Sitting at five games under .500 and a whopping nine games out of first place, the Cincinnati Reds are seemingly up to their old tricks again. Every season in Cincinnati starts with hope and the promise of a winning season. “This year” is going to be the year every April in southern Ohio.
But apparently not in 2011. The difference between last year’s playoff team and this year’s team is that the 2011 Reds are losing to losing teams. Last year’s NL Central Champs put losing teams out of their misery, but this Reds team just lost two of three to the Houston Astros, owners of the worst record in baseball, and just lost two consecutive to the pathetic Cubs. It’s not like the Reds are whooping up on winning teams either, aside from a series sweep of the San Francisco Giants last week.
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But this year feels right for me. If the Reds are fewer than 10 games under .500, I consider that a good record. I’ve been rooting for horrendous Reds teams for most of my life. I’m good at it. And now things seem to be back to normal. Not that I enjoy watching my home team flounder around at the bottom of the division with the Pirates, Astros and Cubs, it’s just what’s familiar for me. Humans fear change and I am no different. Meaningful baseball in September is much more fun than watching your team spiral into autumn irrelevancy, but who wants to go to baseball games in October anyway? It’s cold. And you may have to see Roy Halladay pitch a no-hitter.
As much as there is to dislike about the 2011 Reds, there’s probably even more to like, or at least look forward to. The foundation for hope in 2012 is there, which is all that really matters for Reds fans. They’re a young team relying on young stars to win games, so it makes sense they aren’t winning more games than they’re losing. Young players not named Joey Votto are streaky and have to learn on the job. It’s easy to look at Drew Stubbs and his triple-digit strikeouts and get frustrated, but the kid has so much upside that it’s hard to believe he won’t be a huge part of winning Reds teams in the very distant future.
Until then, I’ll sit back and look for rays of light in a team that’s barely staying relevant in a division that isn’t even that good to begin with. Flounder away, young Redlegs. You’ll be swimming in the deep end soon enough.