“My stars shine darkly over me. The malignancy of my fate might perhaps distemper yours. Therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone.”  — Twelfth Night

The evils were on full display, if you were so inclined to see it that way. A dark and malignant cloud hung over not just the visiting dugout in Atlanta Wednesday, but everywhere. You know it as the Curse of Cincinnati Sports.

Wallow in it if you must. Lament the woeful Cincinnati Bengals even as their fate is solely the result of bad ownership in a league that hands out parity like penny candy. Wail aloud Brian Kelly’s traitorous villainy, as if UC is anything other than a stepping stone for carpetbagging college coaches.

Kenyon Martin. Stanley Wilson. Vontaze Burfict. Carson Palmer’s knee. Mat Latos. If you didn’t know better, you’d think there’s a granite Wall of Sorrow on the Banks etched with names forever immortalized in Cincinnati infamy.

We shouldn’t be myopic. Or provincial. Every city has its sport-sob story. Boston and Chicago once upon a time. Football in Detroit. Talk to me about Buffalo and the Super Bowl. If you want something more immediate, the Minnesota Twins have just lost 18 straight playoff games.

Yeah, the Reds lost a tough one on Tuesday. Even the Braves can understand. They secured their first Game 1 win in nearly 20 years. They currently own the dubious record of 10 consecutive playoff rounds lost harkening back to 2001.

Sports are not fair. The greatest team in Cincinnati history succumbed to the Orioles in 1970, suffering, among other ignominies, Bernie Carbo being called out at home in Game 1 when catcher Elrod Hendricks tagged him with his catcher’s mitt, while the ball was in his other hand.

Two years later, the favored Big Red Machine would suffer further ignominies. First, there was Johnny Bench getting hoodwinked on an intentional walk turned strikeout orchestrated by a manager with the name Dick Williams, the series culminating in A’s owner Charlie Finley dancing on the Riverfront dugout roof at the end of Game 7.

In 1973, a barely .500 Mets team would sneak into the playoffs and sneak away with the Reds’ rematch with the A’s.

By the time 1975 came along, Cincinnati’s greatest team was in danger of giving birth to the Curse of Cincinnati. Remember: in the 1970s, the path to the World Series was not the gauntlet it is now, wildcard, division series, followed by league championship series. You had to win a mere 3 games to advance to the World Series. Until that fateful night in Fenway, the Reds had mastered the best of 5-game series, but little else.

The lesson? Baseball is hard.

Our small town won three baseball championships in 16 seasons. Despite their dysfunction, the Bengals made two appearances in the Super Bowl in the 1980s.

Yes, it’s been a long drought since. Yes, the young among us don’t care about a history they didn’t taste, didn’t feel deep in their souls, down to the soles of their feet.

Whatever happens in Atlanta, don’t buy into the negativity. Enjoy this season for what it is: a nice diversion from the horror of the Year 2020. Don’t dissect every plate appearance, every pitching change, every umpire interpretation of the strike zone and attribute it to the “Curse of Cincinnati Sports.”

These games were never supposed to happen. In fact, this season is not a real season. It’s a 60-game exhibition designed to get baseball’s owners to the postseason where the TV money is. I remain surprised the pandemic didn’t shut the entire enterprise down. In truth, this funhouse season was likely on the brink of being canceled when the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals suffered COVID outbreaks. Had one more team joined them, MLB would likely have scuttled this entire enterprise.

Yet somehow, beyond all logic, the games survived.

I’ll remember this experiment for Trevor Bauer’s strut, Joey Votto punching back at Father Time, and the surprising Tejay Antone.

What I won’t do is draw any sweeping conclusions from this pretend baseball season. I won’t proclaim the Akiyama signing a success or failure. I won’t pass judgment on Wade Miley or give up on Bob Castellini opening his wallet for another year of Trevor Bauer. Starter or future closer, Michael Lorenzen remains an enigma. That’s okay for now.

I certainly won’t second-guess pitching to Freddie Freeman when the guy on-deck had an MVP-like slash line of .338/.431/.636, even if the voice of the people assumes issuing a the intentional walk was a ticket to an inning-ending double play.

I’m watching baseball in October. That’s enough for me during this misanthropic year.

33 Responses

  1. Magnum 44

    Richard I like your articles but check with your doctor about meds….and if they are right I would would like your Doctors number #2020 get the the offense

  2. Jimbo44 CN

    You brought back some memories for me. I remember Bernie Carbo. Good player that should never have been traded.

    • Gary Napier

      Carbo was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman/outfielder Joe Hague, who had been a Cardinals regular in 1970, the same year Bernie Carbo finished 2nd for the NL Rookie Of The Year. Montreal right-hander Carl Morton was the ROY winner but honestly Carbo had the better season and got hosed on the deal. Hague’s best season was also 1970 and it seemed like a fairly even trade, but he only played sparingly in 1972 and 1973 before being released and was out of the game. Meanwhile, Carbo played up until 1980, and many of us remember what he did to the Reds in the ’75 World Series.

    • Bob Purkey

      You want to know why Bernie was traded?

      Drafted #1 ahead of Johnny Bench, but he didn’t work hard. His teammates called him “The Idiot” and “The Clown.” Sparky took him under his wing in the minors and got him somewhat straightened out and he had a really good rookie year in 1970. Got screwed for ROY and of course the famous “tag” by Hendricks in the WS.

      However, he got very full of himself and wanted to renegotiate his contract for 1971 and when the Reds balked, he held out for virtually all of spring training and had a terrible year. It is well documented that he had alcohol and major drug problems. Finally, as a last straw he went on another rant in Bob Howsam’s office over his contract and grabbed Howsam by his tie and dragged him across his desk. That pretty much did it.

      He pretty much wore out his welcome wherever he played, playing for 9 different teams in his 11 year career.

      • jazzmanbbfan

        Says something about the nature of addiction. I met him after he got sober and he came off as a pretty decent guy then.

  3. Klugo

    It was a step in the right direction. Just hope they dont sit on their hands this off-season because of the irregularities of 2020.

  4. Jon

    On the bright side, when the Reds return to the postseason, hopefully they will win at GABP in a normal season in front of 45,000-plus fans. Now we have to wait for a month until the postseason ends and the transactions begin. #GetTheHitting,Version2

  5. Dewey Roberts

    Richard, the Big Red Machine has hitters. This team did not score a run in 2 games and had the all-time lowest batting average this year in all major league history. Until the Reds get some hitters, they will continue to struggle just to get to .500. We cannot sugar coat this loss or this season.
    Do our players even know that it is permissible to hit singles and doubles? It takes more than home runs.

    • Mark Browning

      Why do you have to act like Joey Votto can still play? He’s been done for 3 years please retire before he gets hurt by a hard ground ball to first. I’m 61 and I can run as fast as he can.

      • jazzmanbbfan

        Well Mark, Joey seems like a pretty smart guy so I’m guessing he hasn’t blown his money but if I had $75 million still out on the table I wouldn’t be retiring. He didn’t hold a gun to the Reds’ heads when he signed that contract, they approached him. It’s up to the Reds what they do in terms of his role with the team, just as it wasn’t his choice to sit for 3 games in a row this season. However, if they want to release him and pay him, he’s owed the contract.

      • Dewey Roberts

        Did you respond to the wrong post? I have never said Votto could still play. He is over the hill.

      • Mark Browning

        I’m new at this so I just wanted to let everybody know that it’s time to move on from Joey Votto

  6. Magi210

    The Reds finished with a winning record after the regular season. For the first time in a few years. The playoffs were just a bonus. Trying to get more consistent bats for next year.

  7. David Rutherford

    Richard thanks for the well written commentary.

    I want to make sure to thank Mr Castellini and his family for all of the money spent in the offseason to upgrade the roster.

    I want to thank the entire team: David Bell and his staff and all of the players. You all contributed to some exciting baseball down the stretch and you got the team into the postseason. I know you gave the season your max effort and although it didn’t end in the way we all wanted, every one of you risked yourself and potentially your families from exposure to covid-19 and the potential for life threatening illness and/or life altering after effects for our entertainment. Thank you for a fun September.

    I will remember most the interview with Michael Lorenzen after the team clinched a birth in the post season when he said (paraphrasing) “We did this for the fans in Cincinnati, they deserve this. Thank you for hanging with us.”

    Classy response from some classy people. Ignore the hate being thrown at you. There are a great many of us that appreciate your effort and sacrifice.

    • Nkr

      That front office is awful. How in the world did bell beat out Girardi and Ferrell? You a crafty manager for a team like this. You guys hated on dusty because he couldn’t win. What about bell? He’s horrible. When you sign veteran guys moose, Casty, sonny, and Bauer , you want a guy who can relate to them. A guy who can inspire them. If the reds stop hiring these first time managers, we might get somewhere. Pitching coach stays but everybody including the hitting coach goes.

  8. AVinVA

    In the big scheme of things your broader perspective is the right way to look at this season. That does not stop me from hoping that management will evaluate performance and make adjustments to personnel and approach. Would be nice if this season is a first step in a nice run.

  9. Charlie Waffles

    The Reds deliveted a nightmare. And in 30 minutes or less.
    It was good to get a 60 game schedule in after so many people said even that wouldn’t happen. It will be interesting to see how the bubble in Texas works for the rest of the playoffs. I just hope a neutral site NLCS and World Series doesn’t become a new normal thing.

    • Jon

      There’s no way a neutral site will become normal. It costs the teams way too much money in lost revenue (sell-out crowds buying postseason tickets, parking, food, souvenirs, etc.).

  10. Doc

    The Reds were 31-31 in a shortened season. Best record in a handful of years and another step up the ladder. Technically they made the playoffs, but they really didn’t when compared to normal years.

    Continue the improvement trend into 2021. Can’t wait for ST games to start, if fan attendance is allowed!

  11. Bred

    They gave us an exciting ending to the “regular season” something we have yearned for for many years. I am grateful for that. Unfortunately, for them and all of us, they embarrassed themselves on a national stage. I do feel bad for them in that regard. Their feeling of let down has to be greater than mine.

  12. Bob Purkey

    I think that they also played something like 20 or 21 games vs. Pitt, Det and KC

    • CFD3000

      And your point is? Every team played a bunch of games against a bunch of bad teams in their division and the opposite league’s division. Every team. The Reds actually played really well against several very good teams, including their last 4 series against playoff teams. They won them all. I’m struggling with the fact that the Reds played really well in the stretch run, had an amazing finish against other playoff teams, clinched a playoff spot before the Brewers (also done for the year) and Cardinals (who just embarrassed themselves last night in San Diego) and you’d think they went 9-51 this year. This season was really fun and encouraging, with a very discouraging WC series. I’m choosing to remember BOTH parts of that story.

      • jazzmanbbfan

        Thank you CFD3000. I’m so sick of people talking about the “bad” teams they got to play while ignoring the good teams they beat.

  13. Mark Moore

    They gave us one heck of a last-ditch push. That was very exciting. The failing for me was Wednesday’s game … today smelled a little too much like desperation in the end. They already knew they were on their last legs.

    It was a season filled with what if where we had our shot at the end. Not sure how closely I’ll follow the rest of the post-season now. Don’t really have a dog in the fight, though I do like seeing the big name teams fall apart when it happens.

    Thanks Richard, for another good article. And thanks Doug for putting up with all of us on the site. We’re an odd bunch … but we’re family in the end.

    • CFD3000

      Well said Mark. Thank you Richard for reminding us that this season was a big step forward. Thank you Doug for soldiering on when there was no baseball, and then when there was only fragile baseball, and then when there was mediocre baseball, and then when there was glorious baseball. In the end there was Cincinnati Reds baseball, and some of it was really really fun. You’re a Cincinnati treasure Doug. Huge tip of the Reds cap to you this year.

  14. RedNat

    Thank you Richard for trying to make us feel better. The truth is though the Reds are a ship lost at sea and We are just as lost now as we were in 2016. In fact the last team to play ” reds baseball ” was the 1999 teams. The reds baseball that I know from the 70s through the 90s was based on supreme defense,fundamental baseball, fast aggressive baserunning and clutch hitting.

    Since the Griffey trade we have really lost our way. We are the equivalent of a beer guzzling Saturday night softball league team and it has really showed up on a the national stage in these playoff games

  15. Indy Red Man

    The Reds delivered in the way that my dog delivers in the backyard.

    The front office tried, but it never worked. They have to draft & develop some young talent. Other teams do it. We didn’t draft Josh VanMeter, but they found him and he got hot at AAA. He started well with the Reds for 100 at-bats or so. I thought he might be another Tommy LaStella, but nobody ever seems to pan out?
    In Game 1 we had Votto screw up an easy rbi for Suarez, we still had bases loaded 1 out with Aquino facing a lefty. I said to myself “Here we go. I’ve been complaining about them leaving this guy behind since March and now is his time to shine. He’s already got 2 hits and now he’s going to win the game” Whats he do? HORRIBLE at-bat and Ks on a pitch a foot outside. Find some young guys that can play this game. Is that impossible? Phillies scored plenty, but can’t pitch. We can pitch, but can’t hit. Make some calls.

  16. Tomn

    I loved the team for the 2-week push to make the playoffs if nothing else. THat was some really good baseball.

    But yes, we need to find some hitters somewhere. THe free agent market? Is that a thing this year? Go out and find a couple of players who can set the table, get SEnzel healthy (if that’s even possible) – he actually did start hitting towards the end and do whatever is necessary to resign Bauer. This all costs money so easy for me to say, but do what’s necessary to compete.

    Maybe we can even sit in the stands again and cheer. I think about how great it woudl have been the final 2 weeks of the regular season as the Reds came on and won some key games to make the playoffs. That place might have been packed the entire last week. Some thrilling, winning baseball.

  17. ClevelandRedsFan

    Senzel missed time this year because of COVID and not injuries. He did miss a couple of games because of a jammed finger. But getting COVID does not mean he’s injury prone.

    Also shoulders are tricky. I can’t help but wonder if Geno’s shoulder was bothering him a bit this year.

    • VaRedsFan

      Geno was the same player last year.

  18. VaRedsFan

    I can’t share your optimism. It was great that the team made the playoffs and gave us a glimmer of hope. The Padres and the White Sox are the real teams that are taking steps forward, even if they lose this year. They are prime candidates to take a run at signing Bauer.

    The future isn’t so bright for the Reds because of who is still here. Votto, Moose, Suarez, Castellanos. The little hope they have are Winker (streaky Jay Bruce lite) and Senzel (unfulfilled injury-layden promise). Stephenson maybe will pan out. Garcia, good glove, no bat).

    That hitting group won’t get better just because the the calendar flips to 2021.