With the 2015 season winding down, the Reds are destined for 90+ losses one year after dropping 86 games. For the second year in a row, the general feeling surrounding the club’s performance seems confined to a limited sorrow-filled breadth ranging between an upcoming trip to the dentist’s office and attending the wedding of a former significant other sans a date.
So, it’s difficult not to reminisce about the not-so-distant glory years that began at the outset of the decade. I remember when most of the gripes surrounding the Reds were centered around where to bat Drew Stubbs in the lineup and whether Todd Frazier should start over an aging Scott Rolen. First-world problems, indeed.
What has fast-forwarded the musing of yore for me lately is the knowledge that so many of the key cogs in the 2010-13 run that produced three 90-win seasons and two National League Central crowns are no longer with the organization.
From 2010-13, these 10 players recorded the most plate appearances for the Reds: Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Heisey, Scott Rolen, and Jonny Gomes. Only Phillips, Votto, Bruce, Cozart, and Frazier remain. Five years ago, each of the Phillips-Votto-Bruce-Cozart-Frazier quintet was either an up-and-coming talent or a player in or around their prime. Now, with the exception of Bruce, all five will be at least 30-years-old by Opening Day 2016.
From 2010-13, these 10 pitchers logged the most innings for the Reds: Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, Travis Wood, Aroldis Chapman, and Edinson Volquez. Only Bailey, LeCure, and Chapman are still around, but Bailey’s 2015 season was cut short after 11.2 innings, and LeCure spent most of 2015 at Triple-A before being promoted on Aug.19. Given the rookie pitching record the Reds have established this year, this list shouldn’t be surprising at all.
Chad recently delivered a fond toast to The Run, so there’s no need to echo his words in this space. (Whenever I type ‘Jay Bruce’ into YouTube’s search field, the first result auto-fills to ‘Jay Bruce home run to clinch.’ How’s that for living in the past?) But as it turns out, there was a bit of nostalgia to revisted yesterday: on Sept. 22, 2012, the Reds blanked the Dodgers 6-0 to become the first team to secure a division title that season.
A quick look at the box score from that joyous day reveals a microcosm how much just went right for the 97-win Reds that year:
*Prized offseason acquisition Mat Latos delivered eight shutout innings, an outing complete with zero walks and seven strikeouts. Latos went 14-4 with a 3.48/3.85 ERA/FIP split and K/9 of 8.0 in 209.1 innings. Latos, along with Cueto, Bailey, Arroyo, and Leake, combined to make 161 of out a possible 162 regular-season starts.
*First-year closer Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth. Chapman notched 38 saves in 71.2 innings, boasting a K/9 rate of 15.3 and a ERA/FIP split of 1.51/1.55.
*Nearly two years after he clubbed one of the most important home runs in Reds history, Bruce again hit the division-deciding home run (sort of), as his solo round-tripper in the fourth inning was all the run support Latos and Chapman would require on the day.
*Frazier, en route to a .273/.331/.498 slash and a wRC+ of 121 in his rookie season, was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
*Phillips tallied a solo home run in the seventh inning. Random note: Phillips hit 18 home runs each year from 2010-13.
*Xavier Paul went 0-for-2 with two walks. In 96 plate appearances, Paul slashed .314/.379/.465 with an wRC+ of 128. Paul was playing for Ryan Ludwick, who was in the midst of a renaissance season. In 2012, the 33-year-old left fielder slashed .275/.346/.531 with a wRC+ of 134.
*Not everything went right. Dusty Baker was still in the hospital undergoing treatment for an irregular heartbeat. Also, Votto, who underwent knee surgery (twice) in July and missed 49 games, was in the midst of a power outage: the last home run Votto would hit in 2012 came on June 24.
When I spoke with Heisey recently, I became convinced he had moved on from his time with the Reds, and I can’t blame him. A player like Heisey is now forever on the fringes of the Triple-A/major league line, and it behooves him to keep his mind focused on the present and what’s in front of him.
But I could also detect a fond appreciation for his time in Cincinnati, and not just because the Reds won a lot of games, but because those teams helped the city and a lot of casual fans fall back in love with the Reds. And as the Reds continue to turn over the roster and step into a new era, I’m interested to see if that sense of endearment — on both a small and large scale — can be replicated.