Who are those guys? Would you believe they’re the Reds?

Readers of a certain age may remember one of the iconic lines from the classic Western movie, “Butch Cassady & The Sundance Kid.” Butch and Sundance have been trying to escape the relentless pursuit of a posse and Butch observes they are getting closer and closer. At one point, Butch turns to Sundance and says, “Who are those guys? They’re beginning to get on my nerves.”

Major league teams are probably starting to feel the same way about the resurgent Cincinnati Reds. After losing more than 100 games last season and seemingly on one of those never-ending rebuilding projects, all of a sudden, the Reds are on a roll. At this writing, they have won 20 of their last 24 games and taken over first place in the National League’s Central Division.

The transformation is attributable to a handful of very talented rookie players blossoming in just the last two months. At the top of the list is a multi-tool infielder who has the potential to be a generational talent. If you’re not familiar with the name Elly De La Cruz, you will be soon. His speed, power and overall skills are jaw-dropping.

 But De La Cruz is far from alone. Matt McClain looks to be a top shortstop for years to come. Spencer Steer can play multiple positions, including filling in at first base for future Hall of Famer Joey Votto. Throw in a few other young position players like Jake Fraley, T.J. Friedl and Will Benson and the Reds have an abundance of talent for the future. Not to mention a surprise phenom in starting pitcher Andrew Abbott.

This team is clearly one that believes in each other and are playing the baseball the way it was meant to be played – with speed, aggressiveness, hard work and love of the game. And I should add, they are great fun to watch.

Now for a dose of reality. The season is only half over. And while they are leading their division, it is one of the weakest in baseball. Plus, the Reds starting pitching has been abysmal, sporting one of the highest ERAs in the majors. The Reds had been trying to build a strong foundation of starting pitchers around three very highly regarded prospects — Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft and Nick Lodolo. Unfortunately, between injuries and inconsistency, those young pitchers have fallen short of their potential thus far.

The only redeeming factor with the pitchinhg staff during this current winning streak is a suddenly improved group of relief pitchers. Nonetheless, weak starting pitching does not bode well for sustained success and especially in the short series format of post-season playoffs.

As you may perceive, I am a long-time and very avid Cincinnati Reds fan. I remember the glory days of the franchise well – especially the Big Red Machine of the ‘70s. And I have been very critical and skeptical about the team’s ownership going through seemingly endless rebuilding projects. As one social media meme said, “REDS = Rebuilding Every Damn Season.” 

Whether it was the strategy paying off or a certain degree of dumb luck that all the pieces are starting to come together, I can’t say. But for now, I think I will enjoy the ride.

(Note, this article has been written with all due respect to Bill Moor, the founder of this website and unabashed Chicago Cubs fan, who has seen his own share of unsuccessful rebuilding projects.)