Merry Christmas from Diamond Hoggers

Things have been slow around here since the day that the Reds got knocked from the playoffs (followed up the next night by the Nationals collapse), but business is going to pick up soon. With the NFL season winding down, it’s soon going to be time to start covering all-things baseball again. I’m still kind of ouchie about the way last season ended, but the show must go on.

Just wanted to do a short post this morning that says for you and yours to enjoy your holiday season.

Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers.

Rest in Peace Ryan Freel

Ryan Freel was always a favorite of mine. So much that one night, I felt compelled to add him as a Facebook friend. In fact, whatever occurred between today and yesterday was not something that I would think was planned all along by Freel. As of yesterday, Freel had added a submission to The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Field fan page stating “Let me know if I can help in anyway……”

I lived in Cincinnati in 2004 and 2005. I spent countless summer nights by myself at the ballpark, where I saw Freel up close and nearly felt like I knew him. Those years would coincide with the finest seasons of Freel’s MLB career. Over three seasons, he was a fixture at the top of the Reds lineup that desperately needed a leadoff man and stole 103 bases from 2004 to 2006. He played every position on the diamond except for first base and shortstop. He was a hustling, down and dirty throwback of a renaissance man.

I got the feeling that Freel; in all his battling from the dusty fields of the minor leagues, was a guy who never forgot where he came from.

A short story I never about Freel that might illustrate that comes to mind. One night I was sitting in the first row of the seats on the Reds dugout. A guy next to me was someone from Freel’s past; a coach, a friend, someone who had known Ryan for some time and had traveled a long way to see him play in Cincinnati from what I gathered. Freel was finishing a few warm-up tosses when he noticed the guy and he nodded and came over and spoke to him. He told the guy to hold on a second, popped into the dugout and emerged from it with a couple game used bats for the guy and his kid.

He was likable and approachable to Reds fans. He played the game like a warrior, running through walls and generally having no reservations about his own health when it came to stealing a bag or making a play. One night at Great American Ball Park the giveaway was Ryan Freel dirty t-shirt jersey night. I still have that shirt somewhere in my dresser with the dirt stains down the front covering Freel’s number six to commemorate his head first slide.

My thoughts and my prayers go out to Ryan’s family and friends tonight. This is a terrible and senseless thing.

Bryce Harper is Gunning for your MLB The Show 13 Cover

Be sure to check out the online sportsbook.

Bryce Harper probably understands what it means to be on the cover of a video game more than guys did when I was a kid. No one talks about Wheaties box covers anymore, it’s all about Madden cover votes and such. More recently, MLB The Show has joined the ranks of high profile sports games to employ their stars in a cover vote contest.

“When you’re younger, you always dream of being in a video game, or being on the cover,” Harper said by telephone last week, during a photoshoot framing him for the prospective cover. “Winning a World Series would be the top-notch goal, but off the field, this is something very cool.”

SCEA Sports is the maker of The Show series, and has always put out a great line of video games. If Bryce Harper lands on the cover of the 2013 game; it’s going to move up even higher on my totem pole which I previously didn’t think was possible.

Watch them get really tricky like a fox and put Mike Trout in this cover vote.

The 1986 Mets and the 2013 Nationals

ESPN SweetSpot compares the 1986 Mets to the 2013 Nationals position by position, including bench. It’s a pretty cool little post.

Dave Schoenfield of SweetSpot has the two teams even, 6 to 6.

One other similarity between these: The Mets, like the Nationals, had a lot of young talent. Strawberry was 24, Dykstra 23, Backman 26, Mitchell 24, HoJo 25. On the pitching staff, Gooden, Darling, Fernandez, Aguilera and McDowell were all 25 or younger. Mets fans know all too well that this group of players would return to the playoffs only once more and never return to the World Series. The future of the Nationals looks bright, but success is never a sure thing.

You know what is a sure thing? The Nationals won’t be doing copious amounts of cocaine, tearing up commercial aircrafts (while showing their genitals to the stewardesses), and generally entering other towns with the soul goal being to drink as much beer as they can before leaving town.

It was just a different era back then, and one of the reasons that the 1986 Mets will remain one of my favorite teams of all-time no matter what 2013 holds for the Nationals; who are proud new owners of Dan Haren.

The Baseball Show: Throwing Another Log on the MLB Hot Stove

On this week’s edition of The Baseball Show, co-hosts Mike Rosenbaum and M.J. Lloyd along with myself discuss the following:

-Denard Span being traded to the Nationals for Alex Meyer
-Mike profiles Alex Meyer as a prospect
-B.J. Upton to Atlanta
-Possible destinations for Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Zach Greinke and more players
-Reactions to the Evan Longoria contract extension
-Thoughts on the 2013 Hall of Fame nominees

This was a very quick edition of the podcast but a very fun show with lots of discussion. We hope you enjoy!

The Baseball Show: The Miami Marlins are a Barren Wasteland Edition

Last night on The Baseball Show Podcast, co-hosts Mike Rosenbaum and M.J. Lloyd and I discussed the following topics:

-The Marlins/Blue Jays blockbuster trade
-The Toronto Blue Jays chances in the AL East
-Why it sucks to be a Marlins fan
-Giancarlo Stanton’s future in Miami
-What is it like to be a Marlins fan right now?
-The prospects on the way to Toronto via trade
-Torii Hunter leaves Anaheim for Detroit
-Thoughts on all season awards

And as always much more in between!

A Few of Bryce Harper’s Teammates Made Sure this NLDS jack was the Last Homer he would hit this year

This was the greatest postseason collapse that I’ve ever seen. Such an epic collapse that coming on the heels of the Cincinnati Reds epic collapse  I actually decided to take extended time off from the blog.

There’s no more ‘Take on Me’. Hell, with the Nats flipping a coin to decide between Mike Morse and Adam Laroche, we might never hear it again. But the memories shall remain glorious. And if this was the last version of A-ha that we’ll hear at Nationals Park in Washington, it was probably the best one.

I thought that Bryce Harper was going to have a huge postseason. Instead, he only had a huge game five. And he didn’t pack up his things for the off season before he did this:

When the winter snow clears, he’ll be back. And he’ll be assaulting stadium seats with rapier shots at the young age of twenty. I can’t frickin’ wait!

Yes, You Choked; Yes, I’m Still Proud of You

This was the toughest loss I’ve ever had to swallow in baseball; or in sports.

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget this. I’ll never get over it. It will never be easier to accept. It will always sting. It now exists as a spot place-marked forever in my life; an irreversible eternity. Never again in my life will I allow myself to think “hey, we might really have a shot to win the whole damn thing”. Not after this. If this team couldn’t do it, I’ll never be sold again.

The Reds made the kind of history you do not want to make yesterday afternoon in Cincinnati in losing 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants.

Sometimes in loss we learn the most about ourselves.

I have never in my life seen a team scratch, claw, and fight with such life or death desperation as the Reds did after getting down 6-0 yesterday. The image that will forever stick with me yesterday was Ryan Hanigan immediately when Buster Posey connected with his grand slam home run. Don’t watch Latos. Don’t watch the crowd behind him. Don’t look at the hitter or the ball’s flight. Watch Hanigan.

I have never seen a catcher react that way to a ball in play in all my years watching the game. Hanigan turns in immediate pain, anguish, and disgust and swings his arm in angst. He knows when Posey connects that it was the kill shot. The Reds at that moment probably knew they were dead. But like a cowboy in an old Western whose gut-shot, they kept shooting until they drew their last breath.

For instance; when Jay Bruce got down 0-2 in the ninth inning, he decides that even in defeat; he’s going to make the Giants closer earn it.

What ensues after Bruce gets down 0-2 in the last frame of the game and the Reds down to their final two outs of the season, was one of the gutsiest things I’ve ever seen in watching sports my entire life.

Bruce proceeds to battle Sergio Romo for 12 pitches in total as if he’s battling a damn lion or dragon. He stubbornly fouls off pitch after pitch, laying off many off-speed pitches that have long been to Bruce’s liking. As the at-bat wears onward, you realize Bruce is doing more than just trying to come up with a big swing that will result in a 3-run homer. He’s battling for himself, for his teammates, for all of us fans, and for what might have been his manager’s swansong. I don’t know what Bruce was thinking during the course of that at-bat where the Giants continually stayed away from his big time power to right field. I can only think he knew he owed it to everyone who hadn’t lost hope.

Bruce eventually flies out to right field, and the Reds came up short. But I had chills for much of that at-bat. It was a moment based on sheer will and determination. It was what baseball was all about. One man competing against another, knowing his probable fate but refusing to just roll over and die.

Forever etched in our memories is something different. I will never forget the hurt of this series collapse, but I’ll always know that the team I rooted the hardest for and held the closest to my heart fought like Hell for a different outcome, even when it would have been easiest to quit.

Like often the man who spends his days writing about them and living and dying with them, they just came up tragically short.

2012 BBA Award Voting

It’s always a sad part of the baseball season when it gets down to award voting.

I am a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and the end of the season awards voting is the blogger’s voice in Major League Baseball awards. Here are the awards we’ll be voting on today:

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the Year)
Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
Stan Musial Award (MVP)
Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
National League:
First Place Vote – Davey Johnson (Washington)
Second Place Vote- Dusty Baker (Cincinnati)
Third Place Vote – Mike Matheny (St. Louis)

American League

First Place Vote – Buck Showalter (Baltimore)
Second Place Vote – Bob Melvin (Oaklakd)
Third Place Vote – Joe Girardi (New York)
Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
National League:
First Place Vote – Bryce Harper (Washington)
Second Place Vote – Todd Frazier (Cincinnati)
Third Place Vote – Wade Miley (Arizona)
American League:
First Place Vote – Mike Trout (Anaheim)
Second Place Vote – Yu Darvish (Texas)
Third Place Vote – Jarrod Parker (Oakland)
Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the year)

National League:
First Place Vote – Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati)
Second Place Vote – Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta)
Third Place Vote – Joel Hanrahan (Pittsburgh)

American League:
First Place Vote – Jim Johnson (Baltimore)
Second Place Vote – Fernando Rodney (Tampa Bay)
Third Place Vote – Ernesto Frieri (Anaheim)

Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young):

National League:
First Place Vote – R.A. Dickey (New York Mets)
Second Place Vote – Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati)
Third Place Vote – Gio Gonzalez (Washington)
Fourth Place Vote – Cole Hamels (Philadelphia)
Fifth Place Vote – Matt Cain (San Francisco)
American League:
First Place Vote – David Price (Tampa Bay)
Second Place Vote – Jered Weaver (Anaheim)
Third Place Vote – Justin Verlander (Detroit)
Fourth Place Vote – Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox)
Fifth Place Vote – Jim Johnson (Baltimore)
Stan Musial Award (Most Valuable Player):

National League:
First Place Vote – Buster Posey (San Francisco)
Second Place Vote – Andrew McCutchen
Third Place Vote – Ryan Braun (Milwaukee)
Fourth Place Vote – Jay Bruce (Cincinnati)
Fifth Place Vote – Yadier Molina (St. Louis)
Sixth Place Vote – Mike Stanton (Florida)
Seventh Place Vote – Chase Headley (San Diego)
Eighth Place Vote – Joey Votto (Cincinnati)
Ninth Place Vote – Bryce Harper (Washington)
Tenth Place Vote – David Wright (New York Mets)

American League:
First Place Vote – Mike Trout (Anaheim)
Second Place Vote – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)
Third Place Vote – Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)
Fourth Place Vote – Adrian Beltre (Texas)
Fifth Place Vote – Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto)
Sixth Place Vote – Josh Hamilton (Texas)
Seventh Place Vote – Joe Mauer (Minnesota)
Eighth Place Vote – Adam Jones (Baltimore)
Ninth Place Vote – Torii Hunter (Anaheim)
Tenth Place Vote – Billy Butler (Kansas City)

Slaying the Giant Once and For All

Cincinnati: All the scores I’ll never settle, all the debts I can’t repay, all my ghosts await me here.

This post was supposed to be about my team and maybe your team and how they were choking it all away. It was supposed to be about how tomorrow I would go into work depressed and worried. And then slumber home to my couch to see the Reds squander away things in historic fashion.

Instead, I’m getting up tomorrow and using the power of my mind to focus on positive thought. The sun will rise tomorrow, and I believe it will shine just a little bit brighter upon the Reds. And I hope this post, more than any I’ve written before brings positive karma from all things and to all things surrounding the Cincinnati Reds.

What works out to be a legacy game for Dusty Baker in a Reds uniform also will work it’s way into the connected career vines of the names that dot this roster. Legacies will gain some of their definition tomorrow. That’s a certainty. And that’s why I have to say I was there at game five in 2012. That’s why I have to see it with my own eyes. It might be to say goodbye and it might be to celebrate it. But I have to finish what I started back on what ended up the most magical Opening Day in Cincinnati that I’ve ever been a part of. I have to see this thing through. It’s the only way.

Too many times in my life I’ve just talked myself out of going for it. I’m going for it tomorrow. Even if it’s by myself. I’ll be in the stands. And I’ll be rooting with everything I have inside me for Dusty and the boys. Because I do love them. Because they are family.

Tomorrow morning I’ll set foot down in the Queen City, and I’ll try to summon the ghosts of many nights and many friends gone by. And I’ll try and reflect on all the intrinsic value that is in that town for me surrounding that team dating back to when I was just a kid listening to 700 while I fell asleep at night. I’ve been waiting for tomorrow since I was just a little kid with so many big dreams.

Cain. Latos. For all the marbles. One last time. Someone draws their last breath. On an October 11th day in 2012 at 1300 hours, someone’s fate gets decided forever. I want to say I was part of it, regardless of how the end of the chapter will read.

Get me (us) this game today, and I’ll never speak ill of you again

Mike Leake firmly entrenched himself on my shit list long ago. Mistreatment of the fan base, flippant attitude, and then the whole stealing merchandise from Macy’s incident helped to earn him the coveted spot as my least favorite Cincinnati Red. Not to mention he’s the only pro athlete who has ever actually blocked me on twitter!

But I come offering an olive branch of sorts. I’m willing to forever bury the hatchet. If Mike Leake can just win today’s game–you all have my WORD (strong as an oak) that I’ll never say another bad word about the guy for as long as I live.

Save us from a game five; Mike. Save me from another sleepless night. I need you right now. We all need you. Get this game for us today, and all is forever forgiven old buddy.

Talk Me Down From The Ledge

Last night was as it should have been. Homer Bailey was as dominant as a pitcher has ever been in the postseason.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, last night Homer Bailey became only the fourth pitcher in Major League Postseason history to allow 1 or fewer hits while striking out least 10 batters and throwing at least 7.0 innings…he joins Bal’s Mike Mussina (1997 ALCS vs Cle, 8ip, 1h, 10k), NYY’s Orlando Hernandez (1999 World Series vs Atl, 7ip, 1h, 10k) and NYY’s Roger Clemens (2000 ALCS vs Sea, 9ip, 1h, 15k).

Yet, the Reds drop this one 2-1 in 10 innings in front of the second largest crowd ever on hand at Great American Ballpark. Today, it’s Mike Leake pitching the biggest game of the Reds’ season. Johnny Cueto is done for the NLDS and the NLCS. Just terrific.

If the Reds bats awaken, they’ll move on to the NLCS. If they don’t, we’re going to lose this series in five game in a national embarrassment. If I’m completely honest with everyone that reads this blog; I’m not really satisfied with simply getting to the NLDS and winning a few playoff games. I want this damn series. I don’t care that Johnny Cueto and the team was dealt a really poor hand–and that’s what it was. When Homer Bailey pitches his ass off for you in an effort to keep you free from a lot of headaches, get more than four hits (three of which came in the first inning of the ballgame).

I now have a rotten feeling in my core I can’t seem to shake. That’s my thoughts on this early afternoon of what will be game four of the NLDS between the Giants and the Reds.

Unchartered Territory: Reds win NLDS Game Two, Take 2-0 Series Lead

[NLDS Game Two Box Score]

[Cincinnati.com]

The Cincinnati Reds are locked in.

That was as good as you can see Bronson Arroyo look. It was his crowning moment in his Reds career. Maybe except for this commercial that I caught last night shortly after Cincinnati grabbed a 1-0 lead on Ryan Ludwick’s solo home run:

The Reds continued to play sound defense and add-on in the top frames until the game was through.

As we sit here on the eve of only the second postseason baseball game in Cincinnati in 17+ years, I hope the Reds realize they haven’t won anything yet. I hope they realize that the journey is still long. Two wins out West is very special, and it’s the hallmark of a team that means business. But the Giants could easily come back and win this series. This was just the first two dominoes that needed to fall in order to do something in this postseason. If the Reds come out flat tomorrow night, things can snowball in a hurry and this can quickly become the worst dogfight they’ve ever been involved in.

If you want my opinion, the Reds get the match-up they need tomorrow night. I don’t want them to face Matt Cain again. And I still think they’re damn lucky to have had such an easy time with Madison Bumgarner (though I’ll say it’s a misconception that I fall victim to in thinking that this roster of Reds struggles against LHP).

Tomorrow around dinner time, the Reds will face Ryan Vogelsong. He’s a good, solid big league starter. But he’s the kind of righty that the Reds should want to advance against in that park. He’s not Matt Cain, and he’s not Bumgarner.

Go ahead and move on in front of your fans on Tuesday night boys, and let the Cardinals and Nationals slug things out for a few more days. I have to admit, I want the Reds to just keep playing at this point. The worst thing that could happen was to give them a day off and a day to even think about what they’re doing. They’re going so good right now that you just hope they can get back out there on a diamond as soon as possible and keep rolling.

Part of how this team has already been able to do what they’re doing is I don’t even think they realize fully what they’re doing. They’re like a fearless teenager who takes a lot of risks because they don’t know how fragile life is at that age; the Reds still don’t grasp how delicate every single moment is in this postseason. And that allows them to be dangerous in this situation.

Tomorrow I’ll come home from work. I’ll slip on the #32 Bruce jersey (he got another big knock last night). I’ll hopefully see my team advance to the NLCS, making the vision I had back in 2010 the night we were eliminated from the NLDS a reality. To this point, I could not be more proud of how they’ve performed. I can’t even believe this is really happening.

To commemorate his first postseason win, a great Bryce Harper read

Thanks to Tyler Moore’s pinch-hit 2-run single late in the game, the Nationals took a 1-0 series advantage over the St. Louis Cardinals. I spent a good part of the evening last night reading Jerry Crasnick’s long story about Harper’s journey through his first big league season. It’s a great read.

“I sit on the aisle and he sits on the aisle on the plane, so I talk to him all the time,” Nationals broadcaster F.P. Santangelo says. “I’m probably as close to him as anybody on the team. The first thing he says on the plane after the game is, ‘I passed the Mick tonight.’ How often do you hear that? I get goosebumps now just saying it. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life: ‘I passed the Mick tonight.’ He said it with respect and reverence and maybe a little bit of astonishment, all wrapped up in one.”

  • Looking back at Bryce Harper’s thrilling rookie season. [ESPN]