By Danny Mehigan
These guys (from the 1969 Reds) have all retired. But they have replacements. Ones with color photography and everything. To the names and numbers!
THE INFIELD: YOUNG AND POWERFUL
Considering I’m just thinking off the top of my head and not doing some relatively easy research, I believe the Reds have one of the most powerful right sides of the infield in baseball. Joey Votto is coming off his first full season in the majors that saw him hit almost .300 and sock 24 dingers. As was mentioned during the World Baseball Classic, he’s Canadian and proud of the fact. Why that’s important here, I do not know. He’s going to be the power replacement of Adam Dunn with not as many strikeouts. His right-side companion, his Beethoven if you will (the dog, not the composer), is Brandon Phillips. Phillips struggled a bit in 2008, only hitting .261 with 21 home runs, but is psyched to return to his 2007 form that saw him hit .288 and hit 30 bombs. He’s definitely a free swinger, but he steals bases too – 23 or more in all three seasons he’s spent in Cincinnati. He had scholarship offers to play football and baseball at Georgia, but turned them down to turn pro. And talent like that makes him a real jackass.
On the left side, Alex Gonzalez just does not impress on the offensive side of the ball. His career average is a measly .248, but he is just six hits from 1000, so at least he can celebrate that in a while. He is, however, a defensive whiz and is consistently among the best shortstops in the league. He missed all of 2008 with a fractured knee, but is nice and healthy for 2009. Edwin Encarnación also sucked last year, to put it nicely, by hitting a career-low .251, though he did hit 26 home runs. So as you can tell already, the Reds go deep or they don’t go at all. Paul Janish is a backup utility guy and is one of those guys that may or may not deserve to be on the roster. He hit just .235 in spring training, but Dusty Baker and co. must have seen something that tells them he’ll improve on his career .188 average. He’s also a stud defensive player, but with his primary position as shortstop, he’ll have to move around the diamond to make an improvement there thanks to Gonzalez.
Behind the dish, the newbie Ramón Hernández will get most of the work after coming over from the Orioles. He only got 23 at-bats for the Reds in spring training thanks to the long run for the Venezuelan squad in the World Baseball Classic, but that kind of experience is much better than playing the Pirates’ AA guys in Florida. He’ll be backed up by Ryan Hanigan, who is looking for his first extended time in the bigs. He has less than 100 career Abs, but did hit .368 this spring to impress the coaching staff.
THE OUTFIELD: WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, AGING POWER HITTERS??
They left for Washington, D.C. and Seattle. They, of course, being Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. (though he technically left at the trading deadline last July, this will be the first full season sans The Kid since 2000). Since I already decided Votto was replacing Dunn, second-year rightfielder Jay Bruce will replace Griff. He hit just .254 in 108 games, but had 21 home runs and was all-around impressive as a rookie. The speedster Willy Taveras will be the everyday centerfielder for the Reds after spending the last two seasons in Colorado. He stole a whopping 68 bases last year, covers a lot of ground in the outfield and more than makes up for his low batting average. He’ll also hold down the leadoff spot whenever he’s in the lineup (though he didn’t play today, Opening Day, thanks to the flu). Jerry Hairston Jr. started in left field in game one, but will be all over the diamond this season. He’s a backup second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, centerfielder and beer salesman. In 2008, his first season in Cincy, he played in 80 games and hit .326. If he can do that for a full season, Dusty will be a very happy man.
As for the backups, we come to the greatest disagreement on the Reds roster. Darnell McDonald toiled in the minors for 11 years before getting the call this weekend for his first major league Opening Day roster. He beat out Johnny Gomes for the final spot. Gomes ended up hitting just .244 for the spring, but he was on fire at the beginning and eventually led the team in HR and RBI. But alas, it wasn’t enough. He was assigned to AAA Louisville, but has not decided if he’ll accept the assignment as of press time. As for McDonald, he hit .300 in the spring and wants to get his first steady action of his career, but I sure as hell don’t know anything about this Crash Davis lookin’ ass. Chris Dickerson will be the leftfielder most of the time, and especially against left-handed pitching. He made his MLB debut just this past August, but hit .304 in 102 at-bats and followed that at a .323 clip in the spring. He’s one of the fastest players in the Reds organization but also has some power. A 5-tool player, as the kids say. And rounding out the active roster is Laynce Nix, and he is just very eh. He has played 10 games or less in each of the last four seasons for the Brewers and the Rangers and has a grand total of one hit in the last two years.
And now a scene from the Cincinnati Reds/Midwest Swing version of Major League: “One hit? He got one goddamn hit? Hey, you can’t say goddamn on the Internet. Ah hell, nobody’s reading anyway.”