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?