by Steve Mancuso

Our thoughts about the Reds first 60 games: A season anything but regular

It’s hard to know where to start.

Through the offseason and January, Matt Wilkes and I were gearing up with great anticipation for our second year at Reds Content Plus. At the start of February, we took on five new writers to join Matt Habel and Nick Carrington. As a group, we were enthusiastic about a Reds team front-loaded with terrific starting pitching and new free agency bats. Matt and I had plans to spend five days in Goodyear at spring training.

But as the calendar turned to March, it became apparent that the baseball season was at risk. On March 12, MLB pulled the plug and teams scrambled home from Florida and Arizona. Like so many others, Matt and I canceled flights, AirBnB reservations and game tickets.

Being that Reds Content Plus is a site about baseball, from a practical standpoint, this development was less than ideal because there was no longer baseball to write about.

In truth, as the scope of the national tragedy and unthinkable consequences from the COVID virus unfolded, we didn’t feel much like writing anyhow. Further, it was increasingly obvious that even if baseball somehow found its way back, our lives would continue in massive disruption and loss.

For weeks, the site was essentially shuttered. In May, a month where you expect several Reds posts a day, we published a total of eight. Thirteen in June. Motivation, not to mention subject matter, was missing. Then MLB and the MLBPA staggered toward an agreement to restart in late July. We gradually resumed as well, with more than 100 posts in July and August.

Were things back to normal?

Not close.

I’m not talking about 7-inning doubleheaders, games with no fans, the universal DH and runners starting on second base. No, the activity of writing about Reds baseball, something I’ve enjoyed for more than ten years, hasn’t been the same.

Writing about a game in the midst of an ongoing national catastrophe is more self-care than hobby, an essential distraction. I’m sure many of you feel the same way about watching games. They’re something to look at as you attempt to avert your eyes.

Happily, the Reds finished 31-29 and that was enough to reach the postseason this year. I like this Reds team. Yes, they have been miserable to watch at times. But there have been ample feats of athleticism, skill, determination and teamwork that outweigh the disappointments. They’re compelling and worthy of rooting for.

And here we are, still together. In the nervous but exciting pause between the end of the regular season and the onset of the postseason. A tournament that includes our Reds for the first time since 2013.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who supported us in our recent one-day fund raiser. (If you missed that day, you can still donate.) Your contributions help pay the bills and buy a cold beverage or two. More importantly, your kindness encourages us. You have our sincere gratitude.

Thoughts about the Reds 2020 regular season:

Matt Wilkes: For the first half of the season and then some, the Reds were shaping up to be just another disappointment to tack onto the miserable year that is 2020. I knew the Reds were still technically in the race, but c’mon, these are the Reds we’re talking about — the team that’s let me down for most of my life. Still, I told anyone who would listen that this team was capable of a run in a full season. The shortened season was just another tally on the Reds’ list of bad luck. Luckily, the run came in the nick of time. A four-game series against the woeful Pirates — the team that eliminated the Reds in their last postseason appearance — sparked an 11-3 finish that saw some of the most exciting baseball Cincinnati has seen in seven seasons. October baseball is finally back in Cincinnati, and while it may look a little different this year, it’s undoubtedly a bright spot in a dark year.

Kyle Berger 2020 has been a rollercoaster for everyone that has presented a lot of challenges. That includes the baseball world and the non-baseball world alike. Coming into Spring Training in March, the level of excitement around the Reds was one we hadn’t really seen since 2013, and I couldn’t wait for the season to start. Then we got hit with the shutdown. At one point, we didn’t know if there would even be a 2020 season. When they finally announced the start of a shortened season, I was unsure how I’d feel about it. A 60 game season just didn’t feel right, and a lot of the rule changes were tough to get used to. After watching the first couple weeks though, my opinion changed and I honestly began to treat the 2020 season the same as any other season. As a lifelong Reds fan having only seen them in the playoffs 3 other times (2010, 2012, and 2013), even in the crazy 2020 season, it still feels just as good. I’m excited to see what this team can do in the playoffs and beyond. Having the Reds in the playoffs provided one true bright spot to an otherwise difficult year.

Spenser Brown: On September 1st, I told a friend that our hopes for the Reds were likely done. After a 16-2 loss to the Cardinals, my optimism was nearly gone, although I knew I would be pulled back in by even the smallest of winning streaks. What the Reds were able to do over the final month of the shortened 2020 season was astounding on many levels. For all the darkness that 2020 has brought, the integrity and resiliency of this team is something for a city and fan base to rally around. For my generation especially, this feels like the reemergence of the franchise we love. Postseason baseball is back, and I’d argue no city needed it more than Cincinnati.

Matt Habel After several long seasons of watching nearly every game and writing about a team that was experiencing one of the worst stretches in franchise history, the importance of this playoff appearance to me (and so many others) cannot be overstated. 2020 has presented a lot of challenges, some baseball related but mostly life related, so to get to this point in the year with a fun, likable, resilient, and legitimately dangerous team is really rewarding. It’s a nice reminder of why we love the Reds. When it’s fun, it’s really fun.

David Kelley At 22 years old nearly all of my years as a Reds fan has been marked by rebuilding and lackluster teams. Of course there were the teams from the early 2010s, but they’re old forgotten memories as I was much too young. This Reds team is the first year of winning baseball that I have truly witnessed. I don’t know what it’s like to watch your favorite team play in October, but I am sure thankful for the opportunity this year. COVID playoffs or not, the city of Cincinnati deserves to see our team in the playoffs. After increased anticipation this offseason it seemed that it was going to be yet another disappointing year for the Reds. But this Reds team finally showed to everyone that they were capable of much more than just underachieving. Each win these past few weeks has me swelling with excitement. I’m that little kid again watching the Reds – only this time it’s in October.

Matt Korte It has been truly remarkable to watch our Cincinnati Reds play meaningful baseball this September. As a younger fan who has lived in an outside market, it’s hard for me to remember a time when I have been able to witness the Reds in a situation like this. What makes it even more special is that the Reds rose to the occasion and played like the team we all hoped they could be. The Cincinnati Reds are far from perfect, but we now know they have the ability to go toe to toe with some of the best teams in the league, and win. Regardless of how they fare in the playoffs, I will certainly look back with fondness at the 2020 Reds.

Steven Ortlieb As I was stress eating a bowl of potato chips on my couch in the late innings of the game on Friday, I couldn’t help but think about how long it’d been since I felt this way. And while the scars of 2012 kept me from feeling this way in 2013, this season it feels brand new. I can’t help but feeling hope and in the words of philosopher Michael Scott, “I’m ready to get hurt again.” Ready to live and die on every pitch in the crisp air of Autumn and there’s nobody right now who’s pitches I’d rather live with than Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo.

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

One Comment

  • pinson343

    Nice summaries, thank you all. For me the turning point of the season was the tough Sunday win over the Cardinals to win that series and head home for 10 games. I’d held out hope that the Reds would go on a run during that home stand. The series win over the Cardinals made it feel like it was a realistic hope, and it just got better and better from there.