My expectations for our club don't change. Every season that I've come to Sarasota, I've expected our club to go out and win our division. And I'm always disappointed when we don't achieve that goal. We weren't a bad club last season. We had the talent and the capability to win.
This is a new year now and my hopes are as high as ever -- with good reason. With the acquisitions we've made and a healthy group of core veterans, we're in position to move up dramatically.
Having a guy like Dusty Baker come in as our manager this season makes a big difference, too. It sends a signal through the clubhouse that we're playing to win. A manager plays a big role. He's been there and he has experience with winning teams as a player and as a manager. If you can't listen to him, to whom can you listen?
Dusty's track record speaks for itself. Personally, I'm excited. He's going to be a fun guy to play for and he'll get the best out of everyone. Players will go to war for a guy like Dusty.
I've known him for a little more than a month now, and what really sets him apart is that you know he genuinely cares for you. It's not just about your numbers and what you're doing for the club; he wants to know how things are at home. He asked me just this morning about my family. Heck, I've played for people who didn't even know I had a family.
These are the kind of things that make me optimistic about this season, for our club and me. I think I can improve by getting back to basics. For example, strikeouts have been an issue for the past four or five years, but I didn't have a problem with strikeouts in the Minors. It's been frustrating experience. I cut down on strikeouts last season, and there's still plenty of room to cut down some more.
Sometimes I get too selective. Statistics will show you that it's hard to hit from behind in the count at this level, so my plan is to be a little more aggressive early in the count.
If I can reduce my strikeouts and get my batting average out of the .260s and up to .300 where it's supposed to be, I can hit 50 home runs or more. But if I stay in the .260s, it's going to be near impossible to get there. My goal is simply to be a better overall hitter. Everything else will flow from that.
Adam Dunn, who has had 40 or more homers and 100 or more walks in each of the past four seasons, is a key to the Reds' success this season. In 2007, the 6-foot-6 Texan had a career-high 106 RBIs.