The San Francisco Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 (blech), and 2014. They came oh-so-close with Barry Bonds and Dusty Baker and Jeff Kent before that, too, and won an absurd 107 games during the 2021 season.
The St. Louis Cardinals have - for most of us around here who choose not to look at their actual numbers anymore - won every damn thing ever in the National League Central for at least the past generation.
The Seattle Mariners made the playoffs last year after a 90 win season, and did so having acquired seemingly every single player from these parts with a pulse in that time.
The calendar officially turned to May at the most recent stroke of midnight, and not a single one of those clubs has a better record during the 2023 season than the Mighty Mighty Cincinnati Reds. That’s a statment mentioned purely as fact, sans sarcasm nor caveat as the Reds and their 12-16 record at the moment can only look down, or parallel, at these particular foes.
I take no pride in settling for moral victories, nor should it really even be considered a moral victory to be outscored by over a half-run per game and sport a record that’s 4 games under the .500 mark. Certainly not for the owner and front office that put all of us into this mess, but the players here - the ones given little to no depth and backing - deserve a hat-tip for their efforts so far. We are talking about a club that started the year 3-18 in 2018, 3-22 in 2022, and saved seemingly every penny imaginable during their austere offseason to sign only Wil Myers (-0.2 bWAR, on the IL) and Luke Weaver (7.71 ERA, fresh off the IL), after all.
(Keep in mind that those two throwaway seasons bookended both the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and a strike that sucked the life out of the joy of baseball for many months, especially for fans of teams owned by certain folks who showed their asses while throwing wrenches in the prolonged negotiations.)
It is May 1st, and the Cincinnati Reds are not in last place. They’ve scored 14 fewer runs than their competitors so far, while their next opponent - the San Diego Padres, who you may have heard spent a little cash here and there - have been outscored by 13 runs. They are not good, nor are they in the catbird seat, but they haven’t lost us just yet. In fact, with the most recent week filled with comebacks and walk-offs, they seem to be actively building their identity game by game, still, while so many of the last handful of seasons have been banished to the realm of afterthought before it was even warm enough to water your flowers in the mornings.
Things could well get messy in a hurry, obviously. 9 of their next 15 games are on the road, where they’ve not yet found firm footing this year. The next six weeks of ball feature series against the Padres, Mets, Cardinals (2x), Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Brewers, and Dodgers, all with both ambition and financial backing for success in this 2023 season. But, all of that I’m writing is being written on May 1st, and you still care about how it might turn out, because for the first time in a damn long time, there’s still a chance it might turn out OK.
A big chance? No. A tiny chance? Probably. A chance, though, and that’s the whole goddamn point of sports in the first place, even when the team for which you root has abdicated said chance before you had a chance to hope time and time again in season’s past. There’s even a chance we see upgrades! Joey Votto could be back! Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Matt McLain are on the way! Reinforcements! Actively improving the roster by design!
I hoped before the season started that they’d somehow find a way to get us to summer. It was a bumpy landing, and they certainly could’ve stuck it a bit better, but they managed to get us through the first leg. Maybe, just maybe, May will have a few more surprises in store.