Things aren’t exactly in normal times right now. Baseball isn’t happening, and neither is much of anything else, really. I won’t speak for the rest of you, but over on this end of the digital screen, sports don’t seem to matter a whole lot right now. For the most part, we’re all being told to basically quarantine ourselves in our homes if we can and to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. With that said, anything that gets our minds away from the reality that we’re facing right now probably helps some.

Before we get into the questions and the answers, I thought I’d do my best to pass along a few pieces of information. Emma Baccerllieri of Sports Illustrated wrote about the people out there trying to help minor league baseball players right now – who haven’t been paid by their teams since August. It sounds like after the MLBPA gets things figured out for the 40-man roster players with regards to what’s going on, that they actually will try to figure out something for the minor league players. For now, though, nothing has been done for them from that standpoint. The Tampa Bay Rays, as of my typing of this, are the only team to have offered up much of anything – giving each player $800 to help them out.

If you are fortunate enough right now to want to help out, there are a few ways that you can. Emily Waldon of The Athletic has been doing her best to try and work with people around the county who own businesses who may have jobs that players who are now back home could work. She’s also working with anyone who is willing to help out with cash donations that go directly to players. Her DM’s are open on twitter – so if you are capable of helping out with either of those two things, you can reach her there and she can put you in contact with a player in need.

Alright – onto the questions and the answers. Like the past, there are a few simple rules, but not quite like the past.

  1. I’m not going to limit the amount of questions you can ask today. But please be reasonable. If you’ve actually got 10 good, quality questions – go for it. Don’t just be that guy who asks 10 questions because they can.
  2. Try to avoid questions that are going to require me to do some real, actual research. You don’t really need to know who the last guy to hit .280, steal 30 bases, and hit 25 home runs for the farm system who also happened to hit left handed and was born in Iowa.
  3. Ask before 8pm ET today and I’ll answer the question. After that, I’m making no promises.

That’s it. Leave your questions in the comments section, and when I get to it, I will delete it from the comments and add it to the post below.

With the Cincinnati Reds anticipated improvement of the big league roster and several tough decisions with options, do you see the Reds finally fielding a competitive team in Louisville for the first time in a decade?

You never really know with these things. While the team seems to have depth at the big league level – Triple-A is always the level that sees the most roster churn because injuries at the highest level take away the best guys there. With that said, in a normal situation you would think so. There’s pitching depth there, and at least before everything shut down, it looked like there was going to be more than a few guys on that team that either performed very well in Triple-A last year, or had good big league seasons last year on the offensive side.

Do the Reds owe it to their affiliate to put a good product on the field every few years?

I mean, technically, no, they don’t. Their job is to develop players and get them to the big leagues ready to help put a good product on THAT field. With that said, the Reds hope to be able to put a good product on the minor league fields because they believe in a winning culture over one solely around “develop individuals”.  That hasn’t always happened, of course – but it’s not something that they simply ignore, either. What I feel like I’ve seen in the last few drafts is perhaps a bit more of a focus on productive college players in the later rounds over guys who weren’t good college performers but had one big tool to work with (say, lots of velocity but no clue where it’s going, or a guy with big power but no ability to hit the ball). To me that is the kind of thing that, particularly in rookie ball or Low-A can be the difference between a good team and a very bad team.

I really like Joel Kuhnel. He goes out and gets guys out. I certainly hope he is in their 2020 plans at the big league level. What do you think his chances of securing a spot on the 26 man roster on opening day are, whenever that is? Stay safe and thanks.

I’m a big fan of Kuhnel’s as well. If the team were to take the best eight relievers, I believe that he’d be one of them. With that said, it doesn’t always work that way. Teams, right or wrong, consider if guys have options or not at times. Right now, Kuhnel does have options, and a few other guys do not. That could (and let me be sure to stress the word could rather than will) come into play. I’d put the odds at 50-50 because of the whole options thing. When they take the field again, things like injuries pop up and that could certainly change the odds given – but as we stand right now, I think we’re looking at a coin flip.

My friend @OhNoCoop was a little late to get toilet paper and has been using a wooden bat to wipe after going number 2. Could you please suggest other items that he could use that wouldn’t risk a splinter in his bunghole?

Poor Coop. But I’ve been making jokes with a few friends to be sure to know where their scissors are and where the extra curtains that their wife wasn’t willing to toss out when they got new ones are – just in case.

What is a randomly good Reds game from your past? Not a playoff game, or a no-hitter. Just a really good game.

Back when tickets were a thing (instead of using your phone or printing out your ticket at home on a piece of paper), I used to keep all of my tickets. They are still in my closet somewhere. It’s been about a year since I last went through them, but three games really stick out to me – all walk-off wins.

The Adam Dunn walk-off grand slam down three against Cleveland game.

I was at the game, sitting in the upper deck on the third base line near the very end of the stadium. Outer view level seats. We had a group of about 10 of us that night that all met down at the game. I took my bottle of water, pulled the lid off of it and we all got drenched. It was fantastic.

One of my favorite stories about random obscure Cincinnati Reds is about Randy Keisler. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t blame yourself. He pitched in 24 games for the Reds in 2005 as a 29-year-old with a 6.27 ERA. He made 55 total appearances in the Major Leagues and posted a 6.63 ERA for the Yankees, Padres, Reds, Athletics, and Cardinals between 2000-2007. But man, he had one heck of a Cincinnati Reds debut.

It was May 24th and the Washington Nationals were in town. The Reds jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 1st inning. They would hold the lead until the top of the 9th inning when Carlos Baerga singled off of David Weathers to score Nick Johnson who led off the inning with a single of his own. That tied the game up, and eventually the game would head to extra innings. It remained tied until the 14th inning. Randy Keisler had come into the game for the 13th inning and he went out and tossed two hitless innings – giving up just a walk. Austin Kearns led off the bottom of the 14th inning by flying out to center. But Jason LaRue knocked a single to left field to get things going. Luis Lopez then doubled – but LaRue had to be held up at third base. That brought Randy Keisler, a relief pitcher, to the plate. Down 0-1 in the count he lined a single up the middle for the walk-off win in the 14th inning. It was awesome. Here’s the box score for that game.

The other one was from 2006. My best friend had another friend in town and we all went to the game. Around the 7th or 8th inning they decided they wanted to go across the river to Newport to the bars. I wasn’t having it and said I was staying. They left. Idiots. The Reds were up 1-0 at the time, and then the Nationals tied the game up in the top of the 9th. Then the Nationals scored three runs in the top of the 11th inning and I was almost regretting sticking around by myself.

Idiot. The Reds notched three straight singles to lead off the bottom of the 11th, with the third one bringing in a run to make it 4-2 for the Nationals. Edwin Encarnacion walked to put runners on 1st and 2nd (Ryan Freel had been thrown out on the bases earlier in the inning) for Ken Griffey Jr, who crushed a walk-off 3-run homer to center. Here’s the box score for that game.

What do you think the heart of the defense (right up the middle) looks likes like in two years? Catcher – Tyler Stephenson/Tucker Barnhart, Shortstop – Jose Garcia, second base  -Nick Senzel, Center Field – ? I am assuming a Mike Moustakas move to corner outfield by 2022 especially if Nick Castellanos opts out after year 1 or year 2. I also have this feeling that the 2022 season starting center is not in the organization at this time. Unless Stuart Fairchild has a quantum leap in his development at the plate, which could be possible. He has some skills. Can Fairchild develop into a MLB starting caliber CF with the Reds?

I think the first two pieces you have are correct. I don’t think you’re going to see Moustakas wind up in the corner outfield, though. Which means that Nick Senzel is likely to remain in center. With Stuart Fairchild – I think you’re underselling him right now. Defensively he’s a center fielder today. Offensively, there’s work to be done there – but only in the sense that he’s still developing and not in the sense that there’s an obvious wart in his game. He’s a guy who gets the strikezone and makes a lot of contact, and he’s shown that ability in Double-A. And there’s some pop there, too – not like 30 homers or anything, but 15-20 isn’t out of the question at all for him in the future. Whether he’s got the opportunity to take center isn’t entirely up to him. But I believe he’s got a big league future somewhere in the outfield. With the Reds or someone else – it may just come down to a spot being open for the taking.

With the postponement of the season, do you think the MLB tweaks the rules on team control/rule 5. If there are 100 games or fewer, technically any rookie could play the entire year but not have it count unless something is changed, correct? And while they’ll try to cram as many MLB games in as possible, it seems more likely that the MiLB schedule will be much lighter which would make 40 man/rule 5 decisions a little tougher for teams I would think.

They are all still working on things, and that will no doubtedly come up. I imagine that the rules regarding service time/Rule 5 will be percentage based to work out to the same as a full season. That’s been the precedent in past situations where a full season was not played.

With regards to the minor league schedule – it will be interesting to see how that works out – assuming we get any baseball. Their seasons end sooner – almost all before the end of August, though a few do stretch into September. But you can’t go much deeper in colder climates, either.

In your opinion, how long of a delay to the start of the season would constitute the need for a total remaking of every team’s schedule? For example, if no games are played until July 1st, there are going to be some teams who end up with a lot more home games than others.

On one hand I can see where that makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, I don’t know that the schedules are that unbalanced that it would be a dramatic shift for any one team. And changing the schedules would require an insane amount of extra work being tossed into the mix when so much additional work is already having to happen because of what’s going on that I could very much see a situation where everyone agrees it’s not worth it and the teams, for 2020, work out a better ticket revenue sharing situation to help “share” things for everyone because of the way that the schedules could favor, or harm, a few teams with more/less home games.

Not really a question but wouldn’t it be a good p.r. move for management and major league players to set up fund for minor league players and management?

It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money. But I had some thoughts last night about how everyone’s going to be hit by this and started asking myself about something where players who have made, say, $15M or more in their career step up and don’t take the “spring training money” they’re being given now, and instead funnel that towards the minor leaguers. And then the owners also chip in some sort of money to help them out – and that eases the burden up a little bit on the minor leaguers, while also having both the MLBPA and the owners step up a little bit to take on some of the responsibilities to help those guys out – because both sides are at least somewhat responsible for the low wages they’ve been paid all this time.

Originally I heard a lot of double headers would be added to the schedule to make up for lost days. Have you heard anything concrete yet on what they will do?

I’ve seen that rumor floated, but never by an actual reporter. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been, but I haven’t seen that. With that said, I’d be shocked if the players would even agree to something like one double header per week. That’s just a lot to put on the body – even if rosters were expanded to say, 30 players for the season to try and ease that burden.

Was there any technical impact to demoting Tyler Stephenson/Jose De Leon this past week? Are they no longer eligible for various dollars going to MLB players, for example?

I’m sure that there was a reason as to why they were sent down. The Reds weren’t the only team to make those kinds of moves after the shutdown. But I haven’t been able to get any sort of concrete answers as to why and what the benefit for the team would be in this case – especially now that MLB and MLBPA have agreed on the salaried structure for guys on the 40-man.

Once a player is designated for assignment and not picked up by another team, what becomes of his option? Is he now exempt or goes through another process?

It depends on the player. The first time that a player is designated for assignment and clears waivers, they can’t refuse the assignment. But if it’s not the first time it’s happened to the player, then they have the right to refuse the assignment and can become a free agent rather than go to the minor leagues of the organization that designated them.

Does the current situation affect the income of RML and/or RLN in any significant way?

Yes. Just like everything else. The first part, of course, is that traffic is down. The way I make the money on the sites is that every time someone shows up, ads load, and I get paid a wildly inconsistent amount of money per 1000 ads that load. The more traffic, the more ads, the more I can make. Traffic goes down, fewer ads, fewer dollars.

But it’s also more than just that, and while that may not be felt today, it certainly will very soon. The ad buys through the various agencies I use (google and send to news – the video ads) are usually selling ad spots a month in advance or so to companies. Right now those ads are bought and paid for to them, so the ad rates aren’t exactly changing much right this second (though maybe they are as of today – see below). But they’re going to and soon, because everyone is going to be cutting back on spending (both us consumers as well as companies). That means the ads they will run, they aren’t going to be willing to pay as much for to reach us.

So now, without baseball being there to be written about, watched, covered, shared – interest is going to be down versus what it normally would be. That’s going to mean less traffic. Couple that with lower ad rates and it’s going to be a big issue for a whole lot of people in this arena. Of course, I believe, as I imagine just about everyone else does at this point, it’s going to be a big issue for nearly everyone, in all arenas.

To give you an example of how things are going right now, today, at 4:22pm ET – here’s my current “today statement” from my google adsense account:

Less than $5.00 today so far from Google ads between both sites. The video ad company doesn’t give current-day updates. I can only see previous days – so I don’t know what they are paying today yet. Some days google does better, while others the video ad company does better.

And of course, that doesn’t include Patreon. Which I would expect in the next month or two, to see a dramatic down tick. And I honestly understand, too. What I do truly isn’t important. I write about baseball. And I think that people are going to start seeing some real hard times and even $4 to me can be used for something else along with maybe cutting off Netflix or Spotify.

As I said – it’s going to hit just about every last one of us in my opinion.

Has there ever been a more difficult time to be a sports writer in your career?

Yes. And no. When this all was first getting started it was more difficult in the sense that I had no contacts anywhere. I was just a guy trying to look at box scores, find the tiny amount of video available, and see a handful of games a year and write about some guys playing minor league baseball. Today I’ve got contacts throughout the game of baseball. The technology allows so much more to look at in terms of video, radio broadcasts – that all makes the job so much easier. But, that’s just in terms of how I specifically am and have gone about my job.

Today, with a full offseason behind me, I’m honestly wondering just how much I can write about without actual baseball happening. Feels like there’s going to be a lot of “looking back at” kind of things. Whether that’s investigating past rankings and write ups and where I was right and wrong on things, and trying to figure out why on some of the more important things. Maybe just writing up more historical kind of stuff over at Redleg Nation as there’s a lot more information on plenty of that stuff. And if you’ve been following me on twitter the last two days, you’ve gotten a sneak peak of a project I’m going to be working on that I’m real excited about and hope others enjoy.

Now, in terms of what this all means for my future – it’s terrifying. If you’ve read this far into the answers, you saw my response to the last question. The money’s going to dry up, and it wasn’t exactly good money before (I was making enough to get by – and I’m not complaining, but for my age bracket I’m guessing I’m not near the average salary). There’s so much uncertainty about so many things right now, financially, for everyone. I’m worried about a lot of other people more than I’m worried about me right now. I’m not raising kids – it’s just me. That alone puts me in an incredibly better place than so many others right now.

When can we expect your first draft write ups since high school and college seasons are done?

Even in a normal year, I usually don’t start doing too much of that until April. Now? Well, I honestly don’t know what that exact plan would be. There hasn’t been a ton of talk in terms of what the draft is going to be like, or when it will be held. Baseball America did have something earlier today that was something along the lines of “it seems like June still makes sense for the draft”, but I didn’t get too into things with that. Perhaps I’ll just kind of try to follow along with things like usual – give some reports on what we’ve got on the players out there and do some rankings by position, and then overall. If, as I expect, we are still months away from seeing any baseball anywhere – things are going to be all kinds of weird with what the heck I figure out in terms of writing/covering baseball without actual baseball.

Doug, will you be getting a Wendy’s 4 for 4 with that ad revenue or investing in bit coins?

In about 30 days at this rate I’ll be able to buy me one 100 watt solar panel kit so that when I can’t afford power any longer I’ll at least be able to keep a light on at night. I’m half kidding here. But I will say this much: yesterday I cut off and or downgraded a few of my subscription services. My Adobe Creative Suite subscription that I use to do all of the photo/video/audio stuff for the sites? Yeah, it was nearly $70 a month. I dropped down to the bare minimum subscription that’s only the photo stuff, and now am paying $10 a month moving forward. Not sure what I’ll do for video/audio stuff, but I’ll figure it out. Went from beautiful 4K Netflix back to crappy 1080p Netflix to save a few bucks. Cancelled DAZN at $10 a month.

Is Tyler Stephenson the Reds best option at catcher right now?

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised at either a yes or a no answer right now from people within baseball. I think that defensively, the answer is most likely no. Barnhart and Casali are both likely better in that department right now. So the question is more about is Stephenson not only a better option at the plate, but better by a large enough amount to overcome the defensive advantages the other two have right now. And that’s where it gets a little bit more uncertain.

The projection systems don’t really seem to think so. But they, by-and-large, often feel really low on top end prospects who have never played in the Major Leagues. Is it hard to imagine a scenario where Stephenson, if given full playing time for a catcher (so let’s say 125 games) could hit .260/.330/.440? No – if his power developed from what he showed in 2019, that’s not unrealistic at all. But until we see that happen, I think you have to say that while that’s not an unrealistic thing that could happen, it’s not one we should expect and or count on, either. I feel some confidence that he could hit .250 or .260 and have an on-base percentage in that .330 range with or without the power increase – he gets the zone pretty well. It’s a matter of finding a way to get the power output to jump. We know it’s in there.

So with all of that said, I think that right now I’d lean towards no to the question as it was posed. But I’m not too confident in that answer, either. I can see scenarios where yes, he’s the best option right now – but in those scenarios the power takes a big step forward from where it was in 2019. Possible? Absolutely. Likely? Less so. At least right out of the gate.

Although it’s only spring training, the Reds have some depth in the starting rotation that appears to have made some fairly significant steps forward in stuff (Tejay Antone, Jose De Leon, Tyler Mahle). Along with the already strong 5 at the MLB level and some high-end prospects in Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, are you worried that Cincinnati may be starting an unstoppable pitching factory that that the rest of the league won’t be able to contend with?

As a life long Cincinnati Reds fan let me say that no, I’m not worried about that at all. Now, after we all stop laughing at that because I’m hilarious and we all know how bad the pitching has been for the large part of our lives for the Reds (and this applies whether you are 20 or 120) – it’s at least good to see. But Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani are both free agents after the next season that winds up being played. And while the team can try to bring them back, until they do so, counting on it would not be a wise decision. So while there does appear to be some depth for 2020 (or whatever the next season happens to be), it’s short lived depth right now.

And as much as I hate to say it, because I hope nothing but the best for all of the guys in the minor leagues – until you’re there and getting it done, counting on it is bad. That’s one of the reasons that the rebuild went so wrong. The organization was counting on Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Brandon Finnegan, Amir Garrett, Sal Romano, Cody Reed to be the next group of starters, or at least a part of it. Not a single one of them is in the rotation right now, and between all of them, they’ve got, what – two seasons of roughly league average starts? Mahle’s still got a chance to start, but the rest of them are now all relievers – and don’t get me wrong, you need a good bullpen and two of those guys seem to be quality options right now for the Reds in the bullpen with Garrett and Stephenson.

You definitely would rather have guys like Greene/Lodolo/Antone/Mahle/De Leon than not have them. But it’s also tough to say that we should be planning on them as future rotation stalwarts, too. Baseball is hard.

All of this talk about the Reds center fielder of the future. What about Michael Siani in a couple of years? Isn’t he the best outfielder in the organization right now?

He might be the best defensive outfielder in the organization right now, yes. But there’s a difference between that and the best outfielder. Siani’s clearly a very strong defender. But he also hit .253/.333/.339 last season in Low-A Dayton. That was better after April, when he hit .273/.346/.370 between May and August – but there’s plenty of development left here. The good news is, that’s a pretty solid base line to work with (post April) for a guy who is also a very good defender at a premium position (who can also steal a bunch of bases). But it’s a long way from Dayton to Cincinnati. Siani’s got all of the tools you want to see from a center fielder. And like every 20-year-old athlete ever, he’s likely to improve moving forward. You’d like to see him tap into his power a bit more moving forward to get a bit more out of his offense – but if that happens he could be a rather well rounded player on both sides of the ball.

Is there a way Mark Payton is able to make the team? Or is he inevitably on his way back to Oakland (or another claiming team)?

I do think there is a way. That extra spot on the roster plays a big role, assuming they don’t expand it beyond 26 moving forward for the year. A guy who can back up in center, and had absolutely bonkers numbers in Triple-A last year is a guy you might really want to do all you can to keep around.

2) Mahle, Gutierrez, Santillan, Antone, who do you think rounds out the Bats rotation?

Jose De Leon. But I’m also not sure Santillan is there to begin the year.

3) Coming off TJ surgery, do you think Noah Davis stays in extended spring (or whatever version of that we get), or does he report to Dayton when the Dragons start their season?

Dayton or Daytona, and I think that would have been the case had the season been ready to go when the year began.

4) Similar question for future 2-way star Tanner Cooper. Does he start in Dayton or some version of extended spring?

I think he would go to Dayton. For me the bigger question is: Rotation or Bullpen?

5) I’ve watched Blaze and the Monster Machines and/or the Angry Birds 2 movie non stop for the last 2 days since my children have been staying home from daycare, and I can’t go to work (I’m a teacher). Any suggestions as to what to watch instead?

Well, as you clearly know how things go with children – the issue is that no matter what you find, you’re going to hate it in two days or less because you will have seen it 20 times in that span. I watched the episode “How Night Happens” of Storybots four times today. My nephews were here for like 2 hours.

That said, it might depend on what services you have. I’ll start with Netflix.  I’d try to see if they like the Lego super hero type stuff. At least there’s some variety in there. Bolt is good if they’re into it. There’s some Dr. Suess stuff on there that my nephews like.

Over on Disney+ we’ve spent a lot of time with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, The Good Dinosaur, and of course, Cars. It’s been a while since I ventured into the kids stuff on Hulu – but there used to be a few decent options there. Good luck.

While you were in Goodyear did you happen to get a peak at Rece Hinds, Triana, or Tyler Callihan? If so, what were your thoughts?

I was not in Goodyear this year. Things were shut down before the minor league stuff was really even getting started. The first game on the schedule for the minor leaguers wasn’t even set to be played until tomorrow.

Did Couch ever throw out a first pitch to Bench? It’s plausible given their ages. But I find it rather ironic having to those last names. I’ve tried to research but have come up with nothing.

Going to be honest here – I don’t know who “Couch” is.

10 Responses

  1. George

    I think he’s asking if Tim Couch a Bengals quarterback ever threw a ceremonial 1st pitch to Bench

  2. Doug Gray

    Just thought I’d update the “what did you make today” now that I’ve got access to the video ad data from yesterday. Between all advertising between RML and RLN yesterday, it was $18.73. That does not count Patreon.

  3. Doc

    I live in Tucson. Possibly could host a minor league player or two until this blows over. Would have to discuss it with my wife but we once hosted an aspiring golfer for five months as he tried to make his way up the ladder. Is there a contact person for looking into this?

  4. MK

    The Dragons season tickets came today. Normally that would be a reason to be excited.

  5. Jim

    I appreciate all you all’s questions and comments.
    Like that question about the up the middle in 22. Put Lodolo on the mound. I think he is better than last time we picked a SP 1/8 and got Leake.
    I’ll still pay for the site. I’m lucky to haul dairy to FL and O.J. back. Some of might pay to watch you play video baseball we are withdrawing so bad. DGraymlbtv.com