Cincinnati Reds’ mantra: Let’s fight … for second place

Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on Sept. 2. Due to technical problems transferring to a new server on Monday, we lost some content and are reposting now. This happened to be one of the victims. We just wanted you to know that the article isn’t outdated. Thanks for understanding, and we’re happy for Graham that the Reds took the weekend series!

For Brandon Phillips and the Cincinnati Reds, there's nothing left but the gum-tossing to fans. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

This weekend, the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals open a series that should be a significant one. A September series between these two teams should be a must-win series for both teams. This series should be nationally televised and discussed, and should be a telling indicator of who’s going to take the NL Central. But alas, it is not. This series would be significant and would be highly scrutinized if either of these teams could have lived up to their expectations. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Now these teams are gonna compete rather irrelevantly for second place.

What grew into one of the most intriguing rivalries in baseball in 2010 is a somewhat meaningless battle for second place just a year later. Friday night’s pitching matchup features Reds ace Johnny Cueto against the always-difficult Chris Carpenter. Cueto had a hand, or rather foot, in ending the career of catcher Jason LaRue during the infamous brawl last season, so with playoff implications, this should be an emotional matchup. But as quickly as everyone forgot LaRue was ever a baseball player, the brawl, and everything that resulted from it, also were forgotten. The Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers became the new rivalry in the Central, while the Reds battled away in the wings playing games against teams with no emotional implications.

While Brandon Phillips, or “Boo Phillips” as he likes to call himself while in St. Louis, will be greeted with a boo monsoon when he enters the batter’s box this weekend, it won’t mean as much as it did last year.

But I say forget first place. Forget the playoffs. It’s these meaningless games in September where true Reds fans really shine. This is the time of year for us to get excited about September call-ups and to see how close we can get to .500. Now, we’re hungry for second place. If the Reds and Cardinals were 40-win teams, I’d still watch every game and scream at my TV just as much as I was last year when they were both battling for the division. Last year’s rivalry got me riled up — I don’t associate with Cardinals fans and assume an unwarranted air of confidence when I pass a Cardinals fan on the street.

Yes it’s stupid, I know, but rivalries are fun, maybe even more so when most of the nation has forgotten about it. I want the Reds to go into Busch Stadium this weekend with a “remember us?” mentality and take the series from a team that is desperately clinging to its playoff hopes. Misery loves company and second place sounds a lot better than third for a team that took the division last year.

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