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Jun 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips (4) reacts in the dugout during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Cincinnati won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Reds Boring? Reality Check

Jun 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) looks on during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Cincinnati won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This is easily the least fun we’ve had watching the Reds since 2011, no? Didn’t have a losing month all last year. No major injuries to the pitching staff. The team did just fine in Votto’s absence. Everyone’s happy until the 27th and final out of the NLDS. This year, the same team that captivated the entire city has returned, only, instead of Stubbs leading off, it’s Choo. Pretty good deal.

Seems like ages ago though. Now, this team is in the middle of a serious skid. They’ve fallen five back of the Cardinals and have missed a good opportunity to gain ground on the Pirates. On the bright side, they’re currently in possession of the final Wild Card. But even that looks to be in jeopardy following the Reds third consecutive loss to a losing team. And there’s a bit of panic setting in, and rightfully so. That’s natural, in any city. But what’s incredibly disappointing is the assertion from a growing demographic of fans and even media that the team has just become listless or boring.

Please.

Let me be the first to say there are few things more frustrating than a baseball skid. Baseball commands a huge amount of time, more than any other major sport. It’s an investment, only instead of money, it’s the limited amount of time you have existing. And money, if you’re doing your part to pay for Joey’s $225 mil. But still, huge time commitment. Three hours plus, nightly, daily, and when you’ve kept up with every AB, you will have devoted about 25 hours of your week to the Reds. Normally, that’s not an issue. But when the losses start amounting and the runs disappear, it becomes one. We turn our attention to the players.  Of course, the players always have our attention. But now we’re pissed, and we’re looking for reasons to justify why the team isn’t winning. The flavor of the day: effort. They’re listless. They lack spark. Mo Egger calls them “boring.” Because that’s what it looks like from the TV. Looks like these guys could care less, right?

Think that’s the de facto method to know for certain that your team is in a serious kid. When we’ve gone beyond dissecting stats. We’ve gone beyond ripping Baker and his lineup to tiny pieces. We’re now focusing on the reactions, expressions, movements of players. A few anecdotes from Reds fans around the web:

“I like to study people. Body movements, facial expressions and all their other mannerisms. The average Red looks bewildered or like they know they’re out matched then when they’re down early, quickly look defeated mixed with a little hope. The average (if not all) Cardinal or Pirate looks stern, confident, composed and as if they’re expecting the result they usually get.” – Don, blog comment

“The Reds are boring.  At least they were yesterday.  And throughout the better part of the last month, the word I’ve found myself using more than other is “boring.”  If you were at the ballpark yesterday, as I was, did you feel an energy in the air that suggested that the Reds were in the middle of a pennant race?” – Mo Egger

“It’s sad they look dead coming out onto the field. Like they were already beat.” – Tom, blog comment

“The body language just doesn’t look good. Listless, detached, unfocused, uninspired, pick a word, any word….and you could apply that word for the last month plus.” – Lance McAlister

Enough anecdotes, you get it. I don’t know if you read these and agree, but if you do, my only question to you is: have you ever watched a baseball game?

Of course you have.

Have you ever watched a baseball game between other teams? Try it out. Two things may result from the experience: you’ll either realize that this isn’t the National Football League where guys river dance or wear HoF jackets on the sideline and be comfortable with that, or you’ll realize that this is baseball – long, slow, offers just moments of excitement in a three hour window. That’s the game. Even longer when we get extra innings. And maybe you’ll realize this sport kind of sucks and it’s not for you.

I’m one of the tortured souls who gives that 25 hour+ attention to the Reds. Almost every AB is being listened to, watched, or monitored. MLB TV makes that very easy (totally recommend). So when the Reds lose 5/6, you come to the realization that you’ve officially devoted that much time of your week for essentially nothing but misery. And now it’s time to cue the blame game, because someone has to answer for your wasted time. Normally, it’s Baker. Easy target. Stubborn, old, can look goofy. Traditionally hated in Chicago, so makes sense to follow the herd and pile on. And when that gets stale, it’s time to go deeper. Now we’re going all Dr. Melfi on players, just psychoanalyzing the crap out of everything from the expression on their faces to the bend in their bill.

It’s foolish. While I’m just as frustrated as every other fan, I’m passing on this month’s flavor in Reds fodder. It’s completely unfounded. It’s built entirely off the significant frustration mounting from worried fans and media in search of a worthy talking point. But what do we honestly expect? Reds have lost their ace. Lost their clean-up guy, which if you haven’t noticed has really been a bigger deal of late considering the lack of a powerful RH bat. Both catchers look fragile, which makes you wonder about some recent minor struggles of the SP. Losses are mounting, and the guys are noticeably pressing. How are you missing this?

Tell Derrick Robinson after he was incorrectly called out on an inside the park homer he desperately tried stretching that he’s boring, listless. Someone tell Joey to hit the ball an extra three inches next time. Hopefully you witnessed him arguing something as ludicrous as whether or not the ball was actually caught. Definitely not signs of someone who is pressing, right? What about Choo? Slamming the bat after his final AB last night in frustration.

The look on Brandon’s face screams listless? I’m thinking more like stressed. Because I guarantee the clubhouse is significantly more stressful than Twitter or the blogverse that’s questioning just how much effort is being exerted. The Reds aren’t boring. You’re just bored continually watching them score no runs and losing baseball games. You know, it’s kinda’ their livelihoods at stake here. Their careers, their legacy. Just catch them after a win, or after a walk-off. Or even after a big play. No one thinks they’re listless then. No one questions the team’s heart when they’re jumping together at home plate as the winning run crosses. Does heart/effort fluctuate that much?

Baseball guys aren’t necessarily known for their exuberance. Not much showmanship to go around. How many Lou Piniellas you see tossing bases anymore? How many times does Baker need to be ejected to prove he cares? What look does Brandon need to wear to show you he cares? If he smiled during this skid, does that change your opinion? Should every guy be launching their bat in frustration? Maybe dropping a few expletives that you’d find in a New Jersey bathroom stall. Does that illustrate effort?

The argument lacks entirely too much substance to seriously offer. But I suppose when it gets this bad, we need something other than who is batting second to talk about.  I seriously doubt anyone wants or needs this 2013 more than the guys in uniform. Losing makes everyone seem disinterested.

Hey, ultimately, I’d rather you guys be right. Then it’s just a matter of getting the right cheerleaders by the trade deadline.

 

 

Tags: Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker Joey Votto MLB

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