Monday, August 12, 2013

We want to win it all.

I saw it again.

Scrolling down my feed, there was Reds media berating the fans through social media. It happens frequently. As far as I can tell, the only ones who haven't done it are Mark Sheldon and John Eradi.

Over the weekend, there were a couple of writers involved on Twitter. Last week, it was Jim Day. Paul Daugherty writes whole columns about how awful the fans are. Last year, Jamie Ramsey challenged a guy to a fight or something like that. I don't remember exactly what it was anymore; it was too stupid and I know he was embarrassed about it.

Plenty of idiots exist in the world, and now they can spew their nonsense at the click of a mouse. That doesn't mean you should give them attention, especially if you are using social media in a professional capacity. Attention is what they're seeking, anyway. There's a reason Twitter has a "block" feature. Engaging trolls and other forms of lesser intelligent life is unprofessional and it makes the entire organization look bad. Believe me, I know. I am the social media manager for a political research firm. You guys think you have trolls? Oh. My. God. You don't even know.

The media guys take issue with fans being unhappy with the team's play. Why should we be happy with it? The Reds are hitting .198 over last 14 games, going 6-8 while averaging 3 runs. We got the crap beat out of us twice against the Cardinals at a time when those are supposed to be like playoff games. Because they are, in a sense. This offensive slump is terrible and prolonged. We're supposed to be happy about that?

That's an example, of course. We have other complaints, as you know. Dusty Baker's bullpen management drives many of us crazy. (Who likes to see the same mistakes made over and over again?)  The baserunning blunders? Infuriating and unacceptable at the major league level. The errors seem to come in bunches, but that could be a misperception. Should I mention the bizarre anti-Votto cult that is upset because he doesn't have a high RBI total? No, they're just weirdos. But hey, they are entitled to their opinions, as misguided as they may be! No reason to continually bash them, it just fuels them. Anyway, they're fed by Marty and others continuously. (Talk about a complainer! Marty is public enemy numero uno. Sorry, but it's true.)

Cincinnati has a proud baseball tradition. We love the mythology of being the first professional team. We've won five World Series and nine pennants. We fielded one of the best teams in the history of the game with five three Hall of Famers. We were the dominant team for a decade and many of us have grown up with that legend. Winning is in our blood.

Then came the losing. Nine years of it, as a matter of fact. We watched our beloved team field mediocrity perennially with no real concern from the ownership. We'd weathered the Rose scandal, dealt with Marge Schott, got screwed in the 1994 strike, and lost a one-game playoff after winning 96 games in 1999. But we were never prepared for the losing years.

It wasn't just bad management, though that was a major part of it. These were times when the behemoths of baseball had run over the smaller markets, when ESPN ignored teams with payrolls under $100 million, when the same teams made the playoffs boring every year after using our clubs as a farm system. And then there was Junior.


Bob Castellini changed all that, brought pride back to the city. When he took over, we knew we were building a winner. He made us feel as if we were part of the team, as if he cared that we were there. It wasn't "The Reds" or "they" anymore, it was "we." Ours was the most talked about farm system in baseball. We had Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. We signed a big-name manager. Then came the long-term contracts. Then came the big cable TV deal. Then came the mind-blowing signing of Aroldis Chapman. We came to understand that he was firmly committed to winning. And then it happened. Not only did we finally have a winning season, but we won the division, and for the first time in 15 years, we got to watch baseball in October.

But we were no hit in one game and were swept in the series. Out with a whimper. It was bittersweet. Or just bitter.

That's ok, we had next year, right? We'd been building a team to win for years, so we'd be back. Ah, what a disappointment! Devastated by injuries, we were heartbroken in 2011.

That's ok, we had next year, right? Yes! We soundly won the division, putting 97 wins in the victory column, trailing the Nationals for best record in baseball by only one game. We were gooooood. This was our year. We would be putting another trophy in that gorgeous room in our wonderful Hall of Fame. We ran over the Giants in the first two games of the series and had all the confidence in the world that this was our year. But something had happened. Misfortune came at us like Medusa, and our ace went down in the first inning of the NLDS. Somehow, as if the baseball gods had smited us once more, we dropped three straight games at home, and baseball in October was done for us. Again. The stunned feeling I had when Posey hit that grand slam is still vivid in my mind. Agony.

Yeah, we're in a solid position to get into the playoffs again this year. But we don't want a Wild Card. We want to win the division, damn it! We're the defending NL Central champs! I'm not going to lie and say I won't be disappointed if we get into the playoffs via the WC. We should defend that title! But we're not going to ignore the team if they get in by WC. Geesh.

When the team couldn't hit water if it fell out of a boat, that's cause for concern. If the team looks lifeless, we'll demand life, fire, intensity - what winning teams have. And if someone says "pathetic" during or after a game, that's not throwing in the proverbial towel. That's describing the performance. That's wanting more. We're scoreboard watching and feel like we're not keeping up. We had dropped to seven games out.

How do you, Cincinnati media, not recognize that the complaining you perceive, the whining, is a manifestation of the disappointment we've been feeling for far too long? How can you not understand that our hearts have been broken time and time again? We have learned to recognize the signs of impending disaster, to anticipate the heartbreak. Our faith has been tested continually. We are mistrusting of fortune. We are weary of letdown. Baseball is an emotional game. Ours is a romance that goes back 144 years - can you imagine being married that long?

So stop berating us as a fanbase. Stop telling us how awful we are. We are allowed to be upset when the team underperforms. These players are great. The pitching is fantastic. We have one of the best hitters in baseball. We have the best defensive second baseman in the game. We had two starters in the All Star Game. We have Aroldis Chapman. We expect to win.

And we will.

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