The state of the Nation is strong. For now. Will it stay that way?
No, I’m not talking about the team. The Redlegs are in tall clover right now. Out of town tryouts in Arizona are underway for the team that won 97 last year. Leading roles have been cast. Understudies will be determined during the next seven weeks of rehearsals leading up to Opening Night Day on Broadway J. Nuxhall Way. If you’re savvy and look closely, you’ll see one very significant addition to this year’s uniform: a chip affixed to the shoulder of every home and road jersey, thanks to last season’s playoff collapse. That should help. Every team could ask for more, but this year’s club has all anyone has a right to ask for in February.
No, I’m talking about the Nation. Us. The fans. Are we ready for this? Can we handle the, uh, you know, expectations? Not just those of the media, which are already huge, but more importantly, our own?
It only takes a long look down the street to see how things can go awry. Midway through the season, when the Bengals were slogging along with a 4 game losing streak, Andy Dalton’s arm became suspect. By season’s end, the offensive coordinator had suddenly become a dope. A playoff game was still warm when Lance McCalister took to Twitter to lay snark on the OC, wondering if the Eagles’ interview should include questioning Gruden’s commitment to getting the ball to DeShawn Jackson. We couldn’t get Bob Bratkowski out of town fast enough a couple of years ago. Now Gruden—a newly-minted golden boy–dubbed by the media as the smarter of the two Gruden brothers—must wear the Stupid Hat.
We love to devour our own when things take a left turn, don’t we? It’s as omnipresent at every game as wings and Yuenglings. Even the unimpeachable among us are not immune. I’m convinced the reason Marty Brennaman is so darn hard on young Jay Bruce is tied to the very fact that he sees him every day for six months each year and has decided the callow Bruce isn’t living up to expectations. It’s as plain as the hair on Mar….
…well, you get the idea.
So, let’s look it straight in the eye and just acknowledge this fact: 2013 is the Year of Expectations for Baseball in Cincinnati. Or put another way, the club is one collective Jay Bruce and the fan base is looking down from on high, ready to pounce on every shortcoming. We want it so badly.
1: the act or state of expecting
c : prospects of inheritance
Inheritance. Like family members sitting around waiting for the reading of the will, we won’t be happy if we fail to get what we believe belongs to us. And don’t we all believe a World Series appearance is due us? Be honest. It’s going on 23 years, for cryin out loud. A lot of years in the wilderness, hanging out with the likes of Eric Milton and Elmer Dessens. It wears on a body. We want it so badly.
Long before I read John Erardi’s fine piece on Aroldis Chapman and his nascent career as a starting pitcher, I was already wondering what the over/under would be on poor starts by Mr. 106 before a segment of the fan base would be screaming I TOLD YOU SO. When it was announced that the Reds had re-signed Logan Ondrusek, you would have thought Walt Jocketty had offered Chris Carpenter a multi-year deal to wear the Crescent C and made him captain to boot. A fair portion of the Reds’ fan base has given Ondrusek the Fredo treatment. He’s dead to them. Ditto for Massett, whose rehab still doesn’t include throwing off a mound as of yet. Never mind that both have been dominating at times for the Reds. Never mind that peripherals can’t possibly determine a relief pitcher’s true worth now or going forward. Never mind that we might need these guys somewhere along the road to October. We’ve already marked these guys down as losers who have little to nothing to offer the 2013 Reds.
Will we give Homer a chance to find a groove, or will we announce the return of Head Case Homer after a slow April? Will we allow Chapman to find his way as a starter? Or will we demand Big Unit-like results straight out of the gate? I can’t wait until the putative MVP of the club goes hitless for a couple of days. It will be all about The Knee. Redleg Nation knows the Club has a habit of coming out of the gate a little slow. Is that acceptable this year? The schedule probably gets tougher, since we won’t have those cardboard cutouts masquerading as a baseball team–the Astros–here to kick around. So how will we, the smartest fans in Baseball, handle this?
We’re strong, Nation. Can we stay that way? Cause if we’re honest, we must admit…
We want it so badly this time around.