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Can anybody out here play this game?

Posted By Dave Allen On Apr 24 2010 @ 3:36 pm In Cincinnati Reds | No Comments

“Can anybody out here play this game?” Casey Stengel asked that question when he managed the 1962 New York Mets in their inaugural season. Those words had to come to the minds of veteran Reds fans watching Saturday’s mess of a game at GABP.

I had an enjoyable morning Saturday at the local park watching teams of 8-year-olds play. Some were in their first season of organized baseball, and it was cute when they didn’t understand a force play or ran back to 1st during a steal when the ball went to the backstop because they got it confused with what happens when a pitch is fouled off. Little did I realize I would be watching more of the same from the local professional nine at Great American Ball Park.

Don’t get me wrong, the San Diego Padres are rolling right now. Eight straight wins and the best record in baseball cannot be argued with. They have a chance on Sunday to gain sweeps in three consecutive series, quite an accomplishment for Bud Black’s club. But watching the Reds making mental errors that the 8-year-old teams didn’t even make is completely unacceptable. Maybe this is why the Reds have about a dozen team broadcasters, because it would be cruel and unusual punishment to have to watch every game of the sorry exhibition of baseball this team displays on a semi-regular basis. It could also explain why Cincinnatians and the surrounding community residents aren’t spending their hard-earned money to watch, making GABP a ghost town on a Saturday.

Think about it. The Reds took 2-of-3 from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Thursday night’s win was an outstanding game in which rookie Mike Leake earned his first MLB win in only his third professional start. Then came Friday.

Friday’s game featured a 10-0 Padres lead in the top of the 4th following a grand slam homer. Bronson Arroyo was feeling nauseous before the game, but still saw his turn in the rotation moved up a day so he would pitch Friday to give Johnny Cueto an extra day of rest to “work some things out.” Arroyo gave up four runs in the 2nd, ran out of gas in the 4th, and took a rather lopsided loss. The Reds offense, meanwhile, didn’t get a hit until the 6th inning.

Saturday’s game featured Cueto getting the first two batters out before Adrian Gonzalez hit a GABP-aided home run to left field. No problem, these things happen. But, starting in the 3rd, the Reds began making blunders.

Cueto was on 1st with two out, when Drew Stubbs hit a bounding ball to 3rd. Stubbs has benefitted greatly from his speed and generally beats these kind of grounders out for hits, which he did here. Unfortunately, Cueto assumed Stubbs would be thrown out and absentmindedly jogged around 2nd base, not realizing Stubbs was safe until he was 30-feet past the bag in no man’s land. Instead of 2-on, and 2-out with the surprisingly hot Paul Janish at the plate, it was inning over. Cueto let it get to him, and gave up two runs in the 4th.

In the bottom of the 4th, Brandon Phillips was on 1st with 2-out when he daydreamed for a fraction of a second. Padres starter Wade LeBlanc threw to 1st and forced him to run toward 2nd, where he was thrown out to end the inning.

The same situation occurred in the 5th, when Jonny Gomes found himself at 1st with 2-out. Another good move by LeBlanc catching a Reds runner napping, and Gomes was tagged out in a rundown. Inning over.

In the top of the 6th, San Diego’s Will Venable hit a 1-out, 2-run homer to right to make it 5-0, Padres. Kyle Blanks followed by hitting an easy fly to Stubbs in center. After he caught it, Stubbs underhanded it into the seats and jogged two strides toward the dugout before someone on the field told him that his catch was only the second out of the inning. My, oh my.

Manager Dusty Baker was visibly upset in the Reds dugout, but he’s not off the hook, either. The Reds press notes have Aaron Harang listed as the starter for Tuesday night’s game at Houston, when he could easily be skipped on his regular turn on Monday. Harang is 1-13 in his last 20 starts and has been throwing what amounts to batting practice this year. Baker is being coy with the media, saying the press notes aren’t always accurate. Well, if this is a decoy, Harang is in on it. He told Dayton Daily News columnist Hal McCoy that he’s been told he’s starting on Tuesday.

Owner Bob Castellini is on record as saying this team needs a strong start to sell tickets later in the summer. Looking at all of the empty seats on Saturday made me think I was watching a Tuesday night game. GABP is never that empty on a Saturday this early in the season, unless there’s really cold, wet weather. I cannot imagine what’s going through Castellini’s mind right now. I don’t know what’s going through his players’ minds, either. It sure isn’t baseball.

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