By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave wondering how many times I can shake my neck without getting a crick while watching all the different ways the Cincinnati Reds win games.
—TRADE OR STAND PAT: The clock is ticking closer and closer for Cincinnati Reds General Manager Nick Krall. Should he stand pat or try to fill an inside straight?
The trade deadline is just three weeks away. Do you try to fix what isn’t broken or do you try to oil it up?
Yes, the starting pitching and, to an extent, the bullpen is the team’s weakest link. The team earned run average is 4.94, 27th highest in MLB. The starters? An ugly 5.71, 27th highest.
Should Krall seek a starting pitcher or two by the August 1 deadline? It probably would cost him some valuable prospects.
As bad as the pitching has been, the Reds win day after day after day with an offense sustained by aggression on the basepaths with a few home runs sprinkled in.
The Reds have built a two-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers. On May 23, they were 20-28 and in fourth place. Since then, with mostly atrocious pitching, they are 27-11.
Here’s the head-scratcher. Can the Reds hold on until mid-August when starting pitchers Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo return? If Krall knew that, he probably would abstain from pitcher-hunting.
Former Reds General Manager Jim Bowden, now writing for The Athletic web-site, put in his few cents worth.
“Nick Krall is the front-runner for MLB Executive of the Year,” Bowden wrote. “He should trade for two veteran starting pitchers who can provide at least five or six quality innings per start. It’s the strategy I used with the ’95 Reds when I traded for David Wells, Mark Portugal and Dave Burba.’’
True. The Reds made the playoffs in ’95 and were swept out of the NLCS in four straight by Atlanta. Then the team went 81-81, 76-86 and 77-85 the next three seasons and didn’t make the playoffs.
My vote, which is nothing but a hanging chad, is to hang on, sloopy. Don’t distrupt the future for a couple of rent-a-hurlers. The NL Central is as weak as my tennis backhand was. The Reds can win it as Bruno Mars sang it, “Just the Way You Are.”
—QUOTE: From former maverick general manager Bill Veeck: “Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make.” (And if you don’t make a trade, you can always send a little person like 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel up to pinch-hit.)
—OFF THE MATT: Elly De La Cruz’s visage is all over the place, which is understandable. He is dynamic, he is flashy, his smile would light up an old photographer’s darkroom and his talent in all facets of the game is not off the charts, he has his own chart.
But how about Matt McLain? While De La Cruz’s arrival has helped push the Reds from the doldrums to become America’s Team, it was McLain’s arrival that turned on the ignition switch.
McLain was called up from Class AAA Louisville on May 14 when the Reds were 18-22 and in fifth place, five games out of first place.
Since McLain’s appearance, the Reds are 30-17 and in first place.
There is no flash in McLain’s game, nothing like De La Cruz. He is a down-and-dirty player. In addition to consistent at bats, that included a stretch of getting on base in 23 straight games, his defense is eye-popping. He is more acrobaic than Jules Leotard, ‘The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.”
Manager David Bell boldly dropped the rookie into the important No. 2 spot in the batting order and McLain has established permanent residence.
His slash line is .305/.374/.537 with a .911 OPS. He has seven homers, 28 RBI, and five stolen bases in 47 games. A day off? Forget about it.
And he is fast. Well, not as fast as De La Cruz, the self-proclaimed “Fastest man in the world.” But he is but a half-step behind.
If the Reds, buoyed by rookies De La Cruz, McLain, Spencer Steer and Andrew Abbott, win the division — and why not? — they will be the first team to lose 100 games in a season then win their division the next.
—GONE, NEARLY FORGOTTEN: An interesting but meaningless fact: Four former Reds pitchers are on the American League All-Star staff — Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Kevin Gausman and Michael Lorenzen.
There are no former position-player Reds on the AL roster and only one on the National League roster, Nick Castellanos.
When the Reds let all those players go, the fans and the media howled like a coyote at the moon.
But what did they get in return? Well, so far, no players that are with the Reds. . .yet.
For Castillo, they received Noelvi Marte (expected to be a star), Edwin Arroyo (could be a star) and pitcher Levi Stoudt, who has made a couple of cameo appearances for the Reds. Marte is the Reds’ No. 2 top prospect and Arroyo is No. 3. Both should move up a notch because the No. 1 propsect was Elly De La Cruz, firmly entrenched with the Reds.
For Sonny Gray, the received highly-touted pitcher 20-year-old Chase Petty, who is 0-1 with a 1.13 earned run average in eight starts for the High Class-A Dayton Dragons. He is the Reds No. 7 top prospect.
Kevin Gausman, Mike Lorenzen and Nick Castellanos all left via free agency, giving the Reds a few draft pick compensati
—QUOTE: From ST. Louis Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton, picked as a back-up when the Reds’ Dave Concepcion was voted as the starter: “If I ain’t startin’, I am departin’.” (A year later Templeton was departin’ for San Diego, traded to the Padres for Ozzie Smith.)
—RAREST OF THE RARE: Which is more rare, a perfect game or four home runs hit by one player in a game? Not even close. There have been 25 perfectly pitched games and only 18 four-homer games.
The last perfecto was pitched last monty by Domingo Herman of the New York Yankees against Oakland. Cincinnati’s Tom Browning is one of the 25.
Did you know that 13 perfect games have been ruined with two outs in the ninth inning?
Babe Ruth never hit four in a game, but teammates Lou Gehrig did, as did Willie Mays and Dayton’s Mike Schmidt. The last to do it was Arizona’s J.D. Martinez in September, 2017. In June of 2017, Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett did it.
In September of 1993, Mark Whiten had three homers against the Reds and relief pitcher Rob Dibble reportedly said, “He ain’t gonna hit one off me.”
He did. Number four.
—NOT EVEN AN ‘E’ FOR EFFORT: Incredibly, two National League Central teams lost games Wednesday on throwing errors in the ninth inning.
The St. Louis Cardinals led the Miami Marlins, 9-8, in the bottom of the ninth. Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hick nearly threw a ball into the upper deck after fielding a ground and two runs scored, a 10-9 Miami walk-off victory.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs were tied, 3-3, in the ninth. Milwaukee third baseman Brian Anderson threw wildly to first and the winning run scored.
—QUOTE: From fictional broadcaster Cliff Murdoch, played by John Candy in the movie ‘Rookie of the Year:’ “I just figured out why the Cubs lose every year. They’ve got more talent in the stands than they do in the field.” (Don’t tell that to Milwaukee.)