When you’ve spent as many years as I have on God’s green earth and watching professional sports because you’re unable to participate, you go through your share of seasons that really don’t matter. Your team is completely and utterly irrelevant, with nothing to contribute to the story of their league’s season. The Cincinnati Reds have fit into this category the past four seasons, but there were some highlights in 2017 that are worth mentioning here. I ranked them from 5 to 1 because that’s all I do at yeswrestling.com these days.
5. Hunter Greene gets drafted
It tells you how the season went that I went to the Baseball Draft to find a highlight. But man did the Reds get a top prospect with the second overall pick. Greene has been hyped for quite some time now, as the SI cover above indicates. He was top-notch as a hitter & a pitcher in high school, to the point where there was some controversy over which the Reds (or another team) might like to use him as. There was really no controversy. If a kid can throw 102 with any kind of consistency or control, you have him pitch.
If Greene lives up to the hype, the Reds have a superstar on their hands. When the current on-field product isn’t exciting, you have to look to the future to get hyped. Hunter Greene is reason to get hyped.
4. Pete Rose gets a statue
As bad a year as the Reds had, Pete Rose had an even worse year. He was already held in low esteem by most of the baseball world outside of Cincinnati due to gambling his career away and being a scumbag in general. His hometown has always loved him though, and it was rarely more evident than on June 17 when the Hit King was honored with a statue outside of Great American Ballpark. Things went downhill for Pete a little more than a month later, when a lawsuit between him & John Dowd became public, as did the revelation that Rose had sexual relations with an underage girl back in 1975. I still don’t know what kind of moron files a lawsuit that can bring that sort of thing to light, but that’s Pete for ya. His own worst enemy. At least Cincinnati still loves him, and all that business happened after this day.
3. Zack Cozart gets a donkey
Zack Cozart easily had the best year of his major league career in 2017. He wound up with personal all-time highs in pretty much every category and was the easy choice to represent the National League as shortstop in the All-Star Game. The Reds & their fans got to have some fun with this, as Joey Votto had promised Cozart before the season that if the shortstop made the All-Star team, he’d buy him a donkey.
Cozart made the team, the donkey was purchased and fun was had by all. I gotta say that the follow-up wasn’t handled very well after we saw random donkeys at the ballpark. There should have been donkey merchandise and more usage of the donkey in general. My guess is that the Reds didn’t want to make too much out of somebody that will be playing somewhere else in 2018, which Cozart will be because they can’t afford to pay him $18 million. Also, they probably expected to trade him at some point during the 2017 season, but nobody needed a shortstop. Damndest thing.
2. Scooter Gennett hits 4 home runs & gets 10 RBI in a single game
If you watched Major League Baseball this season, you noticed that people were hitting home runs more often than usual. The players don’t look much bigger than they did last season, so we’re all assuming that the balls are juiced. I arrived at that conclusion while watching the June 6 game between the Reds & St. Louis baseball team when Scooter Gennett hit four home runs in one game. Scooter is sitting on twenty-seven for the season, which almost doubles his previous high of fourteen set in 2016. I don’t think anybody’s going to accuse Scooter of being a jacked up juice monkey, so it’s safer to lob accusations at MLB and say they juiced the balls to produce more home runs & more offense after years of dominant pitching. Which is fine, really. Just let us know what it is, and I think most of us will accept it.
It doesn’t take anything away from that June 6 game, which will go down along with that Jake Arrieta no-hitter from 2016 as one of the coolest things I’ve seen at Great American Ballpark. Even if the balls are juiced, it’s not like everybody’s hitting four home runs every game.
1. Joey Votto
Some Reds fans are very critical of Joey Votto. Mostly because they’re stupid. You have to be in order to question Votto’s ability. The guy is the best player to put on a Reds uniform during my lifetime, and that includes the likes of Barry Larkin, an injury-diminished Ken Griffey, Jr., and the few Big Red Machine guys that were still hanging on in 1984. Pete Rose? Tony Perez? Dave Concepcion? Yeah, I’ll put Votto up against those guys no problem.
Votto’s 2017 was on another level. His 36 home runs sit one behind his career-high. 100 RBI are the most he’s had since 2011. His 7.4 WAR is .2 off from his 7.6 in 2015. His 80 strikeouts in 161 games are the lowest he’s had in a season unmarred by injury. His OBP & OPS are the highest they’ve been since 2012, and his slugging percentage is the highest its been since 2010.
Simply put, Joey Votto had a season for the ages. Since it was on a sorry team he won’t win the National League MVP. Maybe Reds fans will appreciate this twenty years down the road after Joey’s been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Or maybe they’ll still be waiting for Pete to get in.
Bring on 2018.