It's okay to get irrationally excited about Reds spring training
Sit back and enjoy Elly, CES, and the kiddos
The Cincinnati Reds are back, and Reds fans are fighting again! It’s how you know that baseball season has actually returned.
This week’s argument is actually a somewhat common debate on #RedsTwitter. One side is irrationally excited about all the great young talent showing their skills in big league training camp. Christian Encarnacion-Strand is hitting bombs, Elly De La Cruz is being Elly De La Cruz, Jonathan India is getting on base, and some prospects you may never have heard of are causing hearts to go all aflutter.
The other side, sick and tired of the continual rebuilding process in Cincinnati, is irritated that ownership has screwed things up so much that another 100-loss season is potentially in the offing. Who cares about prospects? Why can’t we have actual major leaguers on the roster?
So who is correct in this particular debate? Everyone!
I’ve been writing and talking about baseball for years and every single year, as soon as spring training games begin, I always urge Reds fans to proceed with caution. “Take spring stats with a grain of salt,” I lectured. “Players are working their way into shape for Opening Day, working on their pitches, working on their swings…it’s practice!”
Remember Josias Manzanillo? In 2003, Manzanillo, a 34-year-old relief pitcher, made the Reds Opening Day roster by posting a 0.75 ERA and surrendering only four hits in 12 innings during spring training.
Manzanillo went 0-2 with 12.66 ERA during the regular season, allowing 21 hits in 10 ⅔ innings before the Reds finally cut bait.
Fast forward to 2023: there is no reason whatsoever to ascribe any importance at all to this year’s spring stats. We’re talking about 11 games, some of them split squad contests. (The Reds are, however, 6-5 in those games!) Every single stat is completely and utterly meaningless. The Reds are still, almost certainly, going to be really, really bad this year. The “glass half empty” Reds fans are right to be upset with how the Castellinis have mismanaged things, and not excited about another season filled with loss after loss after loss.
On the other hand, if you want to get excited about Encarnacion-Strand hitting .647 with three homers in eight games, be my guest! Do you like what Nick Lodolo is doing, almost perfect in his two outings? What about Elly De La Cruz showing off all that athleticism and talent day after day after day?
Heck, maybe you like the fact that TJ Friedl is hitting .412/.474/.765, potentially giving the Reds a potent new weapon! Feel free to have fun getting excited about whatever you want to get excited about. It’s baseball.
Then again, if you’re joyous over those numbers, are you upset that Tyler Stephenson is only hitting .190/.227/.238. Does Hunter Greene stink all of a sudden because he has a 10.38 ERA this spring?
Look, the only thing to get excited about right now is hope. The Reds have completely punted on the present, and they’re trying to sell you on a future that may never arrive. It’s the marketing ploy they’ve teased us with for most of my adult life. I’m not a sucker. I’m not going to believe that Reds ownership and management will deliver on any promises until they actually do it.
But let’s give the prospect huggers a break. Some Reds fans find joy in dreaming about what these prospects might turn into. And that’s fine! The fact of the matter is that the Reds really do have some exciting young kids, many of whom are in their first big league training camp. It’s easy to get dreamy when watching them. De La Cruz just might be a generational talent, after all, and there are a half-dozen other names that are extremely intriguing. (Noelvi Marte, anyone? Cam Collier?)
As I always say: this is baseball — it’s supposed to be fun. Let’s try to find ways to enjoy this lousy franchise, okay?
The Riverfront: A Cincinnati Reds Show
Big news this week at The Riverfront. In addition to our weekly Reds podcast that we’ve been producing since 2007 (both audio and YouTube) and the new Bengals show we started this year, we’re adding a live show about the Reds every week.
We’ve been big fans of Late Night Reds Talk since it launched. When the opportunity to have them join The Riverfront network presented itself, we couldn’t pass it up. So every Sunday night, we’ll be going live and talking Reds baseball with everyone. It’s a great chance to interact in real time with Reds fans. I hope you’ll join us at youtube.com/riverfrontcincy!
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, and don’t hesitate to smash that thumbs-up button while you’re at it. You can also subscribe to the audio version of The Riverfront wherever fine podcasts are found, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.