A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Billy Reed: Thanks, Reds, for providing a significant mental-health distraction, shining light in darkness

In order to maintain our sanity here in the era of the Coronavirus and the Trumpavirus, I believe it helps to have a significant distraction to keep our brains from rotting.

With me, it’s baseball. More precisely, Cincinnati Reds baseball.

The Reds have fielded much better teams than the current one. Yet they have so many storylines and ways to entertain us that we never lack for drama or thrills.

Going into last night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park, the Reds were 59-51 on the season and were second in the National League Central, trailing the Milwaukee Brewers by seven games.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

They could still win the division, but they have to do something about their horrendous bullpen. The Reds lead the world in games lost when they go into the final inning with a lead. Sometimes their relievers just can’t throw strikes. Other times, they throw weak pitches that the opponents clobber.

With the exception of Luis Castillo, who has struggled all season, the Reds starting rotation at least has been decent. Wade Miley and Tyler Mahle are the only Reds pitchers with earned-run averages below .400. Veteran Sonny Gray also had helped at times.

To the team’s credit, there seems to be little finger-pointing or blame-throwing in the clubhouse. If nothing else, they are remarkably resilient. They don’t let a cruel loss keep them down.

But the everyday players have been as solid as the bullpen is leaky.

Consider, if you will, the following 10 players:

Joey Votto – At age 37, the Reds’ veteran first-baseman was supposed to be on the downhill slide of his Hall of Fame career. He seemed more interested in getting walks than smoking the ball the way he did in his youth. Some said he was washed up and should retire.

So all he did was become one of baseball’s most fascinating stories. He’s hitting .270 with 22 home runs and 64 runs batted in. He hit at least one homer in seven consecutive games. And they’re rockets, too, not bloopers.

Jonathan India – He’s enjoying the best offensive season of any Reds’ second-baseman since Joe Morgan. He can run, field, at hit. Going into last night’s game, he had a .283 average with 13 homers and 47 RBI.

Look for him to be the Reds’ second-baseman for years to come.

Tucker Barnhart – Going into last night’s game, he had gone 145 consecutive games without an error, a record for Reds’ catchers in the modern era. Always known for his arm, his defense, and his ability to handle pitchers, he has punched up his offense this year: .262 average, six homers, and 33 RBI.

Nick Castellanos – He started off the season on fire, inspiring some to say he might be on his way to MVP honors. But an injury put him on the disabled list and he hasn’t been the same since coming back.

Still, his numbers are impressive: .323 average, 18 homers, and 59 RBI.

Jesse Winker – A highly regarded prospect coming up, Winker has settled comfortably into the lineup. His numbers so far are .303 batting average, 22 homers, and 61 RBI.

Eduardo Suarez – His .177 batting average is far too low for him, but he also has 22 homers and 61 RBI. A third baseman at the start of the season, he tried shortstop for awhile, but his defense was found lacking.

Tyler Naguin – He’s been one of the team’s most consistent players at both the plate and in the field. He often goes unnoticed because he’s more steady than spectacular.

His numbers — .241 average, 13 homers, 57 RBI – hardly guarantee him a place in next year’s starting lineup, but it also will take a pretty good player to get him out.

Nick Senzel –In a season marred by injuries, he’s still high on the Reds’ list of possible future stars. His numbers — .252 average, four homers, eight RBI – are hardly reflective of his potential. The Reds still expect big things from him.

Kyle Farmer – He seems to be an old-school sort of guy who cares more about winning than individual stats. Still, a .268 average, with 10 homers and 39 RBI, are plenty solid for a versatile guy who can play multiple positions.

Mike Moustakas – Another guy who can be counted upon to contribute wherever Manager David Bell puts him. He’s hitting .264, with four homers and 15 RBI, but looks capable of much more if he can find more playing time.

Much as I’ve enjoyed watching the Reds this season, the future seems even brighter. If they can keep their everyday nucleus intact, add at least one more solid starter, and retool the hapless bullpen, the World Series will be coming to GABP within the three seasons after this one.

Thanks, Reds, for shining a light in the darkness.

Related Posts

One Comment

  1. dennis carney says:

    Generally agree with Billy, but I think he’s forgotten Brandon Phillips, who had some better offensive seasons than India’s having now.

Leave a Comment