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Frazier’s Edge: Todd Frazier Makes ROY Case

Mr. Redlegs at Cincinnati RedsMany fight fans will forever remember the famed Howard Cosell call in the 1973 heavyweight title fight in Kingston, Jamaica between Smokin’ Joe Frazier and George Foreman, one that not became embedded not only in sports vernacular, but in mainstream American language.

“Down goes Frazier, down, goes Frazier, down goes Frazier!!!” as Big George bounced the soon to be dethroned heavyweight champ like a rubber ball off the canvas six times.

Bear with me here.

I am sure Cincinnati Reds fans can recall the feeling of Spring, the return of baseball and that of eternal optimism about their beloved Reds. And this year for good reason as they could sense they had a good club, maybe not one this special, but a team that could contend for the National League Central Division title, or at least a Wild Card spot.

Why not? They knew they had decent front line pitching, the makings of a solid bullpen, All-Stars in Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and great mix of veterans like Scott Rolen and a potential shortstop for years to come, the answer to prayers in Zack Cozart.

The airwaves were filled with news about the team ready to take on all comers as spring training inched closer to opening day and the local metro newspaper had special sections to introduce the new team ready to open the season and make a run at far bigger and better things than the year before.

The ink had yet to dry on Votto’s brand new contract on the morning of April 5 as the parade of all opening day parades in the country was about to take place and the early edition was on the streets hours before the first pitch of the new season.

The papers were as filled with information, stats and projections as this Reds team was with promise. But off in a corner of an inside page … the front page splashed with the Votto news and the opening day lineups … there was a little notebook tidbit, that at the time didn’t seem to make much of a difference one way or the other at the magic moment of the start of the 2012 season against Miami.

Ok, I cannot resist. It didn’t exactly read “Down goes Frazier” but it was a short and sweet note that Todd Frazier had been sent to Triple-A Louisville to make room for right-handed reliever Alfred Simon.

It seemed rather inconsequential at the time didn’t it? After all, who in their right mind would ever think in their wildest dreams the value Todd Frazier would have to this team, not to mention his being the leading NL Rookie of the Year candidate?

First of all who would have guessed Votto would be lost for over a month with knee surgery? Now, with all indications Votto is simply not coming back until he is in no uncertain terms 100 percent and not 80 or 90, but the way he was when he was NL MVP,  who would have ever thought just how valuable Frazier would be to this team seemingly well on its way to a division title?

The numbers, despite not playing regularly from the outset of the season or a regular position when he was called up, are still there for Rookie of the Year. But even more importantly this guy filled in primarily at first base in Votto’s absence and the team never missed a beat, 21-8 at this writing with Votto shelved as he still is. And Frazier was also valuable insurance at third base with Rolen often suffering bouts with his balky back.

Make no mistake, this Jersey kid, unlike fellow rookie Cozart who was expected to play a big role, has played a major role in the Reds’ success and has been invaluable to this team.

With all the stars, all the hopefuls that would make this team a success at the outset, this guy has proved to be as important as any.

But what now? What happens when Votto finally returns? Something to ponder, but an oh so pleasant problem for manager Dusty Baker who knows the kid is in line for some personal hardware and knows only too well he deserves to play and somehow must be somewhere in the lineup.

I’m sure the Reds’ brass has pondered some solutions to the question that is not a simple one. Obviously Votto is one of the game’s premier players and will remain that way at his proper place at first base upon his return.

Rolen is one of the best gloveman of his era at third and when healthy provides a very necessary veteran presence and has of late found his old batting stroke. While Cozart is the everyday shortstop and there is little room at the Inn at his position for Frazier who came up a shortstop.

Thankfully the Reds realized in time the value of Ryan Ludwick as a productive everyday left fielder and he seems cemented at his position and deserves to be.

Considering Frazier plays with an East Coast edge, like a seasoned player much of the time despite his youthful exuberance, he too plays with a presence and does it all, not just with a bat, but has proven time and time again he can throw some leather as well.

In short, he has to play somewhere. But where?

The answer could be as simple as a little bit of everywhere, spelling people, rotating around if Baker must, but the fact remains, Baker must find a way to keep this kid in the mix.

Frazier may have been sent down to start the season but he didn’t stay down long and one of the least likely players to have an impact on the season and the team’s success did just that, despite being little more than a notebook filler on August 5.

Go figure?