Year that began with promise ends in disappointment
MLB.com's youth reporter looks back on 2012 campaign
I watched the Reds win on Opening Day, a blustery April afternoon full of hope, promise and a 4-0 victory over the Marlins.
I was there on that gloomy Mother's Day, which brightened up when Joey Votto hit two homers ... and then topped them with a walk-off grand slam.
I was there on June 26, when Aroldis Chapman celebrated a save by somersaulting off the mound.
I watched from the on-deck circle as broadcast legend Marty Brennaman smiled as he had his head shaved after the team won 10 straight games.
I was there when the Reds clinched the National League Central in fine fashion with a 6-0 victory over the Dodgers.
I listened on the radio in the car as Homer Bailey closed out the franchise's first no-hitter since Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988.
I was ready to blame technical issues at the start of Game 1 of the NL Division Series, as "Injury Time-out" followed by the name "Johnny Cueto" flashed on the screen of my iPad's MLB.com At Bat app as I did homework.
I was in the press box trying to contain my emotions during the nothing-if-not-frustrating Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS.
And I watched what turned out to be the final innings of the Reds' season this afternoon from my living room.
One thing came to mind: "It's déjà vu all over again."
I just couldn't get my favorite Yogi Berra quote out of my head. "All over again," of course, refers to the Reds' playoff run in 2010, when they were swept by the Phillies, 3-0. Granted, my hometown team's prospects started plenty more promising, as the Reds went 2-0 in San Francisco.
But it all ended up just the same.
Four times the Reds sent the potential tying run to the plate, and four times they couldn't capitalize. Angel Pagan and Brandon Crawford robbed them of what looked like sure base hits, and let's not forget the controversial double play in which Ryan Hanigan struck out with Jay Bruce tagged out in an attempted steal of third base.
Even the shocking statistics -- the team went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left an abysmal 11 men on base -- didn't seem to do it all justice.
It was a hard-luck game.
"I don't really like saying that there are moments in games where you shift momentum," Votto said, "but when Buster [Posey] hit that grand slam -- six runs is so difficult to come back from. That we almost came back was pretty impressive. But Buster totally broke our back with that swing."
The man who gave up that game-defining grand slam, Mat Latos, shouldered the blame.
"I let a couple of things get to me that I shouldn't have," Latos said. "I made a mistake to Posey, and he hit a grand slam. The only thing I can really say is, I let down everybody. I let down the team, most importantly, and the front office and the fans. I let things get to me. One hundred percent of this game is on me. I [messed] it up."
"I'm proud of them and proud they fought to the end, which they did," manager Dusty Baker sighed. "That at-bat that Jay Bruce had was unbelievable. That was sheer determination. You've got to work a little harder this winter, and this is going to take a while for this to heal, but ... sometimes you just get tired of disappointments."
Votto summed it all up.
"We came up short," he said. "This was a series where we can either paint this organization with a failure brush or we can take it and learn from it and improve. We showed resilience. Hopefully, we use what we learn from this and it makes us tougher, makes us hungrier and makes us better. I think that it will."
I tend to agree.
I look back on the 2012 season and see some very promising things: Brandon Phillips headlining SportsCenter's Top 10 countless times. The walls in the front office filling up with blown-up photos of walk-off celebrations. Cueto's 19 wins. Chapman shattering a club record with 27 consecutive saves. Flashes of brilliance from the entire bullpen, especially Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton. Ryan Ludwick's unbelievable surge, which in my mind makes him a prime candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Todd Frazier, who did an outstanding job filling in for the injured Votto, and who, when Scott Rolen retires, could very well be the third baseman of the future. Oh, and Zack Cozart didn't have a bad season, either.
I'd put money on the Reds putting up another strong season in 2013. That's saying something. I'm a teenager -- news flash, teenagers don't have any money -- and a thrifty one at that.
I may have college to pay for, but I could make a buck betting on my boys.
Then again, everyone will probably bet on the Reds. Most of the core team will return -- Votto, Bruce, Phillips -- and Ludwick will most likely exercise his 2013 mutual option.
What is it they always say? "Just wait 'til next year," right?
Yeah, OK. But right now there's one quote that sums up just how I feel.
It was printed on my Reds desk calendar for the day of June 7, and I ripped it off and saved it under my desk blotter all this time.
I was really hoping not to have to draw it out until November, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
The quote on baseball is from former Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti: "It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."
Anyone got some duct tape? Or Super-Glue?
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.