So how bad is it?

It snowed on April 9. In the first week of the 2018 season, the Reds lost as many starting players (2) as they had wins. Manager Bryan Price was still making some head-scratching decisions. Some were saying the season is over after just 8 games.

It hasn’t gotten better, as the Reds have started off with a 2-11 record. That’s pretty bad and just plain disgusting to a fan base basically sick of rebuilding. Believe me, I’d rather do an article comparing great starts, when Cincinnati bolted out of the gate on fire and in first place. That’s certainly not the case in 2018. Far from it.

Even in historically awful seasons, the Reds sometimes avoided bad starts. In 2016, they won five of their first six games. But after Colorado destroyed the Reds by the score of 17-4 by battering four Reds pitchers for 7 home runs and 19 hits, Cincinnati was 17-35 en route to losing 94 games. (Those four Reds hurlers, for the record, were Jon Moscot, Daniel Wright, Dayan Diaz and AJ Morris. Seriously.)

In 1982, when they lost 102 games, the Reds managed to reach a record of 30-38 before the wheels came off. Two years later under Vern Rapp, the Reds stumbled out of the gate with a 5-12 record but then won 13 of their next 16 games. But then the Reds sank in July and August with Rapp fired and Pete Rose the new manager.

So let’s use the following criteria for this article: a slow start, injuries and a Reds manager on the hot seat. Two seasons come to mind.

Two disasters were imminent when the 1966 season started. The first were the dividends of the Frank Robinson trade executed after the 1965 season. All Robby did that year in Baltimore was to win the Triple Crown be named Most Valuable Player in the American League and lead the Orioles to a 1966 World Series title. In return for Robinson, GM Bill DeWitt got the trio of pitcher Milt Pappas, outfielder Dick Simpson and relief pitcher Jack Baldschun.

Second was Don Heffner, the new Reds manager, who replaced Dick Sisler. Nicknamed “Shakey” by Reds players, it became quickly apparent there wasn’t a lot of respect for Heffner in the clubhouse.

Cincinnati didn’t open play at Crosley Field until April 14 because of the wet weather. The entire opening series was postponed and the Reds opened on the road. Between the Robinson trade and a 4-13 start, Reds fans were upset and attendance suffered. When the Reds played their first game at Crosley on April 8, there were just 10,266 fans in the seats.

Still, Cincinnati fought back and climbed over the .500 mark at 36-35. The team had some talent– players like Pete Rose, Vada Pinson, Tommy Helms (who would be NL Rookie of the Year), Leo Cardenas, and Johnny Edwards.

Then fate, as they say, moved it’s huge hand.

A disastrous road trip to Houston and California resulted in an 11 game losing streak. How bad did it get? Jim Maloney lost a 2-1 game to the Astros and Mike Cueller. Jim O’Toole suffered the same fate in a 2-1 loss to LA and Don Sutton. Maloney lost another 1-0 game, this time to Sandy Koufax. The Reds were shut out despite getting 10 hits off Koufax. Pappas lost a 1-0 game to Dodger lefty Claude Osteen. Sammy Ellis was staked to a 5-0 lead and lost. And in the 11th consecutive loss, the Reds led the Giants 6-3 in the 7th inning. Willie McCovey homered in the 9th to tie the game with two outs off Billy McCool and San Francisco eventually won 8-7 in 13 innings. McCovey drove home 6 runs.

The season (and the road trip from hell) took a toll on Don Heffner. He was becoming exhausted and frazzled. After one tough loss, he said to Cincinnati Post sportswriter Earl Lawson, “It’s times like these when you feel like slitting your wrists.” Lawson was taken aback and actually became worried Heffner might commit suicide.

One day after the streak was stopped, Heffner was fired, but the season was lost. Pappas finished the year with a 12-11 record, pitching 209 innings and posting an ERA of 4.29. Baldschun was a mop up guy in the bullpen, his best days being with the Phillies years before. Simpson batted .236 with 4 homers and 14 RBI’s in a reserve role. And the Reds were next to last in attendance in the National League for the 1966 season.

When this season began, Bob Boone was the manager. To say he was revered by Reds fans would be quite an overstatement

Like Heffner, Boone didn’t have much pitching at all. But at least Heffner had Maloney (an ace) Pappas (who chewed up innings) and Sammy Ellis, who was a 20-game winner in 1965. Boone had no one like those guys. Not a single Reds pitcher won in double figures that season; Chris Reitsma was their leading winner with a 9-5 record, mostly out of the bullpen.

Opening Day starter Jimmie Haynes was rocked for six runs in the 2nd inning by the Pirates in a rough 10-1 loss. I remember when Boone named Haynes as Opening Day starter. It was stunning. Things didn’t get better for Haynes, who finished with a 2-12 record.

Cincinnati struggled to a 5-12 record to begin the campaign and looked lethargic doing it. The Reds did rally a bit. They climbed over the .500 mark (34-32) and lingered at that level until an 8-game losing streak in July finished them off for good. Impatient Reds fans started a ‘Fire Bob Boone’ website and were relieved after the Reds let Boone go and replaced him with Dave Miley on July 27.

Boone’s lineup construction was mystifying (he batted Adam Dunn leadoff a few times) and he never connected with the Reds fan base. Injuries also doomed that team. Barry Larkin played just 70 games. Ken Griffey Junior was only in 53. The Reds had some punch with Sean Casey, Dunn and Austin Kearns but with Paul Wilson and Danny Graves as their best pitchers, they were going nowhere.

Miley didn’t fare any better after replacing Boone. Neither did Jerry Narron or Pete Mackanin. The Reds were a non-factor in the first decade of the new century in their new ballpark, thanks to a combination of poor scouting, horrible draft picks, injuries and managers who neither inspired or led the team.

The only hope that I have for the 2018 Reds are what they do after the All-Star break. Nick Senzel will be in Cincinnati. Joey Votto will be Joey Votto. Eugenio Suarez will be back. The geniuses in the front office will have either traded Raisel Iglesias or Scooter Gennett (or both) for something substantial and we’ll know if Jose Peraza can handle shortstop.

And Bryan Price? Sorry, we need to move on. It’s not personal. I just don’t see a spark on this team. I see no energy on the bench. I see no accountability.

9 Responses

  1. GreatRedLegsFan

    Excellent article, could not agree any more. In Price’s relief, I’d say FO overestimated the pitching staff progress from one season to another. Even after DeSclafani’s injury, they didn’t make any move for a FA starting pitcher to stick between Bailey/Castillo and the two best out of the bunch (Romano, Mahle, Garrett, Stephenson, Reed and/or Finnegan). As a consequence, they have again a starting rotation with more question marks than answers and a heavy workloaded bullpen, coupled with an underperforming offense after Schebler and Suarez injuries. Certainly replacing Price won’t make much difference now, but it won’t hurt either.

  2. Timmy RedLeg

    I understand the 2 injuries to Schebler & Suarez hurt. But if this team was going to get anywhere this season we knew they would have to overcome an injury or 2. To me, it just speaks to the gross lack of depth in this org. I mean, 2 position players go down, & look at the lineup now. No team is gonna fear this lineup. IMO. I guess my point is that, even with a good start we would have seen this teams true colors at some point this season. Maybe this team was not expected to make a playoff run in 2018, but I think we all expected a hell of a lot better than this, and perhaps we shouldn’t have.???

  3. Redlegs64

    Those were some snappy uniforms!

  4. Mike Adams

    My biggest complaint with Price is the last sentence you wrote, Mr Ring.
    It hasn’t been a problem just this season. The lack of accountability has been throughout Price’s tenure, and goes up to include the front office.
    You see this all the time in sports teams, families, workplaces, government and so on.
    People talk about accountability but it is just words, a cliche.
    Holding people or organizations accountable is not easy but rather a difficult thing to do. Good managers (in baseball or outside of it) are successful at it.

  5. Matt Esberger

    The Reds came into 1986 with high expectations after the success of Pete’s first full year as manager and were somethi ng like 6-20 to begin the season. They did end up finishing in 2nd place with 86 wins

  6. Jeff Reed

    As stated above, the front office made no effort in the offseason to get a free agent pitcher to stabilize the Reds starting staff which I was in favor of. The discussion over the offseason was the Reds should not go for a FA pitcher but wait till next year when they would compete and fans should not worry too much about 2018 since it would be the end of the rebuild. So Suarez gets hurt and Blandino is brought up to replace him and a veteran, instead, takes Suarez place. So here we are with the worst start in 63 years and confusion still reigns regarding the rebuild. Yes, the Reds do need managerial change, but the same can be said for the front office.

  7. CDdiehard

    It’s not just Price
    This is what happens when you poor mouth for 5 years
    Terrible mismanagement by the baseball side of operations
    All of the management team should go from Jocketty on down!!!

  8. John

    Thank you for a great, to the point article and comments about what is really going on with the Reds. It isn’t about injured players or poor hitting, poor pitching. Reds’ fans, it is they culture of mediocrity that ownership has sold to the fans — and we eat it up. Why? Because it has been almost 30 years since the Reds won a WS… Fans age 35 and youger hear about the big Red Machine, about Wire-to-Wire, but don’t know a winning tradition on the field on a consistent basis. What is a successful season in Reds’ Country? It is a .500 season. We would be dancing in the streets to will 81 games… So sad… No talk of playoffs… Post season appearance?? What?? Are you kidding me?!?! Does Reds’ Country dare to think that way??? The Reds have a manager that is such a nice person… Such a great son-in-law, I am guessing… But he is a horrible manager in this Reds fan’s opinion. When Price gets fired, many of us will feel a spark of enthusiasm — we will feel hole…. Be cautious my friends as Price is merely a cog in the wheel of a culture of mediocrity. The next manager will be selected under the same perameters as Price was. Don’t be fooled. Until there is ownership willing to spend the money, there will be a ceiling of mediocrity… Congratulations to for Reds’ players who are on winning teams…who are on teams with winning traditions due to ownership that create and maintain a culture of winning.