A year ago on this date, the Cincinnati Reds’ record stood at 42-34 and the team was in San Francisco playing the Giants. In the top of the fifth inning, with a 3-0 lead, Jay Bruce singled on a sharp line drive into right field off of Matt Cain.
And Joey Votto slid awkwardly into third base.
Every member of Redleg Nation knows what followed that infamous slide. The torn meniscus in his left knee led to Votto hobbling around the field for a couple of weeks, including a questionable appearance in the All-Star Game; disastrous medical management, and not one but two surgeries. Plus Joey Votto didn’t hit another home run in 2012.
Yet, despite all that, the team rallied to win the NL Central.
As we struggle to keep the faith during the current … um, slide … it’s worth remembering that no adversity the team faces right now remotely compares to the club’s loss, last season, of its MVP first baseman. And that surprising heroes, like the 2012 versions of Super Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick can appear.
As much fan as it would be, the Reds don’t have to be the best team in Major League Baseball on June 29. It’s October that matters.
One way or another, by October the Cincinnati Reds will have become a wholly different team than the one that stands 45-35 today. Maybe they’ll be worse, overcome by the injures and hindered by the headwinds of complacent management.
Or maybe they’ll be healthy, with Johnny Cueto, Sean Marshall and Big Brox on the mound. Ryan Ludwick might be back batting fourth and launching homers into the second deck of GABP. Walt Jocketty might have pulled off one of those trade-deadline moves that he has throughout his career. And Joey Votto, with two healthy knees, could be swinging the MVP bat we know he has.
Whether the Reds can consistently beat the first and second-place teams in the other divisions right now really doesn’t matter. The Reds don’t have to be the best team in MLB now. They have to be the best team in October.
Right now, they just have to find a way to win the NL Central.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.