It was a cold and rainy late afternoon. The violent winds and dark clouds fill the skies as I hop out of my car and head towards the house after a long and winding day. Per usual, I flip on the television to the MLB Network and make my way towards the couch. I remembered seeing something about a Michael Lorenzen special online that day and was looking forward to it. What I got however, was anything but. My eyes focused on the bottom of the ticker on the screen. “MLB legend, Frank Robinson has passed away at the age of 83”.
I quickly ran through the banks of my memory to figure what I remembered most from him. Of course, I knew how good of a ballplayer he was back in his day. Let’s see, there’s that statue of him greeting fans with a mighty swing of the bat as soon as you cross the street into Great American Ball Park. What else? Ah yes, wasn’t he the first player to win an MVP in both leagues? One with the Reds of course, and one with the Orioles. He was also the first African-American manager in the history of the Majors. As the TV hummed on with their coverage of Frank, I rummaged through these thoughts. A giant question pondered in my mind, why is it that when we think of the all time greats of Major League Baseball, Frank Robinson isn’t discussed more? Of course there’s Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron. But when these names pop up, I rarely ever hear Frank Robinson next to them.
Looking at the awards first of all, we have a Two time MVP (one unanimous), Rookie of the Year winner (unanimous), Fourteen time all-star, a triple crown, a World Series MVP, and an All-Star MVP too if you’re into that sort of thing. I don’t know about you, but that is some serious hardware, perhaps some that many fans couldn’t tell you about without looking up.
Looking further into the stats, (and there’s a lot of stats here to look at with Frank Robinson), the numbers prove themselves. He was just shy of collecting 3000 hits, notching in at 2943. Of course, having a batting average career-wise to the tune of .294 helps. His total base hits puts him in at number 35 on the all-time leader boards, ahead of players such as Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and Lou Gehrig. Looking at the OBP, his career average .389 is remarkable as well. (Quick Joey Votto plug because Joey Votto is awesome, his career OBP stands at .427) Onto the homers, specifically his spectacular 583 of them, which place him 10th all-time (Or 7th depending on your stance of steroid users Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa). This pairs nicely with his .537 slugging percentage. It’s safe to say Frank Robinson’s bat was legendary, just look at the career slash line of .294/.389/.537. Looking at one of my favorite stats, OPS+ which is adjusted for era and ballparks, is simply mind-boggling. His rookie year had his OPS+ at 143, at age 20 for Redlegs. He also compiled a bWAR of 6.6 that year, a number we’ve seen most recently with Joey Votto and his 7.5 war season in his *cough cough* should of been second mvp season *cough* back in 2017. He had an outstanding four year period from 1959 to 1962 with the Redlegs in which his OPS+ topped at 153, followed by 169, then 164, then finally 172. But that’s not all, his monster 1966 season in which he got those triple crown and MVP awards, topped out his OPS+ at 198. ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY EIGHT. For reference, Mike Trout last year had perhaps his best season ever and his OPS+ touched 199. Finally looking at those bWAR numbers, his totals hit 107.3, good for 24th all-time. I could go on and on about the stats, but there’s no more need, check them out for yourself if you’re still a doubter.
Lets dig further into that 1966 season, his second MVP and triple crown year.
First off, in big bold numbers reads 49, the number of homers he walloped. Best in the MLB that year beating out a future home run king in Hank Aaron (44), feared power hitter and Twins legend Harmon Killebrew (39), and the say hey kid himself, Willie Mays (37).
He also drove in 122 runs which was 12 higher than the second best AL player, Killebrew again.
To complete the third leg of the crown, he owned a batting average of .316 which was nine points higher than Tony Oliva of Minnesota.
Of course perhaps an even greater remembrance of Frank Robinson was his attitude in at time where African-Americans were not generally regarded well overall. While Jackie Robinson was famous for turning the other cheek, Robinson was famous for dishing it right back out. In a game against the Atlanta Braves, Robinson got caught in the middle of a fight with another legend, hall of famer Eddie Mathews. After a rough slide at third base, the two got into it and Robinson was beat so bad he had to leave the first game of the doubleheader played that day. However on the second game, he came back and not only swatted a homer, but rob Mathews of another in his way of getting even. Pitchers would constantly pitch in on Robinson and knock him down, but he got right back on and looked for the next pitch to punish.
My dad walks into the room and scrolls his eyes across the screen.
“Ah, Frank Robinson” He booms. “You remember my story with him right?”
I did remember his story, but I always liked stories told from their perspective.
“Hmmm, no I can’t say I have” I reply.
“Well, there I was, sitting about 5 rows back in foul territory, when up to the plate comes Frank Robinson. I was about ten years old, and me and my dad hardly ever got the chance to go to the ballpark, so I made sure to bring my glove just in case.”
I could already picture what happened next in my mind, and I tried my best to not laugh or even crack a smile and give it away.
He continued on. “I had just gotten back from the concession stand and plopped down in my seat with my hot dog and soda. I grabbed my dog from the basket, and was just about to chop down on it, when I noticed a bunch of people getting out of their seats in my row. I looked up to see what was going on, and a baseball was flying right at my seat. I’m talking RIGHT AT MY SEAT.” He chirps. “When suddenly the man behind me reaches over my head and plucks the ball right over me. I had my glove on the cement ground, and I never ever forgave myself, for it.” It seemed after all these years, he still hadn’t gotten over it. I don’t think I would either.
Perhaps someone else hasn’t gotten over Frank Robinson as well.
From a Reds perspective, the Frank Robinson trade was a missed game ball. His 1966 season, his best of his career was accomplished not in Cincinnati red, but Baltimore orange and black. Robinson was swapped out for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, and Dick Simpson. If you’re squinting at those names right now and wondering why you haven’t heard of these players before, it’s because they never fared too well in their Cincinnati days. If you pretend for a second that Robinson hadn’t been traded, by bWAR standards, he becomes the greatest Cincinnati Red of all time by a wide margin, easily surpassing Pete Rose and Johnny Bench’s 78 and 75 bWAR. To make it an even bigger slap in the face, Robinson would eventually go on to defeat the Reds in 5 games in the 1970 World Series, contributing 2 homers.
Or perhaps we’re the fan with the missed ball opportunity. I did not grow up in the time period to watch him play, which is a disappointment. Just going off of demographics suggests the same for most of you, or perhaps you had the chance to watch the end of his career, or his graceful transition to manager.
I get up off the couch and mosey my way over to turn off the television. Hours have passed, and I hop in bed. I have one last thought before I drift off to sleep. I wish I had gotten to see such a ferocious competitor play.
Perhaps after all these years, perhaps it was I who had watched that ball fly over my head instead of my dad.
Reds Rule 5 Players and Predictions
We are coming up on the deadline for MLB teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some players the Reds need to make some tough decisions on.
MLB teams have until November 20th to make their decision on the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They must decide to “protect” (add to the 40 man roster) to avoid another team selecting a player in the draft. I want to go over the list and make predictions on if the player will be protected or not.
Riley O’Brien RHP
O’Brien was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Cody Reed trade. A late bloomer of sorts, the 6’4” righty has a nice fastball. Being 25, he’s ready to battle for a spot in the pen right now. There isn’t great bullpen depth on the 40 man roster right now, so I can see O’Brien replacing a spot that players such as Romano/Alaniz/De Leon held in 2020. Prediction: Protected
Vladimir Gutierrez RHP
The former top 10 organizational prospect has been trending in the wrong direction. The beginning of 2019 was tough in AAA for Vlad but he finished the year strong. A suspension plus the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes it difficult to see how he is doing. However, he has enough raw talent to keep him on the roster. Prediction: Protected
Jacob Heatherly LHP
Checking in at #18 on the Reds prospect list, Heatherly is the only lefty on the list. We know the Reds will likely bring in lefty competition for the LHP bullpen spot next to Amir. Coming off an injury, I would bet he would not get drafted. Prediction: Not Protected
Alfredo Rodriguez SS
It feels like Alfredo has been in the Reds system forever. A 2016 pricey Cuban SS, Rodriguez was brought in due to his glove in hopes that the bat would come around. Long story short, it hasn’t. He’s now 26 and a change of scenery might be the best for him. I doubt he will get picked, though. Prediction: Not Protected
TJ Friedl OF
Friedl was exposed last year in the draft and not selected. He is a plus fielder and runner, but most other parts of his game are underwhelming. Prediction: Not Protected
Joel Kuhnel RHP
Most of us have a pretty good idea of what Kuhnel is. He has a fastball that is VERY good. I have always liked Kuhnel and wanted to see him get a longer look. There were plenty of opportunities for him to get a shot and more often than not he was overlooked. This one is hard for me, but I think him not getting more chances shows what the Reds think of him. Prediction: Not Protected
Mariel Bautista OF
Bautista has been with the Reds since 2014. I really do not think he is anything too special in terms of a prospect. He also doesn’t do any one thing so well that a team would select him off of that one skill. Prediction: Not Protected
Jared Solomon RHP
To be honest, I do not know much about Solomon. So I reached out to someone much smarter than me, our #RedsTwitter friend @RedsFan_Brandon . He predicted him to be protected. Boddy has been high on him and his fastball has improved. So I will stick with that. Prediction: Protected
None of these players are top 15 Reds prospects by most list. So losing any of them shouldn’t be the end of the world. Last year the Reds selected Mark Payton. Conor Joe was selected the year before.
Should the Reds look to be active in the free agent market they’re most likely going to have to cut payroll, first. Let’s start with some player who could get non-tendered before the December 2nd deadline.
This offseason…stop me if you’ve heard this…is going to be weird. Budgets will be unpredictable, although most believe spending will be at a minimum, and the Reds already have a lot of contracts that are set. Further additions and movement in the free agent market most likely will be preceded by some surprise cuts.
Based on the players leaving and the estimated totals of arbitration contracts, spotrac.com has the Reds at just over $126 million in payroll for 2021. They totaled out at a smidge over $144 million last year (if the season was to be as normal) with all of the transactions considered. The Reds could try to get back to that number, but the most likely scenario is that they hover around the $125-$130 million mark.
With the idea of making one or two moves to improve one of the worst lineups in baseball, let’s look at three candidates for being non-tendered.
(Just an FYI, only non-tender candidates are capable of being cut and their salary taken off the books. All other MLB contracts are guaranteed.)
As a fan, this one would hurt. He was a guy I watched with the Angels thinking if he were given everyday playing time, he would flourish. If I’m being objectively honest (and if I want the Reds to run similarly to the Rays) non-tendering him would make sense. He’s an athletically gifted outfielder who has a little bit of pop in his bat. In fact, he’s pretty much Phillip Ervin. The problem is, he figures to be a rotational outfield player, assuming everyone is healthy.
According to Spotrac, he will make around $3.2 million next year, or possibly the sixth highest dollar amount of Reds position players. That’s more than Jesse Winker’s possible $2.7 million and I think we can all agree that Jesse needs to be in the everyday lineup. Ik now he just got here from LA, but the dude was bit by whatever bug bit the Reds bats and slashed .163/.236/.327 in 20 games as a Red. Small sample size, sure, but am I counting on him to be light years better than that in what may not figure to be much more playing time? No.
This one I am less sure of being a good idea, but I am rolling with this whole “be more like Tampa” idea. The Rays, per Spotrac, aren’t estimated to give ANY of their relievers more than $2.5 million next year. The Reds are slated to give three relievers over $4 million.
I am not advocating a non-tender for Michael Lorenzen because of his versatility and potential for being the fifth starter in 2021. Barring a trade, the Reds are paying $9.125 million to Raisel Iglesias to get the last out of a game. They’re really going to pay Archie Bradley, who it felt as though David Bell didn’t trust as much as Nate Jones at times, $5 million to be a setup man?
Okay, this one really isn’t that surprising. It is time. We once regarded him as the Reds top prospect. We once regarded him as a future ace. We once proclaimed he reborn as a shutdown reliever. We now have no clue what to expect from him and it just does not make sense to continue to trot him out there expecting the complete career turnaround that we’ve all been hoping for since the “rebuild” began.
It won’t really save the Reds a ton of money, but freeing up BobSteve’s roster spot will open up an opportunity for one of the up-and-coming prospects or another Derek Johnson reclamation project. Frankly, I’d rather see any of those than BobSteve coming out of the Reds bullpen in 2021.
Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More
Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021
It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.
What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..
The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.
In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.
If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?
The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)
What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.
Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder
I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist. So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.
WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.
Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.
Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.
WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.
Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations.
Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl
I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl