To say the Cincinnati Reds have been criminally underrated or underestimated this year is to identify the criminal biases that surround the worlds of media and sports. In baseball, unless a team is flashy (e.g. Miami Marlins), glamorous (e.g. New York Yankees), sold for $2 billion (e.g. L.A. Dodgers) or is in complete disarray and surrounded by drama (e.g. Boston Red Sox), it often goes underappreciated.
The Cincinnati Reds have been such a team. They aren't glamorous—their leader, Joey Votto, is about as soft-spoken and media-shy as it gets. They aren't flashy—at least not the flashy that gets recognized; they are defensively flashy, but that isn't cool enough for national media. They aren't going to sell for $2 billion this century, and they certainly are not drama-filled—but they are drama-tested.
The Cincinnati Reds are a representation of Middle America. They are the lunchpail-carrying, underappreciated, middle class of baseball. They represent their city to a T. Cincinnati is an oft-overlooked, middle-class city that is full of tradition, excitement and history that most of the nation knows nothing about.
Let's delve a little deeper into the rejection that is the national non-recognition of the Cincinnati Reds.
Let's first look at why the Reds are so good.
The answer to this is simple—they are very good at all facets of the game. Nearly every player at every spot on the field, and every pitcher who takes the mound is above average at his craft and excels in at least one facet of the game.
Don't believe me? Take a look.
Votto is a reigning MVP and Gold Glove winner. Second baseman Brandon Phillips is the best defensive second baseman in the game (three Gold Gloves) and is a top-five offensive threat at his position. Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart is a legit Gold Glove candidate (.975 fielding percentage and 2.0 dWAR) and is above average at the plate (33 doubles and 15 home runs).
Then there is third baseman Scott Rolen (eight Gold Gloves) and catcher Ryan Hanigan (.365 OBP and has thrown out 49 percent of would-be base-stealers).
How about that pitching staff? Only one of 13 regulars had an ERA above 3.74 on the season, and that was the No. 5 starter's (Mike Leake) 4.58 ERA. That is remarkable consistency.
Did you know that despite playing half of their games at the launching pad known as Great American Ball Park, the Reds staff maintained a 3.34 team ERA, just behind the league-leading Nationals' 3.33 ERA? Away from GABP the Reds staff maintained a 3.18 ERA, nearly two-tenths better than the next-best team.
So why then did the national media fail to give proper credit to Cincinnati's pitching staff leading into their NLDS matchup against the Giants?
The national media operate too much off hype and not facts. The hype from the Giants' 2010 championship run has extended into 2012. Rather than do a little work and delve into the numbers, the media make assumptions based on the past and the hype—lazy reporting.
The Cincinnati Reds have 15-4 odds (favorites) to win the World Series and 7-4 odds (favorites) to win the National League in Las Vegas. Oddsmakers know the numbers; they don't make odds based on hype, otherwise they wouldn't have a job.
You would think the fact that Cincinnati has spat in the face of major adversity and come out of it stronger would show others what this team can really do.
For those who believe in hype, the way this team responded when Votto went down should have created hype—but it didn't. It didn't because the Reds are located in Cincinnati. It didn't because this bunch of guys simply shows up to work, does their job, does it well and goes home.
After all, all they do is win games.
Guess doing your job, being consistent about it and winning games isn't worth hype. That's fine—let the ignorance and bias of national media dollars continue to speak gibberish. During the deciding game of each series that Cincy wraps up, those media types will jump on board and act as though they knew it all along.
Not one of them would admit they were wrong. Admitting you were wrong in New York, L.A, San Francisco and other large media markets is essentially committing career suicide—admitting it in Cincinnati earns you respect.
You can follow Josh Ramsey on Twitter @JRamCincy.
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