Last October Cincinnati Reds fans almost unanimously rejoiced at the announcement of much heralded pitching coach Bryan Price replacing Dusty Baker as manager of the team. With just over one month left in the season, some fans are erroneously calling for Price’s head.
It isn’t Price’s fault. The Reds didn’t stand a chance in 2014. Their recent seven-game losing skid was just another indication.
Despite making valiant efforts it appears the Reds have settled into fourth place, probably where they belonged when the season started. Things looked grim for the now-perennial contenders as the team opened the season without Aroldis Chapman (two months), Mat Latos (two and a half months), eventual All-Star Devin Mesoraco (missing 27 of the team’s first 40 games) and Jonathan Broxton (missed the first 10 games). Highly paid reliever Sean Marshall also should have missed the entire season, but he made an ill-advised attempt at a return that resulted in an ERA over 7.00.
Sure, the team got some unexpected help in the form of emerging All-Stars Todd Frazier and Alfredo Simon, but fans were kidding themselves if they thought that would cover the absence of no less than seven All-Stars through major stretches of the season. Frazier, Simon and Mesoraco all stepped up and delivered, but the Reds’ front office wouldn’t play ball, so to speak.
The trade deadline came and went without as much as a whisper even though the Reds had climbed back into the NL Central and Wild Card hunt. Cincinnati scratched and clawed and fought to make an impact but were simply overpowered. The team faltered after the All-Star break and would lose stars Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips for almost a third of the year. In Votto’s case, he missed half the season. Oh yeah, their new $100 million man Homer Bailey is hurt, too.
Not only did the Reds not have a replacement for Votto; they didn’t even have another first baseman. The substitutes at the spot became a comedy of errors as Brayan Pena, Jay Bruce and Frazier have all been out of their element. The team wasn’t prepared for their megastar to go down and the powers that be refused to do anything about it.
The team’s front office woes didn’t stop there. GM Walt Jocketty left JJ Hoover on the team until late August despite allowing over one earned or inherited run per game on average. Recently the humbled Hoover tied a team record for consecutive losses before finally being demoted to Triple-A Louisville just 11 days before rosters expand.
Everything that could go wrong for the 2014 Cincinnati Reds did go wrong. But don’t blame Bryan Price. Perhaps next year he’ll get a real shot to show his managing skills. One not riddled with injuries, likely the most injury-mired Reds season of all time.
It’s not all gloom and doom for Price and the Reds. Billy Hamilton exceeded expectations, as did the aforementioned Simon, Mesoraco and Frazier. Maybe next year Price will have an MVP in Votto at full strength amd a defensive machine in Phillips to serve as a wall on the right side of the infield.
With a slew of contracts up at the end of 2015, the window is rapidly closing. The next 12 months could seal the fate for the Reds. If they’re winners, the contracts of Cueto, Latos and Chapman could be extended long term. If the team is sub .500 come next July, they will turn into sellers. That is if GM Walt Jocketty can be awoken from his year-long slumber.