I have always judged the performance of an athlete on a very simple criteria: Do I beleive they are as good as they can reasonably be?
Yes, everyone is always capable of improving themselves in any arena... But when I look at a guy like Brandon Phillips I see a guy who at the end of 162 game season has done as well and has gotten as much out of what he has as can be reasonably expected. I feel that way about most of the current Reds.
Jay Bruce is not one of them. It doesn't matter how good someone is or how much they produce, if I feel they are capable of much more, I will be critical.
That is where I stood with Dunn. I was critical. People blasted me for it and threw his numbers at me. But they misunderstood--- I wasn't saying he wasn't good or was overrated (I actually still beleive him to be a historically underappreciated player), I just felt there was more there for him.
I am just a fan on my couch in Oklahoma. I have no idea how hard a guy, how focused he is, or how much he cares. All I can do is watch and express what my guy (and often my eyes) tell me, while freely acknowledging I could be wrong. With Dunn, it never made any sense to me that such a gifted athlete could misplace so many (often routine) fly balls. I also felt he could have been in better physical condition. The guy always played, so I give him that, but I also felt that Dunn was good enough to cut back on his K's while still maintaining his power and OBP.
It's the old "tough love" thing I guess. My first football coach told me that the only time I should be worried is when he STOPS yelling at me-- that's when he knows he's gotten all he can and there is no point in asking me to dig deeper. Sure enough, a couple years in, the yelling stopped, and my I started riding the bench quite a bit.
I liked Adam Dunn, both as a player and personally, but I do feel that he could have been a better player than he was.
Jay Bruce now fills that role for me. He is good. He is a dangerous hitter and he seems like a really nice guy. He is not "the problem" with the Reds at all.... But he could be better. Entirely too many prolonged slumps and mental errors. He is a very good defensive RF, but will occasionally make head-scratching errors. And his base running blunder in the 9th inning today is a total sign of lacking full concentration/awareness.
And some of his AB's are just abysmal.
Perhaps I'm too harsh. Maybe I overrate him and what he is capable of? That's certainly a possibility.
But of all the current Reds, I find Bruce to be the most frustrating. Really reminds me about how I felt about Dunn.
Always felt fans missed the boat when anyalizing their teams. It isn't always upgrading the weakest link. Wilson Valdez ultimately isn't the problem because he is a 25th man and even the best 25th man won't get you much farther down the road. The better chance to improve comes in the form of th stellar athlete with mucho power and a cannon arm.