There was perhaps no more poetic way for the 2020 Cincinnati Reds to wrap their campaign than this.
After finally, mercifully wading into the free agent market for the first time in forever last winter, the Reds walked away having spent up to $149 million to overhaul their offense. They scoured every corner of the market, refusing to pigeonhole themselves into chasing one player for one position only. They reached into Japan for the first time, added outfielder after outfielder despite an existing glut of outfielders, and even brought in a new 2B who, for his career, had not really ever been a 2B.
Owning a starting rotation that was the envy of all baseball, the Reds knew their offense needed work, and put their money where their heart was.
The Reds have played their final game of this, a 2020 season we’ll not soon forget. But unfortunately, we won’t soon forget it due to what’s gone on off the field more than what happened on it. This flawed Reds club broke our hearts early and surged back furiously to catch the door before it slammed shut in their face, only to again take an uppercut to the chin that won’t soon heal.
This club has not won a postseason series since 1995. Their most recent playoff experience ended in a lone game, a Wild Card loss that was over as soon as it began. Before that came the blown 2-0 series lead, with being no-hit in a postseason game highlighting the only other postseason series of relevance in this era of franchise history. So, it was only fitting that they bowed out while setting more marks for futility, this time going a full 22 innings without ever scoring a run.
It set a postseason MLB record for most innings into a postseason without scoring a run. In the process, the Reds became the first club in MLB history to not score a single run in a multi-game series. This on the heels of Wednesday’s performance where they picked up 11 hits without a run, the most ever in a postseason game, too.
All the while, they exited rapidly while still giving us a glimmer of hope, something I feel like Cincinnati sports have done for a lifetime. Despite that epic futility, they went toe to toe with an uber-talented Atlanta club in two titanic struggles, and walked away having been been right there for the first 21 innings in which they tussled. The most razor-thin of margins was all that separated them from a world-beating offense until the story had already been sent to print, with late dingers in an already sealed game merely the icing on an awful cake.
So close, yet so far away.
We’re now left to see how the Reds pick up the pieces, again. This club is not headed to a full-on rebuild at this juncture, but will lose each of Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, and Freddy Galvis to free agency. There’s the chance Nick Castellanos opts-out, too, while it remains to be seen whether the Designated Hitter will return to the NL again in 2021. We’ll get to see just how much money the Reds have around to spend after the pandemic has decimated revenue streams across the game, and see if the low-budget Reds will again try to patch their holes with suitcases of sawbucks.
There is much still to like about where this Reds club is, I suppose, much like there was when we were oh-so-optimistic last winter. But there’s also this looming sense that much of how this club improves will include simply being better next time, and that’s a hard thing to just hope for given the ages of some of the key players involved.
The fact is, this is a club that spent big, played 62 games this year, and lost as many games as they won - and they’re losing key pieces from that club. The 2020 season that held so much promise, had the air sucked out of it completely, and was magically revived down the stretch will again fail to be one of the 8 final teams playing in the playoffs. And we, as Reds fans, again get to try to talk ourselves into being optimistic about the state of affairs, as there will be a large, large push to call this season a step in the right direction.
Perhaps it has been. We’ll have to wait and see. But the basic fact remains that the Cincinnati Reds season is done before every peer and rival we aspire to see them emulate, and it ended in somewhat embarrassing fashion once again.
Every year, there’s always next year.