The day has arrived once again – March 31st, 2014. Today marks the start of regular season baseball in the Cincinnati.
There is a parade. There are parties. People will drink. The masses will fill the streets in downtown as well as the Banks around Great American Ball Park. Few days in the Queen City get the kind of attention that this one does, even if the Reds no longer get the very first game in MLB anymore.
The topic of “what to expect this year” has been broached on more than one occasion, including myself more than once. There are plenty of question marks for exactly how this team just might perform for the duration of the 2014 season. Adding complication to that mystery is the rash of injuries that one couldn’t have expected to occur throughout a painful Spring Training that simply kept building. The team’s de facto starting catcher, key starting pitcher / (co-)ace, and closer are all on the disabled list to start the season.
This isn’t an article to focus on the negative. In fact, as has become so cliche yet so remains so true, the games aren’t played on paper, they’re played on the field. We have no idea how many games this team can or will win. Speculators and prognosticators be damned, this team could exceed expectations … or it could fall well short of them. The bar got set a lot higher after winning seasons in three of the past four, twice winning the division. There is little dispute the most favored team in the division is playing as the opponent on this very day: the St. Louis Cardinals. Most experts would be in consensus that their team did the most to strengthen weaknesses from an already-strong team from the past season; however, there’s no guarantee many of their young contributors will repeat unexpected performances. It is the very uncertainty that plagued the 2012 Reds into the 2013 season when many sophomore seasons were far more of a struggle.
The optimistic view cannot help to think some of the players on the Reds are another year older … and gaining experience to achieve more. The core is still functionally young but solidly founded, which can never be quantified but I’d rather have it than the alternative. One of the best players in baseball – Joey Votto – still anchors this lineup. The greatest thing I could think to see happen, Jay Bruce will now back him up in that same lineup – giving him far more insurance and better pitches to see than he has for a couple years at least. The most exciting young rookie in baseball – Billy Hamilton – could truly be a game-changer. There are truly things to make even the most casual fan excited again for baseball from the Reds.
Get ready, Cincinnati. Baseball has returned.
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