Dog Days of August a True Test: Reds Hang Tough

Reds 8, Rockies 1It was just too tempting to begin with some purple prose. Something like “these are the time that try men’s souls” in reference to the late August dog days and certainly the September races  for division titles and Wild Card playoff spots.

Nah! Thomas Paine might be a little too dramatic even for baseball races even if the Cincinnati Reds are very involved.

Considering the Reds have already been through all those supposed trying times without star Joey Votto, scratch that idea. However with the onset of September just ahead and on the heels of losing two of three at home to second-place and defending World Series Champion St. Louis, I think it is safe to say that it is time that the Reds will once again be forced to show their mettle from this point as they have from the day Votto went down.

And this time really show it.

Considering what many teams have had to do to stay in races or hold leads and what is happening around baseball in places like Boston or San Francisco, when you think about it, this bunch has not flinched and yet to date, in comparison to most, have led a charmed life, one dictated by largely by their own hand and a wink or two from Lady Luck.

They have nicely survived Votto’s absence to date, even thrived without him and were not forced to make any blockbuster moves for very needed help as many contenders were forced to do. But rest assured from now on, just days away from September, their metal will be tested time and time again and the first warning came in the form of the Cardinals who as expected are not about to unfurl a white flag anytime soon.

Did anyone around these parts really think they would have to worry more about Pittsburgh than the Cards?

Not that losing the series to a bitter rival is a good thing, but it should serve notice of what lies ahead for the Reds and if we haven’t found out yet just what this team is made of, we shall soon enough.

By comparison, look what has been going on in Boston where the free-spending Red Sox were touted as a serious contender only to be a fraction of what they were when the season began, dysfunctional and shipping players out right and left and the shocker here was ridding themselves of Adrian Gonzalez, a player any team would love to have.

That blockbuster deal with the Dodgers (for James Loney and prospects essentially) may have freed up future money for the Bean eaters but speaks volumes of what could be happening here and there is no semblance of that as this edition’s chemistry is rock solid.

As for that curious move, the Dodgers may have greatly benefited in the arms race in the fight with the San Francisco Giants for the NL West title, who made earlier moves as well, but LA’s acquisition of  Carl Crawford who is out for the season is one thing. I would not want a clubhouse cancer at this point in the season with the arrival of pitcher Josh Beckett who has in no uncertain terms not pitched well and is a shadow of his former self.

Things already went a bit awry for the Giants a short time ago when they lost Melky Cabrera for essentially the season for violating baseball’s drug policy. And it may have cost him a batting title as well as at last look he trailed NL leader Andrew McCutchen by three points. Maybe even an NL MVP trophy if the planets were aligned just right.

Then of course there is the recent situation in Oakland where the A’s are somehow embroiled in a great fight for a Wild Card spot and receive news pitcher Bartolo Colon has been banished for 50 games for being a bad boy with violating that very same policy. And this guy had just resurrected his career and was in line to be the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Yikes!

Then there are big names players who have changed uniforms who have yet to have a real impact for their new contending teams as gambles may not be paying off.

The point here is the Reds, besides playing good baseball throughout the season and overcoming a loss to a star many teams could not handle, have avoided “situations.” That too is the mark of a team that may be destined to bigger and better things ahead.

But such expected rewards do not come easy and they have to be earned and the Reds will have to earn everything they accomplish from here on out as the road in September (actually now with the upcoming road trip) will be lined with land mines and many of them will come in the form of very dangerous teams that have little else left of a season  out of real contention but the pride they would get from beating the teams that are contending, playing loose and easy, taking on the spoiler’s role and taking it on like Charlton Heston. And some teams feel their collars tightening at this time of year as there is something in the September air that gives baseball a whole new feel.

It was mentioned here in the past that the schedule maker had a flair for the dramatic when he scheduled a visit for the Giants to LA to play the Dodgers on the final weekend of the season.

Well, he may have anticipated things well in advance when he scheduled the Reds to play in St. Louis the final three games of the regular season too.

If the Reds survive the treacherous road ahead that all division leaders must face, that series may not be the one he was expecting. They have taken care of business nicely off the field and if they continue to take care of sticky September business on the field, knowing how difficult things will be even for a team living right and enjoying a rather charmed life, then all the crying may come from other places, Boston, Oakland and San Francisco to name a few.

Most teams have their mettle tested throughout the season but nothing like the final month. The Reds have had theirs tested and now lets see if they have what it takes when it surely will be tested once again.