The Cincinnati Reds will play the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 National League Divisional Series. Since nothing comes easy in the playoffs, I don't mind the matchup for the Reds. The Giants are a good team, but they have some things working against them -- such as the shocking decline of pitcher Tim Lincecum and outfielder Melky Cabrera being suspended due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
However, what I do mind -- and what I think is completely absurd -- is that the higher-seeded Reds are forced to start this best-of-five-game series on the road. That's right, MLB has decided this year that the lower-seeded team will host the first two games, and then the higher seed will host the final three.
The second-seeded Reds (97-65) should be opening this series in Cincinnati. Instead, they'll have to travel to third-seeded San Francisco (94-68) in a series that will open Saturday at 9:37 p.m. Beautiful. The higher seed gets to fly across country and begin the playoffs on the West Coast. Only Bud Selig and his boys could think of something so brilliant.
There is no reason MLB needed to overthink this one. The format should be 2-2-1, period. And by that I mean, the higher seed hosts the first two games, the lower seed hosts the next two games, and then the higher seed hosts the deciding fifth game if necessary. It's not complicated in the least.
However, the Reds have to play the hand they were dealt and if they're able to at least split in San Fran, all will be well.
Johnny Cueto will take the hill for the Reds against Matt Cain and the Giants Saturday night. The Giants have the player who I believe will win the NL MVP in catcher Buster Posey. This will be a tough series; there is no question. But anyone the Reds would have faced in the first round (the Braves or the Cardinals) would have been a difficult series.
The Reds did not hit well during September, so that is a concern entering the postseason. (Also, Drew Stubbs is still on the team, so that's another concern.) Joey Votto is getting hits and walks at a high rate per usual, but hasn't shown any power since returning from a knee injury. Todd Frazier has been ice cold since August, but he won't be a starter anyway since Scott Rolen -- who's been ice cold offensively all year -- will start at third base. Even arguably the best bargain free-agent signing in MLB, outfielder Ryan Ludwick, has struggled recently at the plate. Dusty Baker's boys have to hope they'll put it all together in October. And yes, it's great to have Dusty back, who suffered a mild stroke in mid-September.
The good news for the Reds is the pitching has been excellent all season -- both the starters and the bullpen. Simply put: This is the best pitching a Reds team has seen in ages. For many of us -- myself included -- this is without question the best pitching we've ever witness from a Reds club. They have a 3.34 team ERA, which is second in all of MLB behind the Washington Nationals.
So, sit back and enjoy the ride. And hopefully the Reds don't let MLB's foolish decision to make the higher seed start on the road negatively affect them.