Discover more from The Riverfront by Chad Dotson
The Most Likable Red
The Cincinnati Reds have had some likable players in recent years, even as the product on the field has often been unwatchable
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Baseball is fun.
I know we tend to forget that occasionally, given the general level of success we’ve come to expect from the hometown nine in recent years.* But it’s true! Baseball is a diversion. It’s not life and death for us. Sure, we all take the game too seriously from time to time, but ultimately, it’s entertainment. Baseball is perfect for distracting ourselves from the serious concerns of day to day life. And now more than ever, we need to be distracted from the graver concerns of the world like, you know, Zac Taylor’s disastrous play-calling.
*By recent, I mean “more than three decades.”
In my latest column over at The Mother Ship, I caught up with some former Reds players. The discussion inevitably turned to Seattle, where Cincinnati cast-offs Eugenio Suarez, Luis Castillo, and Jesse Winker are part of the Mariners core. (And yes, I encouraged you to follow the Mariners temporarily.) Here’s how I described that club:
It’s a fun team to watch, even from afar; players and long-suffering Seattle fans all just seem like they’re having a blast every single day. As it turns out, I’m a sucker for evidence that baseball can actually be fun!
I’ve really gotten a kick out of watching Seattle fans fall in love with Suarez and his “Good Vibes Only” personality. It reminds me of how much we all loved Suarez during his time here in the Queen City. Even as his production dropped in the last year and a half of his tenure, it was impossible not to root for the guy. Always smiling, always encouraging good vibes. He’s just an international treasure.
Last week, as Suarez collected his 1000th career hit, I noted on Twitter that Geno might be the most likable Reds player of my lifetime. It’s something I’ve said before, but some friends and neighbors pushed back on me. With good reason! The Reds have had a bunch of players who are easy to root for over the last thirty years.
Like Sean Casey! Casey’s name was mentioned more than anyone during this discussion. And yeah, that’s a reasonable answer to the question of who is the most likable Reds player. No one will say anything bad about Casey. I’m not going to say anything bad about Casey. You shouldn’t say anything bad about Casey.
Legendary Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman once said, “In all honesty, he’s the finest person I’ve ever known.” That sums it up.
Another name often mentioned in this discussion is All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier. I can’t argue with The Toddfather. I was in the crowd at Great American Ball Park when Frazier won that home run derby, and I’ve never heard the stadium louder. It was like the fans willed Frazier to the title. The connection he had with Reds fans was amazing.
On the other hand, he has a reputation for blocking Reds fans on Twitter, so your mileage may vary.
Other names in the conversation included Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto and Barry Larkin and Ryan Freel.
The sneaky pick for most likable Red, however, just might be Brayan Peña. Do you even remember Peña? On the field, he was a forgettable catcher on the 2014 and 2015 teams. But when it comes to nice guys, he’s completely unforgettable. To wit:
Brayan Peña is probably the nicest guy on the Reds. He's probably the nicest guy in MLB. Actually, he is almost certainly like the nicest person on planet Earth. He has tons of fun with fans on Twitter while being funny and self-effacing at the same time. Even though he's better at Twitter than you, he would never rub it in your face. He is constantly smiling, constantly encouraging towards teammates, constantly having fun living the MLB life, words can't describe how proud he is to be an American, he's "universally respected," he adopts puppies and hands out lollipops to under-privileged children.
Okay, there may be some hyperbole there. But I have one word for you: NERTS.
I’m certain that I’m missing a dozen or more names who should be in the conversation here. Leave a comment and tell me who I’ve forgotten. And in the meantime, please try to remember that baseball is supposed to be fun. Even in Cincinnati. Especially in Cincinnati.
This off-season, I’m going to try to remind everyone here of precisely why we all fell in love with the Cincinnati Reds in the first place. Stay tuned.
This week’s Cincinnati Magazine column: Catching up with playoff-bound former Reds
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the players on Cincinnati’s roster who still have much to play for in the waning days of another brutal season for the ol’ Redlegs. You may be surprised to learn that, as we speak, many players across baseball are actually in the middle of exciting pennant races, with spots on the post-season on the line. Crazy, right?
Sure, the current version of the Reds is tough to watch but fortunately, there are plenty of old friends in new uniforms who have a shot at the playoff glory that eluded them in Cincinnati. With that in mind, let’s check in on the Reds who departed during Castellini’s Great Cincinnati Fire Sale of 2022. And there’s only place to begin: Seattle.
In recent weeks, I’ve found my personal allegiances drifting northwest. Seattle is in the thick of the American League Wild Card race, even with a lineup that occasionally looks like “Cincinnati Reds West.” It’s a fun team to watch, even from afar; players and long-suffering Seattle fans all just seem like they’re having a blast every single day. As it turns out, I’m a sucker for evidence that baseball can actually be fun!
In recent weeks, the source of that joy, more often than not, has been Eugenio Suarez. An All-Star with Cincinnati in 2018, Geno has rebounded in a big way from his struggles of a season ago. You will recall that Suarez was basically a throw-in when outfielder Jesse Winker was traded to Seattle this spring. Instead, Suarez has been a star.
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