The Cincinnati Reds are going to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and the town is just incredibly stoked. Enthusiasm is rampant, expectations are off the charts. Fans are giddy.
It's contagious. Reds fans hang on every pitch. Downtown is awash in red. You don't know confidence until you come to the Queen City and experience the unwavering optimism the town has for its baseball team. It's humbling, actually.
It is possible, in an old-school baseball town where for a decade winning was a concept, that some folks are actually enjoying the winning. They're like the Japanese soldiers from World War II, holed up in caves on Borneo, a decade after the war ended.
I don't know them. I know the people quoted above. They post on my
Is Cincinnati happy for its baseball team? Yep. In its own, Cincinnati way. At various times during a year in which the home team has been in first place 105 days, and every day but two since Aug. 2, fans have celebrated the scrappy local nine by demanding that half the Everyday Eight be demoted, traded, waived or otherwise banished.
Baker has kept his young players confident while letting his vets run the clubhouse. It's a calm, loose place. The Reds have overachieved. Everybody gets along. If that's not partly Dusty's doing, then why have a manager?
Fans obsess instead on Baker's lineups, his affection for older, underperforming players, and the time he spends worrying about egos and psyches. The only difference between a Reds win and a Reds loss is the amount of second-guessing Baker hears. And believe me, he listens.
Not long ago, I asked Baker if he'd pondered replacing closer
It was a legitimate question. Baker decided the whole world was against him.
"Some people didn't like the (stuff) I was doing from the start of the season. They didn't like whatever the hell they didn't like. Those people don't manage this ball club. They don't understand the psychological dynamics. There were people that wanted (since-traded
"I ain't worried about what people say. Let's enjoy what we have instead of thinking about what we don't have. How 'bout that?'' Baker said.
That's not how it works in Cincinnati. We're not great at living it up around here. We don't trust success, maybe because we don't see it very much, and when we do, it's just passing through.
We think like a hitter: If we're successful three times out of 10, we're batting .300, and that's pretty good. Success is not trustworthy when your town's athletic resume looks like a banana peel.
On paper, the Reds would seem the least attractive NL playoff representative. They do have losing records against all potential October foes. They don't have a big-time No. 1 starter. Cordero has been a foot in the shower, waiting for a renegade bar of soap.
The Reds will win the weakest division in the National League, maybe in all of baseball. They're ker-bumping to the finish line, having lost 12 of 21 this month. As a small-money team, they'll always be up against the payroll wall.
But the last time they made the playoffs,
Compared to that, these playoffs are a skate across a pond. Unless you're from around here.
Reds fans love their Reds, the best way they know. Every silver lining has its cloud.