The Reds Offer Cliches As the Losses Pile Up

Yes, tomorrow is another day and you gotta play ’em one game at a time, but Cincinnati has landed in last place with a thud. What’s the plan?
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The ol’ Redlegs have now lost 11 of their last 12 games, the worst stretch of baseball since early 2022, when Cincinnati began the season 3-22. Please keep your local baseball scribes, including me, in your thoughts as we try to figure out some way to make sense of the way this Reds season has veered so quickly off the rails. After all the pre-season hype and expectations, with dreams of a division title dancing in everyone’s head, Cincinnati has gone from four games over .500 to seven games under water and last place in the span of just over two weeks. Analysts’ heads are spinning.

Alas, we aren’t getting much help from Reds players and coaches, who regularly spout classic baseball cliches that would make Crash Davis proud. Do you remember in the movie Bull Durham when Davis schools his young protege Nuke LaLoosh in the art of the baseball cliche?

“We gotta play ’em one day at a time.”

“I’m just happy to be here and hope I can help the ballclub.”

“I just wanna give it my best shot and, Good Lord willing, things’ll work out.”

The Reds seemed to have learned the cliche lesson well. Since there is literally nothing else to write about after this miserable stretch, I thought I’d spend some time with the words of Reds personnel, trying to divine answers that might help explain the current malaise and maybe offer some clues about how to fix it. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Perhaps they’re just not getting the breaks. That’s the theory proposed by Reds catcher Luke Maile. “We’ve got to play better, no doubt,” he said after losing a series to San Francisco over the weekend. “It’ll help when we can find a few breaks. They’re starting to come. But we’ve got to make them happen.

“It’s felt like every night something went against us. We’ve stayed in games. But obviously we’re missing that little extra thing to go right. That extra timely hit. We’ll get it. It’s certainly frustrating.”

Maybe it’s the manager’s fault? Cincinnati dropped to 1-7 in one-run games after back-to-back one-run affairs to finish up a sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks. “It’s all my responsibility,” manager David Bell said. “It’s a player’s game for sure, but of course that’s my job. We’re all definitely working hard. It’s a team effort. We came up short today. The big thing for us is it’s no more than that. We came up short. But we can’t continue to dwell on that.”

It must be the shoddy baserunning, right? In Thursday’s loss to Arizona, Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz walked and stole second but was picked off as he attempted to steal third, a particularly costly mistake in a one-run loss. Reds legend and television broadcaster Barry Larkin called it “unacceptable.” Two days later, three different Reds runners (Will Benson, Jeimer Candelario, Jake Fraley) were thrown out at second attempting to stretch singles into doubles.

“Over the course of the year, we’ll make base running mistakes, for sure,” Bell said after the Saturday loss to the Giants. “Today, I didn’t consider those mistakes. When the other team makes plays like that and makes perfect throws, you can’t wait around to find out. Today, they got it done.”

Note: It’s not the baserunning. The Reds lead the Major Leagues by a wide margin in baserunning runs above average. The aggression on the basepaths is actually one of the best things about this club. A bigger culprit might be the defense, where FanGraphs rates Cincinnati among the bottom five in MLB. And, in a development that will surprise no one, Cincinnati’s .215 team batting average is better than the Chicago White Sox’s average. But no one else.

I don’t care what sport you’re talking about, when your offense and your defense is this bad at the same time, it isn’t ideal.

Let’s get creative. Perhaps all the travel is to blame! That’s what Reds second baseman Jonathan India is claiming, anyway. “The travel I think is the biggest thing for us,” India said. “I haven’t traveled as much in the beginning of a year. It’s a lot of travel. Especially going west coast and coming back so much It’s definitely tough on our bodies and sleep schedules. But that’s part of it. And I think we’re making the best of it.”

It’s true that the Reds are on their longest road trip of the season. On the other hand, according to our crack research team here at Cincinnati Magazine, every baseball team has to travel—so I’m not sure this theory is going to hold up very well.

Fortunately, like the mothers we celebrated recently on Mother’s Day, the cliches are here to reassure us that things are going to get better. The season isn’t over. Tomorrow is a new day. The Reds just gotta keep battling.

“We definitely expect more out of ourselves,” India said. “But we’re fighting.”

“Right now, we’re in a tough stretch,” Reds bench coach Freddie Benavides said after managing the Reds in Sunday’s game as Bell spent most of the game in the clubhouse with “stomach issues.” (We get it, David. Your team is making us sick. too.) “We’re not playing to what we’re capable of,” Benavides continued. “It’s tough to lose a game like that, especially when you’re trying to win the series. We’ve just got to keep battling. Tomorrow is a new day.”

Reds starter Frankie Montas agrees. “We just have to keep going out there and keep on grinding. This is not going to be the whole season. We’re all working to get out of this. That’s the only thing we can control.”

With 120 games remaining, there’s plenty of time for the Reds to crawl back into the thick of the playoff race. After years of watching baseball, there are a few things I know that I’ve been told over and over again. They just gotta play ’em one day at a time. This team never quits. And it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Chad Dotson helms Reds coverage at Cincinnati Magazine and hosts a long-running Reds podcast, The Riverfront. His newsletter about Cincinnati sports can be found at chaddotson.com. He’s @dotsonc on Twitter.

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