The disappointment was etched on manager David Bell’s face in his postgame press conference.
“No one feels like our guys in the clubhouse,” Bell said. “It’s not a good feeling. It’s a bad feeling. There’s no real words to make you feel better when you compete all year, you battle and you work year round and you put everything you have into it and you lose. There’s no good way to feel about that, but the one thing is that you can only feel this bad when you have done everything you can and competed and done all that work. Nothing else can feel that bad on a baseball field. There’s some honor in that.
"We were able to have some success, taste some real success, and when we take a step back and reflect on the season, there’s no doubt moving forward, knowing that feeling and knowing what it takes and the amount of effort and teamwork, tasing that success is going to go a long way. It’s difficult to have a perspective right now, but once we get some time, we’ll look back and know that’s going to be very helpful moving forward.”
The Reds enter the offseason facing several big questions about the future. Here are a few of them:
1. Will Trevor Bauer return?
Bauer turned in one of the best pitching performances in franchise history and may become the first pitcher in Reds history to win the Cy Young Award. He was 5-4 with a 1.73 ERA in 11 regular-season appearances and then threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 on Wednesday.
The Reds signed Bauer to a one-year, $17.5 million contract in January. He said the previous summer he was committed to signing one-year deals.
Bauer said last weekend he wasn’t thinking about free agency yet. He planned to listen to every offer and make a decision based on the factors important to him.
“I want to win," Bauer said. "I want to be happy. I want to enjoy playing baseball. I don’t think any team is out of the running to sign me. It depends on what the landscape looks like. That’s really been the last thing on my mind.”
Dick Williams, president of baseball operations for the Reds, said the front office will do everything it can to make Bauer’s re-signing happen.
“I would love to think that Trevor would come back," Williams said.
2. Can the offense improve?
The Reds set a baseball postseason record by not scoring in 22 straight innings. That was a surprise considering how well they hit in the last two weeks, averaging 5.0 runs per game as they won 11 of 14 games. However, the Reds still ranked last in baseball in hitting with a .212 average and 19th in runs scored (243).
The Reds did have power. They hit 90 home runs in 60 games and were on pace to hit 243 in a 162-game season. The franchise record is 227.
It was an all-or-nothing offense in many ways, and that proved detrimental in the wild-card series when the Reds failed to hit a home run and couldn’t push a runner across with a number of scoring opportunities in Game 1.
The Reds spent $149 million in free agency on right fielder Nick Castellanos, second baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Shogo Akiyama to help improve the offense.
Will the Reds add a bat or two or use the minor-league system to improve their lineup? Will Castellanos, who can opt out of the four-year contract he signed in January, return?
“We emphasize strike-zone discipline,” Bell said. 'We were able to walk quite a bit — more than we singled, which is amazing — and we did hit for power. Those are both good things. Where we came up short was stringing together hits at times during the season, and you can look at the defensive positioning. You can look at hard-hit balls that didn’t go for hits. But it’s something we’ve got to take a closer look at because all teams are really good at defensive positioning and can hit into bad luck at times. Why did that happen to us? We have to take a close look at that. We did all year. We absolutely believe in our guys. We made adjustments as much as we possibly could, but we have to figure out a way to get better."
3. Can the Reds build on this season?
Despite the postseason disappointment, the Reds ended a six-year streak of losing records by finishing 31-29 in the regular season. Of course, they would not have made the playoffs with that record in a normal season. They got the chance to advance because of the expanded playoffs, and there’s no guarantee the playoff field will remain at 16 teams in future seasons.
“I said last year that losing a ton of one-run games like we did was a steppingstone,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “I think getting to the postseason is another steppingstone in the right direction. Hopefully, we can build on this and get to 2021 and where we want to go.”