Homer Bailey is no longer a Cincinnati Red. Thanks to a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who not only acquired Bailey but then released him in a bizarre turn of fiscal events, the veteran Reds right-handed starting pitcher will no longer be with Cincinnati.
On the heels of the trade came a discussion on social media about Homer Bailey: should he be in the Reds Hall of Fame? That’s a worthwhile question and needs a healthy discussion.
First, a disclaimer. Homer’s lucrative and ridiculous contract with the Reds isn’t a factor. Who among us would refuse it? That’s simply the way it is in baseball these days. That isn’t Bailey’s fault. It’s just a reflection of the out of whack salary structure in baseball in 2018, especially for starting pitchers.
So let’s get to the bare basics. Does Homer Bailey’s career with the Cincinnati Reds merit an induction into their Hall of Fame?
A first round draft pick of the Reds in 2004, expectations for Bailey were high. He had it all for a pitcher: size, velocity, power, everything. He soared upwards through the Reds farm system. I remember when the Reds called him up in the 2007 season and he made his major league debut against the Cleveland Indians at Great American Ballpark on June 8. He won that night, albeit a short outing, pitching 5 innings, and allowing 5 hits and 2 runs. He was the youngest pitcher in the National League.
Bailey reflected on that night years later and recalled seeing a Reds billboard on the interstate emblazoned with his face on the trip to Cincinnati. “I’m screwed,” is what he thought about that. Reds fans thought he was a savior. Far from it. After his initial win, Homer finished with a 4-2 record with an ERA of 5.67. It was even worse in 2008. After being called up from Triple A, Bailey was 0-6 with the Reds and a 7.93 ERA.
But in 2012, it kicked in. He became dominant, especially later in the season. He threw a no-hitter in Pittsburgh, walking just one hitter in a 1-0 Reds win. He didn’t have a spectacular record (13-10) but he pitched over 200 innings. He became the Homer Bailey most Reds fans expected. In 2013, he had his best ERA of 3.49 and a career-high 199 strikeouts.
On July 2, 2013, Homer threw a second no-hitter and the 16th in Reds history against the Giants in a 3-0 win and in 2014, the Reds signed Bailey to a 6-year, $105 million deal. After that, Bailey was hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness that bottomed out last year when he was 1-14.
His career stats with the Reds from 2007-2018? 67-77 with a 4.56 earned run average,1001 strikeouts and a WAR of 4.0 (of 14.2 WAR if you use the Fangraphs version – showing just how strange the different versions of WAR can evaluate a player).
So should Homer Bailey Bailey be in the Reds Hall of Fame?
On the plus side:
Homer is one of only three Reds hurlers (Jim Maloney and Johnny VanderMeer are the others) to throw at least two no-hitters. He was two walks and an error away from a pair of perfect games. For a short period of time (2012-2013), Bailey helped anchor the Reds pitching staff and on a given night, was one of the better pitchers in the National League. He was a part of the 2012 Starting Five that is rightly regarded as among the best rotations in Reds history.
Homer pitched 11 seasons for the Cincinnati Reds. That’s more than 24 pitchers currently in the Reds Hall of Fame. His win total of 66 is low, he was under the .500 mark. But he also pitched for some bad teams in Cincinnati.
In Game 3 of the 2012 playoffs against the Giants, Bailey pitched one of the best post-season games ever for the Cincinnati Reds, going 7 innings, allowing just one hit and one run while striking out 10. His performance ranks (at least to me) as one of the five best in Reds post season history– along with Jose Rijo (Game 4 of the 1990 World Series), Ross Grimsley (Game 4 of the NL Playoffs, 1972), Jack Billingham (Game 3, 1972 World Series) and Bucky Walters (Game 6, 1940 World Series).
On the negative side:
Homer Bailey was plagued by injuries and inconsistency throughout his career, missing parts of five of his 11 seasons with the Reds. Several Reds pitchers in the HOF– such as Jack Billingham, Fred Norman, Jim Maloney, Mario Soto and Tom Browning– were much more durable.
The only survivor of the 2012 Starting Five, the Reds hoped Bailey would become the defacto leader of the pitching staff based on his experience and salary. That never happened. Worse, he refused to be moved to the bullpen last season when he was struggling (injured?) and in the depths of a 1-14 season. He never made the All-Star team, never won 20-games.
Bailey was aloof with both the media and fans. That’s certainly his right and other Reds in the past have shared that trait. But blowing off Redsfest isn’t very fan-friendly. He never connected with the fans except for an occasional Reds Caravan tour.
I don’t think Homer Bailey is a Hall of Famer for the Cincinnati Reds. Isolated occasions of brilliance doesn’t in itself guarantee a spot in the Reds Hall of Fame. Such are Homer Bailey’s no-hitters and Scooter Gennett’s four-home run game.
I always liked Homer Bailey. The only Reds post season game I watched in person was Bailey’s masterpiece against the Giants. It was a game the Reds should have won. Homer was in a groove then. I would have picked him over Billingham, Norman, Joey Jay or Gary Nolan to start that game. Man, he was a machine that day.
But a Hall of Fame spot is different. Homer Bailey, for a two-year period, was a pretty good pitcher. He wasn’t a Jim Maloney or a Mario Soto.