CINCINNATI — There was a closed-door meeting in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse following a 6-4 loss to the visiting Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
That's what you do when you lose for the 10th time in 11 games, when you fall behind 3-0 in the first inning and spend most of the rest of the afternoon as if you can't get to Thursday's off day soon enough.
Example: Through his first six innings, Colorado starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick needed all of 61 pitches.
So what was said in this closed-door meeting?
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"That's really nobody's business," said the manager, Bryan Price.
So who spoke in this closed-door meeting?
"The skipper," said Brayan Pena, the catcher. "When the general talks, the troops listen."
Price was in no mood for extra conversation with the media, however. After a brief lull in his postgame meeting with reporters, the skipper blurted, "You guys have no requirements to stay any longer than you'd like."
"This," said the usually unwaveringly happy Pena, "is no fun."
No, it's not. Predicted to be a playoff contender, the Reds are now 19-27. The momentum from Tuesday night's 2-1 ninth-inning win over the Rockies, which snapped the franchise's longest losing streak (nine games) since 1998, lasted until Colorado's Nolan Arenado cranked a three-run homer in the first inning off suddenly slumping Reds starter Mike Leake.
"He doesn't resemble the guy we're used to seeing," said Price of Leake. "But right now you could say that about a lot of our guys."
Indeed, nearly every Red is slumping. Jay Bruce is hitting .226, which is actually up from his .162 batting average on May 14. Marlon Byrd is hitting .208. Joey Votto was hitting .328 on May 1. He's hitting .277 now. Zack Cozart was hitting .319 on May 15. He's at .250 now.
Did we mention that Billy Hamilton's on-base percentage is a mere .263 and he has been dropped to ninth in the batting order?
It gets worse. Catcher Devon Mesoraco, who hit 25 homers a year ago, is likely headed for season-ending hip surgery. Starting pitcher Homer Bailey, he of the $105 million contract, is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Reds are 28th in major league baseball in batting average and last in the National League in bullpen ERA.
To make matters worse, Johnny Cueto, a prime trade piece should the Reds opt to blow things up and start over, missed his last start because of elbow stiffness. (An MRI showed no structural damage and Cueto threw on Wednesday. So not all the news is bad.)
Who's responsible — or likely to pay — for this mess?
Plenty point the finger at General Manager Walt Jocketty. Yet Jocketty is the same GM who presided over three 90-win seasons since 2010. The Reds won 97 games in 2012 under his watch. They reached the playoffs in 2013. Jocketty didn't suddenly forget how to do his job.
Then there's Price, the second-year manager who has earned more publicity for his discussions with the media (his infamous F-bomb flood last month) and with umpires (his ejection last week in Cleveland while exchanging lineups before the game) than his team's actions on the field.
A manager can only do so much, however, and the Reds' problems are not so much a lack of effort as a lack of production.
"I think guys are putting too much pressure on themselves," said Leake, who has given up 20 earned runs in 14 innings over his last three starts, and that sentiment seemed to dovetail with a postgame comment Price made about the team needing to "enjoy the game."
No one enjoys losing, however. In baseball, there's nothing more cliché than a clubhouse meeting, but with red-hot Washington coming to town, Wednesday's postgame message couldn't hurt.
"You hope," said Leake, "that it wakes us up."