Scenes from Spring Training: No, Marty Brennaman is not Bob Uecker

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This morning’s fears of severe cloudiness notwithstanding, it ended up being a very nice day at the ballpark. A bit cool, but not too bad. And a ton of sun, so take that weatherman.

The game: OK. Not great, but OK, which is as good as we can hope this time of the year.  Early on there was some nice defense, particularly by the Indians, but then things got out of control. The early crispness was helped by the fact that both teams ran out what — apart from the absence of Shin-Soo Choo and the Reds’ use of the DH — could be Opening Day lineups.  Things turned into a hot mess by the seventh, but I was occupied with more important matters by then.  Random notes:

Before the game started there were no less than three scouts hanging out near me in the press box: one — Jim Fregosi’s son, Jim Jr. — is a Phillies scout. There were also scouts from the Rays and the Braves. Fregosi and the Braves guy seemed like old friends and talked about hotels and the way the game has changed and the kind of stuff that old friends might discuss.  As a human being I was quite happy to hear all of this niceness. As a Braves fan I was utterly disgusted at the fraternization.  When they left for lunch I stole Fregosi’s notebook and put it in the Braves scout’s bag. (Note: may have only happened in my mind).

Speaking of lunch, the media spread at Goodyear Ballpark was easily the best I’ve had covering this beat. Hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue chicken. I think they realize here that, if the writers are gonna bail on the media spread, it will be in order to go get a hot dog down on the concourse. By serving hot dogs, they cut off the competition.  Also: when you’re trying to feed a lot of people, keep it simple, OK? None of this flaming scrambled eggs on a skewer crap.

I noticed a distinct deemphasis on Chief Wahoo around here.  The Indians have the block C on the scoreboard and the script I is used a lot as well.  I don’t think this is an accident. In fact, I suspect it’s part of the Indians’ long, long-term phasing out of Wahoo. Do it slowly and subtly like this and you never have to announce anything and you thereby cut off an ugly fight. Smart play, Cleveland.

In honor of the deemphasis of Wahoo, I purchased a navy block C Indians cap in the team store. Well, partially in honor of that. Partially because I really like that cap and have wanted one for a while.

There’s a microphone hung on the screen behind home plate and the sound of the game is piped in through the speakers here in the press box.  The crack of the bat and the crowd noise makes working in this box approximately 400% better than other press boxes that sometimes serve as sensory deprivation chambers.

When Austin Kearns came to bat a lone man in the stand booed him, and did so lustily.  How can anyone work up enough hate to boo Austin freakin’ Kearns? Oh, and Darryl Thompson got the win today, so I consider that to officially close the book on the highly controversial Kearns-Felipe Lopez trade. Well, highly-controversial, like four years ago, and only by weirdos like me who defended it from the Reds’ perspective.

In the middle of the game I took a stroll around the concourse. When I stopped for a minute a middle-aged man in a Dodgers cap started talking to me. After a while he noticed my press pass, after which the following conversation ensued:

Guy: [gesturing to the press box] You been up there?

Me: Yep.

Guy: See the guy in the 1 … 2 … 3… third window over?

Me: Yep.

Guy: Isn’t that the guy from the movie “Major League?”  The “Juuuust a bit outside” guy?

Me: No. That’s Marty Brennaman.

Guy: Huh. When did they change announcers?

Me: What? Brennaman has been the Reds’ announcer for over 30 years. He’s an institution.

Guy: So they used a Reds announcer to be the Indians announcer in that movie?

Me: … Hey, nice talkin’ to ya. Gotta go upstairs.

As I type this there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Reds and Indians have decided to do the “everyone gets to play” game.  What is happening on the field right now is damn nigh a crime against humanity.

As I hit “post” and await for the game to end before I beat my retreat, I cast a glance over to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Jordan Bastain of MLB.com who have to actually write up a story out of all of this nonsense.  Poor sods.

Talk to you from HoHoKam Stadium tomorrow!

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.