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What to Make of Supposed Reds Team Chemistry Issues

Rumors abound of supposed issues inside the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse. Do they hold water, and can they be blamed for the team’s poor record?

If you were surprised by recent sports talk in Cincinnati, why? 700WLW’s Bill Cunningham exists for drama, so if national play-by-play guy Brad Johansen was going to go on any show and declare the Reds an internal mess, Cunningham’s afternoon platform is only proper. Fellow WLW Radio Host Lance McAlister tweeted the following last Thursday:

The tweet generated discussion over social media, mainly regarding the general manager’s roster and the need to blow him up with it. But if talk about poor chemistry was alarming, it shouldn’t have been, for numerous reasons. For starters, Mat Latos already told us about Reds’ clubhouse issues in an interview with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Revisiting the venom, Latos said:

Well, that one little veteran presence in there can make a big difference. You look at the Reds after we lost Bronson (Arroyo, after the 2013 season). Everything went to s—. You look at it after we lost Scott Rolen (after 2012). Everything went to s—. When Scott was there, we had guys doing exactly what they were supposed to do. After Scott left, we had guys with two years in the big leagues, in the clubhouse, on their phones, laying down in the video room, just hanging out during games, not in the dugout, not cheering their teammates on. Our dugout looked like a ghost town. After Bronson, the same exact thing. We had starters in there roping our (clubhouse attendants), like, cattle-roping our clubbies. Guys on their computers, buying stuff, hanging out in the clubhouse. We had a guy with a year-and-a-half in the big leagues wandering around the clubhouse, hanging out. We had a closer in there sleeping until the seventh inning. We lose that veteran leadership, that’s what happens. You can’t have that . . . it turns into a circus.

Fans largely dismissed the comments as just more noise from a loose cannon. I didn’t, and I only shamelessly plug that article to prove that Latos’ words deserved some merit, at least pertaining to the clubhouse.

Latos was graphic in his grief, especially when describing teammate Aroldis Chapman’s – er, the Reds closer last year (Chapman wasn’t named specifically), and his in-game sleeping habits.  And Chapman’s response to it didn’t really dispel what Latos said – it actually made it more credible.

“I’m a little pissed he wasn’t man enough and got the guts to talk to me in my face,” he said in an interview with Fox19’s Joe Danneman.  You’d think he’d address the accusation itself, if only to call it false before ending the discussion.

So if the information on Chapman was accurate, why can we just dismiss the rest of what he said about clubhouse behavior? And if what Latos said was true about computers and cattle-roping, then I am confident that Brad Johansen’s comments would score True on Politifact, because how could you like a teammate of yours behaving in that manner if you don’t?

19 May 2014:  Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) warms up prior to the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Secondly, there are likely beefs in the majority of MLB locker rooms. You don’t have to take it from a blogger, you can take it from all the MLB players and coaches who have spoken on it. After the Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent fight in 2002, Manager Dusty Baker told the SFGate,”It ain’t a problem,” Baker said. “I went through the same thing in L.A. with a couple of guys. Now we see each other and we’re partners. Usually this happens on good teams. Bad teams always get along.”

Former New York Yankees Star Reggie Jackson told MLB.com’s Lyle Spenser, “Winning creates chemistry,” Jackson said. “It’s all about strong leadership. You’ve got to have someone to keep everything and everybody in order. I’ve been on teams that didn’t have great clubhouse chemistry, but won. We didn’t always get along off the field, but between the lines we played the game hard, together.”

Spencer’s article was titled “Role of team chemistry still up for debate.” It was written in 2012. Mark Texeira offers in the same article, “Winning is probably first,” Teixeira said. “When you’re winning, everyone’s happy, everyone gets along. When you’re losing or uninvolved in a pennant race, you shouldn’t be happy.”

Obviously, there are players who feel differently, but there should be enough evidence to suggest that it’s not that big of a deal. That ’02 Giants team played in a World Series Game 7. Reggie Jackson has a WS ring for every finger on one hand. Dusty Baker managed three MLB teams, the same amount of Manager of the Year awards he’s won.

Beef between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez was largely irrelevant in 2009 when the New York Yankees won their last World Series Championship.

November 4, 2009: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees in game six of the World Series at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY -  The Yankees celebrate there World Series victory over the Phillies for their 27th World Series win.AJ Burnett. Jorge Posada. Derek Jeter and Marian Rivera celebrate after the win with the World Series trophy.  ***** ALL NEW YORK NEWSPAPERS OUT ---- ALL NEW YORK NEWSPAPERS OUT *****

This isn’t a discussion of whether RBI are more important than OBPl; just people talking about people. It’s not a science. Can’t put a number on it. Their testimony and how their teams performed are the data here. And frankly it’s a giant stretch to assume Reds chemistry issues can be blamed for what’s happening on the field.

If the Reds clubhouse is indeed a mess, it probably has nothing to do with any of the players and their apparent Real Wives locker room behavior. It probably has more to do with their record, the amount of games beneath .500 and games behind the St. Louis Cardinals. It may be the fact that key Reds are dealing with the possibility of being dealt daily.

Whatever the case, it’s aggressive to make anything more of Johansen’s comments, but that didn’t stop the #FireWaltJocketty hashtag from taking up space on Reds Twitter last Thursday. This Reds product may have been good enough to contend with the Cubs and Pirates for the wild card had they not suffered injuries to vital cogs like Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco. The bullpen has sucked all season, so that’s not even certain.

The 2014 Reds didn’t suck because of (who we guess is Homer Bailey’s) clubhouse rodeo act, they sucked because they endured a tsunami of injuries that no team could overcome. If the core of this team was bad, and if chemistry issues contributed to how bad things became, we would have learned as much in 2012 or 2013, both years the Reds won 90-plus games and made the playoffs.

There’s little significance to Johansen’s comments in my opinion. There’s just nothing that says to me that poor relationships on the roster have anything to do with the Reds 4.00 starting pitching ERA or the bullpen’s 4.23. It’s not time to fire everyone with an office, though I wouldn’t be upset if some changes were made. It’s just time to retool or rebuild for a team that sadly couldn’t stay healthy while their window of opportunity was open. That’s really it.





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