The Cincinnati Reds made the postseason for the third time in four years and have been one of the best teams in baseball, but they haven't won a World Series since 1990.
That has led some to criticize the Reds and manager Dusty Baker.
Baker said that teams ultimately are measured by what they do in the postseason, but the first step is getting there.
"I don't think that there are a lot of people who appreciate what we put together, what we've done," Baker said. "We're in a society that there's only one room at the top. I would like to think I you keep persevering, you'll get to the top. If you don't get to these settings, you have no chance of being a champion."
Baker, who took over as Reds manager in 2008, has led Cincinnati to three seasons of 90 or more victories.
He believes many of his players are entering their prime years.
"I'm proud to have been with these young players from the time a lot of them just got to the big leagues," Baker said. "I'm the only manager that some of them have had. We have trained these guys, we have tutored them and we're still teaching things from time to time.
"When I got here, a lot were kids, but now they're men."
Experience over speed
Billy Hamilton, a top prospect for the Reds, hit .368 and stole 13 bases in 14 games as a September call-up.
Hamilton's speed is obviously a big weapon for the Reds, which is why he was put on the playoff roster, but Baker said he felt more comfortable with Ryan Ludwick starting the game because of his experience.
"Our expectations of Hamilton are to help us win," Baker said. "The hard part about him is waiting for the most opportune time to use him and his skills. I don't think he is ready to start yet. People are making a star out of him ahead of schedule because he is exciting. But let's not forget he just started to switch-hit a year ago and he went from shortstop to center field."
Baker said Hamilton reminds him of a young Willie McGee, who batted .296 with 56 RBI in his rookie season with St. Louis in 1982.
McGee was a four-time All-Star and two-time National League batting champion during his 18-year career.
"Willie McGee came up with the Cardinals as a rookie and they remind me of each other, the different things they do," Baker said. "Also, the fact that Willie McGee came unheralded in a trade from the Yankees, he was on loan and he ended up being a World Series hero.
"I believe in history repeating itself at some point in time."
A clearer head
Baker had a stroke last September and missed some time at the end of the season, but he returned to manage the Reds in their National League Division series against the Giants.
The Reds lost, but Baker said the thing he most remembers about that time was how he didn't feel good and now has a deeper appreciation for his health.
"Probably what I am most proud of -- of me -- is the fact that last year at this time I was two weeks removed from my stroke," Baker said. "I wasn't clear-headed then as I am now. ...
"That's the one thing I'm very thankful for, that last year at this time my family and myself, we were a bit apprehensive and nervous at this time.'
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.