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Monday, May 08, 2006

Off-day News Catch-Up, part 1

There are a fairly large number of articles and links that I've been saving in bloglines, but haven't yet had a chance to post here. Since it's an off-day, I figured I'd try to run through them. I know some of these things are a bit old, but I thought better late than never. I'll probably post a few of these throughout the day.

Harang Featured in Sickels' Prospect Retro
John Sickels has posted a recap of Harang's minor league career over at his website, Minor League Ball. The funny thing about it is that Sickels' was always high on Harang, even though his numbers were never good enough to warrant anything more than a C+ prospect rating. Harang's been a real delight over the past several years, and I'm extremely pleased to have him as an anchor of our rotation--hopefully for at least a few more years.

Jung Bong to return to Korea
In what appears to be a move primarily motivated by the desire to be with his ailing father, Bong is returning to Korea. While he certainly could just pick up and go, Bong still wants to play baseball. Since major league players must sign a contract that forbids them from playing ball for another organization, the Reds are working to place him on a Korean league team. I'm glad to see the Reds working with him like this--our team really is becoming a class organization in how it deals with its player personnel. I couldn't write that back in the Bowden days.

Bong had a good showing in limited appearances with the amazing Korean National team in the WBC, came over with Bubba Nelson in the controversial Chris Reitsma trade with the Braves. Reitsma has been a solidifying force (mostly) in the Braves' pen over the last several years, while Bong's departure follows Bubba Nelson's release earlier this spring. So chalk another one up for the Braves. Had he stayed with the Reds, Bong's best chance seemingly would have been to come up as a left-handed reliever. While those guys are certainly valuable, they're also a niche that can be filled via free agency (see Mercker and Hammond). So I don't think this hurts the Reds much.

Terrance Long released / Reds trying to "get younger and develop guys"
It's a shame that Long didn't work out, but the Reds have released him after an ineffective stint in AAA. The most interesting thing about this story, however, is this quote from Reds' player development guru, Johnny Almaraz: "What I'm trying to do is get younger and develop guys I think have a chance to help the major league club."

This is a huge change in the rhetoric from what we heard during the O'Brien reign. We've often heard about getting "proven" veterans in our system who could add "depth." As a result, we've often had AAA-teams that consist almost entirely of AAAA players who have done little more than prove that they're not capable of contributing much to a major-league team. I believe that there is some value to veteran leadership at the major-league level, but the minor leagues should be about developing players who can still get better. I'm not sure that Long's replacements -- Jeff Bannon and Norris Hopper -- are destined to do much at the big league level, but the point is to challenge younger players and give them a chance to develop. Who knows, maybe we'll find another Ryan Freel down there?

Paul Wilson's rehab is delayed
After feeling what is being labeled "fatigue" in his right-shoulder, Paul Wilson has been forced to cease his rehab work. This is a real shame. Wilson had been pitching reasonably well, although his velocity has been dramatically down (lower 80's). I was hopeful that he could come up and help out our rotation, possibly prompting Williams to be demoted to AAA so he could work out whatever the heck is going on with him.

It would not be surprising to see Wilson have to go "back" on the disabled list. I'm not quite sure how that works, though. He's technically still on the list, but has a 30-day period in which he can be on a rehab assignment before he must be activated. But if he has to end his rehab I'm not sure if we have to designate him for another 14-day stint. That probably wouldn't be a big deal anyway, but I'd be pleased to hear if someone out there knows those rules.

Reds fans slow to return to ballpark
Lonnie Wheeler writes that Reds' attendance, while up from last year, lags well behind fans in Houston or St. Louis, despite the fact that the Reds lead them in the standings. While a number of folks out in the blogosphere there have expressed frustration about our relatively low attendance numbers, they are not at all surprising.

If you go back and read my analysis of the factors that predict attendance rates, you'll see two things. First, Reds fans come to the ballpark, on average, at almost exactly the rate you'd expect them to given the city size, stadium quality, and the team's on-field performance. Second, while a winning record can increase attendance in a given year, it's larger effect is to boost attendance the subsequent year--particularly if one's winning ways continue across multiple seasons. This lag between a winning record and fans showing up in the ballpark is a consistent feature across all major league baseball teams, and is nothing to be concerned about. If the Reds can continue to win this year, attendance will start to rise as the year goes on, and will really surge next season. As Castellini said, "These fans have had five straight years of losing seasons, and it's going to take a while to make them have confidence in us. But I just know that if we execute, it will happen."

Attendance rates have substantial inertia. But if the Reds can keep winning, I have no doubt that Reds fans will flock to the stadium. It'll just take some time.

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