Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bronson Arroyo should be celebrated for his years with the Reds

Arroyo's leg kick (from Wikipedia)
With the news that Bronson Arroyo has signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, it's now completely official that he will not be continuing his career in Cincinnati.

Arroyo played eight meaningful seasons for the Cincinnati Reds, but was perhaps under appreciated overall by the casual fan. He never fit the mold as a dominating pitcher with a hammering fastball and flashy numbers, but what he did do was pitch a lot and pitch effectively, for the most part. Having never spent time on the disabled list in his career, Arroyo was as reliable a pitcher as could be found in his eight years in the Queen City. He threw at least 200 innings in every season dating back to 2006, his first with the Reds, except for 2011 when he could only muster a measly 199. He's started more games than any pitcher since 2005, tied with Dan Haren at 297, and is third in total innings pitched in the same time frame. It's hard not to appreciate a pitcher with that sort of track record, but it's easy to overlook what Arroyo has been able to accomplish. My objective today is to get you, the Reds fan, to appreciate the player that Arroyo has been for Cincinnati for the last eight years.

The Reds acquired Arroyo from the Boston Red Sox in March 2006 in exchange for slugger Wily Mo Pena. It's safe to say that trade turned out pretty well for the Reds. Arroyo wasted no time introducing himself to the fans, making his debut start on April 5th, 2006. It wasn't his pitching that got the fans' attention however. In his first at-bat as a Red, Arroyo sent an 0-2 fastball from Cubs left-hander Glendon Rusch 403 feet into the stands at Great American Ball Park for his first career home run. Arroyo got the win, throwing 6.2 innings, while allowing three earned runs and striking out seven Cubs hitters.


Arroyo again excited the fans just six days later in his second career start for the Reds. The game was against the Cubs again, but this time played at Wrigley Field. Once again, it was Arroyo's bat which rose to the occasion, as he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the game and one more time off Rusch, he launched a home run into the stands for his second career homer. He followed suit with his arm, pitching seven shutout innings with four strikeouts to get the win as the Reds claimed a 9-2 victory. Arroyo would go on to hit six total round trippers in his Reds career.

2006 was quite the year for Arroyo. He threw a MLB-high 240.2 innings en route to a 14-11 record with a 3.29 ERA, in addition to the two long balls. He finished 23rd in MVP voting that year, while also posting his first career shutout and earning his first and only All-Star selection to date. He wasn't just getting it done on the field that year either. In June, he performed a benefit concert with Rich Aurilia's wife, raising over $35,000 for the Reds Community Fund. No I didn't make that up. For his efforts, he also garnered two local awards, winning the Reds Johnny Vander Meer Award and the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award.

The Reds rewarded Arroyo with a contract extension before 2007. The deal meant he would remain with the Reds through 2010 with a club option for 2011. Unfortunately, Arroyo had a couple down years in 2007 and 2008, but he went out and did his job nonetheless making 34 starts each of those seasons. He lost a career-high 15 games in '07 and posted a 4.23 ERA. He followed that up with a 4.77 ERA in '08, though he did end up winning 15 games. Despite that, Arroyo still made his mark away from the diamond by donating $100 per strikeout to Home for Our Troops. By season's end, he had totalled $15,600 for the charity, which assists injured military personnel in obtaining housing at no cost.

There's a chance that Arroyo's performance in '07 and '08 could be attributed to the fact that he was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in 2009, though he may have been feeling the effects of the affliction many years earlier. Many people blamed this on his guitar-playing, but Arroyo would have none of it. Arroyo has since been able to control the discomfort caused by his Carpal Tunnel.

Fun fact break! Did you know that Arroyo was named for actor Charles Bronson? How about that he threw a perfect game in 2003 as a member of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate for Boston? Lastly, did you know that on baseball-reference.com, his nickname is listed as "Saturn Nuts?" I did my best research and discovered that Curt Schilling once said that Arroyo had "nuts the size of Saturn" before Arroyo made his first career postseason start in 2004. I have no idea if that's true or not, but for some reason I bet it is.

The Reds and Arroyo looked to get the long-haired right-hander back on track in the 2009 season and he certainly responded. He again won 15 games in '09, while posting a 3.84 ERA before winning a career-best 17 games in 2010. Over 33 starts in '10, he threw 215 innings with a 3.88 ERA and a 17-10 record. His efforts on the field earned him a 12th place finish in Cy Young Award voting that year as well as his first career Gold Glove award and the first for a Reds pitcher in over 50 years.

2010 marked an NL Central title and the Reds first appearance in the postseason since 1995 where Arroyo's prior experience was counted on to lead the Reds into a matchup with a powerful Phillies team. Arroyo had previously pitched three times in the playoffs with Boston, including pitching during their 2004 World Series winning run. Arroyo allowed just one earned run in 5.1 innings of Game 2, but the Reds were swept right out of the playoffs by the mighty Phils.

It didn't take long for the Reds front office to go ahead and lock Arroyo up for another three years with an extension worth $35 million. The deal was made with the agreement that about $15 million of it would be deferred until after 2013, which would be the last year of the contract and as we now know, the last year Arroyo would don a Reds uniform. For his performance, Arroyo also picked up his second Johnny Vander Meer Award from the Reds. Oh and he also donated three pallets of OneSource, a nutritional product, to victims of the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010.

2011 was forgettable year for both the Reds and Arroyo. The Reds finished under .500 and missed the playoffs and Arroyo went 9-12 with an ugly 5.07 ERA. 2012 would however see a resurgence from both the team and for the righty. Arroyo nearly made history on June 26, 2012 against the Milwaukee Brewers. He had a no-hitter one out into the eighth inning before things fell apart. The Reds did manage a 4-3 win in the end though on their way to the NL Central crown and the playoffs.

In the postseason Arroyo turned in a masterful performance throwing 7.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball in Game two of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. We all know how that series turned out, but it doesn't take away from the individual feat that Arroyo accomplished against the Giants especially in the wake of an injury to the staff's ace, Johnny Cueto in Game one.

Though last year didn't end the way the Reds or fans wanted it to, Arroyo, in his final season as a Red, once again delivered a solid season going 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA while leading a stable of young Reds pitchers. In his eight years as a Red, Arroyo started 265 games, threw over 1600 innings, and won 105 games. He tossed 14 complete games, including six shutouts. There's no doubt that Arroyo was the most reliable player for the Reds for nearly a decade. A lot of times it was said that Arroyo may have gone out and put up an ugly number in the first or second inning, but by the time you looked up at the scoreboard around the sixth or seventh, the team was usually in a position to win the ballgame.

Arroyo wasn't just loved for his baseball acumen though. As mentioned above, Arroyo is well known to his fans as an avid guitar player and musician. In fact, it was with his guitar, that he gave us two of his most memorable moments:

SHAMALAMADINGDONG

"They're together again!"

Over his eight-year career, Arroyo earned about $70 million. He was a consummate professional and worked well with the media. He was also a selfless philanthropist. He provided guidance and leadership to numerous young Reds pitchers and he went out and did his job.

We wish him well in his new gig with the Arizona Diamondbacks and look forward to seeing him return to GABP when the Diamondbacks visit for a series from July 28th-30th. Hopefully the turns go right and we'll get to see Arroyo on the mound in Cincinnati once again. For the record, the Reds travel to Arizona May 29th-June 1st, so that will be the first opportunity for the Reds to face their former pitcher. Don't forget to wish him a happy birthday later this month as he will turn 37 years old on February 24th.

While we can't exactly speak for the entire Reds nation, I think most would agree with this sentiment. To the long-haired hippie with a guitar, the high leg kick, and a nifty curveball, we here at Redlegs Review thank you for your service to the Cincinnati Reds and hope you are able to finish your career on a high note and go out on your on terms, even if it isn't with the Reds.

1 comment:

Jimmi Adair said...

Well said, sir. Well said.