The Reds did not belong in the postseason this year.
Cincinnati fell into the National League Central Division title by doing what any team is expected to do: win games against teams with worse records and teams with losing records.
However, Cincinnati proved more than once that they could not do what is expected of winning ball clubs, and that is to overcome clubs equal than or better that yourself.
The Reds failed to post winning records against their would-be rivals and struggled to even present much competition against the elite of the National League, making it difficult to view them as true contenders.
The Reds, in the midst of proving themselves worthy to be called contenders throughout the year, took a four-game series to Philadelphia where they were promptly swept by the Phillies, including blowing a 7-1 lead in the 9th inning and seeing the Phillies walk off with the win.
That four-game sweep most certainly followed both clubs into the postseason.
Of course that mid-season matchup against the Phillies was not a divisional game. Their tussle with the St. Louis Cardinals was.
The Reds were unable to muster any more offense against the Cardinals than they brought against the Phillies. The difference with this series in question, however, was that the Reds hosted the Cardinals.
It would appear that what separates the good teams from the great teams is the indifference between home field and enemy territory. Great teams can steal series from their rivals on the road rather than rely on home-field advantage.
The Cardinals went into Cincinnati and took the series in the form of a three-game sweep, in addition to taking Cincinnati's dignity as Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips shared a confrontation at home plate prior to the at-bat.
The confrontation devolved into a bench-clearing brawl that exposed the emotion of the Reds as if they were standing up against the schoolyard bully.
All season, Cincinnati fans insisted that their ball club was "for real" this year. That this was the year they would win it all, laying all of their hopes on team MVP Joey Votto to slug them to the title. However, they were met with much criticism from nearly every intelligent, insightful baseball fan, reporter, sportscasters and analyst.
Fan support and loyalty from Cincinnati is admirable and absolutely understandable, but that does not excuse fans and the Cincinnati media from refusing to listen to reason.
Simply put, the Cincinnati Reds failed to prove that they could wrestle with the big boys.
Their year was the culmination of good players getting the job done against inferior teams in the inferior National League Central. Couple that with the down year of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the result is their first postseason appearance in 15 years.
The Reds compiled a 91-71 record in the inferior NL Central. The only other division winner with a lower win-loss record was the Texas Rangers that finished 90-72.
Texas finished the year without their All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton who was out for most of September and finished with an average just south of .360.
Cincinnati finished hitting on all cylinders behind Joey Votto who finished the regular season with a very respectable .324 average. They were not without their own injuries, but what those Reds players bring to the club does not match what Josh Hamilton brings to the Rangers.
Texas overcame division rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to win the American League West with a nine-game cushion while holding their own against American League powerhouses such as the Minnesota Twins and the collective AL East including the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
Cincinnati took the division away from St. Louis but failed to make the same firm, dominating statement in head-to-head matchups against them that the Rangers made against the Angels. Furthermore, Cincinnati could not dominate Philadelphia during the regular season, posting a 2-7 record against them.
That being said, there are few teams in the National League that can be called year-long powerhouses to give Cincinnati trouble.
The New York Mets surged early in the year but faded as the year progressed and at an incredible rate. Other teams such as the Marlins, Brewers and Rockies were strong only during certain periods of the regular season and failed to stay consistent throughout the year.
But the National League does not have the same number of powerhouse contenders that the American League has, and furthermore, they do not have the same caliber of strength as the American League.
In an attempt to list the perennial contenders National League in the last decade, it is difficult to go beyond Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Atlanta. And in the most recent years, the Mets and Dodgers have failed to be the same year-long contender they have been known to be. Competitive, yes, but not what they are fully capable of.
Even the Boston Red Sox, that play in the most competitive, difficult, cutthroat division in MLB finished a single game behind the Reds at 89 and 73. A team that sustained injury to nearly all of their regular players, many of them out for five of the six months of the season.
The Red Sox could not put their A-List line-up on the field beyond April, played most of the year rotating out AAA players to face the American League and more specifically, the AL East.
A team that prides itself on pitching and yet did not get the best from their rotation after landing the best starting pitcher on the free agent market last year.
They finished a single game behind the Reds.
All Reds fans should be grateful they reached the postseason, but to all the Cincinnati fans who insisted throughout the year that they were worthy of a World Series this year, understand the truth behind this year's success.
A truth that was exposed by the Phillies in the regular season, by the Cardinals, by the Braves, by the Phillies again in the postseason.
The truth is that the Reds can not compete for a World Series title in their current state.
The truth is that it is easy to get behind a below-average team and see them have a chance to win when they play in the NL Central.
The truth is the Reds have been heralded by Cincinnati fans as being great just for beating up on the numerous bottom dwellers of the National League, something that is expected of every team to begin with: Defeat clubs worse than yourself.
Furthermore, those same fans of the Reds ignore the fact that Cincinnati could not defeat a true elite, winning team in dominant fashion in 2010.
Getting swept in a three-game NLDS is one thing. Getting out-hit 21-11, out-scored 13-4, and posting seven Cincinnati errors against three Philadelphia errors is by far another.
That is without taking into consideration that the Reds were no-hit in their first playoff game in 15 years.
If Cincinnati can keep Votto and add a few more All-Star capable fielders in addition to one or two more front-rotation starters, they can reach the postseason in the next two or three years.
Do not expect Cincinnati to reach October again soon if they fail to add more talent to support Joey Votto and fail to acquire starting pitchers who give up less than three runs. St. Louis will not have a year like 2010 for a while.
Cincinnati was an interesting story for 2010, but no intelligent baseball analyst outside of Ohio believed they would get beyond the first round.
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