Monday, May 16, 2011

Reds and Redbirds, A Red-Hot Rivalry

I feel like I woke up and it is the 1970's all over again. But instead of Pete Rose and the Reds staring down "Popeye" Steve Garvey and the Dodgers, it's Francisco Cordero throwing inside to Albert Pujols and the Cardinals. This red-hot rivalry didn't happen overnight, it just feels that way.
Think back to January, 2006, when Bob Castellini took over majority ownership of the Reds. That very day he talked of modeling the Reds after a team he used to have a minority stake in. That's right, the St. Louis Cardinals. Since then Castellini has poured more St. Louis winning ways into the Reds than Budweiser has poured beer into bottles. Exhibit-A is when former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty became available. Exhibit-B is when Scott Rolen became available. Castellini had to make a large commitment of dollars to acquire Rolen when everyone else said the veteran third baseman was washed up. Rolen destroyed his ex-team this weekend and was a big reason the Reds snatched first place away from the Cardinals. Not all of the ex-Cardinal moves have worked. Jim Edmonds was at the end of the line when acquired by Cincinnati in 2010 and has since fanned the rivalry flames from the St. Louis side of the fire. The jury is still out on the signing of Edgar Renteria. But you don't need an entire roster of ex-St Louis players to foster a hard-nosed approach to winning baseball.
What you do need is something the Reds lacked for most of the past decade, and that is players who feel there is still some value in winning. That is a polite way of saying players who care. They've had those guys in the past, but not a clubhouse stuffed with them in every corner. Now they do. That comes from the top-down folks. A gruff guy who said he was embarrassed by the way the Reds had fallen on hard times has taken ownership of that team and turned it into Charlie Hustle. Finally, the Reds are standing up to the bully in the division. Sure, it was just a three-game sweep in May. But when a nice man like Francisco Cordero gets ready to throw down, the Reds are onto something.

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