From today’s Enquirer:

Who’s the skipper? Pete Mackanin has done a terrific job as the interim guy. But I get no sense that he’s being considered for the permanent gig, which is unfair because he’s qualified and has gotten results.

History is working against Mackanin. The two previous interim managers who got the permanent gig failed. Ownership can’t afford the P.R. backlash of operating the way the previous ownership.

My early betting line: Bob Brenly, Tony LaRussa, Joe Girardi. If LaRussa wants the job, I think he’ll get it. If Brenly and Girardi both interview, I give the edge to Brenly.

I agree with Fay about Mackanin. He’s done a nice job. I’m not convinced he’s the reason the Reds have played better, but, other than the continuing usage of Mike Stanton, I think he’s done very well.

Radio guy Lance McAllister reported last week (or so) that Girardi was in town. Not necessarily meeting with the Reds, but looking the town over, talking to people, playing golf, etc. I agree that Castellini will hire LaRussa if he leaves St. Louis and wants the job. I’m not convinced that Brenly will have an advantage over Girardi though, except Brenly’s an Ohio guy. I don’t think Girardi is.

Will he stay or will he go? The Adam Dunn question is the biggest one by far to be answered in the offseason. I thought it was telling that CEO Bob Castellini wouldn’t touch the question about picking up Dunn’s option.

Fans are split right down the middle on Dunn. Taking the runs-produced stat – runs plus RBI minus home runs (that way you don’t get credit for driving yourself in) – Dunn was at 124. That represents Dunn having a hand in 21.5 percent of the Reds’ runs going into Saturday. It’s a major risk to let a guy like that walk.

Notice how Fay doesn’t talk about Dunn’s lack of RBI opportunities that was part of the Erardi’s article a few weeks ago? If the Reds believe that a combination of improvement from Phillips, Hamilton, continued health of Griffey, and Jay Bruce or Joey Votto in the OF can make up for that 20% of the offense, they’ll let Dunn walk. They might anyway…and concentrate on the draft picks.

Everyone gives Krivsky credit for the extension he signed Dunn to (I believe it was Krivsky, not O’Brien?). Anyway, the contract has made him much more difficult to trade to get any type of immediate help. I don’t see any way that Dunn passes through waivers in the next 2 weeks and after the season, his no-trade kicks in. The contract extension has made him less valuable to the Reds because it lowered their ability to trade him.

What I’d like is to see Junior traded and the Reds re-sign Dunn, but I don’t believe that will happen (Junior’s HR quest will help attendance and the continued media bashing of Dunn, IMO, have convinced the Reds front office that he’s less popular than he is and less valuable). I just don’t see how you let someone as productive as Dunn is walk, but it wouldn’t be the first time this team has done something that made no sense.

Is he for real? Jeff Keppinger, that is. He looks to be the real deal to me. Heck, he was hitting .357 going into Saturday and had 10 walks vs. five strikeouts. But he had only 98 at-bats as a Red. I think the Reds still see him as a super-utility guy. The problem is they’re paying Ryan Freel $3 million to be in that role next year.

Barring a trade, the only opening for real playing time I see for Keppinger is as the right-handed half of the first base platoon.

I find it amazing that the media are quick to jump on 98 ABs (’07) and ignore 170 major league and 2100 minor league ABs. Keppinger is a good solid bench player/spot starter. Projected him as a starter is a recipe for disappointment.

The Reds recent history is full of guys that had good partial seasons, became part of “the plan” only to revert to form. Votto is the Reds 1B of the future.

Want to find a place for Keppinger? Trade Gonzalez. Boy, that Freel extension looks like good money spent, doesn’t it?

Who are Nos. 3, 4 and 5? Beyond Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, the Reds have nothing but question marks as far as starting pitchers.

Right now, Elizardo Ramirez, Bobby Livingston and Phil Dumatrait are in the rotation.

They’ll be in there as long as they pitch well. If they struggle, look for Matt Belisle or Homer Bailey to take their spots. Bailey has to get healthy first.

Johnny Cueto, the No. 2 pitching prospect behind Bailey, could get a look as well.

Every one of the aforementioned pitchers, except Cueto, has gotten a trial in the rotation already. None has been consistent enough to warrant a free pass into next year’s rotation. The Reds probably will address starting pitching via trade or free agency

Gee, John, young pitchers struggled with consistency in the big leagues? Wow, does it get hot in the summer too? None of these guys has been put in the rotation for any extended period, how are they supposed to find any consistency?

Belisle’s numbers show he has been somewhat unlucky and given up way too many homers, but it’s his first extended time in a major league rotation and the first time starting since Louisville in ’04.

I’ve been impressed with Livingston, Ramirez has shown flashes at a very young age, and Cueto has succeeded everywhere he’s thrown and all are young.

When was the last time the Reds could say that about starting pitchers? I wouldn’t have a problem with the Reds signing/trading for 1 starter (maybe trade Hatteberg in a package for someone to fill that #3 spot?), but wouldn’t be unhappy to see the youngsters get a shot either.

Any closer? David Weathers is under contract for 2008. He’s been good in the closer role this year. The Reds might be content to let him start ’08 as the guy and ease Jared Burton into the role.

The other question will be whether to pick up the $3.5 million option on Eddie Guardado. Guardado hasn’t pitched well in his limited time. He has to show he’s healthy and able to get people out over the last six weeks.

I like the idea of Burton moving into that role with Weathers to mentor him. McBeth’s been pretty impressive at Louisville also. Based on early returns, let Guardado go unless he shows a heck of a lot more than he has in his couple of appearances since coming back.

Who’s on first? Scott Hatteberg is a bargain at his option price of $1.85 million. My guess is the Reds pick up the option. As for what they do with Joey Votto if they pick up Hatteberg’s option, I have no idea.

Hatteberg is a heck of a player for $1.85M. He’s been tons better than I ever expected in his two years with the Reds.

He’s also valuable and could/should bring something in a trade. And you’ve got a much cheaper option playing at Louisville named Votto. I can’t understand why Hatteberg is still here.

With Votto’s continued outfield play at Louisville, it appears to me that they believe next year there will be a place for him in LF.

Who sets it up? The problem with the bullpen this season has been the seventh and eighth innings. The emergence of Burton has eased those concerns lately. If Bill Bray can be the pitcher the Reds hope he is, he will help stabilize things as well. I think Marcus McBeth figures in there somewhere.

Chris has posted a number of times here and on the Reds List that the Padres have shown that you can build a bullpen without spending a fortune, if you’re smart.

I think there are some guys on the Reds and in the system that can help this bullpen, Weathers, Burton, McBeth, Bray, Coutlangus, maybe Salmon, maybe Coffey. Guevara and Roenicke at AA should get a look, but there’s a lot of junk in this bullpen.

Stanton’s continued presence on this roster shows that some decisions are more about $$ then they are about results.

Do you play Jay? Jay Bruce is arguably the best hitting prospect in all of the minors. He’s had no problem adjusting to Triple-A pitching. If Dunn’s not back, Bruce will get a shot at the left-field job.

Maybe. Or Joey Votto will, if the Reds keep Hatteberg. I think Bruce starts next year at AAA as insurance in case Hamilton isn’t the real deal or Junior gets hurt.

What’s the payroll going to be? Castellini raised it about $9 million to $69 million from 2006 to ’07. I don’t see that kind of bump next season.

Another sign that might point to Dunn’s departure and savings by playing Hatteberg and Votto or Bruce. 20% of your offense is a lot to make up.