With the Indians still playing as poorly as anyone in baseball, this column will now be devoted to the Cincinnati Reds,Â even as they fade and ponder trading top players despite being just five and a half games back of first-place St. Louis with close to half the season remaining.
But before I leave the Tribe, two points:
1. Cleveland would be foolish to trade Cliff Lee. He is their only reliable starter. Period.Â Cliffy won the Cy Young last season, and despite aÂ 5-9 record in 2009, still has a very respectable 3.31 ERA. Only one other pitcher in the majors this season has aÂ better ERA with a losingÂ record:Â STL’s Joel Pineiro (8-9, 3.09).
Mark Shapiro, however, seems intent upon not only rebuilding the team for the second time this decade, but perhaps being the first GM to trade THREE former Cy Young winners: Bartolo Colon, C.C. Sabathia and Lee.
2. I should also add that while I was not a fan of Casey Blake during his years in C-town, he has certainly been more than capable out in LA the past calendar year. This is not to say the Tribe shouldn’t have unloaded him, but the third baseman has 22 homers and 80 RBIs during his 146 game Dodger career. His batting average is around .270, for a career .266 hitter.
For the Reds of Cincinnati, they stand in a similar spot in terms of unloading veterans before the July 31 deadline, but considering their steady spot in the standings (even at 44-48, just 5.5 back), one wonders why.
This week’s road tripÂ will tell a lot about whether or not guys like the durableÂ Bronson Arroyo — 16 straight scoreless innings, team leader in victoriesÂ — will be dealt. And apparently Dusty Baker and GM Walt Jocketty told the team that before last night’s game.
They responded Monday night with three in the first off a rustyÂ Jason Schmidt, despite anotherÂ pouting episode by Brandon Phillips. Unfortunately, Micah Owings — whose time in the rotation should thankfully end when Edinson Volquez returns — imploded by allowing four runs back in the bottom frame, then two more in the second and the Reds fell 7-5. Though only five and a half back, the RedsÂ do have four teams — all playing better ball than they this month too –Â ahead of them in the mediocre central.
Homer Bailey should take Owings spot as, aside from his lastÂ outing,Â has finally beenÂ serviceable. Aaron Harang — just 11 wins the past two seasons and none since May — has not. Nor has Johnny Cueto, sporting an ERA over 8 in July.
So, the struggling Reds have two more against the best team in baseball, then a weekendÂ in Chicago. They need to win three of the next five I think, or else the proverbial “bottom might fall out.”
Needless to say, it’ll be players leaving, not skipper Dusty Baker, who’s underachieving again in a weak division. Next year won’t be so easy.
One thing Dusty might want to learn is to play hot hitters with the best stats, rather than the obsessive righty-lefty mentality so prevalent in baseball. Case in point, Dusty continues to play the horrid leftyÂ Laynce Nix against righties, while sitting rightyÂ Johnny Gomes, who actually hits righties better as is.
There’s more I could note, but it’s unnecessary until next time….Â
* – Cliff Lee photo credit: Miller Park Drunk
* – Dusty Baker photo credit: Mouthpiece Sports