Monday, July 02, 2007

It Was Inevitable

Cincinnati Reds manager Jerry Narron has been fired. Many Cincinnati fans, not to mention Reds Hall of Fame play-by-play radio announcer Marty Brennaman, have long complained that Narron failed to demand more of a team often seen to be lackadaisical on defense.

Many scratched their heads too, at the seeming indifference of Narron to the undisciplined approach to hitting evidenced by slugger Adam Dunn, on a pace to strike out over 200 times this year and unwilling to cut down his swing when the count is against him. (Dunn's 23 homeruns in 2007, consistent with his modus operandi throughout his career, have almost always come at irrelevant points in games, either with a win out of reach or safely in the bag.)

But most of the Reds' woes this year were beyond the gentlemanly Jerry Narron's capacity to influence. It's simple: The Reds' bullpen is awful. That won't improve with Narron's departure.

Nor will the Reds' occasional lapses into impotent offensive output.

I wonder a little bit about what impact, if any, Narron's departure might have on rookie sensation Josh Hamilton. The Narron family, acquainted with Hamilton since his youth, seem to have been the prime movers behind the Reds signing the outstanding outfielder after he fell into and began his recovery from a drug dependency that nearly ruined both his career and his life. Although Hamilton's groundedness in his Christian faith and the extraordinary relationship he has with his tough-loving wife are strong anchors, the Narrons were his baseball advocates and he's bound to miss Jerry. (For more on Hamilton, for whom I have endless respect, see here, here, and here. The latest issue of Sports Spectrum also has a good article on Hamilton.)

With the worst record in baseball and the season halfway completed, Reds management may decide that it's too late to salvage the 2007 campaign. Cellar dwelling may be as inevitable as was Narron's ouster. But that doesn't mean that the Reds shouldn't act to improve their bullpen. They owe it not only to their fans, but to pitching aces Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, the latter of whom has been victimized repeatedly by paltry run support, to find relievers who can preserve leads and to field eight starters who will consistently demonstrate that they care.

As the modern embodiment of Dave Kingman, the free-swinging major leaguer who hit homeruns while striking out and hitting for a low average with regularity, Adam Dunn is an obvious candidate for being traded. But is there a market for him?

The local media have reported that the Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks have been scouting him regularly. Teams in the American League West and possibly the Los Angeles Dodgers could be interested in him. Each of these teams, for various reasons, need a homerun hitter and could have pitching to give up in any trade. But each will have to weigh heavily whether Dunn's previously mentioned offensive deficiencies, not to mention his so-so defensive skills in the outfield, are worth a trade.

The most frightening talk I hear is from those who suggest trading Ken Griffey, Jr. Granted Junior is thirty-seven years old. But after several injury-plagued years, he's having a great season, hitting 22 homeruns and better than .290. He made the shift to right field in deference to his age, but still plays sparklingly on defense. To me, it's unthinkable that this son of Cincinnati Moeller High School and of Big Red Machine veteran Ken Griffey, Sr. would end his career anywhere other than in a Reds uniform, especially since he still has a lot to contribute.

No matter how badly the Reds are playing this year, Great American Ball Park is a great place to watch a game...which is exactly what I'll be doing tomorrow night, booing Barry Bonds, whose every steroid-launched homerun thumbs a nose at the game of baseball.

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