In the first week of the 2023 season, I was tasked with writing about and reacting to all the major headlines. On the Pittsburgh Pirates’ end, the talk was about the incredible start outfielder Bryan Reynolds was having. I went as far as to say that he could be laying the groundwork for an NL MVP season, knowing full well he would inevitably cool off. Boy, do I wish all he did was cool off, because now he is ice cold with many wondering what happened to the player that started the season red hot.
As a whole, it has been an up-and-down season for Pittsburgh’s ball club. When the pitching is good, no one can hit, and when the bats are going, they give up runs like they’re giving them away. However, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the drop off that Reynolds has experienced.
In that infamous first week when the whole team was rolling, Reynolds was hitting .405, with 14 RBIs, and was ranked top five in OPS, average and hits and was tied for first with the most home runs in all of baseball with five. In his last 15, he’s batting .210 with 14 strikeouts. Certainly not the same player from the beginning of the season.
Some in the fan base have speculated that his new contract may be a little heavy on his pockets, and that’s what’s bringing him down. In late April after months of urging for a new deal, Reynolds was signed to an eight-year extension to make him the richest player in franchise history. A bright spot no doubt, but it’s hard to think that some of the motivation to perform has disappeared. It wouldn’t be the first time an athlete’s performance declined after receiving a large contract that they were fighting for.
While it is disappointing how his season has turned out, I really do believe that it is more simple than that. Reynolds has been time and time again brought up in conversations regarding player’s work ethic. He’s a blue collar type of player who doesn’t complain, doesn’t boast and doesn’t live his life in the limelight. On that note, the reserved demeanor of Reynolds may be why he’s seemed to struggle.
In late June, Reynolds was placed on the 10-day IL for lower back pain and inflammation. In many cases, back injuries in sports are tedious and drawn out, and players often struggle with them for extended periods of time. I wouldn’t rule out that Reynolds has been dealing with this issue for some time and was rushed back to the active roster. Players and coaches said that one of the biggest challenges with Reynolds is actually keeping him out of the batting cages.
The combination of being hurt, working to prevent further injuries and a clear loss for timing has plagued Pittsburgh’s All-Star outfielder for some time now, and one can only hope there are brighter days ahead. At the end of the day however, Reynolds is worth the money despite him not playing like it as of late. Keep in mind, the Pirates franchise as a whole is worth $1.32 billion dollars, and they haven’t looked like it for some time either.