Let’s get this out of the way first. Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto should have been All-Stars.
Everyone got that? Everyone understand? Good.
Now to the point of this column — Who Cares?
Yes it’s nice and it’s a great career accolade, but have these guys checked the standings?
The Reds are not in first place. The Pirates are. THE PIRATES!!! A team that shouldn’t be even close to the top is in first place.
Why are we caring about personal accolades when the main goal of a season is eluding us.
And I know you are thinking, it’s only halfway through the season and it’s the Pirates.
But the thing is, these aren’t the same Pirates, these Bucs are confident behind their leader Andrew McCutchen, who leads the league in hitting right now.
And if it’s not the Pirates, the big bad Cardinals are only 2 1/2 games behind the Reds in the standings.
Carlos Beltan and Matt Holliday are putting the Cardinals in great position to make a run in the second half.
And the Reds aren’t exactly putting together winning recrods against these two teams, going 2-4 against St. Louis and 4-5 against Pittsburgh.
The division isn’t going to hand itself over to the Reds, and neither is the Wildcard positions.
So instead of focusing on something like being named an All-Star, maybe we should start focusing on how we can pull out a playoff berth.
Because while being named an All-Star is nice, being named World Series Champion sounds a bit better to me.
With the second half of the season starting Friday, against the Cardinals no less, there are three things the Reds need to focus on to make a huge run.
FIND JOEY VOTTO HELP
He’s the best hitter in the National League, maybe in baseball, but he can’t do it all himself.
If I was every team I would walk him as much as I could, and most teams have.
And Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce are doing to the best they can, but there are flaws to their games.
Phillips is not a clean-up hitter, but he’s doing the best in the situation he was put in (10 HR, 48 RBIs, and .280 average).
But Phillips is more of a two hitter, who sets up the plate for Votto, or a No. 4 hitter the Reds don’t really have.
A lot of people say Jay Bruce could be a No. 4 hitter. But this All-Star’s average is just .249.
That is not an All-Star’s average. That’s Adam Dunn-range average.
Bruce is putting up RBIs and home runs, but imagine if he hit with more consistency. It would be scary.
But until that happens, the Reds need to find Votto some backup. Whether through trade (Carlos Quentin could help), or someone else stepping up, if the Reds want to win, they need some help for their million dollar man.
Cueto has been phenomenal. A 10-5 record and top four ERA at 2.39.
After that it’s really been a mixed bag with the Reds’ starters.
Start with Mat Latos, who Cincinnati traded for to become a top of the rotation guy with Cueto.
His record is good, 7-2 in 17 starts, but every good start he would have, he would take a step back where he gets rocked in five innings.
Then there is Homer Bailey, who is Texas’ version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Every time Bailey throws a complete game gem, the next game he gets rocked for five runs.
He has good stuff, but needs to work on getting consistent.
Then there’s Bronson Arroyo — baseball’s rockstar — who tops out at around 89 MPH.
Also there’s Mike Leake who’s getting better as the season goes on, but still has the highest ERA on the team at 4.56.
I feel like the Reds are missing that one good, but not great, starter who adds some depth in the middle of the rotation.
Arroyo has been dependable for the last seven seasons, but he should be the fifth starter on this team, with Bailey being the fourth.
Looking at the trade market, and the Reds’ rotation, Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez could be just what the Reds need.
He adds a left-hander, which the Reds don’t have. He eats innings, which the Reds need with their bullpen.
And he’s a quality arm that adds much-needed consistency for this rotation, because if he joined the Reds he would have the second-lowest ERA in the rotation at 3.38.
Just finding some sort of consistency would be good, but adding a left hander would be a great get for the Reds.
JUST WIN BABY
How do you win the division? If you said practice, I want to meet you and be friends cause your sense of humor is awesome.
To win the division, the Reds must win two types of games.
First you must beat the bottom feeders on the schedule. In the Reds’ remaining 77 games, 53 games are against teams with under .500 records.
These are the games the Reds must win to help push them over the top. Letting down against inferior teams has doomed teams’ playoffs hopes in the past (Red Sox epic meltdown last year comes to mind).
But along with the inferior teams, the Reds are going to play the Pirates and the Cardinals 21 more times, including a series against both teams in the last six games of the season.
If the Reds can defeat these two teams, it builds their record and keeps their main competition from taking over the N.L. Central.
It won’t be easy, because the Pirates are not going to fold like they do every year.
McCutchen, who is a serious triple-threat candidate, will not let the Pirates fall. And the Cardinals never give up on a season.
Cincinnati can compete, they can also make a run and compete with the best in the league.
But they need to not focus on trivial things, like All-Stars and grudges against retired managers, and focus on winning.
Because if the season ends the way most of us want it to, Dusty Baker will be making the All-Star selections next year.
KYLE HOBSTETTER is a sports writer for The Independent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.