Hello Reds fans! I hope all of you had a wonderful winter holiday season. Most of mine was spent travelling back and forth on I-75 between families. So it’s been a while since I’ve written anything for you all!
As you may know, I have been writing a series of articles attempting to find the “it” factor in the Cincinnati Reds roster. The “it” factor, I believe, is the necessary OOMPH that pushes a team from really good playoff team (2012 Cincinnati Reds) to World Series Champions (2012 San Francisco Giants). My last article, covering the deal that sent Shin Soo Choo straight to the top of the Reds’ 2013 lineup, sort of summed up my search a bit early. I stated from the very beginning that the necessary “it” factor needed for this 2013 team would either be a huge development in the state of the lineup or moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. As anyone who has been keeping an eye on the good guys over the past few weeks/months knows, both of those things have happened relatively early in the offseason.
Now is the time to be excited. The news received this offseason proves that the guys in charge in Cincinnati want to win right now. Granted, the lineup is built pretty well for the next couple of seasons, but for the first time in a while the Reds aren’t banking on a player turning a corner or developing into a better player than he already is. These 25 presumed opening day roster spots are all solid. Heck, even a handful of players who won’t make the opening day lineups are very serviceable professional ballplayers. The point being, we’re no longer hoping that Drew Stubbs will develop into a 40-40 guy. We’re not dreaming about the day that Homer Bailey can potentially throw a no-hitter. We’re not yearning for someone at the top of the lineup that can actually get on base. All of those things are here, and this 2013 Reds team is a very scary one.
I don’t generally put a lot of weight into power rankings, especially this early. However, it’s hard not to notice that the Reds are currently ranked number 3 on the ESPN Official super-early-no-point-in-doing-this-yet power rankings. Not only that, but the team also ranks within the top ten lineups, bullpens, rotations, infields and outfields in the league. (These are all super-secret InSider articles, but in case you’re wondering, the Reds rank 9th, 8th, 5th, 3rd and 6th respectively). If you haven’t noticed, those are all the things that make up the game. Despite this, the Reds also are being talked about as some of the biggest risk takers (Choo in center, Chapman to bullpen) and are also expected to win less due to the easy-win Houston Astros moving to the American League.
Now that I’ve filled your head with ESPN fodder, pay very close attention to what I say next: ignore all of it. That’s right. All of this looks amazing on paper. But as a Reds fan, you’ll be hearing a ton of negativity about Choo and Chapman leading up to April. As we all know (some of us a bit too well), everything can change. What would the 2012 Reds look like if Madson and Votto hadn’t been injured? Would Chapman be a complete flop by now? Would we have seen those monster home runs by Ludwick? Would we have won 10 in a row? Would Marty still have his hair?
All wonderful questions. All completely unanswerable. For all we know, we could be walking into the final game of the 2013 season with Aroldis Chapman facing off against a traded Billy Hamilton. We could be watching Giancarlo Stanton man left field. We could be watching Barry Bonds miraculously come out of retirement and, completely steroid free, launch a thousand home runs into the smokestacks.
Even if these are highly unlikely and most certainly impossible scenarios, the fact of the matter is that anything can happen in baseball. It’s what makes this game so wonderful and so heartbreaking at the same time. So, Reds fans, will the 2013 team be on the right side of fate? Or will injuries, trades and bad chemistry drag the team down?
No one knows. And I like it that way.