Pinch me, I must be dreaming. Wait, don’t… I’ve changed my mind. If this really is just a dream, I don’t want to wake up. The Cincinnati Reds have now won twelve games in a row, and I can’t imagine anything cooler than this.
Is this the most entertaining Reds team of my lifetime? We’re only 76 games into the season for the ol' Redlegs, but a vibe has already formed around this team that is so intoxicating, so seductive, so all-encompassing, that I’m having a really hard time thinking of another significant contender. I wasn’t born for the 1990 wire-to-wire championship season. I was too young to remember either of the strike-shortened, NL-Central-winning 1994 and 1995 teams. And then there’s the Reds teams of the early 2010s…
I loved those Reds teams. That was an era of peak Joey Votto, peak Johnny Cueto, peak Brandon Phillips, and peak Jay Bruce. It was a time when Homer Bailey was able to throw not one, but two no-hitters. A moment where the “Toddfather” Todd Frazier could win the Home Run Derby in front of a sea of Reds fans during the All-Star Game festivities at Great American Ball Park in 2015. Those were some really fun teams.
But the big difference between the Reds teams of the 2010s and the 2023 make and model is the pure, unfiltered, surprising joy of this experience. You can inject this feeling directly into my veins. This team is addicting.
The 2023 Cincinnati Reds are baseball sugar. They’re your mom’s cranberry/pistachio biscottis. They’re the first cup of coffee in the morning. They’re the smell from your new Ford Bronco. They’re “Ramble On” turned up to eleven on your new surround sound system.
Elly De La Cruz hit for the cycle last night. It took him fifteen career games to reach a milestone that 99% of players who reach the majors will never, ever even sniff. Luke Weaver gave up his 125th run in the first inning, yet the team refused, for even one second, to believe they were down too much to come back on the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. “Rake” Fraley continues to… well, rake, and Alexis Diaz continues to be the sport’s most lethal closer, getting his 21st save in 21 chances.
But the list doesn’t stop there. Not even close. I could spend the next sixteen paragraphs waxing on and on about every single member of this team, because every single member has contributed this year. And really, that – maybe more than anything else – sets this 2023 Reds team apart from all the others, especially the Reds teams of the early 2010s. The Reds of the 2010s were weighed down with expectations. Between Votto, Bruce, Cueto, Bailey, and a handful of other elite talents, those Reds teams were supposed to be good. Winning the Central, making the playoffs… that was cool, but we also had our eyes on those prizes all season.
Not the 2023 team. This team has no such expectations. Most of us just wanted the team to be competitive – or at least avoid another catastrophic 3 - 22 start that would have destroyed the season before it really began. Today, the Reds sit in first place in a wide-open NL Central, riding a twelve-game winning streak and loaded with arguably the greatest collection of young talent in the game right now.
So yes, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most entertaining Reds team of my lifetime. The excellence of those 2010s teams will always be close to my heart, but there’s something about this spunky, upstart 2023 group that I just can’t quit. It’s the comeback victories – they’ve now come from behind to win in 65.9% of their wins, including in the previous five games. It’s De La Cruz simultaneously being faster than a F-22 while having the raw power of aircraft carrier. It’s the maddeningly inconsistent starting pitching mixed with a batting order that pathologically refuses to accept defeat. Add it all together, and you get a baseball-watching (or listening) experience that keeps you absolutely glued to your seat.
Tonight, the Reds will go for win number thirteen in a row. That’s bad luck for the Braves – because even though the standings, the eye-test, and the analytics say the Braves are superior, this Reds team doesn’t care. There are too many extra bases out there to be swiped to worry about anything else. No offense to those 2010s Reds teams, but the 2023 Reds have stolen our hearts too.