I was a huge baseball fan from nearly the day I was born. Baseball was my dad’s favorite sport and he always dreamed of having a son that had a love for baseball just like him and he could coach. Some of the first memories I have are my dad playing toss with me at home. We watched Reds games whenever we could. The games were not all televised back when I was young like today on FSO. We listened to many games on 700WLW with good ole Marty and Joe (RIP). I played baseball as year-round as you could in Cincinnati, OH. We did tournaments in the very early spring and late fall while playing our league and random weekend tournaments through the summers. In the winter we would go to the batting cages all the time to keep up and not fall behind. When we would get those random 40 and 50 degree days in the winters we would end up at a local field to take some ground-balls and fly-balls.
I was a die-hard Reds fan and a statistics guru. I always knew the entire 25-man roster and could recite players updated statistics every day. This was quite the incredible feat without the internet. I lived for looking at the newspaper box scores the next day. I also was always playing a baseball video game as the Reds because playing as any other team just seemed like a sin. I remember in one of the first MLB games that allowed you to create a player I was drafted by the Cubs and was so disgusted with it that I have never played that game mode again.
When I reached high school things slowly began to change. I got burnt out on baseball and ended up quitting. My parents were not happy with me, the coach told me I let him down and some of my teammates I played with growing up were disappointed. I did not find playing baseball as much fun anymore. The games were still fun but I completely lost interest in practicing. I knew I had no chance of playing or possibly even making the team if I didn’t put the effort in to practice. The high school team was loaded with talent and there was no room for slackers. My love for the Reds and the sport had not died yet, but my desire to make the game a top priority did.
I was just old enough to enjoy the Reds amazing run in 1990. My favorite Reds player of all time is Jose Rijo (some will say it is Chris Dickerson or Wily Mo Pena). My second favorite Reds team was probably the 1999 team. I absolutely loved when we went out to get Greg Vaughn and felt it was a statement move. I really liked Mike Cameron, Ed Taubensee, Aaron Boone, Dmitri Young, Pete Harnisch, Scott Sullivan and Scott Williamson. It was a fun team to watch and they were better than I expected heading into the season and then broke my heart vs the Mets in game “163.” Other than a decent season in 1995 they hadn’t been a good team since 1992 and then the 1999 team came out and won 96 games.
The following year was one that brought hope for most Reds fans and this is where I differ. The Reds traded for one of the greatest (not the greatest) players of all time…the local boy Mr. Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching The Kid in Seattle. He was balls to the wall all the time, played stellar defense and could hit the absolute shit out of the ball. He was a star. He also was way too much of a star for my small market Reds. As I said before I was a statistics nerd and was always crunching numbers like it was my job. I did all kinds online baseball simulation games (OOTP Baseball) and had learned quite a bit of actual real-world knowledge around budgets and financials. I feared the Reds could not afford to pay Griffey, even on his hometown discount he gave the Reds, and field a quality other 24 men around him.
Junior went on to have a good but not great first season in Cincinnati. The Reds won 85 games, missed the playoffs but finished in 2nd place. The hope was definitely there as Griffey was in the midst of his prime, the team did not seem too far off and Barry Larkin missed a lot of games. Then we reached 2001 and Larkin missed most of the season, Griffey missed 50 games and was having a bad season and the team won 66 games. Griffey’s prime was then stolen from us as he basically missed the rest of it over the next 3 years due to injuries. The Reds did not have an ability to bring guys in to save the team and it felt like Griffey was pressured/rushed back each year to try to save the team.
I still loved my Reds and blindly thought they would be good each and every year after. In 2006 my hopes really were raised. Griffey just had a big comeback season in 2005 and the Reds brought in a new GM Wayne Krivsky that I had high hopes in coming from a well-run small market team like the Twins. Krivsky made an immediate impact on the Reds by trading for Bronson Arroyo, Wily Mo Pena and Brandon Phillips. Krivsky made another trade that was heavily questioned and basically every player involved for both sides ended up as complete duds. Krivsky was drafting well and the farm system was becoming a strength and highly rated. I was a big follower of Baseball America and their top 100 prospects lists and the Reds were becoming a constant with Krivsky at the helm.
The downfall of my Reds interests and nearly the death of baseball for me. The Reds had started building what looked like a great next 5-10 years roster entering the 2008 season. A young Joey Votto debuted the year before and looked like he had potential heading into thee 2008 season as our starting 1B. Brandon Phillips was one of the best 2B in baseball at this time. The Reds OF had Adam Dunn, a young and upcoming big time prospect in Jay Bruce and the high hopes of a recently drafted first round pick in Drew Stubbs down in the minor leagues. The pitching staff had a couple reliable veterans in Arroyo and Harang and 3 young very promising arms in Volquez, Cueto and Bailey. Then 21 games into the season Wayne Krivsky was fired and Walt Jocketty (yuck) replaced him. The core of this team that Krivsky built went on to win 97 and 90 games in 2012 and 2013 but disappoint in the playoffs.
I felt Walt Jocketty did not do enough to help get this team over the hump while they still had the prospect pieces and cash to do so. I have hated this man for years. He does deserve some credit as he made moves to get Mat Latos, Scott Rolen and Shin-Soo Choo to help these teams. My biggest gripe was when he brought in a past his prime Ryan Ludwick who had a decent season and then we signed him to a way too expensive 2 year 15-million-dollar deal on a team that was tight on the financial budget with a lot of younger talent due new contracts soon. Then players I loved so much on the Reds either started to leave or got older and I resented Walt Jocketty for all of it.
I have not been able to get over this and blame some of it on just falling out of love with the sport that I once lived for. There are so many reasons my interest has dwindled and yet I couldn’t rank them in any order. I have thought about this many times as my fellow bloggers are big time Reds fans and have not fallen off the way I have in recent years.
What Else Killed Hibachi’s Reds Vibe?
- Disappointment from high hopes for the Reds (this doesn’t make a lot of sense because I love the Bengals and they are a perfect King/Queen duo for disappointments with the Reds)
- Stopped playing fantasy baseball
- Lance McAlister (he is a douche)
- Reds get free pass from fans/media for sucking and making shit moves but Bengals get ridiculed for every single thing they do
- Baseball Tonight with Karl Ravech, Harold Reynolds, Tim Kurkjian and Peter Gammons – I absolutely lived for watching this show nightly and when some of these guys started to leave the show really fell apart for me.
- Lack of a salary cap and fairness to smaller market teams – teams have to let younger studs go as they cannot pay to keep them long term or they have to choose to keep 1 or 2 and let the rest go. It makes it harder to get connected to players as they leave the small market teams so quickly now.
- ESPN only believes that baseball teams exist in like 5 cities. The coverage is so poor and silo focused that it has really ruined my interest in other teams.
I have spouted a lot of crap and brain dumped into this entry. I’m sure Mac will think it is total shit because he disagrees with most of it. I am using this specific blog as my therapy and letting go of my past angers and bitter feelings towards the Reds and baseball. I am going into this season with the hope to rekindle my love for the sport of baseball. I am going to target watching parts of Reds games on as much of a daily basis as my schedule allows. I am also going to attempt to watch a full Reds game at least once a week this summer. I want to fall back in love with this sport and this team. Here goes nothing…