Cincinnati Reds: Fending Off the Criticism
The Reds are starting to receive some nationwide recognition for the first time in years, but with that comes scrutiny as well.
Simply put, some people on a national level don't believe that what they are seeing is legit. Some of the criticism is founded, and some not so much.
A lot of what I hear is people just simply hitting the "high points." Stats can be found everywhere, but they don't tell the whole story.
Chances are, a lot of people still don't know this team, and I will try to provide some valid reasons as to why the criticisms are not entirely correct.
Easy Schedule! "The National League Central is weak!"
Certainly this is true, but what are you going to do? It's the schedule we were handed and anytime you have to play another Major League Baseball team it requires a certain level of execution of the fundamentals, luck, and clutch performances.
Plus, it's easy to lose focus and look ahead, especially when you have a team that isn't used to dealing with success. So kudos to the Reds for handling their business thus far.
It's like paying bills. No one will pat you on the back for getting it done, but you will hear about it, and suffer the consequences, if you don't.
"This team can't beat anyone good!"
Critics point out our play against the upper echelon teams in the National League and say THAT'S why the Reds aren't legit.
Cincinnati's record against the Cardinals has certainly been poor, and there is no justifying that, but what's done is done. They've already played most of the head-to-head matchups.
If the Reds finish behind St. Louis in the standings, then one can look back at that. But not right now.
Going forward, it's more important how the Reds handle teams other than the Cardinals, as only one series against St. Louis remains. Besides, the Reds played the Cardinals extremely tough in 2006, the Cardinals still won the division and went on to win the World Series.
As far as the Reds' "poor" play against other top teams goes, they got swept in Philly but all the losses were close losses (and no, I don't believe in moral victories. Just pointing out that the opposition wasn't overwhelming them).
Additionally, they lost on a fluke walkoff grand slam to the Braves, and lost two out of three to the Padres. This was really back before the Reds got on their roll, so I'm not too concerned.
I'd be willing to wager that many top teams do what they can to survive against the cream of the crop and dominate the lower tiered teams, not just the Reds.
"This staff Has No True Ace. Good Luck In the Playoffs!"
I specifically heard a national talking head discussing this today. I trust who the Reds would roll out there, and to a certain extent, I don't think it would be as big a mismatch as many people feel.
The Philles have Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, the Cardinals roll out Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and should the Giants make it, good luck hitting Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
A likely Game 1 starter in the playoffs would be Bronson Arroyo. I can't quantify it with stats and flashy numbers, but there is a trust factor I have with this guy. You know what you are getting, and I think on any given day he can match what the other team's ace is producing.
I'm not trying to say he's on the level of a Halladay or Carpenter. I'm just saying that he is capable of stepping it up. He's durable, unflappable, and has a bevy of postseason experience with the Red Sox.
Outside of Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Travis Wood, or whomever else is out there, has potential to throw an excellent game.
Another Cardinals mention: besides Chris Carpenter, they relied on guys like Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver, and Anthony Reyes during their 2006 World Series run.
Not exactly famous names in baseball lore, but they showed up and got the job done.
In conclusion, it's baseball, and games aren't played on paper, they are played on the field.
"They Are Flukes/Frauds!'
Good luck with this argument when we are in late August and the team you are making a case against is in first place.
I think the "are they a fluke/fraud?" type of questions are better reserved for next season, when people will be curious to see if the Reds can repeat this level of play.
Until then, if you can't recognize that this is a good baseball team—if you don't see the base runners going from first to third on singles, the suicide squeezes, and the two out RBI hits—then I don't know what to say.
I understand that national perception is slow to change, but people who are quick to criticize need to watch the games.
"The Young Guys Will Feel the Pressure, and/or They Will Hit the Wall!"
I'm assuming by "young guys," people are referring to Mike Leake, Travis Wood, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs.
I'll address these guys one by one:
Mike Leake—Has struggled mightily, but problem solved. Homer Bailey has taken over his spot, and thus far, has produced quality results. The transition as of this point has been seamless
Travis Wood—He's still pitching well. No "wall" has been hit yet.
Jay Bruce—The Reds have been winning much of the year without him producing what many feel he is capable of, and while I do think that he needs to bolster his game in order for this team to make a postseason run, that's not outside the realm of possibilities.
Drew Stubbs—Has had hit-and-miss production all year, so I think whatever he gives is a bonus. He has endured many of the growing pains that rookies go through.
Besides, this team has a lot of veterans on it, such as Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Miguel Cairo, and Bronson Arroyo. I think their leadership will help the young players and postseason virgins on this team.