The last three days have been rough to watch.
I’m sure they haven’t been pleasant for the team, manager, coaches and front office. But let’s focus on silver linings.
Did you know the Cincinnati Reds are squarely in the running for the third selection in next June’s amateur draft? If Madison Bumgarner returns to form for San Francisco, the Reds might even contend for the #2 slot again!
More important than draft position is the organization achieving clarity about the fate and purpose of this season. Right now.
Yes, the destiny of the 2017 Reds has been more ambiguous than most of us expected in April. We can thank the struggling Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals for that. Their surprising weakness has kept the Reds deficit in the NL Central to single digits until the last few days. At the end of May – a third of the way through the season – the Reds were just 2.5 games out of first place.
We’ve all been part of teams or organizations facing long odds that found it necessary to generate a sense of undue optimism. Esprit de corps demanded it. So we expect Reds clubhouse and the dugout to stay focused and upbeat about winning, even competing for first place. The team has lingered on the outskirts of contention for a good chunk of the season, so fans can be forgiven for believing in unrealistic outcomes. We fans will be fans.
But here are the cold, hard facts. According to the clever folks at FanGraphs, the chance of the 2017 Reds making the World Series is 0.0%. Of earning a Wild Card slot? 0.0%.
Of winning the NL Central Division? Zero point zero.
Yet through the murky and unexpected early results and unwarranted optimism, the one group we count on to remain clear-eyed is the front office.
Two weeks remain before the trade deadline. It would be disastrous for the folks on Joe Nuxhall Way to let loose the rudder and go wobbly on the rebuilding process. Their reluctance to pull the field turf out from under the 25 guys in the clubhouse is understandable. But Dick Williams and his staff need to make the pain of the past couple years worth it by following through as diligently as they can.
That means shopping Scott Feldman, Zack Cozart, Tony Cingrani and Drew Storen. It means not ruling out Godfather-type offers for Raisel Iglesias, Adam Duvall or Scooter Gennett.
Beyond deftly navigating the trade market, the front office must make aggressive roster decisions to increase opportunities for players of the future — even at the expense of established players who deserve to start every day. This is especially the case with the starting pitching rotation.
Yes, those steps will hurt this year’s record. But giving up on the 2017 standings doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of fun and excitement cheering the development of young players. Amid the carnage of today’s game, it was nonetheless thrilling to watch Jesse Winker draw three walks and hit the ball hard twice.
The Reds are out of contention. The last three games make plain how far the Reds have to go. If the jolting experience of this weekend helped clarify that fact for the front office, it qualifies as a sterling silver lining.
It’s well-past time to take our eye off the win-loss metric, at least for this season. Instead, keep supporting the current players and judge the organization by how much good young talent they add in the next 15 days.