Today is my Christmas. Today I get to unwrap the gift of another baseball season. Today is a special day that fills me with both optimism and hometown pride. Opening Day in Cincinnati is an event unparalleled by any other major league city. Many former players and mangers that have spent time here will concur.
“It’s a holiday – a baseball holiday! Ain’t no other place in America got that.” -Sparky Anderson
The Cincinnati Reds are the only team in all of baseball with the privilege of opening every season at home. In fact, it has only NOT happened once since 1876 (in 1888). That consistency is what has allowed this day to evolve into the massive event that it is today. Today, the streets of downtown will become a sea of red. Stages have been erected on Fountain Square and at The Banks and the air will be filled with local rock music. Staggering amounts of libations will be consumed. Workplace production will plummet. Local bars will be packed and stacked. The entire route of the Findlay Market Parade will be shoulder to shoulder and for one day; one sweet,beautiful day, differences will be set aside and the entire city will be united and have one common mission. World Series Champions 2013.
There is even a local grass-roots campaign called, “Make It Official” that is actually petitioning City Hall to make Opening Day an official city holiday. Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RedsPetition to get behind the movement.
Today’s Opening Day festivities and fanfare provide the hometown pride while today’s lineup provides the optimism. The Big Red Machine position players were dubbed “The Great Eight” and I argue this year’s lineup has a chance to earn that title as well. Consider the lineup.
- Shin-Soo Choo: Hit machine and a marked improvement over Drew Stubbs in center field. Minimal defensive concern.
- Brandon Phillips: Loves batting second in the order. Plenty of pop in his bat. Best second baseman in the game.
- Joey Votto: ¬†Enough said.
- Ryan Ludwick: Needs to get off to a quicker start this season but has 30 HR potential.
- Jay Bruce: Streaky? Sure. The Beaumont Bomber has 40 HR potential and an absolute cannon of an arm in right field.
- Todd Frazier: Fantastic rookie season last year which should only improve with everyday consistency at third.
- Zack Cozart: Continues to improve at the plate. Left Goodyear hitting .283. Fantastic defensively.
- Ryan Hanigan: Clutch hitter. Defensive dynamo. Calls a GREAT game.
Devin Mesoraco will back up Hanigan behind the plate. Mesoraco had an incredible spring after a disappointing season last year. His work in the off-season, which included shedding 15 pounds and watching film of every one of his 2012 plate appearances, paid big dividends. Mesoraco is positioned to possibly have a career year and assume the role as primary catcher.
Add to that what is arguably baseball’s best bullpen, with the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman at the rear, and I say this team is as complete as any in the National League. On paper there are no holes. Concerned about Mike Leake? Don’t be. He would be a third or fourth starter on a lot of other teams. ¬†I’d say the bigger question mark in the starting rotation is aging veteran Bronson Arroyo. Lack of depth at starting pitcher is my only real concern, and it’s a minor concern at that.
Enjoy today’s game – a potential preview of the World Series.
Enjoy today’s pageantry as we welcome back the boys of summer.
Enjoy our modern day Great Eight.
Enjoy being in Cincinnati (if you’re lucky enough to be here)- we do it bigger and better than anyone else.
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