Sometimes baseball franchises are capable of solving complex problems on their own. Take the Reds of Cincinnati, for instance.
Every human being with a non-negative IQ who follows the team casually, except manager Dusty Baker and Cincy's front-office bean counters, had long since realized that center field was a sad chasm of roster despair. Similarly, those same individuals couldn't help but notice that center fielder Jay Bruce had spent the last nine weeks instilling the fear of God into Triple-A pitchers, to the tune of .364/.393/.630.
|Jay Bruce's hot start is no surprise to the Reds. (AP)|
So while we should all applaud the Reds for belatedly executing the most obvious roster move in the history of transactions, we have to realize that not every franchise is quite as adept at pairing problem and solution -- and there is many a semi-pressing problem awaiting a rational solution in MLB nowadays.
Helper bee that I am, I've decided to lay out two approaches for attacking these problems. First, the half-intelligent approach, the one that an organization hoping to "win" might take. And then what I'll call the "Seattle Mariners" approach, the one that might be taken by an organization that, in recent years, has never met a problem it couldn't compound.
Problem: Regardless of whether he's driving the ball again, Jose Reyes sure does lots of dumbass crap, like getting picked off second base in the 10th inning of tied games.
Half-intelligent approach: The warm-and-fuzzy fixes designed to get that circa-May-2007 smile back on Reyes' mug ain't working. Instead, I propose tough love, in the best army-basic-training way.
If Reyes doesn't bother to run out a pop fly, Willie Randolph should smack him with a rolled-up newspaper, as one would an insolent puppy. If Reyes attempts a steal at an imprudent moment -- with the Mets down three runs in the eighth and nobody out, perhaps -- the team should revoke his pump-chest-bump-clap-step-clap-jazz-hands! dugout celebration privileges. If Reyes punts a potential double-play grounder, Omar Minaya should relocate his locker from the Latino nook of the clubhouse to the area populated by Skynyrd-loving chaw-munchers like Billy Wagner.
Separately, how come we didn't hear much about the supposed ethnic divide in the Mets' clubhouse when the team was winning 90 games a season?
Mariners approach: Return Reyes to Triple-A for a fundamentals refresher course and attitude adjustment courtesy of the long bus rides. Replace him in the major league lineup with a .275-OBP defensive ace. Bat said ace either first or second in the order, because middle infielders just look so very right in those slots.
Problem: The Tampa Bay bullpen has been decent enough so far. That said, nobody really expects the 35-and-up crew of Trever Miller, Troy Percival and Al Reyes to remain upright through seven months of games that matter. When Miller and Reyes follow Percival's lead and suddenly remember that they are, indeed, old, Dan Wheeler will get bumped into an even more prominent role ... which, in turn, will require J.P. Howell, Jason Hammel and the like to pitch important innings. That can't end well.
Half-intelligent approach: Rather than pay a bounty for the Damaso Martes who project to be available come late July, the Rays oughta go the Santana/Joba route with a few of their pitching prospects, breaking them in via low-leverage situations (no men on base, etc.) and determining if they're ready for pennant-race detail.
Because let's face it: Barring a clubhouse superflu epidemic or a particularly effective voodoo hex, the Rays are going to be playing meaningful games in September, quite possibly in front of home crowds of as many as 22,500 fans. The Rays are suddenly smart, so expect them to start girding themselves for this possibility.