The 2014 Cincinnati Reds have treated fans to quite a roller coaster ride, bouncing into and out of the playoff race on a regular basis. Even a couple of weeks ago, the Reds sat within a few games of the division and wild card leads, but a seven-game losing streak has finally put an end to our delusions. The only question now is, how far will the Reds slide before October closes the book on their season?
As of Saturday morning, the Reds sit in fourth place in the National League Central division, 10.5 games out of first and now just five games up on the last-place Chicago Cubs. The two teams play each other six more times between now and the end of the season, which means that the Cubs can directly affect the Reds’ final place in the standings.
Chicago won’t challenge for a postseason slot, but climbing out of the cellar would be a feather in the cap of executive Theo Epstein as he seeks to rebuild yet another perennial loser into world champions. They will be tough outs.
Beyond the Cubbies, the Reds play against a series of contenders the rest of the way: Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers.
Of those teams, only the Mets are further out of the running than the Reds, and only the Orioles have apparently locked up their postseason berth. The rest of the clubs will be scrapping for every victory, and Cincinnati seems ill-prepared to win tough games. There is an air of resignation around this team that likely stems from a combination of injuries and lack of movement by the front office in bringing in help at the trade deadline.
So, how far can the Reds fall? From here it looks like they are only limited by the number of games left in the season. Could the Cubs pass them? Almost certainly.
In the current wild card standings, there are three other teams between the Reds and the Cubs — the Mets, San Diego Padres, and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies are pretty much a mess, but the Mets control their positioning relative to the Reds and the Padres may be on the upswing. As bleak as things look for the Reds, it does seem unlikely that they’ll fall below the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Regardless of just how far the Reds slip over the next month, they can still use that time productively by taking a look at some of their young players. Forget about nursing Joey Votto back into action and call up Jesse Winkler (yes, I know he’s not a first baseman). Nix Alfredo Simon from the starting rotation and bring in Robert Stephenson. You get the idea.
Whatever the Reds do, they aren’t going to win much more in 2014, so it’s time to focus on 2015 in earnest.