Tag Archives: Cincinnati Reds

And the most valuable player in major league baseball, 2011, is ….

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance, of which I am a proud member, bestows its annual Stan Musial Award on the best player in baseball by a vote of the group’s members. This is my first year casting a ballot for what is the equivalent of the Major League Baseball most valuable player awards, and it’s a tall order.

How on earth does anyone decide who’s the best player in the game? I’m giving it a go here with equal parts direct observation at the ballpark, heavy doses of TV and radio broadcasts, reading, statistics, coin flips and gut-level calls.

1. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers –  The leader of the Brew Crew, high average, monster slugging percentage,  33 home runs and 33 stolen bases. One heck of a year, edging out:

2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers – Best average in baseball, formidable power, 108 walks and the driving offensive force for the AL Central champs, edging out:

3. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers – This guy led the National League in homers and RBIs on a Dodger team with an otherwise anemic offense. Amazing.

4. Jose Reyes, New York Mets – Even in an injury-shortened season, this guy did his job getting on base, stealing and generally pestering the heck out of pitchers.

5. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays – Led the game in homers. Again.

6. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees – Best overall performance in pinstripes, just nudging out:

7. Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees – A fine all-around year.

8. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox – Powerful season squandered by the team’s stretch drive collapse.

9. Michael Young, Texas Rangers – Great year at the plate.

10. Hunter Pence, Houston Astros/Philadelphia Phillies  – He made a big difference with the Phillies in the second half of the season.

Let the kvetching and bickering begin. I’m leaving off Albert Pujols, for goodness sake, all pitchers, Joey Votto and Alex Gordon and on and on.



My dad on the hot corner: Two errors and 0-3 at the plate

One of my growing hobbies is researching our family history, and I found a gem tonight while poking around in Ancestry.com: my father’s name in a box score.

Dad never failed to mention that he loved playing “the hot corner,” something I never doubted. Now I have the box score to back it up, on Page 8 of the April, 30, 1938, Uniontown (Pa.) Morning Herald. (I don’t know if this link will work for those without Ancestry.com accounts, but I’m giving it a try.)

Dad batted sixth and played third base for Mapletown High, which lost 5-4 to South Union High in their April 29 home opener in Uniontown.

Dad went 0-for-3 at bat, with two putouts and an assist — and two errors. If only he were here to share a few laughs over that.

What’s also cool about the page is that the box score and game story are directly above an AP story about Dizzy Dean pulling out of a Cubs-Reds game with a sore arm. And in a story datelined not far away in Pittsburgh, the Pirates were rained out against the Cardinals.

I found a second box score from the same paper on May 7, 1938. Dad, still a third sacker, had moved up to fifth in the lineup. He again was 0-for-3 but had one putout and three assists with no errors. Mapletown fell at home, 12-4, to Georges high, which I believe was in Fairchance, Pa.

A year later, Dad next showed up in the paper after enlisting in the Army air corps at Langley Field, Va.

Bits and bobs as the trade deadline passes

I’ve posted mighty infrequently of late. I attribute that to most of my energy being sponged up by a couple of major project at work. Nonetheless, here are a few thoughts that have been passing through my brain in recent days:

– It sucks to get swept. The San Francisco Giants dropped three straight to the Reds in Cincinnati, and it was painful to watch.

– Blowouts – the upside. Most baseball announcers make the most out of tight ballgames with dramatic conclusions. It takes someone special to make a blowout entertaining, and that’s what we got today from Jon Miller on the Giants’ broadcast on KNBR. The Reds’ Todd Frazier made an out late in the game, with the Reds up by an insurmountable eight runs, and Miller gave just a hint of Howard Cosell as he said, “And down goes Frazier.”

Miller then launched into a story he heard from Eric Karros, the former Dodgers player who was once beaned in the head. According to Miller, as Karros lay in the dirt, all he could hear going through his mind was Cosell’s “and down goes Frazier.”

– The trade deadline frenzy is fun. There was a flurry of trades this year, and it was fascinating to see it unfold. Only time will tell if the strategy of some teams to make bold moves – the Indians snagging Ubaldo Jimenez chief among them – and others to stand pat – the Yankees, for example – will succeed.

I must say it was good to see the Tribe and the Pirates go after talent for the playoffs instead of engaging in the more typical “wait ’til next year” fire sales.

– Under pressure. The Giants brought in Carlos Beltran as a stud  but so far he’s been a dud. His batting average has dropped about 10 points since he came over from the Mets, and he has virtually no measurable impact on the Giants’ offense. I’m sure he’ll come around.

I’m certain he will.

Really. There’s no doubt in my mind.

I hope.

Inter-league baseball games have their charms, but there is a tradeoff

This is the first weekend for inter-league games in baseball this season, and there’s been plenty of buzz in a number of places as neighboring franchises like the Reds and Indians, Athletics and Giants, and Yankees and Mets fight it out.

But my heart sank a little when I heard that the Cubs were playing in Fenway for the first time in 93 years. I guess none of us can stop progress, but the traditionalist voice in my head says it’s a real shame that the Cubs and Red Sox are playing one another in Fenway in May. If all were right with the world, they’d be playing each other in October in the World Series.

Blowing the NL West notwithstanding, Bud Black wins NL manager of the year

Here’s how the story should read: “Bud Black, who guided the San Diego Padres on a 10-game losing streak that cost them the Western Division title, was named National League manager of the year on Wednesday. He edged Dusty Baker, whose Cincinnati Reds took the Central Division but didn’t win a playoff game, by one vote.

“Bruce Bochy, who led the San Francisco Giants to a surprising and unexpected victory in the World Series, finished a distant third.”

Let’s face facts. Bochy got hosed.

I have no quarrel with Black, who did a fine job keeping the Padres in the division lead most of the season. But the Padres went into that late-season tailspin. They had ample opportunities to retake the lead from the Giants, but they didn’t.

They lost.

The Giants won.

So at a minimum, Bochy — whose team had no greater or lesser expectations of success this season than the Padres — should have received more votes than Black.

So that leaves Bochy versus Dusty Baker.  In their last meeting of the year, the Giants crushed the Reds. And the Giants had a better record than the Reds, another team with expectations of success no greater or less than those of the Giants.

I know that the vote is taken at the end of the regular season, but even then, Bochy was the best.

My vote doesn’t count, so I guess I’ll just cast my ballot — with a big black “x” next to Bochy’s name — to the wind.

A San Francisco Giants fan bids farewell to his Phillies cap

Our youngest child recently headed off to college in Philadelphia and called a week or so ago with a request: can you send me a Phillies cap?

Years ago my son had played on a Phillies team during Little League, but his cap had long since disappeared. I had been a coach and kept my cap, wearing it often, especially in the fall the last two years as the Phillies advanced to the World Series. Although not a fanatic, I count the Phillies among my second-tier allegiances, rooting for them if they advance after my teams drop out of the playoff picture.

Going to high school in central California, my son and his classmates were prohibited from wearing baseball caps on campus. With Norteno and Sureno gangs active in town, caps as well as red and blue garments were forbidden.

That’s not the case in Philadelphia, thank goodness. My son’s call for the cap came right about the time the Phillies had swept the Reds while the Giants were still trying to knock off the Braves. So I sent the cap to the City of Brotherly Love in a care package bound for my son’s dormitory, from the upper floors of which you can see Citizens Bank Ballpark a few miles away.

My son is a loyal and practical Giants fan. He will not wear the Phillies cap until the Giants-Phillies series is resolved. But once that’s history, he’ll be free to wear the Phillies cap and fit in with all the other cheesesteak-consuming, Santa-booing fans in Philly.

Musings on new ballparks and competitiveness

Willie Stargell statue at PNC Park

Back in the 1970s, I figured the surest way to assure your major league ballclub a pennant and victory in the World Series was to build a new stadium. I watched it happen in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium, respectively. But baseball is more complex than that, as any number of new baseball palaces have proven.

No doubt Progressive (previously Jacobs) Field signified a resurgence of baseball in Cleveland, but the Indians have still not won the series since 1948. The Giants have had some strong years but no series victory in AT&T (ex-PacBell and SBC) Park. Perhaps they’ll find magic, make the playoffs and triumph this season.

Then there are the Pirates, who with a beautiful new ballpark are mired more than 50 games behind the division-leading Phillies in the National League East. I got a glimpse of the exterior of PNC Park yesterday on a visit to Pittsburgh, and I had just enough time to shoot these photos and a few others of the impressive statues of Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente outside the gates.

I’d dearly like the Pirates to succeed, but they are likely doomed to perpetual rebuilding as are so many small- and middle-market franchises. A new stadium is symbolic of a commitment to invest in a team, but as the Buccos and many other teams demonstrate, a commitment does not equate to a world championship.

Roberto Clemente statue at PNC Park