“They’re just not that great.”

That’s what SOME GUY commented on John Fay’s blog the other day.  Maybe he was just padding his argument that Dusty Baker has worked wonders with this team. I don’t know. Maybe he simply needs to lay off the magic mushrooms.  Not that great?

Umm … okay. There’s Johnny Cueto, Cy Young candidate.  Todd Frazier, frontrunner for ROY. Joey Votto, the best player in the game over the last 3 years plays here. Then, there’s Aroldis Chapman, the closer that makes major league hitters look like your softball team after too many Little Kings. Brandon Phillips, the Wizard of Second Base has his own highlight reel running nightly on ESPN and the MLB Channel. I’ve nicknamed the starting pitching staff “Five Guys,” after the hamburger chain. Five Guys haven’t missed a start all season. When Five Guys runs out of gas, there’s Seven Guys in the bullpen (ranked second in all of baseball, BTW) waiting in the wings.

Exactly what is not great about all of that?

We Cincinnati fans are a nervous bunch. Two years ago in early August, I was forlornly making my way out of GABP after the Reds were swept by the Cardinals in that now infamous series remembered mostly for The Brawl.  The general consensus that day was that the race in the Central was over.  How did that work out? Just ten days ago, the Reds’ inability to take 2 of 3 from St. Louis convinced SOME GUY that the local boys were sure to do the impossible shortly—cough up a 6 game lead in the next 3 days.

What is it with us?

I blame some of this on the Bengals.  Yes you, Mike Brown. With all due respect to the Bearcats and Musketeers, it’s professional sports that owns this town’s psyche. For the past 20 years, instead of handling our mental health like it’s a Ming vase, they’ve been treating it like it’s a Dixie cup. The Bengals have been such a national joke for so long, their karma has infected everything sports-related in Cincinnati.  If you’re a Reds fan, there’s a 90% chance you’re a Bengals fan, too—or at least WERE a Bengals fan once-upon-a-time. How could one not help but feel the general angst shift—from one sport, from one season—to another?

Not that I’m letting the Reds off the hook. The Schottzie Years, as I like to call them, took a coat of paint off the Big Red Machine. Pete’s own personal shortcomings served further to blacken the eye of the Queen City nationally.  To be a Cincinnati sports fan for the last two decades is to live in a perpetual defensive crouch.  We get that.

When Bob Castellini bought the team, he promised a different trajectory. He promised to restore the franchise to prominence. He said he viewed ownership as a public trust. Raise your hand if you believed him.

The 2010 baseball season brought us out from under the covers, hopeful again that baseball could be reborn on the Ohio River.  2011 sent us back underneath the bed. Yet, here we are again. Hoping for the best, expecting the worst.

For the record, I reject the naysayers.  I know there is a segment of the fan base that expects Tony La Russa to jump out from behind a bush with a lead pipe at any moment and go all Tonya Harding on Joey’s left knee. I know that SOME GUY is one losing streak away from heading to the grocery store to stock up on canned goods for the bunker he intends to inhabit if the Reds find a way to blow this.

It ain’t happening. 138 games into this season, the Reds have the second best record in the major leagues.  They have more than held their own against the likes of Matt Cain, Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia. Unlike in 2010, they haven’t just beaten the bad teams, they’ve beaten the good ones, as well.

And in the end, it matters little how the fans feel. The players know how good they are. You see it in every come-from-behind rally. If there’s one thing Dusty Baker does well, it’s keep a calm, sane clubhouse. This team’s strength is their youth.  In 2010, they were not just over matched in the playoffs, they were callow and perhaps a bit intimidated on the big stage. Not this time around. This time, youth will serve.  Even as older teams tire, like the aged Yankees are doing right now, the Reds will show they have more left in the tank for October. Jay Bruce is back on one his patented streaks.  Joey is rested and hungry.  This team has legs.

Don’t talk to me about greatness. Greatness is conferred by championships. No need to get ahead of ourselves.  But, this team is playing great.

Put down the canned goods. Come up from underneath that Snuggie. Quit looking over your shoulder. Objects in the rear view mirror really aren’t closer than they appear. Don’t be SOME GUY.