Led by the hitting approach of Joey Votto, experience of Dusty Baker and energy of Shin-Soo Choo, the Cincinnati Reds are steamrolling National League competition, taking the second-best record in baseball into play on Tuesday.
Of course, success shouldn't be new to this group of Reds.
Two of the last three postseasons have included this franchise. With a potent lineup, superlative closer and MVP candidate in the middle of the order, there's little reason to imagine the 2013 postseason without another appearance by Cincinnati.
Despite their overwhelming regular-season success, failure in the National League Division Series has been a theme for this team.
Baseball knows the Reds are good, but there seems to be an initiative within their own clubhouse to develop an edge in order to get over the hump in October. That's why the recent behavior and comments from this team shouldn't come as a surprise.
From the Matt Garza-Johnny Cueto flap to Dusty Baker's comments on fighting in baseball to Aroldis Chapman brushing back Nick Swisher, the 2013 version of the Big Red Machine is hearkening back to the personality and bravado of the "Nasty Boys" in Cincy's past.
While it's hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong in the 2010 and 2012 NLDS, passivity probably wasn't the cause for recent October hiccups in Cincinnati.
Three seasons ago, the Phillies outclassed that Reds group by a wide margin, sweeping them on their way to the NLCS.
Last October was a far different story. Up 2-0 in the best-of-five series against San Francisco, Baker's team looked on the verge of a deep run into October, possibly to the World Series. Of course, three straight losses, all at home, ended their season in a swift manner.
Would a "nasty" attitude have changed things? From a baseball sense, no. It's about hitting, pitching and fielding.
Yet, there's a sense from the 2013 team that it's on a mission. If chin music, verbal spats in the media or a few brawls decorate the path to sustained postseason success, few will complain.
Dusty Baker Wants Baseball to 'Be Like Hockey,' Misses Fighting in Sport http://t.co/wJo18SsBCL5/27/2013, 7:50:49 PM
Ultimately, results trump mentality.
As long as the Reds are winning, self-motivation and demeanor will be a positive story. If internal toughness is the final piece to the puzzle for a team on the verge of greatness, kudos to Dusty Baker for cultivating the attitude in the clubhouse.
Casey Stern @CaseyStern
What PPV ratings would u get from a Co-Main Event of Foster v Scoscia (w/Angel special Ref) setting up Garza/Cueto? #MLB @MLBNetworkRadio5/27/2013, 5:52:18 PM
Of course, it's possible that these recent incidents are coincidences along the path of a long, winding season. If another NLDS exit awaits Votto and Co. in early October, the war of words with Matt Garza will come off as nothing but early-season noise.
It's unlikely that the Reds are trying to intimidate the league, as it seems they're proving their own toughness to each other as a group that needs it when the lights shine brightest this fall.
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