Monday Musings: Aprils are for Bengals draft intrigue and Reds losing streaks

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

NFL Draft week is here, and the Cincinnati Reds are in last place. A new tradition unlike any other. Here are a couple of thoughts to start the week...

I wrote before the season about reasons to actually be interested in Cincinnati’s baseball team, but they are making it pretty hard early. Again.

The Reds are 7-15, which is somehow not the worst record in baseball (or even second worst) but things are particularly poor today as they come home riding a six-game losing streak.

Over the weekend, they made the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates look like the 1979 Pirates, a four-game sweep that sent one team that probably won’t end up making the playoffs into first place and another deeper into last.

Pittsburgh is hot right now, as you no doubt know if you watched any particular 25 seconds of the Reds TV broadcast over the last four days.

Of course getting to play the Reds and similarly hopeless Rockies probably has something to do with that, but you know what is better than losing to bad teams? Beating them.

I believe I have written this before, but I guess Reds fans never knew how good it was to watch the team pretend to be good in the first half of the season during the Jim Bowden era because it sure as heck beats what they seem to do every year now: Let you know immediately they are bad and not worth watching.

At this point, the Reds could put on the definitive clinic on how not to draw fan interest, as demonstrated by a not so fun fact from Reds TV statistician Joel Luckhaupt, who added up the ugly numbers.

Per Luckhaupt, the Reds entered Sunday an astounding 44 games below .500 in March/April games since 2018, a cool 41-85 that mark that is the worst in baseball over that span.

The TV broadcast also repeatedly read off stats about how much the Reds have been dominated lately at PNC Park, which is interesting because you know who plays at PNC Park? It’s the Pirates, a team that generally stinks and is as poorly run as the Reds have been for two decades save for a year or two here or there. That is not a great endorsement for this organization knowing what it’s doing, is it?

This losing streak starting with a pair of losses to another small-market team, the Tampa Bay Rays, is also appropriate I guess. They prove along with the franchises in Cleveland and Oakland there is a way to actually build good teams — consistently even! — without breaking the bank, but apparently the Reds have chosen life as the Pirates over that.

Unless they are doomed to be worse than the Pirates now, too.

As of now, this team can’t hit. That’s not a shocker, but if they were going to surprise somewhere, that would have been it.

The bullpen is also bad, as expected.

Sometimes the starting pitching is good, and sometimes it is not.

OK, that’s three for three on preseason predictions, but this still feels worse than anticipated.

Why? Skidding into oblivion like this again just gives off a certain air of not caring from the top.

The Reds are the worst team in baseball in one-run games in part because of all those things, but also they seem to have an innate ability to give away runs with shoddy defense whether it is misplaying balls in the infield, taking bad angles in the outfield, missing the cut-off man or failing to stop lockable balls behind the plate.

If these Reds were fundamentally sound, they probably would have four or five more wins. Would that matter in the long run? Maybe not, but you know what is better than being bad defensively, making dumb plays and losing games? Being good defensively and making smart plays regardless of the final score.

Beyond that, do you get the impression anyone in management cares to improve those areas regardless of who is on the field? Are there ever consequences for careless plays that have tangible negative effects on the team’s record? I haven’t seen them.

Is anyone setting any sort of expectation to do things the right way or making an attempt to establish a winning culture? Because I sure don’t see it.

But I guess Reds ownership is content to let people conclude (and say, often loudly) they aren’t interested in winning as long as that is the case...

Meanwhile, the NFL Draft is this week, and the Bengals are in a unique spot.

They really need to have a strong draft (I guess that’s true of every team), but they don’t necessarily have to hit any home runs so much as just strengthen the roster overall for now and the future.

Tight ends and running backs are said to be plentiful in this draft, and that’s convenient because the Bengals need new blood at both spots and can probably add starter-quality players without using their first round pick on either one.

Like all drafts from now on, there are plenty of receivers who could add depth now and step into the starting lineup in the future, too.

The big question is what to do in the first round because it should have major ripple effects on the roster and the rest of the draft, where options are numerous depending what box gets checked off first.

“Best player available” is probably going to describe what they do , but what does that end up looking like?

Ideally, they could find their right tackle of the future this week, but here’s the rub: A really elite right tackle probably won’t be available at No. 28, at least not one who is ready to play right away. That’s an issue because they need to know who is going to man that spot capably in 2023 more than who it is going to be in the future with the Super Bowl window wide open right now.

Their best ‘23 option might already be on the roster whether it is Jonah Williams (who wants to be traded and might not be able to play RT anyway), La’el Collins (who is coming off a major knee injury late in the season), free agent signee Cody Ford or even Fairfield High School grad Jackson Carman, who filled in capably when they were both hurt late last season and still has a second-round draft, five-star recruit pedigree he could possibly unlock.

So if they can’t come out of this weekend with right tackle checked off, they are probably better off addressing other positions that can offer more immediate help (don’t forget safety, either) in those first three or four rounds.

Cornerback might end up making the most sense, but trading down is leading as the best option in my mind at this point because it could yield more picks and more chances (even one more could make a big difference) to get another starter-quality player even if his ceiling isn’t as high.

A lot will just come down to how things fall in front of them, but you know what? We’re talking about a team that has given fans a reason to think they know what they are doing so whatever choice they make shouldn’t be too fraught with fear for the fall.

About the Author