After going more than a decade without a proper postseason, the Reds are making October a normal part of the season, last week clinching their second postseason berth in three years. And the way the roster has been built, there should be more to come.
Here’s why the Reds will continue to be successful over the coming years:
Age: The average age of the team’s starting rotation this season is 27 — and 25 when you take out 35-year-old Bronson Arroyo. Only two members of the bullpen have celebrated their 30th birthdays, 31-year-old Alfredo Simon and Sean Marshall, who turned 30 at the end of August. The regular eight average 29.75, but that includes Scott Rolen (37) and Ryan Ludwick (34), while not including Todd Frazier (26). Joey Votto recently turned 29, but is just getting better and better.
Smart contracts: There’s no albatross contract on this team — unless you count Votto’s, but Votto will be a Red as long as the team wants him after signing his 10-year extension last season. Walt Jocketty also struck early to lock up the likes of Johnny Cueto and Jay Bruce before they hit arbitration. Cueto, who was a front-runner for the Cy Young until the last month, is under team control through 2015 at a very reasonable rate. Bruce, who could finish with 35 homers, is a Red through 2017. The only questionable contract belongs to Brandon Phillips, but he’s still a Gold Glove worthy second baseman and has had a fantastic season at the plate. He’s signed through 2017, when he will be 36. That doesn’t sound too bad at this point, but look at Philadelphia’s Chase Utley as a warning sign. Utley’s 33 and three years ago he was the best second baseman in the game. Now he’s struggling and the team is considering a position change.
Consistent starting pitching: Only one of the team’s five starters isn’t under contract through 2014, and that’s the old man (and highest paid) of the bunch, Arroyo.
Cueto, Latos and Leake are under team control through 2015. Homer Bailey can be a free agent after the 2014 season. That kind of stability is crucial to a sustained run. All five have made all of their scheduled starts this season. It’s folly to expect that to happen every year, but they’ve shown the consistency that’s been absent for many years.
Commitment from the top: If there’s one thing Bob Castellini has shown in the last year, it’s that he’s committed to making this team a winner. He signed the big contracts for Votto and Phillips, OK’d the money to take on Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson this past season and also made the Reds the surprise winner for Aroldis Chapman. Unlike previous owners, Castellini wants to win and will put his money where his mouth is.
Walt Jocketty: Jocketty has taken his hits, but some of his most controversial moves appear to have worked out — the trades for Rolen, Marshall and Latos were all panned at the time, but have been integral for the team’s success this season and beyond.
To keep the fans (and the owner) satisfied, the team will have to move on to the National League Championship Series, but it seems clear that even if they don’t do it this year, they’ll have the opportunity to do it again in the coming years.
Thinking Out Loud
Any defensive coordinator who thinks he can cover A.J. Green one-on-one should be fired. If I’m game planning for the Bengals, I cover him with two guys when he’s on the field, one when he’s off — just to be safe. ... Not that this is breaking news, but the lockout of NFL referees has gotten to a ridiculous point. This is corporate bullying at its worst. Anyone who had the slightest sympathy for the owners has to realize the real refs need to be paid. Even Scott Walker is likely on the side of the referees after the final seconds of the Sept. 24 Green Bay-Seattle Monday Night Football game. ... You can nitpick about the competition, but Andy Dalton has been outstanding these last two weeks. If you beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, you’ll be in good shape — that’s something the Reds have done, and if the Bengals can follow suit, they may be better than expected. ... If you’ve never been to the Green Diamond Gallery in Montgomery, it’s as amazing a tribute to baseball as you’ll see this side of Cooperstown. They put on several fundraisers throughout the year, and one you should save your pennies for is coming up on Nov. 3 — the Courage and Character Foundation’s annual dinner will feature Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Mike Schmidt and Rod Carew. That’s an amazing lineup of pretty much the best players of the late-70s to mid-80s. Visit their site — courageandcharacter.org for more information. ... You may not have noticed (not many have) but the World Baseball Classic started this last week with qualifying. In Germany, Canada won its qualifier, but the team the Canadians beat had a Reds first baseman. Double-A first baseman Donald Lutz of Germany hit .308/.400/.385 in four games for the host team.
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