This feels like a bad case of déjà vu. Every Cincinnati Reds fan has the same familiar feeling. It is the same feeling every Reds fan had when the team was swept by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 National League Divisional Series.
Now that feeling returns after last night's season-ending loss to the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. The feeling is one of joy in making the playoffs and taking the NL Central crown for the second time in three years. Yet other familiar emotions also rose last night: despair, disappointment and disbelief.
Some fans may even respond in anger toward Dusty Baker for making questionable coaching calls, or to players such as Scott Rolen or Ryan Hanigan for making questionable decisions and costly errors. Some fans may even begin to jump to conclusions and question the existence of a baseball fan's worst nightmare: Has my favorite team been placed under a curse?
However, while disappointment and disbelief are understandable, Reds fans should not respond in anger or by scapegoating. Instead, Reds fans should count their blessings and look at the past.
Ten years ago, the Cincinnati Reds had just finished a 78-84 season. It was the team's second consecutive losing season. The Reds had just spent most of the year without their star player Ken Griffey Jr., who suffered a season-ending injury to his hamstring. Griffey was supposed to bring the Reds back to the glory days of the "Big Red Machine." But instead of being an asset, Griffey became a liability, plagued by a hefty contract, numerous injuries and declining numbers.
The team traded away some of its best producing players at the trade deadline for no-name minor leaguers who would probably never develop. The team also had one of the worst pitching staffs in the National League. Elmer Dessens, the Reds's best pitcher in 2002, won only seven games in 30 starts.To make matters worse for the pitching staff, the Reds were leaving Cinergy Field, also known as Riverfront Stadium, home of the Big Red Machine, and were moving into hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.
From the past, we can see how far the club has come in putting together a better product on the field. Yes, the Reds will have to deal with some major questions in the offseason. But those concerns pale in comparison to the problems the Reds's management faced ten years ago today. Reds fans have every right to be frustrated and disappointed by their team's early exit. But it is important to remember how bad it used to be.
After the early playoff exit last night, I will say what most Reds fans have said for the last 20 years: "There's always next year." But this time, next year will be bright, and filled with new excitement, accomplishments, and a NL Central title to defend. A World Series is on the horizon. The future is bright!