This weekend, I had family come visit me in Cincinnati. Along with taking them to all the spots of note in the city, we went to Saturday’s Reds game against the team I grew up with, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 11-3 win for Cincinnati was no surprise to me.
In fact, the t-shirt I wore to the game was black with “Sell the Team’ in the font the Pirates use on their home uniform.
It was a bad omen in the top of the 1st inning when the Reds scoreboard operator wasn’t sure who was getting the start in left field Saturday night…
Turned out to be Anthony Alford, who was just called up from AAA Indianapolis. He had three hits in the loss, and got stuck in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd base that ended with him tagged out sliding a foot or two short of 3rd.
Growing up, being a Pirates fan meant I could not stand the Reds. Brandon Phillips was the worse person in the world and in my mind, Aroldis Chapman just wanted to bean every Bucs batter. Now I am 32, been living in Cincinnati for close to three years and in previous years learned to accept that current Pirates owner Bob Nutting has no desire to make this team a true contender after the playoff stretch from 2013-15 which seem like a distant memory, or the fourth season of “Community” where people claim there was a gas leak and it never happened.
I also learned just how much Cincinnati loves baseball. Almost to the point I’m envious.
Watching Reds fans in Cincinnati is interesting as a Pirates fan. The Opening Day optimism as the Findlay Market parade makes it way to Great American Ballpark to the moments in June and July that have fans wanting the manager and general manager fired, they are passionate. Yes, the Reds have not won a World Series since 1990, but there’s always hope that the oldest pro team in baseball will snap the championship drought that has plagued pro sports in that town along the Ohio River.
Working on the news team on the radio station that serves as the flagship for the Reds, I have gotten to know this Cincinnati roster well and outside of Gregory Polanco and Kyle Newman, the Pirates roster is foreign.
This Reds team is fun. I knew the Pirates were doomed (if not doomed already) when news came that Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas were returning to the lineup this weekend after suffering injuries. The starting pitching is great, too. Wade Miley threw a no-hitter earlier this season, Vladimir Gutierrez is having a solid rookie season and Tyler Mahle is also getting it done.
The one complaint I will get from Reds fans is that not enough is being done by the front office to produce a winner. From my perspective, the Reds are doing much more than the Pirates.
The Reds total payroll is close to $126 million, while the Pirates is just under $55 million. So the Reds are willing to spend on guys like Castellanos and Moustakas to strengthen the lineup, but the Pirates are not. Sure, Reds fans would love the front office to make a deal like the Yankees did to get Anthony Rizzo, or the Mets landing Javier Baez at the deadline, but those team’s total payrolls are near or over $200 million.
I knew 2021 would be a throw-away year for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and at 41-71, they haven’t disappointed. Meanwhile, the Reds are giving themselves a chance to make the postseason. Chasing the Brewers will be a constant struggle into September, but they could also find their way into one of the two wild card spots.
When you live and work in a city with a sports team that is on the upswing, or just having another good season, people are in a better mood and for as much as I tease people about Johnny Cueto dropping the ball in the 2013 N.L. Wild Card Game against the Pirates or that the Bengals are Myron “The Bungles”, as coined by the late Myron Cope, I’d like to see the Reds still playing when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.
2021 could be a good year for both the Reds and Bengals. So if you are a long-time fan of those two teams, enjoy the ride. It could lead to something even better down the line. Meanwhile, the Pirates are doing the “give it five years” grift low-payroll teams do, and the Steelers may not have an offensive line to keep Ben Roethlisberger from being face down in the turf several times a game and have Najee Harris doing twice the dancing the backfield Le’Veon Bell did.
At least Bell had a line to run behind.