Reds begin season with ray of hope

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

As they say in the month of April, hope springs eternal.

Such is the case with the major league baseball. Everyone starts the same. Every fan hopes their team will be this year’s Chicago White Sox. And for the first few games, nothing can squash that dream.

Once reality settles in, fans will just enjoy watching the opposing team, hope someone on the team is chasing some kind of record to make it interesting on a daily basis, or, more than likely, complains about what’s wrong with the team and how they would go about fixing it.

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Cincinnati Reds fans are no different. With a new owner who will spend some money to go with a new general manager who actually tries to sign someone besides another team’s discarded merchandise, Reds fans have a valid new hope as Opening Day arrives Monday.

The offense scored more runs than any team in the league last season. The defense is good enough and the addition of Mike Williams and Bronson Arroyo have to be an upgrade from Eric “Home Run Derby” Milton and the dearly departed Ramon Ortiz.

Aaron Harang is emerging into a solid pitcher, but even though he’s the Reds No. 1 starter he’s not in a class with other aces such as Chris Carpenter, Dontrelle Willis or Curt Schilling.

The bullpen may look for David Weathers to be the closer, but he’s still a far cry from a Randy Myers or Rob Dibble. As a whole, the bullpen is steady but not overly impressive.

Adam Dunn hits for power without someone playing darts on his backside with steroid syringes. However, his defense sometimes looks like he won a Gold Glove in a card game and likes to wear it in the game.

With threats of making Richard Simmons his personal trainer, Austin Kearns has kept his weight down and should be the team’s best all-around player.

Needless to say, a healthy Ken Griffey Jr. will translate into some strong offensive numbers and excellent defense up the middle. Ryan Freel is a great backup who is an excellent basestealer when sober.

Felipe Lopez is emerging as the premier shorstop in the National League offensively and defensively. The loss of Sean Casey at first base may be felt more in the clubhouse than on the field and his replacement Scott Hatteberg has big shoes to fill.

Rich Aurila at second base and Edwin Encarnacion at third base will add more offense and have solid gloves.

So, is there hope for Cincinnati? Yes.

The Reds are improved and the division is not as strong overall as last season. The same can be said for the entire National League.

But remember that hope is just that. If you want a sure thing, bet on the IRS collecting taxes in another spring ritual.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.