There’s something aesthetically pleasing to me about the Cincinnati Reds being competent. Like, for this weekend I’d prefer they not be, but despite the intense rivalry which formed between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Reds in the early 2010s, I must concede that some of the more enjoyable teams in the last half-decade of baseball have played in Cincinnati. Maybe it’s the market–as the 32nd largest market in the United States by primary statistical area, Cincinnati is the second-smallest locale to have a MLB team (only Milwaukee has fewer people). But while Milwaukee has just one World Series title–in 1957, via the then-Milwaukee Braves, and one World Series appearance with its current MLB franchise, Cincinnati has had moments of dominance with the Reds.
The Reds have been intermittently successful throughout their franchise’s history, winning the infamous 1919 World Series (best known for the Black Sox scandal, there is something of a misnomer that the Reds were some hapless team that season, when in reality they went 96-44, faring eight games better than their infamous Chicago White Sox opponents) as well as the 1940 Fall Classic (in their second of back-to-back World Series appearances). But their most iconic incarnation came in the 1970s, when the Reds made the World Series four times, winning twice. The 1975-1976 Reds boasted one of the great lineups in baseball history, including three Hall of Famers (Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Joe Morgan), one would-be-a-Hall-of-Famer-if-not-for-that-whole-thing (Pete Rose), one of the era’s finest shortstops (Dave Concepcion), the superstar power-hitting left fielder George Foster, and “really good if they’re your seventh and eight most notable position players” Ken Griffey and Cesar Geronimo.
Like all good things, the Big Red Machine was chipped away, but by 1990, a less illustrious group guided the Reds to another World Series title. Sure, they had Barry Larkin and Eric Davis and Jose Rijo and a bullpen that even had a fun nickname (“The Nasty Boys”), but they were overwhelming underdogs to the Oakland Athletics. But not only did the Reds win, they swept them.
Just five years later, when the Reds returned to the postseason after winning the first full season of the National League Central, nearly the entire roster (aside from Larkin) had turned over. Their next postseason bid came in 2010, fifteen years later. The team had, needless to say, completely turned over.
Despite the lack of postseason success, the 2010-2013 Cincinnati Reds were the most successful run for the franchise since the Big Red Machine. It seems so recent, yet with the very notable exception of Joey Votto, the Reds have changed dramatically. The team which will play against the Cardinals this weekend at Busch Stadium is, if you checked out over the last half-decade, almost completely unrecognizable.
The Cincinnati Reds’ record stands at 41-52, and they sit in last place in the NL Central. And while that sounds bad, keep in mind that the Reds started the season 3-15 under manager Bryan Price. Since Jim Riggleman, in his fifth stint as an interim manager in the big leagues, the Reds have a winning record. Since that day, they have a better record than the Cardinals.
The top player on the Reds this season has been Eugenio Suarez, who leads the team with 19 home runs and 69 RBI. Scooter Gennett, who is apparently genuinely good now, has 15 home runs. Joey Votto has been less good than normal, but he remains the most terrifying member of the lineup.
Here are the pitchers for this weekend’s series. Shoutout to Matt Harvey for still existing.
Friday: Matt Harvey (4-3, 3.79 ERA) vs. Carlos Martinez (6-4, 3.05 ERA)
Saturday: Luis Castillo (5-8, 5.58) vs. Jack Flaherty (3-4, 3.34 ERA)
Sunday: Anthony DeSclafani (4-1, 4.43) vs. Miles Mikolas (10-3, 2.65 ERA)