BY PAUL DAUGHERTY | PDAUGHERTY@ENQUIRER.COM
Kris Benson, George Benson, Benson & Hedges. Freddy Garcia, Jerry Garcia. Jon Lieber, Jon Stewart. Rod Stewart. Does it matter? Iím getting Josh Fogg-y. Do the Reds want to win a division in 2008, or just a few more hearts and minds? Do they want to go for it or go near it?
When the Reds lured Dusty (Win Now) Baker and spent major whipout on Francisco Cordero, the playoff ship pulled from drydock. Bob Castellini was on the Lido Deck with a mai-tai in his hand. When the Reds bailed on an Erik Bedard deal and traded their best centerfielder for a prospect, they dropped anchor in third place.
Now, maybe, theyíre shopping for a Fogg-type. Wow. The í08 playoff boat has run aground. Definitely.
If the Reds want to win 81, thereís no need for further tinkering. Forget the retreads. Too many Miltons, Lidles and Lohses have made too much Reds money lately.
Livan Hernandez, thanks but no thanks. Brett Tomko? You must be joking.
The Reds can get to .500 with what theyíve got. Thatís nine games better than last year. Itís progress. Use the year to judge the kid pitchers. See if Johnny Cueto passes the audition and Homer Bailey makes a needed leap. Hope you didnít overvalue Edinson Volquez, who only has two major league-worthy pitches.
Cross your fingers and pray for rain when Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo donít start. Hope all your Ifs magically become Whens.
If the Reds desire more than average, they need to step right up, take a chance, spin a wheel. Go after Joe Blanton. Blanton is 27. He has won 42 games in three seasons, while averaging 215 innings a year. He went 14-10 for the Oakland Aís last season, in 230 innings.
Heís arbitration eligible for the first time this year, meaning the Reds would control him for three seasons. By all accounts, heís got an Aaron Harang mentality on the hill. Blanton allowed just 16 home runs last year, never a bad stat for someone pitching in Pretty Good American Ball Park.
Oakland wizard GM Billy Beane has decided to dismantle his team again. This offseason he has traded his best pitcher (Dan Haren) and one of his best hitters (Nick Swisher) for nine prospects. Heíll listen to offers for Blanton. The Reds have what interests him.
Whatís it going to be?
The Reds couldnít land the lefty Bedard because the Orioles wanted Jay Bruce and significant others in return. Highway met robbery. The Reds made a U-turn. Fair enough. Theyíre not in the market for Johan Santana, Haren has gone to Arizona, Dontrelle Willis to Detroit. The Giants didnít want to part with Matt Cain.
That leaves Blanton and the Retreads.
Itís hard parting with prospects, especially pitchers. But right now, the Reds have three kids they believe will be in the majors this year, four if you count Matt Maloney. At best, two of the four will pan out. If you have to trade one of them, and a Joey Votto and another lesser player Ė Ryan Freel? Norris Hopper? Ė to land a 27-year-old workhorse you control for three years, is that too traumatic?
Baker and Cordero showed Castellini meant business. But the dealís only half done. Unless they add a solid No. 3 starter, the Reds are in the twilight zone between contending now and waiting for the fruit to ripen. How important will Cordero be if three nights out of five, he doesnít work? Why does it still appear that Christmas in RedsLand is always Dec. 32?
Castellini thought his two most important offseason tasks were to hire a manager his players would respect and to get some relief for his relief corps. Check and check. Now, heís halfway across the Atlantic and doesnít know which way to row. If the Reds really are rolling for retreads, itíd seem the decision already has been made. They wonít win this year with Josh Fogg.
The future looks good, though. The future usually does