Friday, July 23, 2010

A Year Too Early?

John Fay reported today that Dusty Baker and the Reds would discuss his contract status in early August.  This leaves me with some mixed emotions.  On the one hand, Baker has done a pretty good job this year, I think.  He's made some very good moves (like dropping Stubbs in the lineup and moving Phillips up), but also some not-so-good ones (like sticking with Orlando Cabrera and failing to get Chris Heisey in the lineup more).  Prior to the season, my big complaint about Baker was a fear that he would overwork the talented young pitchers that the Reds have.  He's done a good job there, seemingly having learned something from his past transgressions.  I suspect he'll get an extension, and I think it's probably a good move.

That said, this runs in contrast to how I saw the season playing out.  At the beginning of the season, I thought the Reds would need one more year before they could become a contender.  I felt the Reds needed this year to do the following things:
  • Fire Dusty Baker,
  • Move on from the fixation with Johnny Gomes and let Chris Heisey or Todd Frazier become the everyday LF,
  • Trade Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo at the deadline for a few more quality prospects, and
  • Get rid of Orlando Cabrera in anticipation of Zack Cozart being ready for 2011.
The Reds success this season has changed things a bit.  First, as I said, Dusty Baker has had a good year, so I'm cautiously optimistic that extending is a good thing.  It seems to me that we'd still be better off with Chris Heisey in LF than Johnny Gomes (although Todd Frazier isn't looking so hot right now).  Skipping the pitchers for a second, Orlando Cabrera has been a train wreck, and Cozart and Paul Janish ought to have a decent battle for the shortstop spot next spring. 

The pitching is the interesting item.  The Reds position as contenders would seem to make dealing Harang and/or Arroyo extremely unlikely despite the starting pitching depth that the team possesses.  Although I still suspect that the team would be better off in the long run dealing at least one of their "innings eaters", moving a prominent veteran player at the trade deadline suggests that the team is throwing in the towel on the season.  This tends to negatively impact both team and fan morale, and for a team in contention, the short-term win or two that could be lost may well be the difference between going to the playoffs or not. 

On the other hand, the Reds are a team currently constructed for the rigors of the regular season, not for playoff baseball.  They lack the top of the rotation starters that teams need to rely on in the postseason.  I've written plenty about them having plenty of pitching depth but little in the way of an ace, so I won't belabor that here.  The point is, in a short series, the Reds don't have the pitching to match up with a team like the Cardinals who can throw Carpenter and Wainwright at you for four games.  On top of that, the Reds don't seem to hit good pitching all that well.  Maybe that's just my perception, but the Reds have been shut out  a lot for a team among the best in the NL in hitting.  They've been shut down by Johan Santana, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels (among others) over the last month or so.  That's the kind of pitching the Reds will face in the playoffs.

I'm loving the Reds resurgence this season.  I'm hoping that they catch lightning in a bottle and tear through the playoffs.  Deep in the back of my mind though, I'm wondering if exercising a bit of patience and grabbing a few more prospects at the deadline could ultimately lead to a greater number of playoff appearances in the coming years, and greater success once they get there.