The trade deadline is this Thursday and the Reds are deeply entrenched in a seemingly snake-bitten season. The Reds were white hot going into the All-Star break but lost seven straight coming out of it. Going into the break, I was on my soapbox trumpeting that GM Walt Jocketty had to make a move and go get this team some help. I wanted him to do something, even if it was wrong, because the players deserved it. Now, after the seven game skid, I’d prefer that he not do a damn thing. The consecutive series’ sweeps on the road may have been a blessing in disguise by exposing once and for all just how flawed this team is and not forcing Jocketty’s hand.
Cincinnati Superstars Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are on the shelf until September and will not be in top playing condition again this year. They aren’t going to be a factor going forward in 2014. This team will not make any more serious noise this season without it’s three hole and clean-up hitters. Add to that the fact that Jay Bruce looks absolutely lost at the plate this year and it’s obvious that there isn’t a single player on the planet that’s going to salvage this season through acquisition.
The reality is that the problem is systemic and it starts at the top with Jocketty. The Reds are mired in an awful identity crisis. Walt has completely decimated the Reds farm system through a couple of trades as he has tried to turn Cincinnati into St. Louis East. Things were going swimmingly for a few seasons and then the injury bug hit the Reds hard this season and shined a light on their lack of depth. Injuries are no excuse, all teams deal with them, Lack of depth, however, is an organizational and ideological problem in the front office.
The two constants for this Reds team since 2010 has been starting pitching and defense. Great. Those two attributes win Championships, right? Not without scoring a run here and there. Right now the Reds average 3.42 runners left in scoring position per game and that’s bad enough for top 10 worst in baseball. Lack of clutch hitting has been the Achilles’ heel of this franchise for years and absolutely must be addressed this off-season. What worked in St. Louis doesn’t work here, Walt. There is no cookie cutter formula for success from city to city. Baseball isn’t played in a vacuum and requires constant tinkering and minor adjustments.
Going into today’s rubber match against the Nationals, who were kind enough to bring the racing presidents to Great American Ball Park ( I love those guys), the Reds are one game over .500 at 52-51. That stat, in and of itself is pretty amazing, all things considered.
So the Reds are seemingly neither buyers nor sellers at this point and I think that’s about the best camp to be in at this juncture. No fire sale, no emotionally-motivated trades and no delusion of grandeur for this season. No need to rent a Marlon Byrd for two months at a huge dollar amount just to finish third or fourth in the division. Tread water and try to finish the season honorably.
The Reds need to decide who they are this off-season and make some tough decisions. Some top level talent (pitching) is likely going to have to go and they are going to need to find some clutch hitting. The core of this team isn’t getting any younger or any cheaper and the window of opportunity is closing before the whole team has to be blown up and rebuilt.
This is the earliest I have conceded a season in a long time. I’d love to be proven wrong. This must be what being a Cubs fan feels like.