Homer Bailey won last night, improving his record to 5-3. By comparison, Johnny Cueto is 4-4 this season.
Homer must be the better pitcher.
Homer's slow start has predictably ignited a lot of talk about the deal the Reds signed him to this past winter. It was a lot of money, a lot of years, and like every lucrative deal, it came with a lot of risk.
I still defend the deal, not because I think Homer will turn into one of the best pitchers in the game, or even that he'll give the Reds a modest investment on their return, but because I defend decisions when I understand the thinking behind them, even if they ultimately don't work out.
A lot of understandable moves backfire. The Reds traded enough players to fit on the back of a flatbed in exchange for Ken Griffey Jr. The deal didn't work out. Junior was never really the Junior we hoped we'd see, the Reds never won with him, and he never seemed completely happy playing here. But the move was a no-brainer. A team that had won 96 games added arguably the sport's best player at his apex, got him at a relatively decent price, and they woke up a city that had been sleeping on the Reds in the years since the 1994 strike. I'd make that same deal right now.
19 years ago, when running backs were bigger commodities than they are now, the Bengals traded up to draft Ki-Jana Carter. He obviously didn't pan out either, but the move at the time made sense and while they didn't get the results from Carter they'd hoped, the thinking behind it was still logical: infuse a downtrodden franchise with energy by doing something uncharacteristic and get the guy many thought was the best player in the draft while filling a position of need.
There's others. The Bengals gave Carson Palmer a long extension after just his second season as a starter. He was trending upward at the time, a decent bet to eventually be one of the premiere quarterbacks in the game, and the Bengals decided to lock him in for his prime seasons well before the market for QBs skyrocketed. Carson ended up being a bust - for a number of reasons - and his time in Cincinnati ended the same way Kimye will, but it's hard to argue with what the Bengals were thinking at the time.
Joey Votto's deal, a favorite topic among revisionist historians, will never be lived up to and the later years of it will probably be one of baseball's biggest albatrosses. But I'll always defend the thinking: the window is open for a few years. It closes earlier if Votto gets away and if we win in the short term, we'll be happy to pay the interest later on the good times we're having now.
I'll even defend another deal that's come up often recently. Edwin Encarnacion has turned into one of the best power hitters in the big leagues, and he's been a key cog for a good Blue Jays team. The Reds let him get away for Scott Rolen nearly five years ago in a deal that made sense then and make sense now. They let a guy go who was hitting .209 and who after more than 2,000 plate appearances was not improving. He was probably not going to be a Red after 2010 (still true) and the Reds were looking for exactly what Rolen was able to give them. The thinking at the time was to upgrade at third, bring in a veteran presence, and give Edwin a change of scenery. Made sense then, and even with Encarnacion's success in America's Hat, it makes sense today.
Back to Homer Bailey. The thinking was simple. They had a 27 year-old coming off easily his best season who was going into the final year of his deal. They had other pitchers who will command big money closing in on their walk years. They wanted to secure one without giving the others more leverage and they wanted to avoid having to negotiate with Homer if he put up a big 2014. Understandable then, understandable now, and understandable regardless of the results when the deal is finally up.
Sometimes the results aren't what we want. Sometimes things happen that change the way we think about a deal or a decision. The Votto contract will look worse and worse the longer the Reds don't win. Encarnacion would surely look good in a Reds uniform right now. Ki-Jana Carter picked the wrong turf to make his first NFL cut on. Carson Palmer turned into a doofus. And Homer Bailey may never be as good as he was last season and he may never realize his full potential.
But the thinking behind the decision to lock him up long-term will make sense.