Over the last four years, the Cincinnati Reds have finished in last place in their division, and have averaged 67 wins per year. Simply put, they’ve been bad. Other than Scooter Gennett and Brandon Phillips over the last few years, there hasn’t been as much to talk about with the players and their personalities. The most interesting debate around the team concerned FC Cincinnati’s attendance numbers, and whether or not they were affecting the Reds. With the 150th anniversary of professional baseball in Cincinnati coming this year, the front office decided that they were finally tired of losing, and attempted to speed up the rebuild.
They were able to net Yasiel Puig, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Kyle Farmer, and picked up Jose Iglesias and Derek Dietrich on minor-league deals, all for Homer Bailey, Tanner Rainey and prospects in return. So far this year, all of those guys that they’ve added have produced in different ways on the field. Their presence has also had another effect on the clubhouse: the Reds are having fun again.
This year’s team has a whole bunch of characters. Yasiel Puig loves to flip his bat. Jesse Winker enjoys waving. Joey Votto still bangs. Nick Senzel likes to floss. Eugenio Suarez has been dabbing and blowing gum bubbles. Our main man for fun, though, has been Derek Dietrich. After being designated for assignment by the lowly Marlins, he signed with the Reds, and has been himself ever since. His first home run cemented his place in Reds Opening Day lore. Since then, he’s led the team in home runs, fought a swarm of bees, fixed a light tower in Oakland, and painted a mustache on his face to look even better in his throwback uniforms. His biggest moment so far, though, was his river shot in Pittsburgh earlier this year. He admired his blast off of Chris Archer, and his ball landed in the Allegheny on the bounce. Archer, a known hypocrite, didn’t like that, and threw behind him. You probably know what happened next.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are known for this shit. They celebrate their own achievements, but can’t take it when someone celebrates against them, and intentionally try to hurt them by telling their pitchers to throw a 95 mph fastball at the person who did the celebrating. They led the league from 2013-2015 in hit batsmen every year, and they have notoriously taken issue with Reds players in the past. Their manager, Clint Hurdle, is a known fan of how baseball “should be played”, and believes players should show “respect” toward the game. He’s complained for years about how players shouldn’t show emotion, argue calls, and should play the game “the right way”. He’s instilled his old man teachings in his Pirates teams, and they’ve shown it for years. They want their opponents to play against them like it’s the 1970s, but they are allowed to do as much celebration as they want.
As the Pirates returned to Cincinnati this week, no one expected for anything to pop up again, seeing that Chris Archer avoided the Reds by pitching on the Sunday before the series, and noted crank Francisco Cervelli wouldn’t be playing either. Somehow, though, their announcers and fans were displeased about these two home runs.
Derek Dietrich’s stroll and Yasiel Puig’s sprint happened in the 7th inning of a blowout, and should have just been seen at what they were: guys having fun playing a child’s game. Pittsburgh announcer and old fuck John Wehner felt that he needed to say this about Derek Dietrich’s play:
“I can’t stand him. I just don’t see why – I don’t understand why you have to do that. It’s different if you’re a Hall of Fame player, you’re a 60-homer guy, you’re an established guy. Nobody ever heard of him before this year.
“I heard of him because of his grandfather (Steve Demeter) who used to be a minor league coach for the Pirates. He was the nicest, sweetest guy in the world. He’s rolling in his grave every time this guy hits a home run. He’s embarrassed of his grandson.
“… It’s just being arrogant. I don’t get it. I don’t get why you do that. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Derek Dietrich’s response to that was simple: He hit three home runs against the Pirates the next night, and stared them all down. He’s been a thorn in the Pirates’ side all year. He’s hit 7 home runs in 9 games against them. He’s the new Pirate killer.
The Pirates ended up winning the fourth game of the series on Wednesday, and waited until they had a comfortable lead to exact their revenge.
Eugenio Suarez was hit last year by the Pirates on a pitch up and in. He broke his hand, and missed considerable time as the Reds struggled out of the gate. This time, Suarez was again at the mercy of the Pirates, and was hit on the same hand again at 95 mph, the Clint Hurdle Special. David Bell argued that the Pirates and their crusty manager should have received a warning for their actions, but they didn’t receive anything, and David Bell was tossed. Afterward, he had this to say:
“We know they’ll do it. I was doing what I could to protect our players. Clearly, we’re not going to get protected. We’ve got to do whatever we can. We’ve got to take matters into our owns hands. It’s unfortunate that our players aren’t going to get protected. That’s been made clear, and we know that team will intentionally throw at people. What are you supposed to think?
“(The players) need to protect themselves with any means necessary. First of all, the ball doesn’t hurt when it hits you that bad, but it has a chance to do some serious damage. When someone is messing with your livelihood, your career, who knows? You’ve got to protect yourself. Clearly, we’re not going to get protected by the umpires or the league. That’s been made clear. Our players need to do whatever they need to do protect themselves. I’ll back them whatever that is.
He’s right. In both instances where the Pirates have intentionally thrown fastballs at the Reds, they came after Derek Dietrich celebrated his own home runs and had fun doing it. Clay Holmes and Pirates fans tried to argue their way out of this most recent incident, but they don’t receive the benefit of the doubt when this has been their reputation for multiple years. The umpires and league officials have said nothing in either case other than suspending players in the first incident. By being silent on these incidents and related incidents such as the Tim Anderson-Royals feud, Major League Baseball has shown that they also believe in “baseball justice” despite using the “Let The Kids Play” motto recently. Jared Hughes, a former Pirate and current Red, even admitted that this was something his former team used to do.
Even if the Pirates don’t like it, the Reds will have fun this year. Yasiel Puig will still flip his bat, Jesse Winker will still wave, Joey Votto will still bang, Nick Senzel will still floss, and Eugenio Suarez will still dab and blow gum bubbles. There’s no one that can stop the club from having fun, and us, the Reds fans, will enjoy all of it. There’s also something to be said about how Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett having fun in prior years lowered the walls in Reds fans minds, and paved the way for the Reds to have so much fun. In the past, our fans may not have been as accepting to players celebrating, but after seeing those guys play the game in a fun way for years now, we’ve been open to it. When someone else inevitably celebrates a home run on the Reds, we’ll shrug just like Derek Dietrich did the other night.
Keep having fun, Reds. We’ll be having fun along with you the whole season.