They finally did it. They said it couldn’t be done. Well, look at them now. 100 losses, baby!
That’s 100 times the Cincinnati Reds were outscored. 100 times they were let down by the pitching, hitting, defense, or even a combination of all three. 100 times they bewildered the city of Cincinnati. Mercifully, the season is over.
It’s the first time since 1982 that the Reds lost 100 games. It’s just the second time they’ve reached that mark as a franchise. That’s actually pretty remarkable considering their long history as baseball’s first professional team.
It’s happened to the New York Yankees twice, although this was before 1913 and they were known as the Highlanders at the time (Ricky Bobby would have loved the Highlanders). It’s happened to the Boston Red Sox seven times (once in 1906 when they were the Boston Americans). In fact, of all 30 current MLB teams, only the Los Angeles Angels have never finished with 100 or more losses in a single season - go figure.
Now, the question is, where do the Reds go from here?
This isn’t what we expected. After the end of the 2021 season, there was actually a lot of optimism about this team. Sure, outfielder Nick Castellanos was still unsigned. Yeah, some of their first offseason moves were to let relievers Mychal Givens and Michael Lorenzen leave as free agents, to trade catcher Tucker Barnhart to the Detroit Tigers, and to waive starter Wade Miley. Okay, so the next big move they made was to unload starting pitcher Sonny Gray on the Minnesota Twins, and then they traded third baseman Eugenio Suarez and outfielder Jesse Winker to the Seattle Mariners, and then they traded reliever Amir Garrett to the Kansas City Royals…wait, was I imagining that pre-season optimism?
No, sadly I wasn’t. Before all those trades were made, the Reds had the makings of a spunky 85-ish win team. They weren’t outstanding anywhere, but they could hit a little and pitch a little. They had savvy veterans to go with up-and-coming prospects. And the relievers couldn’t be worse than they were in 2021, right?
Wrong. So wrong. All wrong.
The 2022 Reds were one of the ten worst teams in the league in both runs scored and runs allowed. They started the season with three wins in their first 25 games. No team was intentionally walked fewer times. Allow me to translate: the hitters on this team were so un-scary that the opposing team felt compelled to avoid pitching to one of the Reds just six times all season. Six! I swear, wasn’t Barry Bonds was intentionally walked six times in a double-header or something?
So, is there any room for optimism moving forward? Yes and no.
On the positive side, this Reds team is very young. Some of their best players are some of their youngest. Of the hordes of prospects the Reds recouped in their offseason and mid-season trades, some have already acquitted themselves nicely. If the Reds are going to avoid consecutive 100-loss seasons, the rebuild starts here.
Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Alexis Diaz, Tyler Stephenson, Jonathan India, Jose Barrero, Spencer Steer, Mike Siani - these guys are the Reds future, and all are 25-years-old or younger and all saw playing time in 2022. Whether or not they all reach their potential is another story, but that’s a solid foundation, and there’s reason to believe that more reinforcements are on the way.
20-year-old phenom Elly De La Cruz was last seen raking in AA Chattanooga to the tune of a .305 batting average and eight home runs in 47 games. Fellow highly-touted shortstop Matt McLain blasted 17 HRs in AA as well. 21-year-old outfielder Reece Hinds got the call up to Chattanooga for six games and he rewarded their confidence in him by batting .310 with a pair of home runs.
And that’s not all. 24-year-old left-hander Brandon Williamson, who was acquired in the Winker/Suarez trade, looked pretty good while splitting time between AA and AAA. Shortstop Noelvi Marte, the centerpiece of the Luis Castillo trade, has also flashed his superstar talent in the minors. With other prospects like Jay Allen, Allan Cerda, Chase Petty, Edwin Arroyo, Andrew Abbott, Connor Phillips and 2022 top pick Cam Collier in the farm system, you could argue this is the best collection of young talent in franchise history.
On the other hand, does this team deserve any faith whatsoever? How many rebuilds have we been through? How many prospects have we seen come-and-go? How many times do we have to do this song-and-dance? When will we finally see a winner in Cincinnati?
After all, that’s what Bob Castellini promised when he purchased the team from the Lindner family so many years ago. So far, sixteen years in, we haven’t gotten one. In fact, this team hasn’t even advanced in the playoffs one time since Bob’s been at the helm. You can forgive Reds fans for being a little feisty about the direction of the franchise, especially after the most recent offseason debacle.
And really, that’s kind of where we’re at right now. There are a few reasons to hope, but the pessimists among us are waiting for the next shoe to drop - for the next homegrown, fan-favorite to be sent packing in exchange for more prospects who turn into the next homegrown, fan-favorite who is eventually traded for prospects…
I have to stop myself, or I risk punching a hole in my wall, and I can’t have that if I want my security deposit back. Hey Bob, can you cover me, perchance?
At the end of the day, Phil Castellini was right when he queried, “Where else are you going to go?” during that fateful Opening Day interview. I’m not going anywhere. But just remember that I expect, we expect, the city of Cincinnati expects, a winner. Attendance is lower than at any time since the ‘80s. That can’t feel good for the Castellinis. Come on, Bob, give us a winner already!