It’s difficult to imagine how the start to the 2018 season could have gone any worse for the Reds. The team wakes up today with the second-worst record in baseball (thanks Tampa Bay), the second-worst run differential (thanks Miami), and a fan base that has been completely deflated just over a week into the season. Four straight losing years can sap the joy from even the most ardent fan. Add to that a fifth, plus the feeling that the rebuild is going off the rails, and it’s almost too much for any baseball fan to take.
However, it’s not just a losing record that seems to have fans so down. Losing streaks happen to every team during a long baseball season. It’s the losing plus a string of injuries (Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, etc.) and baffling roster decisions (Yovani Gallardo). That combination of ingredients has created a pretty toxic stew around the Reds organization.
While I completely understand the apathy in the fanbase, I’ve felt it myself, I wanted to take a few minutes to implore all of us not to give up on this team just yet. Now, I know what you're thinking, “Aren’t you the guy that wrote ‘Why This is the Best Season to be a Reds Fan’ during a season in which they went 68-94? My response to this accusation is two-fold.
- Yes, that was me.
- In hindsight, it wasn’t the best season to be a Reds fan.
It’s possible there aren’t many (if any) good reasons to be optimistic about the Reds in 2018. However, it’s still only April, and this team could turn things around. Maybe you’ve already checked out, but just in case you’re still hanging on let me give you a few reasons to hold on a little longer.
The team will get healthy
It’s obvious that the current Reds roster is not at full strength. The pitching staff has been decimated (stop me if you’ve heard this before) by a string of injuries to open the season. In just a short amount of time, help does appear to be on the way. Brandon Finnegan made what was likely his final rehab start in Louisville last night, and he should rejoin the team this week. Lorenzen is further away but he could begin a throwing program “in less than a week.” DeSclafani was the biggest disappointment in that he’ll be out until at least late May, but before the summer hits the Reds pitching staff could be operating at something close to full strength. Is that too late to help the Reds make a playoff push? Sure, but did you really expect the team to challenge for a playoff spot this season? But it should still be enough to help the team eclipse 70 wins for the first time since 2014.
On the position player front, the Suarez injury hurts, but it isn’t crippling. Fans hoping the team would take this opportunity to call up Nick Senzel will likely be disappointed. As Steve Mancuso of Redleg Nation noted yesterday, the Reds are likely to leave Senzel down until June at the earliest to avoid him earning Super Two status. Scott Schebler hit the DL yesterday, but he’ll (likely) be back in the lineup next week. Fingers crossed, the roster will look how we expected sooner rather than later.
Joey Votto will get it going
By now, fans should know not to panic about a slow start by Joey Votto (.257/.308/.257, 0 HR, 2 RBI). However, a portion of the fanbase convinces itself every April that Votto’s production has finally fallen off a cliff. As a refresher, Votto hit .171/.237/.400 with 2 HR and 4 RBI in the Reds first nine games last season. His final stats read .320/.454/.578 with 36 HR, 100 RBI, and 106 R. Father time will eventually catch up to Joey Votto, but when that happens the fall won’t be this dramatic. Votto finished second in MVP voting a season ago, and once his bat heats up it will be a huge boost for the Reds.
Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene
The Reds struggles have caused fans to take a good hard look at the rebuilding effort of the past few years. Admittedly, it’s easy to look back on many of the trades that were made during that time span and be disappointed. Outside of Finnegan, the Cueto trade hasn’t offered much help at the major league level (yet). For a variety of reasons, the Aroldis Chapman trade didn’t return the value Reds fans hoped. Jose Peraza’s poor play has soured people on the Todd Frazier deal (to be fair, Schebler’s production has helped), and the team hung on to Jay Bruce so long that he was unable to return much at all. True, there have been a few hits over this period of time (Leake for Duvall and Mella), but it’s difficult not to see this aspect of the rebuild as a disappointment.
The total negativity regarding the rebuild fails to account for the additions of Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene through the draft. In those two players, the Reds (hopefully) have the franchise players who will anchor this team in a post-Joey Votto world. If you look at the Reds right now you see talent, but you don’t see a lot of superstars. Senzel and Greene have the potential to be just that. If the Reds can keep this core together and then add these two pieces in the next few years, they have the potential to push a good baseball team to the next level. As much as fans don’t want to hear it, if the Reds continue to struggle this season they’ll likely have the chance to add another top-5, potentially franchise-altering player. At least it’s a silver lining?
It’s completely understandable why fans are so frustrated with the start to this season. However, there are good reasons to believe the team is going to play better this season (injuries and Votto) and in seasons to come (Greene and Senzel). Maybe this rebuild won’t produce a title contender. It happens. Constructing a baseball team is hard, the Reds play in an incredibly competitive division, and only one team can win it every year.
But don’t give up hope yet. Don’t give up on 2018 yet. It’s only April, things are bound to get better, and this season promises to be another step in the right direction for this rebuild.