By Mark Carpenter –
I walked through a lonely place last Saturday evening. I walked through a place that might get a whole lot lonelier before the summer is over. I walked through the ticket offices of the Cincinnati Reds. Of course, I am exaggerating because it was in the middle of a game so there weren’t workers at their desks or phones ringing off the hook, but if the fortunes of the home team don’t change soon, those phones may never ring.
We all knew the 2016 season was going to be a struggle for the Reds, we just didn’t realize how much of a struggle and the season is just 45 games old. Unfortunately, the Reds have only won 15 of those games and as I write this very early on a Tuesday morning, their losing streak stands at eight, with honestly, no relief in sight.
No relief in sight might be an accurate phrase to describe what has happened through 45 games as it has already been well documents how atrocious the Reds bullpen work has been. Even if a Reds starter produced a quality start, and those have been few and far between, the bullpen took over and usually allowed a couple of home runs, blew a lead, and put another notch in the “L” column. Now the “pen” has become a revolving door, a few in, a few out, and maybe we will find someone who can put out a fire. The last three days, however, have produced a glimmer of pitching hope, with the bullpen throwing seven shutout innings in the final two games of the Seattle series and then Brandon Finnegan turning in a complete game effort on Monday night in LA, of course in a losing effort.
That brings us to another point, the team’s offense has not exactly knocked the cover off the ball. Take away Zach Cozart and the team has no .300 hitters and their best hitter, Mr. Votto, is hitting .203 and it’s almost June. Now, no one expects Votto to be hitting near the Mendoza line all season, but what if it just never comes around for him? The second highest batting average among the regulars belongs to Jay Bruce and that’s just .264. No offense to Don Long and Tony Jaramillo (household names there), but it’s time to bring in Eric Davis as the hitting coach. And while they are at it, maybe Ted Power or Mario Soto as the pitching coach. Again, no offense to Mark Riggins. Who? Again, not exactly a household name.
I don’t like seeing anyone lose their jobs and I have no clue what goes on with hitting and pitching coaches in the major leagues, so they get the benefit of the doubt from me, but I’ve got to think that there are a number of coaches on a pretty short string. But what about manager Bryan Price? There’s the fellow I truly feel sympathy for. As has been said over and over again, he is only playing with the cards he has been dealt (which he almost accidentally said in a press conference last week). Safe to say Price is not carrying around a Royal Flush or four aces. As with every coach or manager in professional sports, there have been questionable decisions, but in Price’s case, it’s usually a matter of “what other options do I have?”
Managers and coaches come and go quite often in the professional ranks and they are all remembered for something and right now Price will go down in Reds’ annals as the manager of some really bad teams, unfair to him of course. It’s hard to compete when you’re using donkeys and everyone else has thoroughbreds.
On Opening Day, I had to go buy a program just to identify most of the players on the roster of the Phillies. Watching them that day, I thought they were just one horrible baseball team, maybe someone who would be worse than the Reds, but check out the no-name Phils now. 25-20 record, just two games out of first place in the NL East. What’s the difference? Not hard to find-pitching. A closer with 16 saves and a starting rotation with 16 wins. Take heed though, Reds fans. Right now the Braves and Twins are worse, but nobody, including myself, wants to be writing at any time during the season about how the Reds compare with the worst teams in the game.
If you believe the lyrics of the Little River Band, “hang on, help is on the way.” The Reds’ AA team in Pensacola looks to be loaded, especially on the pitching staff, but as you are well aware, things seem to happen to young pitchers on their way to the show, or in Reds terminology, “the land of the strained oblique.” The major league draft is coming up in June and the Reds have three of the first 50 picks and not a real good track record in recent drafts. Word is that they have their eyes on a center fielder. How many center fielders does a system need?
Bobbleheads. giveaways, and special ticket pricing will keep people in the stands for most of the season, but even promotions can’t put a winner on the field. The rebuild will be ugly and frustrating (it already is) and the end is nowhere in sight but Reds fans have to trust that the team does have some kind of vision for the future. Easier said than done.
Meanwhile, I will keep hanging on to Captain America and the boys at Citi Field. LGM!