Saturday, July 08, 2006

AND THIS ONE BELONGS TO THE REDS--NOT!

Once again, the Cincinnati Reds lost a heartbreaker this evening. This time, it was the Atlanta Braves who did us in. As has so often been the case recently, it looked as if the Reds were going to win throughout much of the game. Aaron Harang had a masterful outing for the Reds against long-time pitching ace John Smoltz of the Braves but, in the end, it wasn't to be. The Reds ended up losing in Atlanta tonight, 4-1.

This has been an interesting year to be a Reds fan. After years of frustration, the Reds have appeared to turn something of a corner this year. They have been doggedly pursuing the lead in the NL Central, incessantly nipping at the heels of the divison-leading St. Louis Cardinals. At one time, they were even tied for the lead in the division. Unfortunately, every time it looks as if the situation is ripe for the Reds to take control of the division, they stumble. I remain hopeful, however, that the situation will change. The Reds appear to have the firepower to remain in the pennant race for the long haul this year, and their fans are cautiously optimistic that that will be the case.

Offensively, the Reds have a potent aresenal at the disposal of manager Jerry Narron. No matter how far behind they get, they never seem to be out of it due to the always-ready-to explode bats of Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Austin Kearns, et al. The bugaboo this year has been the bullpen. While the starting pitching has been sufficient, and at times brilliant, the relievers have repeatedly given up leads that the Reds have taken late into games. Bronson Arroyo has been a tremendous starting pitcher for the Reds this year, coming over from the Boston Red Sox, but even he can't be expected to pitch complete games every outing. The same goes for Aaron Harang.

Help may be on the way. The Reds recently acquired Eddie Guardado from the Seattle Mariners, and he appears to be a legitimate big league closer. In order to be successful, however, the Reds must obtain at least one good middle reliever as well.

Who will the Reds use as trade bait to obtain additional relief pitching? That is a hot topic among fans these days. Some mention Ryan Freel, because he would certainly be attractive to almost any team due to his versatility and speed. I feel, however, that he is too valuable to let go. As much as I hate to say it, I think that the Reds will have to trade one of their excellent catchers for a proven relief pitcher. Jason Larue and David Ross are both quality starting major league catchers. I feel certain that a good reliever could be obtained for one of them. Given the shaky relief pitching, the Reds can't afford to carry both of them.

Of course, it must be noted that it is great fun for the Reds to still be in the hunt at the all-star break this year. That certainly hasn't been the case in recent years. Normally by this time, frustration has set in, and I find myself eagerly anticipating football season because the Reds have long been out of contention. Not so this year, and for that I am very thankful.

Readers of my previous post will understand that I have been a Reds enthusiast since I was a wee lad. At some point in a future post, I will seek to explain why they have always been so important to me. For now, I can only tell you that I will be watching and/or listening to the Reds every day, hoping for a magical conclusion of the year to unfold.

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