Lights out for the 2013 Reds
This article will be about as long as the Reds post season.
Last night, the Jekyll and Hyde Reds showed up to PNC Park in all their Mr. Hyde ugliness, falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2. The Reds post season lasted eight and a half innings and just under three hours and fifteen minutes.
Actually, there’s more.
Everyone will want to second guess Dusty Baker for going with Johnny Cueto over Mat Latos, considering Cueto is still getting into pitching shape after missing most of the season. But it’s hard to argue with his logic. Cueto is (well, was) 8-2 with a 1.90 ERA at PNC Park, and Latos hasn’t looked his sharpest lately.
The fact is, Cueto simply didn’t come through. He wasn’t locating his pitches the way Francisco Liriano did. It appeared the constant, droning Cue-to, Cue-to, Cue-to chants definitely rattled him. (Note to Buccos fans: act like you’ve been there before – er, never mind.) Trouble was certainly evident when even Liriano slapped a hit up the middle. He only had three all year – for an impressive .064 BA. Then there was the long ball situation. While Marlon Byrd’s was forgivable, Cueto, along with Logan Ondrusek, also surrendered homeruns to a weak hitting catcher batting seventh in the order.
Russell Martin only batted .226 during the year with 15 jacks. Both his homers were soul crushing. Following up Marlon Byrd’s HR, Martin’s first bomb exploded the fact that Cueto was off his game. And then in the seventh, his second blast of the game pushed the run differential to five, meaning the Reds couldn’t even get back into the game with a four-run homer.
Congrats, fellas. You didn’t let McCutcheon beat you. Sure, he had two hits, two walks and a run, but he wasn’t the difference in the game.
Cueto’s inability to perform doesn’t let Baker off the hook, though. Part of a manager’s responsibilities falls outside the on-field strategies. Managers need to motivate.
Ask yourself, how motivated have the Reds looked in their past three post season appearances?
The Reds have a ton of talent, but zero leadership. Not amongst the coaching staff and consequently, not amongst the players. This can be laid squarely on the manager’s shoulders. Pittsburgh clearly has less total talent than the Reds, but Clint Hurdle can light a fire when it’s needed.
So what now?
Baker has exhausted his run as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. A change is needed and it starts with letting him go. In fact, the whole staff needs to go.
While I don’t have a suggestion for Baker’s replacement – other than “Please God, not Bobby Valentine” – I do have a suggestion for hitting coach: Dwayne Murphy.
To answer your question, Dwayne Murphy is currently the first base coach of the Toronto Blue Jays. And that job is actually a demotion for him. He was formerly the hitting coach for the Jays and is the guy responsible for making Jose Bautista the hitter he is today. Oh, and he turned Edwin Encarnacion into Bautista 2.0, something the Reds couldn’t do in all his time with them.
Imagine Todd Frazier unleashing the power we know he has to the extent that those two have. Devin Mesoraco, too. With Choo most likely gone and the uncertainty of Ludwick’s health, wouldn’t that be something of a nice surprise?
And the aggressive hitting approach Murphy takes could certainly help us remember why we ponied up a cool $225 million for Joey Votto.
Not trying to pour salt in the wound, but former Pirates slugger Ralph Kiner is said to have said, “Homerun hitters drive Cadillacs; singles hitters drive Fords.” Votto must’ve bought stock in Ford this year, because he’s buying up a fleet of them.
The Reds are sitting on a great wealth of talent and ability, from pitching to defense and even to hitting. But it needs to be brought to life, day in and day out – and especially in the clutch.
A change in the coaching staff is the best place to start if the 2014 Reds are to come alive and stay alive, all the way through October.