Monday, December 27, 2010

What Was That?

It is only one game, but it makes me think the Bengals rebuilding job on offense isn't as troublesome as I thought it was.  Jerome Simpson, where have they been hiding you?  Andre Caldwell, stay nice and steady.  Jordan Shipley, keep growing, and Jermaine Gresham, gonna be a beast.  Those are some thoughts after yesterday's game.  The other, and perhaps more important thought, I've never seen Carson Palmer look that comfortable in years.  In command, throwing the ball with confidence, and not looking like a hayseed dropped in the middle of Time's Square whistling at all the big buildings around him.  I'm not sure Carson is a little skittish with T.O. and Chad, or just wants to keep them happy so he doesn't have to hear the complaining, but something was different Sunday.  Against the Chargers Carson definitely took what the defense gave him, play after play after play.  Catching the Chargers confused on the bomb to Simpson was the kind of stuff we saw in 2005 when Carson was considered and up and coming elite quarterback.  So it's in there, he still has it.  And the Bengals stuck to the run.  It's probably too late to convince Cedric Benson to stick around, but if he saw what I saw on Sunday, he might give it another thought.

Of course a lot things depend on who will be the head coach next season.  I think change is needed, and that's not a knock on Marvin.  He gave it a good shot.  But if Mike Brown is desperate enough to give the next guy just enough power to name his own staff, then it's another step in the right direction.  I don't expect that to happen, but since it's the holiday season, I'll remain hopeful.   

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Who Will Take The Bengals Job? And U.C., 10-0?

For about 11 months I've felt this would be the final campaign for Marvin Lewis.  The closer to the end of the season, the more apparent it seems.  Some close to the team feel it's a given that in two weeks, January 3, 2011, to be exact, the Bengals will have an announcement.  Marvin and the Bengals will be parting ways.  Since the Bengals didn't make the reported "wish list" of Bill Cowher, who is out there that will take over the team?  My early odds:
Mike Zimmer - even  (it's Mike Brown's cheapest route, but that move won't sell tickets)

Hugh Jackson-5-1 (he was here before so he knows the pitfalls, so he might pass)
Brian Billick - 10-1  (I think he's itching to get back in, but if he has anything else, forget it)
College Coach 20-1 (those good enough like Jim Harbaugh would wait for better situation)
John Gruden 5,000,000-1 (probably takes $5 million a year to land him, ain't happening)

There are still plenty of few dominoes to fall before the whole coaching carousel settles down in college and the NFL.  So there is a chance some viable candidates pop free.  But I'm of the opinion it will be a guy who is desperate to get a head coaching gig in the NFL.
Don't get me wrong, Mike Brown treats his people very well.  But the current structure of the organization does not allow long-term, sustained success.  That has become so apparent after 20 years that capable coaches will prefer to go to places where they feel they can succeed and not constantly fight the uphill battle.  It seems to have worn Coach Lewis out.  When is the last time you heard him say anything about getting a practice bubble?  That was once a battle-cry for Marvin, but he finally realized the Bengals will not build one.  Neither will the taxpayers.  That's just one example of the headaches facing the next guy who takes the Bengals job.  Don't get me started on the structure of the scouting department and how the coaches have to play "catch-up" right after the season.  Good Luck to the next man in.

It's great to see the U.C. basketball team winning.  I don't care about the schedule, 10-0 is a great start.  Sure, there were cupcakes, but this team needed to get it's mojo going.  It paid off against Okalhoma.  The Bearcats could have folded down the stretch against the Sooners, but they calmly took care of the basketball and made free throws.  That's just a couple of good things that come with confidence.  Will it translate into some Big East wins?  I think so.  I think the defense will be there every night.  If you haven't seen this team in person (and who has based on attendance figures?) you are missing a team that gives supreme effort.  It is a fun team to watch and it's the style that made the Bearcats a well known commodity.  Pressing, trapping, getting in the passing lanes, and relentlessly going after the rebounds. They will take some lumps coming up, but who doesn't.  Still, Mick deserves some credit for getting this team to play well, play hard, and do it under some stringent guidelines set forth by the university.  I hear Mick say the other night that the men's basketball team is tops in the athletic department when it comes to the Academic Progress Report.  At least some people from Oklahoma have taken notice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Argument Against 18 Game NFL Season

The Bengals would still have 5 games left to play. Can you imagine? A 2-11 record and you still have to muddle through five more games. Three is more than enough. In fact, I wish there were a way the Bengals could "opt out", or teams eliminated from playoff contention could just be shaved from the end of the schedule. I've long held the opinion that four preseason games are painful and the preseason schedule should be scaled back to a scrimmage and a couple of games. I still feel that way. The starters play less than half the time in the preseason games anyway, and season ticket holders still get gouged for a full price on tickets. But with the NFL dealing with a new agreement, I hope the 18 game regular season schedule is shelved until the Bengals get things right. Or the year 2055, whichever comes first.

Speaking of awful, the "Legends" division and the "Leaders" division? I laughed out loud when I saw this. The Big Ten is smart enough to make major money off of its own television network, then it botches something as simple as this. It is way too generic. Heck, the "Stars" division and the "Stripes" division would be a lot better than this. Nice logo too.

I was really rooting for Cliff Lee to stay away from the Yankees.  Then I heard about the Phillies being involved.  Dear Lord, if the Phillies land this guy the National League could be locked down for a while.  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Back To '93 For Bengals And It Only Gets Worse

Ten losses in a row. Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens, Cedric Benson, Ochocinco, Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph, Roy Williams, Keith Rivers, Dhani Jones, Keith Rivers, and the rest. Are you telling me those players can't find one win in the past two and a half months? It's beyond hard to believe. What's even more scary is the road ahead. How do you fix this mess? I have to think Benson and T.O. are outta here. Johnathan Joseph too. And what to do about Palmer? He looks as lost as lost gets and it's not getting better. Honestly, it's time to start over. New head coach with his coordinators and his approach. If Carson fits that approach then fine, and if not, find a way to move him and get on with life. Knowing the Bengals, they will remain a slave to his salary cap number and be afraid to bite the bullet. Knowing the Bengals, Chad will be back because he might put butts in the seats. Knowing the Bengals, they will never build this team beginning with the lines and go from there. Nope, not this bunch. Mike Brown will need a shiny new toy to help him sell seats. Something along the lines of a Cam Newton or an Andrew Luck. The rebuilding is going to get uglier before it gets better. How this team is as bad as the Dave Shula team of 1993 is inexcusable, unbelieveable, but so typically Bengals.

Should they decide to build this team the right way and pay attention to the lines, they have a bit of a head start on defense. Atkins, Dunlap, and Michael Johnson appear to be keepers. Too bad they don't have the same type of core on the offensive line, then this rebuilding project wouldn't be so daunting. The apparent whiff on Andre Smith looms large at this stage.

By the way, what other team on the planet would still be waiting for Jerome Simpson to develop? Does that not say it all about the way this franchise is run?

I am happy the Heisman voters did the right thing and awarded Cam Newton in a landslide. He was by far the best player during the collegiate season. Some dolts actually suggested not voting for Newton because of allegations. Hey, if you have proof the guys was on the take or something, then we'll talk. Until then, Newton is eligible to play and played better than anyone in the country.

since the NCAA is all about rules, can I make a suggestion. No more allowing Division 1A football teams to schedule 1AA teams after September 30. If late season losses are going to hurt teams so much, why should some of these schools be able to play what amounts to a freebie in November? On November 20, Alabama played Georgia State while Florida played Appalachian State. Are you kidding me? It's just another reason why the BCS system is a joke. Imagine if baseball has the BCS system this year. The Reds would have won the Central Division and played a meaningless three game series against the Twins or someone. How do we continue to let this system breathe?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

U.C. Hoops Attendance and Gordon Gee, Put A Sock In It!

Ohio State president Gordon Gee was asked about the possibility of Boise State and TCU playing in the BCS championship game. He arrogantly responded according to this article,
"I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day."
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Gordon, babe, do you remember September 25th? Eastern Michigan? Does a 2-9 record ring a bell? Or what about October 9th? The Indiana team that has an 0-7 record in the conference and was steamrolled for an embarrassing 83 points by Wisconsin? In fact, counting the Hoosiers, you've played the bottom 3 teams in the Big Ten with a whopping three conference wins between them. You didn't leave your home stadium for one non-conference game. Not one! Yet you feel the need to sneer down your nose at Boise and TCU? Really? Look, I feel your Buckeyes should be in the conversation and certainly would give any team in the country as much as they can handle. Your defense is unbelievable. I would love to see Boise and TCU get their shots against your Buckeyes. But you and the mighty BCS keep holding these teams down by excluding their conferences from the big party, and then you're going to blame them for it? Gordon, stick to what you do best by making sure all of the drones keep putting that annoying "Thee" in front of Ohio State University. Unless, of course, you are willing to play a game on that annoying blue turf.

The attendance at U.C.'s first three basketball games has been frightening. A total of 12,690 fans have made it to Fifth Third arena for the first three games. Not enough to declare a sellout if they all showed up at the same time. Last season UC had 13,787 for the first two games. Granted, the opponents have been less than intriguing, but last year began with Prairie View A & M and almost 7-thousand were on hand. Obviously winning will cure that, but the lack of enthusiasm by the base to support the team by just showing up is sad. I have some friends, and some from out of town, who consider Cincinnati a great sports town, but they say the fans are mediocre. I can't argue. They'll come out in droves for the winners. I saw close to 30-thousand fans running the streets of New Orleans last year before the Sugar Bowl. Yet, it's been impossible to get those same people to Nippert Stadium unless the team is winning big. It's not just U.C. fans. You look at the Reds attendance figures from this past season when they were clearly in the race and it was almost impossible to get a big crowd. But give those same fans a cheap bobblehead made in China and they start lining up at 4:30 in the afternoon. The only exception to the rule seems to be the Bengals, and this year it's even starting to catch up to them, like it did in the early part of the decade. Fans should not be asked to accpet inferior products, and that's what they're getting at PBS. I understand that. Same way with the Reds from 2001 to 2009. Same with UC football in certain years. And we know how far basketball has fallen. But Mick or no Mick, it seems to me there are more than 4 to 5-thousand people in this city who would really like to see the Bearcats bounce back and experience a resurgence in basketball. It's tough to recruit to an empty gym. I know UC just landed what appears to be a good recruiting class "on paper." I just hope those kids don't see the same thing I've seen through the first three games of this season.

All of that being said, I'm guessing 5-thousand or so for the game against Savannah State tonight, even though it's not a school night.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mike Brown's Coaching Problem, and Jimmie!

The signs point to Marvin Lewis leaving, one way or the other.  So when does it happen?  With Sunday's smaller than usual crowd leading to a local blackout, and expensive luxury suites coming up for renewal, Mike Brown and the Bengals management team face a crisis.  Renewals will no doubt go down after a season like this, unless Mike can create some buzz with a big-time hire.  But I don't think Mike's going to get one of the big names to come here under the current structure of the organization.  And no offense to Mike Zimmer, a wonderful guy and by all accounts an excellent defensive coordinator, but I don't think elevating Zimmer to head coach in the off-season is going to sell tickets and suites.  So Mike may have to move up the timetable and hand the keys to Zimmer soon.  If Zimmer has a good December and wins a few games, maybe the masses will start to say "In Zimmer We Trust".  Maybe they buy enough tickets and suites to keep the cash running through the Bengals pipelines.  If Zimmer fails, then Mike will have to hire someone after the season, and the list of qualified head coaches that will take the bengals bait begin and end with this: desperate.  Mike will have to go with a guy on the rebound, or a college coach looking to make a splash in the NFL.   The latter option might sell the tickets, but in no way does it ensure success.  But under the current management structure, will there ever be success?

There was once a time in the 70's when the Big Red Machine was trailing the Dodgers by a couple of games in early Spetember.  Pete Rose was asked about catching the Dodgers in the division race, and Pete said something to the effect of  "The Dodgers don't know it yet, but they're chasing us."   The Reds went on to win the division.  What does this have to do with anything in this day and age?  I feel it was the exact same situation in NASCAR with Jimmie Johnson.  Denny Hamlin looked like a guy who knew he was meat after last weekend's race.  Sure, he still led the points standings, but Jimmie had the edge.  Hamlin looked like a mental mess and Jimmie looked like a guy who knew he and his team would cruise home with the win.  Five championships in a row.  In this day of tight racing, similar teams, a precision and talent up and down the starting grid, Jimmie's fifth in a row is a huge accomplishment.  It makes him and his team at Hendrick Motorsports one of the top dynasties of all time!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You Know It, I Know It, And We Can't Do A Thing About It

You want to fix the Bengals?  There's only one way. You know it, I know it, and we can't do a thing about it.  Sure, the Bengals will have a season here and there when they make a run at the playoffs, but their current structure allows no chance to win year in and year out.  The Bengals need a system.  Hire a guy (Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, someone from a winner who's "been there-done that") as your Director of Football Operations.  That guy has a system and hires a head coach who believes in the system.  The head coach is allowed to hire assistant coaches who believe in the same vision.  Not just some assistants, but all of the assistants.  If some of the current assistants fit the bill, fine.  If not, move on.  The Director of Football Operations is also allowed to hire a Scouting Director who knows the kind of guys who fit the system.  The Scouting Director is allowed to hire scouts who know how to find the kind of guys who fit the system.  If some of the current scouts fit the bill, fine.  If not, move on.  But everyone from the top down knows the system, knows who fits the system, and is willing to discard those who don't fit the system.  From office personnel, to water boys, to star players, to heck, the cheerleaders and mascot, everyone fits the system.  Does anyone envision that happening any time soon at PBS?   No.  Instead, a new coach will come in behind Marvin, that coach will have assistants forced on him, and the dysfunction will continue on.  Meanwhile, we're stuck with an occasional run to the playoffs with a first round exit.  But more often than not, we'll be stuck with six game losing streaks.

By the way, I hate to see Andre Smith's season come to an end because the guy needs the work.  Now it's pretty much another wasted season.  A few weeks back I did a story on Andre and needed to find some video of him making some good blocks.  That was a chore.  I'm not an offensive line coach, but I didn't see a whole lot happening.  I saw some real issues with outside speed rushers.  So, I'm thinking his future is going to be inside when he comes back.  A 6th overall pick in the 2009 draft is a steep price to pay for a guard, but that might be the best option.  A steeper price comes if he is a flat-out bust because of the foot problems.  One thing is for sure, no way I pick up the option to extend his deal for two more seasons. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bengals Turning Up The Pace?

If the Bengals decide now to go uptempo I might take my Marvin bobblehead to the driving range and take a few whacks at it.  I've been clamoring for more uptempo, or no huddle, or whatever you want to call it, since the preseason.  It always seems to work.  They run better out of it, they throw better out of it, and they seem to find a way to keep opposing defenses from loading up and being overly aggressive.  I would love to see them use more of it this week against a Miami defense that is very good.  I saw Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com had a quote from Andrew Whitworth that the Bengals might go to a faster-paced, 3 wide receiver look.  That may not necessarily mean no-huddle, but anything faster paced is fine by me.  Especially at this point in the season.  There's nothing wrong with what the Bengals did running the ball last season, it worked.  If it's working, then keep using it.  But it became apparent at the end of last season and the beginning of this one that the Bengals offense wasn't at its best anymore as a plodder.  So keep it moving Bengals and do it soon so I have a reason to get back on the practice range.  (but I would never risk damaging my taylormade r9 driver on anyone's bobblehead)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Midweek Silliness

Don't ask me why I'm posting this, other than I just love mascots.  I'm constantly getting pictures with Mr. Redlegs, Rosie, Gapper, the Bearcat, Who Dey, and anyone else designed to make me laugh.  So imagine my delight when I was at Western Bowl when the Cincinnati Christian University Eagle shows up, trades his claws for bowling shoes, and takes to the lanes.  I'm guessing someone lost a bet, but it was hilarious.  The Eagle just shows up with a group of guys and takes to the lanes.  I just missed him getting a strike, but I did get another good roll, then a couple of classic gutter balls.
First the good...
video
Now the ugly...
video 
The Eagle and I...  (the way I've been bowling lately the Eagle would probably beat me)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Season Quickly Slipping Away

The Bengals are just about out of time.  That first half in Atlanta was flat-out brutal.  But after the comeback in the third quarter, I was scratching my head on the decision to go for 2 points after the Shipley TD.  Sure, the 2 points would have pulled the Bengals within 3, but it was too early to start playing that game.  In the end, it didn't matter.  What sunk the Bengals were the mistakes in the first half, and the fumble by Benson in the fourth quarter.  Plus, the inability to make a defensive stop when needed bit the Bengals once again.  A 2 and 4 record with the slate of games coming their way doesn't bode well.  So will there be an ugly meltdown?  Maybe the question is when does the ugly meltdown happen?

The fumble call in the Pittsburgh game was crazy.  Is there a rule that says if you can't figure out who recovered the ball, you give it back to the offensive team at the line of scrimmage?  I've been watching football for a long time.  Every time they separate a pile and a guy hands the ref the ball, that team is deemed to have recovered the fumble.  A Dolphin handed the ball to an official.  So what gives?  This needs to be addressed.

I don't know how U.C. went from playing solid football to having a defensive meltdown against South Florida.  Yes, the Bearcats are very young on defense.  But I don't like the penalties this team is accruing.  The Bearcats lead the Big East in penalty yards.  They are also dead last in total defense and pass defense.  Not good.  The game against Syracuse will be a crap-shoot.  Also, as of Sunday night the status of quarterback Zach Collaros is up in the air.

You have to love fans who don't take themselves too seriously.  At the Hamilton high school game the other night, some Big Blue fans, student we presume, hung this banner.  The "L" makes it beautiful!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Is It Better To Be Lucky Than Good?

In my case, yes, when it comes to golf.  I've been hacking for 30 plus years and Monday afternoon I picked up my first legitimate hole-in-one.  Hole 4 on the Neumann Blue course on the west side of town.  It's a hole I usually come up short on, so I decided to pull out a 5-wood and let it rip.  198 yards from the blues.  It felt like I didn't hit it square, but I got enough of it and it was right on target.  I was playing by myself (I know, I'm a loser) but fortunately there was a foursome nearby to go check the cup while I stood on the tee-box.  A special thanks to Greg Schoenling for verifying that my scuffed up Nike was "In the Hole!"  Also thanks to Neumann Golf Course and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission for the cool trophy.
video

The Whacky BCS Is Back

I'm convinced it usually works out in the end, but the first edition of the BCS standings show what kind of parity we have in college football.  I like TCU, but do the Frogs really deserve to be ranked ahead of Missouri?  Maybe, but by 6 spots?  Take a look at the two schedules and tell me who has played the tougher teams.  Another curious thing about the BCS is Wisconsin.  The Badgers just beat Ohio State on the field of play, but the Buckeyes are 10th in the standings while the Badgers are 13th.  Huh?  So why even play the games?  The coaches poll did the same thing.  Ohio State is 10th and Wisconsin 11th.  What?  Did the 31-18 win by Wisconsin mean that little?  It's maddening.  By the way, the coaches poll is routinely a joke, with coaches favoring teams from their own conferences when they vote.  That way, their own strength of schedule goes up.  No conflict of interest there, eh?  I really hope it comes down to TCU vs Boise State.  Then maybe we finally get our little 4 to 8 team playoff to really get the best teams on the field for the championship game.

Nice win for U.C. Friday night in Louisville.  I really believe if the Bearcats stay healthy, they have a shot at the Big East.  It will take a win on the road at West Virginia, but that's a better shot than I gave them three weeks ago.  The coaches and players really deserve a lot of credit for keeping it together and not going off the farm after a rough start.
 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Exciting Offseason Ahead

So what will the Reds do with all of their time in the offseason?  Probably make things very interesting.
First-Bronson Arroyo says he not only will return for his option year, he fully expects a long-term contract with the Reds before he reports to spring training.  This makes a few guys expendable in trades.  So who is going to go from the pool of young pitchers?  Leake, Cueto, Wood, Volquez, Bailey, and Chapman all have the potential to be mainstays.  No way the Reds would entertain the thought of moving Chapman.  Everyone else might be fair game and one or two of the young pitchers might bring a bat or a shortstop.
Second-What happens with Cabrera, Hernandez, and Gomes.  All three were starting players.  I have to believe the Reds exercise the option on Gomes since they can bring him back at a decent rate.  But it will be interesting, since the Reds might be able to deal for a left fielder.  Plus there's the promise of Chris Heisey.  Hernandez might be an even more interesting case.  Do the Reds want to shell out $3 million for Ramon when Devin Mesoraco might force his way into Cincinnati by midseason?  If the Reds are convinced about Mesoraco's 2010 breakout, it might make sense to go a cheaper route to pair with Ryan Hanigan to start 2011.  Ramon has value as a veteran influence, but I'm not convinced he's back.  Same with Cabrera.  This could depend on the trade market.  Cabrera and Ramon brought valuable experience and leadership to this team, but the kids grew up some this past season and Rolen is still around.
Bottom Line-There's a lot of options that allow the Reds to take a good, young, growing club and make it better.  They can deal from a position of strength, too.  The Reds are not desperate to make a move.  We don't know what the rest of the division looks like yet, but I expect the 2011 Reds will be positioned to make a run in the division again.

How this for funny?  Early in the week my 85 year old mother calls me, and somehow the conversation turns to the Bengals game.  She asked me why the Bengals would throw the ball with under 3 minutes to go and a 7 point lead?  My mom doesn't know a whole lot about football strategy, but she knew enough that it makes no sense to put yourself in a position where you just might give the game away.                         

How much longer will everyone continue to say there's nothing wrong with Carson Palmer?  I may be crazy, but is it possible some days his arm feels better than others?  There has to be something amiss.  His career is sliding badly, along with his quarterback rating.  His rating has basically declined every season since 2005.  He appears to stare down receivers, and the critical mistakes at critical times in games is something that should not be happening to a guy who has been in the league since 2004.

I shot my mouth off on Sport Rock last week and said I thought U.C. had a great chance at winning the Big East football title again since West Virginia is the only team playing well enough to scare me.  I should have mentioned Louisville.  I know it's only one game, and it was Memphis, but any team able to administer a 56-0 butt whipping the week before should get your attention.  I say the Cats win, but Louisville is better than I gave the Cardinals credit for on last week's show.

This is what happens when you play in the SEC.  You are Kentucky.  You start the conference season at Florida, then you go to Mississippi, then you get 8th ranked Auburn at home, followed by 12th ranked South Carolina.  Oh yeah, and the old ball coach and the Gamecocks just knocked off the top ranked team in the country.  Why is it all of these Kentucky fans keep telling me they want to stay in the SEC?  I still say the northernmost school in that conference is at a disadvantage when it comes to football.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Are They A Fraud?

Heck no.  I can only laugh at any suggestion that the Reds don't belong and are lucky to be in the playoffs.  Luck doesn't figure into a 162 game schedule.  However, it can figure into a five game series.  It's funny you never hear anyone talk about that.  So don't give me this jazz about the Reds' luck.  However, they have faltered all season against winning teams.  That's not luck either.  The Reds are a team that was good enough to win a bad division.  The Cardinals had major flaws, and those flaws were magnified once Ryan Ludwick was sent packing and the St. Lou lineup became even weaker.  Disappointing, sure.  But hey, the Reds are still alive and still playing.  Can you imagine how electric it would have been Sunday night if they had held onto Friday night's 4-0 lead.  Unbelievable that it was defense that cost the Reds a win.  That was a shocker.  But the youngsters are getting some serious experience playing in the bright glare of the postseason spotlight.  And it ain't over 'til it's over.

I feel horrible for Jay Bruce.  But he will grow from this.  You could tell he had little chance of making the play, and it was clear he didn't see the ball.  The odds of that happening again in this big of a game are slim and none.

Scott Rolen appears to be worn to the nub.  I don't think he would ever admit to it, but I think he's hurting. 

Should the Reds win Sunday night and get to game four, it better be Travis Wood on the mound Monday night.  Not to exaggerate but if it's not Wood, and I'm Bob Castellini, I'm burning a certain contract extension that was just given to a certain manager.

    

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Concerned (Carson) and Encouraged (U.C.)

I'm concerned about the Bengals offense, specifically the passing offense, and perhaps more specifically, Carson Palmer.  I watched Sunday as Philip Rivers and Kyle Orton each threw for over 450 yards.  Heck, Ryan Fitzpatrick went 20 for 28 passing for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns against the New England Patriots.  I know, Carson had a big day throwing against New England too, but that was after the matter had been decided.  Fitzpatrick's Buffalo Bills didn't face a dire situation until late in the fourth quarter.  But statistics have nothing to do with my concern.  It's what I see that has me concerned.  I see no sure passes other than short ones.  Intermediate passes are an adventure, and the longer ones, forget it.  The Bengals had two passing plays over 20 yards on Sunday, none over 30.  I've heard enough about not being on the same page.  I've heard plenty on the pass protection too.  The protection could be better, but I'm not seeing that as the root cause.  I'm seeing passes not delivered with the same accuracy as Palmer used to display.  It didn't catch up to the Bengals on Sunday.  But it will.  Fortunately for Cincinnati, Carolina was awful.  Just as fortunate, Palmer gets another week to shake this slump, or whatever it is, and show he can still get it done at a high level.

U.C. still has a chance to shake things up.  The Big East title is up for grabs and the Bearcats were playing at a much higher level Saturday night against Oklahoma.  If they can bottle that up and use it in the Big East, U.C. has a chance.  They do have West Virginia on the road, and the Mountaineers appear to be the class of the league.  There's no shame in losing by 6 points at LSU on a Saturday night.

Just as big for U.C. was a crowd of over 58,000 for the game Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium.  Maybe this town can support the Bengals and big-time college football after all.  One or two games a year at PBS with a big time opponent and a big crowd would be a nice shot in the arm for the Bearcats program.  It would be a bigger boost if they get a sweet deal on the stadium.  I'm not sure what the precise deal is, but a publicly funded stadium should benefit as many teams as possible.  Not just one.  And not just one guaranteed to make a profit year in and year out because of a billion dollar television contract with the NFL.  U.C. needs to have a fighting chance to feed the beast that is big-time college football, and big-time college athletics.  Saturday night was good for the city, good for downtown businesses, good for the county, and good for the fans.  It should also be good for the people putting on the show.

What a bummer if the Reds clinch on an off day.  They would get the benefit of an extra day to set things up for the playoffs.  But don't you want to win Tuesday night and break out the champagne in the home clubhouse with dirty uniforms?  That's the way to celebrate in baseball.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reds Ready To Celebrate, Bengals Ready To Win.

It's just a matter of a few days before the Reds celebrate their first division title since 1995.  In some ways you wonder "who are these guys?", especially in terms of offense.  When the season began I think most of us agreed the Reds had a shot to hang around because of the pitching.  The pitching overall has been okay.  But the hitting has been the best in the league.  The Reds lead the N.L. in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, hits, total bases, and slugging percentage.  Seriously, who saw that coming?  Meanwhile, the pitching lags down the list in almost every category.  But this should give Reds fans real hope that there could be more division titles coming soon.  When the young starting pitching kicks it in they'll be a tough team with a fairly young core.  And yes, I said when the pitching kicks in, not if.  I believe Cueto, Volquez, Chapman, Leake, Wood, and Bailey give the Reds some nice options to make big things happen.

The Bengals haven't won a road game since last November.  More than likely that's just one of those weird things that happens in sports.  I'm sure Marvin Lewis told his players to not even think about it, that it's a non-issue.  And it is, unless the Bengals fail to get it done in Carolina Sunday.  I think the Bengals win this game.  Stop the running attack of Williams and Stewart and it's all downhill for the first road win after five straight losses away from home.

U.C. head coach Butch Jones knew what he was getting into.  But I think even Butch is a little more than surprised at the lack of depth on this Bearcats team.  It has left Jones with few options to replace guys who aren't getting it done.  But there is a lack of execution that might be the biggest culprit here.  Big plays have been available, but mistakes didn't allow U.C. to take advantage.  That's something Butch has to fix.  The good news, he knows it and isn't running away from it.  Neither are the players.  The better news, the schedule lightens up a little after Oklahoma this weekend.  After the Miami Redhawks, it's time for Big East play.  And the Big East is bad this season.  After years of national pundits saying it, this year they have it right.  I've defended the conference in the past, and with good reason.  While there were no teams to match the top five teams in the country, there were only one or two dawgs in years past.  Now there appear to be a bunch, maybe all but West Virginia.  I love the Big East, but I can't defend its' lack of football muscle this season.
 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We Waited 8 Months For This?

This truly is one of those games where the final score didn't indicate the can of whoopbutt that was sprayed on the Bengals Sunday.  When you find yourself down 31-3 in an NFL game, you clearly weren't ready to compete.  How does that happen after 8 months of "the playoff loss left us with a bad taste in our mouths", or "we can't wait to get started and build on what we accomplished last season"?  I really don't believe the Bengals are as bad as we saw in the first half at New England, but when the team showed a pulse in the third quarter and cut the lead to 14, what happened?  The Patriots went on a 14 play, 81 yard touchdown drive that took almost 8 minutes off the clock.  That effectively ended the game.  The defense could not stop New England when it mattered.  Bottom line, end of story.  So whether the offense woke up in the second half or not, whether the Bengals allowed the two non-conventional touchdowns or not, I'm hard pressed to make myself believe the Bengals could have done much to slow down the Patriots.  One game is not enough to convince this team is horrible, but defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has a big week of work ahead of him.

Things to see for next week:
The uptempo offense from the start.  Isn't that the only time the offense looked good in the preseason, so why the heck did it take most of the first half to get it going in new England? 

Everybody on the field until the first half is over.  So T.O. needed to be looked at and Chad needed an I.V.  So what happens if the Bengals pick off a pass in the New England territory, of there's a fumble?  If I'm the Bengals, I don't make that move, or allow that move, in the future.

More pressure on the opposing quarterback.  If the Bengals don't make that happen, every qb they face will be completing 71 percent of their passes.  No sacks and a couple of hurries is not going to scare anyone on the schedule.

If I'm Dusty, and we're going to the 9th with a one run lead, I'm making sure someone is heated up and ready to go in case Coco doesn't have it.  No way do I send him out there without a backup plan in case runners reach base.  I would hope to make it Rhodes or Chapman.  Please?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Panic In Cincy!

What, me worry?  I feel like Alfred E. Newman of Mad magazine because I've yet to hit the panic button on this team.  But I am concerned.  A little concerned.  I would be close to panic-mode if the Cardinals had proven over the past couple of months they could beat someone besides the Reds.  Bronson Arroyo Wednesday night, very disappointing.  Aaron Harang on Monday, ouch!  The Reds veteran pitchers had a chance to help the Reds get the train back on the tracks and they failed.  But thanks to the Cardinals, and the Brewers, the Reds still own a 6 game lead over the Cardinals.  

I'm not sure how smart it is for the Reds to try and sneak by with three healthy outfielders, all of them right-handed sticks.  HELLO!  YOUR TEAM HAS A CHANCE TO NAIL DOWN THE DIVISION TITLE!  I know there's trouble with guys on the 40-man rosters, but take a look at the 40-man take a look at the 40-man and see if there isn't a player or two you might sacrifice to make a move.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

All Good In St. Lou, Bengals Cuts Made Sense, But What Happened In Fresno?

That performance by U.C.'s offensive line was not good.  I'm being kind here, I know.  When the Bearcats had problems running the ball and Collaros was running around trying to avoid becoming a character in the next Ichabod Crane story, I had a sick feeling.  I had a feeling that 14-0 lead might be fool's gold.  It was just too bad to see the Bearcats blink, blink again, then fold like a lawn chair in the face of adversity.  It's only game one, so that is good news.  I didn't expect UC to go undefeated again.  The bad news is the performance of the offense line.  Oh, I already mentioned that.  So let's say injuries are the bad news.  I hope none are serious, but the Bearcats lost a few fillings in that game.

The Bengals actually made some cuts that made sense.  I was surprised about Chase Coffman, but if it ain't workin', it ain't working.  If he clears waivers and comes back on the practice squad, fine. If not, the Bengals have Jermaine Gresham.  The only thing that bothered me in the least is thinking Daniel Coats will be the tight end/fullback.  The Bengals went down that road last year and it wasn't pretty.  But Coats is a prince of a human being and we're hoping this time it works like a charm.  Plus, when healthy, Nugent rocks like Ted!  Love that guy as the kicker!

By the way, if the Bengals are really serious about winning this year, why shouldn't they go for T.J. Houshmandzadeh?  The guess here is that T.J. will want better money than he'll get in Cincinnati.  But really, if the Bengals think they are close, they should bring him back to make a living in the slot.  One year, go for it!  There is a camp out there that thinks T.J. was a bit of a thorn, but I didn't see it.  Yes, I'm excited about Jordan Shipley's potential, but will T.J. help the Bengals this season or hurt them?  I think he helps.


The Redlegs.  Up 8 games with 27 to go.  Ok, I'll jinx it.  It's going to be tough to blow that kind of lead.  Especially with the Reds looking at 12 games against Houston and Milwaukee in the last 15 on the schedule.  They are now 14-3 against the Astros and Brewers this season.  In other words, THEY OWN THEM.  I felt the Cardinals had to sweep to have a decent chance.  Guess what?  The Cardinals didn't sweep.

It's out of control seeing Aroldis Chapman doing his thing.  Facing Albert Pujols in the 8th inning with a runner on first Saturday was great.  Even better, Albert getting a splinter of his bat on the ball,  just enough to get it to Rolen to start an inning-ending double play.  I was at the game Wednesday night when Chapman came in to pitch.  I'm not sure I've seen more electricity in a 42,000 seat stadium with only 16,000 in attendance.  The Reds have to wonder if he might be a better reliever in the long run.  However, if he consistently throws strikes, then his pitch count should be manageable.  The Redlegs should give him a shot as a starter next year.  Would you make Secretariat run Quarter Horse races? (I know, Secretariat was a thoroughbred and wouldn't be eligible, but you get the drift, wise guy.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Down The Stretch They Come!

A five game lead coming down the stretch of the baseball season?  I really like the Reds chances.  I've moved from thinking they can do it, to they will do it.  Twelve of the final 15 games of the season are against Milwaukee and Houston. The Reds are currently 7-2 against the Astros this season and 4-1 against the Brewers.  Nice.  So the Cardinals better wipe out that 5 game lead within the next three weeks.  With three games in St. Louis at the end of the week, the Cardinals have their opportunity.  If the Reds get out of St. Louis with a four to five game lead, the Reds will win the division.  It would take a N.Y. Mets type of September to blow it.

Okay, So Aroldis Chapman didn't make it to Cincinnati for the Cubs series.  I guess the Cuban Missile will launch in Cincinnati on Wednesday.  It should be fun.

Was that the real Bengals offense in the first three series against Buffalo?  That was something.  Really, it was the best they've looked since running up and down the field against the Bears last season.  They might want to keep the uptempo style of offense on the front burner.  The running game looked very effective out of the no-huddle too.  So they don't have to change the run-first philosophy to go no-huddle.  But the real identity of this offense will be learned the first two weeks of the regular season against New England and Baltimore.   Don't mess this thing up Bengals, use your weapons.

Brandon Ghee's hit on Saturday night was something.  First, I'm glad he appears to be okay.  Second, give me a corner that plays run support like that any day of the week.  That was a wicked hit!

The first weekend of high school football in Ohio was a wild one.  It ended with a great game between Moeller and Huber Heights Wayne.  Moeller wins with a touchdown with seconds remaining. 35-38, Moeller wins, and senior running back Tucker Skove scored all five touchdowns for the Crusaders!  What a way to start a season!  La Salle looked good in a win over Lakota West, while Harrison came out smoking with a shutout win over East Central.  Middletown appears to have reloaded and Colerain will be very good.  The second weekend in Kentucky provided this nugget: Highlands is still the class of Northern Kentucky.  But keep an eye on the rematch between Ryle and Highlands.  It's October 28, and it's at Ryle this time.  That should be some fun, especially if both teams come in relatively healthy.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bengals Fans Say The Darndest Things

I tried to post this earlier in the week but I ran into technical difficulties. It is from the Bengals practice in Dayton Sunday. It's still worth a good chuckle. 
Bengals fans says the darndest things!
video

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Like It Never Happened

First, can the Reds bring up Aroldis Chapman now? Isn't there enough evidence over the past three days that a lefthanded flamethrower just might come in handy BEFORE September 1?

If you look at the standings, it's like the San Fran series never happened. If you look at the Reds team e.r.a., well that's a whole different story. Somehow the Cardinals dropped two out of three in Pittsburgh while the Reds lost two out of three in 'frisco. About that game in San Fran, I can't believe a lot of things about that game It seemed apparent to me Homer Bailey was done, yet he goes back out there for the sixth inning. I know the bullpen was a wreck, but this was a big game. So Bailey gets in more trouble in the sixth and the Giants get within 5 runs. Starting the eighth with Ondrusek was another move I wasn't sure of at the time. I certainly would have had somebody ready for the first sign of trouble. A man gets on, and Ondrusek gets yanked. I'm not taking my chances in the eighth inning of a game the Reds really needed to win. Masset and Rhodes would have been ready to go for me, since you're off Thursday anyway. I had a sick, sick feeling this might be the one to do the Reds in. But thanks to Superman (Votto), the Reds win one of the craziest games I remember. Actually, it was ridiculous. I mean, at 6:45 Wednesday evening, Reds fans were ready to jump off the top of scoreboard at GABP. Then by 10 o'clock that night the Reds push their lead in the division back to 3 and a half games. I don't know about you, but this rollercoaster of a season has been a blast! Get ready for September.

Oh, those pitching woes. I'm not sure where to start. Just 4 nights ago it seemed the Reds had the pitching world by the tail. Bringing up Chapman won't cure everything by any means. But it will help. A bigger help would be solid starts from Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo to start the Chicago series.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reds Still Going, What To Expect From Bengals

This Reds team continues to be fun to watch. Throw in the recent usage of the suicide squeeze and they up the ante so much more. This is what Cincinnati has been longing for, a team that plays smart baseball. Edmonds leads off the ninth inning Wednesday night with a double. Scott Rolen battles, taking a two-strike pitch to the right side, moving Edmonds to third. Then it's Heisey with the perfect bunt to score Edmonds, and Heisey is safe at first to boot. Does anyone reading this think the Reds could have pulled off this kind of sequence from 2001 to 2008? I can't imagine. The Reds have been much better in terms of statistics when it comes to sacrifices in recent years. But there were some brutal seasons earlier in the decade where the Reds fell below a number of American League teams, and that's tough to do with the designated hitter in play.

By the way, I hear all of this talk about the Reds not being able to handle to the better teams. True, but when did I fall asleep and miss the part about the Reds being everyone's favorite to dominate major league baseball this season? I think if any Reds fan were told back in the spring, "Hey buddy, on August 19, your team will be in first place by three full games. The only problem is your record against the Cardinals and other quality teams stinks." So what? For the last time (at least today) I'll say it: The Reds are building a team that will last. That means taking steps to get better. They are immensely better this year and the future looks good. I already consider this season a success, and if they make the playoffs, it's a huge success. First step: change the culture. Second step: get quality pitching. Third step: learn to play winning baseball. Fourth step: make the playoffs. Fifth step: win it all. I'm not sure if and when steps four and five come about, but the Reds have managed to take the first three steps while acquiring some fresh talent to stock the minor leagues. So let's cut all of this crap about not being able to beat this team or that team and appreciate the fact the team is winning, growing, and grooming an organization that will last.

Bengals preseason game three. What will I be looking to see? Here's my top five.

1. Improvement from the first team defense.
2. The continued growth of roles for Shipley and Gresham
3. Adam Jones to continue to make me feel good about the nickel corner
4. Carson and T.O to continue force-feeding their cohesion
5. Andre Smith? Maybe. Something out of him soon?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yeah,, They Did It Again.

The Redlegs. They have what Cincinnati loves,,,,, a throwback club. They really are a club. And all of the boys belong. Miguel Cairo for crying out loud! And was that really Orlando Cabrera out there picking up Cairo's bat? And delivering baseballs to the umpire? This is a club that loves winning baseball. Better than that, this is a club that loves baseball. Any baseball. I get the feeling from this team that if they weren't getting paid, they would play for beer. Or bragging rights. Or fun. Or the chance to compete. We used to have that every year in Cincinnati. We took it for granted, and we should have taken it for granted. Who doesn't love playing baseball? Well, there have been times I could swear guys wearing a wishbone "C" looked as though they didn't love playing baseball. This three game sweep of the Marlins was an emphatic answer to the "here we go again" crowd. But,,,, here comes the problem. A nine game march through Arizona, Dodger Stadium, and the Giants. This is it folks. If they come back from this trip in good shape, order the playoff tickets.

Two touchdowns in three series by Kyle Orton and the Broncos is a little disconcerting. But what is more disconcerting is the fact the NFL charges full price for preseason tickets. These games are worthless and must be cut down to two games or less in the next CBA.

By the way, Jordan Shipley might be the Bengals best rookie receiver in a long time. I'm hardly the only thinking that way. Did you notice how early in the game he was seeing playing time?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Can The Reds Do It Again?

They have been the bounce back bunch this season. Any time adversity hits, the Reds have come back stronger for it. Now they have to do it again. I think they are good enough to do it, but like everyone else in this area, I fear they might be running out of gas. That's based in part on other collapses in the past. Honestly, it has nothing to do with this team. It says here they stick around, but some guys better pick it up at the plate.

Many seem to be baffled by the suspensions and fines stemming from the Reds-Cardinals brawl. To me, it's what I expected. If you throw a punch or kick someone, you are looking at a suspension. If it is just pushing and shoving, you won't get a suspension. But managers who yell at each other and fail to control the situation get suspended. That's the way it's always been. But since the Reds haven't been a battling bunch in recent years, I guess I can understand why so many people, and media types, in Cincinnati don't seem to grasp this yet.

Four days removed from Monday's decision to send down Travis Wood, I still stick with my initial reaction. I asked a Reds employee Monday if they had made a decision on who to send down to make room for Edmonds. When I was told Travis Wood, my reaction was "Really?" When I was told the Reds didn't need a fifth starter for a while, I responded, "I guess that makes sense." But it didn't make sense. Travis has pitched like one of the top two pitchers in the rotation, if not top two then definitely top three. So that's the guy that gets sent down in the middle of a pennant race? Weren't the Reds just recently wrestling with ways to cut back on innings for Mike Leake? Hindsight is 20-20 but I think the Reds blew this one.

What a letdown of a week for Reds and Bengals fans. All of the hype heading into Canton about Carson and his new weapons, and thud. All of the hype heading in the Cardinals series, and thud. Then thud. Then another thud. It took a day or two, but I think I've recovered just enough to start thinking ahead again.

By the way, one more thing looking back. There was criticism of the crowds this week for the Cardinals game. I thought all three crowds were nice. Not the sellouts many expected or hoped for, but still big crowds. In weather that made GABP rival Death Valley. The extreme heat and humidity had to kill walk up sales.

As for looking forward, I'm looking forward to seeing Adam Jones again this weekend. He looked pretty darned good in his Bengals debut. I thought T.O. looked good int he two series he played too. It was good to see Carson firing his way.

So Tim Tebow ends his collegiate career against Cincinnati and begins his professional career against Cincinnati. At least one would think Tebow wouldn't have the same kind of numbers this weekend that he had in the Sugar Bowl against U.C. Reports out of Denver have Tebow looking good.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Big Weekend In Canton

We're in Canton this weekend for the Bengals Hall of Fame game against the Cowboys. The Bengals players I talked to this week all seemed to be keyed up for the weekend. They are well aware of the significance of the weekend to pro football. This is the first time veteran Bobbie Williams has played in the game and he was really looking forward to seeing the hall and the history of the game. He and his mates are also looking forward to hitting other players besides their own. Here's what I'll be looking forward to seeing in Sunday night's game:
1. Chad and T.O. getting open.
2. Adam Jones in action, on defense and punt returns
3. The tight ends. Gresham and Chase Coffman should be seeing a fair amount of action. Coffman has been under the radar in this camp and if he has the blocking down, he could be a big help.
4. The play of the defensive line. There are some real battles for spots on that line.
5. Ditto for the rest of the wide receivers. Jerome Simpson has stood out at almost every practice I've seen. Can he stand out in a game?
6. Last but not least, the accuracy of Carson Palmer. We all know how poorly things looked in the passing game at the end of last season.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reds Still Rolling But...

There are reasons to be concerned. Mainly offensive punch from the outfield positions. Overall the Reds are still leading the N.L. in several key statistical categories, like runs scored, batting average, and RBI. They are top 5 or better in many other key offensive statistics. Overall they are looking sweet in run differential. But the recent slumber by the usual starting outfielders has been alarming. Maybe Gomes has broken out of it with three hits in Pittsburgh Wednesday. Unfortunately for the Reds, Stubbs and Bruce are looking more and more uneasy at the plate. More like a deer in the headlights, especially in pressure situations. I wasn't nearly as alarmed just a couple of weeks ago, but instead of getting better, it's getting worse. I've felt for months Heisey should get two or three starts a week and I think he's forcing his way into even more starts with his recent play. So what do you do to snap Stubbs and Bruce out of their funks? Stubbs is 1 for his last 35 at bats. Earlier in the year he was at least driving in some runs and scoring some runs, but that has dried up lately. Bruce has just 2 RBI in his last 10 games. Jay has too many situations to drive in runs from the 6 hole and he's just not getting it done. Since June 30 Bruce has 107 at bats and 0 Home Runs. Not good for a young guy with power. I'm thinking Dickerson comes up to the big club, and you work a rotation with him, Heisey, Bruce, Gomes, and Nix. I'm not giving up in Stubbs long-term, but the Reds are in the hunt now. They have to use their best combination of players. It appears Stubbs is lost, and Bruce isn't far behind, especially in pressure situations. Dickerson is on fire at Louisville, so you might as well get him up here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Well, They Did It!

Mike Brown would never try to upstage Vince McMahon, but Vince has to be jealous of the storyline the Bengals have cooked up this season. The Bengals signing of Terrell Owens appears to be a fairly low risk deal. With a one-year contract plus incentives, T.O should be on his best behavior again, much like he was last year in Buffalo. The positives to the signing are obvious: another weapon in an offense that lacked aerial weapons last season, a big receiver who can still supply big-play ability, and a chance to make this team very entertaining on the field. (off the field, maybe even more entertaining, but that won't help this organization win its first playoff game in almost 20 years)
The negatives could be just as obvious: T.O will make more money if he reaches more incentives. What happens in late November if it appears he may come up short on an incentive or two while balls are being thrown in other directions? Hmmmmm, that could take the fun out of this thing in a hurry. Should the team be struggling (an 0-2 start is not out of the question) in the standings, things could get a little interesting as well. Most, if not all, of the negatives will only surface if the Bengals don't have some success this season. In fact, it's going to be fun to watch this show unfold. Win or lose, there is entertainment coming to Cincinnati this fall.
If Carson Palmer is on board with this, and Ryan Fitzpatrick gave the Bengals an honest assessment of T.O. in Buffalo last season, then I can see why the Bengals made the move. I applaud Mike Brown for getting the deal done. Here's a guy who gets pounded for being a tightwad and he just laid out $2-million for another wide receiver on the eve of training camp. In this individual case, I say go for it.
But in the back of my mind, it makes me a little uneasy. I don't want to hang it on T.O., but I still have that nagging feeling the Bengals will never get it right long-term. They may make the playoffs here and there, but they will never sustain long-term success. You need a system that covets players who "buy in" at the expense of personal success. The Patriots do this. The Steelers do this. The Bengals do not. They take fliers on guys who stray off the path time and time again. Second chances? The Bengals seem to reach double-digits in the number of chances they give players. Lately it's worked out for the best. Long-term, you get burned more often than not. The Bengals spent more than a decade in flames playing this sort of game. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If Charles Manson could kick, throw, or catch a football and the Bengals thought they were getting a deal, they would sign him. But all of that is for another time. The Bengals could be serving up the "Greatest Show on Turf" in Cincinnati this season. Win or lose, it will serve up more twists, turns, and drama than pro wrestling.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Disregard Previous Post

Not Really. Two straight sub-par offensive outings doesn't make me think the Reds will forever be stuck in a scoring slump. They do need to get Scott Rolen back in a hurry. The way Dusty was talking Thursday, the Reds are hoping he's back very soon. He's going on the road trip with them. But hoping doesn't mean it will happen, and that has me a little concerned. Meantime I'll remain amused by the people going crazy because the Reds lost two straight to the Nationals. Two days ago everyone was happy-happy. Now the sky is falling,,,,,,,, again. We'd be out of sky by now if it was really falling every time baseball fans go into "chicken little" mode.

I can't figure out why Dusty went ahead with a scheduled off day for Votto Thursday. The Reds were already missing one main cog in Rolen, they had lost the previous night, and righthander Livan Hernandez was on the mound. If Votto were a 36 year old veteran, then maybe. But the dude's 26. I can't imagine a 26 year old first baseman really needs a break 7 games into the second half of the season. If Prince Fielder can answer the bell every game, I'm sure Votto can as well. I get keeping a guy fresh, but Thursday was a game the Reds really needed Joey in the lineup.

So now Chris Paul wants out of New Orleans. Let me guess, he would like to go a few hours south to Miami maybe? Or somewhere else where a ready-made roster awaits so a shot at a championship is more realistic. I'm not liking what's going on in the NBA. In fact, I'm really getting more and more respect for Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Jordan stayed the course with the Bulls while the tried to find enough pieces to make a run. Then after retirement, he came back and did it again. Kobe had it made with Shaquille O'Neal. After Shaq left, he hung in there while the Lakers found a way to rebuild and win more championships. Some of this stuff going on makes me believe there is a whole bunch of 20=somethings out that go for the instant gratification instead of wanting to roll up their sleeves, got to work, and accomplish something on their own.

It's hard, no, make that impossible for the NCAA to keep up with all of these player-agent mating dances taking place. If the most recent reports are true, it's getting rampant and I don't know what the answer is. I would like to believe the NFL and the players association would like to help clean it up by decertifying agents who break the rules. But I'm not sure I see that happening.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Reds Can't Hit ! Oh No!

At least that's what I keep hearing from people. The Reds offense can't score runs without home runs, can't string together hits, can't do this, can't do that, can't can't can't can't CAN'T! Let's take a look at a couple of things. The Reds lead the National League in batting average. They are fourth in on-base-percentage. Tops in runs scored. They are second in home runs and sixth in doubles. Oh yeah, tops in RBI. Sometimes you have to wonder what the heck fans want. Okay, so the Reds have lost 1-0 in three of their last five games. This is what I call the ebbs and flows of baseball. Baseball has the longest season in terms of games played. There are streaks you can't explain, no matter how obvious you may think the answer may be. My guess is the Reds may not lose three more games the rest of the season by 1-0 scores. Or they could lose a dozen. That's what makes baseball so great. What also makes it great is that most pretenders are separated from the pack by this stage in the season. At least that is what I believe. I also believe the Reds are setup to hang in there for the long haul. Barring key injuries, (hurry back Rolen!) there is no way they hang in this race. I feel that good about the starting pitching. I feel pretty good about the hitting too.

The Bengals get started in a little over a week. I think it will be a good season for the Bengals. I think they will go over the early Vegas total of wins set at eight. Well, let me rephrase that, I think strongly they will not go under that total. It's a tough schedule on paper, but the NFL is tough to predict. Every season teams that look scary in July turn out to be duds in the regular season. And vice-versa. The biggest thing I'll be looking for early in camp is one of the biggest players on the roster: Andre Smith. I'm anxious to see if his foot problems are finally behind him. We didn't see him on the field at minicamp and that concerns me. But I'm not getting too concerned yet. After all, it's only July.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reds Ready For Second Half, Are You?

After four days off for the All-Star break, the Reds are ready to keep the excitement building. Bronson Arroyo will start Friday night, then it's the return of Edinson Volquez Saturday night. With the return of Volquez, there is an odd man out for the current setup of the rotation. I'm fairly certain it will be Matt Maloney. The kid has pitched well and offers the Reds even more young depth. But how in the world can Travis Wood be sent down? He can't. If he is, I may file the baseball malpractice suit myself. I would guess if the current Reds rotation continues to shine, then Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey would be in line for some rehab starts. Reds G.M. Walt Jocketty said Thursday that Bailey is at least two to three weeks away from helping the Reds. Walt also said Harang felt a little stiff again Thursday, so they'll have to wait two or three days to see where he's at.

Francisco Cordero could not keep talking about how excited he is for the second half. He also knows he is one of the Reds players who needs to have a better second half. Francisco says he's well aware he's pitched himself into trouble, and needs to get control of the bases on balls. I didn't realize Cordero had never been to the playoffs, and he was downright giddy about a chance to get there. He said his team in the Dominican League won it all last year, and that he can't imagine how much better it would be making the playoffs in the majors. Coco can be a big key to the second half. He could deal them a crippling blow too if forces a juggling of the late inning relievers.

Bronson Arroyo had some candid comments about the Reds chances. He wants to see the Reds get a decent lead because he fears the Cardinals in September. He says Carpenter and Wainwright are the type of pitchers that can carry a team down the stretch. The Reds have one of the more manageable schedules, so they need to make it count when the play 9 games against the Astros and Brewers, and 6 against the Pirates and Cubs.

I'm curious to see what the crowds are like at Great American Ball Park over the weekend. They should be good. They should be good the rest of the season, or as long as the Reds are hanging around first place. I really believe the Reds will be in it the rest of the way. It was during this time last year when things really came off the tracks, but if the health holds up, so will the Redlegs.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Man Did Himself No Favors

I can't believe LeBron did himself or his brand any favors Thursday night. Probably the only faction of fans in the country that didn't wince are those who root for the Miami Heat. It was painful to watch him kick Cleveland to the curb. It was tougher to see how nonchalant he seemed about the whole thing. You would think after all of the rallies and fan love he's seen over the past months, he would understand how devastating this is for the Cleveland fans. But he seemed to wave it off like a guy late for work waves off a panhandler. He seemed robotic and unable or unwilling to grasp the disappointment of northern Ohio. That was disappointing. He has every right to go, but I would have felt better about him if he could have shown a little more compassion. Maybe there's no easy way to do it, but taking one hour in prime time to do it on ESPN seems cold to me. LeBron should know this: He can forget being seen in Michael Jordan's class. While Jordan stayed put in Chicago and elevated those around him, LeBron took the easy way out and joined forces with a bought and paid for trio of All-Stars. If he wins with them, it was expected. If he doesn't win, then what? I like LeBron, but I didn't like this went down. I can't help but think a lot of fans around the country feel the same way. I know a certain owner of the Cavaliers has a problem with the way it went down. His open letter is something else. Enjoy!


Good for the fans for voting Joey Votto into the All-Star game. 13.7 million votes! I know the process was fairly easy to lock in a lot of votes, but I never in my wildest dreams could have predicted 13.7 million. Considering Nick Swisher won the American League Final Vote with 9.8 million, you have to be impressed with Votto's total. That tells me two things: Reds fans went wild voting for Votto. and so did the rest of the country. Good for Joey, he deserves it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cleveland Sweating It Out

And not because of the weather! The LeBron-O-Meter is at its lowest level yet.

Monday, July 5, 2010

And You Think Votto Got Jobbed!

No question, Joey Votto was jobbed by the All-Star process and a certain N.L. East manager who didn't want to hack off his big first baseman. (Charlie Manuel and Ryan Howard for the record) That had to be the biggest oversight of the weekend, right? Well, I thought so, until I went through my every other Sunday night ritual of coming home and cracking open the latest edition of the Sporting News. Once again they've ranked all 120 college football division 1-A (FBS or whatever the eggheads at the NCAA call it now) teams. A daunting task no doubt, and there are going to be some reaches, some oversights, and some flat out forehead-slapping "how in the hell did these idiots do this again?" rankings. U.C. is 23-4 over the past two seasons. And the "Sporting News" says: Ranked 41st. I'm not kidding, 41st. Before you get upset, keep in mind that Northwestern is only ranked 40th. One spot ahead of U.C. Really? Is there another Northwestern I don't know about? The "Sporting News" failed to supply a laugh track with these rankings, so I'll be laughing out loud for you. Northwestern was 8-5 last season and finished the season with a flourish. But the Wildcats also lost to Syracuse. Northwestern returns 14 starters, U.C. will return 13 or so. These rankings are subjective and tend to spark numerous disagreements. They have Pitt 19th, West Virginia 24th, and UConn 28th. And U.C. 41st. Heck, Houston is 26th and I feel strongly that U.C. would beat the Cougars on a neutral field. So why the disrespect? Is it because Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame? Did Brian take Collaros, Pead, Binns, Woods, and more with him? Do they not think Butch Jones can take over for Kelly and win with what Kelly left behind? Did they not see what Butch did at Central Michigan with what Kelly left behind? So many questions that will be answered this fall. And I'm fairly certain I know the answer. After all, I felt the same way last year when the "Sporting News" ranked U.C. 46th. They didn't supply a laugh track with that ranking either.

ps-the Bleacher Report has rankings I find more tolerable. U.C. is ranked 22nd, right behind the Miami Hurricanes and just ahead of...... the Houston Cougars.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Votto Snubbed, Ejected, and Reds Keep Rolling!

No question Joey Votto should have made the All-Star team. Yes, first base is a crowded position but he should still go. Maybe he will. I have to think he has a decent shot of winning the "Final Vote." You can vote for Votto with this handy link supplied by the Reds. But either way, I'm not one of those setting my hair on fire over Votto not making it. One: Anyone can use a four day break in the middle of a long season. Two: the All-Star game is a joke. It counts for home-field advantage in the World Series but doesn't take the best players from each league. If the game is going to count, then scrap the rule that says each team has a representative, scrap the fan voting, and all of the rest. Or just go back to the days of it being an exhibition and scrub the home-field advantage thing. I'm all for the latter. I know people get all fired up for the All-Star game, but I'm not one of them. Especially with the Reds in the middle of a division race. I would rather see the Reds play the Pirates in a game that counts in the standings than the All-Star game. I know I'm the exception and not the rule. With all of that being said, congratulations to Brandon Phillips and Arthur Rhodes on their first All-Star appearances, I know it means plenty to them. Also congrats to Scott Rolen for making it again. Hopefully later in the week Votto will be getting his congratulations too.

It's easy to make the leap that Votto's frustration at the All-Star game may have carried over into the first inning of Sunday's game when he was ejected for arguing a called third strike. Who knows? But the important thing is how the Reds responded. Paul Janish enters the game in Votto's third spot in the lineup and proceeds to rip off a career-high four hits, a home run, 3 rbi, and he scores 3 runs. The Reds rout the Cubs and take 3 out of 4 in the series. Before this road trip started I felt if the Reds went 5-6, I would be more than okay with that. Now they can turn it into a real springboard to the rest of the season. If they just win three in the final seven, they have a winning trip. They certainly want to shoot higher than that, but barring a complete collapse, this team is in the race for the long haul.

The LeBron saga in Cleveland might be wrapping up soon. Could it turn on the Cavalier's "Family Guy" style cartoon the Cleveland brass whipped up, starring LeBron and his friends? That was reportedly part of their pitch on Saturday. The Cavs need to do whatever the can, because if the King leave Cleveland, the Cavaliers are toast. One of the fun ways to keep up with the LeBron happenings is to check out this LeBron-O-Meter from the Cleveland.Com website.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What a Start!

What a start to the road trip for the Reds. And what a start for Travis Wood yesterday and Bronson Arroyo today. A lot has been made of the veteran influences on this team, and rightly so. Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera, Gomes, Hernandez, and on and on it goes. Winners. But pitching might be the main ingredient for any team making a run at the division title. The Reds are showing they are deeper in starting pitching than at any I time I can remember. Bailey gets hurt, up comes Sam LeCure for a decent stretch. Then it's Travis time and he fires a gem in his debut. With Volquez on the horizon, it bodes well for the Reds and they try to establish themselves as a legitimate contender. It wasn't that long ago I was still fretting over the Reds run differential for the season. After today's 12-0 thumping of the Cubs at Wrigley the Reds are now plus 40 on the season. One more week like the last one and they are stamped "Legitimate".

The NBA free agency circus is really a lot of fun to watch. Billionaires flying to Cleveland to grovel at the feet of LeBron James. LeBron showing up in tee shirts and sweatpants, able to toy with the rich guys. I don't think LeBron would really toy with them because he appears to be a class act, but he could and the billionaires wouldn't care. It really is something that it has come to this. As fellow WLWT employee John London remarked Friday afternoon, what must the guys like Wilt Chamberlain be thinking when they traveled by bus to most of their games in the old days of the NBA? It's just further proof that the best players have the hammer now, and they should. The NBA has a fine system and it is working to perfection right now.

The NFL system works fairly well too, but I really hope the next CBA has more of a slotting system when it comes to contracts for first round picks. Keep the revenue pool large for player salaries, but please have most of it go to veterans. Why am I thinking of this now? The Utah Jazz have already signed first round pick Gordon Hayward. No holdout, no bitterness, just go by the system and when you prove your worth son, you'll get your money like LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. Does it really make any sense that Andre Smith of the Bengals gets a bigger contract than say, Dhani Jones or Brandon Johnson?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Here It Is!

The big trip begins Thursday for the Reds. The way the past 9 days have gone, you have to feel good about their chances to win at least five of the eleven games. I told Aurthur Rhodes I considered this a critical trip for the team, and when I asked him if I'm making too big of a deal out of it, he said "no". Arthur's been around the block, and he really feels the Reds will perform well on the road and continue to lead or be within short striking distance of the division lead.

It was a good sign to see Jay Bruce get a big hit Wednesday. He's been hitting the ball for average, but it seemed like it had been a while since he had a big hit. Jay acknowledged after the game that he hadn't been producing the way he wants to with men on base. He called his 8th inning home run "huge." Jay was right. Huge to take two out of three from the Phillies, and huge to give confidence to an emerging force in right field for the Reds.

As far as I know, Brandon Phillips could not have handled his speeding incident any better. He stood up Saturday and told everyone exactly what happened, it was a mistake, he took his medicine in court, and will most likely learn from it. One unnamed player saw all of the media around Brandon Saturday and made the wisecrack that went something like "What? Are we turning into the Bengals now?"

Speaking of that, the Cedric Benson arrest sure took a lot of the "feel good" outof the Bengals "feel good" off season. Even if he's completely innocent, it just brings back all of the baggage this team was carrying/ Fans have to hope the close media observers of the NFL are correct in thinking Cedirc won't miss any games in the upcoming regular season.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's Hard Not To Jump

It's very hard to be a Reds fan right now and not jump off the ledge. They have lost six of their last seven games. In three of those losses they were shutout, and they scored a total of six runs in the six losses. So the offense has gone to sleep. Teams go through swoons, but the Reds are swooning at a terrible time. While losing games to Kansas City and Seattle, the real heavyweights are lying in wait on the horizon. A team that is destined to make the playoffs would have chewed up the competition in the past two weeks. But in the last 14 games, the Reds have a 5-9 record. Ten of those 14 games were at home. There is time to get it together, but the Reds have blown a golden opportunity by losing to teams they should have handled. Now they will have to turn it around against teams that present some hurdles to overcome. Oakland is 21-13 at home. Cleveland should provide a respite next weekend at GABP, then three at home against the talented Phillies. After that, THE TRIP, an 11 game road trip that will decide the Reds fate this season.

It was good to see Aaron Harang give the Reds a clutch performance. But two things stick out: Harang really needs to pitch in a ball park like Safeco Field where the fly ball isn't such a bad thing. And 110 pitches in six innings? The big guy still needs to find a way to be more efficient and get deeper into games.

How about Jim Herman's performance at the U.S. Open Sunday? He shot a 3-under 68, tied for the best score of the day. He was a whopping 6-under after 15 holes, but bogeyed 16 and double-bogeyed 18. Still, a very impressive finish and a nice comeback after struggling on Saturday. But who didn't struggle on that course? I felt very bad for Dustin Johnson on Sunday. By the way, Herman should be playing in the Nationwide Tour event coming to TPC River's Bend in Mainville. The Chiquita Classic runs from July 12-18.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Conference Shakeups and Still No Relief

One good thing for Reds fans hoping the Reds fix the bullpen is that Walt Jocketty is aware of the problem, and Walt's pulled the right lever more than a few times since coming to Cincinnati. At the risk of repeating myself (okay, forget the risk, I'm repeating myself) the Reds best in-house option is to use some starters from Louisville. Or bring up a starter or two and toss some combination of Harang, LeCure, and maybe even Cueto into the bullpen. Aroldis Chapman would look good to me coming out of the Reds bullpen, but the Reds seem determined to keep him on a straight path to starting. Something needs to give, because I'm convinced the bullpen is going to kill this team. Herrera and Massett are having trouble getting people out, Owings is struggling to find the plate, and Del Rosario has allowed 7 of 9 inherited runners to score. That's not relief, that's high octane gasoline. It should say Marathon on the bullpen door with numbers like those. Even Cordero has suffered more than his share of blowups. Ondrusek has been okay since coming back and Rhodes is lights out. Two guys out of seven can be trusted at this writing, with a hopeful look towards Cordero. The rest of the guys outside of Del Rosario have shown the ability in the past to get it done, but they aren't. The way I see it the Reds have three days to figure it out. Then they head out for a six game road trip, then back home for six, three against the Phillies. Then comes a trip that could turn into Hamburger Hill. 11 games against the Cubs, Mets, and Phillies. I don't see a lot of help from the current relievers in the minors. Jared Burton is working his way back but doesn't seem to be ready. So brings up some starters and mix and match from there. Barring a trade, Travis Wood, Matt Maloney, and Chapman seem to be the best quick fix.

I don't know if Texas staying the Big 12 is good or bad for U.C. It still appears that it will come down to what the Big Ten gobbles up. Should the Big Ten want to go to 16 teams in tne next couple of years, then the Big Ten is going to poach enough teams from the Big East to cause Cincinnati trouble. If Texas had taken off for the Pac 10, along with Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Ok State, then the Big Ten could have expanded by using some Big 12 leftovers and a couple of Big East teams. There still would have been enough leftovers for the Big East to remain viable. But if the Big Ten goes for it by taking Big East teams now, as many as four could go. My gut tells me the Big Ten might be a little reluctant to go to 16 teams and leave no room for Notre Dame.

That buzzing at the World Cup has everyone annoyed, but as the USA-England game progressed, I think I became a little used to it and it became like elevator music. Annoying when someone pointed it out, but otherwise it was just there. But the players at the World Cup in South Africa are another story. They say they can't communicate on the field, and some have said they had trouble sleeping the night after a game. This is what makes sports a laugh riot. Every event has some issue, some turn of fortunes, and/or some outcomes that we never could have thought of in a million years. So blow you horns, (or vuvuzelas if you prefer) and have some fun!

Monday, June 7, 2010

No Time For Patience

The Reds bullpen needs addressed asap. If that means mixing and matching with what is already on hand, or going out to get a body or two in trades, it needs to be done. They have some in-house options. If it helps, then send current starters to the pen. Homer, Lecure, and some of the other young arms attached to starting pitchers in Louisville could help fill the void. I would have thrown Chapman into the group, but his 2 Inning, 6 hit, 6 walk, 7 earned runs outing on Monday night is disturbing. But the goal is to win at the major league level, and Matt Maloney and Travis Wood aren't doing that by starting games for the Bats. Hopefully the Reds get the old Jared Burton back soon. The Reds and Cardinals are on the verge of making this a two team race. The Reds don't want to blow this opportunity the way they've been blowing leads lately.

This college conference expansion talk has reached new levels of absurdity. Let's see if I get this straight: Texas might join the Pac-10. How far is a trip for the Longhorns basketball, volleyball, baseball, soccer, and other teams to Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State? (Not to mention Cal and Stanford) I guess they could just have the non-revenue sports play in their own divisions and leave the long trips to the revenue teams, but that would make a mockery of the whole "conference" thing. So the teams from Texas along with other Big 12 defectors would have to make those trips. And this is coming from the same group of college presidents that tell us a football playoff would create too much of a burden on the "student-athlete"? It's just amazing how the lure of more and more money rips away the mask of hypocrisy shielding big-time college athletics.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Upon Further Review

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig did what I thought he would do, he played it straight. It probably is the right thing, since rules are rules, but one of these days baseball just might shock us and do something innovative. When it comes to umpire Jim Joyce blowing Armando Galarraga's perfect game, Bud could have used a little imagination to right the glaring wrong. Baseball is already dabbling in instant replay. Why not just add the final out, or potential final out of a game to the short list of reviewable plays? Bud could take that step, make it retroactive to Wednesday, and PRESTO!, everyone goes home happy.

Something I also think would make baseball a better game is this rule: a pitcher gets to throw over to first base twice. If the pitcher throws over a third time and does not pick the runner off, then the runner gets second base. I would love to see that cat and mouse game.

With the Kentucky Derby winner and the Preakness winner skipping the Belmont, it's a not real high profile field. Ice Box has to be the play, and I'm not so sure Nick Zito doesn't have the second place horse too: Fly Down. Those are my top two. This is only the third time since 1970 the Belmont has lacked a winner from the Preakness or the Derby.

Monday, May 31, 2010

"It's Mr. Jocketty on line one."

At least I hope that is what some baseball general managers are hearing from their office personnel. The Reds need some help in the bullpen and I'm willing to bet Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is checking every option. Should they use some of the better pitchers in their own system, even if they happen to be starting pitchers? Would it make sense to have Homer Bailey work out of the bullpen when he comes back from the shoulder inflammation? More than likely, the best answers come from outside the organization. It's not just Monday in St. Louis that has me thinking the Reds better think fast. Outside of Rhodes, and maybe Cordero, who exactly can the Reds trust from their bullpen? Masset has a great arm and great stuff but he's been getting knocked around too much. Lincoln and Fisher are having major issues. While Owings and Herrera have respectable E.R.A.'s, do you really feel good about the way they are throwing? Many thought the biggest concerns for the Reds to remain in contention were health and offense. But to me, the bullpen is looking like the real achilles heel. Hopefully Walt is on the phone.

Monday Musings

You can tell it's a holiday when ESPN has to fill a segment with a discussion about players complaining about the soccer ball being used at the World Cup. If I hear another word on that subject, it will be one to many. They should just make these whiners go to Wal-mart and get a ball there.

The crash at the end of the Indy 500 was unreal. Mainly because Mike Conway lived to see another day. Thirty years ago the ending would have been horrible. The carbon fiber tub and other innovations have given the drivers a much better chance. Fuel safety has come a long way with a major cutback in the explosive crashes and fires of the past. I remember in the early 1970's whenever another green flag dropped at Indy, I would fear for the lives of the drivers. Three drivers lost their lives after crashes at Indy in 1972-73. Jim Malloy and Art Pollard during practice, and Swede Savage during the '73 running of the 500. When you see some of those old crashes it makes it even more amazing Conway wasn't hurt worse. You can find plenty of the old Indy crashes posted on various sites around the internet.

I think I'm the only guy in the world who likes Kyle Busch. And Kurt for that matter. The Busch brothers are really getting it together on the Sprint Cup circuit. Of course Kyle is still too aggressive on the track at times, but the boy can drive. And he can irritate other drivers and fans alike. But he keeps on driving hard and I really believe he'll "get it" one of these days and turn some of the hatred around. His brother Kurt did just that after Jimmy Spencer woke him up with a punch to the nose in 2003. Kurt's image has come a long way in that time, with a recipe of fan-friendly campaigns mixed with charity work. And winning. He's accomplished the winning part by understanding he doesn't have go flat out on every single lap. He gave his younger brother the same advice last week. Until Kyle heeds that advice, he'll continue to invite more "Busch Bashing". Despite the bashing, the Busch boys are both in the top six of the points standings.