Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball career as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites, and for eight years served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by Morningside Books, in Dayton, Ohio.  Widely knowledgable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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Before you either get too high or too low on the Reds, or any team, consider the numbers and the fact that there’s plenty more out there who feel just like you.

I read his question with interest, and respect…for what Joe Bookwalter recently wrote to Press Pros about heightened optimism for the Reds in 2012 being predicated on some faulty data.

Mainly, as Joe put it, left field has no everyday player.  Center field is good defensively, but there’s nothing offensive about it except 200 strikeouts per season.  Which Jay Bruce plays in right field this year?  Rookies at short and behind the plate?  An aging third baseman that at times looks as frustrated as Johnny Bench did in his final year.  Your fifth starter is still Homer Baily (shouldn’t he be your first or second starter?). 

And the closer they signed from the Phillies never got out of spring training.

Joe B., as he signs his emails, is a long-time correspondent to this and the previous site I published for WPTW radio.  Worked in Dayton, lived in the Clayton area before retiring to the Gold Coast of Florida five years ago…big Reds, Ohio State football, UD basketball, and area high school football fan.  A contemporary of former Northmont coach, Ned Booher. 

Like many his age, Joe’s a little generational in his cynicism about things, and he admits it.  He freely agreed to my pointing that out in this column. 

But as he also points out…he spent 30 years working with numbers.  And the numbers don’t lie, at least in a corporate sense.  But while that’s true in business,  it doesn’t necessarily represent how the business of baseball works.

I love guys like Joe because he’s not only argumentative, he’s actually knowledgable.  His latest missive was waiting on my computer Tuesday morning, pointing out that while Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart are talented or they wouldn’t be there, they still have five months of baseball to prove they’re worthy of heightened expectations.

I reminded him in my own email that once upon a time, in 1967, his favorite, Johnny Bench, was also a rookie.

“Yes,” Joe fired back.  “But he was also surrounded by Pete Rose, Tommy Helms, Lee May and Tony Perez.  Devin Mesoraco should have it that good.”

Touche’?  Well, time’ll tell.  Because that’s how baseball is played.

People who know baseball…people who have played baseball…know that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.  A lot of things change between April and August and it’s one of the reasons why I rarely root for any one team.  I just sit back and enjoy the process.  You simply have to have an appreciation for the game…to really enjoy baseball! 

Otherwise, Drew Stubbs “will” drive you nuts. 

Here’s another point.  As much as you may like the Reds as a Reds fan, you also have to appreciate that the Reds cannot have every good player in the league.  Other teams are going to come to town with players of their own that are either better, or playing better at the time when they play the Reds.

I admit…that during those frustrating times in the late 60s when the Reds did have Rose, Bench, Perez, Helms and Lee May, and didn’t win, I loved going to the ballpark to watch Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Koufax and my all-time favorite, Bob Gibson.  Frankly, these guys often stuck it up the Reds’ butts, and every one of them is today a hall-of-famer, deservedly.  Irritating then to the die-hard like Joe B., I’m sure, but that’s how the game is played.  And oh, the memories now, and appreciation, of watching those great players!

Over time, that core group of Reds developed into the Big Red Machine, with their own hall-of-famers…Bench, Joe Morgan and Perez.  Rose is not officially one, but he should be.  And I’m sure…they frustrated the hell out of Dodger and Pirate fans.

But at the same time, there had to be good baseball minds among those fans who watched the Reds and said…surely, this is one of the great teams of all time.  Don’t like ‘em, but you have to appreciate what they are.

It’s how I’ve always “appreciated” the game of baseball.  For the fact of the team you follow, for sure, but in a bigger sense you have to appreciate all the great players, too, that play against the team you follow.  You have to appreciate the process…by which success happens in baseball, for anyone.

And any time I’m tempted to be frustrated by rookie mistakes and Drew Stubbs’ strikeouts…I think about this point, one I sent back to Joe B.  There’s 25 other baseball teams out there today playing no better, and some worse, than the Reds.  May and June could be an entirely different story.  Again I remind…baseball’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Once upon a time the light came on for Sandy Koufax, because he couldn’t throw a strike for his first five years with the Dodgers.

Mike Schmidt not only didn’t hit home runs as a Phillies rookie, he didn’t make much contact, either.

Jamie Moyer never did throw 90 miles per hour, and he’s still pitching in the big leagues…at age 49!

It’s why the season lasts for six months.  And you can’t just watch the Reds, you have to watch it all.  One of these days you can claim you were there to see it, if it happens.

And what “if” it does happen for the Reds this year?

That’s the “Sonny” school of baseball appreciation.

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