“Moment of Truth”

Barry Larkin played a key part in the Red's 1995 NL Central title.

 The Reds begin the second half of their season tomorrow evening.  The journey of a Major League season spans over 6 months and is a roller coaster ride for most.  There are very few that make it out of September into the mid October “Danger Zone” (the playoffs), as I like to call it.  This year has been fairly smooth sailing thus far for the Cincinnati Reds.  Most did not foresee the Reds making any noise this year.  Most thought this team was a couple of a years away, like they have been every year for the past 10.  Most thought that the Reds did not have enough bats in their lineup. Most thought that Dusty Baker should be looking for a new job at the end of this year.  Most thought that Jay Bruce was damaged goods and a guy who may never reach his full potential.  Most thought that Jonny Gomes was an occasional replacement outfielder when the year began.  And the list could go on and on about what most thought. 

The big lesson is, what most think, is not always what actually happens.  Perception in this case, was not a reality.  The fact of the matter is, the Reds head into the 2nd half with a 1 game lead in the NL Central.  Though they are coming off a heartbreaking 4 game sweep at the hands of the 2 time defending NL Champion Phillies, they still are in 1st place.  Finally the Reds, after playing good baseball for over 3 months are getting some love from the national media.  Guys like Joey Votto are getting voted into the All Star Game (still a joke he had to be the last player voted in).  Guys like Joe Buck are saying that they think the Reds are the real deal and they are surprised that these guys didn’t gel to a top of the division type finish last year.  I mean when was the last time the Reds had multiple All Stars?  Well there has been one Red’s representative on the team for the past 5  years (the league minimum). How about when was the last time the Reds got 4 All Stars on the NL squad?  I think you would have to go back to 2004.  And let’s be real, at that time guys like Griffey and Larkin were making the team mainly due to their big names.  The last legitimate time the Reds had 4 guys on the All Star squad was in 1995. 

1995 also happens to be the last time the Cincy boys made the playoffs.  Coincidence I think not.  The 1995 team was the last Reds squad to experience the mid October “Danger Zone.”  This year’s version of the Cincinnati Reds has crushed the ball during the first half.  Led by the big bats of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and savvy veteran Scott Rolen, the team leads the NL in batting average, hits, and RBIs.  Not to mention they are 2nd in homeruns.  So much for the early season questions about this team’s offensive prowess.  They are also doing it with the glove though too.  They lead the NL in fielding percentage and putouts.  Lastly, the ERA is pretty average at 4.19, which ranks 6th in the NL, but they are 2nd in saves.  Which obviously means they are winning ball games.  Not to mention the Reds are not lacking in arms and will have guys like Edinson Volquez and Aaron Harang returning from the DL in the near future.  And how about the eventual arrival of Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman?  When other teams’ staffs are tired and overworked during September and the beginning of October, ours should be fairly fresh in comparison.  The Reds arms will be more ready for the stretch run and dare I say the “Danger Zone” (playoffs). 

So as I have said on previous posts.  Baseball is a simple game.  If you hit for average, field the ball, and pitch reasonably well, you will win ball games.  Basically if you excel in the fundamentals, then the wins will come.  And this team has done all that is needed and more.  Many in Cincinnati are taking a cynical attitude and asking when this team is going to fold.  This team does not look to be folding any time in the near future in my eyes.  They have a great young nucleus of talent mixed in with experienced vets like Scott Rolen and Bronson Arroyo.  Cincinnati needs to get used to having a winning baseball team.  Winning times are here to stay in my eyes (for at least the next couple of years). 

This team is heading towards a big time divisional race with the Cardinals.  And boy will it be good for Cincinnati.  But as I mentioned earlier, the Reds are currently on a 4 game losing streak.  These first couple of weeks of the 2nd half will be a huge determining factor in where this team ends up come the beginning of October.  If they come out losing, fans will get cynical and perception will become a reality. 

This team is too good in my eyes to fade though. 

Be expecting them to fight with the Cardinals down to the very last day for the NL Central title. 

But the moment of truth starts tomorrow folks.  Is this Red’s team ready to enter the “Danger Zone” (playoffs)? 

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze. 

-Kraze

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