Written by Hunter Ellis – 9 October 2019
In this bi-weekly newsletter, we will explain the happenings of Cincinnati’s major league teams. Whether you’re a fan because you grew up in the Cincinnati area or not, everyone can learn something about local sports teams. In this pilot issue we’ll go over some of the teams’ progress in the current season and profile significant players.
At this point in the year (early October), it’s a perfect time to reflect on some of the teams’ seasons. Recently, the Reds and FC Cincinnati wrapped up their seasons. Meanwhile, the Bengals are just beginning their season.
The Reds were the dominant team in baseball in the 1970s, and during those years they were nicknamed the “Big Red Machine.” In the 2010s, however, their fortunes have been mostly reversed. After reaching the playoffs in 2010, 2012 and 2013, the Reds have underperformed despite the optimism surrounding offseason moves. At the end of September, the Reds closed their 2019 campaign with their sixth straight losing season.
Player Spotlight: Joey Votto
The Reds offense has been headlined throughout this decade by 36-year-old first baseman Joey Votto. Hailing from Toronto, he is arguably the best player to ever come to the MLB from Canada (the only Hall of Fame player from Canada is Ferguson Jenkins).
Votto’s No. 19 is highly recognizable on the backs of fans’ jerseys around Cincinnati. He led the Reds to back to back playoff appearances in 2012 and 2013 — the last time the Reds had a winning record. This was after he won the National League MVP in 2010. He’s enjoyed a career batting average hitting above .300 and typically has a high on base percentage.
This year, the Reds finished with a record of 75-87, a disappointing season after some believed the team would compete for the playoffs. During the past three years, the Reds’ offense has never been ranked below 18th. A major issue was the pitching staff, which ranked in the bottom five of the league during those three seasons.
Votto, as the team leader, provides an accurate representation of the Reds team regression. This year, he hit for his second-worst batting average and his lowest OBP mark of his career.
Unlike in years past where the offense has been good but the pitching let the team down, this year the offense couldn’t produce runs. It ranked 24 out of 30 in the MLB. The starting pitching for the Reds was in the top 10 in the MLB, and with a little more production from the offense, the Reds could have been in contention for the postseason.
The Reds finished their season dropping six of their last nine games. However, the team secured a win in their last two games with victories against NL Central rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams has vowed again that the payroll will be higher this year for the Reds, signaling that the team will look to bring in more high profile names in an effort to get the team back to the playoffs.
Last offseason, the Reds acquired players like Sonny Gray (who was excellent this year as a pitcher) and Yasiel Puig, who was traded to the Indians in July for Trevor Bauer. The Reds have already been linked to catcher Yasmani Grandal. Look for the Reds to bring in a free agent bat or two to try and improve their poor offensive output this year.
The Reds are aware that they need to improve on their hitting. The team fired its hitting coach Turner Ward after he was just hired last offseason. It seems like the Reds will stick with first year manager David Bell.
The Bengals were consistent at the beginning of the decade, making the playoffs for five straight years from 2011-15. However, the next few seasons were barely mediocre, leading the Bengals finishing with a 6-10 record and firing 16-year head coach Marvin Lewis.
The problem with the Bengals through all these years, good or bad, has been an inability to be clutch. The Bengals notoriously do not perform well late in close games, nor do they play well in primetime nationally televised games or during the playoffs. In fact, the Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1990.
There was renewed interest this season when the offensive-minded Zac Taylor was hired. Former stars of the defense like cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are no longer on the team. Meanwhile, perhaps the team’s biggest star, wide receiver AJ Green, is out because of injury. It’s a time of change for the Bengals, and one can imagine a couple years from now this team will look very different.
Player Spotlight: John Ross
One player with the potential to be Pro-Bowl caliber for the Bengals is third-year wide receiver John Ross.
Ross is 23, from California, and a University of Washington product. He rose up draft boards when he was clocked with a 4.22 second 40-yard dash time, making him the fastest player ever.
Ross has been one of the highlights of the Bengals’ new season. A first round pick (9th overall) in 2017, many had considered John Ross to be a “bust” — a player who has not lived up to his expectations or potential — after he spent large portions of his first two seasons injured and also struggled with dropped passes.
It seems like this year, though, Ross finally was making the difference that the Bengals thought he could make when he was drafted. In the first game of the season, Ross caught touchdowns for 33 and 55 yards.
Ross is again dealing with an injury. The Bengals placed Ross on the Injured Reserve list, putting his status up in the air for the rest of the season. The absences of Ross and AJ Green being injured has the Bengals in big need of wide receiver help.
FC Cincinnati (MLS):
Despite a tumultuous first season in the MLS, the Orange and Blue have set numerous attendance records, including the highest attendance for a minor league soccer game (several times) and setting the highest attendance for a soccer match in the state of Ohio.
This season, the team set the record for most goals allowed in a season. Further, the team went through three different head coaches this year.
Player Spotlight: Allan Cruz
Allan Cruz, a 23-year-old midfielder from Costa Rica, has been a consistent offensive player for FC Cincinnati. He is a young player with lots of potential and a fan favorite. In Major League Soccer, teams can only have eight players from other countries in the world and Cruz fills one of those slots. Further, each club can bring in up to three Designated Players (abbreviated DP), that are star players making a large contract. Cruz is one of two of these players with FC Cincinnati.
Despite seven goals scored this season, Cruz ended the season tied for 43rd in the league in goals scored.
Several teams have multiple players that have scored more than FC Cincinnati’s leading goal scorer. Take, for example, New York City FC, which had three players who have scored more goals than Cruz.
Thanks for reading the Cincinnati Sports Newsletter.
Until next time!