clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Eleven Bad Years

This wasn’t the worst Reds decade, but it was the longest.

2012 NLDS Game 3: San Francisco Giants v. Cincinnati Reds Photo by John Grieshop/MLB via Getty Images

Sitting here with Trader Joe’s whiskey, which is sad enough already, a tune came on the algo.

Something about the “oh ohhh”, the video, I dunno, it’s peak bummerpop for me. The idea that things are the best they’ll ever be, and they pretty much suck.

The Reds nominally made the playoffs in a mass-death-shortened 2020, and exited in historically bad fashion. No, not like the time they exited the playoffs after getting no-hit, or exited the playoffs after going up 2-0 in a 5-game series, or exited the playoffs after having one of the five best pitchers in team history just...drop...the ball...on the mound? but in a differently historically bad fashion.

Anyway, since then they lost the only Cy Young winner in team history, shoved their closer out the door and brought in some dude I’ve never heard of’s younger brother.

It made me think back to 2014, when “Stay High” came out, in a summer that the Reds built off a playoff tumble by signing Roger Bernadina.

It wasn’t the worst decade in Reds history, I bet. They did make the playoffs a bunch, I suppose, and had a couple world-historic players. But it was the biggest bummer.

In honor of the last Red to win a damn thing, here’s the eleven worst seasons of the past 10 years, ranked. From best to worst.

11. 2010

That team, whew, what fun! Joey Votto just kicking shins on his way to an MVP, Jay Bruce clinching the playoffs, Drew Stubbs getting on base nearly 13 the time, and Bronson Arroyo winning 17 games. The Reds launched their way into the new decade behind an exciting crop of youngsters and some stable pitching.

They also got no-hit in their first game of the playoffs. I guess you could say Edinson Volquez was a weeeee bit outmatched there, eh? But still, if your cable subscription broke just before Game 1 of the NLDS, or, say, you were on a 9-month bender in Istanbul just drinking as much as the exchange rate would get you, getting paid in envelopes full of cash, and getting in shouting matches with young men just to feel alive, it wouldn’t get any better than this.

10. 2012

Ah, the summer of feeling good all the time. Drew Stubbs was now only getting on base 27% of the time, and other centerfielders would include Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, and Kris Negron.

Still, the pitching was freaking nails and Joey Votto was on his way to something really special I mean even for him before some bad things. Then some more bad things happened after that. It was hard to feel good after the season ended, in a way that’s a little bit different than 2010. It ended poorly. But boy, we had some fun on the way.

9. 2019

An 87-loss team is arguably the third-best thing to happen since Aroldis Chapman debuted in Major League Baseball.

It’s not because the 2019 team was good, of course. None of these teams from hereon out were. It’s that there was something worth giving a damn about. Look, it pains me to say it but going out to get Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Trevor Bauer was cool and good. Damn the long-term consequences. There was optimism going into the offseason and excitement for 2020. Freakin lol.

8. 2017

Placed this high solely based on Joey Votto banging. This was a real decade-before-ass-year, what with Tim Adleman leading the team in innings.

Asher Wojciechowski got 8 starts, and I don’t think I gave a damn about any of them. I was waiting since 2010 for Asher to end up on the team, and by the time it happened, I had signed off on these guys.

Looking at Twitter, seems like Big Ash is pro-BLM and likes Dan Straily. So let’s say he’s the second best thing about the fourth-best team of the decade.

He had a 6.50 ERA and gave up 2HR/9 that year.

7. 2015

I dare you to remember one thing about the 2015 season.

Oblivion beats whatever comes next on this list.

6. 2016

Same as above, but Adam Duvall’s galooting into the stratosphere and Dan Straily being whatever the pitcher equivalent of galooting was pretty great.

It’s crazy thinking that, back in 2016, I was still trying to make it as a writer. Four years ago, I thought that I had valuable insight to give via written words, and that I could make my way through life finding the right words. I remember writing about Duvall and feeling really proud about it.

Can you imagine being in your late 20s and thinking you can get through life talking about Adam Duvall? How had nobody shaken some sense into me by then? SB Nation finally formally fired me earlier this year, it felt a bit like The Office fixing the Milton glitch. In case you’re wondering what the gap between giving up on your dreams and having your dreams formally foreclosed upon you might be, now you know: four years.

5. 2011

The weird interregnum where we were all so excited for Paul Janish to get a run of games at short. He went .215/.259/.262.

Just a weird, weird, season that I can’t take any positives away from. Did anyone really think that Fred Lewis and Dontrelle Willis were separating the 2010 Reds from the next level? At what point in the season did you give a big ol’ “This aint it, chief!” into the sky?

Like, why even play baseball if nothing good is going to happen? This is supposed to be entertainment, but was anyone entertained? What is the point, of any of this?

Four seasons were worse.

4. 2018

I’ll admit, I had no recollection of Jim Riggleman managing this team. Beats me.

Luis Castillo was a blast, but other than that there was a real commitment to mediocrity going on throughout the organization. There’s that whole internet joke, where thousands of people join hands and say “better things aren’t possible!” (I’m told @InternetHippo coined this), and I feel like that was Red Reporter in 2018.

Or at least probably was, I was pretty gone by then. My kid was born in 2018, and I’ve spent the time since then trying to build a better world in a world that wants nothing of the sort. To quote more internet wise-guys, bbjones always says we must imagine Sisyphus to be happy. I dunno man, I imagine Sisyphus just might need a better imagination.

3. 2013

I still have dreams every month or so where I’m driving down a busy road and my brakes just go out. I’m moving 45mph and couldn’t stop if God hammered on the pedal, and it’s downhill from there.

The Reds ended the year getting swept by the Pirates, and then losing to the Pirates in a 1-game playoff because Todd Frazier was the only guy on the roster who could hit a left-hander. Hindsight is 20/20 but nobody was seriously expecting the Reds to put up a fight, against the most pathetic team in the division. Marlon Byrd delivered the death blow. The Reds could’ve picked him up during the season but preferred having Ryan Ludwick, coming off of reconstructive shoulder surgery, as their RHB off the bench.

There was just this stomach-churning feeling of careening in the stretch run of 2013. Like, sure, this might work out ok but it’s not going to feel good in the meantime. It felt like shit, and the worst part was knowing that it was only going to feel shittier from thereon-out. Is there a metaphor for this sort of thing? I can’t imagine there is. It just felt bad, even when things were going good. And much worse when they weren’t.

2. 2014

How on earth did Johnny Cueto win 20 games on this team? Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier, the Mayonnaise Bros, were a whoop-de-do.

But, to emphasize: the Reds were on the tail end of their core competitive window and everyone knew it. In the offseason, Dusty Baker quit/was fired, and the Reds made zero upgrades. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, what with Joey Votto’s injury, but there is something just colossally disappointing of closing the window on your own fingers. At least feeling bad is a feeling, this was just...deflating.


It’s likely that 300,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 by the time you read this. Playing baseball during a politically-encouraged mass death event is a farce. Playing a weird semi-season limping along with no expectation of succor, for no reason whatsoever, is the most defeating thing I can imagine the Reds doing. So of course they held hands with 29 other franchises and went ahead with it.