By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, watching in amazement as the Cincinnati Reds cling close to a wild card spot while parading pitcher after pitcher after pitcher from Class AAA and Class AA to the big league mound. And none melt in a puddle of nervous perspiration.
—NEW CAPTAIN HOOK: Say what you want about former Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden, known not-so-fondly in many quarters as Ol’ Leatherpants, but he knew the three most important components of a major league baseball team.
Behind his desk was large sign and it said, “Pitching, Pitching, Pitching.”
It was Bowden who, in 1995 brought in pitchers David Wells, Mark Portugal, Dave Burba, Pete Schourek, Rick Reed and Mike Remlinger. They all contributed to become the last Reds team to make it into the National League Championship Series. . .28 seasons ago.
And now we have the 2023 Reds, calling up Dial-A-Pitcher to find any arm that won’t fall off while snapping off a sweeper..
Yes, the times have changed dramatically, but this is fascinating when one considers what is happening today.
The 1975 Big Red Machine used only 12 pitchers the entire season. Manager Sparky Anderson was called Captain Hook for his perceived quickness at pulling pitchers.
But the ’75 Reds had 22 complete games. Rubber-armed Pedro Borbon appeared in 67 games, Clay Carroll 56 and Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III 58.
In contrast, the 2023 Reds have used 39 different pitchers. . .and counting. They have zero complete games. When Carson Spiers started Sunday’s game he was the seventh different rookie starting pitcher to make his debut this season for the Reds.
Is 39 pitchers a record? Well, close. The 2017 Seattle Mariners used 40 different pitchers, but the Reds have nearly a month to surpass that and it’s odds-on they do it.
And the real Captain Hook? Current Reds manager David Bell.
Appearances? With a month left in the season, Ian Gibaut has appeared 64 times, Buck Farmer 62, Alexis Diaz 61, Lucas Sims 58 and Alex Young 57.
—QU4TE: From Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who loved the three-run homer but appreciated good pitching: “Nobody likes to hear it because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same. Pitching.” (For proof, see ‘Cincinnati Reds, 2023.’)
—AND THE WINNER IS: If you are over 60 and still use paper and pen, grab a sheet and a Bic and write this down. . .and I will even sign it.
The Cincinnati Reds WILL win a wild card spot. After they finish the current series with the Seattle Mariners, 17 of their last 20 games are against teams below .500. Only Minneosta owns a winning record and the Twins aren’t very dynamic.
The Reds finish with three vs. St. Louis, three at Detroit, three at New York (Mets), three vs. Minnesota, three vs. Pittsburgh, two at Cleveland and three at St. Louis.
And a big tip of the cap to the computer schedule-maker.
—THE ELLY DILEMMA: There is no doubt that Elly De La Cruz puts the opposition into Defcom 1 when he gets on base. He frightens the other team into immobility.
If only he didn’t strike out so much, if only he got on base more. He has struck out 122 times in 341 plate appearances, second highest percentage in MLB, an Adam Dunn-ish pace. And he has walked only 23 times, his on-base average is .294 and he has only 34 RBI.
There are days when he could swing a Louisville Slugger in a crowded Skyline chili parlor and not hit a plate of five-way.
In his last seven games he is 6 for 33 with 17 stirkeouts and has homered once in his last 20 games, yet manager David Bell continues to bat him clean-up. And since stealing three bases in a game on July 8, he has only seven swipes since then.
But he remains the player with the braids and dangling jewelry and 60-watt smile fans want to watch, hoping he gets on and steals or busts up some chairs in the upper deck.
Lest we forget. . .he is 21 years old. And he has done something that three other rookies on the Red have done. He, Spencer Steer, Matt McLain and Christian Encanacion-Strand all have had four-hit games.
—STAND UP, PHIL: When diminutive Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto walked into the New York Yankees clubhouse, pitcher/class clown Lefty Gomez was ready.
He told the clubhouse manager, “Give Rizzuto a stool he can stand on in the shower so the water doesn’t get cold by the time it gets down to the little runt.”
—WALK ON BY: The back-to-back walk-off shockers by the Reds over the Cubs came without a walk-off home run, although Nick Martini’s home run in the ninth tied the first walk-off game.
There once was a master of the walk-off home run. Hall of Famer Jim Thome hit 13 walk-off home runs during his career. It’s a shocker that he hasn’t drowned because that’s at least 13 buckets of Gatorade dumped on his head.
Most players don’t have 13 walk-offs of any kind, let alone 13 of the home run variety.
—THE ‘TJ’ TRIO: The Reds seem to have cornered the market on plays named TJ — TJ Friedl, TJ Hopkins and Tejay Antone.
Antone made an emotional comeback Saturday with a scoreless inning after missing more than two years with Tommy John surgery.
That prompted great friend Alan Saliwanchik to ask, “Does the Tejay in Antone’s initials stand for Tommy John?”
—PICKING ON SMAAL FRIES: When the University of Dayton, a school that gives aid based on need, took on Ilinois State, a school that gives 63 scholarships, the Flyers were fed to the expected meat grinder, 41-0.
So I checked some other Saturday scores to see results when a small fry school was the christian facing the big fry lion schools.
Oregon 81, Portland State 7.
Oklahoma 73, Arkansas State 0.
Ole Miss 73, Mercer 0.
USC 66, Nevada 14.
Kansas State 45, Southeast Missouri 0.
And it was a bad day for small schools from Tennesse: Notre Dame 56, Tennessee State 3. Alabama 56, Middle Tennesse State 7. Georgia 43, Tennessee-Martin 7.
Those game were like a Pit Bull against a Chihuahua, a Persian Cat against a Mountain Lion or an alligator against an egret.
There were, though, some profitable outliers.
Fresno State was paid $1.35 million to visit West Layayette, IN., and they upset Purdue, 39-35. Northern Illinois was paid $1.1 million to please come to Boston and take a beating from Boston College. NIU won, 27-24. And Texas State pocketed $375,000 to take a two-hour bus ride to Waco. They rode home in style after beating Baylor, 42-31.
—TAKE A HIKE: When Ron Bolt coached baseball at the University of Arkansas, he was thrown out of a game for expressing excessive and exhorbitant verbal exuberance on balls and strikes calls.
“Once the umpire tossed me, he told me to go where he could not see me,” said Bolt. “So, naturally, I went and stood on home plate.”
—UMPIRE ODDITIES: Speaking of umpires, an MLB umpire cannot eject another umpire. If they could, Angel Hernandez would be undressing in the third innings of many games.
But it happened in the minors, in a Frontier League game between the New York Boulders and the Tri-Cities ValleyCats. Boulders player Tucker Nathans and first base umpire Warren Nicholson became embroiled in an argument.
Nicholson ejected the player and the argument continued. The umpire shoved the player in the mid-section and the crew chief ejected the first base umpire.
***And there was a first in umpiring of the female nature. Rachel Balkovec manages the Class A Tampa Tarpons, the first female manager in organized baseball. Isabella Robb is a female umpire in the Florida State League.
The two engaged in an argument and Robb ejected Balkovec, the first female-female ejection duo in the history of organized ball. Do you think maybe they concocted it before the game so they could be historic?
A friend wants to know: “Which one got in the final word?”
—NO KIN: Nobody asked, but Toronto rookie shortstop Mason McCoy is not related to me. So no free Blue Jays gear for me.
—USELESS INFO: Just something to finish off this epistle. During his career, Reds outfielder Jake (Broken Toe) Fraley has faced 19 3-and-0 counts. Not once has he swung at a 3-and-0.
Psssst. Hey pitchers. Fraley is a snake in the grass, just waiting for that 3-and-0 cripple fastball as Jeff Brantely says it, “Right down Broadway.” Fraley might hit it to 42nd Streert.