I told myself during the last decade that I needed to stick with the team because when they finally won again, it would all be worth it. Even with that in mind, I severely underestimated how great it would feel to watch a team play their way into the playoffs again. I'd say that if there is one major difference between Reds and Phillies fans right now, it'd be that Reds fans feel like the team has accomplished something already. Sure we want it to keep going, but when you lift the burden of 9-straight losing seasons, everything else is gravy. (mmmm, gravy) I don't think the players feel this way, but I think most Reds fans are satisfied with how this season has gone so far. Then again, we also know that it may be years before they get back to this point, so we want the Reds to make the most of the opportunity.
2. Dusty Baker announced that Edinson Volquez would be getting the Game One start, after (apparently) originally considering Bronson Arroyo for the job. On a scale of "Brilliant" to "That's what he should have said from the beginning!," how do you feel about the Volquez decision?
I'm honestly somewhere smack dab in the middle. When it comes to stuff, Volquez is clearly the best starter on the Reds (until Aroldis Chapman moves back to the rotation). He also has "big game" experience pitching in the Carribean Series, the World Baseball Classic, and the All-Star Game. I don't expect that nerves will be an issue for him. However, he's only 14 months removed from Tommy John surgery and has had games where he's looked completely off. He went down to the minors and worked on some things in early September, and since then he's been lights out. I think that is why Dusty Baker wants him in Game One. He's easily been the Reds best starter over the last 3 weeks. And given Bronson Arroyo's propensity to get smacked around by lefties, I think it's okay if he sits for the first game and gives the Reds a chance to sneak a win out of Game One.
3. On the offensive side of the ball, which Reds player figures to be the biggest contributor? Difficulty: Besides Joey Votto.
Would you believe Miguel Cairo? Okay, me neither. The Reds outfield has been hot for the last month, especially Jay Bruce, who hit .338/.418/.699 after August 1, and Drew Stubbs, who hit .316/.414/.582 in September. If those two young guys can remain hot, the Reds offense will be much more dynamic. The key to the offense though might be Brandon Phillips and Orlando Cabrera. As everyone knows, Dusty Baker doesn't pay much attention to on base percentage, which is why those two fellas bat in front of one of the league's best hitters. If they can get on base a couple of times a game, it will make it harder for Phillies pitchers to pitch around Joey Votto, which is really the best chance the Reds have for putting runs up on the board. If Votto is coming up with the bases empty a lot, the Reds will likely be in trouble.
4. What's with this Aroldis Chapman fellow?
It's a story as old as time. Boy learns to throw a ball 100+ MPH. Boy defects from oppressive communist regime to Andorra, leaving a child behind. Boy gets $30 million contract to play a game. I mean, it's almost gotten cliche at this point.
Chapman's future is still as a starter, but the Reds moved him to the bullpen this year when they found that they had enough pitching depth to get to the playoffs. Chapman still needs to refine his game more to be a starter, but at the level he's at right now, he's deadly as a reliever. He's an energizing presence in the bullpen and he helps Dusty Baker shorten the game, giving him 4 viable shutdown options out of the pen (NOTE: The shutdown-ability of Francisco Cordero is still under review by the American Association of Shutdown Closers board).
Whether you are a fan of the Reds or not, you have to appreciate the rarity of a talent like Chapman. Who knows what the future holds for him, but right now, he's an impressive specimen.
5. Which single position player on the Phillies scares you the most? I'm not talking like Leatherface scary (a/k/a Jorge Cantu), I mean "hammering baseballs" scary.
Chase Utley. He's been one of my favorite players for years. He reminds me in many ways of former Reds great Barry Larkin. Davey Johnson once said of Larkin, "He's my best lead-off hitter, and my best 2-hole hitter, and my best 3-hole hitter." I imagine the exact same could be said about Utley. I definitely respect what a great player Utley is and hope to god that he doesn't kill the Reds this series.
6. Your predicted series outcome:
I think this series is going to be closer than most experts are predicting. The Reds have a knack for playing a lot of close games, and if they can manage to do that this series, we may find a couple of timely hits going their way. The Reds starting pitching isn't on the same level as the Phillies, but it's good enough to keep the team in games, especially with a very good defensive squad behind them. I say, a couple of well-timed hits and fine defensive plays make the series, with the Reds taking it in 5 games. (You didn't actually expect me to pick against my team, did you?)