07 August 2007

Redlegs Preview

by Joshua Worley

My father used to occasionally call the Cincinnati Reds the "Redlegs" because that was the name he first knew the team under. For a period in the 1950's, the Reds changed their name to the Redlegs to avoid being associated with Communism. I guess they instead wanted to be associated with "white slaves" in the Caribbean Islands, who were called redlegs because the sun burned their bare legs.

But what is a "Red", anyway? Obviously there were no Communists around when the Reds were formed. "Red" as a team name falls into the same category as "Dodger", in that both are shortenings of originally longer team names. The first professional baseball team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who later moved to Boston, where they were also the Red Stockings. But that Boston Red Stockings is not the Red Sox of today; no, they eventually changed their name to the Braves and of course are now in Atlanta. Does that mean the Atlanta Braves are really the oldest team in baseball? I don't think so; as far as I know their usual history isn't really traced all the way back to Cincinnati. But it seems like one could do that.

It seems the Red Stockings name is a popular one, because in both Cincinnati and Boston a new team took on the Red Stockings moniker after the original with that name moved or took on a new name. So it was that the second professional team in Cincinatti was called the Red Stockings: they were charter members of the National League. Unfortunately they were kicked out of the League a few years later for serving beer in their stadium, among other reasons. There was yet a third Cincinatti Red Stockings who helped found the American Association. It was when this team joined the National League in 1890 that "Stocking" was dropped from the team name and they became the Reds. The Dodgers also joined the National League from the American Association in 1890, but the official stance of the Dodgers seems to be that the team didn't exist prior to 1890, as if there is something unseemly about the American Association years.

So that's what a Red is. A Red is also a member of a team the Dodger really need to beat, a team one might expect they should beat. If there's going to be a turnaround, a sudden hot streak, why shouldn't it start right now?

The Reds have outscored the Dodgers on the season, 519-513. Each team has played 111 games. This is eleventy-one, for those who are fans of the Lord of the Rings. Also, a cricket fan will know that it is considered unlucky for a team to be on 111 runs, since the number resembles the stumps of the wicket that the batsman is trying to protect from being bowled. Also, the score of 111 is called Nelson, after the famed admiral, because he lost an eye, arm, and leg. Except he never actually lost a leg. Even so there are cricket umpires (!) who will raise a leg when the score is on Nelson to avoid giving bad luck.

The important thing is that the teams are nearly evenly matched offensively, being separated by a mere 6 runs after a Nelson of games played each. Though I think with park effects and quality of opposition pitching the Dodgers are likely better. The Reds do it with home runs. They have outslugged the Dodgers 150 to 83 in taters. The Dodgers score by getting on base a lot, with a 0.340 OBP on the season, to just 0.325 for the Reds. The Padres and Diamondbacks bring up the rear in OBP, by the way, at 0.312 and 0.314. Again I must fight the urge to declare that the Snakes are deep down a bad team. When will I learn?

So if the Dodgers are going to get the sorely needed sweep, or at least series win, they will have to expliot their considerable pitching advantage. I think the toughest game will be the first, when Hendrickson tries to keep the Reds from hitting it out of their slutty ballpark. Hendrickson faces Bronson Arroyo, who surprisingly has a higher ERA than Hendrickson. But let's not kid ourselves, the second will be tough as well, when Lowe faces Reds ace Aaron Harang. Unless Harang can't go because of a sore lower back. Nothing is certain yet. At least Lowe appears to be healthy now. No, his groin is still barking. So things are really uncertain. Billingsley faces Phil Dumatrait, who will be making his second ever start after getting knocked around by the offensively challenged Nats.

The Reds have the worst bullpen ERA in the National League. If the Dodgers can at least play the Reds to a tie through six in each game, they have a good chance of winning. The Dodgers really have to start winning some one run games.


Xeifrank said...

If 111 is a Nelson, what number is a Hendrickson?
vr, Xei

Griffster said...

That is a very good question, but there can be only one answer: A Hendrickson is a zero. 'cause that's what Hendrickson's really worth as an everyday starter ;-)