Unfortunately, we won’t be experiencing the dramatic month that the Reds and their fans had hoped, let alone October. Sure, the team still has 25 games left to play, mostly against NL Central rivals. But for those of us cheering for Bryan Price’s Reds, the expectation that the final four weeks would be a head-to-head thriller has been dashed.
[Gotta get this out of my system: If the Reds had managed simply to play .500 ball since the All-Star game, they would be 1.5 games out of first place and if one of those extra wins had come against St. Louis and Milwaukee the Reds would just be .5 games back. Blrgh.]
The Broxton salary dump yesterday, while welcome, indicates the organization has begun to turn more of its attention to 2015 and beyond. So why shouldn’t we? But as the grim march toward mathematical elimination takes place, other than morbid spectacle, what remains to keep the attention of Reds fans? Beyond yearning for free pizza, spoiling other teams’ seasons, and the enhanced nightly chance of watching a no-hitter, how should a Reds fans spend September?
This is one way to go:
I can understand choosing to tune out. But that’s not for me. I’ve invested too much in this team to quit them. Even though two of my favorite players to watch — Joey Votto and Homer Bailey — are on the DL and their returns in 2014 are questionable, there is still much I enjoy about seeing the Redlegs play.
In addition to cheering for the occasional win, I’ll be focused on these eight things:
1. Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier Each has provided a big bat for long parts of this season. The conventional wisdom about the Reds for the past few years is that they are too left-handed (last year, Choo, Votto, Bruce) and the complaint about last off-season (by me) was that Walt Jocketty didn’t sign a reliable power bat to play LF. But Mesoraco and Frazier have, at times, this year been that bat. But they have both been prone to prolonged slumps as well. So can either one of them be that right-handed bat for the Reds going forward? I’ll be watching the last month for signs on that one way or another.
2. Billy Hamilton September is the month that makes the big league season longer than the minor league season. My benchmark for Hamilton is around .265/.270 for batting average and .300/.305 for on base percentage. If his September surpasses that benchmark, it’s a positive. If he has a worse September than the benchmark, that’s a concern. I’m cautiously optimistic.
3. Zack Cozart Because I’m going to watch Zack Cozart finish off his spectacular, possibly Gold Glove, defensive season. He’s made all the plays.
4. Johnny Cueto Cueto will make a push for the NL Cy Young award and I want to watch that. I think the odds are against him beating Clayton Kershaw, but I do think it’s now a two-pitcher race, with Adam Wainwright in fading health. The last month will decide it, one way or another.
5. Mike Leake Can Leake can lock down this season as a step forward? His last five starts could indicate whether he has taken a step ahead (maybe a legit #3) or whether he is still basically the same pitcher he has been for a couple years (#4 or #5). Pulling for him.
6. Aroldis Chapman The Cuban Missile could set the all-time record for K% in a season. That would be quite an accomplishment for a guy who got hit in the head with a line drive and missed more than a month of the season. As part of that, I’ll also be watching to see how much Chapman uses his off-speed pitches (14 pitches today, 7 fastballs, 6 sliders, 1 changeup).
7. Young players We’ll find out about the call-ups tomorrow. Beside Kristopher Negron, I’m not much interested in the guys who have already been up this year. Not terribly excited about more Soto or Lutz or Barnhart or Holmberg. Curtis Partch, sure. But do I hope the Reds call up – and play – Yorman Rodriguez, Raisel Iglesias and Daniel Corcino.
8. Kristopher Negron If Negron played every single day, either at 3B, 2B or OF, I’d love it. He’s already earned a presumption to be on the 2015 active roster. Although, I’m realistic about his minor league track record. And he’ll be 29 by Opening Day. But I do enjoy watching him. Great enthusiasm.
We all have our own personal interests, and those are mine. What, if anything, will you be paying particular attention to with the Reds in September?
Happy Labor Day everyone!
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.