Cincinnati Reds: It's Getting Hot in Here, So Take Off All Your Clothes...
Not literally, but the Cincinnati Reds do need to do it figuratively.
Memorial Day weekend is just a few days away—marking the unofficial start to Summer—and for baseball, this weekend also marks the "real" start to the season.
The pretenders begin to show their true colors, and the contenders grab the bull by the horns as the temperatures rise.
For the last decade, Reds fans have been used to watching their teams melt in the humidity of competition—unable to handle the increasing heat and pressure of what it takes to be more than just a Spring fling.
If you examine it, the Reds (with all of their hot, or decent, starts in the past) resemble an addict who just cannot seem to "stay on the wagon."
Cincinnati is currently "on the wagon," and on the road to recovery (or in this case, on the road to success).
But that road gets seriously bumpy from this point on.
It will get hot—and muggy—making it more difficult to perform at the same level every day. At the same time, as they struggle to compete, those teams who have been there before are primed and pulling out everything they have to win.
In the past, the Reds—not used to having to play even better than they are at the time—have struggled to stay at that level, and they begin to lose confidence in themselves.
They slowly return to the form of a punching bag, believing this is who they really are, thus falling off the wagon—and returning to that nasty drug called mediocrity.
Cincinnati Manager Dusty Baker is well aware of how addicting mediocrity can be.
"Around here, people are a little skeptical because there are times we started out good and come August you couldn't find us," Baker said as he chatted with the media after the Reds shot past the St. Louis Cardinals to move into first place.
Seriously, the past does not lie, my friends...
2004: Cincinnati finishes the first half six games over .500. The Reds scare themselves back to what they think is normal. Final record: 76-86
2005: The Reds fall off the wagon early, and in July find themselves 19 games under, but crawl to within six games of .500. The effort comes to a quick end. Final record: 73-89
2006: On June 25th, Cincinnati is rolling at 11 games over, sitting at 36-25. A mid-summer fade brings the Reds back to a losing binge. Final record: 80-82
2007: The Reds just are not very good, but start May within a game of .500. The wheels then fall off...really fall off. Final record: 72-90
2008: Similar to the year before, Cincinnati must distrust their lack of true talent, and play with heart. June 1st has them one game under .500, but they never sustain a winning mindset. Final record 74-88
2009: Cincinnati isn't great, but not as bad as April, and May prove they are worth watching. June and July crank up the heat, and the Reds fall into a stretch that has them go 34-53. Final record: 78-84
We could go further back, but the enormity of the mediocrity is astounding.
These are images that we as fans—and more importantly, the Reds as a team—need to work on changing.
Baker, continuing the discussion on Cincy's Summer collapses, went on to say, "I don't think this is that kind of team."
I totally agree.
That's the point of the title of this article.
Cincinnati is used to these "clothes"—this mindset, this belief that they just are not good enough.
They must change that expectation of losing or falling short.
It's going to get hot, and it will suck having to put out 100 percent effort and focus game-in and game-out just to be among the contenders.
But that's what it will take.
Refuse to believe that "the winning was good, while it lasted."
Losing is a type of drug—a drug that will rear its head every chance it gets. It's an addiction that plays with your mind and your psyche. It will take over if you believe the critics or doubt yourself at the very least.
There is a small market team bias that acts as a pusher, hoping to reel in its next helpless abuser or maintain that junky who can't help himself.
But so far, that has not stopped those teams from believing in themselves.
A USA Today article by Mike Lopresti last week detailed how a number of baseball's so-called lower class teams are proving money, power, and prestige do not always equal wins. He focused mainly on the Tampa Bay Rays, but Cincinnati was prominently detailed as well.
As familiar as Reds fans are with just a month or two of success (sobriety), followed by four months of what could have been, Lopresti, also, was not lost on the subject.
His article finished with these hopefully not-damning words: "They're having fun in Cincinnati, Texas and San Diego, too; places where the bottom line hasn't gotten in the way. At least, not yet."
Cincinnati is playing well, and should not be afraid of success.
They must resist the temptation to believe they are not worthy of winning or beating the best.
This must be the season where there will not be a June swoon, July lullaby, an Au-GUH-st, or September slumber attached to the Reds.
If they need a sponsor to assist in their path to maintaining a mediocrity-free lifestyle, just take a look around the stands at Great American Ballpark...you will find thousands of us who have their back.
Summers in Ohio do get hot, muggy, and sometimes unbearable.
But that's the way I like it.
I don't run from it. The Reds must now show the National League Central that same type of attitude, focus, and determination. There's a reason St. Louis is always looking down: They don't have to look up. They believe.
Cincinnati, put on those fire suits because it's gonna be sweltering.
And you will have to sweat it out.
Mediocrity no more.
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