This is when it gets fun.
Baseball doesn’t offer instant gratification. 162 games doesn’t necessarily lend itself to getting caught up in the chase early on. It makes you wait. It’s the letter in the mail you’re harassing the postman for weeks to get. It’s the dreaded system update your PlayStation 3 makes you run when you least expect it. It’s the end of an episode of Mad Men knowing you’ll have to stew on last week’s episode for seven whole days before you get to see another.
But it’s here. 2nd half baseball. Less than a month until August, and the National League witnesses seven teams all within five games of each other. From here on out will resemble a game of Mario Kart, with front runners slipping on their own banana peels and dark horses in the back bolting to the front of the pack after ghosting a star or a lightning bolt from another unfortunate participant.
But enough of the metaphors. I want to know what you want to know. Do the Reds have what it takes to finish this promising season and make it back to the playoffs? I say they do. But here are five things they need to do to really solidify their efforts:
1) Make the Deal – Everyone is aware of the abysmal numbers that haunt the Reds at the top of the lineup. Stop with the shuffling and go get Juan Pierre. Get Cozart back to the 2-spot infront of Joey where he was hitting .377 and leave BP behind Joey. He’s hitting .292 with 48 RBIs in that spot. Anyone who says this guy can’t clean up isn’t watching very closely. Juan Pierre, of any other name out there, makes the most sense. He’s only making $800k. The fading Phillies may be looking to sell anyways. Make the deal. Fix what should be the most prolific part of the lineup. Bring in a LH vet who knows how to get on base.
2) Start Todd Frazier – It’s time, Dusty. For all Scott Rolen has given this city, it’s time to relegate him to the bench, where he could be incredibly serviceable considering how poor the Reds’ bench has been. Take a page from the Book of Jim Edmonds. Help the team when you can.
3) Get Bill Bray and Nick Masset Healthy – Bray has been less than stellar since his return. His ERA sits at 11.25 and his SO/BB ratio is the lowest it’s been since his tenure in Washington. Masset and Bray are vital to a bullpen that literally shut down in the second half of last season. You’d like to think the starting pitching will lessen the innings and the burden for the men behind the gate, but two great arms in the back will only strengthen MLB’s third best bullpen.
4) Take Advantage of Weaker Schedule – No one has an easier second half schedule than the Reds. After surviving a brutal April and May, the Reds will only play 24 games against teams over .500. 42 of their final 77 games will be at GABP, where they are 23-16.
5) Beat the Pirates – Only nine games left with the first place Buccos. The Reds will have every opportunity to derail this team, only, they’re 9-15 against Pittsburgh going back to the start of 2011. Six of the nine games with the Pirates will be at GABP. The Pirates are 19-23 away from their own friendly confines.
They take care of these five things, you get to watch the second Reds post season berth in three years.