Do the Reds need this All-Star break or what? Or, perhaps another series with the Giants.
Other than that three-game sweep to start the month, the last few weeks have been nothing short of discouraging.
Before Friday’s game in Atlanta, the Reds were 7-12 overall since June 20.
The most assuring aspect of the team is starting pitching, as earned run averages are between 2.69 and 3.70 among the starters.
However, all the pieces aren’t clicking into place right now.
As the division gap widens and the wild card lead — four games ahead of Washington — diminishes, is there a reason to be highly concerned about this season?
Or do the Reds just need a few days rest to rejuvenate for a third postseason run in the last four years?
Cue Bobby Knight’s “crystal ball” press conference (YouTube it after you read the rest of this column).
As all you Facebookers out there are bombarded with requests of time-wasting games like Candy Crush and FarmVille, how about spending a few minutes playing Front Office with Uncle Aaron?
What would you do if you had the seat of general manager Walt Jocketty or manager Dusty Baker for a week?
Ever since I watched 12-year-old Billy Heywood take the reins of the Minnesota Twins in “Little Big League” in 1993, it’s always been a pipe dream of mine to run a professional baseball club.
The Reds don’t have Billy Heywood, but they do have another Billy.
Ah, that brings me to my first move before the trade deadline of July 31 ...
1. Call up Billy Hamilton. His numbers in Louisville don’t knock your socks off, but I prefer flip-flops anyway. Will the 22-year-old be a flop? Or will he flip a switch in much need of flipping? Let’s find out! Despite his .249 batting average in 335 at-bats in Triple-A, Hamilton has a .300 on-base percentage and has stolen 51 bases. The speedy center fielder, who the Reds were hoping to keep in the minors until at least September, might just need to get his feet wet a little early. This sometimes lifeless offense needs a spark plug.
OK, so if Hamilton is in center and hitting leadoff, where does that leave Shin-Soo Choo?
2. Put Choo in left field and bat him second. Until Opening Day left fielder Ryan Ludwick returns from his shoulder injury (on pace to occur in mid-August, according to CBSsports.com), experienced outfielder Choo can shift a few strides to his right.
Choo’s bat has been valuable and his glove pleasantly surprising. He and Joey Votto have led the league in both walks and on-base percentage for much of the season.
Baker needs to stop inking an automatic out into the No. 2 slot of the lineup card every day. Zack Cozart is the Reds’ long-term answer at shortstop, but he’s no 2-hitter right now. Until he figures out how to get on base more (.261 OBP) or make more productive contact, Cozart should stay in the seventh or eighth spot in the order.
Derrick Robinson, who batted second on Friday night, is probably not the everyday answer, either. I do like him on the team, though.
3. Buy a bullpen arm. I realize the bullpen has been extremely strong of late, but these facts remain: left-hander Sean Marshall and righty Jonathan Broxton are hurt, and while each could return fairly soon, pitchers who have already had an injury during a season seem to be susceptible to a follow-up absence; starter Johnny Cueto could be out for some time, which leaves little wiggle room — meaning if there is another rotation injury, Alfredo Simon or Sam LeCure would likely be lifted from the bullpen and inserted into a starting role.
And, even with recent success, I don’t quite trust Manny Parra yet.
The Reds should try to trade for veteran southpaw Javier Lopez (Giants). The 36-year-old wouldn’t require giving up much, and he’s posted a pristine 1.64 earned run average this season.
4. Get bench help. The bench currently consists of Jack Hannahan, Cesar Izturis, Corky Miller and whoever’s not in left field (Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, Robinson). Where’s the veteran who will consistently put together a productive at-bat as a pinch-hitter?
Is Lenny Harris still around? Just looked him up ... he’s only 48!
Maybe the Reds can give Johnny Damon or Scott Podsednik a call. Former batting title-holder Freddy Sanchez, former Red Ramon Hernandez and Ty Wigginton, recently released by the Cardinals, might also be worth looking at.
With all the recent catcher problems, Hernandez is probably the most logical option.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.
Do the Reds need this All-Star break or what? Or, perhaps another series with the Giants.
- Local Sports
Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
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- Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)