By Hal McCoy
So raise your hand if you thought a series with the Chicago Cubs in mid-April would mean something to the Cincinnati Reds?
Put your hand down, Bryan Price. Your opinion is prejudicial, but understandable.
Hey, whoever thought any series against the Chicago Cubs would mean anything at any point of the season. But these are no longer little cubbies, these are big, bad bears.
AND THE CUBS are doing what most folks believed they would do this year, all the way to the World Series. They are 5-and-1.
Nobody outside the Reds clubhouse thought the Reds would be 5-and-1 at this point and playing a series against the Cubs for first place in the National League Central.
Sure, the sampling is miniscule, but the first week certainly was fun for the Reds and their fans, expecting nothing and getting everything.
The team many thought would lose 95 to 100 games, is populated by a lot of young talent and a lot of strangers. But it is also populated by six fairly seasoned veterans in Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton and Devin Mesoraco.
AND NOBODY, BUT nobody, would believe the Reds are 5-and-1 with Votto hitting .174, Hamilton hitting .143 and Mesoraco hitting .125.
But there the Reds are, tied with the Cubs for first place, as they open a three-game series tonight in Wrigley Field.
Jay Bruce, so far resurrecting his career with a .391 start to his 2016 season, offered an interesting comment to a question after his game-ending triple in the ninth inning beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-1.
When asked if the fans can expect this team’s success to continue, Bruce’s answer was an answer that permeates the clubhouse: “The fans can expect whatever they want, to be honest. We’re not surprised at all. We were very comfortable with our offense coming into the year. And this is the deepest bench we’ve had since I’ve been here. We have the depth and ability to cover all the spots.”
AND PRICE HAD some interesting remarks about the Reds embarking on a six-game trip to Chicago and St. Louis, beginning tonight in Wrigley, the Cubs home opener.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Price. “The fans in Chicago always bring energy, no matter what their team is projected to do or not do. It isn’t like they go to the ballpark to boo the Cubs. They love their team, whether they are expected to win the World Series or finish in last place.
“Wherever you go on Opening Day there is electricity, but there may be a bit more in Chicago this year due to the expectations.
“It is good for our club, too,” he added. “Those are fun environments to manage in. There is a lot ruckus. There are high expectations and they are a team expected to compete for the World Series against a team that is not.
“For me, it is fun,” said Price. “I think our guys, guys who are together and love to be in our clubhouse together, guys who fully pull for one another, will like the challenge.”
Whether that is a bunch of bravado and hubris remains to be seen. The answer will be provided over the next six games.
And Price emphasized the attitude he has by saying, “There is no reason for our guys to make things bigger than they are.”
It is much too early to make things too big, but as Bruce said after his game-winning hit Sunday, “Just think small.” And then big things happen.