Funny things happen over the course of the long Major League Baseball (MLB) season that can only make those of us “old-timers” (and, yes, having followed the game for nearly 30 years now, I qualify) simply sit back in our collective chairs and laugh a bit.
The Cincinnati Reds (“your” team if you are presumably already a fan, possibly just “my” team if *you* are not one) are being left for “dead” … “gone” … “the point of no return”. And all that jazz.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Well, possibly an assessment of this team’s record might just help.
61-51 … 112 games played, 50 games (exactly) remaining between now and September 29, 2013. They trail the NL Central-leading Pittsburgh Pirates by 6.5 games (67-44) and the just-departed 2nd-place St. Louis Cardinals by 4.5 games (65-46).
Great, you’re saying … the NL Central is slipping away! No team can POSSIBLY make up that kind of ground! Then … you pause … and realize there’s another path to the playoffs that doesn’t involve winning your division: the Wild Card! Wait, there are TWO Wild Card teams in each league?!? Holy Smokes … where do the Reds stand in that race?!?
61-51 … 4.5 games AHEAD of the Arizona Diamondbacks, themselves at 56-55 (barely over .500) AND 2.5 *more* games ahead of the Washington Nationals (under .500) at 54-58.
Hmm … so … WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE SAYING THE SKY IS FALLING???
This, my friends, is a fantastic question … to which I have no definite answer, but I do have my hypotheses.
Mainly, they realize the Reds aren’t a great road team (TRUE) … and the first Wild Card is the SL Cardinals (also TRUE) … and that a possible PLAY-IN game to make the Playoffs would take place in Busch Stadium IN ST. LOUIS to simply MAKE the NLDS. Then you see why people *might* have some angst.
Fact: The Reds have the 5th best record in the National League.
Fact: There are only 12 teams with at least 61 wins in either league (hint: the Reds are one of them) AND 15 of the 30 MLB teams (exactly half) are above .500 (obviously, the other half are all teams with losing records).
Needless to say, GET OVER the part where the Reds can’t win a playoff (or play-in) game BECAUSE they can only win against “losing” teams. As has been pointed out already, the Cardinals have a LOSING RECORD against “Losing Teams” this season … so take that and make of it what you will.
I won’t belabor the point; however, I will say this: This team needs a LEADER (or LEADERS, just not TOO many) to get the ship righted again. Is that Dusty Baker? In a sense, YES, he is the “field general” and commander of the vessel that is this professional baseball team. Is it or should it be Joey Votto … or Brandon Phillips … or Jay Bruce … of the “field commander” sense? My sense is that Votto is a quiet leader … but, somewhat surprisingly, a guy as relatively young as Todd Frazier was mentioned (over the PA on Sunday afternoon) as the “Team Captain” (btw, is that *just* for the Reds Heads Kids Club? Or did he really become Captain when I wasn’t paying attention??). WHOMEVER becomes the consensus “Captain” doesn’t really matter … but such a person (or persons) is/are DESPERATELY needed when the going gets tough. Yes, Scott Rolen most likely filled that unspoken role in years past. But why not Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Bronson Arroyo, Ryan Hanigan, CORKY MILLER(!), Miguel Cairo, etc.?!?
Maybe I’m oversimplifying this … but, in so many ways, I cannot imagine that I am.
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