I was neither surprised or deeply in mourning when the Cincinnati Reds collapsed in their push to the playoffs in 2023.

The Reds inspired play in June surprised me and I was caught up in the fervor of what those young players were doing along with a make shift pitching staff. I felt alive again as a Reds fan. I was pumped up. The Reds did, in fact, have a pulse.

The Reds mattered in the baseball equation.

I looked at the schedule and thought about making a road trip to catch the Reds in action.

And then came that fateful day, when news came in that stunned us all. Or at least most of us. It wasn’t a bold Bob Howsam-type move made by Nick Krall. It wasn’t yet another injury suffered by the pitching staff. It was…

The Reds extended Manager David Bell for three years.

I wasn’t critical of Krall for not making a trade. Who knows what he was offered? Who else knows what the trade offers were?

But it’s obvious this had been in the works for a while. This is what the Reds front office must have been focused on.

Again, I’ll say this: I have no personal dislike for David Bell. By all accounts, he’s a good guy. But I have genuine issues with his lineup construction, his penchant for playing mediocre veterans over young players and his burning up a bullpen by June.

All that aside, this latest Reds collapse under Bell– I still remember 2021– doesn’t even come close to the heart break Red fans suffered in seasons listed below. Those were hard. Bad. Tough. Some tragic, such as 1964 when Fred Hutchinson passed away from cancer after the season had concluded.

Here are 10 of them in chronological order starting in 1964:

  • 1964: Reds lose the pennant on the final day of the season.
  • 1973: Mets upset the Reds in NL playoffs during the Pete Rose War.
  • 1977: Reds have the second best record in baseball and do not make the playoffs.
  • 1981: Strike One: Reds have the best record in baseball and do not make the playoffs.
  • 1982: Reds lose 100-plus games for the first time in their history
  • 1994: Strike Two: Reds in first place when season-ending work stoppage hits.
  • 1999: Reds blow games in Milwaukee on final weekend, lose one-game playoff to Mets
  • 2012: Reds blow 2-0 game lead to Giants, lose playoff series with three straight losses.
  • 2021: Reds falter in the stretch, losing NL Central to Cardinals
  • 2022: Reds lose 100 games for the second time in franchise history

As for 2024, I am optimistic. Cincinnati has good young talent, among the best of any team. Most of them should get better. But, as Jack McKeon said after the Reds traded for Ken Griffey Jr., “Who’s going to pitch?”

And McKeon was a pretty good Reds manager.

55 Responses

  1. Brian

    It’s actually nice to see a writer that will call out managers in this city, most walk hand in hand with the teams as butt kissers. I’m not at all a Bell fan. I will say that starters across the game just don’t pitch the innings that they did in the past. Quality depth in the bullpen seems way more important now, as well as management of that bullpen. I’ve always heard the saying that a manager only loses a game 3 or 4 times a year, I think that is bs. It seems like Bell makes a huge head scratching decision every 3 or 4 games. These decisions get called out by fans in real time and have a tendency of going wrong just as it seems it would. I do get that the fans don’t get all of the behind the scenes info such as who isn’t feeling well and what not but it happens quite a bit. I just think Bell’s family ties and affordability dictated him getting and having the job.

    • Beaufort Red

      All this obsession with Bell. He’s not going anywhere. RLN needs to put their energies into things that can be changed. It will lower your blood pressure.

      • Brian

        Nobody has an obsession with Bell. Some of us can talk about multiple things at the same time. The manager does set the tone so there’s nothing wrong with debating a manager or the timing of his extension. It doesn’t qualify as an obsession.

      • wkuchad

        Brian, you’re of course correct. But I can think of one poster where ‘obsession’ seems to be accurate. 🙂

      • Brian

        Wku, there are always going to be a person or 2 that can’t let something go. Likewise, there will always be some that jump anything that gets criticized. I guess some fans fall under the always positive or always negative side, I’ve never understood that. I just like debate and idea exchange. I’m not above having my mind changed or being proven wrong and some people can’t do either.

    • VaRedsFan

      @ Brian – Kudos on a brilliant post!!
      I agree with you and what John Ring said:

      “Again, I’ll say this: I have no personal dislike for David Bell. By all accounts, he’s a good guy. But I have genuine issues with his lineup construction, his penchant for playing mediocre veterans over young players and his burning up a bullpen by June.”

      • Brian

        Thanks Va, I don’t have a personal dislike either. I share your concerns. I also don’t like how he will bench a red hot bat, pointless double switches and he oftenburns through bench players too quickly. I also take Bell into consideration regarding bring Votto back.

        It is true that every manager will make some boneheaded moves, I’m just not sure that Nell learns from his.

  2. gusnwally

    I remember that last game of the season. Reds got their brains beat in. It seems like it was 10-0 at some point. But, being a kid of 17, I still had hopes that they could come back and win it. I am quite sure John Tsitouris pitched in that game. But, it was an even more bleak day for the Phillies, who blew a 10 game lead with like 2 weeks to go.

    • SOQ

      Dick Sisler chose Tsitouris because he wanted to save Jim Maloney for the WS. And yes, they lost 10-0 to the Phillies. Billy McCool was so ticked off, he threw his glove into the dugout, broke the water cooler and flooded the dugout. I was crushed, so crushed that even today, my man-cave is almost a shrine to the ’64 Reds. They began printing WS tickets the Monday before that last game. I have a framed sleeve of them on my basement wall. And then the sad loss of Fred Hutchinson a month later, only made the season that much more tragic. My Reds’ obsession began in 1964

      • Jim Walker

        Yep. As In recall it turned out the lease on Tsitouris’ boarding room/ apartment had expired at the end of September; and, he actually had his belongings packed up in his car parked outside Crosley for the trip home

  3. Klugo

    Seeing it as clear as day down the stretch that our team was not going to be able to make anything happen in the playoffs even if they somehow sneaked it in, eased the pain for me. No problem. Next year should be fun and it will be a real disappointment if we dont make the playoffs next season.

    • Mario

      +500. They didn’t have the pitching to win games in the playoffs. Look at the Dodgers struggling with their rotation. That would have been the Reds going down hard. To make matters worse, it would have been Milwaukee to take us to the woodshed. With any health and luck, 2024 is the year. The Brewers should remain the division favorites but our team should be able to win 90. No reason they can’t compete for a championship. Now it’s up to the front office to make sure we have the horses.

  4. SultanofSwaff

    2012 hurts the most for me because that team had the pitching. Looking on BB reference though, the offense was disjointed. 3 high OPS boppers (Ludwick, Bruce, Votto), .750 OPS for Phillips, then no regulars with an OPS over .716. Certainly a situation that called for impactful investment by ownership, but it’s hard to make the case on their behalf. The 2024 team could be at a similar crossroads and ownership will have many of the same choices.

  5. jessecuster44

    For me 1999 was the worst, because that team was so fun to watch and I didn’t want it to end. Sweeping the Astros in Houston to take over 1st Place was magical. Greg Vaughn was the veteran presence who put up huge numbers. I witnessed Pokey Reese’s 12th inning walkoff HR vs STL – might have been the most excited I’ve ever been at a game

    Unfortunately Scott Williamson gave up some big hits down the stretch and then the last weekend happened. Pirates completely laid down vs the Mets also.

    Reds don’t make the 1 game playoff without an exceptional start from Pete Harnish after a long rain delay.

    Great memories nonetheless.

    • wkuchad

      I was at the same game! I really, really loved that season, minus the ending.

  6. CFD3000

    The heartbreakers for me were the two strike years, plus 1999 with the last weekend collapse, and 2012 and the Giants playoff disaster. I’ve said plenty about David Bell so will leave that for another thread, but I have far more positive from this year than disappointing. I agree that the Reds didn’t have enough healthy, rested pitching to go very far, and they improved so much, so fast that I’m honestly okay with missing the playoffs. But much more than anything I’m hugely optimistic for the next three or four years at least. The Reds do need to add pitching depth, obviously. And they’ll need a few things to break well – health most of all, but also development of EDLC and some young pitchers. But if that goes as hoped I legitimately expect to watch Reds playoff game for several years starting in 2024, and I’ll be hoping for at least one World Series win. And how exciting is it that’s not a completely crazy outlook? If I can celebrate a Reds series and a Votto HoF induction in the next five to ten years, that will be an incredible treat for this lifelong Reds fan. And it’s actually possible. Wow.

  7. Peter Onte

    As far as “heart break” goes, I would have to add the ’72 World Series to the list. In ’72, Oakland entered the Series without Reggie Jackson and Darold Knowles because of injuries and Reds were heavily favored, as I recall — Gene Tenace of all people hits 4 home runs in the 7 games and we lose game #7 by just 1 run. Still hurts to think about it.

  8. LDS

    And don’t forget the 1970 series with Baltimore when Brooks Robinson emasculated the Reds. And yes, the Bell extension was in the works for a while, that and the promotions of Krall & Meador. Those were more important than building the team. When Forgus made the statement about investing in baseball operations, I guess she meant salary increases for yes men.

  9. Jim Walker

    I was at the pivotal Reds vs Phillies Oct 2 game in 1964. Whatever could go wrong for the Reds did with a triple against them in the 4th inning then a defensive and pitching meltdown in the 8th inning which saw the Phillies score all 4 of their runs in a 4-3 win over the Reds.

    The 1964 NL finish proved that anything can and often does happen in the last 2 weeks of an MLB season. At the beginning of play on Sept 21, the Phillies who had led the league virtually all season, held a 6.5 game lead over the Reds and Cardinals who were tied for 2nd.

    The Reds beat the Phillies on Sept 21 by a 1-0 score with the only run being a steal of home by utility man Chico Ruiz to mark the 2nd game of what would grow to a 9 game Reds winning streak and the start of a 10 game Phillies losing streak.

    Meanwhile, the Cardinals managed to hang in just 1-1.5 games behind the Reds as they caught and burst past the Phillies. Then when the Reds 9 game winning streak ended with consecutive losses, the Cards slipped by the Reds with the 7th and 8th wins of their own 8 game winning streak to set up the final weekend, Oct 2-4.

    The Reds and Cardinals both lost on Friday. In one of the all time scheduling quirks, the Reds had Saturday off; but, a Cardinals loss left the Reds tried with the Cards for 1st with the Phillies a game back.

    Sunday dawned with the possibility of a 3 way tie in the NL being very real as the Reds and Phillies were playing each other while the Cards faced the Mets who had beaten them in consecutive games. A Cardinals loss and a Reds loss (which would have assured a Phillies win) meant a 3 way tie. But alas while the Phillies beat the Reds, the Cardinals put an 11-5 whomping on the Mets to win the NL pennant, leaving the Reds and Phillis tied a game back.

    • SOQ

      Jim, see my reply to gusnwally.
      You have a great memory. Also Ruiz stole home with Frank Robinson @ bat Sound familiar?

      • Jim Walker

        Well, the level of detail in my memory is vastly aided by Baseball Reference 😉

        I’d forgotten who was actually batting when Ruiz stole home. The play by play says Ruiz singled and went to 3B on a “single” by Pinson who was out at 2B trying to stretch it into a double. Wonder why Chico didn’t try to score on the play at 2B? That was a rare (for then road TV game; and, I was watching but all I directly recall was somebody saying basically “no I don’t believe it, Chico’s coming home!”

    • Jason Franklin

      Thank you for sharing your story, Jim. I always enjoy what you have to say.

  10. Jedi Joey

    I feel like I’m scarred for life for attending Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. That seemed like the year for the Reds. I still feel shocked that they lost 3 straight at home after winning the first two in San Francisco. The only other comparable hurt was being there live for the Bengals’ meltdown against the Steelers in the 2015 playoffs.

    • Jim Walker

      That was a tough game to end a tough series. I think after the Reds found a way to come home up 2-0 in the series despite losing Cueto to injury early in game 1, it just seemed like the Reds, not the Giants, were the team of destiny in that series and season.

      Then the 10th inning of game 3 turned the tables and revealed the Giants as the team of destiny. Who would have imagined a 2 out passed ball by Ryan Hannigan followed by a Scott Rolen error on a very routine play allowing the deciding run to score???

      Football heart breakers? For me, it has to be the Buckeyes kicker shanking what would have been the winning FG versus Georgia (in Atlanta) as the clock literally was striking midnight to ring in 2023.

      • Jedi Joey

        I agree, Jim. That Buckeye game was a heart breaker as well. Very tough start to the 2023 calendar!

  11. Amarillo

    I’m younger than most here, but for me the most painful was getting no-hit by Roy Halladay.

    • rednat

      yes, good call. that was a very depressing game indeed. especially after Bruces walk off homer

    • TR

      Halladay’s no hitter in the 2010 playoffs was a shocker, but it was outdone in 2012 by the Red’s collapse after being up 2-0 on S. F. despite the loss of Cueto. It looked like the Red’s year for a championship, but the Giants went on to win three World Series in 2010-12 and 14 after having last won a WS in 1958.

      • ThePensive

        The Reds were also not supposed to be good in 2010 yet. Getting to the playoffs was a welcome surprise, and getting bounced wasn’t seen as as much of a heartbreak in that context.

        The way it happened, though…the Reds seem to be on the losing end of far more than their fair share of humiliations in the last ~25-30 years. The 1999 choke. The horrific 2000s. The 2010 no-hitter. The 2012 2-0 to losing 3 games at home. The 2013 wild card loss to the Pirates. Scoring no runs in the playoffs in 2020. The 2021 bullpen meltdowns, one after another after another. 2022 – “Where ya gonna go” and the 100-loss season. The 2023 fading down the stretch, complete with an embarrassing loss to the Pirates after being up 9-0. All adding up to being only one of three teams without a playoff series (including wild-card games) victory since 2010 – and while those other two teams had a World Series championship in the decade prior (White Sox and Angels), the Reds haven’t won any playoff series at all since 1995.

        It’s been tough.

  12. Mark Moore

    Great thoughts, Richard. It was a roller-coaster year to be sure, even if unexpected. And while I definitely don’t “hate” HDTBell, I don’t believe he’s the man for the job, nor do I believe Bull Krall made an active choice to extend him in the middle of a season. That came from the “ivory tower top men”.

    2012 was painful. A couple of key plays and we move forward instead of pack it in. I still remember Mat Latos warming up like a rocket out in SF and then twirling a gem in relief.

    This collapse of 2023 was less painful than the 2021 version. Still, a couple more wins would have made the difference, even if our boys would have cashed it in during the first best of 3 series.

    • Jim Walker

      This same ownership felt the need to force out Dusty in 2013 after a 6-6 final 12 games still got them to 90 wins (for the 2nd consecutive season and 3rd time in 4 years) and a WC berth despite losing their last 3 to the other WC team. I guess Bell being home free with a 4-8 final 12 including 3-5 versus cupcake opposition when 6-6 in the final 12 would have gotten them in defines barely mediocre as the attainable expectation.

      FWIW, I suspect that 4-8 in the same circumstances would have gotten Bell shown the door, contract or no, with several teams. But in Cincy the focus seems to be on 3 “winning” seasons, despite the fact two of them, 2021 and 2023 featured August/ September folds which knocked the team out of playoff berths that seemed somewhere between probable and likely on August 1.

      • wkuchad

        That’s not why Dusty was forced out. Walt wanted to fire one of his coaches, and Dusty refused.

      • Jim Walker

        I do not think it is credible that Jocketty believed for a New York minute that Dusty would stand by and allow his hitting coach to be canned as a condition for himself (Dusty) to be retained.

        The whole situation is even more ironic given that over the years we’ve learned the pitching staff was runnning amok with high school and fraternity behavior behind the scenes yet the Reds couldn’t wait to name the incumbent pitching coach, Bryan Price, a raw rookie the new manager. Price would go on to manage the Reds to a .419 winning % (279-387) in 4+ seasons.

      • wkuchad

        I still don’t think Dusty was fired for team results or how the Reds finished the season.

        Oh man, I was not a fan of Price. I was so happy to see him go.

      • B-town Fan

        Yes Bell has been cut a tremendous amount of slack by management, especially with the Aug 1 to season end swoon, that was mostly caused by burning up the bullpen by the end of June. To many starters pulled at 60 and 70 pitches with leads. The Giants fired there manager Gabe Kapler with 3 games to go in season after they were eliminated, they didn’t have much patience.

    • Votto4life

      Apparently, Nick Krall has decided David Bell is the man for this incarnation of the Cincinnati Reds. By the time his contract is up, they will be starting their next “re-build”.

  13. rednat

    statistically from my fun-o-meter scale, this was the “most fun team” of all time. If you consider the plays that would make Marty Brenneman’s voice go up on octave- triple, hr, stolen base, the 2023 reds team takes first place.

    2023 reds- 425
    1976 reds- 414
    199 reds -410

    now if you factor in batting average, the 76 team is still the best with a .280 team batting average (and that is with the pitchers batting!). but still overall a fun and exciting year for sure. no real disappointment at all.

  14. CI3J

    The David Bell extension hurt a lot. It put such a dampener on what had been an unexpectedly fun season when Bell was forced to play the kids.

    But I take solace in the idea that if Krall provides the right players, the team has enough talent to overcome Bell’s mediocre managing in 2024.

    Get 2 or 3 bullpen arms, get another starting pitcher, and get a legit outfield bat.

    That’s it. That’s the checklist. If Krall does this, Bell can pretty much throw darts to make his decisions and the team should still be pretty good.

    Actually, I think Bell throwing darts to make his decisions might lead to an improvement in his managing.

    • rednat

      i felt the major issue for the reds this year was we stopped hitting in late July and August (the dog days of summer). we really struggled to score runs and lost despite good pitching. was this because we are young and the players “just hit a wall”? or are these players simply inconsistent. I Would like to see ownership get a middle of the lineup veteran this offseason to really glue together the lineup

      • Mario

        Rednat, any ideas who you would want? Don’t say Ohtani! I’ve heard Teoscar Hernandez’ name floated. I am at a crossroads not sure if this is the right path because it would mean benching or trading Benson or Fraley. Hernandez likely won’t go for a platoon role and can’t play CF and that’s Friedl’s spot. I think the $$$ is best spent in the pitching staff – Sonny Gray Jordan Montgomery type plus a bullpen guy. Betting St Louis invests in their rotation so hoping Big Bob does the same.

  15. Tar Heel Red

    As the end of the article says…”who is going to pitch?” IMO, if the Reds go into next season with the rotation the same as it is now another late season swoon will happen again. Bell just cannot help but pull his starters as soon as they get into the slightest bit of trouble upon entering the “third time through the order, meaning he will have, as the author put it, “burned up the bullpen by June”.

    It remains to be seen but the young starters should be more accustomed to a 162-game schedule in ’24, allowing each to add 25-30 innings. But in order to facilitate this the team needs to bring in at least one and probably two additional starters. If they can do this and allow the rotation to go just a little deeper into games (Reds averaged 5.11 innings pitched by starters in ’23…not counting “openers”…which ranked 30th and dead last in MLB) the bullpen should be okay with just adding another late-game arm to help take the load off Diaz.

    • Mario

      Man one of our bullpen guys has to be a long relief guy. Someone who can give the team three effective innings twice per week. Maybe Connor Phillips or Lyon Richardson can fill that role. I don’t like the 6 man rotation idea since that’s one less bullpen arm. And those 6 guys in the rotation aren’t going to average 6 innings per start.

      • Tar Heel Red

        Mario< who said anything about a six-man rotation? If the Reds could add a stud RH starter…someone like a Shane Bieber type…they still have a 5-man rotation. One of the current members of the rotation would go to the bullpen. I actually think Hunter Greene would be best suited for this, but with the new contract in place that is not going to happen. That leaves Williamson, Lodolo and Abbott to duke it out in ST. The loser goes to the pen or is optioned back to the minors.

        I also like the idea of bringing in a swing man…like a Jake Junis…who can come out of the pen most of the time and make a spot start here and there to rest the other starters.

        One thing is for sure, it is very unlikely that Bell will change how me mis-manages the pitching staff, meaning the pen will have to continue to cover nearly 4 innings on average every game and by August they will once again be out of gas.

      • Mario

        I’ve seen plenty of comments here and on twitter suggesting a 6 man rotation.

      • Mario

        I like the idea of actual spring training competition. That should motivate the young arms. Loser goes to AAA. Bieber is not a free agent and would cost a penny to get him from Cleveland. Big Bob can afford to sign a guy like Sonny, Nola, Montgomery, etc.

      • wkuchad

        Based on how ”baseball” works today, with starters rarely facing lineups a 3rd time, going with a 6-man rotation seems like a horrible idea.


    Nice article, and I think the 3-year extension for Mr. Bell was overkill. I like him, but come on!

    As for the 1977 Reds, you are wrong on their team having the 2nd best record in MLB – Far from it. They slumped to 88-74 after back-to-back World’s Championship Seasons and 100-plus win seasons.

    Their 88 wins were good for only 4th best in the NL alone, and they were 10 games back of Lasorda’s Dodgers. Their loss of the Big Dog, Tony Perez, and good quality pitching really showed.

    Still, good article! Take care!

  17. Votto4life

    John McNamara’s Reds team in 1979 comes to mind. In a lot of ways, McNamara reminds me of Bell. Of Course, Johnny Mac’s biggest choke would come a few years later with the 1986 Boston Red-Sox.

  18. Old-school

    2012 downfall #1

    That was a WS champion team

    1999 bad long weekend #2

    Great fun 99 win team that face planted over 4 days

  19. Rednat

    Response to Mario. I am not really sure. I don’t follow baseball enough to know if there is a clubber free agent out there this year. This team reminds me of the mid 1980 reds. A lot of young talent like Larkin, Davis, Kal Daniels coming up. Marge went out and signed Dave Parker.he was the glue of the reds in the mid 80s which really helped turn the franchise around.

    Maybe someone with local ties? Just somebody you can plug in the 4th or 5th spot everyday. You don’t have to worry about left/righty matchups., etc

    • Mario

      Rednat, I loved Dave Parker. Met him at a card show and got to chat him up about Mike Scott.

      I know Mariners fans weren’t thrilled with Hernandez in the first half but he got hot after the ASB. Also heard Max Kepler’s name floated so I just looked up his stats. He has been very inconsistent. Other names on the free agent list: Winker, Joc Pederson, Pham, Conforto, Bader, Keirmeier. In other words, lots of risk. No guys who can be a cleanup hitter regardless of handedness. I wouldn’t mind having Bader back vs LHP but he’s probably going to price himself out of range for what he’s worth. I would probably take my chances with the same OF with Dunn and Jacob H. in competition with TJ Hopkins to be that bat vs LHP. The question is: do the Reds believe Friedl can duplicate this? Is Benson going to take another step forward? Is Steer the everyday LF? I literally had a nightmare that Steer was traded for a crappy pitcher. I underestimated the man, he is going to be a star. He had very similar stats to Paul Goldschmidt this season.

  20. Melvin

    “Again, I’ll say this: I have no personal dislike for David Bell. By all accounts, he’s a good guy. But I have genuine issues with his lineup construction, his penchant for playing mediocre veterans over young players and his burning up a bullpen by June.”

    I agree….however…..signing David Bell to a three year extension before the trade deadline in my mind was the absolute worst, most ridiculous, absurd, crazy, foolish, goofy, illogical, irrational, laughable, ludicrous, nonsensical move they could have made. Unimaginable. To top it off Krall had everyone, fans and players alike, anticipating a big trade to help push the team into the playoffs. Instead, although one small good trade was made, we got David Bell for THREE MORE YEARS. It literally took the wind out of fans and players alike. That’s when the season started going down the toilet. My gut feeling tells me Krall would have waited to the end of the season to evaluate but good ol Mr. Hands on I don’t know what I’m doing owner Big Bob pressed the button. If may or may not have been Krall’s fault but either way his integrity has been damaged…again because of our crazy owners. Either way I can’t trust him.

    ….I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I have any strong feelings about it though. 😀

  21. TMS

    I don’t get all worked up over lineup construction or player substitutions like many folks do. I think David Bell gets way too much credit when things go right and far too much criticism when things go wrong.

    You can change managers every season if you want, but I have yet to see a perfect manager who makes all the right decisions. I have no doubt that the next manager will be just as frustrating as many folks are with David Bell.

  22. Frankie Tomatoes

    The 1999 team was probably my favorite Reds team dating back to the 80s. So many unexpected big time performers stepped up that season. I still can’t believe that final weekend and how it played out.

  23. RedsFanInFL

    John – little late to this thread. You had a typo: ‘74 and not ‘77, Reds had 2nd best record in MLB with 98 wins behind the Dodgers who had 102. Reds were 6-12 against the Dodgers that year. If Reds split the season series at 9-9, Reds win the division.

    Collectively, ‘72-74 were disappointing in that BRM lost to A’s in ‘72 in one of the most underrated WS (6 of 7 games decided by 1 run), get upset in short series to Mets in ‘73 then miss out on playoffs in ‘74. Would have to wait for ‘75-76 to solidly the BRM legacy.