To say I’m a big Cincinnati Reds fan would be the understatement of the century, albeit this century is still relatively young. Cut me, and I’ll bleed Cincy Red.
My love affair with the boys in red started around the same time when many around the country also became enamored with them.
In the early ‘70s, I jumped on the bandwagon powered by the Big Red Machine. The Reds of that era were a high-octane juggernaut, sparked by household names like Bench, Rose, Morgan, Perez, and Foster.
These Reds were perennial contenders and won back-to-back world championships in ’75-’76. Like all engines, however, the components that powered the Big Red Machine eventually wore out.
As consistently dominant as the Reds were in the ‘70s they were consistently inconsistent during the ‘80s. The Big Red Machine sputtered in 1981 to an embarrassing 101 losses. From 1985-1989 the Reds finished second four times, but the decade ended without a single playoff appearance.
The new decade started off with a bang as the Reds shocked the baseball world by winning the world championship in 1990. With Eric Davis, Paul O’Neill, Chris Sabo, Barry Larkin, and the “Nasty Boys” bullpen of Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Randy Myers, the Reds appeared poised to once again dominate the baseball world.
After 1990, the Reds were good, but never great. They won more than they lost, but only reached the playoffs once (in 1995) the rest of the decade.
Sadly, that was the last playoff appearance for our beloved Reds. The new millennium has been a period of mediocrity. After a respectable 85-77 finish in 2000, Cincy has not had a winning season.
Since their last playoff appearance in 1995, the Reds have been a frustrating bunch. Seemingly void of clear direction, lacking star power, and unwilling and unable to keep up with the Steinbrenners of the world, the Reds have been an annual disappointment to their loyal fans.
Every year beleaguered Reds fans hold out hope that this will be the season that things will turn around. The script for the last few years always seems to read the same. The Reds hang around just long enough to get hopes up then begin their inevitable free-fall.
Call me naïve or maybe I’m just suffering from delusions after wandering with my Reds through the arid, parched desert of disappointment for so long, but I really believed this year was going to be different.
My dreams of the Reds being an upper-echelon National League contender or a Central Division champion are quickly becoming another mirage.
Addition by subtraction seemed to be the strategy after last year’s annual post All-Star break fire sale of available talent to contending teams.
By dealing their two marquee players, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Adam Dunn, the Reds acquired some decent prospects, cleared up some cash, and paved the way for young studs Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to flex their muscles.
With Votto and Bruce regularly launching missiles out of the bandbox otherwise known as the Great American Ballpark and with young guns Edison Volquez and Johnny Cueto teaming with veteran flamethrower Aaron Harang to mow down opposing batters, order finally seemed to have been restored to Reds’ nation.
Our boys seemed poised to expel all the invading armies that had for so long pillaged and plundered the baseball world and stolen the trophies that were a birthright to Cincy fans.
Our mighty warriors were going to storm Wrigley Field, invade the City of Brotherly Love, bomb Busch Stadium, and evaporate Minute Maid Park and once again bring back the glory.
As we near the quarter turn on the marathon that is the 2009 season, it is painfully evident that when October rolls around, Reds’ fans will once again be watching teams in pinstripes, Red Sox, or some Johnny-come-lately group of Devil Rays or Diamondbacks hoist the hardware that devoted diehards so desperately desire.
Make no mistake about it: This year’s lineup of Redlegs is more attractive than those who have walked the runway in previous seasons.
The boys in red are cute, but not beautiful. Not quite ready to wear the crown at the pageant. Forced again to stand by and politely clap as the tiara is placed on someone more attractive.
The 2009 Reds are lovely in some ways, but they have some ugly birthmarks that even Tammy Faye Bakker would have had trouble covering up.
The most obvious blemish on the youthful face of the Reds is a lack of hitting.
When your leadoff man needs directions to first base, your cleanup hitter has cleared the fence about as often as a prisoner at Alcatraz, and your third baseman was hitting below the Mendoza line before he got injured, it is clear that the hitting dilemma is a pimple that must be popped.
All is not gloom and doom. Votto and Bruce are a dynamic duo that could become super heroes in the near future. The starting pitching has become a definite strength. Even the bullpen is solid. With a team ERA below four and a league-leading number of shutouts, Cincy should be better than a .500 team.
To become a serious contender, however, the Reds are have to find ways to score more runs. Until a recent two-week hitting binge against some of the league’s weaker sisters, the Redlegs were mired near the bottom of most of the N.L.’s significant offensive categories.
No matter how good your pitching is, having an anemic offense will simply not get the job done.
It’s frustrating to think what might have been. It would have been frightening for opposing pitchers to face a lineup of Votto, Bruce, and Dunn.
Do not be fooled. Dealing Adam Dunn was not about his lack of defense or lack of passion for the game. It was not about getting some promising young prospects. It was all about dollars and cents.
To let the major league’s leading home run hitter since 2004 get away when your team suffers from a severe power shortage is depressing for those who frequent the Great American Ballpark. The Dunn deal is another example of how tightwad tactics will ensure that the Reds remain an average team.
Someone said that average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best.
I am tired of average. I don’t believe that I am alone.
The Reds’ motto is “The Power of Tradition.” Tradition can only propel you so far. To move forward will take more than tradition. It will take money.
Until ownership makes that commitment, Cincy fans will continue to see red.