Well, after five games the Reds are 3-2. That’s a .600 winning record, which comes out to about 97 wins on the season. Even if we lost tomorrow – that’s going .500 in half of our games against two of the toughest teams on our record. One might ask, “Why do we need a scapegoat, anyway?” Well, because we’re on the internet, and we’re Reds fans, and we need someone to blame. I lined-up a bunch of potential goats last season, but here’s my 2013 edition, inspired by today’s game and its aftermath (and its duringmath, but that’s not a word.)
So partially based on today’s game – here are some prime scapegoat candidates
First we’ve got our old friend Dusty Baker. Dusty Baker was a huge scapegoat for last year’s team, and he will undoubtedly continue to be. To some extent, that’s the territory that comes with being a manager. I doubt anyone, and I definitely doubt that every MLB manager goes out their and makes nothing but optimal decisions 162 days out of the year. Baker makes his fair share of mistakes, in my opinion, but he’s got his strengths, as well. At its core, though, Dusty Baker has essentially no choice but to occasionally play an individual you don’t like, and given that we usually don’t like shitty ballplayers, they are going to screw it up. Baker’s also set himself up in the Chapman to the pen camp, which means that he ‘can’ be blamed for any bad starts by Mike Leake all season.
Both our losses this season have come in extra innings, which does point to some bullpen management issues – and I don’t think Dusty’s done a great job of that so far. But we’ve also had two extra inning games in six days. Last year we had 14 extra inning games all year. The other issue is the current roster.
That brings me to Walt Jocketty. Jocketty ultimately gets to make all the decisions for who is on the roster, so he can be blamed for aaaaaallll kinds of failures. For example, Sean Marshall is on the active roster. Sean Marshall has not pitched yet. In all fairness to Dusty, it is a bit difficult to get your bullpen through two extra inning games in six days, when you only have six relief pitchers. Now, we have no idea what on earth might be going on with Sean Marshall’s “shoulder fatigue”, but as time goes on, it’s getting less and less like “This is an unfortunate turn of events” and more like “Someone fucked up.” A GM, much like a manager, will inevitably make a bad call. … So let’s yell at him.
Of course, management failures don’t excuse the players who are the ones, who, you know, actually play the games. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone, I think, if Jay Bruce ended up as a huge scapegoat this year. He strikes out a lot. He’s not quite as good defensively as he used to be. He does appear to struggle a little in high leverage situations, which people remember really really really really well, apparently. He also used to be a top prospect, who has, shockingly fallen a somewhat short of his ultimate ceiling. (“If Joey Votto can be 200% better than we ever imagined, why can’t Bruce?”) Given how certain groups of Reds fans (and announcers) used to treat Adam Dunn, it seems like Jay is doomed to be a lightning rod of criticism. He did strike out tonight when he had the opportunity to win the game at the end, so, obviously he’s the worst player ever.
As a dark horse (dark goat?) I’ll pin up Todd Frazier. Todd’s been awesome so far. But it’s very possible that Frazier will not be as good as he was last year. He might be! He might be better! But, he also struggled in minors for long periods of time (usually when we were moving him around to all kinds of crazy positions, but still). We’ve sort of built Todd Frazier up into a superhero. If he turns out to be an ordinary crime fighter, things could get ugly.
The Chapman Affair was also a shitstorm of internet furor, so I’ll also anticipate Mike Leake as a possible scapegoat. Leake is our fifth starter, generally a pitcher who is not very good, but Leake is pretty good for your number five guy. But more than that, now, Leake may possibly fall short of how good we imagined Chapman would be in the rotation. The horror. Leake wasn’t great today, and that undoubtedly contributed to the part of the game where we lost, but we really shouldn’t expect too much from a 25-year old soft tosser. Or, you know, let’s.
Poor JJ Hoover wouldn’t ordinarily strike me as someone who would be a scapegoat, but he’s been unfortunate enough to be the bearer of 100% of the Reds current losses. He’s also appeared in four games. See above, re: bullpen management. I think JJ will do ok in the future if he can get some rest, but a lot of times, a bad reputation can be built in a couple days, and take a long time to shed (see: Alfredo Simon, 2012.) Plus, his name really leads to a lot of ‘vacuum’ jokes, which is too much for the Twitterdom to resist.
BTW, I want to start calling him “Jedgar” Sort of like… JJ Hoover + J Edgar Hoover +Jedward. Yeah!