Cincinnati-the Big Red Mess

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It’s puzzling to see how Cincinnati, which was for many years such a proud baseball franchise, is now the biggest red mess since Peggy Bundy went off the air. Their history goes all the way back to the 1869 Cincinnati RedStocking barnstorming team which hardly lost a game as it toured the country under its manager Harry Wright.  For generations the Queen City hosted baseball’s traditional Opening Day game, usually a day before everybody else played. ESPN ruined that. They hosted the first night game in 1935 when Crosley Field was still their home.  Last night’s 6-4 loss in 12 innings to the Pirates was the team’s 13th in a row, their longest losing streak since August, 1945. Even should they lose their next two games to end the season, they can’t equal their longest run of futility. They lost 19 in a row in 1914 in an isolated America  while Europe heard the Guns of August firing.

The Reds team as we know it began in 1890. Their earliest superstar was Sam Crawford, whose words about playing in those days were immortalized in “The Glory of Their Times,” an awesome book thankfully still in print. The Reds took two of their first 3 World Series-1919 over the infamous Black Sox, and 1940 over the Tigers. They had lost in 1939 in 4 straight to the Yankees. They underwent a brief name change, to the RedLegs between 1954 and 1960, a name sportscaster Stan Lomax was still using in the late ’70s. Riverfront Stadium was built when the team was at risk of moving to San Diego. It opened just before the 1970 All-Star game, now remembered  for Pete Rose’s destructive collision at home plate with Ray Fosse to end the game. That was the start of the Big Red Machine nickname and the team’s season of greatness. They lost the 1970 World Series to the Orioles and the ’72 Series to Oakland. In 1973 the Mets beat them out in a series marked by Pete Rose’s brawl with the much smaller Bud Harrelson. But in 1975 and 1976 the Reds couldn’t be stopped. They beat the Red Sox in arguably the greatest World Series of my lifetime in 1975. all but two games ended by one run, two in extra innings. Game 1 was scoreless until a 6-run outburst by the Red Sox in the 7th. Game 6 will never be forgotten because of Carlton Fisk’s game-winning 12th-inning home run, what would now be called a walkoff home run. A year later the Reds blitzed the Yankees in 4 straight in a World Series better left forgotten by fans of the Pinstripe Empire. The Reds’ last World Series was in 1990 when they took out Oakland in 4 straight. Riverfront, like 3 Rivers in Pittsburgh and The Vet in Philly was demolished. The Reds now play at Great American Ball Park. They haven’t lost 100 games since 1982, though they have lost 90 or more 3 times since 2001. The shocking thing is, this was a playoff team just two years ago. Two more losses and they will reach 100 for this season, the first time in 33 years they’ve fallen so low. Most of the reason is the inexperience of their pitching staff. Aroldis Chapman is the one pitcher they own any casual fan has ever heard of. Homer Bailey has two no-hitters on his record but he’s been out most of the year following Tommy John surgery. That might have been done in September, 2014 but he was told it was “arm fatigue,” not a torn ligament.  The Reds  also got rid of Alfredo Simon in December for a bucket of curve balls. Simon has blossomed for the Tigers. They unloaded Matt Latos who has done little this season. The result is that over 60 games in a row have been started by rookie pitchers, which is unheard of.  One of many low points has been  having the Mets celebrate winning the NL Eastern Division on the Reds’ home field.

Last night the Reds had a 4-0 lead 3 innings in at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen put up the Pirates’ first tally with a 4th-inning home run. The Pirates leveled the game in the sixth with 3 runs, then won it in the 12th on a two-run home run by Starling Marte. While the Pirates are unlikely to catch the Cardinals for the division crown they will almost certainly cinch home field for the wild card game. The sad part of it is the diminished state of the Reds’ once glorious franchise.

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