The rain came down in buckets as we made the drive to Cincinnati on Sunday morning, but I still held out hope that we’d be able to see the Reds play one final time before we flew home. After witnessing Thursday’s slaughter and Friday’s anemic offensive showing (we took a side trip on Saturday), I also hoped that the Reds might send us off with a win.
A few minutes before we arrived at Great American Ball Park – and just after we navigated a detour around the I-71 North, the left lane of which was closed due to flooding – the Reds’ Twitter feed finally announced that the game would not start on time, but the team was still “optimistic” that the game would indeed be played.
So, we waited – and waited, and waited. Eventually, the skies started to clear, and the Reds announced that the game would begin at 3:45 p.m., more than two and a half hours late. Still, considering that we’d flown 2000 miles for the express purpose of watching baseball, I was relieved that we’d avoided a rain-out.
Soon after the game started, though, the skies opened again, sending us scurrying for cover. As the Reds proceeded to drop their eighth game in a row to bring their record to 2-13, I couldn’t help but interpret the weather as a metaphor for the rebuild. After suffering through three dreadful seasons of more than 90 losses, we entered this season with varying degrees of optimism that better days and bluer skies were finally within reach. Granted, I was more cynical than other writers here, as I predicted that the Reds would win just 71 games this year, but still, even I thought that they’d turn a corner. Then reality struck with a vengeance, and we were reminded that the storm clouds had not yet passed.
I write these words just hours removed from the Reds’ 10-4 victory over Milwaukee on Monday night, which will hopefully begin the turnaround we’ve all been hoping for. That said, I don’t mean to dwell on ancient history, but after witnessing three losses in person over the past few days, I hope you’ll indulge me as I get a few things off my chest.
1. Bryan Price should be fired immediately.
Others here have written about this topic more eloquently than I just did, but between his indefensible bullpen management, his ridiculous decisions to give away outs via bunts and his inexplicable favoring of veterans, I believe that Price will do more harm than good every day he remains in the Reds’ dugout. To be clear, I don’t blame Price for the dreadful hands he’s been dealt over the past four seasons, but considering the shape the Reds are in, I think it’s important to try to make the best of those cards instead of continuing to play Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin, who I saw go a combined 0 for 9 with three errors.
2. The Reds need to figure out what to do with Cody Reed.
At some point after Brandon Finnegan’s rehab start on April 9, the team decided that he would start Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, Reed remained on the big league roster, yet since his start against Philadelphia last week, he has only pitched twice – one perfect inning of mop-up duty during Thursday’s 13-4 loss, and a one-batter appearance against the Brewers on Monday. If he’s going to remain in the Reds’ bullpen, he needs work. If not, send him back to Louisville so he can continue trying to develop as a starter.
3. Phillip Ervin should be demoted.
I realize that tinkering with the 40-man roster is a bit like playing Tetris, but between Ervin’s poor defense (another example of which was evident against the Brewers on Monday) and his pop-less bat, I refuse to believe that he’s currently the fifth-best outfielder in the Reds’ system. Sebastian Elizalde and Mason Williams were given long looks in spring training this year, and they’ve both hit well for Louisville so far this season. Perhaps recent acquisition Steve Selsky (who appeared in two dozen games for the Reds in 2016) is also worth considering. Hopefully getting consistent playing time in Louisville will help Ervin better hone his skills.
4. Amir Garrett should not be a reliever.
Right now, the Reds need all the help they can get, so it’s maddening to see the team once again relegate a lights-out pitcher to the bullpen. Garrett’s performance in spring training this year and his showings during his painfully brief appearances over the season’s first 16 games make the decision even more baffling. Considering that this year is already a lost cause, what would be the harm of experimenting with a six-man rotation? Having an extra day of rest would keep young pitchers like Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano and Luis Castillo well under any potential innings-limit ceilings, while also giving the bionic arms of Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan extra days of rest (and, over the course of the season, less wear and tear).
5. The Reds need Joey Votto to be Joey Votto again.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that on Votto’s scheduled day off, the Reds got crushed by a score of 13-4. Granted, Votto isn’t Superman, as even when he’s performing at MVP levels, the Reds’ pitching staff still needs to hold up its end of the bargain. Still, all our debates over lineup construction to maximize the number of baserunners when Votto comes to the plate are for naught if he doesn’t hit when the time comes.
6. If a Reds player gets hurt, he should go on the DL.
This seems obvious, yet in practice, it seems as if the Reds are constantly playing short-handed. We’ve seen it in years past, and we’ve already seen it this year with both Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker. I understand the reluctance to commit to at least 10 days without Schebler (who is coming off a 30-homer season and absolutely mashed during spring training) and Winker (one of the few Reds with the discipline to get on base at an above-average level), but when you take the field with a roster featuring fewer than than 25 healthy players, it’s a bit like taking a knife to a gun fight.
7. Homer Bailey is back.
I’ll end on a positive note and say that it was a joy to watch Bailey pitch so well on Sunday. It’s a shame he hasn’t gotten more run support during his first four starts this year, but hopefully he’ll continue delivering the goods once the Reds’ bats finally come to life.
Despite traveling 2000 miles east to see three losses, we still enjoyed our trip to Cincinnati. While taking a tour of Great American Ball Park and sitting in the Reds’ dugout prior to Friday’s game, I realized there was no place on the planet that I’d rather be – a feeling I won’t soon forget. Also, loving a lousy team has its benefits, as low turnouts made it easy to end up with great seats.
Although the final scores were disappointing, the games themselves were also enjoyable – even Thursday’s drubbing, as the wheels didn’t fall off until the 7th inning. And after watching him shine in Arizona last month, it was fun to be in attendance when Alex Blandino scored his first major-league hit. Granted, I cursed like a sailor as he failed to execute two bunts before striking out in the ninth inning of Sunday’s loss, but hopefully he’ll do better next time, assuming he’s given the chance.
After enduring several stormy years of rebuilding, it’s only natural to hope that the fairer weather we’ve been promised is indeed around the corner. As the three games I saw and the first few weeks of the 2018 season have proven, though, it’s best not to put away our umbrellas just yet. Here’s hoping that riding out the storm will make it that much more rewarding when the clouds finally part for good.