Friday, March 8, 2013

The time is now for the Redlegs

by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
- Ecclesiastes 3:4

Long before the Byrds made this scripture into a hit song, Solomon penned these words in an effort to describe the meaning of life. While I don’t believe Solomon was a Cubs fan, these words ring true today.

I’ve recovered from the Reds collapse last October; especially since San Francisco went on to win the World Championship. I know that should have been OUR title; it was there for us to take, all we needed to do was go home, win one game and move on. We couldn’t get it done. Why? No one seems to have an answer. Was it Johnny Cueto’s Game 1 injury? Maybe, it did put a strain on our pitching staff. Was it Brandon Phillips getting thrown out at third base in the first inning of Game 3? An emphatic NO! That was an aggressive play that most baseball players take a chance on, it just didn’t work out. I appreciate Phillips aggressiveness. Was it the Scott Rolen’s error in the tenth inning of game 3, which allowed the eventual winning run to score? No, errors happen all the time. Was Mike Leake and Mat Latos tired? A possibility, they had never pitched that deep into October before.

I believe the reason the Giants won was the fact that they had been there before, the Reds, however, had not. San Francisco won the 2010 World Championship, and their veterans never panicked while trailing two games to none in the NLDS. The 2010 Reds bowed out in three games against Philadelphia, the 2012 team struggled to continue the momentum gained in San Francisco and fell in the face of a historic comeback. That happens frequently with young teams.

Is Choo the missing piece
 to the championship puzzle?
There was an air of excitement, despite the October disappointment, during this offseason. Remembering the decade of the 1960’s, the Reds were slowly building into a championship team. Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Tony Perez were developing into the superstars they would later become. Former Cincinnati GM Bob Howsam understood that the Reds were a couple of players away from becoming a championship team, and made the proper trades to accomplish that. One to Houston for Joe Morgan and Jack Billingham, the other to San Francisco for George Foster, and the rest is history. That trend is continuing with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. Current Reds GM Walt Jocketty made deals that have dramatically improved this team. First, the December 2011 trade that sent Edinson Volquez and Yonder Alonzo to San Diego for Mat Latos. Second, dealing Juan Francisco to Atlanta for J.J. Hoover right before the 2012 season began. Third, in picking up Jonathan Broxton at the trade deadline, this strengthened the bullpen. All those deals did was allow the team to win 97 games, up from 79 in 2011. The December 2012 trade sending the human strikeout machine, (not named Adam Dunn) Drew Stubbs to Cleveland for leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds could win 100 games for the first time since 1976. At least Choo can’t beat the Reds this season!

During the heyday of the 1970’s, we Reds fans had our share of disappointments, the 1970 and 1972 World Series losses, the 1973 NLCS stunning upset at the hands of the Mets, the 98 win second place finish in 1974. The 1975 Reds were hanging around the .500 mark six weeks into the season, and then the Big Red Machine reeled off an amazing streak of 87 wins in 120 games. On October 22, 1975, Reds fans everywhere enjoyed the first of what would become consecutive World Championships.

A few “experts” are crowning the Washington Nationals as the team to beat this season. I refer to former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green about crowning teams too early. (If you want to crown them, then crown their..uh..rectums.) I see what they mean; the Nats possess great pitching, potent offense, and a solid defense. Seems to me they suffered a huge collapse in Game 5 of last year’s NLDS too.

Please remember, championships are earned, not given. Games are played on the field, not on stat sheets. Look at Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari. Back in 2008, while coaching at Memphis, he was minutes away from earning his first ever NCAA championship as head coach. Leading Kansas by seven with two minutes to play, the Jayhawks pulled off an incredible comeback just to tie the game, and eventually won the title in overtime. What did Calipari do? Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he learned from his mistakes, became a better coach, motivator and mentor. He understood what it takes to become a champion, which is what he did as Kentucky coach by recruiting the necessary components needed to build a championship caliber team.

Champions are built from top to bottom. To have a championship team, management has to understand what it takes to achieve the goals required, whether on the playing field or the board room. A world class workforce is nothing if management does not know how to properly guide its employees through the process to take the corporation to the next level. The Reds have the management staff and have acquired the players necessary to lead Cincinnati to several World Championships. The struggle to reach the mountaintop makes the view from the top extra satisfying. I hope the 2013 season will be one Reds fans will remember for generations.

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