The Milwaukee Brewers finish up a six-game road trip this week with a trip to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, where they take on the division-leading Reds.
In light of this occasion, I reached out the men at Blog Red Machine – Fansided’s very own stop for all things Reds, to preview the three-game set. Staff writer John Rentz gave me the low-down on Joey Votto, Dusty Baker, Reds fans and a whole lot more.
Reviewing the Brew: Your team is still clinging to a division lead, but both wins and losses seem to come in bunches – what do you think the reason for that is?
Blog Red Machine –
It wasn’t until the past month that the wins finally did come in bunches (two six-game winning streaks over sets of good teams – last two of three from the Yankees on the road followed by a four-game sweep of the Braves at home, then home sweep of the Indians and a road sweep of the Mets); otherwise, the “typical” Reds pattern was two steps forward, one step back. In fact, the three-game losing streak (being swept by the Indians in this past series on the road) was only the second time it has happened all season (losing the first three of a four-game series to the Nationals in D.C. back in mid-April on their first road trip of the year). The offense is the primary reason for the streakiness. When it clicks, things go well; when it falters, things go south.
RtB: OK, level with us here – what do Reds fans think of Dusty Baker?
So many things could be said about Dusty Baker “sentiment”, but it is doubtful many would go so far as to say “love” in a typical love/hate relationship. The man cannot do right even when he wins and takes more than his fair share of criticism for Reds’ losses. The “Fire Dusty” campaign has existed nearly as long as he’s been the manager here, mostly questioning every move he makes and a perceived situational misuse of players with ignorance to situational stats. The fact remains, Dusty has had success in the places he’s been prior (San Francisco and Chicago Cubs, taking both the post-season), and winning the NL Central in 2010 only seemed to extend his clock here in Cincinnati, much to the chagrin of a large pocket of fans. His use of player “off days” to rotate players in and out of the lineup is most baffling, especially when the “B lineup” (i.e. mostly bench players) takes the field. The typical feeling is that the Reds win despite him and lose because of him (fair or not). The players seem to like him (public perception) and play for him without discord. To me, that’s the most important thing going for him.
RtB: You have a winning team and a beautfiul ballpark in Cincy – why do you think fans aren’t coming out as much to the GAB (baseball-reference has the Reds attendance at 13th out of 16 teams in the NL)?
You touched on a topic that is a hot button for me personally (I wrote about it here), and I think there are many factors for “fan disenchantment” that have ebbed and flowed over the years. The positive thing is that numbers are slowly rebounding, which is an encouraging sign. The Reds will hit the 1 million mark in attendance for the second-fastest time in GABP history this current weekend against the Twins (Reds Hall of Fame induction weekend, during home game 36). The contradictory figure is that television ratings for Fox Sports Ohio, the carrier of most Reds games, are at an all-time high. Translation: fan interest is there, but most are choosing to watch at home than come to the ballpark. I’m sure economic reasons are at play, as the Reds fan base is spread over a larger geographic region than many teams.
RtB: Do you think Joey Votto is putting up MVP-worthy numbers this year? Do you think he will keep it up?
Without a doubt, Joey Votto is putting up MVP numbers. In fact, the numbers are so prolific this
season that comparisons are being made to those of the all-time greats (ranking with reaching base of the great Babe Ruth). Will Joey Votto “wow” you with power? Probably not. He will, however, show a machine-like discipline that has warranted the popular “Votto-matic” slogan locally of late. Votto has reached a status that has finally earned him the recognition nationally that many of us locally have watched developing over the past handful of years. His value is immeasurable in the current state. With continued plate discipline, there is little doubt he will keep it up as the season progresses. Realistically, some regression has to be expected (hitting at .500 sustained isn’t reasonable), but he has .400 hitter potential in him.
RtB: What do you think the future holds for Aroldis Chapman? Is he a reliever for life or is there hope for him as a starter?
The present and future of Aroldis Chapman has been much debated. Losing Ryan Madson before the season followed by injuries to other bullpen stalwarts Nick Masset and Bill Bray led to the place we find Chapman now. There is little doubt Chapman’s greatest value is NOT to be a reliever for life. The biggest concern now is that Aroldis in the closer role is becoming far too one-dimensional (relying far too heavily just on his fastball) while failing to develop his other pitches. GM Walt Jocketty expressed the desire to still make Chapman a starter long-term, but the best and earliest a Reds fan will likely see this happen is 2013 given the bullpen investment now. Masset, Bray, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo, or Logan Ondrusek (who closed a game in Milwaukee) could all be possible closers (as Marshall did for over the first month and a half of the season). Getting Masset back and healthy would make for an interesting argument for both he and Arredondo (a former Angels stalwart only four years ago) being capable to take the role and thrive.
RtB: Is there anything that worries you about this upcoming series with Milwaukee? What do you think the outcome will be?
Watching the Brewers take 2 of 3 in multiple recent series is worrisome as a Reds fan (knowing they’re hardly out of the race and could be right back in it with a strong showing here at GABP), but, in the same breath, the opponents (Cubs, Padres, Twins, and Blue Jays) are ones I would expect them to handle. Getting swept by the Royals was most surprising, to be honest. I am most concerned with Greinke’s start (likely for the Wednesday game since he starts Friday night) given a stellar track record against the Reds. Gallardo has had some good success versus the Reds in the past as well, including at GABP. The three probable Reds starters are Mat Latos (Monday), followed by Bronson Arroyo, and Homer Bailey. Latos has had more bad starts than good, but his home numbers are far better than on the road. Arroyo started strong (including a good showing at Miller Park) but has faltered of late. Bailey is the biggest confidence booster, giving the most quality starts in the past two months. Johnny Cueto will not have a start in the series (which is a shame, but will have a start for the road in San Francisco so it’s all relative). His first bad start came in Milwaukee, so I guess that’s a mixed blessing. I could easily see the Brewers take 2 of 3 games OR, conversely, just as easily see the Reds take 2 of 3 as well. I think the series fully hinges on which Reds offense shows up.