Observations: The one important thing. . .they made it

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, pontificating over what might or might not lie ahead for the Cincinnati Reds as they begin their trip to virgin territory.

—For most (or all?) Cincinnati Reds fans, it matters not how they made the game, but just that they made it.

If not for the Covid-19 pandemic that prompted MLB to expand the 2020 playoffs to eight teams in each league, the Reds once again would be on the outside peering through closed gates.

But they made it.

Even with the expanded format, the Reds made it by the skin of Trevor Bauer’s right thumb. They grabbed the seventh of eight available spots by going 16-8 since September 1, second best record in baseball over that span.

And they made it.

They were 15-21 on September 1 after losing a game to the St. Louis Cardinals, 16-2. The morticians were poised over the Reds with shovels in hand.

But they made it.

They had a team batting average of .212, 15 points lower than the 1908 Reds, the previous owners of the team’s lowest season’s batting average.

Of the players who play the most, Jesse Winker (.255) and Shogo Akiyama (.245) owned the highest averages. The rest? Brian Goodwin (.163), Aristides Aquino (.170), Jose Garcia (.194), Nick Senzel (.185), Eugenio Suarez (.202), Tucker Barnhart (.204), Freddy Galvis (.220), Joey Votto (.224), Nick Castellanos (.225), Mike Moustakas (.230).

But they made it.

The Reds set an all-time MLB record when 62 percent of their runs came on home runs. Too often it was home run or bust. Too often they hit three or four home runs and lost.

But they made it.

They were carried, of course, by starting pitchers Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray, with Luis Castillo bouncing back from a 0-5 start to win four straight in September before losing his last start. And the bullpen, awful by any definition for two months, righted itself with strong finishes by Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, TeJay Antone, Lucas Sims, Wade Miley and Raisel Iglesias.

And they made it.

Before the season began, when the Reds added Moustakas, Castellanos, Akiyama and Miley, the national pundits made the Reds the trendy pick to win it all. Then they fell flat and the pundits switched their heart-fluttering to the Chicago White Sox.

And the Chisox lived up to it — until late in the season when the Reds took them two of three and they lost seven of their last eight.

While the Reds are trending up, the Chisox are trending down.

But both made it. . .as No. 7 seeds.

So now the Reds move to Atlanta for a best-of-three first round, carrying heavy baggage — and that’s not just because they had to pack for a month on the road.

The extra baggage they carry is the franchise with the longest drought of any team in MLB without winning a playoff series — 24 years.

Their last appearance was 2013, a one-game wild-card loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates that led to the firing of manager Dusty Baker.

In 2012’s National League Division Series, the Reds won the first two games in San Francisco in a best-of-five series. Needing only one win in three tries at home, they lost all three.

In 2010’a NLDS, they not only were swept, three games to none, but Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter.

It was 1995 when the Reds last won a post-season series, a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Reds general manager Jim Bowden had a brainstorm for the National League Championship Series — the Atlanta Braves were susceptible to left-handed pitching.

So the Reds started left handers in four straight games against the Atlanta Braves. And they lost all four.

Now, it is back to Atlanta and all that is ancient history to the current Reds, most of whom were mere children when the Reds last won a series.

They are full of vim, full of vigor and full of new-found confidence with their recent success.

They made it.

—After using the silliness of putting a runner on second base to start extra-inning games, MLB scrapped it for the playoffs. It is back to some semblance of Real Baseball.

If it takes 20 innings to determine a winner, it takes 20 innings. No free lunches for the batter who made the last out of the previous inning, rewarded by being placed on second base to start the next inning.

The Pitchers Union should have gone on strike.

From Mike Downey, retired sports writer par excellence: “L.A.-area native Lucas Giolito will pitch tomorrow’s White Sox playoff opener. Should they get by the A’s in this wild-card series, the ALDS will be in Dodger Stadium, where oil paintings by Giolito’s mom, artist-actress Lindsay Frost, have been displayed in the “Art of the Game” exhibit.”

As Downey said, “Paint those corners, kid.”

—QUOTE: From former New York Giants player/manager Bill Terry, in 1937: “Baseball must be a great game to survive the fools who run it.” (He meant then, but he could have meant now.)

One thought on “Observations: The one important thing. . .they made it”

  1. Great summation, with artistic brevity! And “Paint those corners, kid.” love it … that would be an art show I’d like to see – Dodger Stadium thrown in the mix!

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