Mark Sheldon waxed poetic on the current state of the Reds over at reds.com. There's not a ton of information in here that we don't already know, but the All Star break is the quintessential arbitrary endpoint that allows us to look at chunks of the season in big-picture terms. I think he's spot on that the team has to be realistically pleased with where they are; they're 11 games over .500 without their ace, their cleanup hitter, and 2/3 of their most important bullpen arms, and considering the inconsistencies on offense, that sounds right. His award giving, though, is an airball. Brandon Phillips is not the Team MVP (duh), and Tony Cingrani has blown the doors off the Rookie race to anyone and everyone who has had their eyes open for 3 months. C'mon.
Sheldon also noted the updated doubleheader plans for the San Francisco series. Great. It's a serious bummer that the Reds, who are 30-16 at Great American Ball Park and 23-26 elsewhere this season, get swindled out of a true home game in favor of hosting a "home" game against the Giants in San Francisco while in town for their previously scheduled 3 game series. They'll even wear their home uniforms. Color me less than enthused about this development, though I'll acknowledge that there's obviously not an easy fix to the scenario.
SI's Joe Sheehan chose his All-MLB team for the season thus far. I highlight this not because I find a whole lot of worth in picking All-Anything teams based on incomplete seasons, but because there aren't any Reds within earshot of getting mention. I don't mind that at all, though; I just think it's indicative of the kind of season the Reds are having. There's not a single regular on the offensive side of the ball who is playing significantly better (or, really, better at all) than what the back of their baseball card would suggest. Nobody is having a "special" season, and Mike Leake is the only pitcher you could potentially toss in that category. Most every time a team is transcendent and capable of winning a division, it's because someone supersedes what they should be producing in favor of performing above their heads. Last season saw this with Ludwick and Frazier, while 2010 saw it with Bruce and, likely, Joey Votto. So far, that's been lacking this season.
CBS Sports' Matt Snyder chimes in with some optimism for Reds' fans. I admire his optimism, and I've certainly got a twinge of that myself, but I just need to see a glimmer of it beginning to take form before I can jump wholeheartedly into Reds-as-favorites mode. The offense will be better in the 2nd half (it can't be worse, can it?), but I'm not sure who exactly will lead the charge. Will Jay Bruce get hot for an extended time? Will Joey Votto get his power stroke and earn his paycheck with RBIs instead of BBs? Will Brandon Phillips hit for power again? Will Todd Frazier channel his breakout 2012? A strong run and waves of optimism won't require all of those to happen, but at least one must happen to turn the tides of most Reds fans. Show me something, offense, and you'll have my full belief again.
It's behind a pay wall, so I won't divulge every tidbit, but Keith Law has released his Mid-Season update to his Top 50 prospect list. One note I'll reveal: Billy Hamilton isn't on the list.
Tunes? Tunes. Happy Thursday, folks and folkettes.