I would have thought that I'd be used to this by now. Afterall, I'm a Cincinnati Reds fan.
When the calendar hits July, typically the only thing that means much as a Reds fan is when does training camp begin for football?
Every year I hold out hope that there might be some reason to continue thinking that this year may be different. With the entire National League Central mostly tripping over their collective cleats, the Reds hovered around the top of the division.
Then came the first real test.
A home series against the rival Cardinals, a team that sits at the top of the central, yet is just seven games above .500 currently Of course my Reds can compete with them I thought as a bead of sweat began to form above my brow. These Cardinals aren't so tough even with Albert Pujols rocketing pitching around the universe. We came in off back-to-back pitchers' duel wins against Arizona and looked set to compete.
Less than a week later, I'm counting the days to Colts' Camp.
Amazing how losing back-to-back games by a combined 32-2 score will do that to you. It was bad enough to have Bronson Arroyo get shelled for the umpteenth time in a row in the series finale against the Cardinals (a 10-1 loss), but to have Philadelphia post a touchdown and a field goal against your ace (Johnny Cueto) IN THE FIRST INNING of a road trip? That led me to fashion a white flag to begin waving.
Twenty-six days to Colts camp.
Where do we go from here I wonder?
Yeah the Reds aren't out of the race completely. We're still within a couple of games of first place, but it isn't looking good heading into the All-Star break. Pitching has been our strength, but even that has been pretty shaky since the beginning of the month. The hitting is still anemic with five starters hitting .259 or lower. That doesn't give any fan much faith in stringing together three or four wins in a row together, much less contending for anything other than a potential .500 record.
Yes, there is hope for the future as the farm system is finally beginning to produce prospects in the lower levels. But how long do we have to wait? How long does the parent club keep the under producing starters going out there every day? Should the Reds investigate potential deals to add a productive bat? Cincinnati is on the verge of competing, but what path do we take? I'm not a big believer in mortgaging the future for brief success in the present. The likelihood of the Reds being able to trade for a big bat and being able to sign them to a longer range deal is slim to none. Afterall, the Reds are a middle market team that has to keep the payroll fairly low, which means no big name free agents. Instead we must develop our draft choices and make the most of drawing young talent that we receive in trades for our veterans.
As much as I hate to admit it, perhaps it is time for the Reds to begin shopping some of our under performing players to dump a little payroll and add a couple more prospects. The plan worked for Tampa Bay, which stockpiled talent through trading over priced veterans to playoff contenders until it was their turn to take on the big dogs.
So as a true fan, I'll continue to watch and take my lumps along with my team. At least I haven't taken too much grief from those around me. Cubs fans can't chirp too loud because Chicago isn't playing much better than the Reds. Cardinals fans are hanging their hats on Pujols alone half the time, which is enough to win more often than not lately.
But time will only tell which path the Reds will march down this season, whether the team will be a buyer or a seller. But at least football is on the horizon, merely three sweet weeks until another glimmer of hope and a new season begins.