OBSERVATIONS: Next 10 Games Crucial to Reds’ Future

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, waiting to see if The Real Reds re-appear and fearful that other teams have figured them out.

—THE TIME IS NOW: The Cincinnati Reds are like a guy with a bucket of black Sherwin-Williams paint about to throw it at the Mona Lisa.

Will they destroy their masterpiece, a season that showed so much promise but has hit what they hope is a minor glitch? Will they stumble over the bump in the middle of the field?

The next 10 games are as tell-tale as Edgar Allan Poe’s heart. They have four at home against the poker-hot San Francisco Giants, three against a mirror-image Arizona Diamondbacks and three more in Milwaukee against their arch-nemesis.

As they begin their rugged 10-game march Monday night against the Giants, they’ve lost four straight and what was a two-game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central is now a two-game deficit.

Suddenly, nearly everybody in the lineup has forgotten how to ht, forgotten how they got where they are?

One wonders if that streak of hitting home runs in 22 straight games is part of the problem. That might be oversimplification, but this team is not built for power. It is built for speed.

But during their recent problems, they are striking out at a disquieting rate, 18 in one game against the Brewers. Why? They are consistently swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, particularly down-and-away. And some appear to be overswinging.

What was it pilots of the old biplanes used to say when they cranked the propeller to start the engine? “Contact.”

They got where they are by putting the ball in play, hitting it the other way. Getting on base is the only way to put their speed and aggressiveness in motion. Striking out defeats all aspects of their game.

Nobody expected this team to be even close to a factor, so what we’ve seen earlier might just be a prelude to the future.

But now that the team showed it can be competitive, why throw it away now?

They’ve lost 8 of 10 to the Brewers, meaning Milwaukee has already clinched the head-to-head games and would win the National League Central if the two teams finished tied at the end of the season.

In their just-concluded three-game sweep, the Brewers held the Reds to three runs and 10 hit as the Reds played as if they had their batting eyes wired shut.

They need to return playing with a rush and a dash. And as the old, old, old song put it, ‘Now Is The Hour.’

—A REAL ROUND-TRIPPER: Most people say a triple is baseball’s most exciting play. I believe it is an inside-the-park home run and as sure as grass grows green Elly De La Cruz is going to do it.

Since I’m on a diet (Down 12 pounds, 16 to go), I checked to see who was the heaviest player ever to hit an inside-the-park home run.

To my astonishment, San Diego’s Kyle Blanks weighed 285 pounds when he did it in 2009 against the Cubs. It was not reported whether an outfielder suffered a heart attack chasing the ball, but it is more likely that Blanks did in the dugout moments after touching home plate.

Prince Fielder, all 262 pounds of him, did it twice during his career.

Two seasons ago, Toronto’s Raimel Tapia hit an inside-the-park grand slam, just four of the 28 runs the Blue Jays scored against Boston that day.

Amazingly there have been 225 inside-the-park grand slams in MLB history. And the only inside-the-park home run in an All-Star game was hit by Ichiro Suzuki in 2007.

I sure would like to have a Grand Slam breakfast, but Nadine has locked the refrigerator.

—A ‘FAST’ RETIREMENT: In these times of baseball, when a player strikes out he shrugs his shoulders. “No big deal, I’ll probably strikeout the next time, too,” he might say.”

Not so in the days of Yogi Berra. During a game in May of 1965, Tony Cloninger struck out Berra three straight times, all on fastballs. Berra retired after the game.

“I didn’t go out there to be embarrassed,” he said. And that’s actually something he really did say.

Speaking earlier of grand slams, Cloninger is the only pitcher in MLB history to hit two grand slams in one game. With the DH, that won’t ever happen again.

—QUOTE MACHINES: Who can ever get tired of reading quotes from Bob Uecker and Satchel Paige? Not me.

UECKER, master of self-deprecation: “I once hit a home run off Sandy Koufax. Every time I see him, I apologize because I know that almost kept him out of the Hall of Fame.”

PAIGE: “My feet ain’t got nothing to do with my nickname, but when folks get it in their heads that a feller’s got big feet, soon the feet start looking big.”

—THE U-T VIOLATORS: The NCAA did everything to the University of Tennessee but confiscate all its footballs, helmets and kicking tees.

The NCAA lowered the sledge hammer on the Volunteers with the largest sanction ever imposed by the governing body.

For more than 200 rules violations, Tennessee was fined $8 million, lost 28 scholarships for five years, was put on probation for five years and must vacate all wins and individual records accumulated when 16 certain players particitated during coach Jeremy Pruitt’s three-year tenure.

What makes it all almost laughable is that with more than 200 mostly recruiting and illegal payment violations is that the Volunteers were 16-19 in that time.

As additional punishment, the NCAA should ban Volunteers as Tennessee’s nickname and require them to call themselves the Tennessee Violators.

—HANDING OUT HEADACHES: I don’;t like to be critical in my little corner of the social media world. We get enough of that. I like it keep it light, breezy, amusing and entertaining, if I can.

But something gives me cluster headaches if I watch it more than two minutes. It is so-called talk show TV when it involves a group of carnival barkers like Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd and Jim Rome.

And while we’re at it, “Hey, ESPN, there are 30 MLB teams, not just the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.” Viewers are force-fed NYY-Bosox games even though both teams are border-line mediocre this season.

—RHYMES WITH KRALL: As a bow towards Reds general manager Nick Krall, we’ve adopted Krall Ball as a way to describe the way the team is playing.

Well, with the speed and aggressiveness on the basepaths, it certainly isn’t Crawl Ball. That was last year’s team. And with the speed with which it plays, it isn’t Stall Ball.

Wins by big margins can be Maul Ball. If the team ever gets into a fight, it can be called Brawl Ball.

If he continues to contribute, Joey Votto, headed for Cooperstown, plays Hall Ball.

Let’s hope the club doesn’t lapse and force it to become Fall Ball.

OK, I’ve displayed enough gall.

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