As I watched the Minnesota Twins play in the American League wild card game against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but have a little hope.
My team, the Cincinnati Reds, has not been good the past four years. They went 68-94 in back-to-back years before winning 64 games in 2015 and 76 games in 2014.
But I have hope.
The Twins were 59-103 last season. They turned things around in 2017, winning the second wild card spot with an 85-77 record.
Minnesota unsuccessfully tried to lose as it was a seller at the trade deadline. The Twins have lots of young pieces and were likely thinking about 2018 and beyond. The future ended up being the now though. Good for them.
They give a guy like me hope. Five years ago, the Reds were in these wild-card games, losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The year before that, they won 97 games and won the National League Central Division. That team had a 2-0 lead on the San Francisco Giants before blowing it with three straight losses.
The Giants won the World Series that year. It’s been a downward spiral for the Reds ever since. They were forced to trade standouts Johnny Cueto, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman and Brandon Phillips.
They got some top prospects in return. Some have panned out and appear to be primed for big years to come.
I haven’t been into baseball as much recently because the Reds have been so bad, but the Twins improving their win total by 26 games from last year to this year gives me reason to think the Reds can get back to winning soon.
The Cubs and Royals did the same thing in recent years.
Neither team was very good just like the Reds but, with young prospects and smart GM decisions, turned things around to win a World Series.
The Cubs won no more than 75 games from 2010-2014. In 2015, the youngsters broke through to win 97. They turned that into 103 wins and a title in 2016.
The Royals had two seasons of greatness where they reached the World Series both times, winning it all the year before the Cubs in 2015.
I like the Reds’ offense. They have one of the best players in the game in Joey Votto, who should be in the top three for NL MVP this season despite playing on a last-place team.
Eugenio Suarez and Zack Cozart both had breakout seasons. And the team had six players hit 24 or more home runs.
Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker are two young guys who showed promise throughout the season. Adam Duvall helps provide the middle of the lineup with a lot of punch. And then Billy Hamilton stole 59 bases at the top of the lineup.
The issue is pitching. The Reds were last in baseball with a 5.14 earned run average and allowed 248 home runs. They used 16 starters, several of which were rookies, to find out what they had for future years.
If the pitching doesn’t improve the Reds have no shot. If they can get some kind of consistency, it’s entirely possible that they can flip their script.
The Cardinals and Pirates appear to be fading. The Brewers are like the Reds in that they have a lot of young talent. The Cubs still have loads of talent but their window won’t be open forever.
The 2018 season may be another tough one to watch. But there’s hope that the youthful Reds can be competitive again.
I hope so. I am ready to invest some serious time into October baseball.
Contact Troy Hyde