I've experienced losing Reds teams before. As a teen in the early 90s, I listened to every game during that season when Whitey Richardson and Scottie Madison were starting in the infield (thank god for Eric Davis and his 34 HR). I rooted for the John Smileys and Ropers of this world, honestly believing that they would anchor the pitching staff for years to come. I'm not that old, but I'm old enough to remember a time when it felt like there would always be competent bullpen pitching available to the Reds; those were the days when every day felt like a Milton day for starters.
But what I loved about the Reds then was that they always bounced back. Even when they had a losing season, I was pretty sure they would be in it again soon. If not this year, then next year. And at the very worst, the one following it.
There is no comparison between then and now. Those sporadic bouts of losing were like crushed puppy love, but this year feels more like symptoms of a prolonged midlife crisis. Mind you, I'm only 32 years old... so we're not just talking about my own subjectivity mapped onto my favorite ball team. I'm generally an optimistic fan, but I'm honestly starting to wonder if 1990 was the last time I will ever see a Reds team in the World Series.
Oh, aren't we supposed to be in a honeymoon period? For awhile I kept up hope, I believed it was right around the corner. With the promise of 1999 fresh in our minds, something big was brewing in the early '00s. We traded for Cincy's most famous baseball son, then flanked him with bookend 21 year-old OFs who could mash the ball. A new core was building just in time for a new stadium, a new owner, and a new GM. With each of these new arrivals, I kept telling myself, "Now is the time! The wait is over!"
Suddenly we find ourselves looking down at only two or three ML cities. The problems with this team and its front office seem to be so deep-seeded, so starkly dysfunctional, that we haven't quite been able to wrap our heads around just how bad they are yet.
Honestly, if it weren't for the Golden Child playing the outfield, I think I'd be in the middle of a full-fledged existential crisis as a Reds fan.
Or perhaps I'm already there.
Is anyone else with me?