Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Nothing Weird Happened at Wrigley...Except for the Cubs Winning
2006-05-29 19:00
by Mark T.R. Donohue

You wouldn't expect it from a team counting on major contributions from Neifi Perez, Jerry Hairston, Tony Womack, and Jacque Jones, but the Cubs looked good today against the Reds. They hit with runners in scoring position, they hit with two out, their manager made an against-the-book decision to bring the closer in early and the move paid off. Todd Walker made two dicey plays at first -- either could have been called an error, but neither was -- but he also homered. On one of the plays Walker got eaten up by a bad-hop grounder which appeared to hit him right in the throat and the game paused for some time. From my seat I figured it was just another one of those bizarre moments of Cub misfortune that I always seem to witness. I asked my mother, with whom I attended the game, whether she thought Kerry Wood (2 for 2 with an RBI) could play first base. But Walker recovered, and the only other "Twilight Zone" moment came in the ninth when all four umpires somehow missed seeing a Ryan Freel homer bounce out of the left-field basket at Wrigley. Only a double for my fantasy team, then.

I've been busy traveling the past few days and have had scant time to closely examine what's going with the Rockies, so I should probably tell you folks that J.D. Closser and Ryan Spilborghs are now up from Colorado Springs, replacing Danny Ardoin and Luis Gonzalez who are DL-ing it. I had high hopes for Closser last year and have suggested before that even if he never delivers on his potential, he's still probably better than Ardoin. So far, so good. We've seen a bit of Spilborghs here and there and while there's nothing specifically objectionable about him as a player, the Rockies farm system has a really peculiarly high number of these tweener outfielder types. You know, guys who don't quite hit good enough to be cornermen but don't glove quite good enough to be centerfielders, either. If you play three at once, do they cancel each other out? Seriously, if the Rockies played Jorge Piedra, Jeff Salazar, and Spilborghs all at once, would the fact that all of them can sort of play center allow the ones in right and left to cover for the sort of-ness of whichever one's in center? I don't know, I think about these things sometimes.

Cincinnati only needed to trade one of their hulking first baseman/"outfielder" types for a pitcher for something like four seasons now, so I don't know how much credit we should give to new GM Wayne Krivsky for finally making the deal everyone in baseball (except, evidently, the old Reds regime) knew obviously had to be made. But this Reds team is better with the swap of Wily Mo Peña for Bronson Arroyo and the addition of Brandon Phillips. Were I Krivsky, there is one more move I would make. Send Austin Kearns out somewhere for another starter. Freel deserves to play every day and the current outfield of Adam Dunn, Kearns, and Junior Griffey is pretty dicey defensively. I know with a player of Griffey's stature it's not just as easy as asking him nicely to change positions, but in an ideal world the Reds would field Dunn in left, Griffey in right, and Freel in center. Kearns and Dunn are both more natural first basemen than anything else, but there Cincinnati already has Scott Hatteberg, a former ex-shortstop Rich Aurilia is playing third...did Phillips used to play shortstop too? Can't any of these people pick a position and stick with it?

Speaking of dudes who have changed positions, I was way super wrong about Alfonso Soriano, the outfield, and Washington. He's been good. I was filling out my first All-Star ballot of the year today and I felt so bad about predicting disaster for Soriano that I went ahead and picked him as one of my NL outfielders. The All-Star ballots are always a little bit out of date since they seemingly print the things in January, but there are some glaring omissions on this one. Toronto's Alex Rios isn't listed among the AL outfielders, and that seems like a huge oversight. In my book, as of right now, Rios should be starting. You should all write him in as I did. Anyway, according to the LA Times Soriano might be a trade target for the Dodgers, which would be an excellent transaction in advance of J.D. Drew's annual injury.

2006-05-30 00:41:52
1.   Voxter
All reports I've heard on Kearns' defense have been that it's above average to very good. UZR, back when you could get it, rated him as a plus CF through 2003. Anyway, I'm not certain that the solution to the Reds' bad outfield defense is to trade away their best defensive outfielder, which Kearns almost undoubtedly is, whether one rates him highly or not. (I mean, look at the competition.)

And then there's the question of, what could you get for him, and would it be worth the offensive hit you take in downgrading from Kearns to Freel? I have my doubts; he's a better player than Wily Mo Pena, but I'm not certain you'd get a lot more for him in trade, given Pena's perceived upside and the fact that Kearns had a bit of a rough go of it for a couple of highly-publicized, injury-marred years in a row. And what does another Bronson Arroyo-type really get you? In the Reds' situation, not enough. They've regressed to the mean, and one more slightly-above-average innings eater isn't going to prevent them from meeting Milwaukee and maybe Houston headed the other direction as they embark on their long journey to the middle -- especially not if it means running out a 30-year-old CF who will almost certainly slug less than .400 in place of Kearns in pursuit of a defensive upgrade that may or may not be in the offing.

In short, Austin Kearns, good. Reds, not very good. I think their best bet might be to eat some of Griffey's salary and try to get real value in return for him.

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