By Mark Chalifoux
Athens NEWS Sports Columnist
The Cincinnati Reds insult their fans by making them pay for a poor product. They insult their fans by not doing anything to make their team better. They insult their fans by refusing to trade Adam Dunn for anything less than a Cy Young winner (from this century). Before, some of that could have been blamed on incompetence and poor management. After I attended the Reds game last Tuesday, one thing is now clear. The Reds have changed their stance. Instead of merely doing nothing for the fans, the Reds have decided to actively work against them.
Cincinnati mailed in its season a long time ago. It was more than a month back when I wrote that all the Reds had left to offer fans was the ballpark experience. It's not ideal, it's not fair to season ticket holders and die-hard fans, but that's the way things go sometimes. It's something a lot of teams go through; every now and then the pieces of the puzzle just don't have a chance of coming together.
That was painfully clear early in the season, but the Reds still had the ballpark experience. Not much, but it was something. Now they are trying to destroy that by putting Mike Stanton into games.
Stanton wasn't always a bad pitcher. He's got a career ERA under 4; his problem (I assume) is that he's getting old (he turned 40 in June). He's lost his touch. And there's absolutely no reason for the Reds to continue sending him out to the mound. The season may be over, but it's not completely lost. The team could be using this time to try out new pitchers. They could give some of the young arms a chance to see what they can do at the Major League level and move a couple of the starters to the bullpen. If they want to find out what players have Major-League-caliber stuff, now is the time to test them out. The only logical reason the Reds keep sending Stanton to the mound is because they hate their fans.
It may seem like I'm unfairly piling on Stanton. After all, he's just one of the many poor pitchers prized by the Reds. The problem with Stanton, though, is that time absolutely stands still when he enters the game. His 34-pitch top-of-the-ninth inning Tuesday was excruciating to watch live. He takes so much time between pitches that sitting in the ballpark watching him actually becomes an unpleasant experience.
I've seen a lot of sporting events during my time as a fan, but nothing was as dreadful as that half-inning. I'd much rather watch the Bobcats on the football field turning the ball over seven times during a rout than watch another Mike Stanton pitching performance.
Live baseball is fairly boring as it is. More than any other major sport, it relies as much on the atmosphere at the ballpark as on the action on the field. That makes what Stanton does even more impressive. It's easy to get bored at an NBA game when the action falls apart or when the teams stop caring because there's nothing else going on. At a baseball game, where a fan derives a fair amount of entertainment from things not happening on the field, it's nearly impossible for the action to get so boring that the experience actually becomes unpleasant.
The Reds may have other reasons they let Stanton pitch (blackmail?), but if they cared at all for the fans, they would throw them a bone during his appearances. If they are forced to send Stanton to the mound, the team could at least make hot dogs half-price during his appearance or have another mascot race on the Jumbo-tron to keep fans entertained. The team needs to show it still cares about the fans.
That is, unless my theory is right -- that maybe the Reds really do hate their fans. If that's the case, Mike Stanton will be pitching well into his 50s.