The Reds posed for their annual team photo on Monday in the infield between second and third base. Homer Bailey was the last one to find a seat on the portable bleachers, joining a group that has grown up together over the last six seasons and even over the last six days.
You could argue the story of the 2013 Reds began on May 27, 2008. That was the day Jay Bruce made his Major League debut. He started in the Reds lineup that day for the first time with Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, the other cornerstones of the current lineup.
Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Juan Encarnacion also started that day for the Reds. It was certainly a different team. However, the team Reds fans know now, the team that entered a series Monday against the Cubs tied for second with the Pirates and just 1 ½ games behind the Cardinals, began to take shape that day.
The Reds have had their issues in the years since — two quick playoff exits and an up-and-down 2013 season in which many fans have worn out their knees jumping on and off the bandwagon — but by winning six out of seven games against the Cardinals and Dodgers, two of the best teams in the National League, they showed the best might still be yet to come.
“Every year is different,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker, whose first year with the Reds was also 2008. “I heard Phil Jackson talk about that. He had a number of championships, but every year is different. I heard Bill Russell talk about that. He won 10 championships, or whatever it was. He told me the secret to (the Celtics’) success was love. I was like, ‘Big, old Bill Russell, what are you doing talking about love?’ He said they loved each other.”
Baker was asked if this team was that close.
“They’ve gotten there,” he said. “Sometimes through adversity you get closer. We’ve had plenty of adversity. I urge them all the time, from the beginning, to stay together. That’s what (49ers coaching legend) Bill Walsh used to tell me all the time, ‘Stay together.’ ”
The Reds will be tested in the last three weeks of the regular season like they haven’t been tested in September in years.
The 2010 team clinched the title in the sixth-to-last game of the season. The 2012 Reds clinched on Sept. 22. This division race appears destined to last until the final days of the month.
“We’ve clinched early the last two years we’ve been to the playoffs, and we haven’t had a lot of success,” Bruce said. “Maybe a change of pace is going to help us.”
Cubs at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410