December 2012

Enjoy the holidays

Greetings and Happy Holidays from all of us at the Mark My Word blog world headquarters…

I won’t be doing much updating for the next few days, but I’m not going anywhere. If there is some breaking or developing news, I will be here to cover it and of course on MLB.com.

In the meantime, here are some links that can keep you occupied when you’ve had enough of watching the Caillou’s holiday movie or a Wiggles Christmas with your kids, Real Housewives Marathon with your wife/girlfriend and Productnamegoeshere Bowl college football with your husband/boyfriend.

Here is my Holiday Q&A with Reds pitcher Sam LeCure

MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince compiled a holiday wish list for all 30 clubs. Anthony also put together his memories of the late Ryan Freel in this column. A former colleague of mine on the Reds beat, Marc Lancaster of the old Cincinnati Post wrote a really, really nice piece on Freel.

Over at the new Web site, and our MLB.com corporate cousins, Sports on Earth, ex-Deadspin founder Will Leitch has become a favorite read. I’ve never met Will, but have greatly enjoyed his work from afar in various outlets for a while. Here’s his latest column on who in the media had a good 2012.

If you’re a despondent NHL hockey fan who has slogged through this lockout this winter, maybe this will perk you up. It’s the unofficial hockey uniform database. You can get nostalgic for those old ugly Vancouver Canucks sweaters, or perhaps wonder, there was really once a team in Kansas City?

Come back NHL hockey, come back.

Take care and all the best to you and yours. Have a safe holiday week.

;

;

;

Ryan Freel: 1976-2012

Like many of you, I was just incredibly saddened when I heard the news Saturday that former Reds player Ryan Freel died from suicide at the young age of just 36. I know he had young kids and it’s just awful to get news like that.

My first season covering the Reds was 2006, which happened to be the year Freel first became a regular in Cincinnati after a few tenuous seasons as a utility guy. As a new writer on the beat, I really appreciated how nice and accessible Freel was. He seemed to trust me rather quickly and we always seemed to get along well.

You could definitely say Freel left it all on the field — perhaps too much sometimes. He would give up his body to make any play. Once in 2007, I saw him dive head first into the base of an outfield wall to make a catch against the Phillies’ Aaron Rowand….in a Spring Training game in Clearwater. His being unable to stay healthy sped his departure from Cincinnati and probably shortened his career.

“I’m not going to change as far as being less aggressive,” Freel told me about a week before that amazing catch. “Deep down, I know it ain’t going to happen. I’ve already talked to myself plenty of times and tried to go that route [of playing it safe]. When  it comes down to crunch time, it doesn’t matter. All of that flies out the window.”

It’s the style of play that was probably why Freel became popular with fans.

Freel suffered a concussion from a particularly nasty collision with teammate Norris Hopper later in 2007. He once estimated he had about nine or 10 concussions over his career.

There were times that Freel was also a little quirky. You could hear a very distinct laugh from around any corner and know it was him. During that 2006 season the day after he made an absolutely spectacular warning track diving catch vs. the Cardinals and Albert Pujols in August — in what might have been the best play of his career — he revealed the play received approval from his imaginary friend “Farney.” And for a time, Farney became rather popular around baseball.

“He’s the little guy in my head who I talk to, and I talk to him,” Freel said on Aug. 9, 2006. “Everyone thinks I talk to myself, so I tell them I’m talking to Farney.”

RIP, Ryan

Freel dies at 36

Horrible news out of Jacksonville on Saturday…

The Florida Times Union reported that former Reds outfielder Ryan Freel died at the age of 36 by suicide. According to the paper, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office confirmed that Freel was found dead from a self-inflicted shotgun wound around 4 p.m. in his residence on Brookchase Lane in Jacksonville.

I will have more information when it becomes available.

Update: The Reds released this statement:

The Reds family is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Freel. His teammates and our fans loved him for how hard he played the game, and he loved giving back to the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

Click here for a link to my story.

Lefty reliever needed? Maybe not

As I drove to and fro on Tuesday night, I had the rare opportunity to listen to the Reds Hot Stove show on WLW while in the car. One of the audience questions for Marty and Thom was whether the Reds needed to add a lefty reliever since Sean Marshall is the only one currently in the bullpen. As you know, the club is hoping LHP Aroldis Chapman can transition to the rotation.

GM Walt Jocketty also told reporters after the Jack Hannahan signing last week he might look for a lefty reliever.

During the radio show, special guest and Reds reliever Sam LeCure brought up a good point. Even with only Marshall, the bullpen has plenty of guys, right-handed guys, that did a good job of getting lefties out. In fact after a quick look at the stats, I found that all the right-handers did better against lefties than righties last season.

Here are some opposing batting averages for Reds relievers:

Arredondo: .277 vs. RH, .165 vs LH

LeCure: .232 vs. RH, .208 vs. LH

Hoover: .196 vs. RH, .120 vs. LH

Ondrusek: .285 vs. RH, .190 vs. LH

Simon: .283 vs. RH, .267 vs. LH

Masset (2011): .267 vs. RH, .284 vs. LH

There isn’t a wealth of left-handed relievers on the free agent market. According to MLBTraderumors.com, this is the complete list:

Pedro Feliciano
Mike Gonzalez
Tom Gorzelanny
J.P. Howell
Rich Hill
Will Ohman
Manny Parra
Rafael Perez
J.C. Romero
Daniel Schlereth **
Hisanori Takahashi

If a lefty (aka LOOGY) can be had for cheap or even on a Minor League deal, cool. But matchups vs. lefty hitters aren’t an area the Reds have to feel shorthanded heading into next season.

**Update: The Orioles announced about an hour after this posting that they signed Schlereth to a Minor League contract.

What a week for the Reds

Wow — you miss a little, you miss a lot.

I knew some things could go down with the Reds while I was away last week but I can’t say I expected them to knock out their entire remaining off-season wishlist. I would have liked to cover/report on those stories.

You’ve gotten Shin-Soo Choo analysis from everywhere already but I’ll add my thoughts anyway. Despite a couple of shortcomings, this is a very good trade for the Reds. They found their leadoff hitter, got $3.5 million cash in the process, didn’t block Billy Hamilton’s path to the Majors and did the deal without having to give up a starting pitcher or future starting pitcher. I’d say that’s pretty, pretty good.

Instead they moved a talented shortstop in Didi Gregorius, who was always going to be blocked by Zack Cozart, and Drew Stubbs — who could be the change-of-scenery guy. If so, good for him. But it wasn’t going to happen in Cincinnati.

Choo will indeed be a one-year stopgap. He’s represented by Scott Boras and will look to cash in big as a free agent in 2014. But it could be quite a year if he meets projections as an on-base percentage guy. He’s a well-regarded hitter in general and from what I’ve heard, a dedicated hard worker that will pull his weight. And if nothing else, he’s one less foe the Reds have to deal with. Choo was tough on Cincinnati in Ohio Cup meetings, especially vs. Bronson Arroyo. In the meantime, the Reds don’t have to rush Billy Hamilton and he can continue to develop as a leadoff hitter while learning to play center field in the Minors.

This is a move that shows again that the Reds are serious — not just about contending, but going further. The only people on the club probably not doing cartwheels over this trade are Reds pitchers since the Reds sacrificed quite a bit defensively. Choo has played only 10 big league games in center field and none since 2009. At least GABP isn’t a vast canyon. If the Reds do visit a larger park, Chris Heisey could potentially step in.

Other stuff:

*It slipped through the cracks last week here that the Reds hired a new assistant hitting coach in Ronnie Ortegon. Assistant hitting coaches at the big league level have become a trend in recent years and several teams employ them — including the Cardinals.

*The Reds also named their Minor League managers, including Jim Riggleman at Triple-A Louisville. Riggleman was with Double-A Pensacola last season.

*As many of you know, MLB teams use a special mud to rub up brand new baseballs so they aren’t so slick. There’s a fantastic story behind where this mud comes from and it’s been written by MLB.com’s Doug Miller. Click here to check it out.

Comment about Reds all week

Until December 17, I will be taking some time off and not updating the blog, or tweeting. There should be some news to discuss this week, namely the official announcement of Ryan Ludwick’s new deal with the Reds pending the passing of his physical. The team is also talking to backup infielder Jack Hannahan and seeking a leadoff hitter.

This and any other breaking Reds news will be covered and posted on Reds.com and MLB.com.

Read about there and discuss it online either here or there. Just please, keep it civil and avoid the name calling, etc.

Until next Monday….

Ludwick signed? And others?

There have been reports on Friday that Ryan Ludwick and the Reds have agreed to terms on a new contract. I’ve asked a couple of different sources and was repeatedly told me it was close but not done.

When asked about the deal, GM Walt Jocketty would not reveal much.

“I expect something to be resolved the first of next week,” Jocketty said.

I take that to mean the Reds are waiting for the physical to be taken to announce something. That’s SOP for them.

*Jocketty also said he has had no talks about OF Michael Bourn with agent Scott Boras. The two met during the GM meetings, but it was to discuss Ryan Madson.

“He would have to really fall,” Jocketty said. “I don’t think so.”

As for INF Jack Hannahan, the Reds are among a few teams still talking to the utility player.

“I think he is going to go into next week. There seems to be a lot of competition,” Jocketty said.

Votto’s knee making progress

I will have much more in a story for MLB.com/Reds.com, but a bearded 1B Joey Votto was talking about his improving left knee during his appearance at Redsfest.

Votto says the twice surgically repaired knee isn’t 100 percent and he isn’t doing baseball activity yet, but he was quite pleased with his progress.

“When I first got injured, I didn’t anticipate it taking this long,” Votto said. “But I feel like I’ve made tremendous improvement over the last month. I struggled before, initially after the surgery, to crouch down even. I had too much swelling, not enough mobility in the joint, too much pain. Now I’m to the point where I can sit on the back of my heels, do a full squat. I can do all kinds of crouching. My strength is not at 100 percent yet, but it’s getting there. I can run at full speed, do jumping and do a lot of strength work. As far as improving, it’s been a great deal.”

Canada won’t like this but Votto hasn’t yet committed to representing his country in this spring’s World Baseball Classic.

“I’m not going to play in the WBC if I’m not 100 percent,” Votto said. “My priority to be at 100 percent for the Cincinnati Reds and hopefully at last we can win a World Series.”

Ludwick contemplating offer

It was another quiet Winter Meetings for the Reds this week. Here’s an update however. My main wrap will be on Reds.com shortly.

*A two-year offer remains on the table to OF Ryan Ludwick.

“The agent said he spoke to Ryan last night and he’s still contemplating some things I guess,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said.

The issue is not the length of the contract. But with all of the money being thrown around this week, especially at outfielders, things have gotten more complicated.

“It’s affecting a lot of things,” Jocketty said.

*I’ve heard the Reds are not the frontrunners among the teams vying for infielder Jack Hannahan. If I hear anything on that, or anything, I will keep you posted.

About two leadoff guys

As the Reds have had little luck in talks about leadoff hitters, I’ve gotten several questions this week about Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury.

I would say that the chances of Boston moving Ellsbury are slim, especially if they don’t go after Josh Hamilton. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told reporters as much today.

According to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, trading Ellsbury is “not our intent,” said Cherington. “We’re expecting him to have a good year in 2013 and be a big part of what we’re doing.”

Ellsbury agent Scott Boras held court with reporters and was asked if a “sign and trade” was doable.

“I do what Jacoby Ellsbury tells me to do,” Boras said. “And I think Jacoby is at this point focused on playing in Boston and seeing where things go after this year. I’m sure Ben and I will be talking about his contract here in January, and until we’re told otherwise, that’s the focus of it.”

Boras was also asked a lot about Michael Bourn, whom he viewed as a “franchise guy.”

“I think there are a number of teams that feel Michael Bourn is the centerpiece of what they want to do,” Boras said. “Atlanta was not a playoff team until he got there in ’12. They weren’t in ’11. A lot of teams have come to me and said they viewed him as the core of the Atlanta team. So I think Michael’s… being a quality leadoff hitter, having speed, and just having the defensive dominance. For a pitching staff to gain that many more outs, it just enhances the investment you made in your pitching. And it also provides for the core of the lineup, that guy who’s just constantly on second base and gives them the ability to score more runs. He’s really a key guy for success.”

More from Boras on Bourn:

“I think that the value of a player, to me, is represented upon his standing among his peers. So when you take out the metrics of the game, the performance, the great thing about Michael is that his consistency is greater than all. His defensive acumen, there’s just a huge separation between him and every other player at that position. And offensively, he provides the leadoff spot. I think if you have center field, you have leadoff, and your 3-4-5 hitter, there aren’t many of those in the game. Those all add premiums to him that most of the other players in this market don’t have.”

**My translation for the Reds: Bourn’s price is too high for them.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 452 other followers

%d bloggers like this: