Beat writers are always behind the fans when it comes to the frustration curve. They’re less personally invested than we are, first and foremost. And while we’ve all watched the same number of games (162 a year), they likely feel they’ve “seen it all,” to some degree. And maybe there’s an element of relationship preservation going on with their sources.

That said, this season, the summer heat, and the overall goofiness surrounding this organization, has finally gotten to the beat writers. John Fay has an excellent column in today’s Enquirer, about the Reds split personality (trade veteran Weathers, add veteran Rolen; play Laynce Nix, while Wladimir Balentien rides pine and Drew Stubbs marinates in Louisville).

I thought Balentien would be in the lineup every day for the rest of the year. He’s 25. He was a big-time prospect at one time. He seemed worth an extended look with a Reds on a slow train to nowhere.

“He’s playing tomorrow,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said before Saturday’s game. “You can’t play everybody.”

Baker went into an explanation about how left-handed hitters hit Washington’s starter J.D. Martin better than right-handers like Balentien. Laynce Nix got the start.

That, to me, is a microcosm of the Reds’ problem. They can never give up completely on a season, or even a game, for a chance to be better in the future.

This philosophy comes right from the top. That’s why the Reds traded for third baseman Scott Rolen. That move told you that CEO Bob Castellini thinks the club can win in 2010.

The Reds added a high-priced veteran at the deadline, but they’ve since traded away David Weathers and Alex Gonzalez.

That’s a bit of a mixed message.

But when you’re 14 games out on Aug. 15, it’s time to look to the future.
After Gonzalez was traded away, they brought up Kevin Barker from Louisville. Barker was having a good year. But he’s 34.

Drew Stubbs, one of the Reds’ top prospects, remains at Louisville.

Hal McCoy isn’t pulling punches, either. Here’s his blog on the same Balentin conversation. It’s a little unclear, but it’s evident that he’s had it with Baker’s above-it-all attitude and goofy non-answers:

“I talk to the players about all this, but as manager I don’t have to talk to anybody about anything,” Baker said. “It’s just I’ve always done as a manager. As a player you always like to know why things were done.:

Uh, well, OK. Is it really that complicated. I’m no manager (my card expired in 1982), but it just doesn’t seem THAT complicated, especially when you’re 156 games under .500 and 14 games out of first place on August 15.

McCoy is fed up. On Wednesday, he referred to Matt Holliday’s drive “that Willy Taveras should have caught but played circle-the-wagons while chasing it and missed it.” Most of Thursday’s gamer was devoted to Mark Berry’s malpractice in sending Harang home. Last night’s was just a list of idiocy. His in-game blog (linked above) refers to Taveras as “thankfully not leading off,” then says:

Personally, I can’t recall a Reds team in recent history that is as fundamentally self-destructive as this Reds team. If there is one way they can mess things up, then that’s the way it gets messed up.

I’m beginning to think this team couldn’t spell fundamentals if you spotted it the fun, which it certainly isn’t having these days.

Welcome to the club, gents. It’s been this way all summer.

38 Responses

  1. pinson343

    Booby Valentine’s contract is ending in Japan and he’s looking for a position in the US.

  2. KY Chip

    Valentine would be a nice change. Heck, I’d crawl on I-75 from Lexington to Cincy to get someone — ANYONE — besides Dusty in the dugout next year.

  3. Chris

    Dusty’s not all of the problem. He might not even be the biggest part. You have an organization that’s trying to be 2 or 3 different (contradictory) things at the same time.

    I appreciate Bob Castellini’s commitment, and he’s done a lot to repair the damage Carl Lindner did. But I don’t think he’s on the right path to winning.

  4. David Kaiser

    although any manager would be better than what we have now will it really matter as long as the people at the top keep running the team the way they have?signing other teams rejects and trading youth for veteran leadership is no way to win anything!waiting untill sept. to call up the prospects is no way to win either.stubbs should have been up after the all star break when it was clear the reds had no shot,but no we still have to put up with willy patterson in center every night.also could someone tell me why queto is allowed to go out and suck every start and it’s ok because he is young and learning,but bailey just sucks when he does the same thing?maybe if they had treated him the same way instead of sending him down after every bad start he would not be so inconsistant.

  5. Steve

    Chris is right, Dusty isn’t all the problem, and maybe not the biggest part. I want to add to the list all the injuries we have suffered this year – truly staggering.

    That said, the roster was poorly constructed at the start of the season. Didn’t get the new OF signed. Poor judgment overestimating the players we signed (Taveras, Hernandez) with low OBP and poor track records. Poor judgment underestimating the Reds current roster players (Dickerson, Hanigan). I’m not saying CD and RH are all-stars, but it we had accurately assessed what they would have done this year, particularly defensively, we would not have had to sign Taveras and Hernandez.

    Just for once I’d like for us to sign a player where we weren’t playing the “I know he was bad in his last gig, but we think it will be different here” song.

    And Baker does deserve quite a bit of blame as well. His stubborn, out-of-date managing have cost the Reds a lot this year. Add to that the total lack of fundamentals the Reds exhibit every game – and Baker’s refusal to have the Reds PRACTICE during the season.

    One final point, even if one exonerates Baker for the Reds play thus far, he is certainly not equipped to take the team into the future.

  6. The Mad Hatter

    What does it tell you of the idiocy in which this organization has been run, if the beat writers of Cincinnati are becoming openly critical. This organization is in shambles right now. In a bigger media market, the national media would have started a “When will Dusty be fired?” watch by now and chronically his idiotic, stubborn moves night in and night out.

  7. Steve

    I do think the Reds’ moves have been more consistent lately than being given credit for here.

    They are focused on contending in 2010. They judged Scott Rolen to be helpful with that, and EE to be destructive of that goal. They judged AG and JHJ as not being likely contributors to 2010 as well. David Weathers, regardless of how much he has done for the Reds over five years, he seemed to be slipping – and we have plenty of bullpen arms that can take over.

    The Reds need to play our young players now to see what they can do next year. Maybe try BP at 2B.

    How can people on this board complain about the Reds ditching AG, DW and JHJ when all we did was complain about them?

    I know people didn’t like the Rolen trade here because of giving up the two pitchers, but it’s pretty hard to argue that he’s a big step up from EE, especially defensively.

    So I do see the Reds acting in one direction – contending in 2010.

    I understand if someone has the opinion that the Reds are too far away to contend in 2010. That’s certainly a reasonable opinion.

    But I guess I remain glad that the Reds are still trying to put together a contending team in 2010.

  8. Steve

    Someone should start a “Fire Dusty Baker (Again)” web site.

  9. Shawn

    Steve, the Reds have had a BELOW average amount of injuries this year. Every team has injuries. Men playing sports will get hurt. This team has been unable to deal with the injuries it has had.

  10. Steve

    Shawn, I’ll admit that I haven’t looked at statistics to back up my claim on injuries, but I’m skeptical that the Reds are experiencing a below average amount. Of the major players:


    That’s five starting players and two SP.

    Throw in Lincoln, Richar, Castillo, Burton…I’m sure I’m leaving someone out.

  11. shane

    How can people on this board complain about the Reds ditching AG, DW and JHJ when all we did was complain about them?
    amen to that!

  12. AnnapolisRed

    No way they are below average in number of injuries. At least not to key players.

  13. Bill Lack

    Two responses to that…I don’t think people had a problems with JHJ, just the way in which he was used. But it’s not the fact that they were traded, but the fact that in combination with getting Scott Rolen makes no sense.

  14. Chris Garber

    You’re counting two starting 3bs?

    How can people on this board complain about the Reds ditching AG, DW and JHJ when all we did was complain about them?

    Nobody is complaining about trading those guys away. They’re complaining about the team having no discernible direction. I know you think “contend in ’10” is a strategy, but before that it was “contend in ’09,” “contend in ’08,” and “contend in ’07.”

    It’s a series of short-term goals completely divorced from the moves necessary to get there, and willfully ignorant of the team’s current status.

    NO small market team can win every year. Even the Yankees and Red Sox have a “success cycle.” The smart teams recognize where they are in that cycle, plan accordingly, and make moves that speed up the movement from valley to peak. The Reds haven’t.

    Last November, I actually believed that the Reds could contend in 2010 (but importantly, not 2009). If the Reds truly shared that belief, they’d have avoided locking up any older guy or proven mediocrity (Taveras, Lincoln – and probably Rhodes, if I’m being honest) longer than the 2009 season. (Unless they wanted to sign Dunn for 3 years and eat his 2009). They also wouldn’t have added short-term salary for 2009 (Hernandez). And they’d have devoted this season to talent evaluation and finding solutions at SS, 3B, LF, C, and CF. That means EE, Janish, Dickerson, Janish, Gomes, Hanigan, Stubbs, and Rosales all should’ve had 250 PAs, if at all possible (and more for Dickerson).

    Here’s the thing: I think I may have been wrong about 2010. Primarily because Harang and Arroyo look to be closer to the downside of their careers than I expected. But also because Cueto and Bruce didn’t develop much. Then you have Voltron’s injury. BUT you also have to figure that they did everything exactly the opposite of what I said they should be doing, with the obvious short- and long-term results.

    Unlike me, the Reds apparently ALWAYS believe they’re just a couple players from contention – and that those players are available on some other team’s scrap heap. In November 2009, they thought they were on the brink – even w/o Dunn. So they “added” Taveras and Ramon.

    In August 2009, with the impolosion or semi-implosion of 5/5 of the rotation, CF, and 3b, lots of us are very skeptical of their chances for 2010. In contrast, the Reds AGAIN thought they were just a couple players away from contending in 2010, and invested in Scott Rolen.

    It’s up to you to decide whether the Reds have a plan and are sticking to it. On one hand, the Reds are professionals and I’m some guy in my pajamas. On the other, they’ve had 10 awful seasons in a row, and nothing seems to change.

  15. Chris Garber

    The loss of Danny Richar put this team into a tailspin from which it hasn’t recovered. 😀

  16. brublejr

    1.) This team has NO direction. As pointed out above by buying Rolen, selling some young prospects, and selling some veterans. (I have 0% problem selling the veterans)

    2.) This is a perfect time to evaluate young talent to determine what your plan is for the offseason. (Again this shows no direction.)

    3.) Dusty is more worried about guys getting their stats rather than making the team better for the future. (Hence not playing guys like Sutton, Baletin, and bringing up guys like Stubbs.)

    4.) Blaming a lost season on injuries alone is a coward’s way out. There are plenty of teams that lose players, multiple players, but the GOOD organizations find a way to hang in there. Have the Reds had a lot of injuries to key guys, Absolutely. Is it the sole reason of the second half disaster? No freakin way! With the injuries there was no way they could make the playoffs, but do they have to have the worst offense is baseball? Nope.

    5.) If they think this team is going to contend in ’10 they are crazy. I think the team can improve but to think you are one or two players away at this point is naive.

    For the Reds to EVER be successful the whole organization needs to agree on ONE direction and stick with it. I give the Pirates GM a ton of credit because it took a lot of guts to trade basically the whole team to get younger and deeper. He has a plan and went to it in full affect. Now they won’t be good for a while, but at least they decided they couldn’t contend, so pick up as much in return for the high priced guys as possible and give the young guys their shot.

    BTW, I think you see a lot more articles like that from Hal, since it is his last year and he can vent his frustration without anyone holding it against him in the future.

  17. David

    I really don’t mind the way that Baker has handled Dickerson, Hanigan or Balentien and some of the other younger players. You could argue that Baker’s use of these guys has given them the ability to succeed based on match ups. Their numbers are probably better than if he’d left them exposed over the course of the year. I’m not convinced on any of these guys being a regular.

    Moving AGon, Weathers, and JHJ will not undermine the 2010 season. None of those guys should be playing a major role next year. Rolen is an upgrade and should play a major role. That’s the difference between those vets.

  18. RC

    In the back of my mind, I’ve wondered if the Gonzo trade wasn’t kind of a warning shot from Jocketty to Dusty regarding playing the younger guys. Since Dusty seemed to be dead set on running AG out there every day, they took his toy away from him… I’m probably reading way too much into it, though.

  19. Matt WI

    I agree RC. I sort of think someone landed a copy of that Joe Posnanski article that ripped the debacle of playing Taveras and A-Gon at 1-2 in the lineup on Walt’s desk. I assume Walt must realize that the rest of the world might have a valid opinion rather instead of Dusty’s “this is my world” attitude.

  20. Matt Steele

    David @ #62

    Baker hasn’t had a chance to use Balentien much and many people think Hanigan could and should be a full time MLB starter.

    The biggest problem with this team is that we rely so much on retreads. I understand that as a mid market team sometimes we have to but there’s no way that Stubbs would have played worse this year than Taveras. And he would have cost a lot less and gotten valuable experience. Also Todd Frazier should get a shot instead of maybe Drew Sutton.

    We also shouldn’t have traded for Ramon Hernandez and just stuck with Hanigan.

    we waste a lot of money on retreads that don’t offer much instead of going with our minor leaguers who can probably play just as well for much less the cost. Johnny Gomes was a good signing. Maybe Nix was (though I’m not that high on him), other than that we made no good position player moves from last October until recently when we started trading away guys that had no future with us. We signed the wrong players and brought up the wrong players and we played the wrong players too long.

  21. Shawn

    Steve: reference this article (from July, but still relevant) by Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus. If you do not subscribe, I can summarize for you, but I wrote about it at the time at the blog:

    Short version: at the time (mid-July), the Reds had the third-LEAST time lost to injuries. It’s more now, but look around: the Mets, the Rangers, the Cubs, all losing lots of players and time to injuries.

  22. GregD

    In the back of my mind, I’ve wondered if the Gonzo trade wasn’t kind of a warning shot from Jocketty to Dusty regarding playing the younger guys.

    Jocketty is Baker’s boss. He can set roster roles. Perhaps it was Jocketty’s decision to continue playing A-Gon in August for a possible trade?

  23. doktor

    if dusty has enough confidence to have Balentien bat against Lincecum, Cain, Carpenter, three of the best pitchers in the NL, then there is no excuse not to have him in there versus anything the Nationals have. I can understand giving Balentien a day off and give Nix a game but only 1 AB in 3 games for WB is bad.

  24. David

    Matt – who are the retreads you are referring to? Rhodes has pitched great. While you might not like Hernandez, the cost was not prohibitive and the team didn’t want to go into the season with a rookie catcher. I can appreciate that. As for Gonzo, he was under contract already. Hairston was a retread but played well last season and played well in spots this year (and could have been better if utilized correctly). All the other guys, Gomes, Nix, Balentien played fairly well and were low cost high reward deals that you WANT the Reds to make.

    We don’t know what will happen with Rolen. That was a pretty risky move, but you’ll find someone on either side of the fence.

    In my mind, the only purely awful move was Taveras. Rolen may end up being as bad because of what was given up, but I don’t think the retreads cost this team. I think Volquez’s injury, Cueto’s second half implosion, and Baker playing Taveras and batting him leadoff is what cost the Reds its first winning season. Maybe the Reds aren’t in contention, but they are at least 82 game winners.

  25. Wayne from L.A.

    I am a Dodger fan. I live and grew up in Los Angeles and watched the BiG Red Machine dominate the NL for years. I say this so you know I am an objective observer and not a disgrunted Reds fan.

    The Reds suck and it starts with Dusty Baker. Since Felipe Alou has gone, Dusty is now the number 1 over-rated ML manager.

    September is two weeks away, the Reds are 16 games out of 1st place and 14 games out of the Wild-Card and why Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey are still in the minors while you continue to trot Wily Taveras out there is beyond the comprehension of most baseball observers.

    Reds fans if you want to know how your team is perceived by other baseball fans right now think… Pittsburgh Pirates (17 year losers).

    The 70’s are over, the Reds are bad and gonna stay bad unless something changes, you need a new manager and apparently a new GM too.

    Good luck,
    Wayne S.
    Granada Hills, CA

  26. The Mad Hatter

    David, seriously. You believe this crap that trots out there day in and day out coulda, shoulda been an 82 win team? This is quite possibly the worst offense in baseball and you think the pitching staff could have carried this team for a whole season? I know the injuries are the real cause of the offense’s failures, not the use of Willy T and AGon 1 and 2 in the lineup, not the horrible construction of the 40 man roster in the spring. What I can’t understand is this team’s willingness to move young pitching to an American League team for a veteran third baseman but they can’t move Fransisco who has no position to play on a National League team. Management is clueless.

  27. earl

    You knew if Bruce and Votto didn’t turn into world beaters the Reds were in trouble at the beginning of the year, as they pretty much bet the middle of the lineup on them. Thing is that other things also went wrong.

    Bruce didn’t turn into a top line power hitter then got hurt for the rest of the year.
    Votto missed a month.
    Volquez was gone after April, pretty much done for next year and just hopefully not forever.
    Cueto didn’t improve.
    No one can get on base consistently batting up front.
    The club still makes too many mistakes in the field and on the base paths.

    Not hard to see why the Reds are not winning. On the upside, I guess the bullpen is not the biggest problem anymore (although we may have traded away the best of the young relievers).

  28. Matt Steele

    I was referring to players that have basically shown what they’re worth and are not really any better than our other options in the minor leagues

    re-treads who the Reds have signed, traded for or used in lieu of cheaper players in our farm system who could have used the experience this year:
    Willy Taveras
    Drew Sutton (who isn’t horrible but has limited potential, he’s an ok guy to be on the bench, not starting in LF)
    Darnell McDonald
    Ramon Hernandez
    Kip Wells
    Mike Lincoln
    Laynce Nix

    I understand that as a small to mid market team we have to take chances sometimes, but we can’t keep playing these guys hoping that all of the sudden they’ll have talent when we have guys in the minors like Stubbs, Heisey, Frazier, Maloney etc who would be doing no worse and gaining some valuable experience.

    Now we’ll enter in next year not wanting to trust anyone in our minor leagues because they don’t have any experience when they should have been playing from about the All star break on this year.

    Assuming that we keep everyone on our roster right now, this should be our major league roster

    C – Hanigan (starting)
    C – Hernandez (backup 1b and C)
    1b – Votto (s)
    2b – Phillips (s)
    SS – Janish (s)
    3b – Rolen (s)
    INF – Frazier
    INF – Sutton
    OF – Bruce (s)
    OF – Stubbs (s)
    OF – Gomes (platoon)
    OF – Dickerson (platoon)
    OF – Heisey
    SP – Harang
    SP – Arroyo
    SP – Cueto
    SP – Bailey
    SP/RP – Wood
    RP/SP – Owings
    RP – Rhodes
    RP – Cordero
    RP – Herrera
    RP – Fisher
    RP – Masset
    RP – Burton? Lehr? Bray?

    Also Balentien deserves a long look instead of maybe Heisey or Dickerson but we don’t quite know what we’re getting with him yet so it’s too hard to know what he’s going to do.

    that roster would be better than most of what we’ve run out there the past 2 months

  29. pinson343

    Our problem this year has been summarized by Earl in (28). Plus the speed and defense thing didn’t work out, with Taveras being horrible. And who would have thought that Taveras can’t judge flys in CF and Dickerson can’t in the LF or RF ? The risk taken that Gonzo would be OK was just stupid.

    We’re now a really bad team because of a lack of depth, which would have been a lot worse without retreads like Gomes and Rhodes. The players we’ve brought up from the farm have disappointed, Rosales for example, Sutton (so far), Tatum, etc. Fisher does look good. Of the retreads mentioned above by Matt, we would have been worse (are worse) without Hernandez (I prefer Hannigan as the starter, but that’s a different issue, a Dusty problem). Nix has probably contributed more than in 2009 than anyone we would have brought up from the farm. (I’d let him go now though). Every team needs retreads, Yankee fans like having Hairston.

    There’s no way that we could have started the season with Stubbs or Heisey on the 25 man roster. They need to be playing every day. Even now I’m not sure if they’re ready, but they should sure get a shot in September, and for months now I would prefer either of them to Taveras.

    The biggest problem we have for 2010 is our manager. And WJ has made some terrible moves, not sure about him anymore.

    I hold on to the hope that we’re not the Pittsburgh Pirates, their forever being in rebuilding mode strikes me as even worse than our confusion about looking for both long term and short term improvement. Late August/September could be interesting, if only our manager would cooperate. The OF could be played by Bruce (RF), Dickerson (CF), and getting a good look at Balentien, Stubbs and Heisey.

    Votto, Phillips, Janish, Rolen is a good infield. Get a good look at Sutton.

  30. Travis G.

    Comparing the Reds to the Pirates is simply off base. We are now where they hope to be in three years, which is why they’ve traded off everything of value on their roster for prospects and spare parts.

    We’ve already seen top prospects such as Bruce, Votto, Volquez and Cueto make it to the majors and enjoy some measure of success. Pittsburgh doesn’t have any players on their current 25-man roster who could be part of the next great Pirates team. The Reds have some glaring weaknesses, and losing Volquez sure does hurt, but they really are at the point where they need to add some quality veterans to surround their young talent.

    The Rays model doesn’t apply here (yet), because they were so bad for so long that they stockpiled a bunch of top-five picks who all turned into ML ballplayers around the same time. Even then, they added guys like Troy Percival and Gabe Kapler to teach the young guys how to grow beards and behave grittily.

  31. REDS1

    This biggest problem in 2010 is our players. Simply put we do not have enough good ones to remotely consider contending.

  32. Travis G.

    All that said, Nix probably shouldn’t start another game this season. They need to find out if Balentien is a starting-caliber LF now, so they can find one this winter if he’s not.

  33. David

    @ 27 – I do think the Reds could have won 82 games. I don’t think they could have with Sutton, Janish, Rosales and Tatum, but the injury bug forced those into action. I suppose we can add injuries to positions with little to no depth to my list.

  34. Sultan of Swaff

    Good comment, Chris G. My sentiments exactly.

  35. GregD

    I do think the Reds could have won 82 games. I don’t think they could have with Sutton, Janish, Rosales and Tatum, but the injury bug forced those into action.

    So, you think the Reds opening day roster could have won 82 games if they would have played a full season together? I think the offense and defense at CF, SS, and C doomed this team from the start. The Reds were hoping that those 3 reverted to their former selves. They hoped Hernandez would improve with a change of scenery and play as well as he did in his 20’s. Unfortunately, in the case of Taveras and Gonzalez, they were looking for them to each repeat their career year of 2007.

    It’s the kind of logic Jim Bowden used when he acquired Shawn Estes in 2002, thinking they got the same Estes who had pitched for San Francisco from 1996-97. You can’t pick out singular seasons of a player’s past and hope that they repeat. Or think that “they have the skills, they can do that again.” They can, but in all probability they won’t, in this case they didn’t, and that’s not the way to put a foundation of the team together.

  36. GregD

    The players we’ve brought up from the farm have disappointed…Sutton (so far)

    IMO, I don’t see how you can say that yet. He’s only played 4 games from beginning to end. The 3 game series against the Rockies (3-for-12 with a double)

    Against Washington, he came in Saturday with Phillips out: 1-for-2 with the homerun.
    Starting yesterday: 0-for-4 with a walk & run.

    It’s taken an injury to Rolen and Phillips to get him in the lineup. Here’s a guy who could fill JHJ’s role next year at the major league minimum. He should be getting the experience of playing every day the rest of the season.

  37. pinson343

    I like Sutton’s potential and want to see him play more.

  38. pinson343

    PS But he did tick me off on Sunday.