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.