I think I’ve mentioned in at least three different places that the Cincinnati Reds, from 2014-2017, were a whopping 96 combined games under .500, which is a colossal amount of losing. A quick look at the 2018 standings shows the Reds again in the cellar of the National League Central, their 2-6 record leaving them 4 games under .500 this year.
Some advanced mathematics tells me that we can now say the Reds, while rebuilding since the 2014 season, have reached a full 100 games under the .500 mark, the one-hit shutout by Pittsburgh Pirates starter Jameson Taillon on Sunday getting the club to that landmark number. That’s a rebuild that has lasted a long, long time, through copious amounts of losing, but after this weekend is also one that seems further from being complete than it has in quite some time.
Eugenio Suarez has a busted thumb, and will be out for a month or two. Anthony DeSclafani is already on the 60-day DL, which means he’s out through the end of May, at the earliest. Brandon Finnegan hasn’t yet pitched in 2018, either, and Scott Schebler has been M.I.A. for over a week after being doinked on the funny bone. It doesn’t take a ton of mental gymnastics to notice that those four players are the rebuild, the single biggest pieces of the tear-down trades since 2014 that have actually made impacts with the big league Reds, and in the fifth full year of this reconstruction were each being counted on to carry significant weight on the march back towards success.
Though it’s through no real fault of their own, those four aren’t in position to do that at the moment, and that’s a gut-punch to both the franchise itself and to the scattering of Reds fans who have held tight for years through loss after loss after loss. In particular, I think the loss of Suarez on Sunday - who the Reds had just committed to long-term with a 7-year contract extension - is the loss that stings folks the most, as it was clearly evident how much the Reds front office considers him a vital part of the future of the franchise.
This is also far from the first time the Reds have doled out a lengthy contract to a key player only to watch them immediately deal with injuries. Reds fans have watched that play out over and over in the last half-dozen years, as it’s happened to each of Homer Bailey, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Madson, Devin Mesoraco, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto, for instance. I won’t call that a ‘pattern,’ as that would imply that each of those instances had something similar as an underlying cause, but I will state plausibly that it has certainly been a recurring string of incredibly unfortunate events, with Suarez merely being the latest big-time bummer.
The 2018 season was always going to be one where things had to go almost completely correct for the Reds to have any sort of success. Given their combination of youth and inexperience, there were going to inevitably need to be a core of players who’d not yet played like stars to do just that for wins to pile up, and a continued breakout from Suarez seemed one of the more likely ways that would happen. The same can be said about DeSclafani, too, who missed all of 2017 with an elbow injury but has both a 3 bWAR and 3 fWAR season under his belt in his career. Finnegan’s in that category, too, after missing most all of last year, as is Schebler - who flashed great potential both before and after a debilitating shoulder injury flushed over a month of his 2017 season down the tubes. Yet here we are, barely over a week into the season, and that idea is more or less kaput for two of the four, with the other two hopefully set to be back soon enough to help play their parts.
It’s admittedly melodramatic to go full-on Sheldon throwing papers after just eight games, but this is not after just eight games. This is after four years and eight games, and while there’s still ample time for a series of good fortune to reveal itself to the Reds in 2018, the would-be rock bottom we thought we’d seen them hit at the end of 2017 proved to be merely a false one. Having every single position player on the roster go hitless in a 5-0 loss to a Pittsburgh team that just shipped out Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen was bad. Getting walloped 14-3 by those Pirates two nights earlier because Yovani Gallardo was a) almost undefinably awful and b) actually a player on the Reds roster was worse. Losing Suarez in that same series, though, sunk both present spirits and future hopes to a new level of gloom.
Things will get better for the Reds. Unfortunately, it’s at this part of these articles that for awhile now I’ve said ‘things will get better for the Reds soon,’ and I’m no longer under the impression that soon is on the table. Four years and eight games in, and this rebuild still has a long way to go.