To preview the coming series against the Cincinnati Reds, The Nats Blog sat down with the top Reds blog on the net, Red Reporter, to get their views on the club, the series, and the future.
The Nats Blog: What were you expectations coming into 2009? It seems like the Reds put together a solid foundation for a team, but injuries and under performances damned the team.
Red Reporter: If I'm being honest, my peak expectation was for a .500 season. I knew before the season started that the Reds didn't have enough offense to be serious contenders, though I didn't expect their offense to be as bad as it has been. I felt like the pitching and defense would be improved enough to make up for some of the loss on offense, but right out of the gate it was a season where a lot of things had to go perfect for the Reds to have a good year. Obviously the injuries have made it hard for those perfect scenarios to happen, but to the truth of the matter is that the Reds did not have enough talent coming into this season to expect to be competitive.
TNB: Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are exciting young players, what do you think about their respective futures and what types of players they will become?
Red Reporter: I think both of them have All Star potential. Votto was brought along a lot more deliberately than Bruce, and he'll be 26 next month, but I think he's already showing that potential in the big leagues. He's struggled over the last week, but there's not much to not like about what he's done in his 2 years as a major leaguer. Bruce is still just 22 and he has some work to do to improve. He's got power and quick wrists, but he beats himself a lot at the plate by swinging at pitches that he can't handle and consistently trying to pull pitches on the outer half of the plate. The big concern for him right now is how he recovers from the broken wrist that he suffered in July. Austin Kearns was never the same hitter after he broke his wrist, and there is quietly some fear that Bruce might suffer similar long-term effects.
TNB: Jim Bowden came to us after a stint with the Cincinatti Reds, and by the end of his tenure had brought over nearly the entire former team. Just look at the players on the 2003 Reds that later ended up in the Nationals Organization; D’angelo Jimenez, Felipe Lopez, Aaron Boone, Adam Dunn, Jose Guillen, Austin Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, Barry Larkin and Bob Boone. In your experience, how was life with the Bowden, and life after the Bowden?
Red Reporter: Jim Bowden was a jerk to pretty much every person that crossed his path, but at least when he was with the Reds he managed to field a competitive team on a regular basis. He had way too much of an infatuation with toolsy outfielders that rarely amounted into anything, but he was creative with how to fix the spots that the team needed and he was willing to take risks. One thing is for sure, he gave us fans something to talk about.
Life since Bowden left has been pathetic, but not because Bowden is gone. When he left, the farm system was in shambles (partly because of Marge Schott as well), so they've been rebuilding for the last 5 years with only some small progress made on the organization as a whole. The 4 GMs we've had since Bowden (there's an indicator of a problem if I've ever seen one), have done everything they can to dismantle and clean up his mess. As far as I can tell, the only players left in the organization from Bowden's time are Joey Votto, who was drafted by Bowden in 2002, Ryan Hanigan, who was signed in 2002, and Chris Dickerson, who was drafted in 2003 just before Bowden was fired. Unfortunately, undoing what Bowden did wasn't the only solution for success. This season will mark the 9th straight losing season for the Reds, and frankly optimism for 2010 is waining.
TNB: Do Reds fans regret the Josh Hamilton trade? Or in general are they happy with Volquez?
Red Reporter: It depends on who you ask. I would say the fanbase is fairly evenly split on the deal. Hamilton captured the imagination of a lot of fans when he was with the Reds, and many of those fans were very upset when he was dealt. Volquez won over a bunch of them with his All Star first half last year, but some fans also wonder what might have been if Hamilton had stayed with the Reds. At this point, I don't think either side is particularly excited about what has happened to both players. Then again, the best performance so far this year from a player in the deal might be by reliever Daniel Ray Herrera who has posted a 2.53 ERA in 50 outings predominately as a LOOGY for the Reds. Not bad for a 5'6" junkballer who was a throw-in on the deal.
TNB: What pieces do the Reds have to add to be in a position to compete next year?
Red Reporter: If they want to be competitive next year, the need serious upgrades at SS and CF, plus they probably need a good right-handed power bat. Scott Rolen could provide that bat for them if he stays healthy, but it wouldn't hurt if they could add an insurance bat for LF. Also, they'll need to continue to the development of some of their youngsters like Bruce, Homer Bailey, and Johnny Cueto.
TNB: What do the Reds have to do to be successful in the coming series?
Red Reporter: Get an early lead. The Reds are just 5-34 when trailing after the first inning and they have only 19 come from behind wins this season. If the lead is not possible, then probably the most important thing is to keep the Nats of the board as much as possible. The offense has been "hot" of late, batting .235/.309/.324 and scoring 4.6 R/G over their last 5 games. This isn't a team that is very adept as scoring runs when they need to.