The Cincinnati Reds Are In First Place, But They’re Not There Yet

Given where the NL Central is, and where their various teams are in their “processes”, it really isn’t a huge shock that the Pittsburgh Pirates were burning up the first half of the season. Been hot, fizzling out for a while, and now a new, young, rebuilding team can go on top for a while and see what life might be like in a few years. A glimpse, if you will. This sliver of a landscape is the perfect place for pretenders and grabbers to at least roll. That team is now the Cincinnati Reds, who have won nine matches in a row and are currently on top MLB’Second worst division (the middle of the country is a baseball wasteland these days).

30,000 feet The Reds scene is quite exciting. Joey Votto, a city institution if ever there was one, returned from 10 months out due to various arm injuries and was home last night. He anchors the team, and it certainly feels like if anyone, the 39-year-old, is going to provide extra juice for a darkhorse team that will continue to thrive in Cincy during an excruciatingly hot summer, it’s Votto. The Reds have several young kids throughout their lineup and rotation (when they’re straight). Eli De La Cruz is up, Spencer Steuer is hitting, Matt McClain comes out of nowhere to claim the shortstop job. Hunter Green was slaying the world in the rotation, and was the only starter the Reds could count on before heading to IL this weekend.

There may be more on the way. Christian Encarnacion-Strand is destroying AAA. Connor Phillips has struck out 109 AA hitters in just 64 innings of work. Red is clearly working towards 2024, or more likely 2025 and beyond.

all that glitters…

Drop any lower so you get under the hood, and it looks like some cheap thrill that Reds fans who haven’t sworn off the team over the past few seasons are feeling a little better about their fix. Are. Reds have negative run difference, Worse than the last-place Cardinals. They have done some magical sequencing work. They have a top-10 offense in runs scored, thanks to a top-five on-base percentage because they run a lot as a team. McLane, happy so far, is rocking a .436 BABIP that will crash through the sky like a drone piloted by a child.

And rotation is worrying. The Reds are saying Green’s IL tenure will be just that, and will look nothing like Nick Lodolo’s extended absence that will last until August. We all know what a home built on young pitching can look like, known as “The Mets”. Whole existence.

Andrew Abbott, another young bowler, is trying to fill the gap for now but is having trouble getting going, The Reds have no starter other than Green who has carried the ball more than five times and Has an ERA less than 4.42.

Manager David Bell has been able to spin all these plates thanks to a bullpen that has five relievers with ERAs under 3.00. Alexis Diaz and her Invincible Slider have The closer has been the star, and Lucas Sims, Ian Gibot and Buck Farmer have basically shortened games to six innings, as every team dreams of these days.

On another level, the buzz around the Reds has led some owner-fawners to claim that Bob Castellini’s cheapness and indifference Led a team to blow up that never really even got a window, it was the right call. The Reds won 83 games in 2021, in a division where the Cubs gave up and the Pirates are Pirates, meaning they were never far from competing for it. They would then lose Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Wade Miley and Luis Castillo in the offseason and during the 2022 season.

And now, it appears, they’re back. Except it’s not linear. De La Cruz was already in the organization when he was sold. so were Green and Lodolo. McLain was drafted in 2021. Only the steer is the result of the sale, which was obtained from Minnesota for Mahle. All of these players could augment what the Reds already had, or could be used in trades to replace older players who were discarded for current help rather than future help. It wasn’t a binary decision to assign kids to the team or hire vets. You can do other things. You can mix approaches (something brewers have been doing for five years or more).

And the real test, as it is for any team that blew away a team that didn’t need to blow away, like the Cubs of recent vintage or the Pirates of the mid-2010s. Or national or whatever, when this team matures and gets good, will Castellini pay someone? Or will he demand that the cycle begin all over again? Will he be willing to do it if it “works”? If he does then who else would he use as an example of how to do things?

It’s definitely better that Reds are available now. But no one should feel like they got it “right” when they could have gotten here another way that didn’t involve telling their fans to fuck off royally. and it will be To imply to the fans that this was the only way is a disservice.

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