Oct 5, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; The Kansas City Royals celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Angels in game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 8-4 advancing to the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
While the Cincinnati Reds settle into their winter hibernation, the baseball world marches on. Tonight, the American League Championship Series opens at Camden Yards as the Baltimore Orioles host the Kansas City Royals (not a typo). Just because our team is long gone does not mean we can’t dig the post-season, though, so here are five ways for Reds fans to enjoy the ALCS.
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Root for the Royals
Before last week, the Royals had not played a post-season game in 29 years, and they only made it this season as a Wild Card. So far in October, they’ve slain two AL West behemoths in the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels. I really don’t mind this year’s rendition of the Baltimore Orioles, but the Royals are a classic underdog and seem altogether unhateable. As a Reds fan, that’s about as good as it gets this fall.
Pretend the Reds are Playing in the NLCS
As you watch the Royals and Orioles duke it out, why not engage in some Walter Mitty moments and imagine how these teams would match up against the Reds in the World Series. Could the Reds’ pitching shut down Nelson Cruz? Could Cincinnati out-small-ball Kansas City? We won’t actually see the Reds again until Spring Training, but that doesn’t stop us from projecting what might have been.
Look for Former Reds
In this day of easy player movement, you can find guys who used to play for your team in just about any series you want to look at. The ALCS is no exception when it comes to featuring former Reds, but it’s almost an exception. I did a quick click-through of the two rosters on baseball-reference.com and could come up with just one player who formerly toiled on the Riverfront: Kansas City pitcher Bruce Chen.
There may well be others that I missed, and part of the fun here is in digging through the obscurity of statistics to see who might have a Cincy tie. In the meantime, you can root for, or at least take notice of, Mr. Chen as the ALCS unfolds
Look for Future Reds
The ALCS also gives us a chance to play scout, especially with the free-agent and trade season just around the corner. The Reds have needs in a few spots on the diamond, including in left field and the bullpen, and maybe in the rotation depending on how the winter plays out. Keep your eye on Royals and Orioles who might fit the bill for Cincinnati, and these games will be much more interesting.
On the KC side, both Nori Aoki and Josh Willingham have been mentioned as possible options for the Reds’ outfield, while Baltimore features a few low-profile possibilities. Both Delmon Young and David Lough had unsung seasons at the plate and might be available, either through trade or free agency. Ubaldo Jimenez is a back-of-the-rotation guy at this point, but he might have some value as a reliever if you want to get creative.
And, assuming the Orioles don’t lock him up before he hits the market next month, Nelson Cruz would look good mashing balls in Great American Ball Park
In this corollary to the first item on our list, we go all the way back to October of 1985, when Royals won a mediocre AL West before toppling the Toronto Blue Jays, division winners in the mighty AL East. After that bloody seven-game series, the KC had to face an in-state powerhouse in the World Series: the St. Louis Cardinals.
In one of the most dramatic and controversial Fall Classics ever, the Royals took another seven games to do it, but they eventually sent the Cardinals home unhappy.
What Reds fan can’t appreciate a heartbroken Cardinal?
Even if the Reds were still playing this October, the ALCS wouldn’t have a direct impact on our happiness as Cincinnati fans, and we always have to get a little creative to siphon the most enjoyment possible from a Junior Circuit playoff series. These tips should help you party like it’s 1985.