[Cutting this list down to 10 was more difficult than yesterday’s list.]
#10 – Billy Hamilton’s worsening struggles at the plate
Billy Hamilton’s 2015 batting (.226/.274/.289) was even worse than his dreadful 2014. He had the fourth-lowest OBP in the majors, the second-lowest isolated power and the second-lowest contribution to runs scored. The Reds still gave him more than 200 plate appearances leading off, since they hadn’t come up with an alternative in the off-season.
#9 – Jason Marquis, Kevin Gregg, Brennan Boesch, Chris Dominguez
This point represents the pitiful – yet predictable – performance of the new players added to the roster out of spring training from minor league contracts. Based on little more than a handful of innings in Goodyear and saves from a few years ago, Kevin Gregg was given the 8th inning pitching role. That’s the bullpen’s second most important job. He was DFA’d after 11 appearances with an ERA of 10.13. Jason Marquis was a former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher for Walt Jocketty. He was given a job in the starting rotation. After 9 starts, he was released with an ERA of 6.46. Brennan Boesch (.146/.191/.202) bombed as the Reds fourth OF and was demoted mid-season. Yes, that’s a lower isolated power than Billy Hamilton. Chris Dominguez had three pinch hit attempts (all strike outs) in April before being sent to AAA Louisville. Collectively, this represented horrible judgment on the part of the Reds front office.
#8 – Bryan Price’s profane outburst
Bryan Price’s ugly six-plus minute tirade directed toward Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans, was unprofessional and vulgar. His defiant, tone-deaf apology/non-apology afterward was even more concerning. While Price’s frustration at having learned of the impending losses of Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey is understandable, the incident proved to be a national embarrassment to the organization. Between that and the team’s performance, it’s a wonder Price kept his job. If the Reds had any ambitions for 2016, he probably wouldn’t.
#7 – Zack Cozart’s season-ending knee injury
Zack Cozart tore the ligaments and a tendon in his right knee on June 10 in Philadelphia. In the first inning, Cozart hit a ball deep to the hole at shortstop and when he lunged toward first base to beat the throw, he hit the bag off to the side and that caused his severe injury. Hustle takes another victim. The good news is that all reports say that Cozart’s recovery is going well and he’s expected to be 100% by the start of spring training.
#6 – Homer Bailey’s season-ending elbow injury
Homer Bailey’s 2014 season ended on August 7 when he pitched 7 shutout innings against Cleveland. The Reds pitcher had surgery on the flexor mass in his right elbow and spent the off-season before 2015 rehabbing. The Reds were counting on Bailey to be the #2 pitcher in their rotation. He returned to the mound in 2015 on April 18, but after two starts, it was obvious Bailey wasn’t right. He had torn the ulnar collateral ligament in that same elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. Reports indicate Bailey’s comeback is on schedule and he’ll return to the mound in early- to mid-May.
#5 – Devin Mesoraco’s season-ending hip condition
After a monster 2014 at the plate (.273/.359/.534; 25 home runs; wRC+ 146), the Reds were counting on their catcher to provide a big bat in the middle of the lineup after Joey Votto. Instead, a couple weeks into the season, Devin Mesoraco was diagnosed with a hip impingement. He continued to play on occasion, as a pinch hitter, designated hitter and even in left field. But season-ending surgery to relieve the condition was all but inevitable and took place on June 29 in New York. Reds catchers combined to hit four home runs in 2015 (none by Brayan Peña in 339 PA). Mesoraco should recover the full use of his hip and is expected to be the Reds catcher on Opening Day.
#4 – Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce in the bad times
From July 3 to the end of the season, Todd Frazier hit .225/.270/.386 with a wRC+ of 72. (By comparison, Skip Schumaker’s wRC+ for the season was 73.) From August 4 to the end of the season, Jay Bruce hit .171/.213/.342 with a wRC+ of 40. That’s worse than Billy Hamilton.
#3 – The losing streaks
The Reds had a nine-game losing streak in mid-May. They lost 9 in a row, and 13 of 14, in late August. And they finished the season losing 13 in a row in September. In an astonishing comment after the season, one of the reasons given by Walt Jocketty for not firing Bryan Price was that the team continued to play hard. Low bars aside, one shudders to think what that would have looked like.
#2 – Saying good-bye to Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Todd Frazier
The Reds held on to Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake as long as they reasonably could, trading them in July before the non-waiver deadline. Cueto had pitched eight seasons for the Reds and Leake five and a half. Reds fans got to watch Cueto pitch a complete game, two-hitter in Game Two of the World Series for the Kansas City Royals. Then Cueto signed with the Giants for $130 million/6 years. Increasing the pain to Reds fans, Leake signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for $80 million/5 years. Try this for a gut punch:
The sound you heard right afterward was thousands of Reds fans unfollowing Mike Leake on Twitter.
The Reds traded Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox earlier this month as part of their rebuilding program. Frazier came up through the Reds organization and had endeared himself to Reds fans with his play and positive attitude.
#1 – The 64-98 record, finishing last, 36 games behind the Cardinals
The Reds lost more games than any season since 1982. It was their second-worst winning percentage since 1937.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.