for those of you in the Dunn-bashing crew, you have the esteemed Mr. Fhey in your corner...
However, nobody from the ORG. (for full thread, read: http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=70256)
The Reds are going to go into the All-Star break in a sort of baseball limbo.
Within reach of .500. Not really in contention. Not really out of contention. Playing better, but not really hot.
Fifty fans would have 50 different reasons why the Reds aren't in better shape. Among the popular complaints:
Dusty Baker stuck with Corey Patterson too long. The fifth spot in the rotation has been a black hole. Ken Griffey Jr. shouldn't be hitting in the third spot. The Reds don't hit in the clutch. Edwin Encarnacion continues to throw the ball away on a regular basis.
There's some validity to all of the above.
But the real reason the Reds are where they are?
Four of their highest-paid, most experienced players are having bad years. Among Griffey, Adam Dunn, Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, none is having even a mediocre year.
"That's a fair assessment," Baker said. "You pay attention to them because they're big guys. They're the highest-salary guys."
Dunn makes $13 million, Griffey $12.5 million, Harang $6.75 million and Arroyo $4.575 million - nearly half the Reds' $74.1 million total payroll.
If all four were close to their average big-league numbers, the Reds probably would be right in the thick of the National League Central race.
If two of the four were having decent years, the Reds probably would be .500 or better.
Baker and his coaches have spent a lot of time trying to get them there.
"You try to find out why," Baker said. "You try to get a guy back to that point of excellence that everyone is used to, especially them. Nobody's more disappointed than they are."
But none of the four is even close to the numbers on the backs of their baseball cards. Consider (all stats are going into Saturday's game):
Griffey is hitting .235 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI. He hasn't hit left-handers (.198) and he hasn't hit with runners in scoring position (.224).
Griffey is 38 years old, so no one expects the 1997 Griffey. But the Reds would take the 2007 Griffey. He was hitting .286 with 23 home runs and 59 RBI at the break last year.
Dunn is hitting .225 with 24 home runs and 54 RBI. His on-base percentage (.381) is the best on the team, and he's tied for the NL lead in walks.
But, like Griffey, he has struggled against left-handers (.179) and with RISP (.213).
Dunn probably never is going to hit .300 or even .280, but he hit .264 last year.
Harang is 3-11 with a 4.76 ERA. His sore forearm and workload might have something to do with his numbers.
But even before the infamous relief appearance in San Diego, Harang could not seem to get on the kind of roll he had in the past.
Arroyo is 7-7 with a 5.97 ERA. He admitted last week that he's very lucky to be at .500 given his ERA.
Of the big four, he's shown the most positive signs of turning it around. He's 3-0 over his last three starts.
Baker is banking the second half on the hope that the big four will be themselves again.
"We've got a lot of season left," he said. "Hopefully, they can have a monster 2½ months."
Three of the four are in their prime years: Arroyo's 31, Harang's 30 and Dunn's 28.
Again, Griffey is 38. His father, Ken Sr., hit .286 with 14 home runs and 64 RBI at 37. He hit .255 with four home runs and 23 RBI the next year.
But Baker thinks all four can return to reasonable facsimiles of their former selves.
"Yeah, they can," Baker said. "I know some people don't think so, but I think so."
If they don't, the Reds' second half will be a lot like their first half.