If I hadn’t seen such riches I could live with being poor

In their hit song “Sit down”, Manchester rock band James claimed, “If I hadn’t seen such riches I could live with being poor.”

I empathise.

The Reds played so well over the first few games, maybe better than any team I have ever followed in any sport.

And, you had the swagger, the confidence, the arrogance.

Then, it sort of just shrivelled up in the Arizona desert. I was deflated.

Game 7: Reds 6-5 D-backs

Jesse Winker drove in Tucker Barnhart in the third inning to open the scoring, and then Tyler Naquin hit his fourth home run in three games to double the lead.

Alex Blandino, Winker and Naquin all scored as the Reds piled on the pressure. 5-0 up … baseball is easy.

Baseball is also unpredictable. Maybe the next play was the most pivotal of the series.

Having struck out swinging in his first two at-bats, D-backs second baseman Eduardo Escobar blasted a double to deep right field. He moved up on a Josh Rojas groundout and then crossed home plate thanks to a Carson Kelly‘s sac-fly. We shouldn’t have woken Escobar.

Kole Calhoun drove in two with a double and then Escobar hit a two-run homer to tie the score 5-5.

Extra-innings. D-backs had the momentum, but Reds were invincible, surely?

It was now 6:00am in the UK. I was awake (after nowhere near enough sleep) and struggling to focus on my phone screen.

I like the runner starting on second – you feel that the game will be over in an inning or two. I don’t want the worry that it might still be continuing in 90 minutes.

Barnhart drove in Eugenio Suarez to give Reds the lead. The ball was given to Amir Garrett. This was his moment.

Asdrubal Cabrera: Pop fly … one down

Escobar: Caught on the warning track. That was close. Two down.

Rojas: Walk … you’re kidding me. He’s hitting .074. The kid has had two hits all year.

Kelly: Wild pitch(passed ball) – I don’t know which, but Christian Walker (who had started on second) went to third and Rojas was now on second. Gulp.

Kelly is intentionally walked, so that Garrett can face former first-rounder and guy with a massive chip on his shoulder as he battles to force his way into the D-backs lineup, Pavin Smith.

Smith: Groundout. Easy. ATOBTTR

AG looked too hyped up for my liking. He got the job done, but I’m not sure that level of uncontrolled intensity is sustainable.

Man of the match: Amir Garrett – my heart was in my mouth.

Game 8: Reds 3-8 D-backs

Reds lost. What a strange sensation. It started in the usual fashion. Mike Moustakas scores, Suarez scores.

Jeff Hoffman was pitching a gem until Cabrera took him deep in the fourth.

Cionel Perez inherited two base runners in the bottom of the fifth and the Reds’ wheels came off. Four hits, five runs, one error and D-backs were 6-2 up.

Walker increased the lead off Carson Fulmer before Escobar (him, again) homered off Sal Romano. Suarez pulled one back but it was too little, too late.

Man of the match: Geno Suarez (2-for-3 with a walk and home run)

Game 9: Reds 0-7 D-backs

The day the Reds bats went quiet. Unfortunately, this was a 9pm start, so I could watch it live. I tell you what, that Eduardo Escobar is a decent player.

Jose De Leon racked nine strikeouts, including 17 swinging strikes – elite numbers. Eight hits, three walks and six earned runs is not so elite.

D-backs’ starter, Luke Weaver, was sensational. Especially considering how poor he looked in spring training. He carried a no-no into the seventh inning.

Man of the match: Jonathan India (he didn’t play, so he didn’t play poorly)

Photos by Christian Petersen, Norm Hall

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Pirates of Penzance would have probably posed more problems

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

Reds vs. Pirates (Reds sweep 3-0)

Let’s be honest. A bunch of thespian luvvies could have provided tougher competition than the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Game 4: Reds 5-3 Pirates

I was excited to see how Jose De Leon would fair in his first start since 2016. The answer was initially shocking when the second hitter of the day, Philip Evans, sent a fly ball deep to the left-centre field stand, and then in only the 12th pitch of the game, Colin Moran hit a solo homer to double the score.

Side note: Adam Frazier, Philip Evans, Bryan Reynolds and Colin Moran could be the most ordinary-sounding hitters to ever fill the first four spots of a lineup this century.

Despite the two homers, De Leon looked good and prompted this tweet …

Don’t ever doubt me again!

De Leon did not allow another run, in fact, he only gave up one hit while striking out nine over five innings. The battle to stay in the rotation when Sonny Gray returns is intriguing.

De Leon then got the Reds on the board with his first MLB hit, which was also his first RBI as Nick Senzel crossed home plate.

Over in Anaheim, they rave about their two-way player, but Shohei Ohtani hasn’t racked up nine Ks in a start. Just saying.

Mike Moustakas levelled the scores with a solo homer in the fifth inning. The power potential from the Reds infield is better than I can ever remember.

And then, in the bottom of the seventh inning, the man of the moment, Nick Castellanos, launched his third home run of the season.

The following inning, Moustakas and Senzel both scored their second runs of the game thanks to being driven in by Jonathan India and Aristides Aquino.

Despite a wobble by conceding a homer to Bryan Reynolds, Amir Garrett closed out the game for only his second-ever career save.

Man of the match: Jose De Leon

Game 5: Reds 14-1 Pirates

Wade Miley made his best start for the Reds by allowing just two hits over six scoreless innings while striking out six.

Although to be fair, he knew he had run support. Lead-off hitter, Tyler Naquin, belted a first-inning homer off Trevor Cahill and the Reds never looked back.

India drove in Moustakas in the second inning, before Naquin sent another ball into the stands – this time with two men on base.

Doubles from Castellanos and Tucker Barnhart, and a triple from India, and the runs kept coming – Senzel scoring four of them. Naquin finished with seven RBI, making him the RBI leader in MLB.

Having been non-tendered by the Indians in December, I doubt Naquin’s wildest dreams pictured a two-homer, seven-RBI day for the dominant Reds in the first week of April.

Man of the match: Tyler Naquin, obvs

Game 6: Reds 11-4 Pirates

At least the Pirates starter, Chad Kuhl, knew what to expect from Tyler Naquin in the first inning. That didn’t stop him from serving up a pitch for the outfielder to drive into the stand.

If that was a bad start for the Pirates, it was about to get worse …

Castellanos (reached on error), Joey Votto (walk), Moustakas (walk), Senzel (walk), India (Sac fly), Kyle Farmer (double). The Reds were 5-0 up when Tyler Stephenson ground out to end the inning.

The game settled down until Castellanos homered in the fifth, quickly followed by India driving in Votto and Senzel. India getting himself out at second was one of the few errors he has made – fortunately, it had no impact on the game.

One of the most exciting Pirates players in spring training was relief pitcher, David Bednar. He led the organisation with 18 strikeouts to one walk in just 8.2 scoreless innings. Unfortunately for the rookie, he allowed back-to-back homers to Stephenson and Aquino.

The Pirates started the ninth inning 11-0 down, but Garrett loaded the bases and then gave up a Grand Slam. I still love him though.

Man of the match: Nick Senzel (2-for-3 with two runs and two RBI)

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

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Nick Castellanos: the new Fernando Morientes?

Reds vs. Cardinals (Reds take series 2-1)

Holy Moly! What an exhilarating start to the season. In fact, so much happened, it’s tough to process.

Game 1: Reds 6-11 Cardinals

It looked cold. MLB reported 4℃, so no wonder Luis Castillo struggled to grip the ball. Reds’ ace starter gave up six earned runs in the first inning and St Louis never relinquished the lead.

Reds chased Jack Flaherty out of the game after four innings, thanks to homers from Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez. Did the Cardinals really take offence at the Reds’ right fielder’s celebration? That’s what the media thought – retribution would follow in Game 2.

Jonathan India went 2-for-4 in his MLB debut with a double, but really the damage was done by 10 runs (eight earned) on Castillo’s watch.

Man of the match: Jonathan India

Game 2: Reds 9-6 Cardinals

This was a cracker.

Tyler Mahle struck out nine batters over five innings and allowed just two earned runs … both solo homers from Cardinals’ shortstop Paul DeJong.

Veteran starter Adam Wainwright looked in control until it spiralled away from him with a six-run third inning. Tyler Naquin got on-base in his first at-bat of the inning and then hit a two-RBI single when he appeared for the second time.

With the exception of Tucker Barnhart‘s two-run homer, the damage was being inflicted by hard-hit singles.

6-1 after three innings. It felt like Reds season had begun. But little did we know what was in store.

Cardinals first-round pick from 2015, Jake Woodford replaced Wainwright to start the fourth inning, and immediately disposed of Mahle and Jesse Winker. He then let a wayward pitch veer into Castellanos’ ribs. Was it deliberate? Probably. Was it in retribution for Castellanos’ celebrations two days previously? Probably.

Yadi Molina acted as a barrier to ensure that the situation did not escalate, but the Reds’ right fielder was still able to pick up the ball and offer it back to the pitcher.

Joey Votto singled to allow Castellanos to move to third. We all know that the way to make a pitcher pay for hitting you is to score a run. Woodford’s wild pitch flew over Mike Moustakas‘ head and Molina’s glove and Castellanos slid onto home plate while Woodford tried to cover.

Jubilant, Castellanos leapt to his feet and “flexed” – is that the term? before walking towards the dugout. Talk about over-sensitive, the Cardinals went wild. Molina tried to grab Castellanos by the neck and the benches emptied.

Scuffles ensued. It seemed like a deliberated attempt by St Louis to derail the Reds’ momentum. Unless they really were that incensed, in which case they need to get a life.

Disregarding the MLB rule that “players or managers who leave their position to argue with umpires, come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in altercations on the field, are subject to immediate ejection” no-one on the Cardinals team who entered the field of play were ejected or was Molina, who instigated the first physical contact. No, only Castellanos was sent for an early bath.

Woodford then hit India which enabled Votto to increase the score to 8-2. The Punisher, Aristides Aquino, went deep to take the tally to nine, and Reds minds were already on Game 3 when Sean Doolittle and Sal Romano allowed a couple of consolation runs late on.

Man of the match: Nick Castellanos

Game 3: Reds 12-1 Cardinals

This was the pivotal game. Was yesterday’s victory over the mighty Cardinals – the division favourites – an anomaly, or were this Reds team the real deal?

Let’s be honest. Rockies reject starters are not usually this good, but Jeff Hoffman had an outstanding start with six strikeouts over five innings of one-run ball.

For the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez looked equally dominant, and by the middle of the fifth inning it was one run apiece, with the Reds on the board courtesy of Votto driving in Castellanos (who else?).

Tyler Stephenson and Kyle Farmer were both on base when Castellanos broke the game open with a three-run homer.

Tejay Antone came on for his season debut in the sixth. A hit, a walk and a wild pitch showed rustiness, but a scoreless inning was all that mattered.

Six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Reds were seeing the ball like the Astros had during their trash-can banging exploits. Suarez (walk), Senzel (walk), India (single), Stephenson (single), Antone (reached on fielder’s choice), Tyler Naquin (home run), Votto (single).

At 10-1, the Reds still weren’t done. Alex Blandino joined the party in the seventh inning with a two-RBI double scoring Moustakas and Stephenson.

Man of the match: Nick Castellanos (2-for-4 with a home run & triple)

Post script

I fell out of love with football (soccer) many years ago. Towards the end of my love affair, Chelsea cheated against Monaco to get a man sent off and enjoy the 11 v 10 advantage. Spanish striker, Fernando Morientes, was so incensed he transformed into a man possessed and single-handedly ripped the victory away from Chelsea. I felt like Nick Castellanos was the 2021 version of Fernando Morientes.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Baseball is growing in the UK. Help us convert new fans to the sport into Cincinnati Reds fans … otherwise, they will purchase NYY caps and will be lost souls forever.

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2020: A diary following the Reds from the UK

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.

January 2020

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.

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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?

February 2020

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. 

March 2020

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

April 2020

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.

May 2020

Tragedy struck when, while out cycling, my best mate was hit by a van and killed.

The next few weeks/months are a blur.

June 2020

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.

July 2020

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.

August 2020

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.

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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.

September 2020

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.

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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.  

October 2020

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.

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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.

November 2020

Trevor Bauer won the CY Young Award.

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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.

December 2020

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

That wasn’t the plan

Full credit to the Detroit Tigers, but that wasn’t the opening weekend I anticipated.

No matter how great it was for the neutral fan to see future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cabrera wind back the years, it would have been preferable if he’d done it against someone else.

He had Michael Lorenzen’s number, taking him deep with a lead-snatching home run in Saturday’s game, and then grinding out a ninth-inning walk which was converted into the winning run on Sunday.

It wasn’t a great series for the Reds bullpen with Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias both taking an L, while Robert Stephenson heads into the Cubs series with an ERA of 54.00.

In contrast, the Tigers’ two 25-year-old relievers, Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez, looked very impressive.

Cincinnati tied an MLB record of 33 strikeouts in the first three games of a season, which makes the two defeats even more frustrating.

Apart from the wind being taken from our sails, the biggest blow was losing Mike Moustakas. 10-day IL stints will have a far more significant impact on teams than in a usual season. Fingers-crossed for him.

What else happened? Joey Votto hit his second homer. Pedro Strop struck out two on his Reds debut. There was an addition to the Barnhart family. Eugenio Suarez has yet to register a hit. Shogo Akiyama’s slap-hitting/base-stealing skills could work well in conjunction with our sluggers. Curt Casali leads the team in walks.

I’m looking forward to watching Wade Miley on the mound as we take on the Cubs.

Stay safe everyone, and follow us on Twitter & Instagram as we continue to promote the Cincinnati Reds 4000 miles from Ohio.

Day One … of 60

We’ve waited 300 days (don’t check my maths) since the last Reds game, and the waiting was worth it.

Phil Ervin walk, Joey Votto single, Eugenio Suarez hit-by-pitch, Nick Castellanos hit-by-pitch, Mike Moustakas single. And that was just the first five at-bats!

You can’t ask much more than for all of the first five hitters to get on-base; what a great sign of things to come.

I honestly didn’t think Moustakas would be our Opening Day second baseman. I thought an injury or trade or strategical re-think would shift him to first or third, or even DH. Now, it looks like he could be the most potent second baseman in the league.

Obviously, seeing Votto lift a fifth-inning homer into the empty stands was tremendously encouraging. Currently he’s on 60-homer pace.

Nine strikeouts in exchange for one run was a stellar start from Sonny Gray, setting the bar high for the rotation. The second-tier relief corps of Lucas Sims, Nate Jones and Brooks Raley threw three hitless innings to complete a very successful day.

This is going to be a weird season, but it will be fun to watch.

Make sure you’re following us on Twitter and Insta. Big things are planned – get involved.

Spring has sprung: Reds quest for 2020 glory

Let’s be honest, this was a better offseason than most I can remember. The players joining the team were highlighted by:

Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projects the Reds to finish top of the highly competitive NL Central, much to the chagrin of fans from the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers.

So far, and I realise that there are still several weeks before Opening Day, the Reds have avoided any major injuries, like the one which will keep Yankees’ Luis Severino out for the season.

Spring training is only four games old. Well five it you include the bizarre first game which was called off due to rain in Goodyear. I don’t want any rain-delays when I head to Arizona for the final week of cactus league play.

Personally, I love the position/roster battles in spring training. It’s good to see Moustakas score three runs in the first four games, but I have no worries about him. He is a veteran hitter and will slide effortlessly into our lineup.

I’m more interested in the guys on the periphery. Seeing Phil Ervin hit the grand slam over the Rangers was impressive. He is out-of-options, so a good spring will either reinforce the Reds bench or make him a more valuable trade chip. I’m not saying I expect him to be traded, but neither Ervin or Scott Schebler can be sent down.

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The most eye-catching performance was from shortstop prospect Jose Garcia with a two-homer game against the Angels. The Reds youngest player in camp, who features in The Athletics’ Keith Law’s Top-100 prospects, has a great future ahead of him.

The mighty Barry Larkin said of him:

“I like his aptitude. He’s got a high baseball IQ. He’s got good anticipation. He’s got a great body for a shortstop. Length, strength, speed, quickness, agility. You can tell, there’s not much I don’t like.”

Shortstop is the area of the team where we are most susceptible. If Freddy Galvis pulls up with a hamstring tear in the first week of the regular season, Plan B does not look particularly encouraging.

Thanks for reading

Make sure you are following us on Twitter @UKRedsMLB as we attempt to spread the love of the Cincinnati Reds across the UK

Reds fans getting in a Strop about Pedro

I hate social media, yet I am addicted to it. I hate the way it encourages such negativity and tolerates abuse. So will I delete the apps? Not a chance.

Pedro Strop has just signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal to join the Reds bullpen.

In 411 appearances for the Cubs, the 34-year-old has a 2.90 ERA. It would only have been 2.60 ERA had he not endured such a rough 2019.

But then again, had he not posted a 4.97 ERA last year, the Reds wouldn’t have been able to sign the right-hander for less than $2 million.

The chatter on social media barely touched on him outperforming his FIP, or a career high HR/FB% or any suggestions as to why hitters were making much more hard-contact against him, no, 90% of the comments were about his wonky cap.

I like the move. The bullpen definitely needed the boost of a veteran presence like Strop.

Hopefully, he will be able to add to his 22 postseason appearances (1.80 ERA).

Follow us on Twitter @UKRedsMLB as we work to promote the Cincinnati Reds in the UK and the rest of Europe.

12 Reasons to support the Cincinnati Reds

In my humble opinion. If you are looking for an MLB team to support, even as your second-choice team, then it should be the Cincinnati Reds. Here are a few nuggets to chew … 

(1) History: Cincinnati Reds are baseball’s first professional team. Founded in 1869. That’s older than every single Premier League football team.

(2) No easy games: The Cincinnati Reds are in the most competitive division, none of this beating up against the Marlins or Orioles or Tigers.

(3) Old v new: Progressive front office and novice manager battling against a fan base mired in traditional values.

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(4) Exciting youngsters: Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Nick Lodolo, Tony Santillan, Josh VanMeter, Aristides Aquino, Jonathan India, Hunter Greene, Phil Ervin, Lucas Sims, Tyler Stephenson and Tyler Mahle, to name just 12.

(5) Modern-day superstar: Joey Votto is the greatest player of the last 10 years not named Mike Trout.

(6) Ticking upwards: Accordingly to an unsubstantiated source, the Cincinnati Reds have one of the fastest-growing fan bases in the UK. Make sure you are following @UKRedsMLB

(7) Winning isn’t everything: Six straight losing seasons, 418-554 (.430 W-L%). It takes a true sports aficionado to jump on board the Cincinnati Reds bandwagon.

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(8) Ohtani who? In Michael Lorenzen, the Cincinnati Reds have the best two-way player currently in the majors. In fact, he also plays outfield and swiped five bags, so maybe he’s a four-way player.

(9) Groundhog Day: The Cincinnati Reds suffered 33 one-run defeats last season. Following them is … character building.

(10) Hot takes: Outstanding account highlighting some of the most ludicrous opinions posted on the Reds Facebook page. Check it out @TodayinRedsFB

(11) It ain’t just country: When the Reds win the World Series, manager David Bell wants the parade song to be Pearl Jam

(12) The city: Cincinnati is beautiful. It is was also home to Neil Armstrong, Doris Day, Charles Manson, Stephen Spielberg, Mr Heimlich Manoeuvre and George Clooney’s dad.

And of course, Who can forget Amir Garrett deciding to single-handedly take on the entire Pittsburgh Pirates, captured magnificently by Sam Greene (AP).

Make sure you’re following us on Twitter @UKRedsMLB as we try to grow the sport in the UK and get as many newly-converted fans to join the Reds faithful.

Despite Sonny & Trev & Luis, Reds need more pitching

Given that Stephen Strasburg ($245 million/seven years) and Gerrit Cole ($324 million/nine years) signed for record-breaking deals, it was always going to be unlikely that the Cincinnati Reds were ever realistically targeting either starting pitcher to bolster our rotation.

Apparently the Reds were runners up to the Philadelphia Phillies ($118 million/five years) offer to Zack Wheeler.

Madison Bumgarner, who is the same age as Wheeler, was also on the Reds shopping list, but he opted for the sunny climate of Arizona for a bargain price of $85 million/five years.

I don’t know if Cole Hamels was ever seriously considered, but he signed an $18 million/one year contract with Atlanta. And you know what they say, there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal.

Kyle Gibson ($28 million/three years) and Jordan Lyles ($16 million/two years) are heading for Texas, along with two-times Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who the Rangers snapped up in a one-sided looking trade.

Michael Pineda ($20 million/two years) rejoins the Twins, and Rick Porcello ($10 million/one year) has moved to the Mets.

One of the most intriguing signings is that of Josh Lindblom who joins the Brewers for $9 million/three years. He is fresh off a 2.50 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP, 30-start campaign in Korea.

At the time of writing Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-jin Ryu remain unsigned. The Reds need to get one of them.

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Let’s not mess about. The Reds rotation was awesome last season, with both Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray putting up career years.

In 2020, we will get a full season from Trevor Bauer, who, don’t forget, was the best pitcher outside of the two Cy Young Award winners in 2018.

According to xFIP, the Reds starters were the fifth best in the league last season, but success breeds complacency, and complacency breeds failure.

In 2018, the Reds had five pitchers make more than 20 starts. This is an impressive achievement that was only matched by five other teams.

  • Reds (Castillo, Harvey, Romano, DeSclafani, Mahle)
  • Astros
  • Dodgers
  • Mariners
  • Phillies
  • Tigers

In 2019, the Reds once again had five pitchers start more than 20 games each. This time only four other teams joined them.

  • Reds (Castillo, Gray, DeSclafani, Roark, Mahle)
  • Cardinals
  • Cubs
  • Twins
  • Yankees

Obviously there is a degree of luck involved in keeping the rotation healthy all season. The fact that the Reds are the only team to appear in both years suggests that we were very lucky.

Look, I know this is not scientific, but we are unlikely to have all of our top-five starters healthy for a third straight season. And with the greatest respect to Tyler Mahle and Anthony DeSclafani, they are unlikely to give us the quality of innings we could expect from a Keuchel or Ryu.

We need to land one of Keuchel or Ryu to take the pressure of Mahle and to give us a realistic shot of contending in the division.

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Photos by Jim McIsaac and Gregory Shamus.