Before I was undone by my own poor sense of time management last night, I was going to talk about the Cincinnati Reds. No, I haven’t suffered a concussion…at least not that I can remember. I’ve spent most of my precious free time over the past week taking advantage of a free cable preview of MLB Extra Innings, which affords me a look at teams other than the Orioles, Nationals, Yankees and Red Sox. One of the weekend matchups that intrigued me was the Rockies-Reds series at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Both are teams with a lower national profile who are in the thick of the pennant race. As of today, the Reds are a half-game out of first in the National League Central, and the Rockies are four games back of the surprising Padres in the West. But as I watched Friday’s game I was struck by the number of cameos by one-time Orioles.
The Reds were inducting the newest members of the team’s Hall of Fame, and one of the honorees was third baseman Chris Sabo. The begoggled, crew-cut Sabo had been Rookie of the Year in 1988 and was a vital cog in Cincy’s last World Series champ to date, the 1990 squad that swept the defending champion Athletics. The Orioles signed him prior to the 1994 season, expecting him to replace the disappointing Leo Gomez at the hot corner. But “Spuds” struggled with injuries and balked at being shuffled into the corner outfield and designated hitter positions when Gomez had a bounce-back year. He played 68 forgettable games in Baltimore, posting a career-low (at the time) 96 OPS+ and signing with the White Sox the following year. Anyhow, one of the Fox Sports Reds’ reporters interviewed Sabo during the game. He seemed like a pleasant enough, humble guy, insisting that he didn’t think he’d accomplished enough in his career to deserve the honor, but that he was appreciative of the fan support.
TV announcers Thom Brennaman and Jeff Brantley were joined in the booth for a few innings by former bullpen-mates Randy Myers and Norm Charlton, who narrowly missed one another in Charm City (Myers was the closer for the last two O’s playoff teams in 1996-1997, and Charlton spent a miserable half-season in orange and black in 1998). In a former life, they partnered with current Nationals “analyst” and full-time buffoon Rob Dibble to form the three-headed monster known as the “Nasty Boys” . The trio shut down many a lineup in the late innings during the Reds’ march to and through the postseason in 1990, and they were there to throw out the first pitch(es) on Friday as part of the club’s 20th anniversary celebration. Myers, true to form, was decked out in camouflage whereas Charlton went with more of a casual look. Both seemed comfortable on the mic, reminiscing about their glory days and talking about their current involvement in charities and other pursuits. Footage was shown of their pregame ceremonial pitches; whereas Charlton went with the customary lob, Myers fired a point-blank fastball to his catcher, looking for all the world like he could still close games at age 47. Hey, if Moyer is still pitching, you never know. It’s not like Matt Albers and Alfredo Simon couldn’t use the competition…
Speaking of ageless lefties, conversation in the booth turned to Arthur Rhodes, who was one of four current Reds presented with plaques before the game to commemorate their selections to the All-Star Game. At age 40, it was the reliever’s first trip to the Midsummer Classic in his 19th season. Myers recalled the two years he spent in Baltimore as Rhodes’ teammate, when Davey Johnson boosted the (then) young southpaw’s career by recasting him as a tough middle reliever. Myers noted that on most nights, the combination of Rhodes, Jesse Orosco, Armando Benitez (yeah, I know), and Myers could stifle the opponent beyond the fifth inning. Later on, Rhodes protected a one-run lead in the eighth inning by escaping from a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam, striking out the final two hitters of the inning. Meanwhile, something called Frank Mata pitched in 15 games for the Birds this year before being demoted today. Look upon these works and despair.
Yesterday afternoon, my girlfriend was doing chores around her apartment, so I busied myself by channel surfing through a slate of Sunday baseball games. Since the Rockies were leading the Reds by a slim 1-0 margin, I spent a great deal of time on their contest. At one point, a young boy of maybe eight or nine years apparently made a great snag on a ball that Cincinnati’s Laynce Nix fouled off into the seats to the third-base side of home plate. Another former 1990 Red and mid-90s Oriole, outfielder Eric Davis, was sitting in a box above the kid and gave him a standing ovation. One of the network’s cameras found the boy as an usher escorted him over to Davis’ box, where the ex-player chatted briefly to the young fan, high-fived him, and signed the ball that he had caught. It was a great moment that I would have missed out on if I hadn’t sought out a couple of teams beyond the usual suspects.
…But I’m still not ordering Extra Innings. Comcast gets enough of my paycheck as it is.