Present success may give look at Reds' future
Young core offers club long-term chance in NL Central
CINCINNATI -- The St. Louis Cardinals, by virtue of six division titles and seven playoff appearances since 2000, have rightfully been viewed as the kings of the National League Central. But there is a distinct possibility that their days are numbered and it's time for a new ruler in the division.
The Queen City is ready to be king, and it appears the time is right for a coup. Over the past four seasons, the Cardinals have won the division just once -- last year, when they were unceremoniously bounced from the Division Series in three straight games by the Dodgers. Their seven-year run, highlighted by their 2004 World Series title, is ancient history by today's "what have you done for me lately" standards.
But it is the emergence of a stellar young nucleus in Cincinnati, more than the Cardinals' recent slide, that starts talk of a shift in power in the NL Central. It may have taken the Reds 15 long years to get back to the postseason, but there is ample reason to believe this is an organization that has built itself for multiple seasons of contending, not just one."I think the biggest reason we feel confident about that is the nucleus of our club with young rising stars," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We'll continue to get better over the next few years. The veterans we have are still at the point of their careers where they should be able to contribute for a few years. It's a good mix." Most of the players that earned the Reds' 91 victories this season are under contract for 2011 and beyond, and that likely installs them as favorites to take the NL Central again next year. But it won't be easy. As a small-market club with a $76 million payroll this season, there will be challenges in sustaining success. NL MVP leading candidate and first baseman Joey Votto is entering his first winter of arbitration eligibility, as is right fielder Jay Bruce. Both will likely get substantial raises, especially the All-Star Votto, who was among the top three in the National League in most offensive categories.
Drafting for impact