Wednesday Wisdom: Reds showing signs of life?

I’m sure I’ll regret this when they go into another nosedive, but…. 

Don’t look now, but the Cincinnati Reds have almost been fun to follow for the last week or so.

Sure, there was the “same old, same old” feeling when the bullpen again blew up last night against St. Louis, but sometimes nothing cleanses the sole like a good old Joey Votto game-winning home run against the Cardinals.

For those who found other things to do, that is five wins in six games since the calendar turned over, including two against the team with the best record in the NL East.

Not that it means they are going to go on a run and put a dent in that, you know, 18.5-game gap between them and the Cubs, but at least maybe it’s a hint they could be watchable for a while….?

I realize winning was never the true goal this season, but I don’t share the perspective that the best thing they can do is be as bad as possible. I understand it and respect it, I’m just not on board for a few reasons.

  1. The Major League Baseball draft is such a crapshoot compared to the others I don’t see getting a top five pick as realistically offering that much better of a chance to get a star as picking later in the first round.  Certainly the higher a team can pick the better, but I see diminishing returns here.
  2. I think maintaining fan loyalty is very important, especially for a team that needs to maximize available attendance and TV viewership to up revenue to the point it might at least think about spending in the top half of the league. The Reds fan base is large, but it’s also fairly spread out so drawing huge crowds every night is a greater challenge than might be expected. I think the last time they came out of their doldrums, it took fans longer than expected to come around, and I would rather not have to see that happen again. Remaining decent could help avoid eroding the support that was hard-won over the last half decade. (I admit this could be wishful thinking.)
  3. Third, the Reds have not really gone into full rebuild. Between starting it too late to maximize the trade value of Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman to finding some of their remaining stars practically impossible to move, this team hasn’t really been completely torn down. They still start All-Stars at first base, second base and right field every night. The shortstop could join that group next month. So might the left fielder, although the chances he is a flash in the pan are not insignificant.
  4. Lastly, a second straight strong start by John Lamb and Billy Hamilton’s recent hot streak are reminders of why this season actually had me more interested than the last couple when it comes to watching them on a daily basis. After the 2013 season ended with a whimper, it was hard to get excited about the clearly flawed teams they ran out there the last two seasons, especially knowing what was coming as far as a rebuild. Now they have added enough young prospects to the mix that there is reason to see who is can cut it and who can’t. In the beginning of the season, the bullpen disasters — made all the more infuriating because they were so easy to see coming — made the team unwatchable. That situation obviously still isn’t fixed, but at least there’s something positive going on in the past week…

Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati

In other news:

Former Ohio State All-American cornerback Shawn Springs is CEO and founder of a company that claims it has a new technology designed to lessen the impact of blows to the head. This press release describes an airbag-inspired system that the company claims can be used in multiple areas, including football helmets. I know there is some debate about how much damage can be prevented when the biggest problem may simply be any movement that results in sudden stopping and the brain rattling around inside the skull, but it’s still good to see people working to do whatever they can to make sports safer…

Also nice to know there is science behind my perception that music now is worse than it used to be…

In other news regarding things that were better in the past, NCAA men’s basketball attendance figures are out, and they don’t look good for Ohio State. The Buckeyes, who had a disappointing season to be sure, drew an average of 12,283 fans for 21 home games. They ranked 28th nationally,12 spots than last year.

The average is a drop from 14,648 a year earlier and more than 1,500 fans below the previous worst average since Value City Arena opened for the 1998-99 season. It’s also less than the capacity of St. John Arena, the former home of the Buckeyes that sits across the river and is being allowed to rot away while the price for its ill-conceived replacements go up. The previous lowest national ranking for Ohio State’s attendance since moving to VCA was 18th in 2004, the last year of the Jim O’Brien era…

Sean Deveney of the Sporting News lays out his vision of how the Cavs can (if at all) get back into their NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors, and I tend to agree for the most part. I’m not sure they have to slow it down, but it might help (which is unfortunate from a pure basketball standpoint, but that’s life). Though LeBron himself protests in the story, it’s also suggested he needs to be more aggressive. Not sure he needs to go out and try for 50 points, but I don’t think something in the 20s is going to do it, either.

As an aside, this kind of reminds me of the debates about Votto’s hitting style back when the Reds were actually expected to win. Both James and Votto are probably right about the logical superiority of their perspectives on how they can be the most effective teammates, but sometimes that breaks down in reality.

There are times great players need to realize that there are things guys around them can’t actually be relied upon, and if a James or a Votto has a chance to take care of something himself, he should. It’s not a matter of being smarter than either of them about their craft. We aren’t. But there are times a little outside perspective can be useful, especially if it’s a philosophical debate in which reality sometimes gets forgotten….

And just before I was about to hit “send” on this piece, Ohio State announced it will expand alcohol sales to the entire stadium for football games this fall. I have no opinion on this, if you can believe it. Probably makes more sense to do it than not.

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