Jones thinks Reds getting closer to success

Published 11:07 pm Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jim Walker

PORTSMOUTH — The Cincinnati Reds have asked their fans to be patient as they rebuild the team and it’s been a long wait.
But former Reds’ outfielder Tracy Jones said that patience will be rewarded soon.
“They’re two years away,” said Jones at last Tuesday’s Reds’ Hall of Fame Museum chapter event in Portsmouth.
“They have some pretty good players. The infield is set. They need pitching. I don’t know this for sure, but I think they’re ready to blow the outfield up. All the outfielders can do something well, but not everything.”
Jones does a radio show with Reds’ longtime announcer Marty Brennaman as he analyzes the team and offers commentary. He put his opinions on display at the Portsmouth Chapter event.
Jones likes the infield of Eugenio Suarez at third base, Jose Peraza at shortstop, Scooter Gennett at second and Joey Votto at first base.
“Joey Votto is the best hitter the Reds have ever had. I know everyone will say Pete Rose, but look at his numbers,” said Jones.
The outfield of Scott Schebler, Billy Hamilton, Jesse Winker and Adam Duvall is another matter.
“He’s that game changer,” Jones said of Hamilton. “Why can’t he bunt? If he gets on base, he scores. (Atlanta’s) Bret Butler hit .290 and had 32 bunt singles. If he doesn’t get those bunts, he hits .230.
“(Hamilton) has the green light. He doesn’t need to wait on the curveball. He needs to steal second and third. Eric Davis had the ability to steal second and third on consecutive pitches. Hamilton has that kind of ability.”
Jones added that Winker can hit but isn’t a very good fielder.
“They had to know that,” Jones said.
Jones never understood the Reds giving oft-injured pitcher Homer Bailey a long-term, multi-million dollar contract. While the book is still out on Matt Harvey, Jones said Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo have some ability but are basically No. 4 and No. 5 starters.
“I like guys who throw hard. I like to see guys who throw 96, 98, 100 miles an hour,” Jones said.
Jones himself had an auspicious debut with the Reds. He misplayed a fly ball hit by former Red Gary Redus and dove at the last minute.
“I didn’t have a chance and the ball got by me for a triple,” said Jones. “The fans booed me. I don’t blame them. I’d have booed me, too. I just thought to myself, ‘Well, at least I made it to the big leagues.’”
Actually, Jones didn’t expect to play on Opening Day. But on April 7, 1986, he not only made his debut but started in left field.
Tony Perez was scheduled to play first base on Opening Day and Nick Esasky was in left field. But Perez had a pulled groin and couldn’t play, so manager Pete Rose moved Esasky to first base and put Jones in left field.
Jones was sitting in his locker when Rose told him he was playing. Jones was visibly shaking.
“What’s wrong?” asked Rose.
“I’m nervous,” said Jones.
“You’re nervous? I was up all last night thinking about you playing in left field,” shot back Rose.
Although Jones later singled off Phillies pitcher and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton for his first hit, things were up and down during his three years in Cincinnati.
Jones was disgruntled during the 1988 season due to his lack of playing time. Part of the problem was injuring his knee when he stumbled on the bullpen mound that was along the left field line.
“It took away some of my speed,” said Jones. “My biggest asset was my speed. Pete Rose said I was the fastest white guy he ever saw.”
Jones told Rose — the Reds’ manager — he wanted to be traded and two days later he was traded to Montreal as he got his wish.
Or so he thought.
“That was the biggest mistake I ever made. I missed out on the 1990 team (that won the world series). I would really have like to have been part of that,” said Jones who played for the Reds from 1986-88 and later with Montreal, San Francisco, Detroit and Seattle.
“I missed Cincinnati. Once you play in Cincinnati, no other place compares. It’s a great place to play.”
And it might be an even better place to play two years from now.

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