Cincinnati Reds: A look back at Homer Bailey’s career

MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 20: Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds speaks with Homer Bailey #34 during the sixth inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on August 20, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 20: Tucker Barnhart #16 of the Cincinnati Reds speaks with Homer Bailey #34 during the sixth inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on August 20, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The career of Homer Bailey as a member of the Cincinnati Reds is a curious one, and should be looked upon as two different chapters.

The Homer Bailey era as a member of the Cincinnati Reds came to a close this past Friday afternoon as the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers was announced. A tip of my proverbial Reds cap to Dick Williams and Nick Krall for pulling off this trade. In coming up with a quality starting pitcher in Alex Wood, along with two beasts in Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, is the best move the Reds have made since the Ken Griffey, Jr. trade.

Since joining the Blog Red Machine staff a few months ago, I had hoped to be able to write this piece on Homer Bailey. In a retrospective view, I could dwell on the terrible attitude and cancer in the clubhouse that we all saw over the course of the past two seasons. Then there’s the demotion to Louisville in which Bailey continued to get shelled, while at the same time refusing to go to the bullpen.

There was a definite change in morale upon Bailey’s return to Cincinnati from Louisville after the All-Star Break, in which the Cincinnati Reds basically went from 35-26 following the trade for Matt Harvey, to losing 90-plus games for the fourth consecutive season. While that can’t all be hung on Bailey, the good chemistry within the team was notably absent over the final two months of the season.

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However, I want to go a different direction as once upon a time the future was promising for both Homer Bailey and the Cincinnati Reds. Being drafted by our beloved Cincinnati Reds in the 2004 Draft as the 7th overall pick, the LaGrange, Texas product advanced through the minor system at an accelerated pace.

Baseball America labeled Bailey as the No. 1 prospect in the Reds farm system. He made his debut on June 8, 2007 against the Cleveland Indians at the age of 21-years-old. He went 5 innings, giving up only 5 hits and 2 runs as the Reds beat the Tribe 4-3.

Bailey picked up the win, as old Reds friend David Weathers grabbed his 12th save of the season. Side note, I really liked David Weathers. There were over 38,000 fans that night at Great American Ball Park and the future certainly seemed bright for David Dewitt “Homer” Bailey, Jr.

In spite of the more recent history with Homer Bailey in a Cincinnati Reds uniform there were many good moments that I would like to highlight in what I will call the “Ode to Homer”. For a period of time between 2009 and 2014, Homer posted a very solid 54-42 record during this stretch.

He was a very reliable and consistent starter. Was he worth his contract? Sigh, we’ll never know due to the injury bug, but at the time I was certainly happy to see the Reds lock him up for the foreseeable future; it was not worth THAT amount of money.

However, from the middle of 2014 to present it has been a complete train wreck. The injuries ranged from a diagnosis of lingering forearm fatigue, which later was diagnosed in May 2015 as a torn UCL that required season-ending Tommy John surgery. Bailey did not appear in a Major League contest until July 31, 2016.

His injury troubles continued into 2017, as he did not pitch at the big league level until late June following surgery in February 2017 to remove bone spurs. While he did pitch well against the Washington Nationals on Opening Day 2018, the injury bug coupled with a bruised ego, led to time in Louisville and a 1-14 record in 20 starts and a 6.09 ERA. It was obvious that Homer Bailey’s career was in peril with another year remaining on that albatross of a contract.

In spite of all the disdain, I will give credit where credit is due. There are three specific games in which I will give props to Homer. He threw those two no-hitters; one in Pittsburg in 2012 and then again against the World Champion San Francisco Giants in 2013.

However, the game that is most dear to me is Homer’s performance in Game Three of the NLDS vs. San Francisco in 2012, in which the Reds dropped that game 2-1 in 10 innings. I was at that game, and got to witness first hand the grit that Homer Bailey showed that particular day in the Queen City.

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With a line up featuring a Joey Votto in his prime, Jay Bruce, and Scott Rolen, to not be able to produce more runs in such a stellar performance by Bailey, who went 7 innings of 1 hit baseball with 10 strikeouts, still haunts even in late December 2018.

That was the Cincinnati Reds moment to turn the tables on the modern history and frankly, they blew it. I will never forget leaving Great American that night thinking, “the momentum has turned and the series is over, and what a waisted effort by Homer”.

The two no-hitters were poetry in motion. On a Friday night in September of 2012, Homer Bailey pulled off a no-hitter in Pittsburgh. It was nearly 24 years to the month when Tom Browning threw a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bailey’s only blemish was a walk in the third inning to Andrew McCutchen.

Bailey’s second no-hitter came in 2013 against those pesky San Francisco Giants on June 2nd in a 3-0 Cincinnati victory. Homer Bailey joined an elite crowd of baseball excellence that night as he became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1974 and 1975 to throw no-hitters in back-to-back seasons. He joined former Reds greats, Jim Maloney and Johnny Vander Meer, as the only Cincinnati Reds to throw multiple no-hitters in their respective careers.

There’s no love lost from most Cincinnati Reds fans for Homer Bailey. His overall record was 67-77 with a 4.56 ERA, with most of the losses and rising ERA coming as the injuries mounted. Even with the poorer performances over the past three seasons, the poor attitude ruined any good will amongst die-hard Reds fans.

However, I do believe that history will prove that Bailey was a solid performer as a Cincinnati Red. Some Cincinnati sports writers have even hinted that one day he will be bestowed the honor of being inducted into the Reds Hall Of Fame. One does have to wonder what would have happened with his career, along with the overall performance of the Reds, had Bailey could have avoided the injury bug?

However, he was not worth the overall dollars associated with his contract extension which proved to really hamper the Cincinnati Reds efforts to adequately secure quality starting pitching during this “rebuild”. There is no way to go back and undue that though. At the time, Johnny Cueto was showing signs of being injury prone, and Homer Bailey was surging with some very key performances.

Next. The Reds, hands down, won the trade with the Dodgers

Obviously our vision in the rear view mirror is 20/20. However, a new day has dawn for those who stand long, and there is a now a sense that the 2019 Cincinnati Reds are suddenly going to be in the thick of things. Happy Holidays Reds Country!