The Reds missed a chance at closing the season with a series win over the best team in baseball on Sunday in heartbreaking fashion. They may not be sharing the postseason attention with the Cubs, but the Reds had to feel like they missed out as they watched Raisel Iglesias blow a 5-3 lead with two outs in the ninth. There is plenty to regret, given the context of a certain closer’s return to Great American Ballpark a day earlier, but there is also plenty to be optimistic about in the grander scheme of things.
To start the weekend, the Reds announced that they would extend manager Bryan Price’s tenure for one more year in 2017. Price’s struggles are well-documented. The mostly unrelated struggles of the Reds during his career have been likewise. But he should not be taken for granted. Nor should the continuity that the Reds have invested in, as many teams lack it and would gladly switch situations.
The Chicago Cubs are not one of those teams, however. They are on their way toward demolishing a 108-year long curse and former Reds closer Aroldis Chapman will probably be a big part of that. He made his return to the stadium he first called home on Saturday in the only win of the weekend for the Reds and struck out Joey Votto on three straight swings and misses to get out of a two-out, two-on jam in the eighth inning.
This was in stark contrast to Raisel Iglesias’ appearance in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. The juxtaposition of both performances was incredibly symbolic given how reminiscent Iglesias’ implosion was of the early season bullpen struggles and it had to have unnerved the Reds quite a bit. But their plans for the future should not be affected much. The Reds are reportedly hinting at having him and Michael Lorenzen share closer duties, with both likely to pitch multiple innings per game. It has been mentioned on this site how good of an idea this could be and it should certainly inspire optimism that the Reds are smarter and on the right track.
Another thing that should be promising for fans is that with the loss on Sunday, the Reds guaranteed themselves the second pick in the 2017 draft next summer. They selected third baseman Nick Senzel earlier this year at the same position and he definitely looks like he will be good so this is something else that should not be taken for granted.
And it would be downright criminal not to mention just how integral Joey Votto will continue to be for the Reds as he enters the downswing of his career. In his age 32 season, Votto has been just as good as (if not better than) he has ever been. His second-half numbers ended up being unbelievable and he still thinks he has room to improve.
In a story by Zach Buchanan for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Votto expressed incredulity at how even his ridiculous stats pale in comparison to Mike Trout’s and he reflected on how his poor defensive performance might have cost him the MVP award, saying, “Offensively, I felt like I was as competitive as I could compete with anybody in baseball but defensively, I feel like I’ve got a ways to go. And, it’s exciting to have another challenge to overcome, so I’m grateful for that.”
So, while Votto finished the year as the hardest player in the National League to get out, he still feels he can get better and improve his chances at individual success. Of course, no one needs to look any further than Trout to see that team success plays a large (perhaps even larger) part of that, but Votto returning to his gold glove status can only mean good things for the Reds overall.
In fact, the Reds have to feel good with just about all of the things that transpired over the final weekend of the 2016 season. They obviously do not like the losing, but their plans must look that much more promising with how many things went right in the span of that one series. And, by that, their goals must look much more attainable, too.