It doesn't feel like September. Not for me at least. With the Bengals pulling out a convincing victory in their road opener against a tough Chiefs team, and the Reds still not mathematically eliminated I can feel a buzz in the air in Cincinnati (or I'm sure I would if I actually lived there). However, while the Reds inexplicably hung on to first place in the wild card all summer, they managed to torpedo their whole season with one awful awful awful west coast road trip. But, frankly I don't blame them. I blame the time change and jet lag. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I blame the earth spinning on its axis for the Reds current predicament. Damn you astro-physics!
Anyway, the Reds sit 3.5 games back of the wild card leading Padres with 19 games left to play. AND, the Fathers are coming to town tonight for what appears to be a huge series for the Redlegs. This is where I insert a string of cliches about how they need to "put up or shut up" or possibly "put their money wheir their mouth is," etc. With this large series looming here's a rundown of the contenders (plus a picture of Ted Kluszewski and his guns to brighten your day).
San Diego (3.5 games up)
I admittedly don't know a lot about this team. I see that they have Jake Peavy and Woody Willams. Not bad. Plus they just recently acquired the Round Mound of Rebound from Boston for a song. But what is up with this lineup? Their best hitter is an over-the-hill Mike "Meat Lovers" Piazza. I guess Dave Roberts is fast (right Yankees fans?) but Mike Cameron doesn't instill a lot of confidence, one would think. The Verdict: Ask me Friday. I refuse to make any bold predictions. This series could go either way.
Florida (1.5 games up)
I can certainly tell you that Dontrelle Willis has had a down year. I know this because he sat in that "too good to bench, yet eternally frustrating" zone on my fantasy team all season. It seems like I have three or four of those guys every year. This must be why trout always destroys me. Apparently the Marlins also have some girl named Annabelle who threw a no hitter last week. How is this not a bigger story?? Wow. Anyway, the lineup is Cabrera who is still a stud and can beat you all on his own and a bunch of really young role players. Oh and a guy named Uggla, who I understand is not uggla at all. The Verdict: This team just strikes me as one of those feel-good stories that just doesn't quite get it done at the end.
San Fransisco (1 game up)
The Giants really handled the Reds the last couple weeks (5-2). Apparently Bonds finally got his new shipment of HGH and has started hitting dingers again. Jason Schmidt is unpredictable but good and Matt Morris is at least healthy (Side note: Schmidt is a FA this offseason. Could the Reds please make a run at him?) . But, between Bonds, Moises Alou and Armando Benitez closing out games disaster seems eminent. The Verdict: I just can't get behind a team this old that features both Felipe and Moises Alou. Just a little too "Expos" for me.
Philly (1 game up)
Jon Lieber is old, Cole Hamels is young. Both are playing pretty well. That was my attempt to not start this paragraph without talking about Ryan Howard. This dude is crazy. He alone legitamizes the entire lineup. And the starting pitching is strikingly deep, even though Jamie Moyer is getting Social Security now. The Verdict: This team could legimately go on a Meat-in-womens-underwear hot streak. One worry spot: Flash Gordon. His health could be an issue.
St. Louis (5 games up, just for fun)
Same old story, Cards are still the class of the division. Obviously making Poo-holes or Prince Albert jokes hasn't gotten him on tilt yet. He's still easily the best hitter in the game. I say we step it up a knotch. We're going to need a weak-willed clubhouse attendant and a whole lot of itching powder. Surely this will be treated as a harmless prank. A harmless prank that lands him on the 15 day DL with "chafing." The Verdict: Sorry Cards fans, it takes more than Carpenter and Pujols to get to the World Series. Enjoy the playoffs, still not your year.
What have we learned? Everybody is flawed. Can the Reds make a run? Sure, but it would take something special (and I'm not talking about Arroyo's cornrows). We know two things for sure. One, the picture could dramatically change by the weekend. And two, it should be an exciting finish.