Comrade Roth has covered this already, but as the Cincinnati Reds are now on a pace to be the new worst team in baseball history, we feel a revisit is in order, if only to honor and besmirch the memories of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. After all, Roth didn’t have the predictive skills to pick a 14-run loss; he actually typed this instead: “The Reds have lost 16 of their last 17 games, but will have a chance to get back to .500 in May on Tuesday, when they face the Brewers in Milwaukee.”
Instead, the Reds have actually trebled down and are now looking pretty damned Spider-y.
The Spiders finished 20-134 that year because their owner, who was not named Castellini but did also own the St. Louis Perfectos (and yes, the “are you shitting me with that?” is implied). He spent the year shipping the best Spiders to St. Louis to become Perfectos. The Perfectos ended up finishing fifth behind (God help us) the Brooklyn Superbas, Boston Beaneaters, Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles, and eventually changed the name from Perfectos to Cardinals. The Spiders died like the strip-mined oil slicks they were.
Since then, many have tried and none have challenged the bereft Arachnids, though the 1962 Mets (40-120) gave it a run, the 2003 Tigers started 3-21 en route to going 43-119, and the 1988 Orioles started 1-24 and fired Cal Ripken’s dad as manager after the first six defeats.
Now there are the Reds, who just lost their 21st game of the year to Milwaukee by two full touchdowns and are on a pace (a dreadful phrase and even more contemptible concept) to finish 20-142. One win in every eight games, we’re talking here, and they clould surely do this with a little less daily gumption. Joey Votto deserves better than this.
The problem is, Phil Castellini deserves exactly this, and as the failson of the actual owner Bob Castellini, who also deserves this, he has defined the reason the Reds ought to be in the situation they are in today.
Take yesterday. The Reds break out for two in the first against Milwaukee, going single, walk, single, sac fly. Twelve pitches later, it’s 2-2, and by the end of the third, they’re down 6-2 and unaware that the Brewers have scored only one-third of the runs they have to give this day. It is Cincinnati’s ninth consecutive loss since an inexplicable victory over St. Louis which broke an 11-game losing streak, and other than the win over the Cardinals, they have led for only eight of 171 innings, six of those coming in a 4-3 loss at Colorado. This is a wall of misery made worse by the COVID-19 spike that has incapacitated Votto, Tyler Naquin, and Nick Senzel, three of the team’s seven players making over a million dollars. Eight if you count Ken Griffey, Jr., who has three more years coming to him at $3.59 million despite being pretty damned 52 years old and out of baseball since 2010.
The law of big numbers says this cannot endure, that the Reds cannot continue to lose at a rate that takes them to 120, let alone 142. The town and the uniforms and ballpark don’t deserve that, either. Neither do the Bengals, Bearcats or Royals, and the Royals haven’t been in Cincinnati since 1972 as the secondary stop on their trip to becoming the Sacramento Kings, speaking of the hamster wheel to hell.
But Phil Castellini definitely set this in motion by speaking, and with all deference to manager David Bell’s sanity, this should continue at least until they become a daily national story the way the Orioles did in 1988. So far, the Reds have barely been a local story, as they have played only eight home games, but that ends this weekend with a much-anticipated four-gamer against the equally vibrant Pittsburgh Pirates. They could win one of those, but we’ll have to leave you to your own devices on that. Two Reds stories in five days is more than plenty, even if you happen to be an actual Red.