CINCINNATI—For the past six months, I’ve been missing from these pages and not by choice. Time and some bad habits caught up with me, and the doctors—bless ’em all—were not that quick in finding and correcting the problem.
But, eventually they did and the best of them—a hard knot native from Poland—says, “Now, my friend, your miseries are behind you.”
There’s no way I’m going to go run a mile or two, or knock out a few sets with my boys, but based on what was, what I was faced with, hey, I’m sitting on top of the world, and I am here to tell you: I’m not ever taking anything for granted—nothing, not ever again.
As for those who assumed the gendarmes had finally caught up with me and I had been deported, not yet, and keep the faith.
Anyway, since we last talked a whole lot has taken place:
THE OHIO STATE BASEBALL SEASON…Those who were watching closely expected a down season. A team can not lose 17 players including six everyday players—legit stars and guys who turned the team’s motor—and get right back to where they were. That said, the Buckeyes’ performance this season was disturbing.
There’s no need to kick that can around any more. The numbers are in the book: 22-34 overall, 9-17 at home, 8-16 in the Big Ten.
Those are not OSU numbers, but there is reason to believe that through all of it, Coach Greg Beals found a core of players that will be the foundation of the team for the next two, three seasons, and that this group will come back to the field in 2018 with a better approach to the game.
They’ll be smarter, more sophisticated, more educated. They will take a more intelligent approach toward the game.
Young teams, those short on Division I experience tend to concentrate completely on their numbers, their personal performance. Coming from high school, junior college and summer travel teams, there’s an unfortunate tendency for players to focus solely on what they are doing and not how they fit within a team.
One mother who had shepherded two sons through years of summer ball recently told me: “It’s become ridiculous. It’s all about ‘me’. ‘What did I do?’
“There is no thought to winning or what it takes to win. I’d drive 200 miles, sit in the stands and think, ‘This is nuts. It’s a showcase. Nothing more.’ It’s all about guys getting their numbers up so the college coaches or the big league scouts will notice. To hell with ‘team’. They just happen to be wearing the same uniform. That’s it.
“So, they get to school, college ball—and I’ve seen this with my sons and several of their friends—and, it’s trouble. They don’t get the team thing right away, and because they don’t, a lot of them end up sitting the bench, and they wonder why. Come on.”
Smart teams, good teams are generally composed of players who recognize not only where they fit in the team scheme, but players who have become adept at recognizing the weaknesses of their opponents and finding ways to take advantage of those weaknesses and the openings they create.
Last season, Beals said it over and over: “We had our opportunities, we just didn’t take advantage of them.” He was not always talking about men left on base. More often than not, he was talking about “the little things,” the little things that add up to help make a season or wreck a season.
THE RETURN OF HOMER BAILEY: Have you ever seen the like? Good money thrown after bad. As of this writing (719/17), Bailey has made five starts after returning from the disabled list—a stint that’s been longer than some big league careers. In those five starts he’s been pathetic: 21 1/3 innings, 35 hits, six homers, 24 runs allowed, 24 earned and a 10.13 ERA. His showing reminds me of an old song from the Andy Griffith Show, “Dirty Me, Dirty Me, I’m Disgusted With Myself.” As Briscoe Darlin said, “That’n makes me cry.”
Anyway, when Bailey last pitched—against Washington—the Nationals looked and acted like kids at recess. They were running to the plate like they were serving free drinks. Little wonder, opponents are batting .372 against Bailey. Everybody he faces is a potential batting champion.
Bailey could be done, nothing left.
The late George Scherger, bench coach for Sparky Anderson during the Reds’ hey day and for Pete Rose in the 80s, consistently argued against long-term contracts for pitchers.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Never has. Why? Why give ‘em big contracts when you never know when they might go, or what might cause it. And it’s worse with relievers. They can be here one minute, gone the next.”
To make matters worse, the Reds owe Bailey 63 million through 2019. It’s sad and it says something about the judgment exhibited by Reds ownership.
Once before, they shackled themselves with exorbitant contracts—Ken Griffey, Jr., and Barry Larkin—and now, they’ve done it again with Bailey and Joey Votto.
The Reds are quick to point out the limitations of being a small or mid-size market. They’ve done so for years. But if that’s the case, they have no business throwing down huge contracts.
This is by no means a new or novel argument, but if Dick Williams is as sharp as some say, he will commit to building the farm system and finding solid brick-and-mortar players, players like Scooter Gennett, like Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison; like Chris Coghlan, Jon Jay, Brock Holt and Travis Shaw. They may well be on that path, but there are those out there who believe the Reds are still running behind in scouting and player development. We can only wait and see.
THE PRESS PROS RUNNING DEBATE: I’ve been surprised at the argument that’s raged on these pages regarding winning. Seems there are actually folks who think winning is not such a good thing or that we spend too much time thinking about winning or praising winners at the expense of those who lose.
I don’t get it. I simply don’t understand how one can be condemned for wanting to win or praising winners.
I’ve thought about it and seems to me that everything that’s good in my life came about as a result of wanting to win, and I think that’s the case for most of us.
When I was a little, I wanted to win my parents favor. In grade school, I wanted to win good marks. In sports, winning was just plain more fun than losing, and sometimes, coach bought us Cokes or ice cream when we won.
When it came down to it, dating was about winning, and when I met my wife to be, nothing was more important than winning her heart.
My career was all about winning, doing a good job day after day and advancing. I wanted to win a good life for my wife and children, and today—as I write this—I hope to win over a few readers.
Sure, I’ve lost and it hurt. But the losses did worlds of good, too. I learned more about winning.
Strange, all the time I was unable to work, when I wondered what the future held, all I could think about was getting better—yep, winning back my health.