- Marcus Hartman
The end of the first half of the MLB season put a huge dent in the Cincinnati Reds chances of squeaking into contention in the division earlier than expected.
The beginning of the second half is a reminder how far they are from actually being any kind of postseason threat.
At times over the weekend the Reds and Washington Nationals looked like they might be playing a different sport.
Sure there was that blip late Saturday night, but otherwise it was ugly as Dusty Baker's current team pounded his old team inning after inning.
One might say the 29-11 aggregate score (with one more to play today) says it all, but I’m not sure it’s even been that close.
By the lede of this column I mean to say as long as they were, for instance, seven games or so out in a weak division, winning it wasn't an insane thought.
Considering how much room they had to improve in starting pitching and how sustainable the good things they have done seem to be, getting hot and being relevant the rest of the season wasn’t totally out of the question.
(It is now with the Brewers heating up.)
This bludgeoning from the Nationals is proof that would have qualified as fool's gold once the competition ratcheted up in October.
I still don't think they’re better off going completely in the tank to maximize their draft position, though, and I don’t think a surprising bout with divisional competitiveness this year would have made them do anything to alter their long-term plans much, either.
Last year, I compared the Reds’ rebuild to the Chicago Cubs, and it turned out the 2016 World Series champs were worse for longer than Cincinnati has been. (This paid off in many draft picks who are key contributors now.)
Someone asked Hal McCoy for this week’s mailbag column how the Reds can become the Houston Astros, another interesting case study in rebuilding in today’s baseball.
The Astros had a four-year period where they lost 92 games or more, including losing 106 or more each year from 2011-13. They had six straight losing seasons overall.
The Reds have not been that bad, and there’s no reason to think they need to be now considering how many positions at which now they already have young players thriving.
At any rate, it’s too late.
If Cincinnati was going to tear it all down to the studs like Houston and the Cubs did, the time to do that would have been after the 2013 team stumbled into the Wild Card Game only to be embarrassed by the Pirates.
Waiting too long to commit to a full rebuild seems to have hurt them in terms of turning their best assets (Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman) into can’t-miss prospects, but flipping some secondary guys like Alfredo Simon and Dan Straily for better-than-expected returns has lessened the sting of those mistakes.
Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler are making that Todd Frazier trade look pretty nice, too.
So, who’s next?