Suarez To Shortstop Exposes Shortcomings of the Front Office
Mostly that season was rather forgettable for Cincinnati fans, for the Reds finished ten games under .500 and far from first place. The team leader with 26 home runs and 91 runs batted in was a relatively unknown Willie Greene, whom baseball-reference rates along side similar nondescript third basemen such as Leo Gomez and Shane Andrews.
Cincinnati did, however, have a few highlights, some of which benefited the club well past 1987. Future NFL Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders was the regular center fielder for the Reds, and his 56 steals led the team.
More important than the highlights of the exciting feats of Neon Deion involved another regular player, a veteran infielder who was asked to switch positions. That decision from 1987 has been recalled this week, since another veteran infielder may be making a similar change as we start the 2021 season.
Back then it was All-Star and Big Red Machine legend Dave Concepcion who was asked to move from shortstop to second base, only because Cincinnati had a prospect named Barry Larkin ready to take over the most important position on the diamond.
It was not unheard of to have an older player move from shortstop, as Ernie Banks had done a decade before with the Chicago Cubs. Obviously the move paid off, as Larkin went on to win Rookie of the Year and after his career enshrinement in Cooperstown.
What the Reds are doing now, on the other hand, is much more of a risk. First of all, there is no prospect like Larkin to take over the veteran's old spot, but a second issue is much more worrisome for Cincinnati fans.
Transitioning is difficult for all players but, like learning a musical instrument or developing a second language, it is easier for the younger. Attempting to move an aging third baseman to the most challenging position in the infield has never really been done, probably because it is ill-advised.
Nevertheless, Cincinnati is determined to move Suarez to short, which would in turn shift Mike Moustakas to third. Why would a club relying on a promising pitching rotation, just two weeks before Opening Day, suddenly uproot three-fourths of its infield?
The answer is, as it has almost always been with professional sports teams in Cincinnati, the abstract noun frugality. The front office entered the winter knowing full well the club needed a shortstop, and to their advantage a good crop was available through free agency or trade.
Baseball's oldest professional organization chose to sit on its hands as shortstop after shortstop was taken off the market, refusing to commit to veterans like Francisco Lindor or Andrelton Simmons or even former Red Didi Gregorius. At the last minute the club signed utility man Dee Gordon to a minor league contract, hoping that he might somehow fill the void at short.
When the realization hit that Gordon was not an everyday option, the Reds decided to fill the position with Suarez. He had trimmed down some since last season, and he had come through the organization as a shortstop.
Those two factors are not convincing fans that this move is a going to make the Reds better, especially since Suarez has not played shortstop in over five years. Long time fans of the club know that the move was never intended to make the club better, but that it was a feeble attempt to hide the failure of the front office to address its most essential off season need.
Many of us were cringing when, in each of his first two games at short, Suarez committed errors. Probably cringing right along with us were the starting pitchers, who suddenly face a much bleaker future than they had envisioned last November.