The Cincinnati Reds have been one of the most exciting teams in baseball this season. They boast 23 comeback wins because of their stellar offense. Their bullpen, who is one of the worst in the league and have only marginally improved, has an ERA of 5.20. No lead is safe, so every game is an ordeal. Despite the volatility of having a good offense and a bullpen that bad, the Reds have won some games and are now over .500 as they approach the All-Star Break next week. So what’s up with the national media and why aren’t they giving more attention to the Cincinnati Reds?
Despite the team being sixth in the National League as things currently stand, the Reds haven’t received much love from the national media. This is something that may seem common among small-market teams, but for the Reds, it seems odd that more national analysts wouldn’t love to talk about them because of the quality of the team and the personalities.
The NL Central was projected to be underwhelming this season, but the Reds were projected to come in fourth by a lot of media outlets. Apparently losing Trevor Bauer meant a whole lot more to national writers than other teams losing key pieces as well. While the Cardinals and Cubs have had a lot of success in the division, and the Brewers have more recently, all of those teams had massive holes in their roster. The Cardinals didn’t have the pitching, the Cubs have lost a lot from their World Series team a few years ago and the Brewers finished below .500 last season. Yet, so many thought the Reds would be the team to come in fourth. While that may still become true, and a rough start didn’t help things, the Reds currently sit in second behind the scorching-hot Brewers.
The Other Guys
Between Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos, the Reds have two MVP caliber players. Winker is batting .306 with 19 home runs and 49 RBIs this season. He has cooled off as of late, but he still ranks fifth in batting average in the NL. His average is higher than all of the opponents mentioned for the rest of this article. Castellanos has stayed hot and is right in the thick of the MVP race with Jacob deGrom and Fernando Tatis Jr. He is batting .338 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs. Castellanos has the most hits, doubles and highest average in the NL. Both players have helped carry the team when the bullpen hasn’t stepped up, when injuries have come around (From Mike Moustakas to Joey Votto to Nick Senzel etc..) and when the other bats on the roster haven’t come through.
Even with their ridiculous numbers, the media has found ways to slight these players. Whether it is because of market size or just general distaste for the players is up for debate. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted out a poll about the NL’s MVP candidates on June 8. Both Winker and Castellanos were crushing the ball at that point in time, with averages that were higher than they are now.
Who is your early NL MVP?
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 8, 2021
Not only did they not win the vote, or come close, they weren’t even included in the poll! deGrom has been incredible this season and deserves to be on the list and probably win the MVP if he keeps his dominating run going. Kris Bryant and Ronald Acuna Jr. both had worse numbers than Winker and Castellanos at the time of this poll. Currently, neither Bryant or Acuna rank in the top five in any major batting category for the NL. The Reds weren’t playing great baseball, but they actually had a better record than Acuna’s Braves at this point in time. If Olney wanted to keep Acuna in the poll, which is more than fair, a Red should’ve replaced Bryant, who was not hitting as well as Winker and Castellanos (He has since slumped even further). Tatis Jr. was injured and therefore was not included in the poll.
When plenty of fans pointed out that Olney had omitted the two Cincinnati candidates, he would not engage with them. He simply asked people to go listen to his podcast for an explanation.
As far as the MVP race goes, Winker and Castellanos still lead both Acuna and Tatis Jr. in some categories, but aren’t as likely to win the award. Odds from July 5 list Winker as having the fourth-best odds to win the award (behind deGrom, Acuna and Tatis). Castellanos was tied for fifth with several other players. That is a little bit of a head-scratcher, but Acuna and Tatis Jr. are two of the more marketable young players in the game who get way more national media coverage than both Winker and Castellanos combined. They also lead position players in WAR (wins above replacement) for the NL and deserve to be in the MVP discussion with deGrom, Winker and Castellanos.
Reds fans have used this poll as a rallying point and have started referring to the outfield duo as “The Other Guys” because the only way to vote for them in Olney’s poll was to vote for other.
Do the Reds Need Two All-Stars in the Outfield?
More recently than Olney’s MVP discussion, there was a push by the Reds to get both Winker and Castellanos in the starting outfield for the All-Star Game. Through the fan votes, they both will join Acuna in the starting outfield. The players more than deserve this chance based on their numbers and the fact that the fans voted them in, which is something the media may not have done if given the chance (see their record on Hall of Fame voting).
Before they were officially voted into the All-Star Game, some media members didn’t think there should be two outfielders from the same team.
— Joe DiTullio (@DiTullioJoe) July 2, 2021
Will Leitch, a columnist for MLB.com who is also featured on other sites, literally typed out these words: “Also, do we need two Reds in the outfield? We do not.” (As a side note, this is a person that also co-hosts a St. Louis Cardinals podcast)
Not only did Leitch not use any statistical arguments on to why the Reds shouldn’t be in the outfield, he just said “we don’t need two Reds in the outfield”. This type of laziness is not only poor judgment, but totally wrong. He advocated for Mookie Betts to be in the starting outfield, despite Betts having a .247 batting average! Betts is a former MVP and will likely be a Hall of Famer someday. But Leitch ranking him higher than both Castellanos and Winker is ridiculous with Betts having the worst year in his career by many metrics. At least Betts ranks 16th in NL WAR, but he’s still behind Castellanos and Winker. Leitch may still be recovering from Castellanos flexing on Jake Woodford after scoring on a close play at the plate following being hit a few batters earlier (guess which player was suspended? Yep, it was Castellanos).
All-Star Game appearances matter for players’ legacies, so media members need to be responsible in who they are promoting and why. Putting Betts up for the All-Star Game, pretty much just because of his history, is wrong.
Can you imagine someone saying, “Do we need two players from the Murderer’s Row Yankees starting? We do not.” How about, “Do we need two infielders from The Big Red Machine starting? We do not.” That is not to say that the Reds are as good as those teams of old, but rather to point out that this argument is the equivalent of hitting below the Mendoza Line (below .200).
Will the National Media Come Around?
Are there things to worry about with this Reds team? Absolutely. The bullpen needs a few new arms before the trade deadline. A shortstop is needed (they are rumored to be in the market for Trevor Story). Ownership and management need to show they are willing to go all-in for a championship. They also need to get some of their players back healthy. The Reds have a lot to do before truly being considered contenders to win the whole thing. That may come in time.
But the Reds also have plenty of things to like and be respected. Joey Votto is a future Hall of Famer who just notched his 1,000th RBI. Jonathan India is in the NL Rookie of the Year race and Tyler Stephenson would be if he had more at bats. Tyler Mahle is having a career year on the mound and Wade Miley has a no-hitter under his belt. On top of that, it looks like the team will be competing for a spot in the playoffs. They are a red-hot team.
For now, the Reds should be enjoyed by fans and media alike for what they are: A fun team with a few great players that play in a lot of exciting games. They are making baseball fun (although their bullpen sometimes makes it nerve-racking). Both the team and their individual players should be covered more and be given the respect they deserve.
The Reds will be those “bat flippin’, show boatin’, son of a guns” whether the media gives them attention or not.
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