It seems wild that the second half is now upon our nation’s great game, considering I remember the fervor and anticipation in the air on the Opening Day of Spring Training.
So much has happened in the last five months that should this 2014 season have a fairy tale ending; a book will almost assuredly be written.
Injuries have decimated a roster that just needed to stay healthy to punch their ticket to the Postseason, and first-year manager Bryan Price has either done an incredible or horrific job, depending on whom you ask. Alfredo Simon has become baseball’s best surprise, and Joey Votto is on the verge of becoming an organizational gaffe for a decade to come due to knee injuries.
Ninety-five games have been played, which by my math, means there are 67 remaining. And to think it felt like March 31 just yesterday…
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Coming out of the break, the Cincinnati Reds embark on a three-day journey into the Bronx. The New York Yankees are either the most adored or the most despised team in the entire sport, depending completely on geographical distinction. For those located in the Midwest that have watched their clubs serve as de facto Minor League systems for the “Bronx Bombers,” there is not much love for the rich fellas from the northeast.
As decimated as the Redlegs have been from injuries, they have been fairly lucky in terms of their health of their starting rotation. The same cannot be said for the New York Yankees. Four-fifths of their starting staff now sits on the shelf as Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova have all succumbed to the injury bug. Prior to his placement on the disabled list, Tanaka seemed to be the clear favorite for the American League’s Cy Young Award.
There will be no tears shed in Cincinnati for a team with a payroll of $178 million sitting at the .500 mark as the mythical “second half” begins. While the names of Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran still jump off the page as resounding names, this current model is certainly no “Murderer’s Row.”
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Having played their best baseball of the season heading into the All-Star break, the time off was oddly needed for a club attempting to find their wits. It seems that neither Homer Bailey nor Mat Latos will miss any time after leaving previous starts with minor injuries, but the same cannot be said for their All-Star right side of the infield teammates. Brandon Phillips’ absence leaves a Gold Glove-sized void over at second, while Joey Votto serves as a fuzzy question mark down at first.
Sitting at 51-44, the Reds are just a game and a half behind the scuffling Milwaukee Brewers for first place and are just a game out of the jam-packed National League wildcard. In the short term, there is reason for optimism. Down the stretch, one has to wonder whether the injury bug has sucked too much blood out of a club that clearly has the talent to make it to their third consecutive Postseason.
By all means of statistical analysis, using Ramon Santiago, Kristopher Negron and Brayan Pena as full-time replacements for two of the league’s better players is not a sound decision. Yet, taking a step back from the world of number crunching, potato chip eating, highly caffeinated drink sipping, comes a simple concept: “Other players get the chance to step up.” This comes from my mother, a casual baseball observer who oddly has the correct perspective. After all, mother knows best, right? Because let us being honest with ourselves, what engine-churning machine could have projected what Alfredo Simon has become? Every single statistical projection claimed that Billy Hamilton would merely be a stolen base phenomenon, but if you have tuned in for even just a dozen Reds games this season, you know that could not be further from the truth. While past performance does absolutely have a place in managerial decisions, it does not mean it is impossible for players such as Santiago and Pena to play “out of their minds” for the next three months. Baseball is a game of streaks and at a level as high as the Major Leagues, even the weakest of hitters get hot. Whether it lasts two weeks, or two months, the Reds would be crazy to not get every last drop of overachieving from their roster.
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On a personal note, I will be in the Bronx this weekend for the series. While I will be skipping Alfredo Simon’s start on Saturday afternoon, I made sure to attend when Johnny Cueto takes the hill on Sunday. Should anyone make the trip to New York for the series, feel free to let me know, and I would be glad to do my best to come and meet up.
To continue with the personal thanks, I would like to thank all of our readers for tuning in for the first half of the season. As we come down the stretch, we look to continue to provide you with all your Cincinnati Reds news in an exciting and fun-to-read manner.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds