Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

April 5, 2012

KYLE HOBSTETTER: Opening up a can of worms

ASHLAND — It’s finally here: Opening Day for Major League Baseball.

Cincinnati Reds fans have plenty to look forward to: the Opening Day parade, a new 10-year contract for Joey Votto and no Albert Pujols in the National League Central. I feel like this is going to be a good year for the Reds.

But that’s not always been the case in my lifetime as there have been some really bad seasons since I could remember what baseball was.

There was Barry Larkin winning the MVP in 1995, the magical near-playoff run in 1999 and who could forget Joey Votto winning MVP and the Reds going to the playoffs only two years ago.

Yes, the Reds won the World Series in 1990. I was 3. I can barely remember yesterday let alone when I was 3.

I don’t want to talk about the good times, I want to talk about those players who were just ... awful.

Yet, because of the Reds’ struggles they were always on the field that first game of the season, giving us hope that maybe they won’t be awful.

These guys are the ones that when you look back, they make you go ‘He played for the Reds?’”

‰Opening Day starting pitchers from 1998 to 2005: A list that includes memorable top-of-the-rotation aces like Mike Remlinger, Bret Tomko, Pete Harnisch, Joey Hamilton, Jimmy Haynes, Cory Lidle and Paul Wilson.

I fancy myself a baseball guy. I question that now, as I had to Google who the heck Joey Hamilton is and why he was starting Opening Day in Cincinnati for the Reds.

Opening Day starters are usually team’s aces, the no. 1 pitcher on the mound for every important game.

The Reds had Wilson, who owned a career win-loss record of 40-58.

They also had Haynes, who opened the 2003 season (Great American Ball Park’s first season) on the mound. He finished the season 2-12 with a 6.30 earned run average.

‰Corey Patterson at CF, 2008: For the entire ’08 season, I could have sworn that Patterson had something on Dusty Baker to let him start in center field so many times.

There had to have been blackmail involved for Patterson to be on the field that much.

He played 135 games and ended the season with a .205 batting average and a .238 on-base percentage. He also had a magical moment where, in an 18-inning game against the Padres, he went 0-for-8.

This wasn’t the Patterson everyone expected, but he definitely was not in his prime. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a prime.

But luckily we can thank Mr. Patterson, as it led to the promotion of one Jay Bruce.

‰D'Angelo Jimenez at 2B, 2004: This confuses me, because he played for the White Sox, and he wasn’t that good. Yet the Reds grabbed this guy and had tabs on him being the everyday second baseman.

This was followed by 260 games of mediocrity. His highest batting average in a season was .290, and that was in just 73 games.

He batted at the leadoff spot or the No. 2 spot for most of his career as a Red, but still his on-base percentage dragged in the low 300s.

But I’ll give Jimenez the benefit of the doubt — he was the best the Reds had at the time.

Or maybe Ray Olmedo was the long-term answer at second base.

‰Tony Womack at 2B, 2006: After Jimenez, the second base problem didn’t get any better. In 2006, the world watched as Womack took the field at second base.

Now, in the late 90s, Womack was a base-stealing machine. And he could hit, having a great eye at the plate.

In 2006 however, Womack played only nine games for the Reds in which he only had four hits. But I feel like all Reds fans should thank Womack.

If it wasn’t for Womack, the Reds wouldn’t have taken a chance on a young Brandon Phillips.

‰Brandon Larson at 3B, 2003: When he was drafted in the first round, the Reds thought they had a player to build around.

Larson was coming off an MVP college season that saw him lead the LSU Tigers to the national championship.

He had huge success in the minor leagues, and it seemed like everything the Reds did with this kid was right.

Here are Larson’s career statistics: In four years he played in 109 games, batted .179, “crushed” eight homers and had a whopping 37 RBIs.  

Larson is the definition of a bust. The Reds moved Aaron Boone to second so Larson could feel comfortable with his job.

I think he felt so comfortable he fell asleep for four seasons.

‰Alex Ochoa at RF, 2001: HE BATTED FIFTH!!!! A guy who played for eight major league teams batted fifth at one time on Opening Day.

A guy with 46 career home runs batted fifth on Opening Day.

A guy who didn’t last the entire season as a Red batted fifth on Opening Day.

True, Ochoa was just a place holder until Adam Dunn was ready to come in and play every day, but come on, there has got to be somebody better.

Michael Tucker? What about Brady Clark? There was Ruben Sierra.

Maybe there wasn’t anyone better to take his place after all.

‰The “Hustle Guy”: I’m going to get flack for this one, but this one goes out to Ryan Freel and Chris Stynes. These guys are great to have on your bench to make a spot start every once in a while. But everyday starters these guys are not.

Stynes had a .300 batting average in his four years with the Reds. That was heavily weighted by his first season where he batted .348 in only 49 games.

During the magical 1999 season run, Stynes batted only .239.

He was a speed player who couldn’t steal bases and he was a utility guy who was thrown into a starter’s role he couldn’t handle.

Freel will always be a popular player for his hustle and never-say-die attitude. But as a .268 career hitter, he was a great utility player and nothing more.

The best thing about Freel was that he did get on base. But he missed a lot of games due to the injury bug that comes from his never-say-die attitude.

Because of his continuing battle with injuries, Freel retired in 2010 at the age of 34.

‰Pete Rose at 1B, 1985: BRING ON THE ANGRY E-MAILS. Don’t get me wrong, I love the all-time hit king.

And I’ll be the first to argue that if Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro get into the Hall of Fame, then Rose should be on the next ballot.

But in 1985, player-manager Rose had himself manning first base for most of the season.

He was on his last legs, batting only .264 on the season and had only 46 RBIs.

I understand he broke the career hits record in this season, but he didn’t play/manage his team to the playoffs. Actually, the Reds didn’t play postseason baseball again until Rose was banned from baseball in 1989.

I love you Pete, honestly I do. But you should have solely stuck to managing.

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at khobstetter@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.

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