Remember “A Season on the Brink,” the ESPN movie about Bob Knight and the 1985-86 Indiana men’s basketball team?
Besides the fact that basketball and baseball are completely different games, the title sums up the season so far for the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds have had an awful start to the season. At 8-11, they sit in the basement of the NL Central. Their team batting average sits at .242, No. 12 in the National League. The Reds team ERA sits at 6.02, second worst in the NL.
What’s even more disconcerting is that the guys the Reds are relying on to drive the offense are struggling immensely.
Brandon Phillips is hitting .219 with just nine RBIs. Jay Bruce is batting .215 with 16 strikeouts. Drew Stubbs’s average sits at .158 with a stunning 21 punch-outs. Yikes.
The starting rotation’s numbers are just as depressing. Rookie Mike Leake has the lowest ERA of any Reds starter at a pedestrian 3.92. The other four starters, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey, have allowed a combined 70 earned runs in 88.1 innings pitched. The Redlegs’ starters have won just one game this year, dead last in the majors.
So what do the Reds do? Manager Dusty Baker has been visibly frustrated the last few games. After Saturday’s 5-0 loss to the Padres, Baker declined to meet the media after the game. Hal McCoy, who has covered the team for 38 years, told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay he couldn’t remember the last time Baker didn’t talk to reporters after a game.
Baker said Sunday that he thought it was the first time in his more than 16-year managerial career that he didn’t talk with reporters after a game.
Plain and simple, the Reds are a team on the brink. This team had legitimate hopes of being the first Reds squad to finish with a winning record since 2000. However, despite the fire and brimstone end-of-the-world talk, the Reds do have a few things going for them.
Optimistic point No. 1: The great thing about Major League Baseball is that there are 162 games to be played. Therefore, the Reds have only played a little more than 10 percent of their games.
Optimistic point No. 2: Thanks to a bevy of mediocre teams, the NL Central looks to be one of the weakest divisions in baseball. Despite their early season sufferings, the Reds are still within shouting distance of the front-running Cardinals.
Optimistic point No. 3: Thanks to an upheaval in their farm system, Baker and general manager Walt Jocketty have plenty of arms to call on in AAA Louisville, including Aroldis Chapman.
Optimistic point No. 4: Cueto, Arroyo, Harang and Bailey can’t possibly be this bad all season.
On second thought, point No. 4 isn’t very reassuring.
Because the Reds can’t dismiss Harang, mostly because of his poor performances the last two seasons and the minor fact that he makes $12.5 million this year, they would be well-served to move him to the bullpen if he falters in his next couple of starts.
Lineup order doesn’t usually bother me, but the Reds are a few more bad hitting performances away from needing a makeover. Stubbs, the everyday leadoff man, has been more Dave Kingman than Rickey Henderson. So contact extraordinaire Orlando Cabrera should be moved to the No. 1 spot. Also, cleanup man Brandon Phillips is clearly pressing, and No. 5 hitter Scott Rolen has been one of the team’s best RBI men, so Rolen should be inserted in the No. 4 hole.
Other than that, in the words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, let it ride Reds fans. Baker probably isn’t throwing any chairs like the General once did, so try not to sweat it too much.
Baseball is a long season, so buckle up and go along for the roller coaster ride. Be wary of the season’s ups and downs.