The Cincinnati Reds seem to be the forgotten team when talking about World Series contenders in 2013. This despite winning 97 games and their second National League Central division title in three years in 2012. They are hardly mentioned with the likes of fellow post season contenders the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and worlds champion San Francisco Giants.
The Reds finished with the second best record in MLB only one game behind the Nationals. Cincinnati won the NL Central by nine games over the Cardinals and was never really challenged. The Reds accomplished this despite the fact that their best player, first baseman Joey Votto, played in only 111 games. Cincinnati also had to deal with the health of their manager Dusty Baker who suffered a stroke in September and missed time before the post season began.
Baker’s health may have been a factor in the Reds losing their NL Divisional Series to the Giants. Despite holding a 2-0 lead in the best of five series, Cincinnati lost three straight at home and watched San Francisco go on to win it all. Somehow, all of this seems to be forgotten going into this season.
One of the reasons may be the success of St. Louis. The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 and advanced further than the Reds last season by reaching the NL Championship Series where they also lost to the Giants. By going deeper into the post season than the Reds, St. Louis may have made people take Cincinnati for granted.
The Reds will get another chance to prove their worth this season. The nucleus of their team returns with Votto healthy and hoping to get back to his all-star form. Second baseman Brandon Phillips will continue to be the glue of the infield and will be joined by shortstop Zack Cozart. Right fielder Jay Bruce returns after picking up the slack for Votto with his 34 home runs and 99 RBI.
The pitching staff is solid with Johnny Cueto leading the way. Cueto finished with a 19-9 record and impressive 2.89 ERA. He is joined by Matt Latos who went 14-4. Homer Bailey pitched a perfect game in 2012 and finished with 13 wins. Aroldis Chapman saved 38 games and returns as the bullpen closer. There is talk of making Chapman a starter.
On paper, the Reds are solid across the board. They should be good enough to challenge for a worlds championship. Somehow, this has been lost on the baseball public.
Though they have not boasted about their talent or made a big splash in the off season, Cincinnati is every bit the contender as their more ballyhooed competition.