(Okay, I kinda hate myself for that photo.)
As we muddled our way through two roto drafts over the weekend, we found that the rest of the baseball world came into our field of view like a sucker punch as we scrambled on-the-clock to make drafting decisions on guys who may still be viable options, may be defrocked prospects or who may have retired three years ago. (Our frantic searches for Jermaine Dye went for naught.)
There's lots of catching up with the rest of the league for us now that we've written approximately 12 posts and 1000 tweets on Brett Lawrie's place on the 2011 roster. In particular, two caught our attention this weekend.
The Reds' Outfield Situation: We love the Reds for a whole bunch of reasons, and our patriotic affections for their first baseman are probably the least of them. (But high on that list, you would find the awesome Spring Training uni's that the Reds are sporting, all richly red with the large white script. Divine.) Mostly, though, we are focused on the Reds outfield, which contains three of our favorite young players in the game: Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey, who make up the core of a saliva-inducing future for the Red Stockings.
Add in the possibility of finding at bats for major-league-ready 1B Yonder Alonso in left, and you have a nice problem of too few at bats for too many promising young hitters.
And if it were us, we'd be more than happy to run those guys out for 162 games and see what they produced. But we, being somewhat lacking in the wristbands-and-toothpick department, don't get to make those decisions. Dusty Baker does. And if there is one thing that lacks resonance with Dusty, it's the need to get young guys into the lineup.
And so there's been lots of talk about running tubby DH-type Johnny Gomes out in an every day role for the Reds this season. And try as we might, we can't possible make the case for such a move. The most sensible explanation that we can conceive for it is that it will allow Dusty to bring in a better defensive option late in games...but frankly, putting corner lamp in left would improve over Gomes enthusiastically awful defense.
Frankly, we'd prefer to keep former Jay Fred Lewis and our never-ending, past-expiry-date-prospect-mancrush Jeremy Hermida over Gomes if you're going to switch his role from outstanding pinch-hitter to everyday player.
We can't wait to see what happens in Cincinnati this summer with the young talent that they have. (And we'd be perfectly happy to tune in to see Johnny Gomes reel off dramatic pinch hits late in games as well.) We just hope that the Reds don't squander and stunt the development of the outstanding talent that they have.
The Tampa Closer Situation: Somewhere along the line, we tweeted a comment about Joe Maddon's brilliant insanity and willingness to subvert the orthodoxy.
(So brilliant was said bon mot that the world's leading authority on Maddon's goofball-genius, Jonah Keri, actually responded that he intended to steal the term. But for the life of us, we can't remember what we said, so even if he did include it in The Extra 2% - How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First - available at fine bookstores near you - we probably wouldn't have either the memory nor the moral authority to attempt to claim it back.)
It remains to be seen whether if the proverbial "bullpen-by-committee" that the Rays seem to have fashioned actually remains as such much into the season. But with a multitude of late-inning options - none of whom come bearing the Scarlet C of the Closer - we'll be fascinated to observe how Maddon manages his bullpen late in games.
The thought initially seemed to be that Kyle Farnsworth would get the bulk of the closing opportunities, though the cagey Maddon seems to have thrown both rookie Jake McGee and vet J.P. Howell into the mix.
If there is a manager who could begin to change the manner in which the back of the bullpen is utilized, and truly look more towards matchups and game situations and manage in a manner that is agnostic to the save statistic, it would be Joe Maddon.
(Though we partially assume that all of this results in McGee's closer coronation by June. Which isn't the least intriguing outcome.)
BONUS! Hometown Intriguing Jays Situation
So the Jays have announced that Edwin Encarnacion will get the start at third, and José Bautista will play right.
Well mash my taters.
(And also: Slow down on the wiseacre "E5" comments there, Chachi. We've heard them all before. And frankly, we don't think he's as bad as you've heard. So there.)
What does this mean? Does it mean that the Jays see Brett Lawrie's ascension to the big leagues as imminent? Does it mean that their use for Juan Rivera has passed already? Does it mean that they simply view this as the best offensive configuration for the team, and are willing to give up a bit of defense in order to attain it? (Which is the argument we would make.)
It will bear watching. There doesn't seem to be a deal in place for Rivera as of yet, nor do we see an immediate need for a mid-range offensive outfielder around the league. We hope to be surprised.