Cincinnati Reds Immemorial: Giving Thanks Edition

There was little chance of escaping this week without reading an article related to sports that tied in with the upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving, so hopefully the worn out idea doesn’t already have you clicking for another website. Think of me as that weird uncle at Thanksgiving dinner; you’re stuck here so you might as well stick around and see if I can do something to entertain you. I promise though, there will be no weird smells or noises emanating from the page while you’re here. The engineers haven’t quite worked that in to HTML5 yet.

When it comes time to gather around the table, say Grace and dig into some turkey, usually football is the next thing on your mind. But since you’re reading this site, you’re probably a baseball fan first and foremost and even with the pigskin dominating the day as much as the turkey, it’s still not a bad time, no matter the slim pickings, to give thanks for all that the Reds have given you this season.

First thanks goes out to Brandon Phillips, the golden boy defensive wizard and silver slugging second baseman. Between the times fans have interacted with him on Twitter, to the times you see him rolling one of his decked out rides through the streets of Cincinnati, the guy always has a smile on his face and is always a good ambassador for the Reds and baseball in general. His current contract situation has led to a lot of animosity among fans who find the talk of money and “homeboy hookups” distasteful, but Phillips always seems to be a genuine guy, as determined as nearly any other ballplayer to be the best at what he does. But beyond that, the thanks goes to his 2011 performance in which he made the nice plays into the remarkable and the impossible plays into the silky, smooth and routine. From the between-the-leg flip to Votto to the diving snags to the sliding grappling of ground balls in the 1 and a ½ hole, it was still a joy to watch such great play even in an otherwise lost season. Probably more memorable than all of that and probably worthy of more thanks from a Reds fan than any other play he made, yep, thanks @DatDudeBP for the walk off home run to beat the Cardinals in mid-July. When you hopped around first base and screamed like a maniac, we were joining you in the seats and throughout the concourses of Great American Ballpark.

Second thanks goes out to Joey Votto, with that gaze that has been known to turn pitchers into stone and that passion and fire that is just south of full on crazy, another gold laden defensive wizard and a plate presence that is too big for even the batter’s box to contain. When you look up and down the Reds lineup for what people call “professional at bats,” it was Votto where you almost always ended up. There were times when a pitcher had his number, but if there was a SABRmetric that measured given up at bats, I’d venture that he’d lead the league if not the world with the fewest. The hits are always what people remember the most, but 2011 saw a big jump in his defensive acumen as well and while many questioned his selfishness when the clamor came to put him in left so Yonder Alonso could find time on the field, the plays he made were sometimes spectacular. Still, the biggest thanks will always go to his hitting ability, which is league renowned at this point and makes him one of the current players in the Reds lineup that isn’t considered an easy out. His bat doesn’t always display the wow of a traditional slugger like Prince Fielder, but his homeruns are almost a calculated explosion of all his talent, like the one that mercifully executed the game between the Reds and the Nationals that somehow wormed its way into the 14th inning.

A few quick shot thanks go out to Drew Stubbs who, for all his struggles watching pitches sail by him at the plate or even ushering them by with a wave, gave a great defensive effort in centerfield and still had 40 stolen bases. Thanks to Jay Bruce who’s laser accurate arm kept a lot of baserunners on second instead of third and still had just enough magic in the bat to make some late inning magic happen. Thanks to Clutch Man Moni, a nickname unknown by anyone other than Dusty, until Ramon Hernandez hit that ninth inning, 3 run walk off homerun to send all of us Reds fans home happy on opening day. Thanks to Chris Heisey for giving us fans someone to pine for when things weren’t going so well and we were all looking for a savior. Thanks to Zack Cozart for a very productive 11 games and a lot of hope for the shortstop position in the future. Thanks to Mike Leake for finding his consistency in the middle of the season and giving us some breaks from the Jekyll and Hyde act of the rotation. Thanks to Johnny Cueto for challenging for the ERA title and coming out with gem after gem. As disappointing a season as it was, there was a lot of excitement to be had down at Great American Ballpark in 2011, so a big thanks goes out to all of the Reds’ players who contributed to all that fun and atmosphere.

And a usually forgotten thanks goes out to all of Reds’ country. I know there are a lot of people who crown St. Louis as Baseball Town, USA, but whether it be through Twitter, in the stands or passing each other on the sidewalk wearing Reds gear, what makes being a fan of this franchise the most enjoyable is all the people you meet while rooting the Redlegs on. I can honestly say that there is no better group of fans in all of the league. So thanks for making fandom that much better.

But I wanted to save the final thanks for the guy that kind of makes this new Red machine operate, Mr. Robert Castellini. It’s nice to have Reds baseball back to a level where we all expect and demand success instead of the recent history where we were kind of resigned to the idea we’d never be big players in the league. It’s a nice thing to give hope and enjoyment to millions, even if it’s still a business.

I know, I know, you’ve never had so much sugar on your turkey before and I made the stuffing way too mushy, but I promise once the food coma wears off we’ll have an entire offseason to rant and rave and more than enough opportunity to direct our condemnation. But let’s spend a little time before we dwell further down that path and remember at least some of the good times we had in 2011. Happy Thanksgiving folks. And if you’re still picturing me as your weird uncle hanging out with you on Thanksgiving, don’t wake me from my deep sleep in the recliner until the last quarter of the football game. I’ll be busy dreaming about next summer.