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.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.
The Cincinnati Reds Optimal Lineup
Let’s look past the Opening Day Lineup to the lineup the Cincinnati Reds could have, if everything is going right.
There will be many things said/written about the Opening Day Lineup and what that should like for the Cincinnati Reds. With the first full team workout happening Monday, let’s take a look at what the lineup should look like if things are going well for the Reds, this season. I’m going to exclude positions for this experiment and you’ll see why.
- Shogo Akiyama – Ideally, Shogo will be getting on base much closer to the clip he posted in September than the one he did in August of last year. If he does this, he will be producing what the Reds hoped he would when they made him the first Japanese-born Cincinnati Red.
- Jesse Winker – He broke out in a big way in 2020 and was the Reds best hitter. There’s no reason to think that won’t, at the very least, continue and probably will even get better.
- Eugenio Suarez – He should be the Reds best hitter and I believe he will regain that title in 2021.
- Mike Moustakas – Moose has always been a run driver-inner and, if things are going well he will continue to do so.
- Nick Castellanos – he could be the third hitter, but it would be an amazing season, indeed, if he gets on-base at a higher clip than Geno.
- Joey Votto – this isn’t meant to be an insult, just realistic. I’ve seen and heard takes putting him in the three-spot. That’s a great idea in 2017. Now, any power should be considered a bonus with the main expectation of him being an on-base catalyst for the bottom of the lineup/turning over of the lineup.
- Nick Senzel – him being down here is more a hope that the top six indeed prove worthy to be top six. This is also hoping he’s healthy enough to play everyday, or almost everyday, and build up enough momentum to produce at the level he is capable of. Also, the not labelling defensive position thing is because he should be in the running as a shortstop option, but it sure feels like that’s not the case. Before you say, “Jeff, he’s not a shortstop…” who on this roster is? Get the best eight (nine if the NL miraculously gets the DH) in the lineup and worry about defense later. That’s pretty much how this roster is built, anyway.
- Tyler Stephenson – in a few years, he should be hitting in the middle of the order. In 2021, let’s keep the pressure on low and watch him thrive in the box.
- Pitcher (again, we’ll reassess if the players and owners ever get together and figure this out before the season begins, but we aren’t holding our breath).
This lineup could be pretty good…maybe. As fans we can hope, the folks who run the Reds should not lean on that. The lineup I propose should only be if each player is performing to the level that is expected of him. More than likely, this lineup will not happen, because it is doubtful every single bat bounces back in 2021.