By Dave Crumbley
The treasure is located 20,000 leagues under the baseball sea. Leather bound and seaweed smothered, the tome’s pages lay out the blue print for guaranteed small-market success. Spurned by superstar free agents commanding colossal sums, the farm system warms the hearts of “real” fans more than anything, for they are the lifeblood which sustains hope during the lean times. And make no mistake, the times are often lean.
Prospects are to be coveted and hoarded. Why would you trade a golden ticket? Veterans are covered in warts. They command high salaries and are often divas. 35 year old first baseman aren’t keen on moving to shortstop on a whim. Dudes demand playing time. Oldsters are in it for their own self-glorification, not the glory of the team. If they weren’t, why wouldn’t they bench themselves, knowing they have a perennial all-star behind them? Small-market fans shun immediate gratification as they are in it for the long haul. The current crop of kids in AA will lead the division push of the 2016. That’s the window, don’t prop up that ladder quite yet.
The Milwaukee Brewers cheated. They traded highly coveted prospects for high dollar head case Zack Greinke. They jettisoned additional prospects to acquire Shaun Marcum. The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers had gone all-in, and it didn’t even matter. The Reds had Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake, a three headed monster of talented pitchers drafted and developed by the Reds. Edinson Volquez, an acquisition by previous General Manager Wayne Krivsky, was straight up filthy and a full season plus out of Tommy John surgery. Coming to the team prior to the 2008 season in exchange for superstar Josh Hamilton, it was a responsible, grown up move. Home runs are exciting, and the team needed pitching. In 2011, they finally have it.
After a successful rookie campaign, and grueling sixteen Major League starts in 2011, Wood has spent the last two months in AAA as the picture of mediocrity. Volquez has dominated his minor league competition, but struggled when recalled by the Reds and quickly thrown back on a bus to Kentucky. Homer Bailey has a 5.02 ERA and 1.483 WHIP over the course of sixty-nine career starts spanning five seasons. He’s “still young”, of course. So nothing to worry about there. Mike Leake overcame an early season bout with petty larceny and ineffectiveness to claw his way back to Cincinnati and has had a successful year.
With each losing series, the real fans mobilized their defenses. It was randomness, the numbers are on their side. Look at the run differential for crying out loud. No need to panic, the division crown is ours. A trade of our young talent wasn’t just unnecessary, it would be taken as a sign of malice.
Sometimes it feels like names such as Todd Frazier and Chris Valaika have been kicking around Cincinnati organizational depth charts since I was in high school. Slugging 1B Yonder Alonso was recently promoted, ostensibly for the sole reason of proving that their attempt to convert him to left field had been nothing less than an abject failure. A disastrous weekend on Chicago’s south side was enough for Dusty Baker: He was done as a left fielder.
Stuck behind Joey Votto, the reigning MVP, Alonso is now dividing his time between pinch hitting and doing defensive drills at third base. He’ll be twenty-five next April. Another golden ticket hoarded, rotting in a dark basement under a pile of boxes from LaRosa’s Pizza and boxes of binders filled with Kroger coupons. 2016 never looked so good.
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