When the Reds spent their second-overall selection on two-way, high-schooler Hunter Greene last July, they were locking in the future at the top of their rotation, picking a flamethrower with 102-mph fastball and comps to Babe Ruth, Doc Gooden, and even LeBron James. But Hunter won’t sniff the big leagues until 2022 most likely, and won’t make an Opening Day start for another year after that at least.
As we Reds fans quietly hold our breath, waiting for the new Future Face of the Franchise to develop and stay healthy, we have instead another new season, another Opening Day. Instead of Hunter, we have Homer, our odyssey to the promised land just beginning.
But to be fair, David Dewitt “Homer” Bailey isn’t just some random suitor, vying for the Reds attention after being plucked from the free agent dumpst— er, pile. (Looking at you, Scott Feldman.) Homer Bailey is a lifelong Cincinnati Red, who has battled back from three years of injury to finally earn his first Opening Day start for the organization. Homer Bailey may not be Hunter Greene, but at least he isn’t Jimmy Haynes.
In honor of Homer’s career achievement, I wanted to take a jaunt down memory lane and award some of the best (and worst) Reds Opening Day memories. Even if Homer won’t get excited about his selection (“If you climb Mount Everest, no one talks about the first step. You talk about getting to the top. It’s more the course of the season I look forward to than the first one,” he told the Enquirer’s John Fay), I sure as heck will.
Most Recent “Wait, That Guy Started Opening Day!?” Pitcher: Raisel Iglesias
After four straight years of Johnny Cueto’s brilliance, the Reds turned to their new hard-slinging pitching darling, Raisel Iglesias, to take the bump. It was one of only five starts Iglesias would make the rest of the year.
Even though Iglesias turn at the top of the new season was only two years ago, it feels like decades given his constant reshuffling through the bullpen, the rotation, and AAA. His current cemented status as closer has lasted only one full season, but that’s enough to make his starting days feel like a long-forgotten experiment. For better or worse, Raisel Iglesias will likely only ever throw the Reds first pitch of the season once. Here’s hoping he can throw the season’s last pitch sometime in late October.
Top 5 Stats that Probably Should’ve Precluded Homer Bailey Being the Opening Day Starter:
- 6.43 2017 ERA
- 7.50 2018 Spring ERA
- 1.60 2017 K/BB
- 151.1 IP since 2014
- 5.08 2018 ZiPS Expected FIP
10 Best Names for a Reds Opening Day Starter Devoid of Context:
- Bumpus Jones (He won 10-1 against the Cubs!!!)
- Peaches Davis
- Noodles Hahn
- Orval Overall
- Dolf Luque
- Eppa Rixey
- Pink Hawley
- Art Fromme
- Homer Bailey
- Woodie Fryman
Most Improbable Two-Time Opening Day Starter: Dolf Luque
Maybe it was just a different time or maybe Dolf Luque was indestructible, but in 1921, he made his first Reds’ Opening Day start at the age of 30. Seven year later (!!!), Luque made his second Reds’ Opening Day start following a run of five straight Opening Day appearances by Pete Donohue. In between his Opening Day outings, Luque led the league in losses (23 – 1922), wins (27 – 1923), ERA (1.93 – 1923, 2.63 – 1925), and garnered MPV votes for his 1925 campaign.
For context, Homer Bailey is currently 31 years old. Imagine him doing his best peak-Justin Verlander impression for the next four years, only to be named the Opening Day starter again not after any of those campaigns, but when he is about to turn 38! The 1920s were something else.
Most “You’ll Never Guess Who Has the Second Most Opening Day Starts But…” Award: Aaron Harang
When thinking of the best Reds’ starting pitchers of all time, a recency bias emerges. Mario Soto, Gary Nolan, Jose Rijo come to mind. Maybe Jack Billingham, Tom Browning, and Tom Seaver too. But if we’re really getting into it, Eppa Rixey, Bucky Walters, and Jim Maloney probably have the best stats of any Reds pitcher. Sadly, only one of those nine pitchers is in the top three for Opening Days started: Mario Soto with six.
Want to know who two and three are? That’s right: Aaron Harang and Pete Donohue, each with five Opening Day starts. As already mentioned, Donohue pitched in the 20s, inexplicably beating out Dolf Luque for the honor year after year.
But Aaron Harang? He’s one of ours. He’s the bearded, sleepy-eyed gentleman who probably had more impact doing charitable work in the Cincinnati community than he did from the bump. But from 2006 to 2010, at the start of every new season, he was there. Standing tall and destined to lose (1-4 in Opening Day starts), but a proud Red all the same.
Most Likely Future Opening Day Starters*:
- 2019: Luis Castillo
- 2020: Luis Castillo
- 2021: Amir Garrett (somehow, someway, this happens)
- 2022: Robbie Ray (and the veteran presence award goes to…)
- 2023: Bronson Arroyo (he’s the baseball version of Keith Richards or the second coming of Jose Rijo)
- 2024-2030: Hunter Greene (please)
*I know nothing, don’t listen to me