May 2006

Homestand Kicks Off Today

Random thoughts as we prepare to watch the Reds face Washington and Philadelphia the next six evenings (except for Sunday’s matinee).

As Jerry Narron said of the road trip, "There’s a big difference between going 1-4 and 2-3." 

Regarding the narrow, hang-on-for-dear-life 9-8 win Sunday, Adam Dunn told me, "As long as we win, I don’t care how we get it done."

Also Joe Garagiola stopped by the radio booth Sunday in Phoenix.  Marty’s known him for more than 30 years.  Marty joined Garagiola as part of the NBC television crew that showed the 1975 World Series. 

I first met Garagiola last year when we were in Arizona.  He works with Marty’s son Thom on the D’backs Sunday home telecasts.  My first impression is: he looks great, exactly like he looked 30 years ago when I watched him as a kid.  For those of you too young to remember, the former catcher broadcast NBC’s Game of the Week and postseason baseball for many years.  He was versatile enough that he was also a host on NBC’s Today Show for several years.   I just looked him up, and was amazed to learn he’s 80 years old. 

He’s also one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met.  He proceeded to tell Marty and me stories about the legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey, whose most famous act was signing Jackie Robinson and breaking baseball’s color barrier.

Rickey ran the Pirates franchise when Garagiola played in Pittsburgh in the 1950s.  He said it’s amazing how far ahead of his time Rickey was (he was big on "on-base percentage" decades before the term was routinely used), and still marvels at the way Rickey could read people, both on and off the field.  Joe talked about how much Rickey liked a good debate and how hard he had to lobby for a $1,500 raise one year.  Eventually Gariagola won the raise. But it took all the oratorical skills he possessed.

Those communication skills would later make Joe Garagiola wealthy, famous and beloved by generations of television viewers.

Can’t Blame the Pitching

060508claussen If you would have told me that the Reds’ starters in the first four games of this trip would allow 3 runs (Claussen), 1 run (Harang), 1 earned run (Ramirez, on a rough defensive night, but still one earned run) and 3 runs (Arroyo),  I would have guessed the Reds would have started off better than 1-3 on the trip.  But that’s baseball.  Yesterday’s 9-8 victory helped cushion the blow.

On the bright side, it is good to see  the starters keeping the team in games. And the bullpen has been getting the job done, too.

The Reds will finally have a "normal" six-game homestand, the first since the first week of the season, beginning Tuesday night.

Also, our Marketing folks wanted to pass along a reminder about some of the club’s upcoming promotions for this homestand:

Hold “de Mayo”…

Well the Reds’ Friday night roll stopped with a thud on Cinco de Mayo, thanks largely to about the ugliest inning I’ve ever seen.  And, no surprise, UK alum Brandon Webb was his usual brilliant self.  D’backs take round one, 7-1.  So now we’ll see if Bronsono Arroyo can keep doing what he’s been doing. 

After the game last night, I was unable to interview Webb because he was getting ice in the trainers room.  I did talk to Luis Gonzalez, who had two hits an an RBI in that forgettable second inning.  Gonzalez said it was nice to see Webb beat "his hometown team."  Brandon is from Ashland, Kentucky.  And, yes, he still lives there.  Met some guys that grew up with him when we were there for our Caravan stop this past January.

About Arroyo, Gonzalez told me, "We haven’t seen a lot of him.  He’s an American League guy coming in. We’re hoping that we can get his pitch count up early and try to take advantage.  But we know that he’s got a great slider and he’s been pitching real well as of late."

On what was a bad day for the Reds, probably the most interesting development was learning, once we got back to our hotel after the game, that the L.A. Lakers are staying here.  They play the Phoenix Suns in Game 7 of their playoff series later today.  There was a Phil Jackson sighting in the lobby, and we saw former OSU star Jim Jackson as well (he’s 35 now, just to make you feel a little older.)  Their game starts about an hour before the Reds and Diamondbacks. 

Another beautiful day in paradise, by the way…

Also, on a serious note, we want to wish Reds employee Chris Herrell all the best.  A great guy, a super employee, Chris has been in the hospital the past couple of weeks.  Chris, we’re thinking about you…and GET WELL SOON!!!

Warming Up

060505bob Now THIS is more like it.  The Valley of the Sun… beautiful.. not a cloud in the sky…

Another nice bounce-back win yesterday (Thursday).  Aaron Harang was brilliant under brutal weather conditions.  And the Reds hitters returned to their patient, effective approach at the plate that has worked so well this year.  Edwin Encarnacion and Austin Kearns, in particular in the four-run second inning fell behind 0-2, then worked the count full, before getting hits.  And how about Harang’s two hits.  The Reds still have lost only one series all year. 

But back to the weather. We haven’t seen days like this since Spring Training… so I’m headed to the pool…. enjoy the game tonight (yes, another "Friday Night Fight"). Carpenter, Sheets, Oswalt and now UK alum Brandon Webb, who’s off to a great start. 

From a place where it’s widely celebrated, I wish you a "Happy Cinco de Mayo!!"

One "shout-out" I forgot on Thursday, but congratulations to Dan Hoard and his wife, Peg, on the birth of their son Samuel!!  7 pounds, 2 ounces.  Born Wednesday morning, all are doing well.

Aurilia to 15-day DL

Update: The Reds have placed Rich Aurilia on the 15-day DL with a strained right groin.

Infielder Ray Olmedo will replace Aurilia on the roster. In 17 games for Louisville, Olmedo hit .339 with eight runs scored. Olmedo’s expected to arrive here in Denver in time for tonight’s game.

Rich has been a big part of this team’s early-season success, hitting .295 with five homers and 13 RBIs. He’s also hit in 11 straight starts.

Rich has combined with Scott Hatteberg for a nice platoon at first base, and he’s done well everywhere else he’s played. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Chillin’ in Colorado

060504rockies_1 Forty-eight degrees as I write this.  "Raw in the Rockies."  Reds will try to gain a split tonight after losing 3-0 Wednesday.  They’ve only lost one series all year. 

Another "quality start" Wednesday night, though the Reds didn’t make some plays in the field, and they didn’t hit with men on base.  Despite Brandon Claussen’s inability to field a ball hit back up the middle, he still gave his team 6 2/3 innings and three runs.  If Reds starters do that every night, the Reds will win a lot of games.

Rich Aurilia will be re-examined today.  Tough night, tough weather, tough guy.  Hopefully he won’t be out long.  The "good news" is that the Reds can use their first-base platoon the next several days since Cincinnati is scheduled to face right-handers tonight, then all three games in Arizona, and they have Monday off.  Scott Hatteberg would presumably start those games at first base anyway.

Thinking of Rich reminds me of a moment that stood out to me earlier this season and said something about him and this team.

The Reds had just beaten Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs 8-3 at Wrigley Field.  I was at the entrance to the Reds clubhouse to grab the winning pitcher, Eric Milton, for a radio interview.  As I waited for Eric, I saw all the players give each other the obligatory high fives and handshakes, as they do after every win.  But what struck me was how happy Rich was — on a day he had gone 0-for-4. It spoke volumes to me as to what kind of competitor he is.  As long as the team wins, he’s happy.

This is a great city, great part of the country.  Beautiful, just not today. Oh well…

To answer some questions you’ve asked me over the past week:

I’m not sure where Jacob Cruz is right now.  The ex-Red was given his release.  I’ve been asking around, and no one seems to know where Jacob is.  Searching the Web site for minor league baseball, they had him with Louisville the first couple of weeks of the season but list no current baseball address.  What a super person he is, and a good hitter.  I’m sure he’ll hook on somewhere.

060504coffeyAs to the Griffey question?  I don’t know…

Someone asked about Todd Coffey and whether or not he could be a closer in the big leagues.  Hard to know until he’s actually put into that spot.  It’s amazing how much more difficult those last three outs seem to be than the first 24.  I think he’s got the stuff to do it.  And a couple of other things that work in his favor:  He appears to be fearless on the mound.  And he also seems to have what is a prerequisite for a closer, or any pitcher: a short memory.  I think he probably will get that chance at some point.  Yes, I think he could close at some point in the future.  And the spot he’s in now, setting up in tough situations (with runners often on base) is a great training ground.

Valentin: “We Need the Fans”

Valentin As great as Javier Valentin’s clutch RBI single was to win the game, as well as Jason LaRue’s sacrifice bunt, the pitchers deserve a ton of credit.

Even without Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen in the lineup, Dave Williams deserves credit for his best outing of the year against the team almost everyone has picked to win the division: St. Louis.  His 6 2/3 innings, allowing just two runs, kept the team in the game.  The Reds then got good relief work from Rick White and Todd Coffey.  Credit also goes to Bronson Arroyo, whose complete-game effort the night before meant that Jerry Narron’s bullpen was fresh.

The Reds’ pitching staff is 11th in team ERA in the National League, with the team ERA down to 4.59.  And with the good performances the past few days, the Reds are moving very close to that "middle of the pack" range that should allow them to stay competitive when combined with Cincinnati’s productive offense.

I asked Javier on the radio after the game, ?What’s the difference between last year?s squad and this year?s team??  His answer would have warmed the heart of his manager.

"We do the little things now," he said. "Our offense, our defense — we’ve started pulling everything together.  If one hitter doesn’t do his job, the next batter, he’s ready to go.  Winning teams do that, play with each other.  And we’re confident."

He only made one request. "The only thing we need: we need the fans.  We need the fans to cheer for us because we’re going to be giving the best we can everyday — 120 percent in the field every single day."  Nice to know "giving 110 percent" apparently just isn’t enough for these guys.

The Reds now open a five-game road trip, beginning with two here in Colorado.  The warm weather left town just in time for this series, but then it’ll be in the 90s in Arizona over the weekend.  Cincinnati now plays the next 11 games out of their division.  Impressively, while playing 21 of their first 27 within the NL Central, the Reds went 14-7 against their divisional rivals.

Lights Out Again!

Bronson_2 Bronson Arroyo does it again, now 5-0 after Monday night’s win over the Cardinals. It’s been fun to watch his starts.  It’s funny, I talked with a friend of mine tonight who reminded me he was at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota for Bronson’s first start for the Reds in Spring Training, and that the Twins knocked him around in that start. That was just days after the Reds acquired him.  Then in his next start, in Fort Myers at the Red Sox spring home, he was lights out.

This season he’s been "lights out" in five of his six starts, including Monday, when he threw his second career complete game, and raised his record to 5-0

For a guy who loved the whole Fenway experience and was initially disappointed by the trade,  he’s enjoying his new team.  He told me on the radio after Monday’s game, "I’m having a great time.  Anytime you can come to an organization and make an impact right away, it’s nice.  And to be on a team that wasn’t picked to be in first place, it feels even sweeter."

By the way, this was the fifth time (five big wins) that he’s been my guest as our star of the game.  That’s five envelopes containing Montgomery Inn dinner coupons (as well as coupons for Frontgate outlet stores).  He’s still new in town.  Has he had the chance to try the "world’s greatest ribs?"  Apparently superstition has prevented him from enjoying the dining experience… so far.

"I have not.  I’m scared to use any of these coupons.  At the end of the year hopefully I’ll have $2,000 worth of Montgomery Inn stuff to give away." 

A Good Weekend…

Nobody’s ever happy with a loss, but as we know, "You can’t win ’em all."  Having said that, it was nice to see Elizardo Ramirez hang in there after a 36-pitch first inning. After giving up the two-run homer to Lance Berkman, he kept his team in the game and wound up giving his team a solid six-inning performance (three runs).

Berkman, a great guy by the way, was my guest on the radio after the game.  About Ramirez, he said (after the first inning), "He pretty much shut us down… and he made some good adjustments.  He really didn’t pitch that badly.  We were able to get him with the long ball today."

Regarding the NL Central, he said, "I think it’s an extremely competitive division.  It’s going to come down to how we play against the divisional opponents."  For the record, the Reds are now 12-7 in the Central, St. Louis is 11-7, Houston 6-3, Chicago 9-8, Milwaukee 8-8, Pittsburgh 3-16.  Again, success within the division is critical for a team that wants to stay in contention.  Next up for the Reds: the Cardinals Monday night and Tuesday afternoon.

Gabp By the way, three home runs were hit in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Houston.  Our buddy Mark Wagner, who’s the stat guru/researcher for FSN Ohio, as well as for Thom Brennaman’s FOX network telecasts, gave us an interesting note about Great American Ball Park. 

As you know, we see a lot of home runs at the Reds’ home park, as they have seen in Philadelphia, since the Phillies opened Citizens Bank Park in 2004.  The Phillies took measures this past offseason to make their home a little less homer-friendly.  Mark says the fences are two feet higher around much of the ballpark, and that the fences were moved back five feet or so.  According to Mark, if the Reds made the same changes here in Cincinnati, it would have removed just seven home runs since Great American opened in 2003. The ball just carries so well.

As you can see by this chart, the dimensions themselves are only slightly shorter than the Major League Baseball average.

Great American Ball Park 328 379 404 370 325
Oriole Park at Camden Yards 333 364 410 373 318
Angel Stadium 330 387 400 370 330
Minute Maid Park 315 362 435 373 326
McAfee Coliseum 330 388 401 390 330
Turner Field 335 380 401 390 330
Miller Park 344 370 400 374 345
New Busch Stadium 336 376 400 376 335
Wrigley Field 355 368 400 368 353
Tropicana Field 315 370 404 370 322
Chase Field 328 376 407 376 336
Dodger Stadium 330 385 395 385 330
AT&T Park 339 382 399 421 309
Jacobs Field 325 370 410 375 325
Safeco Field 331 390 405 387 326
Rogers Centre 328 375 400 375 328
Dolphin Stadium 330 385 434 385 345
Shea Stadium 338 378 410 378 338
RFK Stadium 335 385 410 385 335
Petco Park 334 367 396 387 322
Citizens Bank Park 329 374 401 369 330
PNC Park 325 389 399 375 320
Ameriquest Field 332 390 400 381 325
Fenway Park 310 379 420 380 302
Coors Field 347 390 415 375 320
Kauffman Stadium 330 385 410 385 330
Comerica Park 345 398 420 380 330
HHH Metrodome 343 385 408 367 327
US Cellular Field 330 377 400 372 335
Yankee Stadium 318 399 408 385 314
TOTAL (In feet): 9948 11403 12202 11377 9841
All totals are divided by 30:

Average MLB Field

331.6 380.1 406.7 379.2 328
Great American Ball Park 328 379 404 370 325
(Information gathered from the respective teams’ Web sites and media guides.)