It doesn’t even take the effort to look at the calendar to recognize that this summer is half over. County fair season is kicking off, back to school sales are already starting and the big league baseball players just had their All-Star Game.
The All-Star Game is the “Mid-Summer Classic.” For the past 89 years, the game’s best players have come together to have a game that means more about camaraderie than competition.
I fully realize that this is completely on me, but it’s been hard to pay attention to this year’s baseball season and that’s too bad, because there are some great teams that are having a great season. The Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros are all winning games at an incredible pace. The division races in the National League are all very tight. The latter half of this season could be very entertaining.
And yet, there are the Cincinnati Reds. Our team on the Ohio River stumbled out of the gate. Less than a month into the season they were 3-15 and fired their manager. Coming out of Goodyear, the team was akin to a dumpster fire. The pitching was suspect at best. The hitting was nowhere to be found. Even the expectations for this squad were lower than the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
After their dismal start, the Reds turned to their bench coach, Jim Riggleman to lead this team. Mr. Riggleman came in having some degree of managerial success. He had been the skipper of the Padres, Mariners and Nationals and actually took the Cubs to the playoffs in 1998. Now, Mr. Riggleman will probably never be mistaken for Joe Maddon, Billy Martin or Connie Mack, but he is a decent manager.
And how have the Reds done since Mr. Riggleman was put in charge? Well, they have done remarkably better. Granted, when you take over a baseball team with a 3-15 record, there is really nowhere to go but up. But, again, the expectations were low and I doubt anyone would expect Mr. Riggleman to turn the ship around.
Yet, those Cincinnati Reds have improved greatly. Since that 3-15, they have actually gone on to go 40-38 in their last 78 games. What does that mean? It means, they are actually a team that has shown that they can win over a long period of time. Played out over an entire season, their 40-38 record would translate into a record that would be competitive for a wild card spot and would actually be better than those St. Louis Cardinals.
And ever since the Reds have gotten their legs under them, we have seen some incredible efforts by the team. They recently scored seven runs in the ninth inning to beat the Indians in Cleveland. They have had some modest winning streaks including one of seven games and one of six games.
Even for the All-Star Game, the Reds represented their team well. The team had three infielders play for the senior circuit. Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez each enjoyed their first All-Star appearance, while Joey Votto went to yet another All-Star Game. And not only did these players get to go, they played well. Gennett and Votto actually hit home runs in the game. It was the first time since 1982 a Cincinnati Red hit a home run in the All-Star Game.
And while the Reds are playing much better, let’s not fool ourselves. This team isn’t going to have a winning record this year. They would have to go 38-28 the rest of the way, which may be too much to accomplish for this team. And this team certainly isn’t going to make it to the playoffs.
But, at least for the rest of the season, we can take some comfort in knowing that maybe the great rebuild isn’t that far off. The young and talented players seem to be able to win on a consistent basis and thinking about how good this team could be in two or three years might be something worthy to do.
All in all, things aren’t that bad in the Queen City.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.