The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was nothing any of us could have imagined. Like all of you, my 2020 panned out very differently to how I expected.
Subscribed to The Athletic – easily the best £ 25.00 I spent all year. It seems like the most reliable source for baseball news and opinion.
Joined an ambitious plan with Bat Flips and Nerds to recruit a contributor for each of the 30 MLB teams to write weekly articles, mainly with a British twist. MLB in the UK was really on the up.Embed from Getty Images
Having already secured the services of Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley, the Reds showed they are serious contenders in the NL Central by signing Shogo Akiyama and Nicholas Castellanos. Could this be our year?
Needing to appeal to a wider demographic, to reduce my workload, and to ensure continuity, I teamed up with Kuz & Ben. UK Reds was now a trio of voices to push Cincinnati Reds promotion in the UK to the next level.
I took a lot of heat for my BOLD predictions – especially the Jesse Winker one.
Spring Training starts. It looks like shortstop is the only hole in the entire roster. Could 2020 be our year?
Flights booked for Phoenix in four weeks time. Spring Training here I come.
Oh, and Reds signed Pedro Strop. I love that guy.
First-ever UK Reds gathering. Home Run House in Stratford was the venue for Passyunk Avenue Philly cheesesteak, a few beers, Spring Training on the big screens, an argument with the management about whether Pete Rose is more of a cheat than the Astros, and some work-in-progress swings in the batting cage.
USA travel ban imposed
Sports events around the globe cancelled
Spring Training cancelled
I wrote an article for BFN titled “What if there is no baseball until April 2021.” The UK wasn’t in lockdown, and the USA had only suffered 258 COVID-19 related deaths. Talk of 100,000 fatalities in the USA seemed far-fetched. What a tragic way 2020 transpired.
Got a Griffey jersey off a new British venture Dugout Classics
UK in lockdown. Chaotic transformation trying to convert to home working after 20+ years of commuting.
We had to cancel our plans for fan meets.
Tragedy struck when, while out cycling, my best mate was hit by a van and killed.
The next few weeks/months are a blur.
The first London Series in 2019 was one of the great weekends of my life. London Series 2020 featuring the Chicago Cubs vs. St Louis Cardinals may have surpassed it. Thankfully the game was cancelled. It would have been too much to bear with an empty seat next to me.
In other news, my Pedro Strop jersey arrived. It summed up my mood.
Celebrated Opening Day of the shortened season in my new Votto jersey. Maybe I bought too many jerseys this year.
Friday 24 July: 7-1 win over the Tigers
This team is so good. Clinching the Central will be easy.
Reds beat NL Central rivals Chicago Cubs 12-7, our highest-scoring win of the season.
Matt Davidson tested positive for COVID-19, then Mike Moustakas hit the IL and Nick Senzel was scratched. It was not looking good for the Reds … or the rest of the MLB season.
Friday 31 July: 7-2 defeat by the Tigers.
After the first week, we were 2-5, including three defeats at the hands of the preseason whipping boy favourites from Detroit. Our season is over.
Another losing month 13-15, including a 13-0 loss to the Indians. Our worst defeat of the season.
Games against Pirates and Brewers postponed due to COVID-19.Embed from Getty Images
Reds starters were immense. I wrote an article for Bat Flips and Nerds suggesting there was something in the water in Ohio which helped create brilliant pitchers. Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo were phenomenal, but so too were Zach Plesac and Shane Bieber.
Disappointingly, the club released Pedro Strop, but I will still wear the jersey with pride.
In an attempt to shore up the bullpen, Arizona Diamondbacks closer, Archie Bradley, arrived in Cincinnati. He only allowed one run in six regular-season appearances for the Reds.
Yay, a winning month 16-9
It was sad to see Phil Ervin move to the Mariners. We wish him well, although not too well as I think the Cubs have picked him up now.
Sunday 13 September: Still in fourth place in the NL Central with only 14 games to go. The Reds embark on a stunning 11-3 finish to the season.
Amazingly, Reds reach the playoffs. The prize is two games against the beatable Atlanta Braves.Embed from Getty Images
Game 1: Nail-biting pitcher’s duel. 13 innings with Reds being held scoreless despite 13 left-on-base. Trevor Bauer threw 7⅔ innings of two-hit ball with 12 strikeouts. Max Fried gave up six hits and five strikeouts in his seven innings. In the end, Braves superstar Freddie Freeman drove in pinch-runner Cristian Pache to score the only run.
Game 2: It was more of the same with scoreless inning after scoreless inning until the Braves broke the deadlock when Austin Riley scored in the fifth. It was still a tight game that could go either way until homers from Marcel Ozuna and former Reds slugger Adam Duvall in the eighth inning. The season was over.Embed from Getty Images
It was incredibly frustrating to watch 22 straight scoreless innings. I’m not sure if I would have preferred Reds failing to make the playoffs.
Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani and Freddy Galvis all became free agents. Disco has been signed by the San Francisco Giants, good luck to him.
Trevor Bauer won the CY Young Award.Embed from Getty Images
I’m a huge fan of Trevor Bauer the pitcher, rather than Trevor Bauer the pantomime villain or Trevor Bauer the social media celebrity. I like his vulnerability, his inability to hide his emotions, and I especially like that in an interview before the 2018 season, he claimed that any season when he doesn’t win the Cy Young Award is a failure.
In my one and only ever podcast appearance, the only time I didn’t get tongue-tied, was when I rambled on enthusiastically about Bauer.
Another favourite of mine, Tucker Barnhart, won his second Gold Glove. He led all Major League catchers with nine DRS this season.
You will recall that I was getting abuse for my enthusiastic predictions around Jesse Winker (A) Is he the new Cody Bellinger and (B) Bold prediction for MVP.
If I was a disingenuous Tory politician I might claim that when I mentioned MVP, I obviously meant the “Reds MVP” and not the “MLB MVP”, but I’m not. It was a bold prediction, and one that looks pretty good now.
Raisel Iglesias was traded to the Los Angeles Angels. I always liked him, and felt pretty protective towards him when the fans were getting on his back.
I was pleased to be part of the 2020 rollercoaster. It was great seeing the club show so much ambition to secure hitters like Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama and Nick Castellanos, while many franchises acted so timidly. The front three of the rotation were even better than the hype.
With the pandemic raging at record levels through some parts of the UK and USA, it’s difficult to know what to expect from 2021, but fingers-crossed there will be meaningful baseball again.
Stay safe … and this could be our year