Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool
That said, a quick review of the 1990 Reds tells us that a pennant can be won in the early goings. A 13-3 April set the tone for the team that season and helped them outlast a 30-30 record in August and September.
I'm a fan of putting the best team you can on the field in April, then watching carefully to determine where problems are so you can avoid a second-half collapse. The Reds seem to have early success down pat, but apparently fail to correctly identify the smoke-and-mirrors parts of the act, and that failure ends up biting them in July and August.
That team got a lead in April, but had to fend off a serious challlenge from the Dodgers late in the season.
In fact, that team is a good example of what I'm talking about. Certainly the team laid a good foundation in April, but along the way it had to swap out Ric Mahler for Norm Charlton in the rotation. Glenn Braggs came on board to help the lineup vs. LHPs. Morris replaced Benzinger. Jack Armstrong went from ace to afterthought while Jose Rijo took a star turn and Danny Jackson got himself back on track. Last, but certainly not least, the team brought in Bill Doran to help keep the Dodgers at bay for the last month of the season.
Also, I maintain the NL in 1990 was a beast. Look at the talent that was on the last place clubs in both divisions. The Padres and Astros were never in the hunt that season and both those clubs were loaded. Every night that season you had a fight on your hands. It would have been real easy to squander that hot start with so many capable clubs lurking behind you. A team could blink and have a 1-6 week.
So the Reds 13-3 April put the club in position to win the division, but it hardly sealed the deal. Look no farther than the 2002-3 Mariners for how a hot start can amount to nothing. I'm not saying winning more isn't preferable to winning less, but "no team is perfect in April" and no matter how hot it starts, it's going to have to a lot of work after that if it wants to be on top of its division come October.