’t steal first.” I hope that his next step (if he doesn’t return, that is, but more on that in a second) he finds that missing piece and becomes a star.
Nextly, where do the Reds go from here? The encouragement is that we know Bob Castellini loved Billy and wanted him to be here forever and ever. That means the front office has definitely, officially been handed the reigns. If that’s the case, maybe we see Nick Senzel brought up and given the CF job, or Jose Peraza move to CF (he has a few minutes of experience there) and Senzel put in at shortstop. Those possibilities excite me. Whatever gets Senzel in the lineup is the right course of action, to me.
Lastly, maybe this is a little Michael Johnson maneuvering? For those who don’t follow the other professional franchise in Cincinnati, the Bengals made a move, right before the season, where they cut one of their longtime veterans only to resign him a few days later. They made the move to get some young guys onto the practice squad, but I digress. What if the Reds and Billy have a little head nod and handshake agreement that they will sign him for a year or two at his current rate, avoiding the arbitration-hike in salary he was about to get? This is purely a hypothetical notion by me, by the way, and I don’t know if they can do that, or if Billy would want it that way. Just a thought from a fan who can never truly be unbiased when it comes to Cool Papa Bill.
Anyway, I am sure there will be more to come from Redsfest!
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