Ohio Baseball Report: Indians Should Keep Cliff Lee, Reds and Dusty Baker Prepare for Key Road Trip

With the Indians still playing as poorly as anyone in baseball, this column will now be devoted to the Cincinnati Reds, 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:

Cliff Lee - Cleveland Indians1. Cleveland would be foolish to trade Cliff Lee. He is their only reliable starter. Period. Cliffy won the Cy Young last season, and despite a 5-9 record in 2009, still has a very respectable 3.31 ERA. Only one other pitcher in the majors this season has a better ERA with a losing record:  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 trip will tell a lot about whether or not guys like the durable Bronson Arroyo — 16 straight scoreless innings, team leader in victories — 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 rusty Jason Schmidt, despite another  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 Reds do have four teams — all playing better ball than they this month too – ahead of them in the mediocre central.

Homer Bailey should take Owings spot as, aside from his last outing, has finally been 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.
Dusty Baker - Cincinnati Reds
So, the struggling Reds have two more against the best team in baseball, then a weekend 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 lefty Laynce Nix against righties, while sitting righty Johnny Gomes, who actually hits righties better as is.

There’s more I could note, but it’s unnecessary until next time…. 


* – Cliff Lee photo credit: Miller Park Drunk

* – Dusty Baker photo credit: Mouthpiece Sports

About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.


  1. I agree that the Reds should hold off on throwing in the towel on the season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t simultaneously build to the future. I think you’re a little too high on Bronson Arroyo. The 16 scoreless innings is an arbitrary stat. It would be like saying that Jack Hannrihan is an indispensable member of the Mariners because he has 2 HRs in his last 4 ABs…the problem is, he only has one hit in his previous 4 games…Arroyo is a middle to back of the rotation guy who’s greatest quality is eating innings. The Reds can replace him (Homer Bailey is still lurking in the shadows…) and may pick up a future stud for him.

    Can’t agree with you more about Gomez…I think this guy has the potential to be a .270 30 HR 100 RBI guy if given regular playing time. Unfortunately no team seems willing to pull the trigger. Maybe he will turn out like Carlos Pena or more recently, Russel Branyan–career platoon sluggers who when given a chance to play everyday, produced…

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