CINCINNATI — With the thick nostalgia filling the air around Great American Ball Park this weekend involving Pete Rose and the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, fans constantly ask, “Why can’t it be 1976 again? Why don’t the Reds play like that team?”
And current Reds manager Bryan Price shakes his head and says, “It will never happen, never again.”
PRICE MADE IT CLEAR that he is not just talking about his Reds but baseball in particular and the world in general.
“There is no going back because the game is different today than it was in 1976,” said Price. “There are a lot of differences in the game and in some ways it is really unfortunate as far as the energy that is displayed on the field every day.
“It is a lot easier to play your tail off every day when you are winning and succeeding,” he said. “When you’re struggling, not winning, it leeches a lot of the energy out of teams. We’ve been pretty good this year at staying focused on playing hard. However, there are always moments where you hope your players play harder. And I mean the entire industry, not just here with the Reds. It is hard to be in a losing environment and have your guys run every single ball out, do everything. But it does have to be the goal if you want to be excellent.”
PRICE SAYS EVERY MANAGER, every coach, tries to implant that message into every player’s mind because, after all, it is called respecting the game and respecting yourself.
“That’s what we preach, but in the game, all over the game, you just go, ‘Geez Louise, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Wiliams have to be rolling over in their graves right now,’ to watch some of the things that happen where the game isn’t played at the same level as it was played years ago.”
Price said the baseball attitude filters down from real life, from society’s mores and attitudes today.
“We expect less of ourselves than at any other point in time in the history of man. We expect less of ourselves as opposed to more.”
And where does this come from, where did Price’s observations germinate?
“I really admire a hard day’s work and I learned that from my dad,” he said. “Give a hard day’s work every day. So when I see that, when I see (Dodger) Chase Utley run to first base, when we had Chris Heisey here and I saw him run every single ball out real hard and on every pop-up he was at second base when the ball came down, I admire that. But it is a missing energy effort, an effort that is missing in society today. No accountability.
“So it can’t be at all like ’76 because the game is not played that way any more and it is unfortunate,” said Price.
THE CHICAGO CUBS come to town Monday and right out of the bag the Reds get to face Jake Arrieta. When the Reds last saw him well, they didn’t really see him, he pitched a no-hitter against them.
And how do you approach a pitcher who is 11-and-2 with a 1.73 earned run average and owns a no-hitter against you the last time you tried to put bat on ball against him?
“Anyone with any pride at all would want to face him again,” said Price. “We’ve had games in the past where we’ve given him really good games. We’ve beaten him at times and made life more challenging for him than we did recently.
“He certainly is one of the best starting pitchers in the game right now and I would like to think everybody here is chomping at the bit to get another opportunity to beat him. That’s the beauty of the game — beat the best there is and try to beat Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta. It is quite an accomplishment when you do beat them.”
CALL IT A SLUMP or a drought or a struggle or whatever, but the cold hard facts say that over his last 61 plate appearances, going into Sunday’s game. Joey Votto had one extra base hit, a double.
On June 7 he had a home run and a double, but since then over 61 plate appearances he has one double, 13 walks, 13 strikeouts and one RBI.
“I know with two strikes, when Joey chokes up, he is really focusing on putting the ball in play,” said Price. “Beyond that, having been around him the last 6 1/2 years I know he is always trying to find ways to get better. He is a battler and right now he is just battling to find the comfort zone he found the second half of last season.
“He didn’t have a prolific full season last year, but it was one heck of a memorable second half for him last year,” Price added. “I can’t help him in any way, shape or form other than to keep putting him in the lineup. He is working hard to find his way.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “On Friday and Saturday the Reds had four hits in both games. Pete Rose had 73 games during his career in which he had four hits by himself.” — Joe Danneman, WXIX-Fox 19.
Those 73 four-hit games, by the way, are the most for any player since 1954. And the second best is Paul Molitor with 62.