About 11 years ago to the day, one of the biggest and most exciting events in my life as a Reds fan happened. Jay Bruce, the 21-year-old #1 prospect in all of baseball debuted and lit the entire planet on fire. His first two weeks in the league, he hit .500. He came up with big dramatic hits seemingly every other night. It was an absolute thrill in a way I had never really experienced as a Reds fan before. He was Hope and Change, which as you might recall, was kind of a thing back then. He was going to be good and he was going to make the Reds good.
Of course, we all know now how simplistic and reductive that whole mindset is. Jay Bruce was good (he still is, you know) and the Reds were good, too, but those causal ties we all spun up weren’t nearly as salient as we had hoped and expected. He made three All-Star teams and won two Silver Sluggers and finished in the top ten of MVP voting twice in his roughly eight years in Cincinnati, and the Reds made the postseason three times. To call all of that anything short of a success is to break your back trying to convince yourself of an empirically falsifiable lie.
And yet, we know how the Jay Bruce story played out with this team. He was never quite good enough for a significant number of people. He never won an MVP, he never led the team to postseason success, and he never turned into Larry Walker. The grand narrative of Jay Bruce the Red was one of failure to meet expectations. That really sucks, but it’s not exceptional in any way. Baseball is designed to break your heart. Instead of his no. 32 retired next to no. 5 and no. 11, it is now worn by Zach Duke.
Nick Senzel feels so familiar to me. He isn’t the #1 prospect in baseball (he’s just #5 so you know slow your roll I guess), but his promotion has generated such electricity among the Reds faithful. Today feels like a red-letter day in Cincinnati. Things are going to start happening now. This kid is going to win an MVP. He’s going to lead the team to grand postseason success. He’s going to turn into Craig Biggio.
I’m not really sure what my whole point is here. I guess I’m trying to say that Nick Senzel seems transformational in an impossibly unfulfillable way, but I’m not trying to say that we should approach today with sobriety and reasonable expectations. Baseball is supposed to be fun, you know, so you can stuff your objective empiricism under your hat. I guess I’m trying to say that I want to hold two seemingly oppositional ideas in my head at the same time. I want to revel in the excitement of watching an incredibly talented young ball player play ball for my team. I want to embrace the unbridled optimism and I want to luxuriate in the fantastical possibilities that could lie ahead.
But I don’t want to end up salty with Senzel and the Reds when it inevitably doesn’t turn out the way my wildest fantasies have colored in. I want to dream without expecting. I think that will be really fun.