Normally when you assess whether a team can make the postseason you do something rational, like figure the team's strengths and then weigh them against its weaknesses.
When I do that, I don't come out with the Reds being anything special, but there is a critical factor not worked into that weighting - JUAN CASTRO IS GONE.
Much of what we thought about the Reds prior to this season was tainted by the insidious effects of Juan Castro. Just when the team thought it had worked Castro out of its system in 2006, he returned to re-inject his lethal, team-killing venom.
I may very well have failed to account for the post-Castro rebound. How large can that be? No one knows, as no other organization ever willingly subjected itself to such dangerous levels of Juan Castro for such an extended period of time. Recovery could happen quick or it could take years or the franchise could be permanently contaminated. Baseball science has not progressed so far as to answer that question. Yet the de-Castrofication of the Reds changes everything.
For instance, I don't think the Reds offense is such great shakes ... but the team no longer has Juan Castro.
I think the pitching is at best good, not great ... but the team no longer has Juan Castro.
I think the defense is mediocre ... but the team no longer has Juan Castro.
See? Whatever I might think is not good enough about this team has to be adjusted to reflect the lack of Juan Castro. Until Juan Castro arrived the Reds were, during my entire life, a can-do organization that generally played to its strengths rather than its weaknesses. Even the brutal 1982-84 run was brief and led to a flourish that saw the team finish .500 or better in 9 of the next 12 seasons.
After Castro arrived the Reds systematically got worse at everything, to the point of being hopeless. Yet Juan Castro is gone, so maybe the Reds don't have to be hopeless. It's like speculation how fast you might be after wearing leg shackles for a decade. You don't really know, but at least you have the chance to find out.