“Sometimes you have to be hit in the face with a skunk three or four times before you smell it.”     —Bill Parcells

Feel free to attach meaning where you find it … last night’s game, the Red’s seeming willingness to do their Golden Retriever roll over act against that Club Who Shall Not Be Named, or even our fearless leader’s continued confounding managerial style.

I choose all of the above. Your mileage may vary.

It was all there on display at GABP last night. The hanging curves, followed by the hanging heads. The disciplined bats in the top of the first. The Swings Gone Wild video on an endless scoreboard loop at the bottom of the inning and onward.  Fast-forward to Joey Votto’s final boxscore: two hits, one a HR, two walks—and all of the Reds’ scoring. Somebody gets it down at the ballpark by the river. But, Joey isn’t paid to be the hitting coach, is he?

I was standing under the Stacks during The Brawl at the beginning of August 2010. The Reds would be swept at home and most of us filing out of GABP after the final game of the series thought the season was slipping away. So, the lesson would seem to be: beware of jumping to conclusions on August 3rd.

Nevertheless, the next four games will tell us everything we need to know about the 2013 version of Cincinnati Reds. People have pointed out that records against teams above .500 have little bearing on how a team will do in the playoffs. But, if Baker’s Boys don’t rise to the occasion tonight and tomorrow, if they don’t take personally what the Oakland A’s did to them last month on Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s hard to see them even making the playoffs. Four games mean nothing in the context of the Big 162. It will give us one helluva indication, though.

Put the players under the microscope. Put the onus on Dusty. Blame the owner for his blind spot where Baker is concerned. Hold Walt accountable for failing to pry 35 year-old rental Marlon Byrd and his 133+ OPS from Sandy Alderson, who, like most GMs, had spotty cell phone service for days leading up the trading deadline.

Come to think of it, just blame Verizon.

At this point, it’s a moot point. We are long past the fierce urgency of now, as implausible as that sounds.

I’m heading down to the ballpark in a few hours. I won’t sit. I’ll walk the ballpark, circling the diamond, stalking and watching, fretfully, for the following three hours, then the following three games. It’s time for all of us, players, coaches, owners and fans to get up on our collective feet.

Time to rise to the occasion.