BY JOHN FAY / ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Reds won't be able to fill the Sean Casey personality profile in the clubhouse this year. Casey is a one-of-a-kind person.
"The nicest guy in the world," Ken Griffey Jr. said. Given that Casey was the de facto captain of the Reds last year, his departure signals a leadership void. While no one will step into the Casey role, the players don't see that as a problem.
Keeping things loose
"There are a lot of different kinds of leaders," veteran pitcher Kent Mercker ¹ said. "Sean Casey was a guy who got you all fired up. David Weathers and me are guys who try to keep you loose. That's important, too."
Mercker and Weathers keep things loose by making fun of everyone.
"You've got to make fun of people," Mercker said. "You've got to get made fun of. That's part of baseball."
Weathers heard LaRue talking about deer hunting in Texas one day.
"He sets up at the watering hole and waits till the deer come," Weathers said. "That's like hunting for me at the cheeseburger stand. Sooner or later, I'm going to show up."
Keeping everyone in line
Mercker said the best leader he's been around is Terry Pendleton ² when he was with the Braves.
"We had a lot of young players," Mercker said. "He was like your dad. When he raised his voice, you listened. He was a leader on and off the field. He's the one guy that stands out to me."
Leading by example
Rich Aurilia, one of two position players with more than 10 years in the big leagues, subscribes to the lead-by-example philosophy.
"It's not so much being vocal," he said. "It's the way you carry yourself, the example you set with the rest of the team.
"We've got a good mix of veterans and younger guys. I don't see leadership as a problem here."
Ken Griffey Jr., the senior member of the club in terms of major-league service, is not a vocal leader. But when a guy with 536 home runs shows up to take early batting practice nearly every time it's available, it rubs off on younger players.
"Junior sets a good example with the way he works in BP," hitting coach Chris Chambliss said. "He hits the ball all over. He could pull everything and hit long home runs. But he works on driving the ball to left and center. Adam (Dunn) and (Austin) Kearns have picked up on that."
¹ We didn't just seek out Kent Mercker's opinion on clubhouses by happenstance. Since starting with the Atlanta Braves in 1989, Mercker has pitched for Baltimore (1996), Cleveland (1996), the Reds (1997), St. Louis (1998-99), Boston (1999), Anaheim (2000), Colorado (2002), the Reds again (2003), the Braves again (2003), the Cubs (2004) and, once again, the Reds (2005-06). So you see, he's been in a few clubhouses. Mercker's fellow reliever David Weathers has been around, too: Toronto (1991-92), Florida (1993-96), New York Yankees (1996-97), Cleveland (1997), the Reds (1998), Milwaukee (1998-2001), the Cubs (2001), the New York Mets (2002-04), Houston (2004), Florida (2004) and back to the Reds (2005-06).
² In 1991, the Atlanta Braves made history by becoming the first team to reach the World Series just one season after having the game's worst record. It so happens that was the season the Braves added Terry Pendleton as a free agent. To be sure, most credit for the Braves' turnaround rightly goes to the maturation of a starting rotation led by John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Still, given the command Mercker attributes to Pendleton in the Braves' clubhouse, it's fair to say Pendleton's veteran leadership at least contributed. Pendleton, by the way, has been the Braves' hitting coach since November 2001.