The Nats welcome baseball’s original professional team, the Reds for an Independence Day series.

Joining for the first time as a guest prognosticator is Sunshine’s Husband (not pictured), the commissioner of District Broomball and one of my teammates. He is a Ohio-native, Miami University grad (like half of District Broomball) and D.C. resident.

WFY: At the beginning of this season, I figured I’d be asking questions about how the Cincinnati fans are stuck with bad ownership. However, they are NL Central contenders now! How are you enjoying the ride?

SH: In the offseason, Reds fan chatter was like ~oh boy, we’ve got a really nice collection of prospects in AAA and AA. So the team will be bad bad at the MLB level, but in June they should start calling guys up and then in 2024 we should be average and maybe in 2025 we could be good. Sure enough, a bad start and then the prospects started coming to be glimmers of hope. What’s wild, then, was the team won 11 games in a row amid the rest of the division underperforming, so now it’s July and the team is in a playoff race! It’s a slow-burn version of when (Joe) Burrow made his first (Bengals) playoff run — like, we knew the potential for this to happen eventually, but woah it’s happening now!

WFY: Is Elly De La Cruz, the real deal? Was he expected to be this good?  I can’t help but remember another #44 who arrived to great fanfare – Aristides Aquino.  Who else is fueling this run?

SH: Elly has all the tools legitimately except maybe batting eye. Can bat for power and contact, speed, defense–it’s all there. As long as they coach him well on discerning pitches, he’ll be legit. Spencer Steer is the guy I’m more expecting to see drop off over time. McClain is running hot right now too.

WFY: Back to the owners though, in 2022 Phil Castellini said “Well, where are you gonna go?” “Let’s start there. Sell the team to who? … What would you do with this team to have it be more profitable, make more money and compete more?” How did that go over with you and other Reds fans, particularly the ones still in Ohio?

SH: For ownership, you have to remember that we had Marge Schott as owner so by comparison whatever is fine. Phil Castellini is the kid of Bob Castellini, and we’re maybe in an era where it’s normal to see the child of a rich person be an imbecile and everyone just collectively shrugs.

WFY: What’s the highlight of the Joey Votto era?

SH: Votto era highlights were the 2010-2013 era when the team was competing with St. Louis to win the division each year. And 2010 was Votto’s MVP year. But nowhere in that run did the team win a playoff series.

WFY: How is the Great American Ballpark experience? Should it have been built facing the skyline instead of the river?

SH: GABP is a good park…I’ve been to about 15 ballparks, and Pittsburgh and Boston are the two that were no duh better. Really for GABP the key has been city projects nearby making it a better time to go downtown for food and activities before/after.

WFY: Is there a local/regional beer that goes hand in hand with a Reds game?

SH: Rhinegeist was the first brewery to establish in the breweries-are-a-thing-now 2010s, when those places started popping up in every city. I think some of the other spots have better tasting beers, but Rhinegeist is the one for checking off on a list. I bet if you polled Reds fans though, more people are drinking Diet Pepsi, haha.

WFY: Cinnamon and cocoa in chili – defend it. Also, Skyline or Goldstar?

SH: Cincinnati chili has a Greek immigrants origin, which stands out because most Cincinnati things trace back to German roots. What’s nice is you can get the stuff in a drive thru lane, as the two competing chains have franchises in every suburb. I like Skyline and Gold Star both, bring cans of chili back to DC with me after each visit back. My nuanced take is that Skyline is better for the spaghetti/chili/cheese dish (called a three way) but Gold Star is better on a hotdog (called a cheese coney). Gold Star is better out of the can, too, reheats well for whatever reason.

WFY: Who is the bigger deal historically in the Cincinnati region, the Reds or Bengals?

SH: Historically, it’s the Reds and it’s not close. Cincinnati people will argue that the Reds teams in the 70s had the best lineup ever (analytics nerds will give that group a top 3 or top 5 spot usually). Five World Series titles (should 1919 count? Then, 1940, 1975, 1976, 1990) versus zero titles for the Bengals (three Super Bowl appearances). We do a big parade for opening day. The team is background listening for the summer time (AM radio has a stronger hold in Cincinnati than other places).

WFY: On a more general topic, what’s your take on the new scheduling? Are you happy that the Reds will have less games in the division in exchange for more games against the Rays and Mariners?

SH: For scheduling, yes I prefer more variety in opponents. It’s enough to see and think about the other teams in the division each time I check the standings.

WFY: Should Pete Rose be eligible for the Hall of Fame, even though he gambled on baseball and lied about it for years?

SH: My view on the HOF is that guys with outsized impacts should be in there, and if they were amoral people then that can be part of the exhibit for people to learn about. So yes, I would put him in, but I’d want a sign right there explaining how he brought upon himself a gigantic controversy, deserves the blowback he got.

WFY: Living in DC as a “visiting fan” do you pay attention to the Nats much or just go to the ballpark when the Reds are in town?

SH: Nats games for me are like an option among other activities. I much prefer day games, because I enjoy those vibes more. I keep a Nat rostered on my fantasy team so I know when it’s a home game, which helps with knowing which days traffic might be bad. For whatever reason, I don’t much like the Mets and Phillies, so my Nats fandom amounts to wanting to see them ahead of those two teams.

WFY: Who takes the season series, the Nats or the Reds? How do the Reds do overall?

SH: The Reds right now are better than the Nats — average team against a bad team. Just checked the starting pitchers…both teams should score some runs, but the Reds will score more of them. Overall, 538 has the Reds at 25% to make the playoffs. I think that’s low, 50% more fair given the Reds improvement has real reasons beyond just random fluctuations of luck.

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