I think it is time for the Cincinnati Reds to look up my phone number. I think it is time for them to hire me as their good-luck charm. You see, last week after the team lost two out of three games in Los Angeles, I had made up my mind to write about how much in disarray this team was and then after they dropped the opener in Arizona, it sealed the deal. I was writing about a lost season in June.
Not so fast.
As soon as I made the decision to write, guess what happened. The Redlegs went on a three-game winning streak in Arizona to actually accomplish rarely seen in Cincinnati, a winning West Coast road trip. So you understand, it was all because of me. Once I decided to write about the bad team. the good team shows up. Bob Castellini, my phone is right here on the desk in front of me.
Granted, this team still has a big hole to climb out of, being seven games out of first place on June 3. They are genuinely lucky that deficit is not greater as neither the Brewers or Cardinals have put together a “run away with the division” kind of streak.
If I asked you, who would you say takes the blame for a 24-29 mark in June? I’m sure many of you would begin with manager Bryan Price. Price does seem to have a lot of the “laid-back Dusty” in him, but with the replay rules, it has become quite difficult and rather useless for a manager to throw an Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella type of tantrum to show how emotional he is. I do scratch my head sometimes at the Price lineups, but he’s the manager, not me.
There does seem to be an annoying trend of running a “B’ team lineup out there is some very important series. You can always argue that these are major leaguers and if you are in the lineup, you should produce. There is also the argument that your bench players have to play to stay sharp, though this Reds bench doesn’t exactly strike fear into opponents.
Who would you say have been the biggest disappointments for the Reds in 2014? Most fans would instantly begin with the names Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, who combined to drive in one run in the month of May. Granted, neither player has been healthy since day one and Bruce likely returned too soon from his injury and is hitting in unfamiliar territory with an average below .200. In Votto’s case, it has just plain been a struggle. He seemed to fit well in the number two spot in the batting order but this team is not going to be a serious challenger unless he gets healthy and his bat comes alive. The same can be said for Bruce.
On the pitching side, where would this team be without the stellar work of Alfredo Simon? You could certainly argue that Simon is the team’s MVP, though Johnny Cueto has been lights out, Cy Young crazy thus far. Mike Leake has pitched well but the jury is still out on Homer Bailey and Tony Cingrani. Expectations were certainly high for Bailey after he signed a multi-million dollar contract, but he has been inconsistent all season. Cingrani looked goo early, got hurt, and has struggle since as the team still waits on the return of Mat Latos and then has the decision to make on who leaves the rotation and goes to the bullpen. I’d pick Cingrani, but that gives the team an overabundance of southpaws there.
Speaking of the bullpen, which was the best in baseball in 2013, one word comes to mind-ouch! There have been glimpses of hope lately, however, with J.J. Hoover and Jonathan Broxton both looking much better. Aroldis Chapman is still nearly unhittable but he should have very fresh arm as few save situations as this team has even been in.
After a slow start, Billy Hamilton has his average hovering around the .250 range and the “Toddfather” has been the team’s best power threat. Other than one small slump, Devin Mesoraco has raked and the contributions of Bryan Pena have been invaluable, especially filling in at first base. It really seems like the Reds have all the interchangeable parts to be a playoff-contending squad, but so far those parts just haven’t all been working in the same gear, which can be quite frustrating for the fans in Reds Country.
Last night the team began a very important 10-game home stand, beginning with the best team in baseball in the San Francisco Giants, followed by the Phillies and Dodgers and then three on the road in Milwaukee. It is a time that the team will either right the ship or fall into those murky waters of thinking about becoming sellers near the trade deadline. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that doesn’t happen.
While writing about baseball, I have to give kudos to the young men in Peebles and West Union who stepped it up this week and decided to give up some of their summer time to do what you are supposed to do in the summer and that’s play baseball. Thanks to their decision, there will be “A” league baseball in the county as there well should be. You will have to forgive me for being old school, but I believe summer is for baseball and softball and I am not a fan of all these other sports becoming so year-round that they interfere.
As a sports reporter, it’s great, always something to cover, but when I grew up every sport had its season and that is where it stayed. So there’s the two cents worth from the local writer, obviously worth the proverbial grain of salt. Hope I see you at a local ball park. You will recognize me easily. I’m the first base coach with the camera.