The anonymously evil team from Camp Tigerclaw, that’s who I root for. One would think that the smallest market in the playoffs would get a bandwagon from around baseball. One would be wrong. This is not to complain, or beg for attention. This is only to say that everyone else is missing out on the Cincinnati Reds, the most interesting team that nobody cares about and the trollin’est team in baseball.
The Reds have been trolls for a while. If they’re thought of by the sporting public at all, it’s for their alignment behind Hit King and Hubris Avatar, Pete Rose. Unleashing Joe Morgan, sporting commentator, didn’t help and neither did abducting The Kid and turning him into an old man. When the Reds were thought of, it was only for cruelty. So they decided to get crueler.
It all starts at the top, of course. When Bob Castellini, heir to a fruit-based fortune bought the team, he had his good buddy George W. Bush throw out the first pitch of the 2006 season while the latter was mired in a ~33% approval rating. Dusty Baker was hired in 2008. He is perhaps famous for being a Black Man in Administrative Position and for not foreseeing 2006 while stuck with the rest of us in 2003, but he was also good for getting folks to laugh at the Reds when not ignoring them.
Unfortunately for everyone, it’s working. Dusty Baker ruins arms? More like Dusty Baker leads a rotation that doesn’t miss a start all season. The bro-iest of sports bros are there: acoustic-strummin’ Bronson, Family Guy-tattooed Mat, t-shirt smuggler Mike. Homer Bailey’s heavy sarcasm was successfully deployed to give Jonah Keri a minor conniption fit on behalf of his employer, and ace Johnny Cueto continually leads the league in HBPs despite a miniscule walk rate. Plus, dude’s 5’9” and gives interviews while sounding like a Dominican Tom Waits.
And if you can get through the rotation with all hair and fingernails intact, there’s Aroldis Chapman, the chavviest player in baseball.
The king troll on the team is of course Brandon Phillips. Flashy defense, and a flashier glove; if he didn’t exist, Mark Judge would have had to create him as a strawman. His constant dekes of baserunners and the famous “whiny little bitches” comment make him the perfect foil and boo-repository for opposing teams. So it’s no wonder he’s called The Franchise.
I could go on, of course, and some of the memery is in fact ouroboractic. Jay Bruce, noted power hitter and cost-controlled perennial All-Star, horrifies Thom Brennaman, noted football announcer and guardian of public morals, for not just hitting an opposite-field single for cryin’ out loud, mercy. Thom Brennaman, in turn, horrifies Reds fans by well, you know, being Thom Brennaman. The Reds have taken glee in others’ horror. Which, for a fan, is shame-facedly hilarious. Your apoplexy is their badge of honor.
Pitching and defense have led the charge to a comfortable division lead and the Reds successfully dodged fate by increasing their division lead over St. Louis by 7.5 games in the six weeks they played without Canadian hearthrob/MVP masher Joey Votto. And if that weren’t enough, Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter to give the Pirates their 81st loss, and that’s not even the worst thing the Reds did to them: getting Clint Hurdle ejected for complaining that the Reds hit too many Pirates batters was.
It only gets worse from here. The Reds have to face the lovable Giants next. After that, if there is an “after that,” would be other teams that possess their own story lines: the Nationals and their rookie (which, check Todd Frazier’s stats, btw), the Braves and Larry Chipper, or the Cards with their championship belt. The Reds don’t have their own storyline. The “no respect” canard is given because nobody could be bothered to think of a more clever one.
But first of all is the Giants. What with their comeback-kid catcher and participation in It Gets Better, who could be against them?
We are. Woooo-ing along cruelly with our personification of the Ohio River Basin as we do so.