In Part I of my conversation with Bill Bray, the former Red and I discussed many talking points, but among them were the Montreal Expos-turned-Washington Nationals; the odd nature of BrayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s big league debut; BrayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s beloved places to play in the minors; Gary Majewski; and why Scott RolenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s off-the-field persona meant so much to Bray and expedited the maturation of the young-but-very-talented Reds.
TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s topics include winning the 2010 National League Central title; how BrayÃ‚Â liked playing with Mat Latos but disagreed with LatosÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spring training comments regarding the Reds; if Bray has any plans for a comeback; the state of the current Reds; the Tommy John epidemic/arm health; and social media.
RN: So, what was running through your mind when Jay Bruce’s walk-off home run clinched the division in 2010?
BB: We knew were going to win it at some point, but that was a great way to win it. We just went nuts. It was awesome to see that ball go out. It was a great way to win the division. We knew were going to do it — whether Jay hit that home run or not — but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll take that way.
RN: Every time I see that video, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help but notice Jonny Gomes getting a running start and flying on top of the pile. I always think, Ã¢â‚¬ËœIf Jonny didn’t happen to land on a few people, he would have goneÃ‚Â face-first into the ground.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
BB: Yeah, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll say this too: Jonny Gomes was a great teammate. You talk about a great clubhouse guy. When he got traded, there was a hole in that clubhouse.
RN: What was your reaction to what Mat Latos said about some Reds players and the organization in spring training? How much did that bother or disturb you?
BB: I really liked playing with Mat. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t spend a ton of time with him because I was injured for most of 2012, but I enjoyed playing with him. He was fun to play with. As a guy that was injured, there were certain times where I probably rushed it — and I know he rushed back, and I can remember him talking about how they were taking too long with him, (and Latos) making a comment: Ã¢â‚¬ËœI donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need another rehab start. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m good to go.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fair to say they rushed him back.
EverybodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s experience is different, and sometimes there are disagreements. The only thing I wish is that it hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been aired out publicly. You try to keep any disagreements you have like that in-house. I think the Reds are a great, first-class organization. You can have disagreements come up, but they should be kept in-house.
I think he was upset. I think he really liked Cincinnati. I think it bothered him when they traded him because I think he had found a place where he was comfortable and happy. The whole situation was disappointing, but it is what it is.
RN: Disappointment may be a strong word, but given the expectations you guys created by winning so much from 2010-13, what storyline sticks out from the last two years: Is it injuries/bad luck? Roster construction? Other teams in the division simply being better than the Reds?
BB: Going back to 2013, any time youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in a one-game playoff, all it takes is for somebody to have a poor day or someone to have a great day to lose one game. I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unfair to judge the 2013 team by that one-game playoff. I know they lost a couple going into the playoff that couldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve sealed it for them and I think that is whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disappointing.
The last two years are more unfortunate and unlucky. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything about injuries. You can put together the best possible roster on paper, and if guys get hurt, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything about it. Losing Votto for most of last year was devastating for the Reds. Losing (Devin) Mesoraco and Homer Bailey this year, I mean, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything about that. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nobodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fault. It would be unfair to blame Bryan Price or Walt Jocketty for those things. You put all the chips on this team and say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThis our squad,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ and then your two or three main guys get hurt. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unfortunate.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if the word disappointing is too harsh, but as long as the caveat is, Ã¢â‚¬ËœHey, we had a lot of injuries.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very unfortunate that there have been so many injuries to key players.
RN: ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sad because you can see it coming to an end with this group, especially with the trade deadline approaching at the end of July.
BB: I would not blame the Reds for selling. If you can trade some guys and get quality, great prospects in return, I think it makes sense. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see the Reds selling for just anything. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going to have a fire sale for mid-level prospects. If they can get great deals, go for it. Pull the trigger.
RN: I have to ask, especially given the occasional struggles the Reds bullpen has faced this year: Any plans for a comeback, or are you retired for good?
BB: No, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m retired for good. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m playing catch, and I would like to be able to throw with my kids and do pitching lessons or something. If God reached down and gave me a lightning bolt for an arm again, then sure, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d make a comeback. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to put in the effort of three hours of rehab a day. No, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m enjoying life. Like I said, I want to come back and create an effect in baseball from the business side.
RN: Do you have a sense of contentment with your career, or does it bother you that you were often sidelined by injuries — things that were mostly out of your control?
BB: I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s actually a halfway-decent way to go out. It was out of my control. I have a lot of faith and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Christian. I put my trust in God. I just know that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m meant for something else. I just try to remember and be thankful for the time I did have. I do feel like I was a pretty darn good pitcher when I was healthy.
RN: You wrote for the Sporting News about undergoing Tommy John surgery, and, of course, since the article was a first-person piece, there was a very human aspect tied to it. Do you have any thoughts on the Tommy John Ã¢â‚¬Ëœepidemic?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Is it an epidemic? Is it an overuse thing? Is it a sport specialization thing? Or do guys make small problems with their arms, elbows, and shoulders worse by pitching through pain because they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be cut or demoted?
BB: I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a mixture of everything. I know thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a general answer, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one particular thing. I think they will have to do one of those generational studies where they follow 2,000 players for 20 years and see what happens, and really nail down a cause.
As a high school pitching coach the last few years, I see a lot of freshmen coming in throwing splitters and sliders, just really nasty pitches. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so tough on the elbow. Also, they play baseball year-round now. Their season starts in February and ends in November. They play as many games as the major leaguers do at 12-years-old. They pitch on Friday, they play shortstop on Saturday, and they close on Sunday.
I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s combination of those things. I also think there are a lot travel programs out there where the focus isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t on teaching; itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on playing and performing, so you can get into these situations where kids arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always getting the best instruction on their mechanics. I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a little bit of everything. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re seeing a lot of young guys now (undergoing Tommy John). Personally, I think my injury later in my career was from overuse of sliders. I would come in and throw 10 sliders in a row. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of torque on your elbow.
RN: Sometimes I wonder about Aroldis Chapman and how much longer he can keep flinging 100 mph fastballs past hitters before something in his left arm breaks down. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a pretty clean delivery and looks to be pristine shape, but a breakdown seems inevitable because science would seem to indicate that.
BB: YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re right. It becomes eventual force and how long your body can withstand that force. I think in ChapmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s situation, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not getting in any extra work as a closer where heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s getting up and sitting down, getting up and sitting down. I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of things that kind of sped up my injuries. The sixth inning would come, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d go get up. Ã¢â‚¬ËœOh they got out of it,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d sit down. The seventh inning would come, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d go get up. And I may not pitch. And then IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d do it the next night. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just the life of a bullpen guy, but closers donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really get that. They have a very specific job and a specific point when they pitch. I think heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got that going for him.
RN: What have you learned about yourself and the game now that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a coach?
BB: Now that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a coach, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t truly appreciate how much time coaches put in. I think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve said it a couple times on Twitter: Ã¢â‚¬ËœThanks to all the coaches out there putting in the time and effort.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ There are people out there working hard, spending time with peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s kids while missing out on time with their own kids. They go out and pursue something that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re passionate about by helping other people. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re special.
RN: YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re pretty engaging with people on Twitter. Among other things, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve stated that you were pulling for Golden State to win the NBA Finals and the fastest you ever threw was 96 mph. What do you get out of social media, what do you want to get out of social media, and what are your general thoughts on it?
BB: Social media a good way to stay connected. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always some kind of angle. I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good to have a presence, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also a good way to have fun and talk to fans and stay engaged.
This interview has been edited.