It’s beginning to look like Scooter Gennett is just trolling me. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
Let me explain. You may know that I write a recurring feature here at Nuxhall Way called the “Reds Player Power Rankings.” It’s just like the team power rankings you see in every sport, and mainly a device to analyze who is doing what on the Reds roster at any given time. I try to have fun with it.
I’ve had more fun with Scooter Gennett than most.
You will recall that the Reds grabbed Scooter off the scrap heap on May 28, at the end of spring training. Gennett, a 5-10, 180-pound lefty hitter, had been Milwaukee’s starting second baseman for most of the last three seasons. In December, however, the Brewers acquired Travis Shaw and installed him at third base. At the same time, they moved Jonathan Villar—who had played mostly third base and shortstop in 2016—over to second. That left Scooter the odd man out and, the Brewers unwilling to pay $2.525-million for a utility player.
The Reds jumped at the opportunity to claim Gennett. After all, here was a 26-year old who had been a regular starter in the big leagues, and who demonstrated an ability to hit a little. The Reds were planning to use young Jose Peraza as the starting second baseman—that’s still the plan today—but in Gennett they had a super-sub that they could play all around the diamond.
Plus, he had a really cool nickname (with a great story about how he acquired it), was born in Cincinnati, and grew up a big Reds fan. He relished the opportunity to return home, with all the joys the Queen City has to offer. For example, in mid-April, I happened to be sitting down the first base line at Great American Ball Park next to an older couple—I didn’t catch their names—who claimed to have known Scooter for years. They raved about what a great kid he is, and noted that, on his first night back in town, he called them for a ride. Even better, they said he was so excited to be back in Cincinnati, he had eaten at Skyline Chili on each of the last three days.
This is a Cincinnati kid, eh? And he started out the season hot: Through the first ten games, Gennett was hitting .308/.333/.731 with 3 home runs, 2 doubles, and 10 RBI.
And that’s when he started trolling me. After that nice start to the season, I published my initial Power Rankings. With tongue firmly in cheek, I ranked Scooter 6th (ahead of Joey Votto, Scott Schebler, and Billy Hamilton, among others). Here was my comment:
Scooter Gennett, IF/OF/Walking Demigod: Scooter is becoming a genuine folk hero in this town, and it isn’t just because of his name. He’s been productive…(though) Gennett may never again be back in the top ten of the Reds Player Power Rankings.
Hahahahahaha, right? Let’s have a little fun with ol’ Scooter, I thought. Let’s pretend that the little guy is a giant among men, rather than just a decent little utility player.
After my hilarious take on Scooter, he fell back to earth. I hope I didn’t have anything to do with it, but over the next six weeks, he hit just .259/.300/.365 with no homers. The drop in power shouldn’t have been surprising. After all, Gennett only had 38 home runs in 500+ career games to that point. The power surge of the first ten games in a Reds uniform had been purely a mirage.
Even worse, Gennett was mired in an 0-19 slump, until June 5, when he broke the streak with a game-winning double.
Then came June 6. That morning, I published my latest version of the rankings. Scooter had been in a slump, so it seemed like a good time to have a little fun once again. I dropped him to 16th in the rankings:
Scooter Gennett (6): Is it possible that Gennett isn’t going to be a Reds legend after all? Maybe he’ll just be a pretty good bench player with a chance to work his way into the starting lineup. Which is fine. He’s currently hitting .269/.307/.444 with 3 HR and 18 RBI.
You know the rest of the story. That very night, Scooter became the first Red in history to hit four home runs in a single game, going 5-5 with 10 runs batted in. He’s the only player in MLB history to have five hits, four homers, and 10 RBI in one game. In one night, he drove in more runs than 24 of the 30 big league teams in action. Among players in the 4-homer-1-game club: Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt…Scooter Gennett.
Yes, mere hours after I declared that he was not going to be a Reds legend, Scooter Gennett literally became a Reds legend. Justin and Adam enjoyed mocking me on this point in the latest episode of the Nuxhall Way Podcast, and I very much deserved it.
You may know that I co-authored an upcoming book on the Reds. It’s called The Big 50: The Men and Moments that made the Cincinnati Reds. Scheduled for release next spring, the book is a heavily researched deep-dive into the most memorable players and moments, and the biggest legends in Reds history. The book was finished months ago, and I can’t wait for you to read it.
A few minutes after Scooter slugged his way into Cincinnati lore, my co-author Chris Garber and I were frantically emailing our editor at Triumph Books. Our question: “Is it too late to write another chapter? We really need to add a Scooter chapter to the book.” Long story short, we’re working on that chapter now and it will be included in the final manuscript. After all, you can’t write a history of the Reds without including the heroics of June 6, 2017.
Scooter Gennett: Reds legend. I’ll never doubt him again.
Chad Dotson is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, ESPN’s SweetSpot blog, and the founder of Redleg Nation. You can follow him on Twitter at @dotsonc.