It's red-on-red violence between two founding franchises, but who'll wind up dead?
Back in the '70s, the Phillies and the Reds were half of a quartet of clubs that basically owned the National League. Dial up National League post-season action, and you'd get the Reds or the Dodgers from the old NL West, and the Pirates or the Phillies from the old NL East. That foursome won nine pennants and 18 of the 20 playoff slots from 1970-79; get picky and run from 1971-80, and it's still niine of 10 and 17 of 20. Yet for all that, this will be just the second time two of the league's founding franchises get to square off. You have to be a fan of a certain age or owe a bit to Joe Posnanski to have much memory of the 1976 NLCS, which was the Big Red Machine's stepping stone to its second (and last) pennant—they had to go through crushing the Phillies first, sweeping three in the best-of-five, with the third game decided in Cincinnati after an exchange of blown saves.
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Obvious Good Move: Slipping Aroldis Chapman onto the active roster. Think K-Rod 2002 without the roster chicanery. Think Livan Hernandez in '97 or David Price in 2008, since he's good enough to shut the door or get something started. If anything goes wrong with any component of the staff, the hard-slinging Cubano has the potential to dominate.
The injured Reds pitcher's 50-game ban raises questions but shows MLB's drug policy is working.
We have our "semi-big" name.
Edinson Volquez was suspended by the commissioner's office on Tuesday for 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. That's pretty much what we know, so I'll try to fill in the gaps of knowledge as much as possible, based on the process, Volquez's less-than-illuminating post-suspension statement, and the minimal leaks surrounding the case.
How quickly can Edinson Volquez come back, and what might the answer mean in Cincinnati?
When the rumors began trickling out that, of all teams, the Cincinnati Reds were the winners on the Aroldis Chapman Plinko board, three thoughts struck me in quick succession. First, I wondered how a team that was reportedly facing financial difficulty could afford to shell out $30 million to a player yet to throw a professional pitch in the United States. Second, I wondered whether the signing meant that revenue sharing was working and whether it meant the draft could be abolished. Finally, I thought about how nasty the Reds' 2012 rotation could be if it featured Chapman, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey. I wasn't the only one, as BP's Christina Kahrl and John Perrotto, plus Mark Sheldon and Phil Rogers out in the mainstream, all had similar thoughts.
Starting pitching has provided some unlikely fantasy assets these season, but who should you bank on down the stretch?
After 100 games in the 2008 season, the top three ERA leaders are Justin Duchscherer, Cliff Lee, and Edinson Volquez. There have certainly been surprises with hitters as well, but not to this extent. The day that baseball becomes predictable will also be the time it becomes boring, but 2008 has brought an especially erratic season for starting pitchers.