Stepping back in the box.

I’m still here.

Life like baseball throws many curve your way, sometimes you don’t recognize the spin and you eat a little dirt. Due to life I found myself in Cincinnati for the Brewers series, I was able to catch the Frank Robinson Bobblehead game as well as the Matt Wise pitch that floored the young SS Lopez, that in itself was brutal, the most blood I’ve ever seen at a baseball game live. As an avid hockey fan I did however fail to get too squeamish about the blood, it was definitely Hockeysque.

The new manager has a quicker hook then Narron, and the Reds bullpen and Wayne Krivsky continue to be less then consistent in performance and in obtaining the fans faith or their confidence.

With a new ownership group that sometimes seems hungrier then they should be considering the last 20 years of the Reds history. Simply put this franchise was a 4 cylinder car in a world of 8 cylinder hot rods. Sure if tuned right and with the right environment an occasional victory was attained, but the fact is the infrastructure has no strength to successfully hold up a string of successes. To get there will probably be slower then the world so many of us have been accustomed to over the last 20 years, a world that has instant information available from numerous outlets, at our fingertips 24/7 year in and year out.

So here we sit, the Reds season is in the swamp and with most sticky situations it becomes one that the local press find themselves looking at daily in hope of finding something of worth, something that can be written about, and like ten years ago we have a story in the muck.

Love the Brand – Like the Player

A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it.

Hustle rules in Cincinnati, I won’t get into the aesthetics of that statement and try to quantify it historically or sociologically. It’s just something that anyone who ever has spent anytime looking at baseball in the Queen City accepts as a truth, most just move on and realize that there is all sorts of hustle and all sorts f performers. But deep in their heart and the hearts of the press in Cincinnati lives a love of the scrappy underdog, a love that comes every decade, just like the Cicadas. Ion fact ten years ago once famous underdog Ray Knight was canned as the Reds manager and a July 31st trade brought in a man that was essentially that years version of Jeff Keppinger. This of course was Chris Stynes, and his 1997 season as Red was a hustling, bustling. Multi positional romp a lot like Jeff Keppingers has been this season.

Here is Stynes line that year. .348/.394/.485, in 198 Reds at-bats.

Playing 2nd, 3rd and the outfield. Unlike Keppinger Stynes was only 24, and that season there were those who felt he had arrived, yet many noted his weakness as they do Keppingers. Stynes’ problem with the Reds is that the positions he plays – second base, third base and left field – are not exactly open. If Bret Boone weren’t around to play second base, the most likely candidate is Pokey Reese. Willie Greene has third base, with Aaron Boone in the wings. And the Reds would like more power in left field than Stynes can provide.

This is from a Post article in 1997

”But he could get into the lineup regularly,” said Reds assistant general manager Darrell (Doc) Rodgers. ”Take for example, Tony Phillips. There’s not a position where you would want to put him regularly, but he plays every day. Same with Bip Roberts. A lot of times, even players think of versatility as a negative. But in baseball, especially for managers, it is a positive. It makes a player more valuable if he can move around.”

Stynes, who has bounced from the majors to Class AAA for three straight years, does not demand a steady role with the club. He just wants to stay in the major leagues, whatever that means.

”I have no problem with any roles,” said Stynes. ”Playing every day at one position is fine. So is coming off the bench at several positions. Being in the big leagues is where you want to be.

‘To try to hit the ball out would only be a hindrance to myself and the team,” said Stynes. ”If I were to consistently hit the ball in the air, it might be the difference between hitting eight home runs per year and hitting 12 or 15. It’s not going to keep me in the big leagues, anyway.”

This is from a Post article yesterday

Instead of his versatility being a positive, it’s been one of the things that hampered Keppinger’s march to the majors. The tag given to him in the minors was that he didn’t have a position. The Pirates drafted Keppinger, an All-American shortstop at Georgia, in the fourth round of the 2001 first-year player draft. Although he’d played a solid, if unspectacular shortstop in college, the Pirates put him at second base.

“Who decided a guy can’t do certain things? I know when I first came to the Pirates, they decided I couldn’t play shortstop, and I think I’ve done OK,” Keppinger said. “You get labels in this game and sometimes it sticks.”

Since then, Keppinger has been traded three times – to the Mets in the Kris Benson trade in 2004, to the Royals for Ruben Gotay last season and to the Reds in January.

Throughout that time, he has played all over the infield in the minor leagues and done what he does best – hit. Since hitting .276 for Class A Hickory in 2002, Keppinger has never hit lower than .300 in the minors and hit .278 in 55 major league games.

“He’s old-school. Hitters are born, not made,” Perno said. “He was born to hit, he can do it at every level, he’s done it at every level.”

“Anybody can see he doesn’t get himself out. That’s the main thing. He makes the pitcher get him out,” Mackanin said. “He doesn’t swing at bad pitches. He’s bunted on his own early in the game. Why? Because he feels the best thing may be a productive out. I’ve talked to him. He doesn’t feel comfortable against a certain pitcher, he’ll bunt it.”

Keppinger currently sits at .333/387/.522 after only 69 at bats.

In short I’m endorsing the Brand, and not the player. Nothing against Jeff Keppinger, but as the saying goes “Small Sample Size So Far” however I like what I’ve seen as well as I like that brand of baseball peppered into the game now and then. After years of sluggers and no pitchers the Reds need some of the other type of baseball to balance out the Ying of the power on the team, not replace it, just balance it out and attain baseball harmony.

Which by my best summation is attained by having a plus .500 winning percentage.

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