Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Frazier exits, Reds squander, Towel thrown in

I drafted some of this around the All Star Game but never posted it. I figure now is a good time.

I don't remember the year anymore; a good guess would be 2008, since I was in Ohio that year and went to several Dayton Dragons games. Todd Frazier was a prospect at the time. He hit a homer that went out of the park at one game.

I was well into adulthood by then, but I stood outside the players entrance with a ball and pen in hand with the kids after the game. All of the Dragons players but one had signed it, all but the one I wanted the most: Frazier. He was older than many of the other players, as he had graduated from Rutgers and had started pro ball in Billings, the Reds Rookie League affiliate for decades now. Edwin Encarnacion was entrenched at third, though Frazier may have been a shortstop back then. He did not garner the same excitement I had felt for Bruce and Votto a few years before. Still, I wanted his name on that ball.

I remember Bruce's Reds debut; I made an effort to go to that game. I sat way up high behind homeplate. I had Sam Adams beer bottles confiscated at the gate. I remember that detail, for some reason.

I remember watching Homer's debut, too, when I lived on Ingraham Street way up in 16th Street Heights, where I biked to work through a Colombia Heights neighborhood that was still sketchy after dark. Storms knocked the power out in the fifth inning; I had to listen to the rest of the game through a scratchy WLW that was coming to DC all the way from Cincinnati.

I remember Tony Cingrani's debut. I had brought Chris to see the ballpark in Cincinnati. (He still frequently brings it up, usually mentioning the Reds Hall of Fame and the wall of baseballs for Pete's hits, impressed and awed.) Cingrani made a relief appearance that game; the starter left the game early, but I don't remember who he was. It might have been Cueto.

I remember Cueto's debut. I was at that game, too. It was freezing and wet and I signed up for a credit card just to get a free blanket. My other cards reduced my credit limit because of that application - they don't warn you about that. Cueto was throwing a no hitter through five innings and people were starting to whisper about the zeroes on the scoreboard. He ended up striking out ten batters that game. I don't remember the opposing team. I feel like it might have been the Pirates. I'm probably wrong.

I remember the Dunn and Kearns show, two guys for whose call up I had been waiting since their Dragons days. They were really the first players I can remember whose whole careers I had watched. I was pretty heartbroken when they swapped Kearns in The Trade of 2006, that awful deal that threw away one-fourth of our entire offense for a couple of relievers and quite possibly ruined the season.

I don't remember Frazier's debut. I don't even remember his call up. Maybe it was in September of that disappointing 2011 - I think I've blocked out much of that season. One can only tolerate so much disappointment in baseball before the brain takes protective measures.

Weird, the things you remember and the things you don't.

The Dragons ball has Todd Frazier's signature on it, and I know which one it is. As for the others? Tucker Barnhart could be on there. And the guy who was a big prospect with Frazier...we traded him to...Baltimore? Brandon. Brendan? Warring? Warren? Waring? Gone. Curtis Parch? Gone. Scott Carol? Gone. Carlos Fischer? Gone. Jake Kahlehawaii...whatever his last name was? Gone. I don't even remember other players.

Yeah, I could look them up, but why? The internet is not a replacement for memory. Memory is about experience, about life. Unfortunately life fades and withers until it is no more. Just like our memories.

Sure, we're upset about trades now. In a year, maybe two, we'll forget all about it. [We always do, despite the warnings to not forget the past. Right now we have major presidential candidates proposing registration for groups of people they don't like, and a significant chunk of Americans agree with them. This, despite all of the WWII Holocaust movies that should keep alive the memory of what happens when you do that to people. I guess human beings never learn.]

The Reds are in rebuilding mode, yes. They missed their window because Walt Jocketty was unable or unwilling to fill the gaping holes in a very good but not good enough team. I didn't watch many games of the second half of 2015, and I don't see myself watching a lot of a 2016 season that has already been thrown away. I get the rebuilding. But I'm angry because they missed that window, and though the holes were obvious to all but the most casual fan, they did not fill them. Which makes the rebuilding worse. I remember the last rebuilding. It was exciting because we hadn't won in a while, and players like Votto, Bruce, and Cueto were some of the top prospects in baseball. I remember when John Sickles was writing about the Reds farm system, he started his post with "Good lord." The farm was loaded.

And then it was squandered in a couple of first round playoff exits and a Wild Card game I wish hadn't happened. Yeah, playoffs are better than none, and two division titles should be nothing to scoff at, but we were a leftfielder and a bench player away from winning it all.

That's the real disappointment. It's not the trading away of players and the rebuilding. It's the squandering.

Yeah, I'll be in and out of 2016. But they better fast track this rebuilding because I'm ready for 2017, so they better be, too.