Bullpen holds key to Reds’ title hopes

Published 9:35 am Sunday, August 19, 2012

When a Mexican village was terrorized by a bandit named Calvera and his 40 men, the villagers turned to America for help.

Coming to their rescues were seven men — count ’em, seven — who brought different talents and attitudes. The small group banded together and Calvera soon discovered his large team of 40 outlaws was unable to beat the Magnificent Seven.

That was the name of the 1960 movie. You can watch it every once in awhile on AMC. Or, better yet, you can catch the remake that is better known as the 2012 Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen.

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This Magnificent Seven is comprised of Alfredo Simon, Jose Arrendondo, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek and the big trio of Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall and gunslinger Aroldis Chapman, a.k.a. the Cuban Missile.

The Reds boasts the second best record in baseball with the formula of a solid starting rotation, good defense, clutch hitting and the best bullpen in baseball.

If the starters can give the Reds five, six or more good innings — and preferably a lead — the bullpen is nearly unbeatable, much like the Magnificent Seven against Calvera and his men.

And although nothing is a guarantee, the Reds come close when they get the lead in the ninth inning and bring on Chapman who has been almost untouchable.

As the Major League Baseball Delivery Man for July, Chapman had 13 saves, did not allow a run in 14.1 innings, gave up just six hits, two walks and struck out 31 in 15 appearances.

On the season, the reliever who consistently throws in the 100-miles-an-hour range is 4-4 with a 1.37 earned run average with 108 strikeouts in 59 innings. He now has 29 saves in 33 attempts including a team record 17 straight, eclipsing the old mark of 15 by Jeff Shaw.

Having a good bullpen seems to be synonymous with winning a World Series. The 1975-76 Big Red Machine had an awesome offensive lineup that carried the team, but it also had great defense, a solid starting rotation and a bullpen of Rawley Eastwick, Will McEnaney, Pedro Borbon and Clay Carroll.

In 1990, the offense wasn’t as potent as the Big Red Machine but it was still very good. The other elements were similar with good defense and starting pitching and the famed Nasty Boys bullpen of Randy Myers, Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble.

All three threw hard — Dibble regularly hit 100 mph on the radar gun — and they were mentally and physically tough as well as a little crazy.

Dibble saved 23 straight games in 1991, a streak Chapman is approaching after getting No. 21 in a row on Saturday.

The addition of Marshall from the left side and the outstanding pick up of Broxton at the trading deadline have done nothing but strengthen what was already a good bullpen.

Reds’ general manager Walt Jocketty signed free agent Ryan Madsen before the season to be the team’s closer, but a season-ending elbow injury in spring training forced a restructuring of bullpen duties.

With the emergence of Chapman and the performance of his six compatriots, the loss of Madsen has gone virtually unnoticed.

While there are similarities in performance between the different bullpens, their personalities don’t match up.

LeCure is supposed to be a prankster and there was an incident earlier this season when Chapman did a couple of somersaults after a save.

That’s nothing compared to the Nasty Boys.

Myers gave everyone the impression he was psychotic. His locker was decorated with an axe, a grenade and other crazy items.

Dibble got so mad after blowing a save he threw a baseball from the pitcher’s mound into the centerfield bleachers 400 feet away striking an elderly lady and landing him in trouble.

He also got into a post-game locker room fight with manager Lou Piniella. And lost.

And then there is Charlton who exhibited his “nasty” personality when he forgot he was a pitcher and ran over Los Angeles Dodgers’ catcher Mike Scioscia to score from first base on a double by catcher Joe Oliver during a Sunday night game on ESPN.

Even if this current bullpen isn’t crazy or nasty or whatever, it is one of the main reasons the Cincinnati Reds are in first place in the NL Central Division.

Now this might sound like the kind of movie Martin Scorsese would like to get his hands on, but sorry Mr. Hollywood director. Dusty Baker has the rights to this script and he’s been directing it all season.

And he just might have a baseball Oscar on his hands.

— Sinatra —

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.