No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. These are new words typed by me. I'll leave the normal lamenting about never having any time to make this blog happen for some other time.
*Let's begin with the Reds, who have traded for, and extended the contract of, Sonny Gray.
In a vacuum, the deal does little for me. Gray is coming off a poor year, and if a team like the Yankees that's going hard in their efforts to win the World Series this year has pretty much no use for Sonny Gray, then you'll have to excuse me for not setting aside playoff money based on the news of his acquisition.
This doesn't mean that I'm opposed to the move. In fact, you might argue that nothing the Reds have done this offseason is more interesting, or carries with it as much upside. Trading for Gray, and locking into him through 2022 is a clear show of faith in new pitching coach Derek Johnson, who mentored Gray when both were at Vanderbilt.
The Reds are betting big on the Gray/Johnson combo. If Johnson can get Gray fixed in 2019, then the Reds can at least go into the next decade with a pitcher in his early 30s that's had success and is under contract for what strikes me as a reasonable amount of money. A rehabbed and repaired Sonny Gray is a decent piece to build future rotations around, even if he'll never be the ace of a high-end staff.
If Johnson can't work any magic, and Gray is the same guy that got pounded at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium last year, the Reds are stuck for three years with a guy that used to be good who's making a pretty decent chunk of change under a nearly impossible-to-move contract.
It's high-risk/high-reward, yes. But it's also the kind of move the Reds will have to make, especially if they're never going to land the biggest free agents, and even more especially if they desire to keep their absolute best prospects instead of dealing them.
Their self-evaluation of their pennant hopes has likely kept them from fully jumping into a potential Corey Kluber deal, at least for now, but this team is markedly better than the 2018 version, and loads more interesting. The Reds have woken up a dormant fan base, upgraded their roster, shed themselves of the toxic Homer Bailey relationship, and they've still kept their best prospects. There's a world of possibilities for the 2019 Reds, from the team collectively overachieving and having the parts needed to make improvements this summer, to having the ability to sign one or more of their soon-to-be free agents long term, to losing more than winning and being perhaps the biggest - and most profitable - seller around July 31st.
I stop well short of viewing the Reds right now as legit contenders, but they're worlds more interesting than they've been in a long time, and with the offseason heading down the stretch drive, it's hard to view what they've done since last season ended as anything other than a success.
*I'll ask again...if Great American Ballpark is preventing the Reds from being able to get the best and most qualified pitchers, isn't it time to do this?
*Here's who I want to be included in the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019...
Mariano Rivera. I'm already dreading what it's going to sound like if Rivera isn't unanimous, and as much as he's an obvious hall of famer, there's a big part of me that believes that if Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, etc. weren't voted in unanimously, then neither should Rivera.
But then there's another part of me that thinks we spent way too much time and energy discussing which players should get 100 percent of the vote.
How good was Rivera? So good that his three biggest postseason failures - the home run to Sandy Alomar in game four of the 1997 ALDS, the walkoff loss in game seven of the 2001 World Series, and the blown save in game four of the 2004 ALCS - are the first things that come to mind when I think of him, because they were so stunning, particularly the '01 and '04 failures. Not because those things happened, but because of who they happened against.
The rest of the time, he was somewhere between reliable and incredible, and undeniably he was the greatest closer ever.
Edgar Martinez. This has always been a no-brainer for me because Martinez was the greatest designated hitter of all-time, but if you've balked at the idea of a hitting specialist being put into Cooperstown, explain to me how we're going to have Harold Baines in the hall, but not Edgar. He batted .312 for his career with a .418 on-base percentage, 2,247 hits, 309 HRs, 1,262 RBI, .933 OPS and 147 OPS+. Martinez was one of the best pure hitters of his generation.
He should have been in a long time ago.
Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds is the best baseball player I've ever seen. I'll just leave it at that.
Roger Clemens. Roger Clemens is the third-greatest living pitcher, and the only individual baseball player I specifically purchased a ticket to go see.
And frankly, if the commissioner who oversaw the entire PED era and the cancellation of a World Series is in the Hall of Fame, and if writers who overlooked the rampant juicing that was taking place right in front of them are choosing who gets in, then I would have ZERO qualms with putting both Bonds and Clemens in.
Fred McGriff. If there's no 1994/1995 players' strike, the Crime Dog is in the Hall, cruising well past 500 homers. McGriff hit more home runs, with a higher adjusted OPS, than Dave Winfield and Carl Yastrzemski, plus he hit at least 30 homers 10 times and drove in at least 100 runs eight times. Dave and Carl got in on the first try. Tom Emanski's spokesman deserves to get in on his last.
Ray Halladay. The best-pitched game I've ever seen was Halladay's no-hitter in game one of the 2010 NLDS (bonus points if you know the second-best). I'd put him solely for that game even if he didn't have 3.38 ERA, 20 shutouts, a perfect game and no-hitter, Cy Young Awards in both leagues, 57 complete games and 2,117 strikeouts.
Scott Rolen. "It's not the Hall of Very Good," you say. Fine, but what kept him from compiling numbers that'd make a better case are the fact that he played through a number of injuries and that he didn't hang around until he was 40. He was the best defensive third baseman of his era, and he was a consistently quality offensive player, has career WAR, peak WAR. and JAWS totals that are comparable to third basemen who are in the Hall. He got All-Star nods and MVP votes in three different decades (I'm reaching a little, I know), he could've been MVP of the 2004 NLCS, and he should've been MVP of the 2006 World Series. Plus, I'm more and more in love with the 2010 Reds with each passing losing Reds season, and I don't want to have to wait until Joey Votto's induction that will happen years from now to celebrate that team.
Manny Ramirez. Seven players in history have a higher slugging percentage than Manny Ramirez. And come on, this dude was fun. This guy made baseball fun. Baseball is supposed to be fun, no?
Curt Schilling. Curt Schilling and Madison Bumgarner are the greatest postseason pitchers ever. Schilling's non-postseason numbers are very, very, very good. His October exploits put him over the top. I think he's a walking bag of wind, but he won every award baseball has for things like character and community involvement, so if you're going to throw the Hall's flimsy "character clause" at me, save it.
Mike Mussina. This piece convinced me. I used to not be convinced. Being open-minded is fun.
Gary Sheffield. Read these numbers: .292 with 509 homers, 1,676 RBI, .907 OPS, 140 OPS+, 253 stolen bases, .383 OBP, .574 slugging percentage. Tell me those aren't hall of fame numbers. You can't, because they are.
Manny Ramirez. Seven players in history have a higher slugging percentage than Manny Ramirez. And come on, this dude was fun. This guy made baseball fun, even if he is one of the candidates who actually served a PED-related suspension. Baseball is supposed to be fun, no?
Dave Parker. He's long since been removed from the ballot, but if Harold Baines is in the Hall of Fame, then my guy the Cobra should be in the Hall of Fame. Parker was a better player, and I'm not going to let this rest.
*Three post-NFL conference title weekend thoughts...
1) When you let a deficiency go unaddressed, it will come back to hurt you at the worst possible moment. The NFL has allowed shitty officiating to be a thing for way too long. It hurt the league at the worst possible time.
2) The reason why we are only going to have more replay, and more review-able plays moving forward is the proliferation of gambling. When more people have an investment in a game's outcome, there is a premium on the proper outcome being determined.
3) The NFL's overtime rules aren't unfair, they just aren't fun. It would've been a hell of a lot more fun to watch Pat Mahomes get a chance to tie the score after the Patriots took the lead in overtime as Andy Reid clutched onto his precious timeouts.
Radio today....Sonny Gray is a possibility, but it's looking more like Thursday for him. I'll ask if we should really be giving the Reds credit for making their team better, plus thoughts on the Bengals' new offensive coordinator, a Sonny Gray comp, and why the NFL isn't hurting as much as you think this week. Join us at 3:05 on ESPN1530. Listen at espn1530.com/listen
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