Blundering Reds fire pitching coach, retain rest of staff

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Blame the pitching coach. That’s what the Reds did Friday when they announced that Dick Pole was being terminated while the rest of the coaching staff would return in 2010.
So, why Pole? The Reds have boasted above average pitching this year, with an ERA+ of 105. They rank seventh in the NL in ERA and eighth in the league in runs allowed despite playing in a ballpark that’s kind to hitters.
The offense, in comparison, has been brutal. The Reds have an 83 OPS+, barely ahead of the Giants at 82. The league’s next worst team comes it at 89. They rank 11th in runs scored anyway, but they’re closer to last place than they are to the Nationals in 10th. Only the Petco-deflated Padres have a worst average, and the Giants are the only team with a lower OBP.
So, I ask once again, why Pole? Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Aaron Harang have all improved from 2008. Homer Bailey has also shown signs of progress. Nick Masset has gone from fringe property to middle-relief stud, and Daniel Ray Herrera has proven a bunch of people wrong by succeeding in a setup role. Pole can hardly be blamed for Edinson Volquez’s injury, and if he failed to turn Micah Owings around, well, maybe Owings just isn’t destined to make it as a starter. The only pitcher to take a big step back this year was setup man Jared Burton, and even he’s been much improved over the last two months.
Better if the Reds had just fired Dusty Baker. Pole would have been gone anyway, too, but at least the blame would have fallen where it belongs.

Report: Mike Trout as recognizable to Americans as NBA’s Kenneth Faried

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On Monday, the Washington Post cited Q Scores, a firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, with regard to Angels outfielder Mike Trout. According to Q Scores, Trout is as recognized to Americans as NBA forward Kenneth Faried, who has spent seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets and is now a reserve with the Brooklyn Nets. Trout’s score was 22, which means just over one in five Americans know who he is.

We have talked here at various times about Trout’s lack of marketability. He has expressed zero interest in being marketed as the face of baseball. Additionally, based on the nature of the sport, it’s harder for baseball to aggressively market its stars since star players don’t impact teams the same way they do in other sports. LeBron James, for example, carries whatever team he’s on to the NBA Finals. James has appeared in the NBA Finals every year dating back to 2011. Trout, despite being far and away the best active player in baseball and one of the best players of all time, has only reached the postseason once, in 2014 when his Angels were swept in the ALDS by the Royals. Trout can’t carry his team to the playoffs and his team hasn’t helped him any in getting there on a regular basis.

Baseball is also more of a regional sport. Fans follow their local team, of course, and don’t really venture beyond that even though games are broadcast nationally throughout the week. The NFL schedule is much shorter and occurs once a week, so fans put aside time to watch not just their favorite team’s game, but other games of interest as well. A June game between the subpar White Sox and Tigers doesn’t have much appeal to it since it’s one of 162 games for both teams, and both teams will play again later in the season. Comparatively, a game between the Bears and Lions has more intrigue since they only play twice a year.

It’s kind of a shame for baseball that Trout isn’t bigger than he is because he is a once-in-a-generation talent, like Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, Trout is so good that he’s still underrated. He’s on pace to have one of the greatest seasons of all-time, going by Wins Above Replacement. Despite that, he’s anything but a lock to win the MVP Award at season’s end because the narratives around other players, like Mookie Betts, are more compelling.

Trout’s marketability is an issue that isn’t likely to be fixed anytime soon. Trout is who he is and forcing him to ham it up for the cameras would come off as forced and unnatural. Major League Baseball will simply have to hope its other stars, like Betts and Bryce Harper, can help broaden the appeal of the sport.