When Joey Votto went down to injury in mid July, I was very concerned that my beloved Cincinnati Reds might be on the verge of kicking away an extremely promising first half that saw them fighting for first place in the National League Central division with the, ahem, Pittsburgh Pirates. After all, even though the Pirates didn't scare me too much, the world champion St. Louis Cardinals were in the mix, too, and Votto is one of the top two or three hitters in the league. My one hope for the Reds' chances to stay in the race was that the July 31 trade deadline loomed large, and I hoped that general manager Walt Jocketty would be able to plug some holes and stop the foreseen bleeding before Votto made his way back to the lineup in August. Of course, as baseball teams often do, the Reds made the doomsayers (me included), look foolish and turned into the Big Hot Machine in July, snatching the division lead and stretching it to three games by month's end. Jocketty, too, surprised me, by swinging a trade as August dawned, not for a bat, but for erstwhile Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, who seems an odd fit for this club.
Manager Dusty Baker has installed Aroldis Chapman as the team's closer, and while I would love to see the flamethrower in the rotation, I have to admit that he's done a fabulous job in his fireman's role this season. In fact, the Reds have one of the better bullpens in all of baseball in 2012, the best if you believe in plain old ERA. Broxton, on the other hand, was something of a phenomenon in his years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he has been a much different (worse) pitcher since returning from injury in 2011. Still, he has a sterling ERA this season, so he might fit in well with the Reds in that regard, and he also gives them a "name" to pitch the seventh and eighth innings as a setup man. Maybe Dusty can build is own little version of the Nasty Boys.
Of course, I hold out some hope that Broxton's arrival might portend something different for the Reds in the long run. In a perfect, beautiful baseball world, Votto would return to power Cincy's closing months, Broxton would return to his otherworldly form and force Baker to nudge him toward the ninth inning and Chapman would return to (or, really debut in) the Reds' rotation. Chapman has the talent to be one of those Justin Verlander/Bob Gibson/Roy Halladay types who could carry a team through seven-game playoff series. Slot him at number one and watch him blow away the opponents in Games 1, 4 and, if necessary, 7. It could happen. It could all be part of Jocketty's master plan.
The safe bet, though, is to continue crossing our fingers for a healthy Joey Votto and status quo from the rest of the team.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Cincinnati Reds fan since the early 1980s, when gods like Dan Driessen and Cesar Cedeno roamed the ethereally green Riverfront turf. He thinks that Dusty Baker is the anti-Davey.
- Sports & Recreation
- Joey Votto
- Cincinnati Reds
- Jonathan Broxton
- Dusty Baker
- Walt Jocketty
- Pittsburgh Pirates