In earlier days, baseball players were not referred to as players at all. They were called “ballists.” I know! That’s what she said, amirite?

It’s a term I rather like, because “player” at this level reminds us that this is indeed a child’s game, and the MLB is so far from its original intention that the brass is changing the rules because people have been complaining that there’s too much baseball and we’d like to go to bed, please.

Paying Attention

But the boys in the dugout this year are both ballists and players. Like the fans (who finally have a reason to do so), each man pays attention.

They watch one another bat. They shout encouragement and hand-signal inside jokes.  It doesn’t stop if the ballist reaches base, either; he rows the air in honor of the way the team is moving as one, and then applies himself to stealing second.

And his teammates aren’t just watching:  They’re standing. They’re standing at the dugout rail, not milling around the dugout. They’re standing because they’re  invested in their teammate and they’re invested in this game.

Main Topics

The main topic of the season has now shifted from “Did you hear they’re good? They’re actually good!!!” to “What caused the collapse, what missing pieces do we need, and when can we really compete?”

This is our version of standing at the rail, and the astonishing thing about it is that over the winter, the fanbase was madder than I’ve ever seen it, Lou-Throwing-The-Base mad, possibly because the president of the entire team informed us that we were out of the playoffs this year. In January.

Now look at us. Using the “P” word instead of screaming into the winter night, wondering if we might lose the team to a city looking for an economic engine.

Using Their Words

For their part, these are lads who purposely avoid a depressing dugout, and this isn’t the artificial cheeriness of corporate retreat. They’re talking to each other.

That’s an important sentence in two ways:

They’re talking. They’re communicating. They’re using their words. They are asking questions and making plans. Because they give a crap.

They’re talking to each other. Not the press. Not their agent. Not the internet at large. The old are mentoring the young: I once caught sight of Joey Votto– who learned Spanish early in his career so he could talk to all of his teammates– speaking to Elly De La Cruz and pointing at an iPad. Maybe Votto had just come across a particularly fine meme and thought he’d share it with the kid. But his hand motions suggested otherwise.

Replacing the Windshield

Compared to the disasterwagon that is the White Sox, our team looks like the Cleaver family.  No doubt it’s not a completely happy household.

But a healthy clubhouse has been the least of our problems lately. This year we have the luxury of replacing the windshield now that the engine is working.

We’ll know more about how to do that by the end of the season when, in first place or in last, this team will still be standing.


14 Responses

  1. LDS

    If the Votto of 2017 was mentoring EDLC, I’d say great move. Alas, I think it’s the Votto of the last couple of years, and the results are similar. The Reds could be a good team down the road but they sorely need new coaching. It’s almost like the order came down to Bell to make sure Phil’s off-season prognostications come true. It’ll be a sad day when Phil takes over his dad’s share of the team. And we thought things couldn’t get any worse.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Fundamentals are fundamentals, even if the result is different because he’s older. But triple word points for having “alas” and “prognostication” in the same post 🙂

  2. Doc

    Thank you, Mary Beth.

    It is refreshing to read a piece on this site that is positive, pleasant, and true. I usually read until the first hateful comment appears, then move on. Rarely do I get more than a few comments into the site. I think I’ll begin and end today’s visit with your very refreshing look at this season.

    David Bell should be manager of the year. He has taken a team that almost all of the regulars were playing in AAA within the past year, and a starting pitching staff who were not even being mentioned as potential call ups this year, and has managed them to a winning record as of August 29, and all while looking as though they are having fun. It is a feat beyond dreams for this season.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I’m a former political commentator/journalist and quit because I saw what it was doing to my soul. I broke my “no politics” rule here a couple years ago and remembered pretty much immediately why I have it.

  3. Mark Moore

    The youth and enthusiasm and wide-eyed approach is certainly evident. And a part of me is happy that we’ve come this far given the grim predictions from Phil (coming way before Groundhog Day). That will be something to remember.

    On the flip side, I’m among those who see a distinct failing of the coaching staff and either their ability to convey change to this young team of ballists or the young ballists not taking the coaching to heart. The “book” on how to beat our guys is now nearing 2 months old and the results are facts.

    We soldier on, no matter what, because we are Reds fans. We won’t completely disengage for September, but I won’t watch with the same passion as I might have if we’d made some adjustments and if the injury bug hadn’t bit a little harder than we expected.

    Keep us grounded. Baseball is Life for some of us, even if that life is more like a boring late afternoon in the rain.

  4. AMDG

    Standing at the rail is fine and all, as long as it remains the dugout rail.

    But if they get near the 3rd rail, they should not be standing anywhere near it.

    And if they approach the Communion rail, they should be kneeling.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Excellent. I once saw a picture of very plain altar with the words “BUILD THE RAIL.” I sent it to everyone I know (so, like, 9 people.)

      • AMDG


        I know some people at my FSSP church who would like that 😉

  5. Rednat

    I Call Bell “The Substitute” because he reminds me of the substitute teacher you had in grade school. the goal is just to try to get through the day without any kid dying. no real learning, laid back environment. of course as a kid you loved having a substitute because there was no real accountability.
    That is why I think players “love playing for Bell”. just like they loved when the had a substitute teacher as a kid.
    Now, having said that. Some substitute teachers go on to become great full time teachers and that is what i hope happens with Bell. I think he has improved since he has been manager here.