By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — When Scooter Gennett awoke Monday morning, even before his first cup of coffee, his wife greeted him with, “You’re now second in the All-Star balloting.”
Gennett’s reaction? A soft, non-celebratory and almost ho-hum, “Oh, great.”
As anybody who has watched Gennett in a Cincinnati Reds uniform the last year-and-a-half, personal accomplishments are not what he is all about. He is about dirtying his uniform with a hard slide or a hard dive. As a little guy he is all about doing the little things to assure his team can win a baseball game.
Even when he hit four home runs in a game last June he was low profile about it. He was the least excited about it as the media and teammates swarmed him afterward.
With just three days left in the fan vote, Gennett trails rookie Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies by 200,000 votes and Braves’ fans are stuffing the ballot boxes. Even if he isn’t voted as a starter by the fans, he could be voted in by the players or picked by National League manager Dave Roberts.
And Gennett could not care less. He would definitely consider it an honor, but he doesn’t lie awake at night believing he has to gather three hits the next day to catch the eyes of the voters. Oh, he wants three hits, but he want three hits to help the Cincinnati Reds win a baseball game.
“Whether I make it or I don’t make it, it is not going to make me upset, it is not going to make me happier,” said Gennett. “It is just one of those things that’s individual and that’s not what gets me going every day.”
There are probably three legitimate Reds All-Star candidates in Gennett, Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto, but because the Reds are in last place and because all 15 teams have to have at least one player on the team, slots for the Reds are limited.
“It is nice to see that there are people out there who recognize what I am doing,” he said. “It is great, and all, that Reds fans are supporting me, but at the same time it is not too important to me.”
Gennett is happier with that is happening inside his own clubhouse than he is with what is inside a ballot box. The Reds are 14-5 since June 10, the best record in the majors.
“It is a different atmosphere in here right now,” said Gennett. “We have mostly the same guys that started the season, there is a different energy level, a different aura. It is nice coming into the clubhouse knowing the guys are happy to get out there and play and win ball games.
“We went through a pretty tough patch early on and we worked through it and now we’re showing up and playing the game the right way and up to the expectations we thought we could play.”
A tough patch? The team started the season 3-and-15, costing manager Bryan Price his job. Bench coach Jim Riggleman was named interim manager and lost his first three games in St. Louis. After that, though, the Reds are 33-30 and playing better every day.
They just finished an 11-game stretch against top-shelf teams and went 8-and-3 — 4-0 against second place Chicago (Cubs), 2-1 against first place Atlanta and 2-2 against first place Milwaukee.
And speaking of Milwaukee, at the end of spring training Milwaukee pushed Gennett out their clubhouse door, unceremoniously designating him for assignment. The Reds picked him up and he had a sensational 2017. Many thought, “That’s a fluke.” Gennett proved it isn’t by playing even better this year — .332, 13 homers, 54 runs batted in.
Certainly, that makes his chest swell a little bit, going from the DFA list to the All-Star list, right?
“Yeah, that’s true,” he said “But I think my performance speaks for itself whether it is an All-Star nod or not,” he said “The performance out on the field takes care of everything when it comes to what you expect out of yourself as a player, In the off-season, when I’m working out, I just want to be the best player I can possibly be to help the team win. I don’t want to be the best player to make the All-Star game.
“And there is nothing you get out of the game any more,” he said. “The statistics don’t count and there is no World Series home field advantage that goes to the winner any more,” he added. “Yeah, it would be an honor and I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to be an All-Star,” he said. “It is not that it isn’t a good thing. It’s just that I don’t care much about it. It’s individual. And I don’t get up every day and say, ‘I need to play good so I make the All-Star game.’ I don’t work out in the off-season to make the All-Star team.”
WHO IS THE LOST man in the recent offensive explosion up and down the Reds lineup? It has to be shortstop Jose Peraza. Over his last 18 games he is hitting .296 with three home runs, 10 RBI and five stolen bases (the same amount as Billy Hamilton).
Manager Jim Riggleman, of course, noticed every piece and parcel of Peraza’s contributions.
“Peraza is more selective at the plate, even though he is not going to walk a lot,” said Riggleman. Peraza has 17 walks in 340 plate appearances. “That’s only thing about his game, his on-base percentage. Another year or to, when he refines what he is swinging at and what he is taking, he’ll move toward a .350 on-base average and you’ll have a heck of a player.
“He can put the bat on the ball, he gets a lot of hits, he runs the bases and he is fine on defense. I’m really happy to have him out there,” said Riggleman. “He has been better in the last six weeks, taking more walks and swinging less at sliders in the dirt.
“I’m not surprised by his power because when he hits the ball it has a great sound,” Riggleman added. “It really jumps off his bat, usually more in the gaps than out of the ball park. He is 200 pounds, a strong athlete.
“The more he learns the strike zone — well, he is a tremendous worker. We have to tone him down before games from taking grounds ball, swings in the batting cage. This guy loves to play baseball and his worst day is when we let him know he is going to have a day off. He wants no part of that.”
Riggleman senses the confidence growing in the 24-year-old Dominican, “Because he knows he is our shortstop, instead of trying to win the job, he knows he is our shortstop and that settles him down a little bit.”