Winner of three in a row for the month of July, Homer Bailey has silenced (for now) those who questioned if his head would ever catch up to his arm.
Two years ago former talk show host Mark Schlemmer wanted to trade Reds righthander Homer Bailey for a used ball bag and a fungo bat.
“He’s got a great arm,” said Schlemmer. “But he doesn’t have the mental makeup to pitch in the big leagues.”
And it’s true. For the first few years of the Homer Bailey experiment the former first-round draft choice did exhibit signs of brain lock while trying to pitch through opposing batting orders for the second or third time.
Inconsistency! He’d hang a breaking pitch. He’d leave a fastball over the heart of the plate, ahead in the count. Or, he just didn’t bring his good “stuff” to the game, the likes of which he threw in the bullpen warming up.
Well, I disagreed with Schlemmer at the time, and looking back, I’m now more convinced than ever that when he’s healthy Homer Bailey is a bona-fide star in the making as a big league pitcher. And he proved it Sunday night.
Battling through heat, humidity, and a formidable Cardinal lineup while getting little run support of his own, he entered the eighth inning of a 2-2 game on Sunday. He promptly surrendered a pair of base hits to put runners on first and second with no one out. The old Homer Bailey? Hardly. In impressive fashion he retired the next three consecutively, and impressively, to send the game tied to the bottom of the inning. The Reds promptly scored two runs on a Scott Rolen single with the bases loaded, and won, 4-2.
It’s hard to explain…the process by which players in any sport mature to the task at hand. What we’re talking about is being able to overcome a circumstance “mentally” as well as physically. You have to “execute” pitches…throw strikes that prevent opposing hitters from “executing” on their own. Homer Bailey has learned, and continues to learn, to do that.
His performance improved Bailey’s record to 8-6, staked the Reds to their sixth straight win, and prompted manager Dusty Baker to talk about him afterwards in terms of being an ace. This, two years after Mark Schlemmer and countless others had given up on Homer Bailey…but not all.
“For my money he’s got the best stuff on that staff,” PPM columnist Hal McCoy said back then. He hasn’t changed his stance.
“He’s always had the arm,” Hal added recently. “He’s a good kid who likes to compete. It’s just been a matter of consistency…of putting it all together.”
Dusty Baker was right. Sunday he did pitch like an ace. And those who doubted should be happy now…to still have Homer Bailey!