The 2020 Cincinnati Reds probably should have been good, but were not.
They had almost every opportunity to make the playoffs in a year where the playoffs were expanded to include even teams that were not good, and won’t.
They had a chance to notice they weren’t very good before it was too late, but did not.
They had the chance to focus on the future at that point, but wouldn’t look.
They finally spent a bit of money, but not more than their peers.
They built a roster hellbent on 2020, and 2020 is now kaput.
Just where exactly do the Cincinnati Reds go from here?
You could certainly argue that while the Reds were built for the 2020 MLB season, they were not built for this 2020 MLB season, and I’d listen to that. As the Washington Nationals showed just last year, building a team with a foundation of top-tier starting pitching is the kind of thing that lets you last through the marathon that is 162 games in 6 months time. Rolling out ace after ace begins to grind down even the best lineups, something the Reds had leaned into hard for this season.
They also stacked their lineup with veteran bats, bats that aren’t exactly suited for flash-in-the-pan success. Mike Moustakas, who’ll be 32 next season, fought through an injury that seemed to sap his power, while Shogo Akiyama, who’ll be 33 next season, has clearly taken time to get adjusted to pitching here stateside. Joey Votto, notorious slow starter, needed the bench and a mid-season swing revamp (again) to try to get going, and hindsight dictates it didn’t happen in nearly enough time.
Here I am lobbing excuses around.
It’s not as if the other 29 teams in the league aren’t up against these same constraints. It’s not like they threw up their hands and said ‘I run marathons, not sprints.’ Even if they had, baseball hit back at them with expanded playoffs that are specifically designed to let mediocrity for 60 games still have a chance to prove itself, and the Reds couldn’t even cobble that together.
Whether failure due to luck, due to incompetence, due to misfortune or poor production, failure is failure on the bottom line of the baseball standings, and the Cincinnati Reds again find themselves forced to look at it. This time, though, it came with the weight of expectations lumbered on its back, which only serves to make the nosedive that much more impactful upon landing.
I don’t know where the disappointment of this season will go in the files. There is a non-zero part of me that thinks that if we all live long enough to reflect back on this hellish year, I won’t even remember the baseball that was played in it. In all honesty, even if they manage to muster up an 11-7 finish, somehow squeak into the expanded playoffs as the 8 seed, and get mauled by the Dodgers, would it change the way you remember this year at all?
They’ll try again this winter, and I’ll be there to watch. They’ll probably even make at least a move or two that taps the ol’ keg of optimism again, and I’ll be there to kegstand. But as this season hits peak digestion, it’s hard to think of the 2020 Reds as anything more than that tattoo you got on spring break that, shockingly, doesn’t seem as cool a few months later as it did at the time.