The Cincinnati Reds travel bags were open in front of the players’ lockers, stuffed with their road gray uniforms. As soon as they finished business Sunday afternoon with the San Francisco Giants, the Reds would embark on a flight to General Billy Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
The standings say the Reds are 17 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central and the standings don’t lie – 54 wins, 69 losses.
Neverless, over the next two weeks the Reds can have a mighty say about who finishes where above them, a chance to play spoilers. Their next 13 games are against Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis, the three teams still jockeying for position.
It begins with three games in Milwaukee and four games in Chicago on this trip. The Reds then return home for three with Milwaukee and then return to the road for three in St. Louis.
Is that an incentive for a team on the low road to nowhere this season? Is being a spoiler enough of an incentive to inspire a team to play better?
“I don’t emphasize the spoiler role,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “We have some players who might want to do that (Scooter Gennett, Milwaukee), be the spoiler. That’s not a particular motivation for me, to be a spoiler. It’s not something I tell our guys, ‘Let’s enjoy knocking somebody out.’”
For Riggleman, it is a daily process, no matter who is in the other dugout. “Win that game that day,” is his mantra. Why?
“My goal is to make our record as representative as possible, just win games and whatever happens will happen,” he said.
What he would like to happen is to avoid losing 94 or more games. Last place for the fourth straight year is a near certainty and In the last three years the Reds have lost 94, 94 and 98. It is totally possible the Reds could avoid losing 90. If they go 19-20 in their final 39 games they would finish 73-89. That would be a baby step in their rebuilding process.
“The thing is, there are very few teams out of the race any more (because of the two wild card teams in each league),” said Riggleman. “So it is hard to find a game where you can say, ‘OK, let’s put a lesser lineup out there to look at some guys that we wouldn’t normally get to do that with.’ You don’t want to do that if a game can affect the standings or the playoff possibilities for the other clubs. For the integrity of the game you need to put the best lineup you can our there and not experiment because you can give a game away that helps another club.”
THE SIX-MAN ROTATION is still in place, but not for long, Riggleman says of his starting staff of Homer Bailey, Matt Harvey, Anthony DeSclafani Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson.
“Danny Darwin (pitching coach) and I have both talked to all of them and said, ‘This is where we are,’” said Riggleman. “We have to look at some people and make some decisions for next year. We will get out of this as soon as possible.
“There was speculation that Matt Harvey would be traded before the (non-waivers) trade deadline and that would have taken us out of it,” Riggleman added. “That didn’t happen. We now have to look at the performances to see who would come out. I think, at most, it will be one more time and maybe not even that long.”
Harvey still could be traded in the next 12 days, before Sept. 1. If not, it would appear, based on performances, that Robert Stephenson would be the pitcher on the bubble. Homer Bailey would be sitting right there with him were it not for his contract situation and the millions the Reds still owe him.
OUTFIELDER SCOTT SCHEBLER left Cincinnnati Sunday to fly to Pensacola, where he will rehab a few days with the Class AA Blue Wahoos. If his shoulder passes the ‘throw’ test, he’ll be back with the Reds soon.
“He’ll be there a few days at least and probably join us next weekend in Chicago,” said Riggleman.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Riggleman has managed five major league teams over a 13-year span and was asked if he had ever managed a game in which his pitcher threw a no-hitter. And he said, “I should know that, but I don’t know if I was even in the dugout when a guy threw a no-hitter against the team I was with. As a manager I don’t know that I’ve been in a game involving a no-hitter. If I managed a no-hitter, you’d think I’d remember that.”
Riggleman did manage the Chicago Cubs when Kerry Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros and Riggleman said, “By some estimations, that might have been the greatest game ever pitched.”
Wood, only 20 and a rookie, allowed one dubious hit and hit a batter and there were no other baserunners by the first place Astros.