What mostly caught the attention of the home city was the Reds’ startling ability to not just actually win, but to do so in highly dramatic fashion. There were walk-offs, one-runners, and inside-the-park home runs, but we really put down the phone or ran from the car radio to the living room broadcast when this team proved itself worth the price of admission in the final innings.

They weren’t just winning. They were winning from behind— three runs, five runs, eight. Whatever higher powers who were spiritually guiding this team early on understood that 2021 Bengals made dopamine addicts out of all of us. Missed field goals in December fostered an unusual appreciation of extra innings in June, and what seemed like an impossibly high excitement standard set by the Cardiac Cats was equaled by the Rally Reds.

After a while, it was no longer a matter of whether the team would mount a comeback, but how. Extra innings? Off the mat in the 8th? Walk-off? What’s it tonight, boys?

The Rally Reds

This nickname faltered and fell off entirely as winning streaks were always interrupted by wall-kicking losses and the mystical ability to sweep the division-topping Diamondbacks in Phoenix, then junket triumphantly back East to be swept by the Nationals, who are currently sitting thirty games back and setting off for a run of it any day now.

It’s turning out to be a bittersweet farewell for Joey Votto rather than the retirement gift of a ring that we wanted for him; this team wins, but it does not win consistently. Nothing is ever awesome all at the same time. The bullpen gets its ish together, and major cogs of the team fall by the wayside to injury. Or starting pitching falls apart in the second inning, which of course means it’s time for the bats to go silent, and then we’ve lost to the Stupid Cubs again and nobody loves life.

Exclamation Points 

But when the headliners return, they always seem to do so with an exclamation point. India homers. Votto homers– twice in two homecomings, one of which took place on his 40th birthday. Okay so the Hunter Greene situation didn’t exactly fit the narrative but the point is that when they’re gone, these players don’t just tend to their professional goals and hope to sweeten the RBI column before contract negotiations.  They’re scratching.

Doubles, spectacular catches, and even, eventually, Greene’s pitching– when the injured and the roster-bumped return to Cincinnati, they contribute, and they make sure they stay here.

The Wins Downstream

All of this effort is evident downstream: The Louisville Bats have improved their position in AAA standings, and if they rise on the current generated by almost-there pitches and rehabbing outfielders tearing one another’s faces off to take advantage of the unstable line-up in the parent club, no one here’s complaining.

This team isn’t beating the Brewers when the Brewers lock into playoff mode. We have no idea what turmoil might sink us in the off-season, and this team might whiff in the Wild Card punch-out altogether. But that disappointment will never outsize the joyful surprise this team, this group-hugging Rally Reds, has been.

This is the season the Reds came back.

15 Responses

  1. Jimbo44CN

    You are so right Mary Beth. This has been a great year. Best since 1990. Such a fun team to watch. Also, watching San Diego and the Mets lose is such a joy.

  2. LDS

    The team has certainly been more fun this year. But it would be more fun to watch them stomp the opponents into the ground, leaving no doubt who the better team is. And for them to actually win the division and be competitive in the playoffs. Not this year.

  3. Mark Moore

    With the fun and hope come the inevitable swings to frustration (and sometimes despair). A patchwork team to be sure. And, as of today, just a game out of that elusive 3rd WC spot. We gained that advantage with another bit of 10th inning magic.

    Thanks for keeping us grounded, especially with the highs and lows of this season, MBE. We’ve needed it in the worst way. 16 games left …

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I finally stopped living and dying with each game when I realized that they probably won’t make it as division champs. I’m a lot happier, and swear a lot less, during games now.

  4. Jim t

    MBE have to agree. As a long time red fan I am enjoying this season.

      • Daytonnati

        Nice point, MB. I often think of my friend Kevin, long-suffering Bengal fan, who died November 17, 2021. He missed it all … maybe?

  5. Cincy6464

    Nice perspective overview MBE – & it has been a fun/surprising season!
    My problem is the Big Red Machine is my gold standard. Even the 90 champs seemed like a flash in the pan compared to a decade of domination (MBE is much too young to remember the late 60’s/70s!). But I must remember that even the BRM had to learn how to win. I remember my Dad lamenting after the WS loss to the As, “the Reds can’t win the big one.” But then… something happened and they could not be stopped. Winning is fickle. It’s hard to get there but when you do… lookout! Let’s hope this version of Reds can find that confident, championship swagger and create another legacy.

  6. Andrew Brewer

    Nail on the head, Mary Beth. You say it like no one else can. I hope the Reds can keep you on for another long baseball season. (and this one ain’t over yet!)