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.
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.
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.
Opening Day: Cincinnati’s Holiday
Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds means so much more to this city than, pretty much, any other day.
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.
Losing Scooter Gennett for the chunk of time they are about to, puts the pressure on the Cincinnati Reds from the word go.
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.
- 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.
- Derek Dietrich being left handed would be the second best option. Dietrich also has similar numbers to Iglesias at the plate.
- 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.