The Island of Misfit Teams: The Elimination of the Cincinnati Reds

It’s September, and that means the playoff races are heating up in Major League Baseball. However, not everyone makes it to the promised land. Tom Wright tells us what went right and what went wrong in the elimination of the Cincinnati Reds.

Walt Jocketty certainly had a tall order when he began the year. The Reds had ended up on the reverse side of the development curve, stuck with some homegrown guys that could no longer stay healthy, a pitching staff where all of the pitchers besides Homer Bailey were about to graduate to free agency, and a payroll that simply wouldn’t support the sorts of fixes necessary to make the Reds a contender in 2015. In short, it was time for the Reds to retool.

The story of the Reds’ 2015 season, then, is the story of a complete rebuild of the pitching staff. In the offseason, the Reds decided to prey on teams that overestimated their own statuses as contenders; they sent Mat Latos to the Marlins (who were in the midst of an illusory pursuit of success) and Alfredo Simon to the Tigers (who were simply bad but didn’t know it yet). At midseason, the Reds completely abandoned ship with the rotation, sending both Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto to better teams in an attempt to complete the tear-down once and for all. Of course, the other pitcher from the 2014 rotation, Homer Bailey, went down for the season with a torn UCL and received the dreaded Tommy John surgery. For those keeping score at home, that means that exactly none of the Reds’ five starters from last year are still in the rotation.

The funny thing about the Reds is that they have many of the pieces largely in place to make a run at respectability. Their hitting is above league-average for the NL, as the lineup sports decent hitters at nearly every position and a bonafide star/walk machine/person for the press to irrationally hate in Joey Votto. Sure, it would be great if Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce hit like they used to, but even with those two players descending to mediocrity, the lineup is still befitting of a contender. Similarly, the back of the bullpen is exceptionally strong; Aroldis Chapman is a freak of nature, and JJ Hoover would be a closer on most any other team. It’s not hard to imagine either of those players closing a playoff series if the other parts could fall into place.

The big question, then, is what happens to the pitching rotation this offseason. Will the Reds trade some of their newly acquired prospects for a frontline pitcher? Will they build from within?Will they use their newfound financial flexibility to land a big star? The way that Walt Jocketty answers those questions will go a long way toward determining how prognosticators and Reds’ fans will approach 2016. Of course, Reds’ fans are a patient lot, and Jocketty has had success before (both in Cincinnati and in St. Louis), so there’s no panic in the land of Skyline Chili. However, for a franchise that hasn’t won a postseason series in 25 years… a couple of playoff wins might be nice.

Cincinnati last made the playoffs in 2013, when they lost the wildcard game to the Pirates. Their last World Series win was in 1990.

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Next: Miami Marlins

*Click here for the entire Island of Misfit Teams collection.

Tom Wright has also written about the James Shield trade and Bud Selig.

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Check out Brandon Magee’s PawSox recap and our This Week In Baseball Writing.

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