The Cincinnati Reds sit atop the division standings at the All-Star break for the first time in 15 years.
It's fun again for Reds fans to follow their favorite team, either by going to Great American Ball Park, listening to the radio, or by watching on television (with the sound muted, of course.)
Yes, listening to the nonstop yapping from Chris Welsh can be excruciating, but let's try to keep this positive; after all, the Redlegs are in first place in the National League Central Division, leading the St. Louis Cardinals at the break, even though it is by the slimmest of margins.
The Reds had an opportunity to open up more than a one-game lead over the Redbirds, but a disastrous four-game sweep in Philadelphia took care of that. The losses to the Phillies were painful, but it says here Cincy will rebound and play the way they have over the course of most of the season.
The bats were silenced for most of the series against the Phils, but look for the offensive production to return. There are just too many weapons in the lineup, and even on the bench, for the Reds to go into a deep slump for a more than a few days.
If shortstop Orlando Cabrera, center fielder Drew Stubbs and right fielder Jay Bruce can increase their numbers at the plate, the Reds would have one of the most feared lineups in all of baseball. Add improved offensive input from that trio to All-Stars Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen and the streaky Jonny Gomes, and the Reds look like a team that should never be shut out, and certainly not in 10 games, which is how many times the club has been blanked already this season.
Not only has the Reds' offense been in high gear most of the year, but the pitching, particularly the starters, have kept the team in nearly every game.
If the club could've acquired Cliff Lee, or they're able to get a No. 1 starter before the trade deadline, their chances for a division title (and a promising playoff run) are substantially increased.
Even without a so-called "hammer," the quality depth of the Cincinnati starting staff is the best it has been in recent memory. But if they can add a true No. 1 to current starters Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Travis Wood and Aaron Harang, the Reds may just leave the Cardinals in the dust and run away with the division title.
That help could be coming from Edinson Volquez, who will likely make his first big league start of the season on Saturday night against the Colorado Rockies. Volquez has been very impressive in his rehab starts in the minor leagues, and if the righthander continues to progress in a positive direction, the Reds will be sitting pretty.
That is, if they can fix the inconsistent efforts of the bullpen.
The relief pitching has been a concern all year, despite the best efforts of 40-year-old All-Star Arthur Rhodes, who has been nearly unhittable from day one. Closer Francisco Cordero has a habit of making things a bit too exciting in the ninth inning of games, and his propensity to issue walks is mind-numbing. Perhaps Jared Burton can return to his 2008 form and help middle relievers Nick Masset, Mikah Owings, Logan Ondrusek, Jordan Smith and Bill Bray to form a decent enough bullpen for the Reds to continue to hang onto first place.
Of course, all of this is pure conjecture, and any significant injuries can throw a monkey wrench into the hopes of those in Reds Country, which includes Maysville and its environs.
Local residents will be at Great American Ball Park in force on Friday evening when the Reds resume their quest for a pennant, and this weekend's games will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the remarkable 1990 "wire-to-wire" World Champions, and Reds Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held before Saturday's game.
Along with Friday being Maysville-Mason County Night, members of the 1990 team will be introduced to what promises to be a near capacity crowd, and hip-hop legend MC Hammer (who became a good luck charm for the Reds during their memorable season) will perform before and after the game.
This year's inductees include Tony Mullane, Pedro Borbon and Chris Sabo. Mullane pitched for the Reds in the 1880s, Borbon was a key reliever in the days of the Big Red Machine, and Sabo was one of the most popular players in Reds history, as well as the third baseman on the 1990 World Champions. Sabo is also being honored with a bobblehead (goggles and all) that will be given to the first 30,000 fans attending Saturday's game.