Archives For Baseball

Run Billy Run

nyredfanatic —  05/01/2014 — Leave a comment

Well it has been 17 games since our last post here at Riverfront Ramblings. The delay may have been since I have been busy. Maybe it is because we have finally had some nice days and I have actually wanted to be outside and do some yard work. Maybe I realized I am not that great of a blogger. But maybe, just maybe, I have not been that excited about this Reds team. We all know about their struggles to start the year. 3-7 in their first 10 without a lot of offense and a terrible bullpen wasn’t enough to carry me through the early season buzz. They got healthy (a little bit at least) and moved Joey Votto to the 2nd spot in the lineup and that seemed to help a little. The offense went on a 10 game stretch where they scored at least 4 runs. That was neat. They started to play better for that stretch and things were looking up. But as the smoke cleared and things settle down they were still 9-8 over those 17 games. The most inspiring portion of their season thus far and it was still barely over .500. Thankfully 5 of those 17 games were against the cubbies. As the season progresses that is what this team may end up being… A .500 team. That is not going to be enough to get us into the post season. That is the sort of season that will start to make me look forward to the Bengals earlier than I would like.

So what is the thing that keeps me checking the box scores for this team? Billy Hamilton. I know a lot of people have been harsh on the youngster for his lack of getting on base. Yes, I would like to see that rise as well to fill the void that Choo left from last year. Sure I would like to see a few more infield hits and successful bunt attempts. Yes, I would LOVE to see him be the best leadoff man in the major leagues. He has been far from perfect. He has been thrown out trying to steal bases on occasion. Five times to be exact. He has looked helpless and overmatched in some of his plate appearances. But in my blogger opinion, he is the only thing really worth getting excited about when it comes to the offense of this team. (The starting pitching has done well, especially Cueto and Simon)

Before screaming that Billy needs to be sent back to Louisville or pitted at the 9th spot in the lineup lets not forget the plays that he has made. I have never seen a guy go from first to third on a routine ground ball to the pitcher. Billy was running on the pitch and literally never stopped. It was pretty crazy. We have seen him tag from 2nd to 3rd on very shallow fly balls making RF’s look like little leaguers trying to throw him out. And seriously, what about the tagging from third to home on what was essentially an infield fly rule pop up. The most incredible thing about this is the right fielder called off the second baseman and was coming in on the ball making it an easier throw home… and he was still safe. He creates panic in pitchers. Just look at what he did to Francisco Liriano of Pittsburg. He was on base creating havoc when he gave up a home run to Joey Votto… that was Liriano’s first home run to a left hander in like 19 years. A week later again against Liriano, Billy drew a leadoff walk. In the next three pitches to Votto Billy successfully stole 2nd and then advanced to 3rd and then home to score on back to back wild pitches. That was not the first 9 pitches a starter wants to throw.

There is no doubt the kid is fast. Very fast. I wont knock him too much for getting thrown out a few times while trying to steal bases. Most of those caught stealing were on first pitches where everyone in the park knew he was going and the pitchers and catchers were on high alert. Not too many people at any level can successfully steal in those situations. The game I went to in NY was an example of this. Billy came on to pinch run and everyone in the place knew he was running on the first pitch. He got gunned at 2nd with a perfect throw. This will happen in the major leagues until he learns a little more of the art of stealing a base. This will come.

So in a season where I have almost forgot we have a guy named Jay Bruce on the roster, and where Brandon Phillips might be showing his age we need all the excitement we can get. Joey Votto’s lack of power has not been exciting. I don’t tune in to see what he is doing anymore. The fact that arguably the best power hitter this season in Devin Mesoraco is on the DL for the 2nd time says a lot of this lineup. There simply isn’t a lot to get excited for. It is becoming easy to not pay attention to this team. But with Billy in the line up I do catch myself checking the box scores. I check to see how he did. I watch the video replay to see what he can do on the bases. He is the guy that has my interest right now. So until this season swings around a little my battle cry for the Reds will remain: Run Billy Run

Reflecting on the last 10: Well we are 10 games into this season and things are not looking good fans. I really am trying to be an optimist here, but right now, I feel like I am simply being a realist. The Reds are sitting at 3-7 and have looked bad getting there. Their 3 victories have all came with exceptional pitching efforts, including 2 shutouts. 2 of the wins have been won by a combined 2 runs. There really has only been 1 game out of the 10 where they seemed to play a complete game, and even then it took Mike Leake pitching great and Billy Hamilton exhibiting his game changing speed. Man he needs to get on base more. These 10 games have been hard to watch (or listen to).

What we’ve learned: So what have we learned in this young season? First and foremost, the offense of this team is very poorly constructed. And that is being polite. Sure people can say the Reds are battling injuries, but outside of Devin Mesoraco those injuries are to backups and pitching. It is not a good sign when your top choice as a pinch hitter is your backup catcher. Chris Heisey, playing off of the bench, is the only other contributor to this offense. I would argue he needs to be starting and Hamilton needs to be coming off of the bench. He is more valuable as a pinch runner at this point if he can’t get on regularly. Our starting SS has 1 hit in 10 games and no walks. Unfortunately there is no depth at the position and no one to challenge him or push him. Skip Schumaker will not provide the boost that this team needs when he is healthy. He was brought in to be a backup and he will produce like a backup. This team desperately needs a RH bat in a bad way. In my opinion things will not get any better until that happens.

The bright spot: Devin Mesoraco is back from an injury and hitting the ball very well. If he keeps it up, he could slide up in the lineup a bit and provide some help. See, there is some optimism for you. Still, I do not think his return will be enough to improve the offense in a drastic way… and there is the pessimism.

Looking forward: So will it get any better and do we have anything at all to look forward to? Yes! The thing we have to look forward to is having our top 3 bullpen pitchers returning at some point. 2 of the loses have been pegged on the bullpen and another 2, possibly 3 games, have been blown open and put out of reach because of the bullpen. This part of the team will get better with time and get back to where it was last year as one of the top bullpens in baseball Help is on the way! Mat Latos will eventually return… hopefully? He apparently is having set backs with his arm. His return would help the rotation and strengthen the bullpen by moving Simon back into his spot and replacing one of the lesser arms currently taking up space. Those are the only improvements I see in this team’s future. Baring any trades the offense is what it is. I do not see it getting better than slight improvements with the current lineup. Votto’s numbers will increase and Bruce will hit more than he currently has. I think Hamilton’s numbers will increase a tad and we can expect more from him as the season goes on and he grows. I think Cozart will reach base again at some point this season. However, I do not see this offense as enough to carry this team past a third place finish in the NL Central.

The Standings: Looking at the standings at the 10 game mark provides no more optimism. Sure the Reds are only 5 games back… wait, that’s not good either. The Reds are in last place in the NL Central while the Brew Crew stands at the top. Yes it is early, but it is still not a very good sight. I think when the smoke settles and the roster heals up things will get a little better. We will pass the Cubs in the standings eventually. Our pitching staff we will improve and provide us enough wins to not end up in last. If I had to make some predictions with the small sample size we have I would be depressed with the outcome. With what we’ve seen so far this year I predict the Cardinals to be the NL Central Champs. I think they have enough offense and a top notch pitching staff. They will start to hit better and offensive production will improve. After the Cards I would predict the Brewers in second and the Reds and Pirates wrestling around for their spot at third place with the Cubs looking up at everyone. Again, these predictions are off of what we have seen in the first 10 games of the season. Take a look at the standings and see what you think. Here is to hoping I am wrong!

 

 NL Central W L PCT GB
Milwaukee 8 2 .800
Pittsburgh 6 4 .600 2.0
St. Louis 5 5 .500 3.0
Chi Cubs 4 6 .400 4.0
Cincinnati 3 7 .300 5.0

This past weekend was the one chance to see the Reds live this year. Well, I could go see them at Yankee Stadium in July but I would have to pull back my pledge to never go to another Yankees game. After paying way too much money to sit in 107 degree temperatures the last time there I am ok not seeing another game in a stadium that resembles a museum rather than a fan friendly atmosphere.

So what did I think about Citi Field? It was awesome. Maybe it was the fact that I got to sit in one of the suites that made it worth while. This was a huge plus on a rainy night with temperatures in the low 40’s. The all you can eat food platters in the suite surely helped out a lot too. As did the fully stocked refrigerator. We were able to get a mini personalized tour of the ballpark from someone who has worked there the last several years and knew the history as well as being a life long Met fan. Mostly though, Citi Field is an awesome park. It is clean and fun. It is nicely laid out with a lot of character and simply a good place to watch a game… but the suite seats helped a lot.

The best part of the night was getting to share all of this with my dad, the guy who taught me to be a Reds fan. Seeing him act like a little kid on Christmas was simply hilarious. My dad, who has never met a stranger, talked to anyone and everyone who would listen about how excited he was. He shared memories from games he has witnessed and stories from different ballparks. He talked about which ballpark had the best food and where his favorite seats have been. He reminisced on the good and the bad the Reds have been through. This was another memorable night I am sure he will talk about for years to come. Thanks for making the trip out here pops and I hope you had a great time.

We didn’t get to watch batting practice from the field like we had planned on due to the rain and the Reds lost. Those were the only two bummers of the evening. The terrible news of the night came when we finally decided to warm up and watch the game from inside the suite and we missed the foul ball that landed in our box… only to be snagged by the kids from the next one over.

Take a look at some of the pictures from my visit to Citi Field. Thanks to everyone who made it possible. You know who you are!

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Fully stocked fridge is a plus

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I ate way too much off of this plate

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These were to die for

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View from our seats

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Citi Field entrance

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In front of the #42 in the Jackie Robinson area

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This is what we were doing when we missed our foul ball

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My wife Jen admitting that this is how she wants to watch games from now on

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View from the outfield while on our tour

 

 

Check out the outtakes… We have some cute kids!

I tried. Honestly people, i tried. When I moved to New York I tried to at least embrace the local sports teams for the sake of connecting with the locals.

I got dragged to Shae and old yankee a handful of times, tried to engross myself in the excitement of the Met’s 2006 playoff run, but that let down to the Cardinals was too familiar for me to handle. But as the Apostle Paul reminded me that during his missionary journeys “He became like a Greek to win the Greeks”, I decided that it was ultimately better to swallow my pride and to just give it my full effort and see how it goes.

In 2007, the Mets were just as hot. In 1st place in the NL east and almost a guarantee for the playoffs with a 7 game lead in september right? WRONG. They messed with the wrong fan, and few people know this, but I am responsible for the historic choke of ’07 <You’re welcome Philadelphia>.

So i was approached by my friend Ben about going to a Met’s game on September 26, 2007. The Mets were playing the Nationals and at the time their roster was essentially the 2004 Reds, so i was game for that. One of our Young Life committee members had 4 tickets he wasn’t going to use and he asked us to take some of the junior high kids that were part of the “wyldlife” group (young life’s middle school outreach) to the game. Ben put the word out and and two of the kids Chris and Devin were super excited to go. They told us that they were the “Biggest Mets Fans of All Time”…

*Don’t ever tell Brian McGee that your the biggest fan of all time of something, because he will hold you to it.

As a midwesterner, going to the circus that is Shae Stadium, my brain jumped to this scene from Seinfeld:

But… I’m not really the one to be conservative… Especially when it comes to hanging out with “The Biggest Mets Fans of All Time”. The face was not enough… It had to be the full body.

igocrazyagainAs an art major in college, i would put my skills and school supplies to use on a regular basis for our basketball games as part of the University of Dayton’s mens basketball fan section “The Red Scare”, so this called for similar circumstances. We wanted to make this a night these kids would never forget.

DSC02260We pick the kids up, trash bags and gallon of orange paint in the back bed of my pickup truck. When we get to the stadium we hop out and begin the painting process, getting a few looks and laughs by those passing by. Since there were 4 of us, it was a no brainer to spell out the team’s signature cheer “M-E-T-S”. Then we put our shirts back on to get through security and started looking for our seats.

I by default started heading up to the nosebleeds before i asked Ben for the tickets. That’s when my eyes almost bugged out of my head… We were on the 1st base line, 11th row, box seats, valued at over $100 per seat… Man were the people around us going to be pissed…

We played it cool, were respectable, the Mets got up early 5-0 in the 3rd and the place was electric… That’s when the fan cam started scanning the crowd… And as an attention starved adult in his mid 20’s, i took the leadership opportunity to remove my shirt, quickly followed by the others as we stood up, swirling our shirts over our heads and leading the M-E-T-S cheer. The crowd went nuts, they loved it, the cameras love it, we were a hit. Then the 4th inning came. People caught wind of where we were sitting and now everyone and their mother wanted to come down and get their picture taken with us. This really began to irritate the people around us who had paid so much money to watch the game only to have such a circus going on around them. Security caught wind of this and sent down the Junior Varsity squad to politely ask us to consider relocating to the upper deck “with the rest of our type”…

STUNNED…. Did he really just say that… SERIOUSLY?

Well, instead of letting my pride get the best of me, we decided to head up to the nosebleeds and see if we could meet some other super fans.

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Well… not really, just these clowns… We gave it an inning… Won the Bubba Burger Fans of the game, but were growing board by the pitch and wanted our seats back. The thirst for attention got the best of us. We wanted that jumbotron again, and this game was getting close. We got back down to our seats, and were met with a round of applause. The fans were excited to have the “Greatest Mets Fans of All Time” back.

It lasted an inning. This time it wan’t the JV squad, but the varsity goones. It was the 7th inning now and the head security honcho came down and said that we needed to pipe down and put our shirts on. Try telling that to 2 7th graders and see how long it lasts before they rebel. The Mets were starting to falter a bit, and we knew we needed to get the crowd back into it, so we stood back up, shirts off and were going nuts. Within a minute, the goones were all over us. I got grabbed on the shoulder and was told to follow the security guard and not to ask questions. I immediately wanted to know what was the problem, I didn’t realize that being a fan was against the law. You could hear a chorus of Boo’s from METS fans as they lost their fans, as by this point, we were more entertaining than the game. In my last stand, I boldly let out a furious boast of “YOU WILL NEVER WIN A GAME IF YOU CONTINUE TO TREAT YOUR FANS LIKE THIS!” With all of the boldness of that man with his goat probably did. We were rushed down a hallway, led to a gate, and thrown out of the game, accused of being a drunk and a bunch of hooligans. <neither was true>. While we were at the game, the camera girl came around and took our picture of us at the game. I thought to myself later that week… Hmmmm, i wonder if they posted this on their site…. Well, not only was it on their site, but they had also used the image to publicize their end of the season ticket sales stating “Come out to Shae and Cheer on the Mets!” I was outraged… Where was the subtitle “And get tossed out like a piece of garbage!” Grrrrrrrr. At least I had the curse, and I hoped they seriously never did win a game again…

They didn’t… They lost 12 of the next 17 games, losing their 7 game lead, and failed to make the playoffs on the last day. Nothing brought me more joy than watching that happen. I absolutely believed it. I really cursed the Mets. I had the control now and I wasn’t letting go. I held onto this vendetta for quite sometime. I guess it wasn’t really until the Reds made their return to the playoffs in 2010 that I lost interest in hating the Mets. But that was also the year that I married a Mets fan… which brought my hatred back full fledge!

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<after being kicked out, we went all over Long Beach taking pictures of how awesome we were>

Well anyway, Rounding Third and Heading for Home, This one Belongs to the Fans!