Realistic vs. Greedy: Can Cincinnati Reds Win it All?

Cincinnati RedsI have been away but wondering now that the Reds have clinched a spot in the postseason  if is it a time to be realistic or greedy? Reflect back if you will at the outset of the season and recall just what you really, no I mean really, hoped for after by most accounts here a dismal finish for the Cincinnati Reds a season ago.

Recall your disappointment at finishing well off the pace and out of the money. You didn’t even collect on a show bet, which today is now the equivalent of a second Wild Card spot in the playoffs I suppose.

Would you have been happy just to grab one of the Wild Card spots, back when spring training began? Did you realistically think the Reds, even if they had the talent to make a run at a postseason spot, like, say a shot at a Wild Card, were going to walk away with the Central Division leaving the World Champion Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers in the dust?

Whether you are being honest to yourself or not, your first wish has been granted and frankly well-earned by the local nine in what has been thus far a season to remember. Maybe not 1990 all over again, but memorable to say the least.

Although there are many obvious comparisons to the aforementioned Reds squad that went on the shock the world, and the mighty Oakland A’s in the World Series and win it all, this is a different cast, but such a similar group at the same time.

Incidentally, just before the 1990 World Series I was talking with a MLB scout (NL variety) and asked if the Reds had any chance against heavily favored Oakland and he laughed and assured me the Reds would win the series. Not to put the cart before the horse as there are so many teams to yet beat before those visions of sugar plums, but this team appears built for the long haul when the postseason begins.

In other places people have the right to expect less. Say in Milwaukee for example. Should the surging Brewers (winning 15 of 19 games got them back in things in a big hurry) somehow make the playoffs, given the year they have had before their hot streak, I would expect the Brewers and their faithful would be quite satisfied to just make the postseason.

I am fairly certain the same could be said in a place like Oakland, penniless by comparison to most teams and Baltimore. Sure it would defy all logic to have the Orioles somehow beat out the New York Yankees for the American League East crown and why shouldn’t they go for all the gusto at this point? However, one must consider where the Birds came from, this back to a baseball reality check.

So much had been made about the record 19 consecutive losing seasons the Pittsburgh Pirates have endured that many outside the land of crabs that the Orioles came into the season on the heels of 14 consecutive losing seasons.

By the way, I have to wonder, although I thought it strange at the time, if the Pirates’ ownership didn’t put their spikes in their mouth and halfway down their throat when at midseason they announced a ticket price hike for next season, no doubt mesmerized by their first-half success. Bad move! 

Speaking of the Brewers, again, I wonder if they are now second-guessing unfurling the white flag and saying sayonara to ace right-hander Zack Greinke now? And speaking of the Pirates, what once was a promising season, all things relative and promise in Pittsburgh is winning 81 or 82 games to end the losing streak, suddenly the Pirates have to get it in gear real fast now to avoid that mark going to 20 years when once it did not seem possible when they were firmly in the NL Central race. They have slipped below .500 and it is late September and this has not gone unnoticed in Pittsburgh.

Enough about Milwaukee or Baltimore or anyone else. Here it is about the Reds and I am not sure it is actually greed that drives many of us to at least be thinking World Series because this crew has been built for such a run. Walt Jocketty knew what he was doing (always has everywhere he has been), make no mistake, and the baseball Gods have been kind to the pitching staff in the way of good health. Shocking good actually.

It has been a rather charmed life so far save for the recent health concerns of manager Dusty Baker, but in the age of modern medicine that should work itself out as the rigors of being a manager can take a heavy toll.

By comparison, recently I walked the streets of Boston for a week and saw nothing but a Red Sox gear on every other man, woman and child and under every hat and just above every t-shirt saw people wearing the look of one who had just sucked on a lemon, well, even more than normal over the mess there. So things are actually pretty rosy here.

Each day when I read the Boston Herald and I mean every day to the point of it being ridiculous, a writer called for manager Bobby Valentine’s head. I got the point in the first story I read. Didn’t really need one every day. But it reminded me of just how good we have had it here this year, not to mention the amazing resilience of a team that lost its best player for a chunk of the season and actually improved its record during that time.

What now you ask as the regular season winds down and the team prepares for the playoffs? Enjoy a comfort zone as the other teams battle, scratch and claw at one another all bunched up for the final spots while Reds fans bask in the glow of accomplishment and so many other teams sweat it out as they beat each others brains out?

As much as that is a great feeling, a great position to be in, not so fast. It seems rather simple at first that a team in the Reds position enjoys this time to rest players, set pitching rotations and settle on playoff rosters, get everything in order so to speak, the best everyday lineup, the most effecting batting order and all the other little details to be ready.

However, it truly is of the utmost importance for a team that clinched early to keep, well the Edge I have suggested in the past. To keep winning, even if the games appear meaningless. They are certainly not!

Teams cannot and should not get used to losing even if it appears on the surface to matter little. You have to stay used to winning. You have avoid getting used to losing. The remaining games are far, far more important to the mental makeup of a team than most of us can imagine to be ready for a run at the big prize, the World Series trophy.

I am a combination of optimistic and realistic at the same time and I know there is this matter of first things first. At this stage of the game I would like to take it slow as no team in the playoffs will be easy. None. Not even the last to qualify for the one-game play-in game.

My personal goal for this team at this point in the season? To hear one thing. “Ladies and gentlemen, your Cincinnati Reds, National League Champions” and see  red-white-and-blue bunting adorning GABP as the lineups are announced prior to the first World Series game.

Then I will take it from there and likely the Reds will too. But first things first and  a strong finish to the regular season seems to be in order and that means keeping their winning edge. I cannot stress enough how important is is to keep winning even now. I have seen what can happen to a (great) team that clinches early in many sports all too often.

Even if this is a baseball column, I have seen great regular season teams flounder in the first round of the playoffs oh so many times while covering the NBA and I do not wish to see that happen here on the diamond. This team has gone too far to slip into that black hole come playoff time