Let me just come right out and say this: It’s waaaayyyy too much negativity surrounding the Cincinnati Reds these days. I know how last season ended. I know that Joey Votto didn’t have a monster 2013 season. I know the St. Louis Cardinals exist; I know the Pittsburgh Pirates are good again. I know there have been some gigantic contracts handed out over the past few years.
I know all of this. But so the Homer Bailey F-bomb what?
Forget about the past. Put your worries about the future in a coffin and bury it. Look at THIS TEAM. As Kramer exclaimed when he showed Jerry his chest hair, “Look at it! Look at it!”
It’s not a doubt in my mind that 2014 will be The Year for the Reds. And I’m basing this objective, unbiased, jinx-disregarding belief on much, much more than just the roster.
But let’s start with The Roster:
1) The perfect mix of veterans, masters in their prime and young, exciting talent.
You’ve got leaders in the clubhouse who go about their business in a professional manner (Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumacher). You’ve got a buncha guys who are flat out wizards at their craft (Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Sam LeCure, Homer Bailey, Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman) and then a pack of young fellas ready to burst on the scene and/or break out in a big way (Billy Hamilton, Tony Cingrani, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Mike Leake, Devin Mesoraco, Robert Stephenson??).
This roster is stacked like Pamela Anderson. All three phases are covered: Pitching, Defense and Offense.
And I know what you’re gonna say about some of these players. Let me handle your objections right now:
- Something was wrong with Votto last year! Votto will be fine. Votto is a beast. 2013 was an off year, and he was still one of the 10 best hitters in baseball. The RBI stuff was and is the most ridiculous argument/slight in baseball history besides Tim “Rock” Raines being kept out of the Hall of Fame. As for his mammoth contract, that may be an issue in the future…but not in 2014.
- Injuries! Cueto was hurt a bunch last year, but he’ll be fine in 2014. Law of averages.
- Yeah, Phillips was a bit of a diva in 2013. He’s always distracted with his Twitter bullshit. He doesn’t steal bases anymore. His sabermetric stats are garbage. But he was also humbled last season with the trade rumors, the awful collapse down the stretch, etc. The team leadership will get his head in the right place and he’ll be fine.
- I know, I know, Skip Schumacher is one of those former-Cardinals we (I) hated and it feels like we’re sleeping with the enemy again by signing a guy like him. But if I can get past my disgust, so can you. He’s pesky at the plate, he’s solid & versatile in the field, he’s valuable in the clubhouse. It’s a good pick-up.
- Yeah, Billy Hamilton’s faster than Cool Papa Bell, but can he hit at the major league level? Can he hit? What if he can’t get on base? What if he can’t hit? God. Enough of this already. First of all, he’ll be a massive defensive upgrade in center field. Secondly, he doesn’t have to drive the ball–just put the ball in play. And walk a little bit. If he only gets on base once a game, he’ll “brings the ruckus to the ladies” like Leon Black. He’s gonna be soooooo fun to watch every day. If he gets off to a slow start at the plate, do yourself a favor and have some patience. Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports (other than listen to Thom Brennaman talk). It may take him some time to get comfortable.
- What about Cozart, Frazier and Mesoraco? What if they all struggle? First of all, they won’t. Second of all, if they do, the odds of all three struggling at the same time are about as likely as Mila Kunis breaking her engagement to Ashton Kutcher to marry me. Cozart’s a solid player who improved a ton in the latter portion of last season. Frazier’s a beastly power hitter with a great attitude and a big work ethic. Mesoraco’s a stud. This 6-7-8 is much more masterful than most teams’.
- But Walt Jocketty didn’t make any moves in the offseason! Yeah, well, why do you think he didn’t? Probably because his team is ALREADY STACKED.
So now that all of your yeah-but’s have been settled, let’s move on to the other reasons why the Reds will be in the Fall Classic this October.
2) New Leadership
It’s been well-documented and well-bitched-about that former Reds skipper Dusty Baker had many faults as a leader. This is not to say that he wasn’t a good manager or even a good leader. He just had some faults. And those faults (stubbornness, afraid to put team in pressure situations, favoritism) probably held this team back from getting to the next level.
Well, Dusty’s no longer the manager. Bryan Price is.
But this is Bryan Price’s first year ever being a major league manager! No way he can lead this team to the World Series in his first season!
Hogwash. The misunderstanding of the importance of a manager in baseball is that you need to have a guy that’s been there before, or that yells and screams, or that adheres to the right statistics, etc. No. When it all comes down to it, the best managers simply steer the ship in the right manner. They’re open-minded, they hold every man equally accountable and they play the percentages. After that, luck becomes a factor. Price, by all accounts, is open-minded. He’s intimated that he will hold each and every player accountable. And he’s gone on record that he’ll use every piece of information available when he makes decisions. That’s all you can ask for.
Plus, Price had a front row seat the past four seasons to witness “what not to do.”
3) How Things Work in Sports
Teams tend to do better when it’s no big expectations heading into a season (especially in Cincinnati). After the way last season ended, and with the emergence of Pittsburgh, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone predicting the Reds will win the NL Central in 2014. Everyone’s down on Votto (for dumb reasons, but still). People are worried about the fact that GM Walt Jocketty didn’t make any big moves in the offseason. Everyone thinks the Cardinals are the American Dreams team from Baseball Stars.
And that’s when a team surprises everyone. This team will have a major chip on its shoulder this season. It will be all business. Complete focus. Accountability. Come to the park, get your work in, prepare to be successful and then go out on the field and win. Day after day. No egos.
4) JAY BRUCE
This guy, for whatever reason, is never talked about by the national media as a Top 5 or 10 player in the National League. Yeah, well, that’s about to change. Jay’s entering his prime, and he made huuuuge strides last season at the plate (by decreasing his pull rate and using the entire field way more). If he can work on that strikeout/walk ratio a little bit, you’re looking at a 35+ HR, 115+ RBI, .500+ SLG monster with plus-defense and a plus-arm. You’re looking at a phenomenal young CLEAN-UP HITTER. (Yes, Price will bat Jay clean-up against righties…something Dusty Baker never wanted to do because, well, because…yeah, there’s no good explanation.)
Votto and Bruce in the 3-4 hole of your lineup is nearly as rampaging as the Paste-Bay combo for Jersey on Bases Loaded.
5) The Paranormal
I was at a friend’s house a couple of weeks ago, and there was a Ouija Board type of thing. I don’t know if it was a Ouija Board or if it was called something else. At any rate, we were asking questions and then letting the spirits guide us to the answers. I asked, “Will the Reds win the World Series this year?” And the answer was YES.
That should be all the evidence you need. The only question left to answer is this one: Who will Cincinnati’s opponent be in the 2014 World Series?