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updated: 3/4/2014 5:50 AM

Reds owner blames media for sagging ticket sales

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  • Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips signs autographs before a Feb. 27 exhibition baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.

      Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips signs autographs before a Feb. 27 exhibition baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.
    Associated Press

  • Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto, right, scores as Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes is late with the tag at home plate on a Ryan Ludwick single in the third inning of a Feb. 26 exhibition baseball game in Goodyear, Ariz.

      Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto, right, scores as Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes is late with the tag at home plate on a Ryan Ludwick single in the third inning of a Feb. 26 exhibition baseball game in Goodyear, Ariz.
    Associated Press

  • Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen will anchor what may end up being the best outfield in Pirates history.

      Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen will anchor what may end up being the best outfield in Pirates history.
    Associated Press

  • Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen singles off New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova during the first inning of a Feb. 26 exhibition spring training baseball game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

      Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen singles off New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova during the first inning of a Feb. 26 exhibition spring training baseball game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
    Associated Press

 
 

This week's look around the National League Central has a look and feel to it that should be familiar to Cubs fans.

So let's get started.

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One team owner recently complained about media coverage of a "do-nothing off-season" and its effect on ticket sales.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts? Nah, it was Reds owner Bob Castellini.

"That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate," Castellini said in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Sponsorships are very important. Advertising is important. But the biggest thing we concentrate on is season tickets.

"So when you guys start writing right during the (winter) caravan about money, the fact that we didn't add any guys ... well, we had all these guys hurt. We knew we wanted to sign Homer (pitcher Bailey). We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It's not that we didn't look. It gets written in such a way -- 'Well, the Reds aren't doing anything' -- that really does affect people buying season tickets."

Cincinnati is one of the smallest markets in major-league baseball, but the Reds have enjoyed on-field success lately.

They've also been able to keep players such as Bailey, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips with deals worth a reported $382 million.

"We're not going to blow this franchise up by overextending ourselves," Castellini said. "It's never going to happen."

OBP is in the Cards:

On-base percentage is a stat near and dear to the hearts of Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. It's also one the St. Louis Cardinals value as they seek a replacement in their batting order for No. 2 hitter Carlos Beltran, who has moved on to the Yankees.

"Whoever is going to get on base," manager Mike Matheny told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when asked about the 2-spot. "Somebody who is getting on base on a consistent basis -- they may get a chance to jump in there. ... Usually it becomes pretty obvious when we've found the right fit."

Peter Bourjos, Jhonny Peralta and Jon Jay are among the options for the second spot.

High praise for Pirates trio:

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had some pretty fearsome outfields over the years.

A story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggests the up-and-coming trio of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco could challenge for the best in Pirates history.

That suggestion is certainly a tall order. Citing wins above replacement (WAR), the paper lists the top Pittsburgh outfields as Barry Bonds-Andy Van Slyke-Bobby Bonilla of 1990 followed by the 1971 trio of Willie Stargell-Al Oliver-Roberto Clemente. Coming in third was the 1969 threesome of Stargell-Matt Alou-Clemente.

"They had dedication, and they loved the game," former Bucs catcher Manny Sanguillen told the paper of the '69 outfield. "Willie was slow in the outfield, but he had a great arm. Alou was the fast one. And Clemente was just special."

The Pirates are in no rush with Polanco. The Trib-Review reports that he will open the season at Class AAA Indianapolis but that he could be up this summer.

"They've got all the things that go with being good outfielders: good legs, good arms and pretty good judgment," Pirates special instructor Bill Virdon, a former Gold Glover in center, told the paper. "I think Marte's got a little better (defensive) talent than the other two, but can he develop it? We'll see. I don't know that I've ever seen three outfielders have as much talent as they do."

Garza all wound up:

Don't tell former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza that it's just an exhibition game. Garza was his usual wound-up self after Sunday's debut for the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he signed a four-year $50 million deal late in the off-season.

Against the Rockies, Garza threw 28 pitches and allowed 4 hits and 4 earned runs while walking two and striking out one.

"It's a baseball game," Garza told the Milwaukee media. "You guys might think it's spring, but for me, it's a baseball game. I'm just one of those guys where it's, 'A new season, you get to start over. Let's go.' "

Manager Ron Roenicke said Garza was "all over the place. His command, changeup and fastball were certainly not where he wanted. But, hey, he got in a lot of pitches."

Garza said the adrenaline was flowing.

"I couldn't sleep last night, so it was just one of those things where my energy level just kind of took over and you go from there," he said. "I threw some good pitches early and then I tried to change some things."

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