From the Enquirer:
Something Sparky Anderson said to me Tuesday got me thinking about Jay Bruce on Wednesday.
I had called “The Main Spark,” former manager of the Big Red Machine, to talk about Bob Howsam, his longtime friend and architect of the Machine, who died early Tuesday at age 89.
Sparky said that in 1970, Sparky’s first season at the helm, he and fourth-year Reds general manager Howsam brought five rookies north with the big club. They also brought along three other fresh young faces, for a total of eight youngbloods.
The average age of all the players on that team was 25.9 years, youngest in the majors. Of their first 100 games, they won 70. They went to the World Series.
And so, in honor of Sparky’s 74th birthday Friday, I remind the Reds’ new manager and the third-year Reds GM of this:
There is gold in them thar greenhorns, whether they be named Don Gullett (19) and Wayne Simpson (21) or Jay Bruce (20) and Johnny Cueto (22).
The fact is, Kentuckians were the only baseball fans in Reds Country who got to see Bruce play in their home state last year.
I don’t know about you, but if Ryan Freel or Norris Hopper or Kenny Lofton is the Reds’ center fielder on Opening Day, I’m personally heading for Triple-A Louisville 12 days later to witness Bruce Almighty.
Bruce is wizened compared to the young Kentuckian on that 1970 Reds Opening Day roster: Don Gullett, of Lynn, Ky., grew up a few miles south of South Shore, across the Ohio River from Portsmouth, and celebrated his 19th birthday just five weeks prior to reporting to his first big-league camp. Eight weeks later, he made his big-league debut.
Every person I’ve spoken with who has seen Bruce play says he is ready for the majors. I haven’t talked with Reds manager Dusty Baker and general manager Wayne Krivsky – like you, dear readers, I’m enjoying the sunshine of Northern Kentucky right now, not the sunshine of Sarasota, Fla.. – but my gut and my brain tell me there is no way Bruce needs more seasoning.
True, all that we have to go on right now are “projections” and the fact that every team in baseball would love to have Bruce (he was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year) on their rosters.
Normally, I’m not a big statistics guy – it’s not that I don’t believe in numbers, it’s just that I’ve always felt baseball is Brandon Phillips going first-to-third, not what he hits vs. right-handers in May – but now is the time to share some math. Bruce’s minor-league stats are so good and his major-league upside so glowing that the statistical gurus predict Bruce will be 240-plus points better than either Freel or Hopper or Lofton this season when it comes to getting on base and smacking extra-base hits. To quote Lou Costello in Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine, “I don’t even know what I’m talkin’ about!” But I know those are big numbers.
And I know that no matter what Bruce does in his four weeks of exhibition games, it shouldn’t matter.
Happy Birthday, Sparky.
On April 3, Happy Birthday, Jay.
Nice timing – day game.
GABP. Good place to turn 21.
My belief in Jay Bruce is no secret on this blog, but I think Erardi makes the point very clearly. It makes no sense to play Lofton, Hopper (who appears from the media reports to be Dusty’s new “protege”), or Freel in front of Bruce.