For the longest time, the Cincinnati Reds were just terrible. As an organization, they were plagued by questionable philosophies in management (Jim “I like outfielders almost as much as I love my leather pants” Bowden) and ownership (Marge "I like Hitler" Schott). And as a result, they’d often sputter to 4th and 5th-place finishes, dragged down by giant contracts (Ken Griffey Jr.) and subpar play out of role players (pretty much everyone else).
Yes, for fans, the last decade has been brutal in almost every way. From the first pitch of Opening Day (where we realize our “ace” is Paul Wilson or Jimmy Haynes or the Bearded Lady from the circus) to mid-July, where the Reds are nine games back, yet “standing pat” at the trade deadline because nobody wanted any of their players. It’s been the same miserable charade, year after tiresome year.
Recently, however, all of that changed. Under the careful leadership of general manager Walt Jocketty (the architect of so many winning Cardinals clubs), the Reds have gotten back to the business of winning. Division titles in 2010 and 2012 as well as a talented and diverse core of players like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce (who are locked up contractually for the foreseeable future) have combined to transform Cincinnati from National League also-ran to World Series contender, in a matter of just four or five years.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade that transformation for anything. It was long, LONG overdue. It was something I was beginning to think I’d never see. However, if there’s any downside to rooting for a strong team, top to bottom, it’s that spring training becomes a pointless grind.
In a typical March in the “2000s”, the Reds would bring something like 10 starting pitchers to spring training, all of whom had an equal shot to win a job. Translated, that meant “We don’t have any guys who inspire any confidence whatsoever, so WHAT THE HELL LET’S JUST SEE WHAT HAPPENS.” This “strategy,” which was mirrored to a lesser degree among position players, almost always made for a putrid regular season. However, it did provide fans some excitement during the preseason, because we never knew what the heck the roster was going to look like when it was all said and done.
It’s the little things, I guess.
As it turns out, when you’ve got a good team, finalizing your roster doesn’t take much guesswork. That’s why, for the last four weeks or so, Reds fans have been restlessly twiddling their thumbs. Checking box scores casually, but basically just waiting for the games that count.
The only real storyline of the spring was whether or not Aroldis Chapman would actually break camp as a starting pitcher, and even that wasn’t necessarily must-see TV, mainly because it always felt like it had less to do with his performance and more to do with behind-closed-doors organizational politics.
Finally, I’m happy to say that the drudgery has come to an end. In years past, the most exciting weeks of the year would be coming to a close, and I’d be writing something like “WELP WE HAD A GOOD RUN, SEEYA WHEN I SEEYA.” However, these are the new Reds. Big things are happening in Cincy. Starting today.
In honor of Opening Day (a national holiday, in my book), here are 10 semi-bold predictions for the 2013 season...