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5 Reasons to LOVE the 2013 Reds


I gotta’ be honest...I used to CRUSH Valentine’s Day.

Back in high school, when sparks were flying and emotions were running high, V-Day was my bread and butter.  I was the king of homemade heart-shaped cards, picture collages with brightly-colored construction paper backgrounds, and poems that may or may not have always included Goo Goo Dolls lyrics.

Unfortunately, since then my V-game has plummeted noticeably. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m married, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m a grown man, but since high school I’ve kind of grown to hate February 14th. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my wife and get a lot of joy out of doing nice things for/with her...but something about a day where those things are basically mandated by society rubs me the wrong way. (Sorry females, but no matter how much your boo tells you he “doesn’t mind” Valentine’s Day and “cherishes” the opportunity to celebrate it with you...he actually doesn’t. He agrees with me.)

This year, however, I’ve decided to turn it around. The stone-faced, scroogey Reed is history ya’ll, and in his place I present to you the most oogly-eyed, sap-drenched, romance-crazed gentleman you’ll ever encounter. (Think Romeo Montague mixed with any Jude Law character, submerged in a bucket of strawberries.)

That’s right people; in the spirit of the day, I’m finally ready to love and be loved.

And I can think of no better way to consummate my transformation than by celebrating the first true love of my life. A romance I’ve cultivated since I was but a twinkle in my mother’s eye. The subject of my thoughts as I rise each morning, and the leading lady in the most fantastical of my nightly dreams.  

You guessed it, ladies. I’m talking about baseball.

Spring training has touched down in Arizona and Florida, saving us from the drudgery that is the February sports landscape, so I feel it’s my duty as a sports blogger/romance fanatic to help the rest of you bask in what is the beginning of one of the most glorious times of year.

In a Redsmix Valentine’s Day exclusive I present you with the 5 things to absolutely love about the 2013 Cincinnati Reds...

1) They finally, finally, FINALLY found a leadoff hitter. Willy Taveras. Corey Patterson. Drew Stubbs.

These are the phantoms that have haunted my slumber for nearly the last decade. The collective of underperformers who held the leadoff spot in Cincinnati hostage for the better part of my 20’s, cobbling together .230 batting averages and spawning countless “SOMEBODY’S dating Dusty’s daughter” conspiracy theories.

This year, however, it was like a light came on. It was like general manager Walt Jocketty walked into Dusty Baker’s office, dumped a bucket of ice water on Baker’s head, yelled “LEADOFF HITTERS ARE A REAL THING, DAMMIT”, and stormed out.

In adding Shin-Soo Choo, the OBP maven from Cleveland, Jocketty sent a clear message: the primary job of the first batter in the lineup is NOT, in fact, to just be super fast. After all, Patterson/Taveras/Stubbs all would beat Choo in a footrace easily. However, it wouldn’t matter if the freaking Flash was batting leadoff if all he did was strikeout, which is what Pattaverubbs did masterfully.

BONUS: Having Choo on the roster effectively takes Baker’s beloved lineup-tinkering and tosses it into the Ohio River. Assuming he doesn’t slip into Mendoza territory, Choo will lead off, meaning Brandon Phillips WILL bat second,  and so on and so forth. Put plainly: this year, more than any other, we know exactly what to expect.

2) They’re young. There is nothing worse than looking up and down your favorite team’s roster and seeing nothing but journeymen role players. Guys like Scott Hatteberg. Ramon Hernandez. Rich Aurilia.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but it seems like up until a couple years ago, the Reds have LIVED on guys like that. One and two-year contract type guys. 34-year-olds who will hit .260 and play 120 games.

That being said, it’s great to go to a Reds game and see a slew of cornerstone players that are locked up for years and still in their 20’s. With a lineup core of Jay Bruce (25), Joey Votto (29), Todd Frazier (27), and Zack Cozart (27), and talent-rich starters Johnny Cueto (26), Mat Latos (25), Homer Bailey (26), and Aroldis Chapman (24), Cincinnati is set up to rule the NL Central for years.  

3) They MIGHT just have the best pitcher in the world. Justin Verlander is a great pitcher. Dominant, consistent, and incredibly valuable. That being said, I think Aroldis Chapman can be better.

Why? Well, first of all, he throws harder. Ask any Major League hitter and they’ll all agree: 99 is a lot more hittable than 104 (trust me, I asked tons of them.)

Second of all, he’s younger. Not to say younger is always better (there were tons of things I stunk at when I was a teenager, AMIRITE GUUUUYS?), but it’s safe to say that Verlander’s current dominance can be attributed partially to the fact that he’s in the prime of his career. Chapman (24), on the other hand, is just scratching the surface of his talent ceiling, yet he was still one of the most devastating hurlers in the game last season.

Relax, guys, I know all the knocks (he may not make the bullpen-rotation transition well, he’s injury-prone, he only has two quality pitches, controlcontrolcontrol), but I’m still not counting out the possibility that Reds fans MAY JUST see the best pitcher in the game slide into the five-hole in their rotation this year.

That’s about as exciting as it gets.  

4) They have seven starting pitchers. Last season, the Reds had four guys pitch 200 innings apiece, one guy pitch 180, and between the five of them, they never missed a start. The only imperfection was when the team was forced to play a doubleheader, so Minor League spot-starter Todd Redmond got the ball. Other than that, a total of five guys carried the load all year long.

As a point of comparison, here’s what Reds pitching staffs have managed to put together over the last 10 years (year--number of guys getting at least one start--number of guys with 200+ innings):

2012 --6--4
2011--10-0
2010--9-1
2009--9--1
2008--10--1
2007--11-2
2006--12--2
2005--9--1
2004--12--0
2003--17--0

What those numbers mean (for the non-statheads) is that what the 2012 Reds rotation was able to accomplish was, in a word, INCREDIBLE. (It also apparently means that 2003 was the summer from hell, but I digress........seriously though........wow).

Not to be a buzzkill, but 2012 will not happen again. It just won’t. At least one guy will get injured (if it’s only one, well then that would be fabulous), at least one guy will struggle, and a handful of band-aid type dudes will undoubtedly be called upon throughout the year. It’s how baseball ALWAYS works. Except, of course, last year in Cincy.

Luckily for us fans, the Reds have options this year. The long-awaited Chapman Experiment should bump Mike Leake to the bullpen (or Triple-A). That alone makes for a great insurance policy, as Leake pitched 180 innings last year, had eight wins, two complete games, and will only be in his fourth year of professional ball. However, possibly even more tantalizing is top Reds prospect Tony Cingrani, a lefty strikeout machine who will be waiting by the phone in Louisville. Toss in stalwart long-relief man Sam Lecure, and the Reds have as much quality pitching depth as any team in the league.

Booyah.

5) They’ve got a great shot to win it all. The Braves are good. The Giants are good. The Nationals are really good. However, let’s all take a moment to bask in one awesome reality: ALL OF THOSE TEAMS ARE SAYING THE SAME THING ABOUT THE REDS.

I’m not saying the Redlegs will win the World Series. I’m not even saying they’ll get there. But outside of DC, I challenge you to find a more complete team, one that has a better chance.

You can’t. Know why?

Because the Reds won 97 games last season (second most in baseball).

Because not only do they return every main contributor, they also added a leadoff man with a career .381 OBP who replaces a guy (Stubbs) who was as close to an automatic out as the Majors had.

Because Mat Latos and Homer Bailey were only beginning to put things together toward the end of the year, and both have “ace” talent.

Because the best pure hitter in the game (Votto) was injured for almost two months last season, but is now fully healthy.

Because Aroldis Freaking Chapman will be starting games.

I’m not saying the Reds will win their first ‘chip since 1990. I’d hate to be so bold. But today, Valentine’s Day, a day where the color red is painted across the world and romance abounds, I gotta’ be honest:

I love their chances.

For more from Reed Domer-Shank, visit his blog: J O U R N E Y M E N . You can also follow Reed on Twitter: @ReedDS20, or contact him directly at Reed.Domershank@gmail.com.

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