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December 06, 2001

On Red alert
By Dan Patrick

Oops, I fell into a pennant race.

 Denny Neagle
Neagle is only 2-3 since becoming a Yankee.

Fresh off a weekend sweep of the Cubs, the Reds still find themselves lingering in the Cardinals' rearview mirror. Is this by design or by accident? Five weeks ago Reds general manager Jim Bowden (who I believe is one of the best at his position) realized Denny Neagle would be out of the Reds' price range when he became a free agent at season's end.

At the time Cincinnati stood eight games behind St. Louis and 5½ games out in the wild-card race. It was time to abort, and the Reds were acting prudent.

Neagle, the team's only reliable starter, was sent packing to the Bronx and brought a package of potential in return. The key word being "potential" -- as in "future," and as in "dreaming." Cincinnati was once again waiting for next year -- or 2003, to be exact -- when the team moves into its new ballpark.

I can buy into the Neagle trade rationale because of the small-market limits, but why then didn't the Reds bring in another pitcher (Pedro Astacio?) to rent for the rest of the season? And would the Reds have dealt Neagle if they were in first place? Or three games out rather than eight? After all, he was still going to be too expensive at season's end.

Was this just another midseason yard sale? Are the Reds guilty of consumer fraud? Should we re-evaluate season-ticket prices at midseason? Why should fans continue to pay for a Mercedes that was once loaded with options but then gets stripped down? Sorry, no driver's-side air bag.

Are the Reds better without Denny Neagle? The question is rhetorical, but that didn't stop Bowden from saying Sunday night on ESPN that Neagle is only 2-3 since becoming a Yankee. Sounds like Neagle is being made the scapegoat. He wanted too much money. Therefore, if the Reds don't win, blame him.

It's the middle of August, and the Reds are still in the playoff picture. Their fans can still hold out hope for what could happen, or end up lamenting what could have been.

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Gary Miller goes Up Close with the Yankees' Denny Neagle.
Real: 28.8
Denny Neagle says that he is fitting in with the Yankees. (Courtesy: MSG)
wav: 218 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6