Sometime you just have to take a deep breath and move on. The Reds have taken that deep breath. And it was right they have moved on from Billy Hamilton.
The Reds parted ways with Hamilton late last week, when they "non tendered'" him, baseball speak for not interested in giving you a new contract. Pack it up, Pal. It's been real. It was nothing personal, a rarity for the way the Reds do business anymore.
Hamilton has reached a price point in his career where the Reds felt he wasn't worth the price. It happens to all of us. In the real world, it's called layoffs, contracts not extended, downsizing. In baseball, it's whether or not a player becomes too expensive for what he offers in return. And in return, Hamilton simply came up short.
In short, he can't hit major league pitching. Maybe he will, someday and in some other place. But not this day, nor in this place.
Like the Reds, this isn't personal. It simply wasn't working. In five seasons, his on-base percentage was an anemic .299. His stolen base total fell from 59 in 2017 to just 34 last season.
Maybe, probably, Hamilton will find work. A team with an expansive outfield like San Francisco will be tempted. The Giants, reportedly, tried to trade for him once, but Reds owner Bob Castellini balked. Some team, somewhere, but not here.
I've got nothing against Hamilton. But if the Reds really want to move on and chase the ultimate elixir for putting rear ends in the seats, they have to change.
Baseball isn't a skills competition. It's a team sport. Aroldis Chapman can throw a baseball 105 miles an hour. Hamilton could score from first to third on a single. How did that translate into winning baseball?
The Reds held onto Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake too long. Exactly what, besides a half season of good baseball from Adam Duvall, did they get in return?
Zack Cozart was allowed to simply walk away into free agency. Matt Harvey, too. The Reds got less on the open market for Todd Frazier and Chapman than they could have if they were more proactive.
They have to change.
Bringing back the usual suspects never works. It's why they shouldn't let Homer Bailey anywhere near Goodyear next spring. It's always easy to spend OPM (Other People's Money.) But Castellini has to dine on the $28 million he's due to pay Bailey at the end of this coming season, when the Reds will finally be done with Homer.
In the five years after Bailey signed his six-year, $105 million contract, he's started a grand total of 69 games. Getting hurt, a lot, wasn't his fault. Laying out that kind of dough on a guy who had won just seven more games than he'd lost was somebody's fault.
Maybe Castellini got bad advice from Walt Jocketty or Dick Williams. Maybe the idea to sign Bailey to that ridiculous contract came to Castellini while watching the sun set in Goodyear in the spring of 2014. It doesn't matter. Bring the owner a steak knife and baked potato.
Bailey didn't want to go to the bullpen last season and the coaching staff didn't force the issue.
How do you sell Bailey to a ticket buying public that ran from you in 2018? Lowest attendance since 1984. Hamilton was a start. Bailey would be the next step.
"We finished in last place with you last season," Pirates general manager Branch Rickey once told a raise-seeking Ralph Kiner a long time ago, "we can finish in last place without you."
Nothing personal. But it's time for the Reds to do business.
The Reds' "everyday eight" is more than competitive with the other teams in the National League. Maybe a full season of Jesse Winker helps. Maybe a rookie season of Nick Senzel will be better.
But the Reds' starting pitching, since the great salary dump of the summer of 2015, stinks.
Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Anthony DeSclafani, you're in. The rest of those suspects? Seen it, don't need it.
Reportedly, the Reds have $30 million to spend on free agents this off season. If they unload Bailey and don't have to pay all of his contract, maybe more. That $30 million will get you Dallas Keuchel in 2019 and maybe a little left over to cover arbitration settlements and a stray bat for the bench. But that won't get the Reds home.
They need to swallow hard and part with someone they really want to keep and trade for pitching, as well.
Votto can't be traded and shouldn't be.
Tucker Barnhart is one of the best catchers in baseball. No way you deal him.
Eugenio Suarez? He took a hometown deal and isn't going anywhere.
But everyone else should be in play.
Scooter Gennett, Winker, Scott Schebler - pick a name.
Prospects like Senzel, Jonathan India? Let's make a deal.
The Reds need to change. They're losing the town, honestly. All Castellini and his group had to do was look out on the empty seats last summer. Only six of the 30 MLB teams drew fewer fans than the 1.6+ million the Reds reeled in in 2018. Fireworks and bobblehead giveaways have reached critical mass. No truth to the rumor, by the way, that the Reds are planning a Mike LaCoss bobblehead night. But that could change.
Reds management gets the "ballpark experience." I've been to a lot of MLB ballparks and nobody does it better than the Reds. No team in professional sports celebrates its heritage better than the Reds. When in doubt, wheel 'em out.
But the core product they should be pushing at GABP is the game, the players and outcomes. You know, winning baseball.
Maybe I'm making too much out of the Reds adios-ing Hamilton. But I want to view it as a start. I'd like to see it continue at the baseball meetings next week. I want makeover, bold and beautiful, with names not associated with the Reds. Because that's the only way to get better.
The big question, of course, is will the Reds really do it? Or should they just place a call to LaCoss and see if he's available for some random Saturday this coming summer?
Moving right along
I felt for AJ Green as he was carted off the field Sunday, his season finished with a re-injured toe. A lot of work goes into getting an elite athlete on the playing field. And it's not just the athlete doing the work. It's coaches, trainers, medical staff, diet experts. It's a lot of people. And the really good athletes, like Green, know that their teams can't win without them.
There aren't a lot of football teams, at any level, that will win after losing their starting quarterback and top wide receiver. But the truth is, even before Green and Andy Dalton left the building for the balance of 2018, the Bengals weren't very good. We got duped by some early success.
Check the tape.
They needed a late fumble return for a touchdown to win the opener at Indy. The Colts, save for that fumble, would have had the ball on the Bengals 30-yard line with 30 seconds or so to go and only down four. Would they have gone onto score the game-winning touchdown? Who knows?
A few weeks later, the Bengals needed two defensive scores to beat the Dolphins at home. And they had to hang on to beat the Falcons. Truthfully, they never fully recovered from the way the Steelers beat them. Bengals put eleven in the box. Ben Roethlisberger hits Antonio Brown with a quick slant. Good night and thanks for coming.
The Bengals' $100 million dollar defensive line is playing like its worth, collectively, about $100. There are no, zero, playmakers on defense. Who takes the ball away? Is it all Teryl Austin's fault?
And on offense, the line from center right is an unmitigated disaster. Billy Price will get better. He's long on potential. But right now, it'd be kind to say he's struggling. Tyler Eifert can't stay healthy and the rest of the tight end cast is pedestrian. Joe Mixon has talent. But the coaching staff tends to lose track of him during games. Mixon hasn't had more than 12 carries in his last four games. Tyler Boyd is having a nice season. But the rest of the receivers? What defensive coordinator is staying up nights wondering how to defend Cody Core? Or John Ross?
The Reds and Bengals aren't that dissimilar. They're both losing the town. Apathy is a word you hear a lot. Plenty of good seats available.
The Bengals need a rebuild, too. They, like the Reds, need to play the free-agent game, more often and better. Building through the draft exclusively is a quaint notion. And if nothing, the Bengals are quaint. But look around the league and see the strategic moves contending NFL teams have made over the last five seasons. Then see what the Bengals have done.
Preston Brown was a solid signing, but solid doesn't win you championships. Cordy Glenn? He was hurt in Buffalo last season and he's hurt again now in Cincinnati. And the last, great impactful free agent the Bengals signed was ... who?
Like the Reds, like with any team in any professional sports, do you want to win? Or do you want to just play the games?
If either of our professional sports franchises is really interested in putting as many butts in the park as there are seats, I'd heartily suggest the latter ...
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Now, face the music
If you were alive 50 years ago this week, you heard this song for the first time. The Rolling Stones released the album "Beggars Banquet" on Dec. 6, 1968. And this was one of the biggest hits in Stones history.
Looking to toughen up their image, the Stones find it here. In 1968, a lot of mothers, fathers and clergy were totally convinced that Mick Jagger was admitting he was the anti-Christ with this song. By the way, the "woo woo" chant in this song actually began in the control room when the Stones producer, Jimmy Miller, got caught up in the moment. Miller, thinking it was a good idea, brought Jagger's girlfriend at the time and Marianne Faithfull and a few others into the studio to sing it behind Jagger. Jagger has said that the real power of this song is in its samba rhythm.
"Beggars Banquet" wasn't the commercial success you'd think. It spawned this song and "Street Fighting Man." But it's only sold one million copies in the USA in the last 50 years. Not bad. That's good enough to certify it platinum. But certainly not legendary.