It was pathetic, yet predictable, that we recently heard the Cincinnati Reds blame their awful season on injuries. This excuse is flat out wrong. This season's fate was very predictable well before the injury bug appeared. It was easy to foresee doom after many, many poor decisions made by the Front Office over the last three years. Here are the Top Ten Worst Front Office Decisions that led to this Reds debacle that we currently have. But before that... the gloating: there is no hindsight/ 20-20 judgement on any of these moves- every one of these moves was criticized by yours truly WHEN THEY HAPPENED. On with the list...
10. Signing Alex Gonzalez to a three- year, $14.5 million dollar contract: Quit complaining that he never played. When he did play, he was awful. He was hitting .207/ .254/ .295 this year. He contributed more last year by NOT playing at all.
9. Trading Edwin Encarnancion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart to Toronto for 3B Scott Rolen: Sure Rolen is a major upgrade over Encarnacion, but he is in his mid- 30s, injury- prone, expensive, and only signed for one more year. Giving up two of the five prospects for Rolen was a steal for the Blue Jays and a ditch digger for the Reds.
8. Signing Corey Patterson to a one- year deal to play CF in 2008: Dusty Baker campaigned to get Patterson and he stubbornly gave him 344 at bats to hit .207/ .254/ .295 and drag the Reds down. And Baker wondered why people thought Patterson was dating his daughter.
7. Signing Edwin Encarnacion to a two- year contract worth $7.6 million dollars: This led to GM Walt Jocketty having to throw in Roenicke and Stewart to get the Blue Jays to take Encarnacion off of the Reds' hands. If the Reds decline him arbitration, he is a free agent, the Reds still have Roenicke and Stewart, the Reds are still in 5th place, but they have a brighter future.
6. Drafting Yonder Alonso instead of Gordon Beckham in the first round of the 2008 Draft: One of the Reds' biggest holes to fill this off- season is shortstop. There is no capable shortstop on the roster or in their minor leagues (except present second baseman Brandon Phillips). That would not be a problem if they would have taken Beckham, who was scooped up immediately with the next pick by the White Sox. Beckham is presently hitting .299/ .373/ .470 at the Major League level. Instead, the Reds have a guy pushing Joey Votto, one of their few indepensible players.
5. Trading Adam Dunn: Public pressure trumped logic and production and the Reds sent Dunn to Arizona for peanuts. Now, Dunn plays first base for the Naitonals and is hitting .285/ .417/ .580 while the Reds roll out Lance Nix and Johnny Gomes into leftfield. Gomes is a good backup for the Reds and Nix is... a good backup in Triple- A.
4. Signing Willy Taveras to a two- year contract worth $6.25 million: What made anyone think Taveras was a major leaguer? His history, his statistics, and his past teams' transactions involving him should have kept Jocketty (and Baker- he lobbied for Taveras) away. It kept every other MLB team away. The Reds outbid themselves for a Triple- A speedster. They must eat his contract for next year and let Drew Stubbs play center field every day. Speaking of Stubbs...
3. Drafting Drew Stubbs instead of SP Tim Lincecum: Stubbs is an excellent defender who can steal a base and has a great baseball makeup. He is not an impact player. He may struggle to hit .280 or get on- base more than .340. A huge upgrade over Taveras- absolutely, but he is not Lincecum. Drafting Lincecum would have given the Reds a #1 starter the past three years and would have made a difference of 8 or 10 more wins in the standings. He would have brought more fans to the park, which would, in turn, bring more money into the Front Office, which would mean more money to spend on payroll, international signings, etc.
2. Signing Francisco Cordero to a four- year, $47 million contract: If you are the Yankees, Mets or the Red Sox, you can pay your closer $12 million a year. Almost every else realizes that closers grow on trees so this is a great area to save money. Todd Coffey (if he were still here), Arthur Rhodes, Bill Bray (last year), Jared Burton (last year), and David Weathers (up until last week) would have produced almost the same results for a lot less money. With this available cash, the Reds could have spent on Adam Dunn or a real center fielder like Tori Hunter.
1. Hiring Dusty Baker: The guy is an ace with the media and has many of them snowed, but he cannot fool all of us. He is the absolute worst manager AT ANY LEVEL when it comes to making out a lineup. He lobbied for Patterson (.238 OBP) and Taveras (.276 OBP and no power) and then played them more than anyone else would have while also batting them at the top of the lineup. In the two- hole, he used Alex Gonzalez (.254 OBP) and more recenltly, Paul Janish (.291 OBP). What we have here is stubborn idiocy. Joey Votto is going to hit .315 with 25 home runs in about 500 at bats and only have 80 RBI because nobody was ever on base in front of him.
Honorable Mention: Drafting Devon Mesoraco who is looking like a huge bust.
Do not let the Reds fool you. They - not the injury bug- are responsible for another losing season. Is it fixable? Stay tuned... I have some ideas.