By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — One can only imagine the scenarios in the front offices of the Detroit Tigers and the Miami Marlins almost daily.
They most likely take a seat in their comfortable black leather office chairs and scan the results of baseball games around the country. That’s when the teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing and head-shaking commences.
In Detroit, they see what Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Iglesias is doing and they wonder, “How did we let this guy get away?” After last season the Tigers basically told Iglesias, “We don’t want you, we can’t use you, don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.”
In Miami, they see what Reds handyman Derek Dietrich is doing and they wonder, “Whose idea was it to let this guy go because for certain we could use him.”
So Iglesias and Dietrich were job-hunting last winter and nobody burned up their cellphones offering them jobs. That’s when the Reds, executives Dick Williams and Nick Krall, sniffed some bargains, like shopping at baseball’s Wal-Mart instead of Neiman Marcus.
They offered both minor-league contracts with invitations to major league camp for spring training. Both, of course, won spots on the 25-man roster. The cost to the Reds?
They are paying Dietrich $2 million for this season and they are paying Iglesias $2.5 million — baseball’s Bargains of the Decade. For what they are contributing teams routinely pay $25 million to $30 million a year.
Most fans won’t argue the point that Dietrich and Iglesias are, right now, the two best players on the team. Dietrich leads the team with 17 home runs in 55 games. Iglesias leads the team with a .315 batting average and is the best in the National League at driving in runs with runners in scoring position.
And on defense Iglesias is Mandrake the Magician, a master of legerdemain with a baseball glove.
Dietrich is a free spirit in the clubhouse and Iglesias is a free spirit on the field with his blind-look throws and glove-hand flips and behind-the-back tosses.
Dietrich professes to be as comfortable in a Reds uniform as a turtle in its shell.
“I feel great with this group in here, just awesome,” said Dietrich. “I’m starting to love each and every one of them. I know it has been just a few months and we’ll have some differences along the way, but I can’t wait each day to come to go to battle with these guys.”
Of his success, he says it with emphasis. “It’s the people and how comfortable I feel here and how the Reds let me be myself and do what I knew I was capable of doing from day one.”
Dietrich will tell you, with a sly grin, that his success is due to Chain Power — that gold necklace draped around his neck that resembles a nautical rope that ties the USS John F. Kennedy air craft carrier to the dock.
“When I do interviews, I see kids looking at me and somebody said, ‘We’re looking at your chain, can we hold it?’” said Dietrich. “I said no because they might run up the stairs with it.
“Scott Van Pelt (ESPN) wanted to know how much it cost and I said, ‘I can’t tell you. My mom would kill me if she found out,’” Dietrich said. “It gives me some power. I started wearing one in high school, but it was a lot smaller and a lot cheaper. It has evolved.”
Reds manager David Bell could not be more appreciative of Dietrich’s contributions. After Dietrich’s three home runs Tuesday night, Bell said, “What can you say? He is locked in. He has been swinging the bat all year with a solid approach. It is more than a hot streak.
“He knows who he is as a hitter,” Bell added. “He is hitting with power with a great approach at the plate. We knew when we signed him he had the ability to move around on the field.”
Dietrich has played second base, first base and left field, “And that versatility gives him more opportunities,” said Bell. “He is comfortable playing here, loves playing in Cincinnati, loves playing in front of our fans. He can be exactly who he is and he plays hard, competes, he’s tough and likes to be up there. He is not afraid of any situation. It is nice to have him as part of the team and it is even nicer that he loves being here.”
Like Dietrich, Iglesias figured to be an off-the-bench piece this season, a pinch-hitter and a fill-in. But when second baseman Scooter Gennett hurt himself in spring training, Bell slid shortstop Jose Peraza over to second and plugged in Iglesias at shortstop. That plug-in has been electric.
What Iglesias does on defense is almost beyond words and description and Bell subscribes to that.
“Ah, man, the impact he has on defense is hard to put into words or to quantify it,” he said. “By making the plays he does, he keeps guys off base, keeps the other team’s opportunities down and allows our pitchers to throw less pitches.
“From the way he practices to the way he loves it is special,” Bell added. “He wants every ball hit to him and has a style about him that makes him better. His style is that he is able to make plays because he has a freedom to the way he plays that other guys just don’t have in their bag.”
The freedom/style is the way Iglesias is given permission to throw behind his back, throw without looking to bases, flip double play grounders out of his glove.
As Bell says, he practices all that and one of the day’s best shows is to watch Iglesias do his pre-game routine. It is entertainment worthy of a price.
“Yes, he practices those plays,” said Bell. “The throws to first base without looking. . .yes, he has been as impactful at one position as any player I’ve ever been around.”
Dietrich and Iglesias — $4.5 million well-spent.