COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Reds had their chances in 2013 to repeat as NL Central champs, as well as earn the top wild-card spot in the NL. But failure to do either contributed to an early exit from the postseason and ultimately turned their 2013 season into a dud.
Earning any postseason berth makes the regular season enough of a success to give a team a shot to run the table all the way to the World Series. So from that standpoint, the regular season was a success because the Reds did have their chance to advance.
However, even a wild-card home win and a divisional series loss would have still marked the Reds' whole season as a failure, because much more was expected from the team after blowing a 2-0 lead in the divisional series against the San Francisco Giants in 2012.
Here are the five moments in 2013 that turned the Reds' season into an overall dud:
Johnny Cueto Wild-Card Shellacking
Reds ace Johnny Cueto owes the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans a little payback for their rude treatment of him during the Reds' wild-card loss. Cueto was making his third start since returning from his third trip to the disabled list in an injury-marred season and seemed like he had pitched well enough in the two starts prior to the wild-card to warrant Reds manager Dusty Baker handing the ball to him.
Not so. The taunting "Cueto, Cueto" chant that erupted from Pirates fans after Cueto surrendered a leadoff home run in the second inning should be near and dear to Cueto's heart as he processes what happened to him on the mound during the game that led him to drop the ball, give up another home run two batters later, and eventually get yanked from the game after 3.1 innings in which he gave up eight hits and four earned runs.
No one Reds player has more to prove in 2014 than Cueto, with the possible exception of the next Red who had his 2013 season turn sour.
The Wrist of Brandon Phillips
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was on his way to perhaps the most defining statement season of his career when the Reds played the Pirates on June 1. But after Phillips went 2-for-3, he was hit on the wrist by Pirates reliever Tony Watson. The injury that resulted knocked Phillips out of action for the next four games and, more importantly, seemed to impact his swing.
Before he was hit, Phillips was batting .296 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs in 54 games. After he was hit on June 1, Phillips hit .193 for June (excluding his 2-for-3 on June 1) and also struggled in July (.240).
Like Cueto, Phillips owes the Pirates some extra attention when the two teams face each other in 2014.
The Mouth of Brandon Phillips
Unfortunately, comments made by Phillips off the field may have distracted the Reds to the point that there was some impact on their ability to produce as a team. If not, the comments certainly distracted and polarized fans.
Phillips essentially called Reds owner Bob Castellini a liar in an August magazine interview and complained about his six-year, $72.5 million contract extension.
Less than a month later, Phillips was busy verbally assaulting a Reds beat reporter over a Twitter comment critical of Phillips' move to the second spot in the batting order because of his on-base percentage. The profane tirade was captured on video during a conference with the Reds' manager, which may have factored into the decision to fire Baker at the end of the season.
The Last Week of the Season
After the comments made by Phillips had settled down, the Reds were still poised to vie for first place in the NL Central on September 1, just 3.5 games out of the lead to start the last month of the season. The Reds won six out of seven games at home against the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers to pull within 1.5 games of first but stumbled toward the last week unable to gain more ground.
The Reds were still just two games out of first on September 23 and 20 games over .500 heading into the last five games of the season -- all of which were at home. The defining moment of the regular season came when the Reds lost the fifth straight of those five final games -- the Reds finished the regular season with a thud.
The Firing of Dusty Baker
Dusty Baker probably deserved better than what he got when he was unceremoniously dumped at the end of the 2013 season. Baker took the Reds to the postseason three times in six years and finished with a 509-463 record with the Reds.
But nothing sealed and certified the Reds' season as an overall dud than the firing of Baker, who did ultimately fail to help deliver a championship (or even a playoff series) to Cincinnati.
New Reds manager Bryan Price may not fare any better than his predecessor, but if he can help the Reds live up to expectations, the dud of 2013 and all of the bad moments will be all but forgotten.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the Reds here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Reds
- Brandon Phillips
- Johnny Cueto