Reds beat Dodgers, clinch National League Central

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The first division crown of 2012 has been claimed.

Mat Latos fanned seven batters over eight shutout innings and Jay Bruce hit his 34th home run of the season as the Reds rolled to an easy 6-0 victory on Saturday afternoon over the Dodgers, locking up the National League Central in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds have now won two division titles in the past three years and are currently tied with the Nationals for the most victories (92) in Major League Baseball.

They can give rest to some of their regulars and get their starting rotation lined up the way they want it over the final 10 days of the regular season. The divisional rounds begin October 6 and 7.

Cincinnati will be hoping for a long postseason run this time around. When the Reds won the NL Central in 2010, they were swept in the NLDS by the Phillies and no-hit by Roy Halladay in one of those games.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.