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.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Welcome to the playoff chase; some of you aren't invited.

We have a small game package to Nats games this year that we split among Chris's siblings. I think there are eight of us who bought the package with decent seats, as you can see in the photo. But because most of his siblings live in the suburbs of Maryland, they can't always make the games, so we've ended up going to more than we originally thought since we live in DC. We've also gone to plenty of other games not in these seats, including all four of the games when the Reds were in town. This is nothing unusual; I've gone to 15-20 games a year since the team moved from Montreal to DC except when I wasn't in DC in 2008, the first year of the new ballpark.

I feel, though, that the frequency of attending games has increased in the last few weeks; we've been to games every weekend they were home since the All Star break. This is due to the sense of urgency I feel at this time of year. You look at the schedule and suddenly you're wondering where the season went, where the summer went, and trying to cram in as many games as possible before time runs out. We're almost to the point where we start talking magic numbers, and we're definitely in the playoff chase part of the year. We're in the haves and have-nots part of the season when some teams have all but been eliminated and some of us are still clinging to playoff hopes. We're in that part of the season when math counts, when irrational hope arises, and when desperation can send you into emotional chaos.

We're also in that part of the season when silly happens. Nats announcers and fans don't want to believe they're out of it, especially after they tasted winning for the first time last year, so they scoreboard watch and hope they can over come a 9 game deficit and overtake 2 teams to grab a Wild Card spot. At least they're not saying they're going to catch Atlanta anymore. But the Wild Card hopes are equally as ridiculous, especially since the team did nothing to improve itself with trades or call ups when its chances were on life support in June/July. Instead, they fired the hitting coach, as if that would solve everything. It's ok, though. I'm still going to cram in as many games as my budget will allow.

Last postseason was a great one, with all my favorite teams getting in. I guess you could say it wasn't great because all my favorite teams lost. Well, the Giants won the whole thing, but they beat the Reds, so that doesn't count as good. The Reds have won the division two of the last three seasons (and will win this year, too) but have been knocked out in the first round both times. While getting to the postseason and losing is better than not getting to the postseason at all, it certainly isn't fun. I feel lucky that I know what winning a World Series feels like, though I was in 8th grade when it happened. Losing in the playoffs just leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth, and then you have all winter to brood over it followed by a whole season where you wonder if you'll be able to get in again.

I tell you what - even though I believe the Reds are still going to win the division, I'm relieved that they are in a comfortable Wild Card spot. You know, just in case.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Vibes, Man, The Vibes

Well, it didn't work. Though I was shocked that the virtual voodoo doll of Andrew McCutchen kept him out of the starting lineup (that was it, I'm sure!), the magic only lasted seven innings before McCutchen pinch hit and played a key role in yet another Pissburgh Pyrites victory. In doing so, the Reds dropped to a season high SEVEN games behind first even though none of them picked up a baseball today. Just when I was starting to feel the comeback.

The Marlins were cruising with a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning when they suddenly remembered they were the Marlins and decided to hand over the entire lead to the Pyrites. They played like soggy fishsticks, led by the soggiest of all, Brad Qualls, who pitched like the ball was covered with putrid tartar sauce that had been sitting out in desert sun for a week. Wait, that would be Chad Qualls. Forgive me for getting the name confused, for the pitcher now known as Qualls is not the same one as he who was an excellent reliever with the Asstros and the Douchebacks for the first six years of his Major League career. Now he's a steaming pile of putrid tartar sauce that has been left out in the desert sun for the last four years.

Why all the animosity towards a less-than-mediocre middle reliever? Well, see, it has to do with the putrid stench of the tartar sauce getting in the way of the power of the voodoo, which was so bad that it added half a game to the Pissburgh Pyrites division lead. Also, it probably has something to do with the Cuban voting block that still can't get over the fact Castro took their land all those decades ago and they're never getting it back. The vibes, man, the vibes. All sorts of negative energy going on in all things Miami, including the hideousness of the Fishstick unis, all orangy and blinding and stuff.

I need to work on stronger voodoo magic.

Voodoo Time

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Dear Diary: Stop the Noise. Stop the Pyrites. Stop Mediocrity.

I'm writing something here even though I don't have anything well-thought out to say. That's really the problem here. I always wondered how beat writers do it, how they write every day. I suppose that's why beat articles have become so formulaic. How did guys like Hal McCoy churn out great game articles day after day?

I suppose it's because they have to. They don't have full-time jobs that prevent them from churning out articles - it's what they get paid to do. The rest of us have to make time to write, and I'm a slooooooow writer. I don't have a linear brain; I can't write from the beginning of an article to end. I've tried outlines, but the truth is I can't write them. Half the time I only have a vague idea of what I want to say - basically I have a point I want to make and have to figure out how to get there. The thing is, I want every word to be right, and that's just not the nature of blogs, at least those that are written every day. I'm also not very disciplined. I envy the rare writer who can put something together every day that isn't gibberish or rehashed ideas from somewhere else. The longest lasting blogs have often survived because they took on multiple writers. I never wanted to do that. My blog was like a story, each post with a different chapter, and having someone else participate on my blog or joining someone else's wasn't what I wanted.

I was looking up baseball blogs that I used to read back when I read blogs, before social media destroyed our collective attention span and our individual ones, too. I knew what to expect and was disappointed to find I was right, that many of them are dead. This one barely breathes. I've tried to revive it many times and wonder how I ever had the time to create something every day. Then the weird thought occurs to me about how I seemed to be more enthusiastic about the 2006 Reds than I am about the current team. I don't think that's true, but what is true is that I don't participate in online activity at the same rate as I did back then. Of course, the internet is completely different now, not just the tools you can use but the people, too. Back at the peak of personal blogs, the people who wrote them had intelligent things to say. Now the loudmouths tend to get in the way of intelligent discourse. I guess you can say the great unwashed masses discovered the internet.

Whatever. The tools changed everything, killing much long-form writing. 140 characters rule now. For whatever reason, everyone thinks his opinion is equal to others. Morons tell players how to play. Idiots tell scientists about science. Ignorami tell doctors how to doctor. And college students think they know more than professionals. Hello? You're in college. You're there because you DON'T know things.

The Reds won today. I don't really doubt they're going to the playoffs. But after winning the division for two of the last three years, it's hard to accept anything else. And I'm sitting here glued to the scoreboard, wondering why the useless Marlins can't score a run to tie it. At least the Taint Louis Dreadbirds are losing.

Since Pittsburgh may now be worthy of a nickname, and Pittifulsburgh isn't accurate, I've taken to calling them the Pyrites. Pyrite is a rock that is also known as Fools Gold. I think it's appropriate. Pyrite fans think their team is going to win the World Series. They aren't. The team is not as good as their record. Pitching is good, offense is weak. Fools Gold. Fake gold. Another possibility is Vampirates. Blood suckers. But vampires are too well liked in today's American culture. I like the Pyrites. I think I'll stick with it.

I don't want a Wild Card. Even if we get into the playoffs that way, it will be disappointing. We play the Pyrites six more times and Taint Louis seven more times, so the Reds' destiny is up to them.