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dusty-baker-failEditor’s Note: Yes, it’s that time of year again – the time for us to settle back into our protective bubble where the Chicago Cubs are destined for greatness, and every other team in the National League Central is bound for spectacular failure. If you’d care to check out last year’s fare: St. Louis CardinalsCincinnati RedsMilwaukee BrewersPittsburgh PiratesHouston Astros.

The 2010 Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, and that means two things: (1) we’re all so deprived of real baseball action that we’re willing to treat meaningless Spring Training games like they’re the playoffs, and (2) the prognosticators are out in full force. Yes, every sports publication in the world puts out a season preview. Some are interesting, some aren’t. For the most part, folks just don’t have the time necessary to do the kind of in-depth preview that is going to be of any use to a reader that actually follows the team being previewed.

So most previews end up being pretty surface level, and boring. Well, we’re not going to do that here at Bleacher Nation. It’s much more interesting (notice how I subtly pat myself on the back?) to simply examine why the team currently sucks and is going to suck in 2010.

So enjoy – we’ll be previewing the suckiness (suckosity?) of the other teams in the National League Central over the next five weeks. Up first, the ward of the gentleman to the right: the Cincinnati Reds.

Baseline for Suckitude

The Reds were 78-84 last year, and wound up 13 games out of first in fourth place. That final record, though, includes a September that treated them famously, and wins in 27 out of their last 40 games. I’ll take “Things that didn’t matter because the Reds were so, so far out of it at that point,” for $400, Alex. Still, as far as the Reds go, the baseline for suckitude has been set fairly high – even with relatively high expectations this year, the Reds will find it difficult to exceed last year’s 78 wins.

Last year, we had this to say:

“The Reds rotation has a chance to not be horrible. Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez make up one of the hottest young pairs in baseball (that sounds hot). Of course, the last time Dusty Baker managed one of the hottest young pairs in baseball – sigh, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior – he broke them both.”

Um, ouch. I’d say I nailed it if it hadn’t been so easy to predict.

Reds fans in the comments had this to say:

“When was the last time the cubs won a championship??? o yea… that long. To me this article does not tell me why the reds will “suck” instead it tells me that the little cubie nation is a bit nervous!! Dont worry even if you make it to the playoffs, you will just CHOKE again. It’s all Bartmans fault! Ha, when and doubt blame somebody that had no difference in the outcome of the playoffs (typical cubs fans)… whinners! Have fun waiting another 100 years!” -Commenter Ryan

You’ll notice a theme developing throughout the series. Other teams’ fans often seem to be under the misapprehension that the failings of the Chicago Cubs somehow affect whether or not their team sucks.

Sucky Offseason Moves

Sad Arrivals: OF Josh Anderson (minor league free agent), INF Miguel Cairo (minor league free agent), SS Orlando Cabrera (free agent), LHP Aroldis Chapman (free agent), INF Aaron Miles (trade with A’s), P Kip Wells (minor league free agent).

Happy Departures: C Craig Tatum (waived, claimed by Orioles), INF Danny Richar (free agent, signed minor league deal with Marlins), OF Willy Taveras (traded to A’s), INF Adam Rosales (traded to A’s).

Not a lot going on in this space for the Reds. The big arrival, obviously, is Aroldis Chapman – and he’s but 21 years old, and is not expected to make an immediate impact. It was a good long-term signing, but as for 2010? It’s probably doesn’t do much to de-suck the Reds. The best move the Reds made was dumping Willy Taveras so that Dusty Baker can’t continue to use a guy who can barely muster a .300 OBP at the top of the order because “speed doesn’t slump, dude.”

Oh, but Aaron Miles is probably going to hit .350, just to piss us off.

Their Very Own Blogoverse Thinks They Suck

Though the wider spread optimism surrounding the Reds has clearly infected even its most cynical fans, there are still pockets of pessimism. The lingering signs are embodied well in this Redleg Nation discussion of what should have been received as a low risk, who cares type move:

The Reds have signed Kip Wells to a minor league deal. Oh joy. This can only end badly.

I’m all for minor league filler; there are always injuries and you have to have enough pitchers for the minor league rosters. Perhaps I’m being too pessimistic, but I always have a couple of fears about this type of signing, since I’ve seen too much of this nonsense:

1. What if Wells has a great spring and Dusty decides to hand the 5th spot in the rotation to this “proven veteran”? Wells hasn’t been an effective pitcher in a long time, if ever (look at his stats; I don’t know how this guy is still kicking around the big leagues). He’ll lose some games before the Reds cut bait, and this team’s margin for error is going to be slim.

2. What if they stick him in the AAA rotation, possibly bumping a guy like Matt Klinker?

3. Even if he does start the season in AAA, and even if he is in the bullpen in Louisville, Wells is almost guaranteed to be the first callup when the Reds need a pitcher. This despite the fact that Wells has no business on a major league roster these days.

You don’t become filled with that much trepidation over a Kip Wells minor league deal unless your fears of suck are riding high, even if veiled by hopes and polka dots.

The Suckiest Part of Their Suck

Outside of the skipper’s seat, the suckiest part of the Reds has to be the rotation. Young, live arms? Sure. The possibility of being good? Ok. But can anyone be counted on?

Aaron Harang is now three years removed from relevance, and he’s the purported ace of the staff. Bronson Arroyo is as inconsistent on a game-to-game basis as any starter in baseball. Johnny Cueto has been electric in stretches, but believe it or not, he had a sub-100 ERA+ in both of his first two seasons. Homer Bailey has been the future for half a decade. He was finally given a half of a season to be a full-time starter last year, and he was just OK (4.50ish ERA).

And the five spot is truly a mess of possibilities. Dusty Baker was recently quoted as saying Mike Lincoln, Micah Owings, Justin Lehr, Mike Leake, Matt Maloney, Travis Wood and Aroldis Chapman all have a chance to make the rotation. Chapman is the big name, but very few pundits thought he’d be ML-ready to start the year.

The wild card, of course, is Edinson Volquez, who is rehabbing from Dusty Baker Tommy John surgery. He is not expected back until the second half of the season at the earliest, and even then, will he be the pitcher he was before the surgery?

Ok, ok. So the bench is actually significantly more troubled than is the rotation – but it was more fun to talk about the rotation. And it gave me a chance to talk about Bronson Arroyo’s beautiful, flowing locks. Wait, I haven’t yet? So shimmery…

And in the End

They suck.

Admittedly, it’s easy to see why the Reds are a trendy pick to challenge the Cardinals at the top of the N.L. Central this year. The lineup is full of young talent, and could put up plenty of runs. The bullpen was excellent last year, and could have a shut-down closer at the end in Francisco Cordero. Even the rotation, my so-called suckiest part of their suck, could come together and be one of the division’s best.

Could is the word. Just could. Because this is a team defined by it’s lack of definition. It’s the questions.

The problem for the Reds is that even their strongest pieces come with question marks. Joey Votto is a premier hitter, but is he over his emotional problems? Jay Bruce is a young stud, but is he ready to make the transition to offensive star? Scott Rolen found himself again when he wound up in Cincinnati last year, but how much more does he have in the tank?

And there are other issues. Is Drew Stubbs ready to take over in center field and (potentially) at the top of the order? Are Orlando Cabrera’s intangibles really enough to overcome his plummeting production and diminishing range at shortstop? How will Dusty Baker sleep at night without Willy Tavares inexplicably at the top of his order?

On paper, the 2010 Reds are one of the better teams in the Central. Or not. But maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? Not me.

So for now: they suck.

  • Butcher

    Boy…I can’t wait for the flood of commentary to come rolling in.

  • mick6X

    3 words: Frickin Dusty Baker, that’s all you had to say Ace it would’ve saved your fingers some work.

    • Ace

      Well, I said that, too – I just wanted to say all that other stuff, too.

  • http://bleachernation roger

    i think that the national league central has gotten more competitive…the teams we shouls worry about are the brewers and the cardinals!! have you seen the brewers rotation?? rick peterson will do a great job in wrigleyville North!

  • mike

    THE CUBS ARE ODVIOUSLY STARTING TO GET WORRIED…….THE REDS ARE A YOUNG TEAM ON THE RISE AND THE CUBS ARE NOW BECOMING PAST THERE PRIME, EVEN AS I TYPE THIS THE REAPER IS GETTING CLOSER TO ALL OF THEM…..THE WINDOW IS NOW CLOSED AND ITS NOW TIME FOR THE NEW……THE TEAM THAT WILL SUCK IS THE CUBS…..BY THE WAY GREAT OFFSEASON TRADE FOR MILTON BRADLEY….I CAN SEE WHY YOU GUYS THINK YOUR SO GREAT…..GO REDS……….

    • Ace

      It begins.

      • Bric

        Bailey to the DL with shoulder stiffness. May 24th. IT HAS BEGUN…..

        • Ace

          In Dusty We Trusty.

    • Tanner

      Hes drunk. The reds will finish 4th! lol…. The reds dont look all that great. Its a race between the Cubs/Cards/Brewers.

      • http://aol mike

        good thing they finished fourth(THE REDS), or I would have to wait in that long line to get playoff tickets. THAT WOULD SUCK!!! NOTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • HTC

    What’s that, Mike? I didn’t quite hear you.

  • Cardfan

    Reds finish behind the Pirates this year – guaranteed.

    Miles WILL hit .350, however he will only have 6 RBIs, cementing his legacy of unproductive productivity…

    • Eric

      Go reds. Have fun explaining the 3rd largest payroll in baseball with lackluster results….again.

      The cubs are the real travesty of the division.

  • Butcher

    Wow. Mike’s response couldn’t have possibly been scripted better. I can’t wait until the “Why the Cardinals Will Suck” edition. There are going to be about 50-60 Mikes to look forward to…

  • Dingo

    Reds have some great young starters, but the wrong guy sending them out. Chapman in the hands of Dusty = Cy Young at towel throwing

  • Nipper

    Its easy to criticize when you have an organization that trades all of its great players and who knows what they end up with. Watch Dusty however, as he will bring the Reds to a 2nd place this year and the playoffs in 2011

    • Ace

      I promise you, Nip – if the Reds manage second place this year, it will be in spite of Dusty Baker, not because of him.

  • AZRedGuy

    Good stuff. A bit humorous and -of course- slanted to the negative side, but not too far from the truth. The Reds’ season will completely revolve around the maturation of it’s large core of young players. There are so many in play (Stubbs, Bruce, Votto, Cueto, Bailey, Chapman, Dickerson, LF TBD), that it is almost impossible for them -in total- to be more or less than average. Given that, I’d put them at 81 games; enough for 2nd in this lousy division. The Winner? Whoever stays healthiest.

    • Ace

      Thanks RedGuy. Glad you understand that it’s supposed to be slanted – truth is, I’m very scared of the Reds this year.

      • ace is dumb

        you better be worried

        • Ace

          You managed to comment on the 2009 and 2010 posts, but not the 2011 post? Top shelf, sir.

          • BT

            But Ace! His name is “Ace is dumb”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is freaking hilarious. Because your name is Ace. He must think YOU are dumb! Because you are the Ace he is probably talking about!!!!

            Man. Comedy gold! I’d bet dollars to donuts this guy is writing for “Community” or “30 Rock”.

            • Ace

              And to make matters worse, he is actually the one who is dumb, which is something he’s clearly missed completely.

    • Brian

      I’ve been a Cub fan for 38 years and have seen the Reds almost as long. I agree that 80 – 85 wins is a realistic goal but you all definitely have abright future. In my opinion this is honestly the strongest Reds rotation since the early 90s (potentially). But after seeing the ways Baker blew out the arms of some of the best young pitchers the Cubs have had in years, durability should be your main concern. Then again, he isn’t trying to break a 100 year old curse in Cinci, so I guess we’ll see. Anyway, good luck this year.

      • Ace

        The Reds rotation has the potential to be good, but it also has the potential to be wildly disappointing if Arroyo picks this year to suck and Harang keeps declining.

  • Brian

    Reds looking good so far eh Cubbies? Pitching has been solid.

  • Butcher

    Yes, they are. And I’d much rather see the Reds with the division than the Cards (if those are my two choices).

  • Jordan

    Good call with the Reds sucking this year……

    I really hope you don’t actually follow baseball.

    • jstraw

      You’re new, right?

  • Chas

    What is amazing is how well the Reds are doing with thier payroll of 70 mil; Walt Jocketty is man!

    • jstraw

      How much did Jocketty have to do with that roster?

  • steve

    please! please! please! do not take down this page. It is one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen!

  • Butcher

    12,000 fans at last night’s game, Reds fans. Nicely done. Your team is in 1st place on September 14. You’re going to make the postseason for the first time in 15 years. And you draw 12,000? C’mon. Show a little support for your ballclub. I mean that sincerely — you have a fantastic team this season. They deserve your support.

    • jstraw

      Like Brenly said with regard to attendance at the Yankees/Rays game last night, weeknight…kids are back in school…Monday Night Football….

      • Butcher

        DON’T MAKE EXCUSES FOR THEM!
        There were 40,720 at the Cubs/Cards game last night. I know it’s a rivalry game, but neither of those teams are making the playoffs…

        • jstraw

          Yeah, you’re right…shit fans.

    • Jeff

      That’s bad, Great American Ballpark is a very nice stadium and the Reds are a pretty entertaining young team that plays hard every day.

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