by Pat McEntee
The 2012 season for the Cincinnati Reds has been merely an extension of 2011. For a time, I bought into Dusty Baker’s philosophy of staying close and waiting for the run to happen, and “It’s early.” Well, as the Reds hovered around .500 through the All-Star Break, it occurred to me that it wasn’t early anymore and the run wasn’t coming. Well, actually it was, but it wasn’t the Reds who did it. It was the Brewers and the Cardinals. They finally got hot and buried the Reds who never did make any kind of run all year.
Looking back on the season, it seems to me that Dusty’s philosophy is fatally flawed. In trying to keep his players loose, he actually enabled them to settle for mediocrity. And mediocre is exactly what they were. All season long.
Fast forward to 2012, and I am seeing the same problems. No one on this team seems to have made marked improvements from 2011 with the exception of Aroldis Chapman. (And he brings to mind an entirely different problem with the mismanagement by the Reds organization.) Drew Stubbs still looks like he belongs back in tee ball, because he is so overmatched by major league pitching. The bench is atrocious. I would feel more confident if the Reds had Micah Owings back pinch hitting.
Last night I watched as the Reds got runners on first and second with their 4-5-6 hitters coming up and nobody out. Three straight strikeouts from Rolen, Bruce and Ludwick. If something like that happened once, you could explain it away, but the Reds have scored a combined 10 runs in the seven losses so far. They are averaging 2.9 runs per game overall. The first suspect to me is the hitting coach. Why is his job not in question at this point? As of right now, the two highest batting averages are Zack Cozart and Joey Votto. Both have at least respectable batting averages. The next three highest batting averages belong to starting pitchers! Seven players who have played in at least seven games are hitting at or blow .200. Again, I know the law of averages will balance things out in the long run, but will it come in bunches in a few games, while the norm will be these games where the reds score 0-3 runs?
There seems to be no sense of urgency. Similar to last year, the mantra seems to be, “It’s early.” “We know we’re going to hit.” It’s fine for me, as a fan, to count on the law of averages and that these guys will eventually hit to the back of their baseball card. However, my worry is that we will look at the end result as being everyone having solid numbers, but the Reds disappointing in the win-loss column. Last year, the Reds had one of the most prolific offenses in the league. They ended up with a losing record and out of the playoffs because they weren’t getting timely hitting. It was all or nothing with the team. I fully expect the Reds to have a game where they score a dozen runs or so, but the trend shows, it’s going to come with a ton of one and two run games. There is no consistency.
One bright spot has been the pitching. In spurts, this team has looked very good. However, there have already been four extra inning games for a total of eight extra innings. That will tax this bullpen to a breaking point sooner rather than later. Also, the morale of the pitching staff will go down in their best efforts continue to be wasted.
The fan base is already teetering. People were excited that the Reds finally coughed up the money to keep the stars here. In order to sustain that, the Reds have to be winners, and getting to the playoffs is not enough if they are going to fall on their faces like they did in 2010. If they don’t win, people won’t come and the Reds will be a terrible product with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and a bunch of rookies in a few years.