December 2009

Best/Worst of 'The Aughts'?

Obviously, this week has been one of reflection about the decade that’s about to end. In terms of the Reds, I was trying to think of the best moments of the “aughts,” and then I tried to ponder about some of the watershed events in Cincinnati sports in general. It was tougher for me since I spent half of this decade not living in Cincinati.

So, what did I come up with?

The bottom line: This has been one rough decade for the Cincinnati sports fan. If you’re reading this, I guess I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.

I thought about Kenyon Martin breaking his leg in the Conference USA Tournament in 2000, ruining the Bearcats’ possibly best chance at a National Championship. There was Kimo Von Oelhoffen plowing into Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer’s knee during the playoffs in 2006. There was Bob Huggins’ 2004 DUI and subsequent fall as head coach of the Bearcats. Even one of the feel good stories — the UC football team’s undefeated 2009 season — was marred at the end since head coach Brian Kelly bolted for Notre Dame before he could take the team to the Sugar Bowl.

And then there were the Reds. Remember how optimistic everyone was when the decade started? In 1999, the Reds were one game away from making the playoffs and seemed poised for good times when Ken Griffey Jr. arrived for the 2000 season. That would be the one and only winning season for the Reds this decade. There have been numerous managers and general managers that have come and gone without success and many more players.

There have been some nice Reds moments, of course. Griffey’s 500th and 600th career home runs (in 2004 and 2008, respectively) immediately come to mind. Jay Bruce’s debut week in the Majors in 2008 was sensational. There was Adam Dunn’s 535-foot homer to the driftwood on the banks of the Ohio River in 2004. Brandon Phillips and Bronson Arroyo arrived in 2006 and Joey Votto hit the scene in late 2007. Phillips had a 30-homer, 30 stolen base season in 2007. The 1990′s most popular Reds player, Barry Larkin, retired in 2004.

Here’s the question for you to ponder as 2010 approaches — what is your favorite two or three Reds memories from 2000-2009? And while we’re at it, how about your favorite Cincinnati sports moment?

Hopefully, the next decade will be more fun for the Cincinnati sports fan. It almost has to be, right?

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Nothing doing with LA, Harang

There was a story today from Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan that trade talks are indeed still alive between the Reds and Dodgers regarding starting pitcher Aaron Harang and L.A. reliever George Sherrill.

The story said the apparent holdup was that the Reds wanted a good prospect besides Sherrill, who would possibly be spun for more prospects by Cincinnati. Passan believed the Reds are willing to pay up to $10 million of the $14 million due to Harang. Sherrill is expected to earn $4.3 million.

A Reds source told me on Tuesday that L.A. did inquire about Harang but nothing happened. The Dodgers offer was never taken seriously. While I was on vacation last week, there were reports about Harang and the Dodgers but those talks were termed “dead” in a report by MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. It doesn’t sound like anything has really changed since then.

What made me skeptical of the latest report was the money and the return. There was no way the Reds would take on so much of Harang’s salary because sending $10 million to L.A. wouldn’t give them the real payroll room they’re seeking. And the Reds bullpen is already stocked with several lefties. They don’t need more with Arthur Rhodes, Daniel Herrera and Bill Bray among those already in house, especially for over $4 million that Sherrill is owed.

Rolen signs extension

The Reds and 3B Scott Rolen have restructured his contract and have extended him for two more guaranteed seasons. Rolen’s new contract will pay him $23.625 million through the 2012 season with a $5 million signing bonus that is deferred over the next three seasons without interest. He was originally expected to earn $11 million in 2010 but will now get $6 million in 2010, $6.5 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012.

The move seems to provide the Reds more payroll flexibility for next season while giving the 34-year-old Rolen the extra two years of security.

Here are more contract details:

Rolen can earn the following bonuses:

$25,000 per All-Star selection
$50,000 for Gold Glove
$50,000 for Silver Slugger
$200,000 for MVP
$50,000 for Division Series MVP
$100,000 for LCS MVP
$150,000 for World Series MVP

The no-trade clause Rolen had from his old contract extends through the new one.

Rolen also gets access to a suite on the road.

Having Rolen for two extra years brings a few questions.

1. What happens with 3B prospect Juan Francisco? Does this mean Francisco is a left fielder of the future now? Could he be a trade chip?

2. Given Rolen’s age and injury history, is this a risky move adding on two more years? He will be 37 when the new contract ends.

Feel free to reflect and respond…

4:25 pm update: The Reds confirmed the signing.

“Scott’s signing is an indication of his feelings toward the club and the direction we’re taking,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement. “He wants to stay here, and hopefully he can end his career as a Red.”

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Another Winter Meetings done

The Reds contingent left Indianapolis as soon as the Rule 5 Draft ended, completing one of the quieter Winter Meetings the team has had since I started covering this beat.

Some of the more recent developments:

Regarding IF Craig Counsell, the Reds are one of “two or three” clubs in the mix for the free agent according to GM Walt Jocketty. The Brewers appear to be the front-runner to retain Counsell, who is a Milwaukee native.

Nothing is happening in talks with Jonny Gomes. Jocketty said he “can’t say” if the Reds will tender an offer before the Saturday deadline.

Whether he was satisfied or not with the quiet week that was, Jocketty said this:

“As I’ve said, we really like our club. I don’t think we needed to rush out and do anything this week. I think the free agent market, we’ll see how it plays out later into January and maybe into February or March, who knows? On the trade front, there were a couple of little things we talked about but it didn’t materialize. We didn’t want to do something for the sake of doing something.”

As for the Rule 5 Draft, the Reds didn’t take anyone in the MLB phase but lost LHP Ben Jukich to the Cardinals. In the Minor League phase, the Reds took right-handed reliever Douglas Salinas from Tampa Bay. Salinas was in low Class A last season.

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Interest in Counsell, talked to Gomes

How quiet have things been with the Reds at the Winter Meetings?

“I’d tell you to stay close to your phones but there is no reason to,” general manager Walt Jocketty said on Wednesday afternoon.

Like on Tuesday, Jocketty spent time talking to different clubs and agents. The quest remains for a pitcher and a left-handed hitting infielder that can play second base and shortstop.

I asked if they had reached out to free agent infielder Craig Counsell, who fits that bill. Jocketty confirmed the interest and that there had been talks with Counsell’s agent. He did not elaborate beyond that.

All is very quiet regarding Jonny Gomes contract talks and the sides appear no closer to a deal. The deadline to tender an offer to the arbitration eligible outfielder remains on Saturday. I called Gomes to see what he knew and he said he’s staying out of it. He has more enjoyable things to do like spend time with his four-week old daughter, Zoe.

“The agents are lawyers and negotiators. I’m just a baseball player,” Gomes said. “They are 100 percent trusted on that side. It’s up to them and I let them do it. My friends and family are three times more stressed about it than I am and they’re wondering why I’m not stressed.”

Gomes very much would like to return to the Reds.

“My thoughts on returning are still awesome,” Gomes said. “I had a great time in Cincinnati and appreciated being taken in with open arms. The fans, the ballpark and the city are second to none.”

Also — the Reds have no plans to talk with Jamey Carroll’s agent. The determination was he did not play shortstop enough to be a a fit.

Our session with Jocketty was held earlier than usual because the Reds are attending a banquet where Gene Bennett will be named Midwest Scout of the Year. Bennett has been with the Reds organization since 1952 and is one of the nicest people you will find in the game. He’s also made some great recommendations over the years.

To watch a video of Gene’s speech — it’s here:

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=7144493

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What's up in Indy? Not much

Most of the talk on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings revolved around two things — and neither of them involved the Reds. One stunner was that Peter Gammons announced he was leaving ESPN at the end of the week. The other was the blockbuster three-way trade pending between Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks.

As for the Reds, there was no significant news to report.

Said GM Walt Jocketty “We met with a couple of different agent groups about free agents and we met and had discussions with several clubs but I wouldn’t say we’re close to anything. But there were some interesting discussions.”

Among the developments on Tuesday:

*Talks began this week with the agents for outfielder Jonny Gomes.

“We’re still a ways apart,” Jocketty said. An offer must be tendered to the arbitration-eligible Gomes by a Saturday deadline.

*The Rangers inquired about LHP Arthur Rhodes but the Reds were not interested in dealing Rhodes.

*A rumor floated by ex-GM Jim Bowden had the Reds interested in Orlando Cabrera and Miguel Tejada, both are free agent shortstops. It was essentially shot down. Bowden now works for Sirius-XM.

“I’d be interested but I don’t think they’d fit into our pay structure,” Jocketty said.

*Still no talks have started with the agent for IF Jamey Carroll.

*With the roster at its 40-man limit, Jocketty didn’t expect the Reds to be adding players through the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

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Carroll 'would love' to join Reds

Folks milling through the hotel lobby, people chatting and many more people standing around with glazed looks in their eyes. Yep, this is the Winter Meetings in full swing on Tuesday.

As far as the Reds are concerned, so far it’s quiet again. On Saturday, I wrote that the Reds had some interest in infielder Jamey Carroll but there still have been no talks. Carroll grew up in Evansville, Ind. and was a fan of the Reds as a kid.

“We would certainly entertain an offer,” Carroll’s agent, Jonathan Maurer said on Tuesday. “We would love to play for the Reds.”

Maurer is in Indy and said Carroll has drawn interest from other clubs and there have been talks. Reds GM Walt Jocketty said on Monday that he was looking for a utility player that can hit and play shortstop.

Carroll, 36, spent the last two seasons with the Indians and he batted .276 with two homers and 24 RBIs. Lifetime since 2002, he’s a .273 hitter with a .351 on-base percentage. He hasn’t played shortstop since 2007.

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Day 1 in Indy

For reasons beyond my control, I rolled into Indianapolis late today. My colleague, Indians beat writer and former Reds reporter Anthony Castrovince, picked me up when Dusty Baker had his session with reporters.If you’d like to read the transcript, here is the link.

http://www.asapsports.com/show_interview.php?id=60700

While Dusty was talking, I was in my car approaching Indy on a portion of I-65 known as the Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds Highway. Wow — he gets a highway named after him? I just remember Babyface being on “Beverly Hills 90210″ as himself singing and had Brian Austin Green in his band and Kari Wurhrer as his agent. That ended up being an interesting episode but anywho…

I did arrive at the Winter Meetings in time to go to the Reds suite and chat with GM Walt Jocketty. Former Padres GM Kevin Towers was in there but it didn’t appear to be about business.

“I’m watching football,” Towers said.

“He’s a friend and we’re catching up,” Jocketty said.

All is quiet on the Reds front in terms of hot stove stuff. There have been no talks yet with the agents for Jonny Gomes. Jocketty said he was looking for a utility infielder that can play shortstop. He has not spoken to the agent for Jamey Carroll.

Jocketty made it clear that he is not seeking to break up the roster or part with the future prospects, so it might be an uneventful week.

“We like our club. We like our club a lot the way it is,” Jocketty said. “Unless we can add a few pieces here and there, we’re not going to break it up. We’re going to try and keep together as much as we can and hopefully stay healthy this year.”

Another significant quote that should encourage fans that like the development that’s happened lately within the organization:

“We’re not going to trade these young guys for a quick fix just to win this year,” said Jocketty. “We want to build this thing. Our goal has been all long to build it up to be competitive as soon as we can but to be competitive for a long time. We don’t want to be one-year wonders.”

There will be guys in camp like outfielder Chris Heisey and pitcher Travis Wood to compete for jobs. First round and pitcher Mike Leake is a possiblity to be invited to camp as a non-roster player.

Baker told reporters that the Reds were trying to re-sign Laynce Nix, who was outrighted off the roster last month and became a free agent.

The only Reds move of the day was an off the field one. Paul Keels will do play-by-play work when Thom Brennaman is away. Keels is currently the voice of Ohio State football and basketball and he used to do the same job with the UC Bearcats. The Reds could very well lead the league in broadcasters.

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Reds interested in Carroll, Lowry

With only a one day break on Sunday after two days of Redsfest, the Winter Meetings will be up and running at full speed on Monday in Indianapolis. Reds GM Walt Jocketty was hopeful that his team would be involved in some activity.

“I’d say I’m hopeful that something will happen. It makes the week a lot more fun,” Jocketty said on Saturday.

Jocketty confirmed recent reports that the Reds were interested in free agent infielder Jamey Carroll and left-handed starter Noah Lowry.

“We haven’t discussed him at length,” Jocketty said of Carroll. “He’s gutty and a tough player, a gamer-type of guy that’s hard-nosed.”

Carroll would be a possible choice for shortstop where Paul Janish currently plays. But that doesn’t mean the Reds are souring on Janish, although they’ve made their interest in adding someone there known.

“If there was somebody that stands out as a good defensive player and a better offensive player, we’d have to be interested,” Jocketty said. “But both Dusty and I would be happy with Janish as our shortstop because defense is so key.”

Carroll spent the last two seasons with the Indians but did not play shortstop there. He did play second base, third base and both corner outfield spots.

As for Lowry, who has been with the Giants for all of his five big league seasons, he could be someone for the vacant fifth spot in the Reds rotation.

“If he’s healthy, yeah,” Jocketty said.

Lowry hasn’t pitched since 2007 because of a myriad of injuries. He had forarm surgery two years ago and in 2009, had a rib removed to relieve soreness in his shoulder and neck brought on by a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome.

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Redsfest via my iPhone

I cruised around the floor at Redsfest and snapped some pictures with the camera on my phone. They aren’t the most artistic photos you’ll ever see, but you’ll get the idea.

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This is Bronson Arroyo singing on stage on Friday with a local band called the Rusty Griswolds.

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Mr. Redlegs poses for pictures.

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Adam Rosales reading to the kids in the Reading Room.

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Drew Stubbs signing autographs.

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A Reds fan takes a try at climbing the rock wall.

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And in this final blurry photo, Johnny Cueto at the autograph area.

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