To me, 2016 was a disastrous baseball season for the Cincinnati Reds.
They finished in last place. They were no-hit. They blew leads. Their bullpen wasn’t just bad but historically bad. And while it’s true that no one expected anything from the Reds last year, it was still a painful thing to watch or listen to on the radio. It was worse than a train wreck.
It was embarrassing and no fun at all. Not one bit.
At least here in Illinois, the upcoming 2017 season is a waste of time because the Cubs are the best baseball team of all time (or so I’m told). I try to explain to these Cub fans that winning a World Series championship is one thing but repeating is quite another. Cardinal fans understand that. Reds fans do too. So if Cub fans don’t quite get it, I can appreciate that.
2017 for a Cincinnati Reds fans is different because this team (and organization) has certainly bottomed out. And while I’m skeptical to a degree, both over the young talent the Reds have acquired and the wisdom of Dick Williams, there are five things I’m looking forward to this season.
Quick note: I’m omitting Marty Brennaman on the radio and Joey Votto’s skills at the plate for obvious reasons– they are always there..
1. 150 games from Jose Peraza
This guy needs to play and the Reds need to figure out where his best position is. My preference is at shortstop but Zack Cozart is still around, ad is a decent player. But the Reds farm system seems deep at the second base position so I’d rather see Peraza at short. Regardless, we need to know if Peraza is going to sink or swim.
2. Progress from Nick Senzel
Senzel can flat out hit. I only watched him play three games last year, but it seems (from what I’ve read here at the Nation) that Senzel is anxious to make it to the Rhineland so I hope the Reds are patient and don’t rush him. Watching him take batting practice reminds me of Sean Casey. It’s the sound— the sound of the ball coming off the bat. You could be getting a beer and a hot dog, hear that sound, and you just knew it was Sean Casey. It’s the same with Nick Senzel.
3. Michael Lorenzen
With the trade of Jay Bruce to the Mets, my newest favorite Reds player is Michael Lorenzen. If you know his background, how can you not pull for this pitcher? If the Reds brain trust (including Bryan Price) misuse Lorenzen’s abilities, Reds fans will understandably be upset– big time.
Lorenzen’s home run last season was the most memorable for me by a Reds pitcher since Don Gullett hit one in the 1975 NL playoffs against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
By the way– who were the best hitting Reds pitchers? Of the ones I have seen over the years (and without researching any material) the best ones in my mind were Tony Cloninger, Mel Queen, Don Gullett, and Travis Wood. I’m not sure if the stats will show this or not. But Cloninger once hit a pair of grand slam homers in one game when he was with the Braves and knocked a few out for the Reds as well. Queen was a converted outfielder, Gullett was one hell of an athlete and Wood was the closest Red to get a hit off Roy Halladay, who no-hit Cincinnati in the 2010 playoffs.
4. 150 games from Billy Hamilton
This is a long shot. A real long shot. Hamilton’s play, on the bases and in centerfield, leads to injuries. Eric Davis had a similar issue. Hamilton’s defensive prowess in centerfield is electric and his omission from getting a Gold Glove last year was a farce. Hamilton can be one of baseball’s best weapons but there’s two big “ifs”– can he get on base and can he stay healthy? Vada Pinson and Cesar Geronimo were the two most athletic and durable centerfielders for the Reds in the last sixty years. Will Hamilton join that small fraternity?
5. A Decent Bullpen
How frustrating was the bullpen last year? No, how maddening was it? If Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins can’t put together a back end of a respectable bullpen, it will be discouraging. I’m not talking Nasty Boys, lights out kind of stuff— just reliable.
Four suggestions for Mr. Price: Be imaginative. Be creative. Don’t assign roles. Go with the hot pitcher.
I’m looking forward to seeing the Reds play in 2017. I buy one of those $6 tickets, mingle with other Reds fans, and enjoy a visit to the Reds Hall of Fame before the game. I used to cheer on Jay Bruce in right field. My first favorite Reds player was a guy named Frank Robinson, who used to play right field too.
So now, my guy is Michael Lorenzen. I hope he’s a big part of the “next winning Reds team.”