2003 Cincinnati Reds season

5 10 2015

Tall Stacks GABP 63004

After Riverfront Stadium (aka Cinergy Field) was demolished in December, 2002, the Reds looked forward to a promising new venue.  Great America Ballpark opened on March 31, 2003.  The Reds’ hopes hinged on the return of Ken Griffey Jr. from 2 previous injury-plagued seasons.  Griffey did notch the first hit at GABP, doubling off of the Pirates’ Kris Benson.  But that was the highlight of the baseball game for the Reds as they notched just 3 more hits and lost, 10-1.  The Pirates unfortunately returned the favor the Reds had paid them in 2001, beating Cincinnati in its park’s opener.

It was also a harbinger of what was to come that year for the Reds.  Griffey dislocated his shoulder in the 5th game of the season.  He actually got back to the field in a remarkable 6 weeks, and the Reds overcame a bad start to play well through mid-June.  They were a game above .500 on June 19th, only 3 games out of first.  But the team lost 15 of their next 19 games to fall out of contention.  To make matters worse, Junior tore up his ankle on the first game after the All-Star break.  It was his sixth major injury in just 4 seasons with the team, limiting him to just 201 plate appearances.  They season spiraled downward from there; without Griffey the team no longer had a respectable offense, and the pitching staff was even worse.  The team’s other future hall of famer, Barry Larkin, also suffered through injuries, playing in only 70 games.

Griffey 2003 separated shoulder

Jose Guillen was the most significant bright spot of that offense.  Signed as a free agent at the end of 2002, he hit .337 with 23 homers in just 91 games.  When the Reds fell out of contention, they traded him to Oakland for youngster Aaron Harang.  Aaron Boone was probably the team’s second best hitter, hitting .273 with 18 homers.  He was also traded in July, and ended up hitting one of the biggest postseason homers in history.  You’re welcome, Yankees.

Their pitching was abysmal.  They almost knocked Colorado off their annual perch of giving up the most runs in the NL.  Great American Ballpark played a part in this, but their pitchers just performed below expectations.  Well below.  Jimmy Haynes was the opening day starter, and he went 2-12 with an ERA over 6.  They converted Danny Graves to a starter, with terrible (4-15, 5.33 ERA) results.  Scott Williamson took over the closer role, and did pitch well.  Which meant he became trade bait, as the Reds sent him to Boston.  Ironically, if the Sox had brought him in to pitch against his former teammate, Boston may have made the series a year earlier.

Aaron bleeping boone

Right before they traded Boone, Guillen and Williamson, the Reds cleaned house in the front office, too.  They fired longtime General Manager Jim Bowden and skipper Bob Boone on the same day (July 28th).  Dave Miley was promoted from triple A to lead the club, and Dan O’Brien took over as GM.  Needless to say, it wasn’t the best way to open a new ballpark.

Team MVP: Jose Guillen (.337/23/63)

Best Pitcher: Scott Williamson (5-3/3.19/53, 21 SV)

Award Winners:

none

All-Stars:

Aaron Boone

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