My thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds World Series chances.
I did it. I lost my baseball fan virginity. I waited all year and it all built up to the final game of the season, which was like prom night. Thanks to the Cincinnati Reds, my first time was memorable, and it’s not quite over.
I became a Reds fan literally days before the season started. I couldn’t name a player on the team except for Joey Votto and had low expectations for myself and the team. I figured I would keep up with the team here and there just to appease my friends Todd Bergman and Steve Cook and eventually just give up. Instead I kept up with almost every game live via GameCast or streaming, and if I couldn’t keep up with the game live, I checked the score immediately when I woke up the next morning. To cap it all off, I went out to Cincinnati to take in a game at the Great American Ballpark. I’ve been a Carolina Panthers fan since the John Fox era in 2002 and yet I’ve never been to Bank of America Stadium for a game. I was all in with the team this year and they didn’t let me down.
Baseball is a long season. You can’t overreact after a bad game, a bad series, or even a bad week. It’s tough to be consistent all season. The Reds went through a couple of rough patches, but for the most part they were strong and steady all season. Amazingly enough, when Votto went down after the all-star break, when the Reds were neck and neck with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the division, the team turned it up a notch to run away with the division crown.
The Reds were able to stay consistent though thanks to their pitching. They were able to go the entire season using their five man rotation, with the exception of a double header game. Everyday you knew you were going to see Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, or Mike Leake on the mound and you could count on them to give you quality starts almost everyday. Just as impressive was the bullpen. The closer situation was a bit of a mess to start the year as Ryan Madson went down, but once Aroldis Chapman took over the role, everyone else fell into place and they became arguably the best bullpen in the league. Sean Marshall became a very reliable set up man before the team traded for Jonathan Broxton, and guys like Jose Arredondo, Sam LeCure, and Logan Ondrusek were great in relief.
The pitching had to be good because the bats were runs or strikeouts. The team struggled to find a consistent lead off hitter and they lacked a left handed hitters. When the team got hot though, they were as scary as any team in the league. It’s not like they don’t have good hitters either. Votto is one of the best hitters in the game with his ability to take pitches and make contact, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick can bomb one at anytime, Brandon Phillips became a good lead off hitter with home run ability, Scott Rolen is my definition of a “pro hitter,” and then there are guys like Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier who can come up with big hits. Drew Stubbs was frustrating and disappointing for the majority of the season and I expect nothing from him in the playoffs, but maybe he’ll come up with a big hit J.D. Drew style.
The Reds open up the playoffs against the San Francisco Giants, who went on a tear after they lost their best player to steroids. Without Melky Cabrera though, they don’t have a line up that really scares you. Buster Posey is my pick for NL MVP and has had an amazing season, but after him there isn’t much of a threat, at least on paper. They don’t hit a lot of home runs, but they take pitches, get on base, and play small ball. I’m not knocking them, because in the playoffs, that’s what works. Even their pitching was strong, despite Tim Lincecum having a very mediocre year. Matt Cain picked up the slack though and was helped out by a good bullpen, even though they lost Brian Wilson for the year. Not having Wilson in the playoffs could be a huge blow though as Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla aren’t used to the playoff pressure.
Game One is going to be huge on Saturday night as Cueto faces Cain. I don’t like that the Reds, the team with the better record, have to start on the road, but if they can take game one, they’re in good shape for the rest of the series. The Reds have been successful against Cain and I can only hope that the success continues on Saturday.
In the playoffs, it usually comes down to pitching. The Reds have two legit aces in Cueto and Latos, Bailey has been outstanding during September, including a no-hitter, and Arroyo has postseason experience, including a World Series title in 2004. All the team needs is to get 7 innings out of their starters. Then they can turn things over to Broxton and Chapman. There is no doubt in my mind that the Reds have the arms to be successful in the postseason.
The team isn’t getting a lot of attention right now, which I’m fine with. Of all the playoff teams, the Reds are the ones that are most overlooked. The Nationals were the best team in baseball, the Yankees are the Yankees, the Giants won two years ago, the Cardinals won last year, the Braves have Chipper’s last stand, the A’s and Orioles are great underdog stories, the Tigers have the Triple Crown winner, and the Rangers have won the AL two straight years.
Who are the Reds? Just a team that finished with the second most wins in baseball and won their division by the largest margin. They’re not getting any postseason award love because Votto missed too many games, Cueto and Chapman stumbled a bit down the stretch, Frazier couldn’t compete with the hype of Bryce Harper, and Dusty Baker didn’t turn a team around or set records like Davey Johnson did. The biggest story out of the Reds dugout this year was the rivalry between Baker and retired manager Tony Larussa over all-star snubs.
I hope the media continues to overlook this team. Don’t give them any attention until they’re celebrating with the World Series trophy. And then keep talking about the New York Jets.