July 31, 2008

The End of an Era

Fans are the best. It never fails. I log onto the Cincinnati Enquirer website after the big Griffey trade was announced, and the exact same fans who have been killing Griffey for years and bemoaning his lazy attitude and lack of hustle are now practically grieving on the Cincinnati Enquirer website about him being traded today to the White Sox. Why would anyone be upset about Griffey getting traded?? The only real tragedy here is that he wasn't traded years ago.

I don't want to be too hard on Griffey because he's a Cincy guy, and I am an admitted Griffey fan. I hope he rediscovers his swing and does well in Chicago. For all the hand-wringing about this trade from disgruntled Sox fans, I really don't think it's an awful trade for them if you use Griffey in the right situations. I would use him as a super sub or in some sort of platoon where he hits righties and maybe pinch hits in late innings. Griffey was never a great clutch hitter with the Reds, but you never knew when he might take one out. If Griffey gives the White Sox a little more lefthanded power and some quality ABs off the bench, he could be valuable for them down the stretch or in the playoffs.

Griffey had some nice moments with the Reds, but the problem with Griffey on the Reds for the last decade was that he was making $12 million a year. Many years, he represented almost 1/4 of the team's payroll, but his production level was nowhere near his salary. In other words, the Reds paid Griffey superstar money for a decade but never received anything closely resembling superstar performance. When you are building around a guy who is either too injured or too old to be a marquee player, you aren't going to win very many games. Griffey has been relatively healthy the last few years, but he's no longer a #3 hitter (even though he still hits there-thanks Dusty) and has become a serious liability in the outfield. When you are paying a guy $12 million to hit .240 and play lousy defense with a lazy attitude and no leadership, you aren't getting much for your dollar. Whether it is fair or not (and obviously Griffey wasn't responsible for all of the Reds problems), Griffey was the symbol of one of the worst eras of Reds baseball in team history.

Today should be a great day for Reds fans. It was a foregone conclusion that Griffey would not be a part of this team next year, but it's still a good feeling to turn the page on the Griffey era. The Reds have been poorly run for a decade, and the jury is still out on what type of leadership Walt Jocketty is going to provide. If this deal accomplishes anything, it gives the Reds a chance to get rid of the dead wood and start fresh with the young core and a new attitude. I've heard that the only guy who really took all the losing personally was Brandon Phillips and that there were too many guys in the clubhouse who didn't care enough about winning. Leadership matters, and Griffey was not the type of guy who would give you great leadership and hold other guys accountable. When Griffey was out there loafing on balls and not running hard, it set a bad example for the Jay Bruces and Joey Vottos of the world. I hope that this team gets turned over to Brandon Phillips now that Griffey is gone.

The priority for the offseason now turns to finding a leadoff hitter who can play shortstop or centerfield and hopefully a new catcher. Griffey frees up $12 million, and I would love to see the Reds dangle Homer Bailey and others to get a dynamic young centerfielder who can hit at the top of the lineup. A decision on Adam Dunn will also have to be made. Stay tuned.

- As far as the Manny Ramirez trade is concerned, what exactly was accomplished in this whole mess?? Did the Red Sox get any better by trading Manny?? Bay is having a great year, but who would you rather have on your roster in the playoffs - Manny Ramirez or Jason Bay??? Manny is the best right handed hitter of his generation, and he always rose to the occasion under the brightest lights. The Red Sox lineup is a little less scary without Manny in there. Yankees fans must be happy to see him out of a Red Sox uniform. Bay is younger and maybe has more long term potential, but Manny in the cleanup spot is much scarier than Jason Bay if you ask me. Then again, Theo Epstein is very smart, and maybe they think Manny is on the verge of a major decline. I'm inclined to think that Bay won't make up for the loss of Manny, but I wouldn't put it past the Red Sox to be ahead of the curve on this one and make everyone look foolish. I'm headed to Boston for a wedding this weekend, so the weekend just got more interesting already. Looking forward to talking some Sawx with the locals.

I would be really curious to hear thoughts on this trade from a Dodgers perspective. I think it would depend on what their plans are for Manny. If they are planning to keep him this year and sign him to an extension for a few years, I think this trade is perfectly justifiable. It's one thing to give away a top prospect for a stiff, but I don't think there's anything wrong with giving away Andy LaRoche for a stud like Manny Ramirez. Manny can be an anchor for the Dodgers lineup for a few years, and they have plenty of money to pay him. For all the fuss about all the Dodgers young players, none of them has really blossomed into a legit stud bat in the middle of their order. Manny is that type of player, and he will make everyone around him better. He is exactly what the Dodgers have been missing for years.

Let's face it, the Dodgers have been turning down deals for their prospects for years, but it has turned out that a lot of their prospects were just plain overrated. When you have an opportunity to cash in for a guy like Manny, I have no problem with that move. Even if Andy Laroche pans out, it will be several years before he really make a major impact. By that time, the Pirates will probably be ready to trade him away to a team like the Dodgers.

The Dodgers have too many guys in their outfield, so I wouldn't be surprised to see another trade coming this offseason involving one of those outfielders. I would love to see Matt Kemp or Ethier go on the trade market because the Reds could probably go for either one.

As far as this season goes, couldn't the Dodgers conceivably be dangerous in a playoff scenario with Manny Ramirez and Chad Billingsley?? They are certainly more potent with Manny Ramirez hitting 4th than with Jeff Kent hitting there.

Pirates fans have to be at least somewhat pleased with their deadline performance considering what the downside possibilities were (getting a bunch of junk prospects). They have brought in an assortment of young talent, and it appears LaRoche and Tabata have major upside down the road. The problem is that the Pirates have been in this never-ending cycle of trading their best players for prospects for about 15 years. I mean, Jason Bay was the Andy LaRoche or Jose Tabata of five years ago. He was the big prospect acquisition in the Brian Giles trade who was going to be one of the cornerstones of a great rebuilding project. Now here they are five years later trading him while he's in his prime. At some point, the Pirates need to change the game. They've been doing the same thing for over a decade, and they are no closer to contending now than they've ever been. The only way they can dig themselves out of this rut is to have a series of great drafts and mix those guys in with the LaRoches and Tabatas that they get through trades. You can win as a small market franchise, but you need to continually bring in great young talent through the draft and other smart acquisitions. The Pirates haven't been able to do that. They seem to find one really good player about every five years, do nothing to build around him, and then move the guy for another young player who will be in the same crappy situation. The new GM has done a nice job so far, and I get that he is in a hole created by the prior regime. I guess we won't know how their latest rebuilding project turns out for another 3-4 years. I'd be willing to guess that it will turn out a lot like the last few rebuilding projects.

1 comment:

Betting in Vegas said...

Indeed, those were some good times ...