Reds Thoughts – A Successful Collapse
My thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds playoff collapse and the future of the team and my fandom.
The new playoff format sucks. The team with the better record starts on the road and then gets to go home for three straight. It’s stupid, but it didn’t seem to bother the Cincinnati Reds. They took the first two games in San Francisco and then headed home only needing to win one of three. What could go wrong? The Giants offense wasn’t producing, no NL team had ever come back down 0-2, and the Reds hadn’t lost three straight at home all season. Sure the Reds didn’t have Johnny Cueto, who suffered an injury in the first inning of game, but they still had Homer Bailey, who had been lights out in September, and Mat Latos for a possible Game 5. It wasn’t an ideal pitching situation, but when you only need to win one of three at home, it was more than reasonable to expect the team to get the job done.
The Cincinnati Reds collapsed.
Bailey was lights out in his one start, only giving up a run, but the offense failed to help him out and an error in the 10th inning, by the usually sure handed Scott Rolen, led to a win by Giants. Mike Leake started in Game 4 and had a Mike Leake kind of game, giving up a lead off home run and not doing much better from there. The offense left a number of runners on base, but Leake never gave the team a chance with his constant pitching mistakes. So it came down to Game 5. Latos vs. Matt Cain. No problem, right? The Reds have always gotten the better of Cain, including in Game 1, and Latos was brought in for big games like this. Things were going along smoothly until the fifth inning, when everything fell apart. Latos gave up a couple of runs, Zack Cozart made an error, and Buster Posey hit a grand slam to give the Giants a 6-0 lead. The Reds clawed their way back into things and had their chances, but the Giants bullpen shut them down in the late innings and completed the three game sweep.
A great season down the drain in three games.
I’d like to be positive about this team and the season in general. After all, only one team wins their last game of the year. But to be up two and only need to win one of three at home for a chance to advance, and then not even advance to give your team a chance at winning that last game; that’s a tough pill to swallow.
This team isn’t far from glory though. The bullpen is arguably the best in baseball and should get even stronger next year with the return of Ryan Madson. The rotation is strong, especially if Bailey has finally got “it” and carries the end of this season into next season. And the line up is solid and should be better next year when Joey Votto is 100%, something he clearly wasn’t following his knee injury after the All-Star break.
If they need anything in the off-season, it’s a left handed and hitter, preferably of the lead off type. Finding a left handed pitcher is easier said than done and it won’t be shocking if the Reds can’t come up with one in free agency. Free agent to be Michael Bourne would be a HUGE addition to the roster and really solidify the line up. He bats left and is arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball. He would easily slide into the center field position that is reportedly occupied by Drew Stubbs. Even if the Reds don’t go after Bourne, who will likely have his fair share of suitors, Billy Hamilton is still in the minors and could be on the opening day roster if he impresses in spring training. Hamilton just recently moved to the outfield and is a switch hitter. He’d be the perfect leadoff guy as, if he gets on base, chances are he’ll be at second before there is one out. Whether it’s Bourne, Hamilton, or someone else, the Reds have to find a leadoff that can get on base and then be a threat to steal.
The biggest thing the Reds can do though is let go of Dusty Baker. His contract is officially up now that the season is over and I don’t see why the Reds would retain him. I’ve never been a fan of Baker. He’ a good regular season guy but he’s not a guy who is going to win a championship. Every time he’s come close, he’s failed. He’s best known for making bad decisions in big situations, allowing his infant son in the dugout, and feuding with Tony LaRussa. He seems like a nice guy and I hope his health improves, but I don’t want him leading my baseball team.
My first season as a Reds fan had it’s ups and downs, the biggest down coming this past Thursday. But as far as my fandom is concerned, this season was a success. I never expected to get as attached as I did. I know that winning a championship every year isn’t a reasonable expectation. As a fan of any team, you have to ride the highs and get over the lows. The Reds hooked me in, and honestly, that’s all I wanted from them this year. Winning a playoff series would’ve been nice, but there will be more playoff series, more highs, more lows, more players to cheer for, more players to boo, and more columns to write.