The Reds closed the year with a 15-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs in front of 12,437 fans at Great American Ball Park. The Cubs batted around their lineup in two separate innings. The Reds’ offense, which didn’t score more than three runs in a game over the last two weeks of the season, went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base.
When the Reds were down to their last out of the season, the Cubs fans in the crowd loudly chanted, "Let's go Cubbies!"
The Reds lost 20 of their last 26 games, which turned a miserable season into one that will be remembered as one of the worst in club history. They joined the 1982 team as the only ones who earned the dubious 100-loss distinction, though six other seasons produced a lower winning percentage before MLB moved to a 162-game schedule.
"Winning here, the focus is to do it next season," Reds Manager David Bell said. "I’ve experienced that before. It’s possible. There is really no other way that I’m looking at it. We all have to do our part, starting now, to make that happen. There is no other way to approach it. Really, setting that expectation right now."
The 101-loss Cincinnati Reds of 1982:'I try to forget everything I can about that year'
There were many times when 100 losses felt inevitable. The Reds didn’t hide their intentions to jettison bigger salaries in trades when they used the phrase “align payroll to our resources” on the first day of the offseason.
The Reds canceled their first team meeting in spring training when they completed a trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to Seattle minutes beforehand. Winker, Suárez and Amir Garrett all had emotional exits with their teammates, unique timing because of the sport’s lockout, and it crushed the mood in the clubhouse as an 83-win team was dismantled in front of their eyes.
"It was sad because it was so unexpected," Jonathan India said. "They came in, it was quiet in the clubhouse. I couldn't believe it. Everyone was in shock. We were losing everyone. Everyone was gone. You know, it's the business. It was my first time experiencing something like that."
Perhaps, it should have been no surprise that a turbulent spring led to an awful start. Injuries ravaged the roster and the Reds opened with a 3-22 record, the worst start in franchise history and the fewest wins 25 games into a season by any club since the 2003 Detroit Tigers.
Reds team president Phil Castellini made national headlines when he scoffed at fans upset about ownership and the direction of the team. “Well, where are you going to go?” he said in a radio interview before the team’s home opener. The Reds had their lowest-attended season in 38 years.
Five players were traded for 11 prospects at the trade deadline, including starting pitchers Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, who were under team control through the 2023 season. It’s a full-fledged rebuild and the Reds will rely on the farm system to push them forward.
"As a second-year guy, people were looking at me like a vet now," India said. "Like, oh my god, it's my second year, I'm still working on things. I'm a third year-guy now and I'm ready for it. Guys on this field this year haven't had a month of service. It was tough. You look at our record and it's like, 'oh, they lost 100.' We had a new team almost every week."
The 100-loss season is one that will be worn at all levels of the organization. Bob Castellini’s ownership group chose to enter another rebuild, cutting payroll for the second consecutive winter, and retreat from the all-in push they made ahead of the 2020 season. India, Tyler Stephenson, Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo were products of high draft picks in the last rebuild and the franchise already shifted into another one.
The front office didn’t create the necessary depth to withstand the level of injuries the team had all year, and the Reds were essentially out of the playoff race in April. The players and coaching staff presided over a September slide that included seven straight losses to the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that finished with an identical 62-100 record.
"A lot of things to take into the offseason," Bell said. "Guys are already talking about spring training more than any team I've been a part of. They can't wait. I'd love to keep the focus on taking the offseason, getting away from it a little bit. We'll be anxious to get back at it."
Home attendance was down by more than a million fans from 2015, and it was even lower than last year when there were COVID capacity restrictions for the first two months of the season. The Reds have had one playoff appearance since 2013, and they haven’t won a postseason series since 1995.
The Reds must hope this season represents a rock bottom. They were one of four teams to hit 100 losses this year, joining the Pirates, Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals, and outscored by 166 runs.
When rookie starter Graham Ashcraft was asked about the 100-loss season, he mentioned a ground ball in the seventh inning. The ball rolled up the middle and second baseman Spencer Steer was in position to field it before it deflected off the second-base bag, and bounced toward right field for an RBI hit.
"That hit summed up our season," Ashcraft said. "It’s just a bunch of things that just didn’t go our way this year."
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Reds lose 100 games for the second time after loss to Cubs