Friday, April 30, 2010

Derby Picks

With the chance of rain looking to be 70% at post time, it's going to be a wild ride. There's not enough of a track record in the slop to get a real feel. Super Saver won a race in the slop at Belmont last September, Devil May Care did the same last August at Saratoga, and Backtalk won on a sloppy track in February at Delta Downs in Louisiana. There's also some workouts from the past week in the slop and mud at Churchill. Lookin' At Lucky, Ice Box, Stately Victor, Paddy O'Prado, Conveyance, and Sidney's Candy all ran bullets, but still, not a lot to go on. The guy at the Daily Racing Form thought Paddy O'Prado looked especially good working in the slop. I have to say, I like the way Ice Box closes. I have to use him in my picks. I'll go with the track clocker since he's watched the workouts and knows his stuff. So Paddy O'Prado will be in my picks. Lookin' At Lucky has to be considered as well. I like to find another horse to round out a trifecta box, and this is tough. Line of David, Sidney's Candy, Super Saver, and Awesome Act all scare me. But they all seem to get out of the gate and need the lead, so I'm going to play the hunch that they burn themselves out and don't last the 10 furlongs. Devil May Care scares me as well. But I'll go with Mission Impazible as my fourth horse. So here they are in this order:
1. Ice Box
2. Lookin' At Lucky
3. Paddy O'Prado
4. Mission Impazible

I'll box those bad boys up in a trifecta, and if the odds are okay, I may go with a straight bet on Ice Box, plus a little exacta action. With 20 horse in the field, I'll consider myself extremely lucky if two of my four make it in the money.
Good Luck, and do not hold me responsible for any lost money!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On To St. Louis

The Reds will feel like a major league team against once they take the field against the Cardinals. There will be a major league sized crowd in the stands. Even though Houston announced crowds of 21-22 thousand for each of the three games, it looked more like George and Barbara Bush plus their security detail in the stands. The biggest crowd on the Reds recent home stand was 19-thousand. That won't be the case in St. Lou.

The Reds hope the starting pitching is the same in St. Louis. Three straight quality starts and a three-game sweep in Houston. Harang, (maybe Dusty knew what he was doing starting him against Houston. My apologies) Leake, (What is up with this kid? unbelievable!) and Arroyo. (good to see that after three yucky starts) This is what the Reds were expecting out of this staff. I was one more bad start away from thinking maybe Dick Pole wasn't so bad after all.

Maybe Thursday night will spark Drew Stubbs to go on a nice little run. He needs it. After replacing Chris Dickerson (wrist injury, Dickerson to d.l.) Stubbs went 2 for 2 plus a walk, stole two bases, scored two runs, and went from first to third on a single to left when Carlos Lee took it for granted that Stubbs would stop at second. Stubbs getting on track would be huge. In some ways it's hard to believe the Reds at back to .500 (11-11) with the lack of production at the plate form some of these guys.

I haven't figured out the Kentucky Derby yet, and probably never will. But when I decide who I'm going to bet, I'll post it here and let you laugh.

One of these days I'll delve into this Big Ten expansion thing, but for now I'll say this: I'm worried about the future of U.C. If the Big East gets nuked, it could get ugly. However, if the Big Ten really goes to 16 teams, this could force the SEC, Big 12, and ACC to go large as well. In that case, the Bearcats would find a soft landing.

By the way, where will the Big Ten find four more teams that play bland, ho-hum, offensive football? The Big Ten had two teams ranked in the top 30 in total offensive yards last season. Wisconsin at 25, and Penn State at 30. It was even worse in points per game.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bengals Not Concerned By Dunlap DUI

The Bengals have been known to roll the dice on character issues in the past, but they talk like Carlos Dunlap is a sure thing. The Florida defense end missed the SEC championship game after getting arrested for a DUI. He was back for the Sugar Bowl against U.C. I remember Florida coach Urban Meyer going to bat for Dunlap big time at the Sugar Bowl. It is the only mark against Dunlap off the field. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said he is convinced Dunlap is not rife with character issues. Zimmer says Dunlap could use some maturity on the field, including during practice. But he thinks Dunlap is a solid kid and will not be a bad citizen. Zimmer and the Bengals may be right. I hope they are. But it wouldn't be a draft if we weren't talking about something of this nature.

I had a chance to chat with Bengals first round pick Jermain Gresham today. He was an impressive young man, and is all business when it comes to football. He loves the game, and everything we talked about came back to him wanting to work hard and become the best tight end in the NFL. He had to smile when we talked about the Oklahoma-UC game from a couple of years ago. Jermaine had 7 catches for 93 yards and a couple of touchdowns. But he was quick to give the Bearcats a lot of credit for having a great season, and he was proud Oklahoma was the only non-conference loss for the Bearcats during the regular season.

So Far, So Good

I'm cautiously optimistic about the Bengals drafting tight end Jermaine Gresham. If they use him, and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski swears they will, it could make the Bengals offense whole again. But how long will it take the Bengals to sign him? Just once I'd like to see the Bengals be one of the first teams to sign a pick, instead of letting everyone else around them set the market. But you know it will happen, the Bengals will wait until everyone around them has signed their pick, and the Bengals will slot themselves based on the other deals. That's one of the "Bengal Ways" I wish would disappear.

As for the second round, a safety would be nice. I'm not sure if second round talent at that position will still be available, but the Bengals could use it. If not safety, maybe corner. I've seen reports where it's iffy the Bengals will be able to keep both Hall and Joseph at the corner positions. I really hope they can. I would love to see Mardy Gilyard come to the Bengals on Friday night as well. Of course I'm always up for drafting linemen so if we see one or two of those taken Friday night, I can live with it.

I wish the Reds could fix starting pitching problems as quickly as they fix their mustard problems. Yes, the Reds had a mustard problem and are in the process of taking care of it. Good for them. Now skip Harang on Monday and find a solution to his woes and I'll really be happy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Draft Day and Skip Harang

The Reds have to skip Aaron Harang on his next start. It falls on an off day, so the Reds may as well skip Harang's turn. Work with him for a week, maybe give him one more start after that, and if it doesn't go well, it's time for a Zambrano type decision.

By the way, the fact Volquez can serve his suspension while on the 60-day disabled list is a joke. I know he loses money, but it still seems to me he should have to start serving the day he comes off the d.l.

It's draft day, and anything can happen. Most of the mock drafts out there that have the Bengals taking tight end Jermaine Grisham. A few have them taking wide receiver Dez Bryant. But when your drafting 21st, you have little control over who will still be around when you pick, so....

I'm real skittish about this Ben Roethlisberger suspension. No charges and no arrest, but he still gets 4-6 games. The police report on Big Ben's incident is not pretty at all. I guess the commish figure there's a lot of smoke so he going to douse any kind of fire.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Musings

First the Reds... Ouch! What a terrible first road trip of the season. They take the first two games, and to be honest, those are games they were fortunate to take in extra innings. After that, the only other game they should have won was Saturday night. They were lucky to come back and make a late push to get in the game Friday night. But above and beyond that, there are more disturbing signs: Starting pitching that is very inefficient and can't get past the fifth or sixth inning without racking up 100 pitches. A veteran third baseman that is critical to the lineup already dealing with an injury issue. A leadoff man striking out more than Adam Dunn. Sure it is early, but the track record suggests little reason to think any of the above will change dramatically. If it doesn't,,,, I'm not sure I want to think about that.

Who to draft, Who to draft? I'm not one of those screaming that the Bengals have to take a tight end in round one. I think that makes more sense than drafting a wide receiver, but if they do draft a tight end, will they use him? Think about this: The Bengals have not had a tight end with over 50 catches since 1995. In fact, since Bob Bratkowski came to the Bengals as offensive coordinator, Bengals tight ends have only combined for more than 50 catches in a single season twice. During that time, the 58 catches combined by Reggie Kelly, Matt Schobel, and Tony Stewart in 2003 tops the chart. Ten NFL tight ends in the past season topped that on their own, led by Dallas Clark with 100 grabs in 2009. The top individual performer in the Bratkowski era is Reggie Kelly with 31 grabs in 2008. Of course, it could be a chicken and egg situation. What comes first, a good tight end or the Bengals throwing to a tight end? Maybe if they had one that could get open, there would be more plays going his way. Plus, the Bengals have had some nice wide receivers in the Bratkowski era. But based on the above evidence, I'm willing to get a tight end down the line and hope Chase Coffman becomes the player I believe he can. The guy can catch. I saw it in training camp when he was grabbing everything. High throws, off the shoelaces, behind him, you name it, he was catching it. Based on the above evidence, I'm not going to worry about a tight end in this offense. Perhaps if they did take one in the first round, they would feel compelled to use the guy, but that's not a slam dunk. Fortunately the Bengals are in position to take the boring, old, "best player available." If that happens to be a tight end, do it. But I'm hoping it happens to be a lineman, either side of the ball.

It's enough to make me think about becoming a Steelers fan. Say what you will about Pittsburgh, but the Rooney family sets a tone and you better fall in line. Mike Tomlin is the perfect guy for the team. Impressive, classy, and doesn't put up with the kind of nonsense that gets in the way of winning football games. The fact that the Steelers brass told the players there is a "zero tolerance policy" to play in Pittsburgh is the kind of thing the Bengals should have done years ago. The Bengals kind of, sort of, did that. Then their actions betrayed the words. I'm not going to rehash the whole ugly episode for the Bengals, and I applaud their recent turn for the better. The way Rey Maualuga handled his off season situation was head on, and I have every reason to believe he'll make good. Pittsburgh made good on its pledge by unloading Santonio Holmes, and that put everyone on notice. I would not be surprised if they listen to offers for Roethlisberger. There's a certain standard the Rooney family has set and if you don't live up to it, see ya later. I don't always like the on-field antics, but that's football. Off the field, the Rooney's have done their best. Big Ben could become the next casualty of failing to meet the black and gold standard.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Off To See A Missile Launch

While on the road to see Aroldis Chapman throw in Louisville this evening, I figured it would be a good time to catch up on some Reds business.

First off, what to do with Chapman. With Harang and Bailey off to slow starts, the calls will be coming fast and furious to light the missile's major league fuse. I'm sure the Reds want to see him string together a couple of nice outings in the 7-8 inning range. But my concern for Harang is high, and about as high for Bailey. No team can complete without competent starting pitching, and the Reds aren't getting it.

Dusty, oh Dusty. Why did you sit Paul Janish one day after he homered and doubled against the Marlins? We all know Janish is not known for his bat, but when a player gets hot, stick with him for at least a couple of games. If Cabrera is tearing the cover off the ball, maybe, but Cabrera is hitting .205.

The Reds need two out of three in Pittsburgh. Hopefully for Mike Leake those control problems in his debut were just a glitch. The Reds need him to go deep into the game tonight. There's every reason to believe his control will be just fine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bruce A Bad Boy?

Nah, Jay Bruce is fine by me. After breaking an 0-17 slump last night with a double, Jay flipped what appeared to be a double-bird to someone in the Reds dugout. Bruce apologized today for doing it, and he should apologize. The baseball field is a stage for all to see, but that being said, Bruce is a good guy and has been great to deal with, through thick and thin, since his arrival in Cincinnati. So from this corner, it's no big deal. Breaking the slump was a big deal. the numbers don't show it, but Bruce has been hitting the ball well for the past week. I lost track of the number of line drives he ripped right at someone.

The Terry Bradshaw-Ben Roethlisberger flap is juicy. Reading between the lines, Bradshaw is calling Big Ben everything but a quarterback. Here's a story about Bradshaw's issues with Roethlisberger. I've heard a lot of things from a lot of people who knew Ben and dealt with Ben when he was at Miami University. The sentiment is the same: Big Ben's changed from his collegiate days, and not for the better.

The Xavier basketball banquet is tonight, and I would imagine Jordan Crawford will be there. He's taking the smart route, checking his NBA possibilities before signing with an agent and saying so long to XU for good. If he comes back, you have to like Xavier's chances to be have another great season. If the Musketeers find another big man, they could be thinking Elite Eight and Final Four. Seriously, it could have happened this year.

I still can't figure out why Lance Stephenson took the leap. I mean, besides a chance at immediate money. He really needs to stick around another year, play the way he did down the stretch this season, get his shot together, and make himself a legitimate first round pick. Could he hurt his stock by staying? Maybe a little, but I think he could improve his stock a ton, and therefore hit the jackpot a lot sooner than he will by rolling the dice now. He does have serious potential, but Born Ready is Not Ready.

And that brings us to the state of U.C.'s basketball team coming into next season. Sean Kilpatrick better be a great shooter, Yancy Gates better bring it every night, Cashmere Wright and Ibrahima Thomas better keep improving, Rashad Bishop better toe the line, plus a rabbit or two out of Mick's hat in April might all be essential to give the Bearcats a chance to turn the corner next season. I have my strong reservations about that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What a Monday

Opening Day and the NCAA Championship on the same Monday. And it was great! My "job" Monday was to help cover Reds Opening Day for WLWT. As usual, it was a blast and I felt our parade and fan coverage was excellent. The game left a little to be desired, but at least the Reds showed an ability to put some runs on the board. But for the true sports junkie, there was a chance to make this a rare daily-double. So I went for it. My co-worker Andy Pierce and I figured if we could get off work around 7 p.m., we could make tip off in Indianapolis for the Butler-Duke game at 9:21 p.m. We scored some great tickets over the weekend, paid $20 to park, and watched a great championship basketball game live at Lucas Oil Stadium. I know I've said this before, and HDTV has made sporting events on big-screen televisions a great option, but there is nothing better than being there. I'm not sure I would have had the same goosebumps at home that I had watching this game live. I had no dog in this fight, I just wanted to be there for a championship game and a championship atmosphere. Mission accomplished. The Final Four returns to Indianapolis in 2015. I'm already making plans!

(Butler's last huddle with 13.6 to play)

(Coach K with his net)

BTW, with 70-thousand paying good money to see these games, we were very lucky to be sitting in a seat where you could see the action, and see it well. I can't imagine how far away some of those seats had to be. I'm not sure I would want to watch the game through a pair of binoculars, but if it came to that, maybe so. They used to put the court in the corner of a dome and have 40-thousand or so seats for the game. Now, (at least at Lucas Oil) they plop the court in the middle of the football field, and fill in seats around it. And the seats very, very gradually rise to meet the football seats. Just imagine dropping a basketball court in the middle of Paul Brown Stadium. That's how the NCAA plays their championship games now. I get the money part of it, but I can't believe those are ideal conditions for the players. No way.