I had nearly 40 years of Billy Joel’s give and take—the New York Times, the Daily News. What those years gave me was baseball that didn’t exist west of the Hudson River Line. It’s a tradition ESPN keeps alive today, all Yankees and Red Sox all the time, with a little Metropolitans mixed in on those rare occasions when the boys from Flushing, Queens managed to outkick their coverage, which wasn’t often.
So, when the Reds ventured into the Bronx for a 3-game series, the trepidation was real. If there was ever a bad time to visit the Death Star, it was a season where the Yankees would have the best record in baseball, while Reds’ ownership had already punted on the season.
The Field of Dreams game was still a month away, but my personal Field of Dreams series would play out over the next three days, as the boys in Pantone 199 would rise to the occasion—and were it not for a couple of wild pitches in the 10th inning, might have done the unthinkable—swept the Park Avenue Pinstripes in New York.
Things had to happen, of course. Clay Holmes—perhaps the best closer in baseball at the time—suddenly couldn’t find home plate with two hands and a map. Gutty pitching by Graham Ashcraft and Luis Castillo kept the Reds within striking distance. Clutch hits would land heroically on the outfield turf.
Three weeks later, the Reds would return to New York, this time to Citi Field to face the first place Mets. In a tale of two boroughs, it would reflect the best of times and the worst of times. Castillo was gone, as was Brandon Drury, who had made key contributions three weeks earlier in the Bronx. Tyler Mahle could no longer be called upon to fill the void, nor could Hunter Greene, who went on the IL with a strained right shoulder. Tyler Stephenson was done for the season with an injury 16 games earlier.
The trade deadline would bring gold and a top five farm system ranking, but the price days later would be a slaughter in Queens, just three weeks after Cincinnati’s courageous stand in the Bronx.
It’s been a while since a New York team has come into Cincinnati playing distinct underdogs. Only 3 teams have spent more money this season than the Philadelphia Phillies, who are chasing the World Series bus with their wallet wide open, spilling out dollar bills on the sidewalk as they run. It hasn’t been a pretty sight.
From 2012 through 2020, the best the Phillies could do was a .500 record, which they managed twice until last season, when they went 82-80. J.T. Realmuto, Zach Wheeler, Bryce Harper, Didi Gregorius, along with the recent additions of Kyle Schwarber, Noah Syndergaard and Nick Castellanos are a testament to John Middleton’s unending quest to turn a decade of underachieving around. 2022 looked like more of the same until Joe Girardi got the axe and the team magically began playing competently.
For all the talent and all the money spent, the Phillies are an object lesson on how not to run a baseball team. Still, one couldn’t help but feel envious watching another franchise roll into GABP behind the wheel of a Brinks truck and walk away with a series win.
These last six weeks are an opportunity to watch Lodolo and Ashcraft and keep the fingers crossed for their future. Jake Fraley has been a welcome surprise so far. Jose Barrero finally gets his chance. He needs to make the most of it, while the rest of us need to give him a chance to find his feet in the big leagues.
And Reds fans need to hold tight to this shiny new farm system ranking and hope ownership will get out of the way and let the baseball people do their thing.
A 33RPM version of the Dolly Parton 1973 hit “Jolene” is making the rounds. A New Yorker article review opined the version “comes down to a reasonable alto range, sounding like a soulful male ballad singer,” while the website Open Culture claimed the slowed down version “sounds wonderful, it also manages to reframe the narrative”.
Yesterday, Jolene didn’t just slow down, the needle skidded across the vinyl to a screeching halt with the news that Joey Votto would have season-ending rotator cuff surgery on Friday. For those who’ve been running the Father Time narrative up the flagpole, insisting JoeyMVP should have long ago been benched for younger players, this is going to be welcome news. The scorn and slight regard couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s impossible to know exactly how much Votto has in the tank at this point in his career. But, it seems pretty clear now that this shoulder injury, which has plagued him for some time and has gotten progressively worse, is likely a primary reason for his poor performance in 2022.
More importantly, we’ve lost more days to watch the future Hall of Famer ply his trade in a Cincinnati uniform. If that doesn’t bother you, I have nothing else to offer you.