For me personally, spring training and being able to "see" the Reds allows me the ability to speak of them again...I'm never comfortable speaking about potential trades or of young players I've never seen (now that doesn't keep others from having expert opinions in that area )...
First, I'm taking my family to see the Reds on 3/27 against the Twins...I originally got 4 tix in Section 22 (Row G) but have a chance to get seats closer to home plate which would make the game for fun for my girls (well, me too )...I'd love to pick the new tix up but only if I can sell the others...if anyone is interested I'd love to sell to a RZ'er...the seats are $14 each but would take BO from anyone here)...just email me asap and the tickets are yours...(I apologize if this isn't the appropriate place)...
So that it doesn't seem like I'm simply making this "swap shop", a synthesis of my preseason thoughts:
1. Dusty: I watch with skepticism but think it premature to criticize him until I see both the roster construction and the use of pitching staff and Votto/Bruce...I do laugh at the notion of anyone "off the street" being equipped to do this job, as I live that perspective with my job ("Come on man, being a HS basketball coach can't be that hard...just roll out the balls and play, right??")...
What I like about Dusty: His confidence, his seemingly strong ability to relate to all his players, his STRONG desire to win without appearing too volatile (Ray Knight, anyone??)
What I fear about Dusty: Inability to creatively use Bruce almost daily even if we use Patterson a lot in CF...it's not that hard too get the guy regular AB's in both CF and RF IMHO...
Things we clearly should be in a holding pattern about: Use of pitchers, especially the pups, lineup construction (can we at least play a week or 2 of the season) and along those lines "vet love" (nothing has demonstratively shown up with this so far)
2. Roster Construction: How does the hierarchy of roster decisions fall between Dusty, WK and as time passes, Jocketty???...I'm not convinced we don't have a plan in place (for me, signing Cordero and solidifying the bullpen is a necessary piece for building with our young talent, not just for contending-our young pitching needs to turn games over to a bullpen clearly better than last year if they are to confidently develop and for Baker to carefully use them) but only time will tell if the organization can clearly, carefully follow their blueprint...and no, they don't need to tell me about it...of all I hear about WK, the least important criticism is that he doesn't communicate well about the organizational plan...hey, if one is in place we'll be able to see it as time rolls on...
3. Specific Roster Decisions:
Jay Bruce: keep him, play him, trust him...Hamilton started the season as the 4th OF, but with exception of his injuries he became an everyday player...label him as you wish, just play him...
Joey Votto: read above
Keppinger: SS/1B platoon, some occasional 3B/2B when we give EE/BP a day off...let his stick be an asset
Patterson: YOU (RZ) have made me believe his CF defense is a clear asset...our leadoff situation wasn't good in the past couple of years, I won't freak if it's not great this year
Hopper/Freel: Can 1 be packaged with 2nd tier prospects for a catcher or a LOOGY??
Hatteburg: why can't we enjoy having his great plate approach as the NL's best LH pinch-hitter???
Ross: maybe the biggest question mark we have...and there are no immediate answers
Gonzalez: get healthy, then play better than last year defensively...if he quantitatively plays better in the field than Kepp, than leave him as the primary starter...Janish can hang around for a couple of weeks while Agon gets healthy
4. Starting Pitching:
Volquez and Cueto should be in...I would hope this isn't even in debate...this is the importance of Cordero as bullpen stability allows tempered use of these 2 young arms (yes, Dusty questions persist)
Affeldt should be the long man if some/one of Cout/Merker/Stanton appear capable of LOOGY...if not, let Fogg be the long man and make Affeldt a very-capable LOOGY
Harang/Cueto/Arroyo/Belisle/Volquez- I like the thought of the protection of Harang and Arroyo's innings around Cueto, and Harang to buffer Volquez
Last year in spring training I got to see in person Livingston, Paul Wilson and Belisle who were competing for the 4-5 spots in the rotation...I certainly feel a whole lot better about the current rotation possibilities!!
5. The Trade, part deux: I love Josh Hamilton, bought his jersey, made my 10 year old read the ESPN piece about him and think he's a special player...but I believe the choice to trade him for front-line starting pitching is commendable...naturally, the debate is whether we trust the Reds to recognize front-line pitching...I really enjoyed watching Edison on Monday night and hope we'll see him every 5 days...I'll miss Josh but I support this trade...
6. Stats vs Old Skool:My math mind loves the statistical analysis this site brings to light daily...I've learned more in 1 year about baseball than my entire life combined...but I do appreciate the reality of not using stats in a vacuum...clearly it's the "half full" in me, but if Dusty has matured as a manager into utilizing this "bold new world" of data and considerations ALONG with his natural instincts borne of experience both in the field and in the dugout wouldn't he potentially be very good here??...one can hope, his interesting quotes aside