By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave wondering if it is time to order playoff tickets. . .and I don’t mean in Tampa or Arizona or Houston.
—THE REAL REDS: Are the Cincinnati Reds for real? It certainly isn’t Memorex because who wants to memorize last season’s 100-loss sleepwalk.
The Reds are 2 1/2 games out of first place in the disgustingly awful National League Central. Pittsburgh in first place? C’mon.
Even though they are two games under .500, over the last couple of weeks they have played as good as any MLB team. And with the influx of young talent like pitcher Andrew Abbott and infielders Matt McLain and Elly De La Cruz (and don’t forget rookie Spencer Steer), the Reds have become a must-see show.
De La Cruz’s bombastic debut has brought him national attention, which has brought national attention to the Reds, winners of 13 one-run games and 22 come-from-behind wins.
Everybody shall soon find out. Dead ahead are series against the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres.
If they aren’t buried alive by then, they still have seven games againsst the bad Washington Nationals, nine against the dreadful St. Louis Cardinals, eight against the so-so Chicago Cubs and three against the not-so-good Detroit Tigers.
For sure, Fangraphs senses something is afoot. Little mor than a week ago, it gave the Reds a 4.9% chance of making the playoffs. As of Monday it was 27.9%.
So are the Reds ready to cross the Rubicon and not look back? Maybe. Will the pressure get to them? Probably not. They are too young to realize that people say a collapse is evident. They are just having fun and feeling no pain.
De La Cruz, at 21 is probably too naive to realize the probable absurdity of what he said when he uttered, “This whole team has some type of vibe, and a really positive vibe, too. It’s kind of like vibes of going to the World Series.”
De La Cruz has probably never seen a World Series, certainly not in person, but the feeling is that he isn’t the only member of the Reds that feels that.
—OLIVER’S TWIST: One of my favorite person is former MLB star Al Oliver, who belongs in the Hall of Fame like ice cream belongs on apple pie.
Hall of Fame baseball writer Tim Kirkjian recalls running into Oliver before the 1982 All-Star game in Montreal.
“How are you doing, Al,” asked Kirkjian.
“I had 75 line drives caught in the first half of the season,” said Oliver.
One could hang laundry on the line drives Oliver hit his entire career. The man has 2,743 hits, a career batting average of .303 and won the American League batting title with Texas in 1981 (.331). And he still needs a ticket to get into Cooperstown. What a shame.
—QUOTE: From Al Oliver, talking about his Pittsburgh Pirates teammate Willie Stargell: “If Willie Stargell asked us to jump off the Fort Pitt Bridge, we’d ask him what kind of dive he wanted. That’s how much respect we have for the man.” (And Stargell respected Oliver just as much.)
—PING OR THWACK?: When solid contact is made with an aluminum bat, it makes a loud, ugly ping, not like the pleasant thwack of wood on a baseball.
During an NCAA tournament game over the weekend, Wake Forest hit nine home runs during a 22-5 win over Alabama. Is that Wake Forest or Rake Forest?
At last report, the Alabama catcher’s ears were stilll ringing.
—MEN OF MOELLER: Was privileged last week to watch Cincinnati Moeller win its ninth state high school baseball championship at Canal Park in Akron.
The Mighty Men of Moeller can play, they can really play. Ten players have committed to play Division I college baseball and a couple others are head to Division III.
Cincinnati Elder still holds the record for most state titles (12) and missed out on a chance for a 13th when the Panthers lost to Moeller in the tournament, 7-6.
Moeller finished the season 31-3 and one of those losses was a one-run defeat to Elder. But Moeller won three of four meetings with Elder.
***Do you think they are already engraving a plaque in Cooperstown for Elly De La Cruise Control?
***I can’t get used to hearing or reading, “Quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the New York Jets.”
***Remember when the Cincinnati Reds took a chance on Josh Hamilton after he recovered from drug addiction? I’ll never forget the 28 first-round home runs he hit in the 2008 All-Star Home Run Derby in Yankee Stadium, including 13 in a row. And he lost to Justin Morneau.
***Timing, indeed, is everything. Relief pitcher Ian Gibaut always seems to be pitching when the Reds score winning runs. His record is 6-1, three wins better than any Reds starter. Ben Lively is 3-4 and Graham Ashcraft is 3-5.
***Cincinnati’s rotation was supposed to be its strength, but it is 29th out of 30 MLB teams with a 5.95 earned run average, the result of Graham Ashcraft’s meltdown, Hunter Greene’s struggles and the injury to Nick Lodolo.
***Nadine always shakes her head when I tell her, “The worst team in baseball can beat the best team in baseball in any
game.” Just ask the Milwaukee Brewers. The Oakland Athletics, 14-50 when they hit Beertown, became the Ogre Athletics by sweeping three games, knocking the Brewers out of first place. And they are on a seven-game winning streak.
***Shouldn’t Elly De La Cruz and Spencer Steer play for the Minnesota Twine? They both have twin brothers.
***Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto hit for the cycle Monday night, the first Phillies batter to collect a single, double, triple and home run in a game since 2004 when Reds manager David Bell did it. Yes, Bell could play.
***Several Cincinnati Bengals took batting practice before a Reds game on the last homestand and quarterback Joe Burrow hit four home runs. Sign him, Reds. You need a power hitter with a strong arm.
***Wonder if teams wearing black or dark blue pants thought about this? Isn’t a white baseball coming out of a pitcher’s black or dark blue pants easy to see? A white baseball coming out a pitcher’s white pants has to be more difficult to see.
—THE OLDER I GET: My favorite line, of many good ones, from Alan Jackson’s song, ‘The Older I Get.’
“And the older I get, the more thankful I feel, for the life I’ve had and all the life I’m living still.”