Monday, August 18, 2014

October aspirations sinking quickly for Reds after disaster in Denver

On April 15, 1912, while en route to America, arguably the most infamous ship wreck in the history of the world occurred when the RMS Titanic, owned by White Star Line, struck an iceberg and descended to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean within a matter of hours. News that the previously labeled "unsinkable ship" had sank was received across the world in utter dismay. How could the life of this impenetrable vessel be over so soon after it had departed on its maiden voyage just five days prior?

On Sunday, the 2014 season for the Cincinnati Reds suffered a similar fate when the Reds inexplicably melted down at Coors Field, sustaining two brutal back-to-back losses to the woeful Rockies that essentially put both a huge dent in the club morale and the odds of a trip back to the playoffs. Ironically, the forgettable Sunday evening was caused by the same thing that doomed the Titanic, an overabundance of water, except Cincinnati's problem stemmed from a mysterious water main break.

At this point, let me make it clear that I'm not seriously comparing the tragic sinking of the Titanic, which sadly resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 souls, to that of a relatively meaningless baseball team's season. The fateful event from 1912 means to serve more as symbolism to Cincinnati's 2014 campaign more than anything. With that said, there are certainly parallels to draw from both events.

Like the Titanic's maiden voyage, the 2014 season was supposed to be one of enjoyment. The Reds entered spring training with high expectations following its third trip to the postseason in four years. But the club also entered with a mindset of unfinished business after an unsavory finish to the 2013 campaign, which ended with an uninspiring loss at PNC Park to the pesky Pirates.

Aside from concerns over the offense, the Reds looked poised to contend on the strength of an elite starting rotation and a stingy bullpen. However, a rash of injuries and a string of bad luck quickly darkened the outlook for a joyful season. Key players began to hit the training room, one-run losses became the norm, and the club quickly found itself in a hole it has been desperately trying to dig out of since April.

With just 38 games remaining in the regular season, it seems as though time is running out for Price's squad, if it hasn't run out already. Entering Monday's game in St. Louis, the Reds trailed the Brewers for first place by a whopping 8.5 games, and sat 4.5 games out of the second Wild Car spot. Theoretically, the Reds still stand a chance at making a run for a Wild Card slot, but treading water by playing .500 baseball is no longer an option. And the road ahead for the Reds won't make it easy.

Cincinnati just completed what most viewed as one of the softer spots in their schedule and failed to take advantage by posting a losing record. Now, the Reds must face two teams ahead of them in the standings, which provides both a challenge and an opportunity. After that, the Reds close out the year with 19 consecutive games against division rivals.

Stranger things have happened, but the realist who has watched this team on a regular basis throughout the year realizes that the season, for all intensive purposes, ended August 17 in Colorado. The Reds are fighting hard with the healthy roster of players they have left. But the grim truth is that the offense is typically abysmal on a daily basis, the bullpen is volatile, and the starting pitching is beginning to look vulnerable. This is not a recipe for success for a team trying to make a late push for the postseason.

While other teams in the hunt seem to be trending upwards, the Reds seem locked in a downward spiral at the moment, falling farther and farther away from the top. Perhaps the return of Brandon Phillips will inject some life into a weary team. Perhaps not. One thing is for certain, though, you can't tread water and expect to get where you want to go. The rusty wreckage of the Titanic laying on the ocean floor is evidence of this.


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