Subtitle: In Which Bad Pitching Happen To Bad Pitchers.
Volquez, Harang, Wilson, Lidle, Haynes, Hamilton, Harnisch, Tomko, Remlinger, Smiley, Schourek.
Do you remember these names? If so, I’m sorry. Ending in 1995, Jose Rijo was the opening day starter for the Reds for four straight years. Then, Rijo hurt his elbow. And then: Disaster struck.
In 1996, Pete Schourek took up the mantle of starting the most important opening day in baseball. I will not talk about that opening day because it would be in really poor taste, but Schourek pitched less than 70 innings that season with an ERA of 6.01. He would continue to vaguely suck around the league until 2001, but clearly, his glory day of 1995 was long behind him. Probably the curse.
Next? John Smiley, despite having a name that might worry fans of Mustard Plug, had been a solid pitcher for the Reds from 1994-1996, but in 1997, after starting opening day, his ERA ballooned, and he was traded to Cleveland. (He also broke his humerus and ended his career after being traded, but that also might be a little tacky to attribute to a curse I made up as a joke).
After 1998, Mike Remlinger would go on to have a pretty successful career, even being an all-star in 2002. But it wasn’t for the Reds, and it certainly wasn’t as a starter. After a middling-to-bad 1998 with the Reds, Remlinger converted to a full-time, pretty good reliever for the Braves. (Curse.)
Next victim? Brett Tomko. Brett Tomko has obviously gone on to pitch over 1000 innings around the league since starting opening day for the Reds in ’99. But after that mediocre season, he was traded to Seattle. (Obviously, the curse.)
Pete Harnisch was once a pretty fantastic pitcher for the Astros, but by the time he reached the Reds in 1998, he was considered to be in the twilight of his career. Still, he put up reasonably excellent season in 98 and 99, which made him the obvious choice for opening day starter in 2000. Then he was not great/injured in 2000, at which point the Reds decided to make him the opening day starter in 2001. That season, he made only seven starts, due to injury troubles, and was not able to come back in 2002.
The selection of Joey Hamilton as 2002′s opening day starter says a lot about the 2002 team. In 2001, Hamilton had a 5.89 ERA with the Blue Jays, and and then a 6.23 ERA in four starts with the Reds. Certainly, 2002 was not a strong-pitching team, but several starters did better than Hamilton’s 5.27 ERA shuttling between starting, the bullpen, and Louisville: including Elmer Dessens, Chris Reitsma, and Jimmy Haynes. The next season, Hamilton would pitch only 10 innings before being cut.
Speaking of Jimmy Haynes, that season as 2002′s ‘ace’ (105 ERA+: That’s above average, hooray!), earned him a spot as 2003′s opening day starter. But he was bad in 2003, and the Reds released him in 2004 after 4 really execrable starts.
Cory Lidle, Opening Day starter 2004, is also something of a sensitive subject, so I’ll just say he was not very good in 2003, or in 2004. Paul Wilson, on the other hand, I feel free to discuss. Wilson did sort of earn his 2005 opening day start, with double digit wins with the Reds in 2004, and an almost league average ERA – which was the best of Reds starters by quite a large margin.
Finally, we’re here to Aaron Harang, which is at least a bit of a bright spot, and the clearest argument against the existence of the curse of Jose Rijo. (Asides from, you know, common sense, logic, and the fact that it’s just a joke premise I have come up with to talk about how much opening day starters have sucked, for a city that really takes it’s Opening Day seriously). Harang gave us stability, and the closest thing to excellence we’d seen on the opening day mound in ten years. “Adam” gave us, at the very least, two objectively excellent seasons in 2006-2007, but failed to receive a single Cy Young vote in 2006, despite leading the NL in both wins and strikeouts (Hint: it was the curse).
Aaaaand, I think we all know about Edinson Volquez.
So what about Johnny Cueto, our 2012 opening day starter? Unlike most of the horrifying entries on this list, Johnny is young, and pitched really well in 2011. Hopefully, that’s all you need to be immune from the curse of Jose Rijo (which is perhaps just the curse of middle-aged, mediocre pitchers getting injured and regressing), but still, I hope Johnny doesn’t break any mirrors this year.