There’s nothing more inspiring to make a writer sit down and write a column that a blustery, snowy day in April, especially when the thoughts you have in mind are those of baseball. Isn’t baseball supposed to mean nice spring days and the “boys of summer?”
I guess the appropriate column then should be about that team down the river at Great America Ball Park. yes, the one standing at 4-8 and six games out of first place, just two weeks into the season. Ouch! The Cincinnati Reds came into the 2014 campaign with high hopes, at least until the roof began to cave in near the end of spring training. That’s when the injury bug struck and sent eight Reds who would likely have been on the Opening Day roster to the disabled list instead. Things have gone downhill since as the Reds have not gotten off to the start that we all expected.
Granted, the Reds have one of baseball’s toughest schedules in the month of April. Opening with the Cardinals, playing a much improved Mets team, then the Cardinals again, Tampa Bay, the Pirates, and the Braves. Thank goodness, we have six games with the Cubs sprinkled in.
Obviously, the problems the team has faced thus far center around the lack of offensive production, though the last two days have shown promise albeit against some pretty sad starting pitchers. Billy Hamilton has shown flashes of brilliance but not often enough, but it’s far too early to throw in the towel on him. When he does get on base, it is a whole different offensive team, except of course when they leave him on as this team has shown no signs yet of improving their 2013 habit of being unable to hit with runners in scoring position. The team always seems to have runners on base but they always seem to stay there. For the Reds to make any kind of run, that has to change and quickly.
Already, Manager Bryan Price has tinkered with the lineup, moving Joey Votto into the #2 hole and inserting Todd Frazier as the cleanup hitter. Since coming off the disabled list, catcher Devin Mesoraco has been on fire and it may not be long until he moves up into a more run-producing spot in the lineup. Price seems to be more flexible than the departed Dusty Baker when it comes to these kind of changes, but the team certainly has begun the season looking like they were still in Baker’s “no sense of urgency” mode.
Other than some bullpen lapses, mainly J. J. Hoover, and the struggles of Homer Bailey in his three outings, the pitching staff has been pretty decent. Johnny Cueto looks healthy, Tony Cingrani has been very good, Mike Leake threw a gem against the Cards, and how about the two starts of Alfredo Simon? Get Bailey straightened out and the pitching staff could be strong again. Aroldis Chapman is getting closer to a return but Reds fans have to be concerned about the condition of Mat Latos, who again this week was shut down for up to two weeks. With Latos, it is looking like a lost season and that is not good news in Reds Country.
As I mentioned earlier, just two weeks into the season, the Reds find themselves six games behind, but not to the dreaded enemies from St. Louis but to the Milwaukee Brewers, who are off to a great start with 10 wins in their first 12 outings. There were numerous preseason pundits who picked the Reds to finish fourth in the NL Central, behind the Cards, Pirates, and Brewers and if the ship isn’t righted soon, that could very well be the case.
So what happens this summer if the Reds continue to flounder and fall further behind in the division race? It could be like a bad domino effect for the Castellinis. The entertainment dollar that was targeted for Reds baseball will be targeted elsewhere, Kings Island, the Cincinnati Zoo, etc. The TV ratings will go down as people choose other ways to spend their summer evenings and the team’s overall profits for 2014 will take a nosedive if there are not people in the seats. Less profits means less money spent on players and well, you get the picture.
Now don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not giving up on the Reds this early. Maybe that home run derby in the rain last night will be the turning point and maybe they will run off a nice long winning streak that will get everyone excited again and get rid of the blues that surround this team at the present.
So let’s all jump back on that Reds bandwagon. Joey Votto will start raking, Jay Bruce will go deep, Brandon Phillips will smile, and Billy Hamilton will run, run, run. And if all that fails, it’s only two days until they play the Cubs. Take me out to the ball game!
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-239 or on Twitter @adamscosports.