Fay: The Reds have dodged the 100-loss stigma

And given fans reason to stick around

CINCINNATI -- There will be no champagne celebration.

But the Reds will avoid a place in team infamy with win No. 63.

They went into Wednesday with 62 wins. That means the 2016 Reds won't join the 1982 Reds as the only 100-loss teams in club history. 

In the offseason, I'd get tweets predicting 100 losses, 110 losses, even 120 losses -- on a daily basis. The players spent a lot of time in spring training talking about how they'd be better than expected, but they knew things could go bad.

"I thought it all hinged on the pitching," catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "I thought with the guys that we were going to run out offensively, we were going to score some runs. It all depended on how we were going to pitch."

The pitching turned out to be a little worse than abysmal early, and those dire forecasts looked right on after a 9-15 April and an 8-20 May. After two months of baseball, the Reds were on pace to lose 109 games, in fact.

But that horrible April -- the Reds went 4-14 after a 5-1 start -- actually gave manager Bryan Price hope. It was then that he knew the Reds had a chance to be better than historically awful.

"I knew it after the first month of the season," Price said. "So we could literally say: This is actually a pretty good team with a couple of glaring weaknesses."

The chief weakness was the bullpen. The Reds lost closer Aroldis Chapman to an offseason trade. The only veteran reliever they added pre-spring training was Blake Wood, whose last extended time in the big leagues came in 2011.

"We really did nothing to address the bullpen," Price said. "Because of the rebuild, we didn't have the finances to be put toward the bullpen. It was a completely makeshift bullpen. No defined roles. (J.J.) Hoover was the initial closer. That didn't go real well."

Price was being kind there. Hoover was about as bad as could be early in the season. He had a 15.58 ERA in April and was in the minors by May.

But he was not the only problem.

"We were just trying to find someone who could get to Hoover," Price said. "You saw it. You guys witnessed it. There was no way to know if we could get the closer as it stood."

The bullpen woes were exacerbated by spring training injuries to Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeSclafani. Both were projected as starters, but their absence meant shorter outings by the starters, thus more innings for the bullpen to cover.

"We didn't really have a fallback plan," Price said.

But, again, through all the bullpen blowups and blowout losses, Price saw the making of a decent team.

"I knew if we had a couple of reliable bullpen pieces, April and May would have looked a lot different than they did," Price said. "Once we got those pitchers back in June -- we got Lorenzen and (Raisel) Iglesias back, then we got (DeSclafani) back and Homer (Bailey) back for a few starts -- I said, ‘Hey man, this is the team we could have had in April if we'd had the resources to have that kind of pitching quality on the team.'

"The biggest challenge was staying optimistic in April and May."

To Price's credit, the Reds did not quit on him.

June was better. The Reds went 12-16. And since the All-Star Break, the Reds have been one of the better teams in the National League with a 30-25 record going into Wednesday.

The ERA since the break is 3.83.

Iglesias (2.18 ERA) and Lorenzen (2.65 ERA) have solidified the bullpen. Dan Straily, picked up the day before the season off waivers, is 12-8 with a 3.81 ERA. DeSclafani is 8-3 with a 2.93 ERA. Left-hander Brandon Finnegan (9-10, 4.04 ERA) is looking like a reliable starter.

The season will be a disappointment, but it won't live in infamy.

Given the second half and the development of the aforementioned pitchers and young position players like Billy Hamilton, Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza and Adam Duvall, it's possible to be optimistic about 2017.

Not World Series or postseason optimistic, but a whole lot more optimistic than you would be after a 100-loss season.

That's not a reason to pop champagne, but it's a reason to look forward to spring training.

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at johnfayman@aol.com.

Print this article Back to Top