At five games beneath the .500 mark, on May 29, with 111 games left on the schedule, there is increasingly popular talk aimed at blowing up the 2014 Reds. The idea is that this team won't be able to compete, and with Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Mat Latos all approaching free agency after next season, the Reds should try to get maximum return from their most prized pieces.
Instead of letting the team endure its early-season bumps and bruises (Reds started the year with eight players on the disabled list), the prevailing thought is that Walt Jocketty's master plan has failed and that it's time to rebuild.
Even if that is ultimately the most practical direction to go, to even suggest that route—on May 29—with over 100 games left to play is nothing short of sports malpractice.
We aren't talking about a team surrounded with question marks, or a team that went "all in" this year. We're talking about a team that has won 90 games and above for the past two seasons, a team that has made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.
The skeptical read the above and dismiss it faster than a counterclaim on Judge Judy. The skeptical will only see a sweep to the Phillies, a meltdown against the Giants and a one-game playoff loss to the Pirates. No one cares that the Phillies in 2010 were an enormous mismatch for the baby Redlegs, or that the Reds lost their Cy Young Award vote-getting ace one pitch into the Giants series, or that the aforementioned ace was rushed back from injury to pitch the Pirates game.
None of that matters, just like none of that matters now. For whatever reason, in Cincinnati, we're immune to cause and effect. We've seen enough feel-good Disney movies that teach us that teams should overcome adversity! The bench players should be able to step right into starting capacities and perform just as well, if not better, than the guys they're replacing.
A quick search on Twitter will already reveal a "fire Bryan Price" movement. And now, we go a step further. Now it's time to trade Johnny Cueto, the best Red in uniform, as first alarmingly suggested by Doc Rogers on the Reds postgame radio show. It's time to dangle Mike Leake or Latos and see if they can bring in prospects to restock an empty farm.
At those suggestions, I have just one question of my own: Are you kidding me? You don't win by selling your best assets for promising prospects, you actually win by doing the exact opposite.
How many baseball seasons has the city of Cincinnati witnessed, and why are we pretending like this is the first one? The very idea of blowing up the Reds right now, in May, is a nasty byproduct of impatience, anger and frustration.
It's not a byproduct of logic. Investing in records before the All-Star break is a foolish play. To begin with, there are still 111 games to play. The Reds appear very close to becoming whole, with their former MVP and last year's ace nearly set to return.
On top of fielding the actual team they thought they would have, the schedule from here features 51 games against the NL Central. The Reds, as is, routinely without Bruce, Votto, Mesoraco earlier on and Latos, are 14-11 against division foes. The Cardinals own six of the 11 losses, so outside of the Cards, the Reds are 11-5 against Milwaukee, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
To reiterate, that is the current product we currently want to C4 into oblivion. For all the talk Reds fans endure every year about the Reds against quality opponents, the current depleted on-field product is 9-13 against teams above .500.
And we want to blow this thing up before it's whole? Why?
Since when did it become wise to make franchise-altering decisions at the end of May? Did we learn to do that in the Griffey/Dunn era, when the Reds had a handful of good Aprils and Mays, only to crash and burn by June?
Really, think back to all those promising starts. I invite #TeamBlowItUpNow to apply its very same logic of investing in May to these Reds teams of the past, and then explain why it would make sense to do it now:
2006 - 5/28, Reds 28-22. Finish 80-82.
2004 - 5/28, Reds 28-20. Finish 76-86.
2003 - 5/22, Reds 24-23. Finish 69-93.
2002 - 6/15, Reds 38-28. Finish 78-84.
Were the ones hoping to blow this team up now calling the Reds front office to inquire about playoff tickets back then? With over 100 games left to play, are we seriously able to make this call?
Consider even recent anecdotal evidence, where teams in the Reds' position now went on to do incredible things post-terrible Aprils and Mays. The Tigers of 2010 were under .500 near the end of May in 2010. Using the blow-it-up-in-May logic, Verlander is probably dealt and the Tigers never go on to reach the World Series that year.
Heck, that anecdote is mild compared to what the Astros did in 2005. The Astros in 2005 were 20-34 in the beginning of June. They went on to play in the World Series, too.
I'm not trying to convince everyone that this is what's in store for the Reds. I'm merely taking the logic many are applying now and applying it elsewhere. And we're not talking about blowing up a team that has never experienced success, we are talking about a team that has, in the past four years, been one of the last 10 teams playing baseball after game No. 162.
In what facet of life do we make pivotal decisions based on just 31 percent of the experience? That would be like bailing on Breaking Bad after the second season because you're tired of the lame Marie Schroeder shoplifting angle or the painfully slow scenes full of Skyler's early righteousness, as if that's all we can expect moving forward.
The role of Bryan Price has changed from manager to magician in just a matter of months. Despite not having his most prized assets, he's still expected to tap a hat with his wand and make wins appear from nowhere.
It's just not practical. This isn't Disney, this isn't a drama, where a team of writers are scripting an incredible journey about perseverance and overcoming all odds. This is Major League Baseball, where you build around several core players and pray to both the old gods and the new that no one gets hurt.
Because if they do, there are tangible consequences in the form of losses. The Reds have been lucky enough to endure and keep themselves in the picture, albeit at a distance.
With still 111 games remaining, a former MVP and last year's ace on the way back, we shouldn't be trying to dismantle a team just 4.5 games back of the wild card. We shouldn't be trying to nuke a squad that has still managed to go 9-13 against winning competition.
With Cueto, Latos and Leake all under control next season, the decision to bomb 2014 and sell ripples well into 2015. I figured 23-28 on May 29 was bad, but I had no idea it was bad enough to surrender next season, too.
(All stats courtesy of ESPN.com/mlb)
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