Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wow, Was I Ever Wrong

It's not the first time, but I didn't give the Bengals much of a chance selling out Sunday's game against Baltimore. They essentially did it in less than three business days. You have to give the Bengals a lot of credit on this one. Not only did they make a nice deal with the fans, they were able to handle the physical logistics of selling so many tickets. It's a great thing for the players, who deserve to play before a packed house. No matter what some may think of ownership or the front office, this one should be for the players. And when it became about the players, the fans came through. Now will the players come through on Sunday? I think there is a very good chance the Bengals beat Baltimore. Baltimore has struggled on the road. All four of the losses suffered by the Ravens this year have been road games. Their road record is 3-4. They have lost at Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle, and San Diego. Jacksonville, Seattle? If the Ravens have lost to teams like those on the road, I think and up and coming bunch of Bengals have the upper hand on Sunday. But as a warning, I've been wrong before!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Will Bengals Sell Out?

I don't think so. It's a lot to ask to sell 24-thousand tickets in one week. Outsiders look at Cincinnati and wonder "what in the heck is wrong with those fans? How can a team that is one win away from the playoffs not have great support in the hour of need?" The rest of us in Cincinnati know the history and the reasons. We got a nice smack in the face of that reality last week when Mike Brown reportedly paid $200-million in cash, real dollars, to buy the 30 percent stake of the Bengals team stock held by the estate of Austin Knowlton. This happens while potential improvements for the team are left on the table and deemed too expensive. Little things, like an indoor practice facility that every other team that needs one enjoys. We know U.C. paid about 12-million for its facility, and that included building the fields from scratch. Little things, like a starting cornerback named Johnathan Joseph. He was drafted and developed by the Bengals. But the minute he cost upper-echelon dollars, he was deemed expendable. But now fans are being chastised for not buying in. Many fans still care and that is refelected in high local television ratings for Bengals games. But they aren't buying in yet, and who can blame them? Get ready for the blitz this week from local radio and probably local television to BUY,BUY,BUY! It may work, but as I said, it is a lot of tickets to sell. And I think a mindset has set in that goes something like this: "I can't tell Mike Brown how to spend his money, and I sure as heck am not going to allow him to dictate how I spend mine."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another Week Of Surprises

U.C. starts pouring in the points, while Xavier gets whacked at home. The Reds make a big trade, and the Bengals are back in the hunt despite playing a less than stellar game. Outsiders may not think Cincinnati is an exciting place, but every Sunday night there are at least a couple of stories where I shake my head and say, "I can't believe it!"

I can believe the Reds deal, but I can't believe how sure many pundits are so sure it's a great deal for the Padres, or a great deal for the Reds. No one knows right now. If Mat Latos turns into Curt Schilling, the Reds probably got themselves a good deal. But, the odds are tilted in favor of San Diego. If for no other reasons than the Padres get four players, any of whom could turn out to be good. Volquez will be the least likely, but again you never know. The early line on Alonso, Grandal, and Boxberger suggests two of the three should turn out to be good players. I don't think Alonso can miss. For that reason alone I would have liked to have seen the Reds at least get a prospect along with Latos.

The Bengals won soooooooooooo ugly. This does not inspire a lot of hope from this little corner of the world that Marvin's men will finish with wins over Arizona and Baltimore. without two more wins, I don't see Cincinnati in the playoffs.

I could not have seen the blowout coming for Xavier. Sure, I though the Musketeers might struggle to win, but after the first five minutes, X got whacked. Yanking three starters from a basketball lineup is definitely a big deal. So the tournament selection committee will certainly keep that in mind when they see a huge loss on the home court.

U.C. certainly has found a way to put the ball in the basket. We'll find out soon enough if opening things up will turn the season around. First off all, the players are just playing. They have quit playing stilted and are letting it all hang out. That helps shooting. And when this team can make shots from the perimeter, and pick up some easy baskets by cranking up the tempo, it's a lot more fun for everyone involved. I can tell you this, it's much more enjoyable to watch.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Suspensions and Bengals

This time the two are not related, other than being a part of the same blog entry. The Bengals playoff hopes took a major hit on Sunday with the collapse against the Houston Texans. No way they should have lost 20-19, especially after leading by 13 at halftime. But it's very odd what happens to the Bengals in December. If they are out of the playoff chase, they seem to spring to life down the stretch and play well. When they are in the playoff hunt, or make the playoffs, they seem to stagger down the stretch. In 2005, the Bengals dropped the last two games, but were playing for nothing in the final week. In 2006, they staggered home and missed the playoffs with 3 straight losses to end the season. In 2009 they lost 3 of the last 4 games. Granted the last game against the Jets didn't matter, but the next week against the Jets mattered in the first round of the playoffs. And now comes this season. They better win the last three games like they did in 2008, to finish 4-11-1!

The suspensions are out, and I can agree for the most part. The Big East agrees with U.C. that Gates, Mbodj, and Ellis get 6 games. Ge'Lawn Guyn gets one. Xavier gave Dez Wells and Landen Amos four games. Mark Lyons two and Tu Holloway gets one. The A-10 is cool with that. Lengthy suspensions are uncommon in college basketball but this was a rare moment. The best news would be that the universities not only grabbed the attention of the the suspended players but all of the players. In fact all of the student athletes at U.C. and X.U. U.C. has attached zero tolerance to the suspensions and Mick Cronin says he could add some games if he doesn't like what he sees out of his men in the interim. In my earlier posting I said the series needs a break. I really believe that. Let not just the players, but all of us in Cincinnati realize that the game is a city treasure, and should be treated as such by all of us in the tri-state.

The Crosstown Needs A Break

There was a time I felt the Crosstown Shootout was a better Cincinnati event than Opening Day for the Reds. The last time I felt that way was just past 2:30 p.m., Saturday, December 10, 2011. I now feel this rivalry needs a break, and it's too bad. I purposely waited about 12 hours after the event to let it soak in before I pounded out some thoughts. I thought my initial reaction would fade, but it has only become stronger as I look at replays, watch youtube videos, and see what John McCain would truly categorize as a "human cockfight." It's sickening, embarrassing, and probably will not recapture it's innocence for a few years to come. For anyone who lives in Greater Cincinnati, or is a fan of either team, that should make you sad. I wish I were wrong, but I've watched this game for more than a few years now.
The Crosstown Shootout was a celebration of the Cincinnati zest for competition. "Take no prisoners!" But once the game was over, I'll meet you at Dana Gardens or Martino's to buy you the shot and the beer I owe you. After that, it was a year's worth of ribbing and "wait 'til next year." We thought Huggins and Gillen refusing to shake hands was a big deal. And it was! This was supposed to be the gentleman's rivalry where the city was together before, then after the game.
I recently watched the ESPN "30 for 30" presentation about the Alabama-Auburn rivalry. I laughed about how the fans down there take the Iron Bowl game so seriously. I recoiled at Takeo Spikes and his classless "War %@#%*^$ Eagle" declaration. Totally classless. I mean, just ridiculous for a grown man to say that on the record for a video that will be played coast to coast and on the internet from here on out. Really? And some half-wit Alabama fan "allegedly" poisons the Oak trees at Toomer's Corner in Auburn. If you happened to see this guy, who is in his 60's and now maintains his innocence, you had to cringe. Complete loser. Let's not go there Cincinnati! But in some ways we have.
From U.C. fans booing Xavier cheerleaders in the 80's to Saturday's vulgar chants from the student section at the Cintas Center, this thing has been brewing. The more we tolerate, the more we'll get. It finally boiled over into civic embarrassment on the court. Pick your player: Yancy Gates, Dez Wells, Cheikh Mbodj, Mark Lyons, it does not matter. Both universities need to get a handle on this. Then, maybe, they can resume the series. Until then I'll just celebrate Cincinnati sports on Opening Day. What a shame.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

UC, Butch, and Big East

It appears the U.C. Bearcats will not be looking for another football coach. There were some in the program who feared Illinois would make another hard run at Butch Jones, but Ilinois appears to be set on Toledo's Tim Beckman. I saw Butch Wednesday night at the G.C.L. football banquet and he was really fired up about this year's recruiting class. After the banquet he was hopping a private plane to visit a couple more highly rated prosepcts and had high hopes he would be securing another committment or two. For more on the life of Butch and his staff you need to read this all-access report by Tim Adams at BearcatLair. I suggest reading all of the segments. Great stuff. Also, while giving his speech at the banquet, Butch talked about how flattered he's been by other programs showing interest. He said he is proud that other schools recognize the work of his assistants and success of his players. Butch added that some like to say the grass is greener on the other side, but he thinks the grass is green right here in Cincinnati. After the banquet at least a couple of the high school coaches on hand remarked they thought Butch was very good at the podium. Not too long, but a couple of powerful messages to share with the kids.

By the way, new U.C. athletic director Whit Babcock is getting rave reviews. I have polled just about every athletic department employee I've seen, and they all say the guy has made quite the positive, early impression. It's funny, every person has said "real deal", "the man", or "home run", or some other phrase. I'm told he's already shaken the bushes and found some big-time money from at least one new donor. I also was assured U.C. president Greg Williams is 100% on board with getting football every resource possible. It all sounds good for the Bearcats, but action, donors, and fans will determine the final fate.

Someone help me. The immediate reaction to the new Big East was to laugh, ridicule, and talk about what a joke it is. So, what was the alternative for the Big East to survive as a football conference? Just chuck it, and say we give up? It's the best the conference could do to recover. It's a shame the conference found itself in this situation. Maybe the wounds were somewhat self-inflicted, maybe not. But I give the Big East credit for adding some television markets that will come into play in the upcoming negotiations for a new television contract. I work for an NBC affiliate but I have no inside info. However, it stands to reason that the new Comcast/NBC Sports network will need some inventory. I look for Comcast/NBC to make a play.

Speaking of conferences, I'm glad to see NKU join the division 1 party in basketball and other sports. Click on this link if you want to learn more about the Atlantic Sun Conference. I would much rather have the Norse in the Horizon Conference. My next preference would have been the Ohio Valley. But the Norse will probably have more opportunities in the future to join other conferences. For now the important step was to get in the game, and NKU has accomplished that.

Pujols and Reds

Instead of the Reds improving their club at the Winter Meetings, they seem to be satisfied that the loss of Albert Pujols will help them. It's also possible Prince Fielder will leave the Brewers and the National League Central Division. That would be quite a one-two punch for the Reds main competition to lose. But what about the long-term affect? With the big dollars going out to those two, what will Joey Votto be worth in two years? I can't imagine any way in the world the Reds can afford to pay what Votto could command as a free agent, or potential free agent. So what to do, what to do? Can they afford to trade Alonso? If the Reds really feel they will have the money to pay Votto, then you keep him. But I bet Alonso stays to hedge their bet and as the season rolls along they think more and more about the Votto situation. By keeping Alonso and praying he can play left field, they buy themselves a little more time. But they must think ahead to what these big contracts meam for the future of Votto in Cincinnati.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bengals Back On Bubble

I was not counting on the Bengals to get a win in Pittsburgh, but I was counting on another heady, steady performance. Instead it was a blowout. It is just one loss in the standings, but it highlighted the warts that may keep this team from the playoffs. Certainly injuries have taken their toll, but what worries me more is that the Bengals have beaten just one team this season that currently owns a winning record. The 7-5 Tennessee Titans. That's troubling when the Houston Texans bring a 9-3 record to town. A loss to the Texans and the Bengals are in big trouble. I was counting Houston as a win, and I still think that can happen, but it's going to take much better execution that what was on display Sunday. You are never as bad as you look, and never as good as you look. The Bengals are definitely in between. In fact, they could prove to be about average. It is certainly better than I thought they would be in 2011 and they do appear to have a chance to be very good with a little more experience. But this is about 2011, and potential playoff hopes now. Without a win over Houston, those playoffs hopes are just about shot.

So LSU must beat Alabama twice to win a national championship, but Alabama only needs to beat LSU once to win the national title. Does this really make sense? I'm somewhat surprised the BCS went through with this because it screams that this system is a mockery. I would much rather see Oklahoma State get a shot. Ultimately I would much rather see a playoff of 8 teams, or 16. At least that way if Alabama was still matched against LSU in the end, we would know the one loss teams would truly be pretenders. But the way it is now, we just have to take the word of the BCS. And I'm not much for taking the word of flimflam artists.

Friday, December 2, 2011

And The BCS Says The Big East Is A Fraud?

You want a fraud? The BCS is like the guy who comes around once a year to seal your driveway and rust-proof your downspouts. How the heck can this fraud continue before the very eyes of a nation full of fans? How do we allow these guys to continue to rake in our money, our interest, our passion, only to say "Eat your pudding young man! If you don't eat your pudding you can't have any meat"! Before I reach out and do something I shouldn't to the next BCS official who has the nerve to identify themselves in my presence, let's take a look at the affect this fraudulent, Cosa Nostra-like, grip has forced on one of our national pastimes. It's championship weekend, with conference championship games from coast to coast. But none of them mean a damn thing when it comes to determining a national championship. Thanks BCS. Nice job. So, all of the games in the regular season allegedly mean something. But when it comes to actual playoffs that pair the best of the best in conference championships, well hold on big fella! Your Lordship BCS has already decreed who is number one and who is number two. Thanks for the late season drama. And for you BCS lovers out there, quick! Which conference has the most teams in the top 25 of the BCS standings? If you said the SEC, try again. The Big Ten? Take another stab Bevo breath. It's the Big 12. A conference with 10 teams has six teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS. This includes a Texas team that is 7-4. But the Longhorns rake in 70 mil a year in revenue and mean a lot to the network that has the most to gain or lose when it comes to the Longhorns. Yes, you are a big part of the problem ESPN. Whether loveable Lee Corso is hurling expletives on live television or not-so-loveable executives are behind the scenes busting up conferences, you keep the monopoly alive. Not true? Talk to you your man at B.C. But I digress, and you wish I would continue to digress. You want a good laugh? Look at 25th rated Missouri. The Tigers have five losses. FIVE! Look at two of their whopping seven wins. One is at home against Miami(OH), which finished 4-8. Another is at home over Kansas. Kansas has two wins this year. Those two KU wins are against McNeese State and Northern Illinois. Missouri did beat a ranked Texas team and a ranked Texas A & M team. A & M is the only road game Missouri won the entire season! You can't make this stuff up. That's another dirty little secret of the BCS and college football's elites. The teams that draw the most fans get to play the most home games. Lets see Missouri go on the road and play, say, Arizona State. I wonder what would happen? Wonder no more, because the Tigers lost in overtime at ASU. ASU finished 6-6 and had a losing record in the PAC 12. But as this posting shows, these rankings are incredibly fraudulent. The BCS is fraudulent. You don't believe me? I'll send a BCS official to seal your driveway tomorrow. Too bad that is not his real job!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Redsfest Brings Reds Back Into Focus

With Redsfest opening Friday afternoon, many players have returned and are making appearances to help promote the event. One of the big questions surrounded Brandon Phillips. He wasn't on the original list of players for Redsfest. Phillips was at the Lakota West Freshman School Thursday to honor student Meggie Zahneis. Meggie is a wonderful young lady doing wonderful things and you can read my post about her here. Of course Brandon has done a lot of wonderful things for Reds fans, so I could not imagine he would miss Redsfest. Apparently he will not. I asked him "In my heart, I think you're going to show up, are you going to show up?" Brandon flashed his smile along with a laugh and replied, "have I ever missed a Redsfest?" "No!", I responded. "Exactly," said Phillips. "So nobody has nothing to worry about." Brandon went on to explain his strong feelings about attending such fan-friendly events. He credits his mother. "My momma told me this. Momma said, one day people are not going to ask you for your autograph, so you better enjoy it!" Phillips also entertained questions about his contract situation and insisted he wants to follow the footsteps of the man he called his idol, Barry Larkin, and play a long time for the Reds. "I've been talking to my agent back and forth. I'm just going to leave it to Walt (Jocketty) and my agent to get it done. I just know I'm going to be here this year. I'm going to go out there and have another successful year like I've been doing since I've been here. Hopefully we get it done because this is where I want to be. I love my fans. I feel like this is my second home, next to Atlanta, Georgia."
Yonder Alonso is another guy sure to grab fan attention at Redsfest. Will he be traded? If not, what position will he play? I asked Alonso what he thought the fans would be asking him this weekend. He let out a nice laugh and said, "Take a picture? Get an autograph? I hope!" Alonso was laughing the whole time. He knows there have been serious questions. He told me he has worked hard so far this offseason, and has worked hard on becoming a better player in the outfield. He appeared to be strong and in tremendous shape. As for a possible trade, Yonder said, "my teammates call me, what's going on man? And I don't know. I'm working out. I'm getting ready for the season. I'm a Reds (player) obviously, I'm wearing the uniform!" Yonder was dressed in one of the Reds spring training jerseys, all red with "Reds" scripted in white. "I'm going to give my all to this team and this city, and hopefully they can keep me around." Alonso is a great guy and is known by many around the Reds as a guy who works his tail off. He told me he treats every at-bat like it's his last, because he is not taking anything for granted or giving anything away. I know the Reds have to make some moves, but I would hate to see Yonder go.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bengals Still On Track

The Bengals are still on track to be in the playoffs heading into the final week or weeks of the season. Before we go any further on the that, I want to say I haven't seen the Bengals with a tandem that adjusts to the ball better than A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham. They've had individual guys who have done it like Carl Pickens, but to have two guys with the kind of fly ball skills of Gresham and Green is rare. Now that I have that off my chest, back to the playoff hunt. My friend Rocky Boiman convinced me on our "Sports Rock" show last night that the Bengals need 10 wins to make the playoffs. Nine is not enough. Rocky bases this on the fact that the N.Y. Jets have 6 wins now, and should easily get to 9 or 10 based on a healthy helping of cream puffs down the stretch. The Jets get Washington, K.C., Philly, Giants, and Miami. They could easily win four of those. The Bengals have Pitt, Houston, St. Louis, Arizona, and Baltimore. There's three wins there, but can they steal a game from Pittsburgh or Baltimore to get to 11? Perhaps. The playoffs are right there for the Bengals to grab. If they can find a way to avoid falling into the double-digit holes they've found themselves in lately, they have a real chance.

While the Bengals are heading to the playoffs, the U.C. Bearcats could be heading to another coaching search. I really feel Butch Jones wants to make a go of it in Cincinnati. But here is where the rubber meets the road: Support. Not just fans in the stands, although it begins with fan support. U.C. has a football budget that is near the bottom of the Big East. Considering the Big East budgets are at the bottom of the BCS conferences, that is an issue. A small Nippert stadium with no club seating and no luxury boxes is a big problem when it comes to expanding the budget. If the fans will flock to PBS, that will help. Funding in general lags for U.C athletics. Mick Cronin has the same problem in basketball, with a budget that was recently near the bottom of the budgets in the conference. That is saying something. Cincinnati is a great place to live. A lot of coaches, not all but a lot, would love to stay put here if the university had the resources to compete with the schools that win big. Imagine if U.C. had the resources of the big dogs. It's amazing the Bearcats compete at all in football the way things are. Imagine if the football program were on a near-equal funding basis. Until that happens, this coach thing is going to pop up every 2-3 years. New A.D. Whit Babcock has a lot on his plate. Funding, funding, and funding. There is no bigger issue.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Relax Buckeye Fans

Forget about a rare loss to Michigan. Your man is on the way. Even former Buckeye and Heisman trophy winner Eddie George believes Urban Meyer will be named Ohio State's next head football coach in the coming days. Do you think Eddie might have a connection or two with the folks who call the shots in Columbus? The real questions lie with Meyer, and maybe even he doesn't know the answers. Is he healthy and built for the long haul? Or is he coming back too soon? And because of health concerns, can he burn the recruiting and coaching candle at both ends like he did at previous coaching stops? My information says when Urban goes after something, he's all-in. There is no taking it easy. There is no delegation of duties to allow himself to slow down. He also won't allow the Buckeyes to slow down. After years of conservative play calling, get ready Columbus.

Should West Virginia beat South Florida Thursday night, U.C. fans would have to be torn. Sure, you don't want U.C. to lose the final game of the season to UConn. Sure, you never want Louisville to win the Big East title over the Bearcats. But if West Virignia, Louisville, and U.C. all finish with 5-2 records in the Big East, then it's very likely West Virginia gets the BCS bid. But if U.C. loses, and West Virginia is tied with only Louisville at 5-2, the it's the Cardinals winning the tiebreaker and getting the Big East bid. Does any U.C. fan really want West Virginia taking one last Big East bid before prancing off to the Big 12? I'm not suggesting U.C. would ever lay down for anyone, but I am suggesting if U.C. finds a way to lose to UConn (and that should not happen) then the loss will be a little easier for U.C. fans to stomach knowing the Mountaineers will not be leaving the Big East on a high note. Of course this is all assuming WVU gets out of the Big East next year. Stay tuned to Court TV for that show.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Undermanned Bengals vs Undermanned Ravens

It's official, A.J. Green is out for the Bengals, and Ray Lewis is out for the Ravens. I'm not sure how good I feel about the Bengals chances without one of their main offensive weapons. It's up to Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell to prove they can handle the load. Last week they didn't, even with some big-time help from Andrew Hawkins. Meanwhile, it's a fine mess the BCS has on its hands. It appears the top three teams in the SEC West standings will be the top three teams in the BCS standings. LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas. Reading some comments about what college football is coming to in a few years, this is exactly what the big dogs want. Only a select few with a chance to play in the major bowl games. But this thing is far from over. LSU and Arkansas play next week. Alabama still has Auburn ahead. The BCS has a chance to be the biggest mess ever.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

U.C. Did WHAT?! Lost To WHO?!

If I'm Mick Cronin, Monday night the U.C. basketball team will come out in plain gray sweatshirts and plain gray sweatpants. The old cotton kind with a string in the waistband. They will have plain white shorts with plain white jerseys. The way they played down the stretch against Presbyterian College, they certainly don't deserve to wear the Red and Black colors of the Bearcats. How in the name of George Smith do you blow a 15 point in the final eight and a half minutes over a team called the "Blue Hose"? Teams have been shocked before. In 2007 Kentucky lost an early season game against Gardner-Webb. Then duplicated that feat the following year against VMI. It's not the end of the world. Syracuse lost an exhibition to Division 2 Le Moyne back in 2009, and the Orange bounced back. But in order to bounce back you have to learn your lesson. We'll see if they can learn that lesson in two days, because the Northwestern State team they meet Monday night won 18 games last season. Presbyterian won just 13 last season, but that was their best since joining D-1 in the 2007. Couple the hoops loss with the football loss, and Saturday was one of the bleaker days for U.C. in awhile.

No Help For The Munch Man

Munchie Legaux was not good in his first start. He wasn't even close to good. His issues were made worse by little or no help by those around him. That means players and coaches. Unlike last week when Munchie seemed to settle in and play fairly well, this week he never had a chance. Munchie missed a ton of receivers, and when he was on target a receiver would drop it. Three or four drops in the first half were costly. When the Bearcats found themselves in second or third down and long, here came the pressure and the blitzes from Rutgers. Legaux had to run for cover. By the way, it seemed the Bearcats were always in second or third down and long. With that part of the offense struggling, Rutgers strangled the Bearcats running game. The game plan was to get running back Isaiah Pead rolling. Pead was bottled up for 28 yards on 14 carries. When the running game stalled the Bearcats offense had no other answers. And that is a problem. We'll hang that part on the coaches, because Munchie looked a lot better rolling out late in the game. I mean late, like when it was too late. The defense did a good job holding Rutgers to 10 points in the first half. But the field goal was set up by a 23 play drive. 23 plays is an incredible amount for one drive, almost unheard of. The defense also allowed Rutgers out of a hole on its own 6-yard line in the third quarter. The first play on that particular drive was a 22-yard run by Jawan Jamison. The second play was a 29-yard run by Jamison. Two plays, two runs, and Rutgers goes from its own 6-yard line to the Cincinnati 43. Rutgers would finish that drive with a touchdown and Jamison would finish the game with 200 yards. So the defense had moments where it contributed to the Bearcats demise. But the glaring issues were offensive. No, Munchie didn't get much help. But he certainly didn't help himself. It had to be a disappointing day for U.C. and Munchie needs to play better immediately if the Bearcats hope to avoid disappointment again next Saturday at Syracuse. That's something the coaches have six days to figure out.

Win By Oregon = Ducks > Tide

Really Alabama? It's late season and you have Georgia Southern on the schedule? I have maintained for years that if you want to be considered for a national championship, then you should not play 1-AA or FCS teams after September. You know how this BCS things work. If you drop a game early in the season, you have a chance to climb back into the national championship picture. But if you lose one late, you are sunk. So what does mighty 'Bama do? Schedule a freebie late in the season to help guard against a late season loss. That is garbage and 'Bama knows it. Florida does this stupid little trick too. I despise it, and if you think you are good enough to win it all, then you don't schedule cupcakes past September. Honestly, I think the FBS teams should only be allowed to schedule these teams in the first two weeks of the season. I think there is still room for these games, because the big payday of playing at Alabama will make the budget for Georgia Southern. Remember 2004 when an undefeated Auburn team was left out of the national championship game because of a cupcake filled non-conference schedule? Unfortunately for the Tigers, three teams made it through the regular season undefeated, so it was the Tigers getting left out. I realize Alabama played L.S.U. to a closer game than Oregon. But in my opinion, teams have yet to round into shape in September and the goal is to get better as the season goes along. I feel Oregon is a much better team now than the one that lost 40-27 to LSU back in September. LSU and Alabama may be better now too, but 'Bama should prove it. And you don't prove by playing Georgia Southern in November. So if Oregon beats USC tonight, I fully expect the Ducks to leapfrog 'Bama and land squarely into position 1-A for the national championship slot. But this is the BCS, and perennial powers seem to get a little more of a pass than the serfs of the college football world. We'll see if the BCS can get it right.

Friday, November 18, 2011

MLB Moves Do Not Move Me

I've read a lot of positive things about baseball's latest moves but you won't find those things listed here. An extra wildcard team that qualifies for a one-game playoff with the other wildcard team is gimmicky. I guess if your team is in the game it beats going home, but one game, winner advances? Why not just have a Home Run Derby bewteen the teo squads to save all of the pitching for the real playoffs? So a team that might finish 10 games ahead of another in the standings will have to win a one-game playoff with the lesser team. And baseball prides itself on having a long season so the best have to prove themselves. Then they are affored one whole game to prove the point. Does that make sense? The other big move affects the Reds and that is Houston heading to the American League. It's nice that the Reds will finally play in a division that isn't the biggest in MLB. But with 15 teams in each league, there will be interleague games from the start to the finish of the regular season. No thanks. I'd rather have the Astros back in the N.L. Central. Although baseball may pare back the number of interleague games each team may play, it's still going to stink having interlelague games the entire season.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NKU Still Waits For D-1

It's too bad that the Ohio Valley Conference said no to NKU joining and therefore delaying the Norse from becoming Division 1. The feeling I had was that the OVC would welcome the Norse. We know Eastern Kenbtucky, Morehead State, and Murray State were ready to bring in the Norse. But they did not get the needed 75 percent approval. Why? It appears a lot of schools felt the Norse would become dominant because of its facilities, possible geographical recruiting advantage, and funding of programs. I can't disagree with the OVC schools fearing the Norse. We were kicking this around the office last weekend and I felt strongly that NKU would dominate the OVC in basketball and have an excellent path to the NCAA tournament every year, men and women. The fact they have a new arena in a metropolitan area woul be huge. But forget the OVC for now. I had always hoped the Horizon League would be the destination for NKU. The Norse would fit well with these schools:Butler, Valpo, Cleveland St, Wright St., Detroit, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay, Loyola, Illinois-Chicago, and Youngstown St. But that's an even 10, and the Horizon is not interested in expansion at this time. This means it may be the Atlantic Sun or the Summit League. Both recently lost teams to other conferences so it stands to reason they need to add schools. The Summit offers closer schools like IUPUI and IPFW. The Atlantic Sun has four schools in Florida, which might give NKU a nice recruiting boost by telling kids they'll actually be seeing the sun on some trips during the deep winter months of basketball season. I feel the Horizon or OVC are better options but right now it is not NKU's call. The Norse have to take the first step of getting into a Divison 1 conference. That will happen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bengals Lose, But Did The Prove Anything?

Probably. The consensus is the Steelers are still among the elite of the AFC, and by golly, the Bengals were still right there with them. Many will point to the two fourth quarter interceptions as the Bengals demise, but I think it was the beginning of the game that sunk them. The Bengals have a good defense. They should not allow anyone to march down the field on their first two drives, score touchdowns, and build a 14-0 lead. After that, the defense was very good. On those first two drives the Steelers seemed to take advantage of a juiced up Bengals defense, and an aggressive mindset of the line. Mixing in the end-around plays had the Bengals off-balance. It was a little disappointing that once the Bengals tied the game at 17 in the third quarter, they allowed Pittsburgh to answer with an 81-yard touchdown drive. Still, allowing just 10 points after the midway point in the opening quarter shows the Bengals defense was able to get its act together. The game shows the Bengals are in the playoff race for the long haul.

I'm still not sure, and we will never know if someone made the wrong read on the last interception. Andy Dalton appeared to be reading a slant, while Jerome Simpson appeared to be squatting in a seam. That cannot happen in that situation, but at least it's not an epidemic like in years past.

Collaros Surgery, More Munchie

U.C. Quarterback Zach Collaros will need surgery on his injured right ankle. He will miss the final three regular season games, but could return for a bowl game. The surgery wil be performed Monday. It turns out Collaros fractured the ankle as he was sacked in the second quarter of Saturday's loss to West Virginia at Paul Brown Stadium. He was replaced by backup Munchie Legaux. I talked a little about Legaux in the previous post. I was on the field when he entered the game and I couldn't help but notice the similarities in stature between Munchie and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Munchie is listed as being a little taller, but Smith appeared bigger to me than 6 foot 3. Munchie, like Smith, considers himself a throw first quarterback, but both have the ability to bust loose. I saw the Munch Man for little more than a half, but I don't think it is far fetched to see him becoming as good as Geno Smith. Munchie was recruited by a lot of BCS schools such as Oregon and Tennessee, among others. He was a one time commit to Colorado. In doing some research this morning I came across a college football message board that included fans from several schools and he is a hit with the fans. Of course they were fired up about the name. Munchie's name will bring notoriety, but I believe his play will soon be the bigger reson for the notoriety. As Paul Dehner said on gobearcats.com, Munchie already started selling season tickets for next year. Paul's column on Munchie's first big taste of college quarterbacking is a good read.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bearcats Future, Bengals-Steelers

U.C. lost a game and a leader on Saturday. But a new leader for the future could be emerging. More on Munchie in a moment. U.C. had more than enough chances to beat West Virginia. If it wasn't the defense letting the Mountaineers out of a hole, it was the U.C. offense or special teams putting the Cats in a hole. You hate to see a kid who cares as much as Zach Collaros go down with an injury. You really hate to see his senior year end this way, so hopefully the news is betting on Sunday. But the future could be in good hands with backup Munchie Legaux. His first several passes were closer to the top floor of the Carew Tower than his wide receivers. But after settling down he looked pretty special. Tall, (listed at 6-4 1/2,, appeared to be maybe a little taller to me) good running ability, and some serious zip on the ball once the nerves disappeared. I'm anxious to see more of him. U.C. still controls its own fate but it may take some Munchie Madness to win out and take another Big East title.
While at the game I talked to a couple of men in Orange sports coats. Orange Bowl reps. I'm not sure what they do exactly, because it's not like there's a whole lot of choices they can make with the automatic tie-ins, but it was neat to see them there. I let them know what a good job they did with the hospitality when U.C. was the three years ago. It was stellar.

Can the Bengals make it six in a row? Heck yeah they can, but will they? I'm really anxious to see Andy Dalton, the cool customer, handle his first outing against the Steelers defense. I haven't seen much that is too big for Dalton so far, so I suspect he'll be all right. The wind could turn out to be a big deal in this game. We could get gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Also big, will Carlos Dunlap be able to play and keep that strong defensive line rotation at the top if its game? I saw Adam Jones at the U.C. game hanging with his former mates on the West Virginia sideline. He sounded like a guy resigned to missing the Pittsburgh game, but he said he would definitely be back for Baltimore. At any rate, I'll join the Enquirer's Joe Reedy in predicting a Bengals victory. I'll go with 20-17, with the Steelers missing a game-tying field goal at the end as a gust of wind blows the ball wide left.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Joe Pa Fired, But It's Not Over

The Penn State Board of Trustees had to make a stand. It is the type of stand that should have been made years ago by others. How so many people at an institute of higher learning can be aware of sexual abuse of minors and allow nothing to come of it for a decade, if not longer, defies any application of civilized logic. Joe Paterno's firing as Penn State head football coach on Wednesday night will eventually be seen as way too little, way too late. For now, many students are angry with the decision to fire Joe Pa and that emotional response is to be expected. Paterno hoped to finish out the season and coach his final game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. But that would have been a circus, and it would have further eroded faith in an institution and the man who did so many great things in 50-plus years at Penn State. Paterno should have done the more honorable thing and resigned before the board had to take action. But that inaction by Paterno pales in comparison to the inaction by Paterno, his athletic director, and others at the university, when the abuses by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky came to light. The allegations are so sick I had trouble reading the entire grand jury report.
Perhaps Paterno was not made aware of the seriousness of what the eyewitness saw but even Paterno admitted, "it was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw." That in and of itself should have set off more curiosity from the head honcho of the Nittany Lions. Once Paterno told his A.D. about the eyewitness account of the abuse, did Joe Pa never think about it again? Did he ever wonder why nothing had come of it? Did it occur to Paterno that if the allegations were serious and true, Sandusky should have been serving a prison sentence as opposed to still hanging around the program? And it is not just Paterno. All of the adults involved in this should have been wondering why nothing more had come of this situation. Well, that time has come. Everyone involved will have their feet put to the fire. That may not help the poor victims, but those who overlooked these crimes against children need to be held accountable. Joe Pa may be fired, but this story is far from over.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Free Agency Begins, But Should Reds Play Ball?

We know the Reds needs. Another hammer of a starting pitcher, a closer, and anyone who can play the outfield that doesn't strike out more often than Dusty Baker bites through a toothpick. Left field would be the crying area of need, with third base and perhaps insurance at shortstop at the top of the list position fixes. Good Luck finding any of the above on the list of free agents that hit the market this week. In left field, the bin includes 39-year old Raul Ibanez, who made a mere 12 million dollars last season. I don't see the Reds going that route, and Ibanez appears to be the best of the lot. Others includes Cody Ross and Juan Rivera, not exactly what the Reds need. Third base, forget it. Absolutely nothing, unless Wilson Betemit is your guy. As for insurance at shortstop, how about Jose Reyes? Just kidding. He would solve a lot of issues, but Reyes will break the bank, a bank the Reds don't have. Jimmy Rollins is out of the price range as well. So it appears the best the Reds could do in free agency at shortstop is insurance for Zack Cozart. A guy like Clint Barmes would fill the bill, so would Yuniesky Betancourt. But they'll be looking for money and more playing time than the Reds have available. It's no better among the starting pitchers. With the Yankees keeping C.C. Sabathia off the market the pickings go from slim to none. The best available seem to be Erik Bedard, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Paul Maholm, Roy Oswalt, and Rich Harden. Anyone see a hammer to team up with Cueto at the top of the rotation? Buehrle certainly has credentials, but I don't know if his stuff will work at Great American Ball Park. Hamilton High School grad Aaron Cook is out there. If healthy, his killer sinker is perfect for GABP. He might be worth a chance. Another sinkerballer on the market is Brandon Webb. But he spent an entire season with the Rangers trying to come back from shoulder woes, and it just didn't happen. It will still be worth a look at him before spring training to see if he's coming around. Long story short, the Reds are going to have to make deals to improve their club. That means anything can happen. Would they really deal Votto? I doubt it. Brandon Phillips? I doubt that too, although if they think Brandon or Joey are going to be impossible to sign, the Reds may have to do some serious soul-searching to fill their holes. It's not going to happen through free agency, whether they had money to blow or not.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Palmer Performance (or lack thereof) Tops Another Wild Weekend

Maybe retirement wasn't such a bad idea. Of course it was too much to ask Carson Palmer to step in and play for the Raiders right away. Palmer hadn't played or practiced since last season before joining the Raiders this past Tuesday. It was as ugly as it gets, three interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown. The one returned for a touchdown was on a quick out that was blanketed, and was the kind of decision that would get a junior high quarterback benched. As I was watching this it was really hard to feel bad for Palmer because he's the one who made this bed. I also couldn't help but think of the following: If Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, or any of the other big-time franchise quarterbacks were in this situation, would they look this bad? Who knows? But I highly doubt it. And it was Raiders coach Hue Jackson who called Palmer a "big-time franchise quarterback" after the big-time franchise trade. But Palmer will have more chances to get it right, and I'm sure he will have good games and bad stretches, just like we saw in Cincinnati the past few years. Fortunately for Palmer, he has a couple of weeks to get ready for his next appearance. ``This bye week couldn't be at a better time,'' said Palmer. Not to pile on, but I would suggest this past week would have been a better time.

Can we please pull the plug on prime-time appearances for the Colts this season? Last night's 62-7 beatdown in New Orleans should be enough for one season. They are scheduled for two more Sunday night games on NBC, but those can be flexed out and replaced with other games. The only way that won't happen is if "you know who" makes his return in one of them. But while Peyton Manning hopes to return this season, there is no reason for the Colts to allow that to happen.

How did U.C. do it? With all of the mistakes the Bearcats made at South Florida Saturday, they found a way to pull out a win at South Florida and take over the Big East Conference lead with a 2-0 record. Zach Collaros shook off a couple of brutal interceptions to lead the Bearcats to the win, with Collaros scoring the winning touchdown with just 12 seconds left. A big plus for U.C. in the 37-34 win was veteran leadership mixed with big plays by some youngsters.

Speaking of U.C., the conference thing could be coming to a head. Missouri could let the Big 12 know as early as today that it is leaving for the SEC. Should that happen its possible West Virginia heads straight to the Big 12. The reports with the most common theme have West Virginia making the Big 12 a ten team conference. If they go to 12, it's Louisville, then BYU, or perhaps Cincinnati. There are differing reports on BYU, and nobody seems convinced one way or the other. It may not hurt Cincinnati's chances that it's new Athletic Director comes from a Big 12 school. Whit Babcock spent the past four years at Missouri as executive associate athletic director. I still feel the best fit for WVU, Louisville, and Cincinnati, is to find a way to make the Big East work as opposed to becoming an outpost in the Texas-Oklahoma top-heavy Big 12.

Xavier and U.C. rolled out their basketball teams this past weekend, and both schools have plenty to be excited about. X is ranked 15th in the preseason coaches poll and has a back court many think can get the Musketeers deep come March. U.C. is ranked 22nd and has room to improve, especially if Yancy Gates of this past March and late February is the same player for the Bearcats all of 2011-12. Also, if juco transfer Cheikh Mbodj (I may never spell it right again, so enjoy) is as good as I'm told, look out. Xavier and U.C. are among five teams within a two hour drive of Cincinnati in the top 25. Kentucky is ranked second, Ohio State is third, and Louisville is eighth. How's that for the best college basketball hotbed in the nation? Butler is 31st in the preseason voting.

We have a World Series, with a guarantee of at least six games. The Rangers won 4-0 last night and are tied 2-2 with the team Cincinnatians love to hate. The Rangers and Cardinals play game 5 Monday night.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where Will U.C. Them Next?

con·ster·na·tion   [kon-ster-ney-shuhn] noun
a sudden, alarming amazement or dread that results in utter confusion; dismay.
(the feeling of hardcore u.c. fans since Syracuse and Pitt defected to A.C.C.)

Consternation is running rampant among the U.C. crowd these days. Check a message board and you will see that conference realignment is the big buzz. The same thing happens at the U.C. football games. Where will U.C. end up when the "haves" of the college football world decide who will become the "have nots"? It appears U.C. is down to a couple of scenarios: A Hail Mary invitation to the Big 12 or remain in a reconstituted Big East. As crazy as it would be to compete in a conference with Texas and Oklahoma, I feel a reconstituted Big East with Louisville and West Virginia is the best scenario for the Bearcats. Should the Cardinals and Mountaineers get invites to the Big 12, U.C. has to close the eyes, tap the shoes, cross the fingers, and pray the Bearcats get an invitation too. Without the 'Ville and WVU, there won't be enough left for the Big East to configure a strong enough conference to remain an automatic qualifier in the BCS. Should U.C. go to the Big 12, I worry about recruiting. With several schools from Texas in the Big 12, I can't imagine U.C. will be pulling major talent out of that state. Meanwhile, do kids in U.C.'s recruiting hotbeds of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Florida want to play in the Big 12? The more I think about it the more I convince myself that recruiting would be fine. But with the bulk of U.C.'s recruiting coming in Big Ten territory, games at Iowa State, Kansas, and K-State might be a tough sell. Certainly having Louisville and West Virginia as partners in the conference would help. Still, to me, it feels too much like an outpost. Plus it would not be as smooth of a path to a BCS bowl game. U.C. has proven it can compete with the schools in the Big East. The Bearcats have come a long ways in five short years of BCS football. That's why the timing of this conference shakeup is so bad for the 'cats. Another five years like the past five and I have little doubt U.C. would be filling Nippert Stadium on a regular basis, and filling PBS for the big games, making U.C. an attractive BCS player . Why such little doubt? Students are going to the games these days. That breeds an alumni base that sees U.C. football games as "thee" thing to do on Saturdays in the fall. Many say it was the Brian Kelly factor that put U.C. on the map. Kelly did a great job creating buzz and he backed it up with winning. He is reviled for the way he left, but U.C. fans need to understand that Kelly's big way of thinking showed Cincinnati that it can done at U.C. But without the BCS carrot dangling in front of a city that considers itself major league, even Kelly would have had trouble getting overflow crowds. That's why another five years in the Big East would have solidified the football program and there wouldn't be this consternation every time an earthquake hits the conference landscape. I think it could be done in the Big 12, but I know it can be done in the Big East. But only if the Big East keeps the automatic qualifier.

Hey! Who Kidnapped The Bengals Front Office?

Are you kidding me? The Bengals front office did this? They pulled the trigger on a deal that makes perfect sense? It's so out of character that I expect the NFL to show up at the Bengals offices asking for urine samples. Lucky for the Bengals it was Hue Jackson's starting quarterback who went down with an injury last Sunday. Jackson is a former Bengals assistant and is very fond of Palmer. But give the Bengals credit for being shrewd and squeezing more out of Carson Palmer in one trade than the Bengals squeezed out of him in three of the past four seasons. I'm still sitting here late on a Tuesday night, stunned that the Bengals get a first round and at least a second round pick for the fading Palmer. The Raiders must have had patches over both eyes the past several seasons. Who knows? Maybe Palmer steps in and lights it up for Oakland right away. Maybe Chad's route running is what made Palmer look like a frightened Barney Fife trying to figure out how to shoot a gun straight. We shall see. But kudos to Mike Brown for dropping the stubborn mule act long enough to raid the Raiders of valuable draft picks. It's the latest in a string of decisions by the Bengals front office that makes you wonder. Has Mike Brown gone mad? Has he been kidnapped and an impostor has taken his place? No, that can't be it. It was vintage Brown at the January press conference announcing the return of Marvin Lewis as head coach. It was vintage Brown at the pre-training camp luncheon sticking to his mantra that a deal is a deal and if Carson wants to take his ball and go home, so be it. So I really believe it is the real Mike Brown still in the Bengals main office making the main decisions. But what a roll this guy is on. If steps up to a craps table, I'm laying my chips right next to his. In the draft, the Bengals resisted a nice trade offer for their first round pick from Atlanta. I thought it would have been a smart trade, until the first day I saw A.J. Green in training camp. Difference-maker, that's the phrase that jumped into my head. What a great pick. The Bengals also did something in the second round that goes against the old grain. They had decided on an offensive system, and set their sights on the perfect guy to run that system. Andy Dalton looks right at home in Jay Gruden's system. Hopefully for the Bengals these decisions are a trend and not a hiccup in 20 years of futility. The Bengals have a locker room that values team play, a businesslike approach, and good old execution of the plays. All of that makes it a locker room with great chemistry. It may not be good enough to make the playoffs this season, but I am no longer betting against them. Now it's time for Brown to resist pulling in troubled players who can be had for less than market value. If he can resist that, the league may want to skip the urine thing and go straight for the DNA.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good News For Reds?

There may be good news in the wake of Reds G.M. Walt Jocketty "angrily" denying speculation/reports that the Reds would at least listen to offers for Joey Votto. Maybe the Reds have plans to raise their payroll in the future to the $100 million range. I don't believe it for a second, but that is the only logical reason the Reds would have zero interest in entertaining offers. In a perfect world Walt Jocketty's denial would make perfect sense. If all payrolls were equal there would be no reason to even think about trading a player as valuable as Votto. But baseball economics is far from a perfect world. Perhaps Jocketty is trying his best to keep the Votto camp happy because they are not totally sold on trading Joey just yet. That is a distinct possibility since coming to grips with trading a great player is a tough thing to do. Plus, they are still at least a year away from having to face the reality of having a $17 million man on the roster. But unless the Reds are going to raise their payroll significantly in the next couple of years, not listening to offers is negligence.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No Flash, Just A Win

When A.J. Green crossed the goal line with his first NFL touchdown reception, it was nice to see him just toss the ball aside. Hopefully this is the way the "New" Bengals go about their business. Make plays, score touchdowns, go back to the bench, repeat. Andy Dalton looked calm and composed. Early in the game he pump-faked to the right, then found a tight end down the middle. He knew where his receivers were supposed to be and by golly, the receivers were there. Not once did I see receivers looking at the quarterback with confused looks and hands in the air. It appeared the Bengals players were on the same page. For a while, I thought maybe the Browns and Bengals had switched helmets. It was the Browns with 10 penalties in the first half, it was the Browns falling asleep in the huddle, and it was the Bengals taking advantage. It is still a work in progress, and fingers must be crossed when it comes to Dalton's injured wrist. But kudos to the players and the coaches. They appear to be putting football and the playbook first. There appears to be focus. There appears to be respect for the game. I'm not taking any bets on when Mike Brown will sign some knuckleheads off the scrap heap to mess this up, the poor man can't help himself if he thinks he's getting a bargain. But for one Sunday, it was nice to see another team self destruct, and the team in stripes playing with self-respect.

Friday, September 2, 2011

C'mon Carson, Do It!

Carson Palmer has one last card to play to force Mike Brown's hand. I hope he plays it. For the plan to work to perfection, Palmer needs to hope Andy Dalton looks good in his first couple of starts. If he does, then it's Carson's time to put Brown in a corner. Just imagine if the offense under Dalton is showing progress in Jay Gruden's new system. Dalton was practically hand-picked by Gruden to run his system. Then two games into the growth spurt, here comes Palmer. If Dalton looks good early, Palmer should show up and declare he is back, reporting for duty, ready to hold a clipboard on the sideline while smacking Brown's wallet for close to 700k per game. Would the Bengals really sit Dalton down and insert Palmer, thus stunting the growth of this new offense and new era? Is Palmer really cut out for this offense? We know before wrecking his knee and popping his elbow, Palmer had a very strong and accurate arm. He still flashes that, but it hasn't been there consistently. So the Bengals choices are distasteful: Play Palmer and stunt the growth of a promising Dalton, or have the most overpaid backup quarterback in NFL history. Would Mike Brown really pay Palmer over 600 grand a game to occupy one of the best seats in the house, especially with so many empty seats at PBS that used to be occupied by paying customers? Would Brown do that to prove a point? If he does, then I never want to hear him ask the county for another penny to fix a scoreboard or buy a new leather chair for his office. Mike should do anything and everything to trade Palmer as soon as possible and move on from this idiotic chapter of an idiotic two-decades long novel. Naysayers will point out, "well if Palmer forces Brown's hand, then players will be lined up out the door to get away from the Bengals." I'm not buying that argument during a week that saw the Bengals sign two of their most valuable veterans to extensions. If this team is good enough for Andrew Whitworth and Leon Hall, then it's good enough for a lot of veterans. If someone like Palmer (who should be a leader) wants out, then get him out of here as quickly as possible. You don't win with those guys. If Carson comes back it will be a mess. It's a mess that should have never happened in the first place. Palmer should be on another team, and the Bengals should already be training the draft pick (or picks) they received in return. But since Brown isn't going to fix this mess on his own, maybe Palmer will give him the final shove he needs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dalton the Worst?

If nothing else, rankings and lists get people talking. John Clayton at ESPN ranks Andy Dalton as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. From reading the article it appears Clayton is also holding the quarterbacks responsible for those around them. He says of Oakland's Jason Campbell, "too bad he doesn't have an offensive line that can block for him." So in these rankings the quarterback is responsible for those "ole'" blocks that can make said qb look like a fool. Dalton's last place ranking should come as no surprise, unless you happened to be paying attention to the Panthers starting quarterback this preseason. Cam Newton is ranked one spot ahead of Dalton. Newton has shown nothing in the "art of an NFL quarterback" department. Dalton has. But Clayton says Newton's "mechanics functioning in an NFL offense have exceeded expectations." Really? Those expectations must have been very, very low for the top overall pick in the NFL draft. Newton has completed a mere 40% of his passes this preseason. Apparently draft position has something to do with the rankings too, since former top pick Alex Smith is rated 28th on the list. Smith has struggled mightily in the league for six seasons. I would take Dalton's chances of panning out over a guy who has had ample time to get it right, but hasn't, in 54 career games. But there is no question Newton's talent is immense, and upside is a huge factor in these rankings. So is experience. Sam Bradford was 30th as a rookie in last year's preseason rankings by Clayton, but shot up to 14th this preseason. Like I said, rankings get us talking. But when it comes to rookies, those rankings can also be severely flawed.




Monday, August 15, 2011

Dog Days But Bradley Shines

The dog days are here and Cincinnati is left with the fading Reds and a Bengals team that started the preseason like they were a terrible team. They reminded me of the Cincinnati Bengals. They were that bad. I'm not sure what else can be said about a franchise that can't find it's own helmet with both hands, but I'll come up with something down the road. At least the tennis at Kings Island will give us a little diversion this week. My highlight for the weekend was Keegan Bradley winning the PGA Championship. A no-name, a rookie, he came out of nowhere. But oddly enough, I've been following Keegan Bradley for about a year now. Last year at the Chiquita Classic at River's Bend, I was grabbing guys off the practice green to interview. By complete chance Keegan Bradley was one of those guys. He was very approachable, friendly, and a good interview. Golf is in his blood. His father is a club pro and his aunt happens to be hall of fame golfer Pat Bradley. Also during our small talk he mentioned he had attended St. John's and was still a die-hard fan of the Red Storm. He wore his red shirt on Sunday to prove it. So after he was greased with some Big East conversation, he talked a little "mechanics of the golf game" with me. It was a treat so I kept an eye on him to make sure he finished in the Top 25 of the Nationwide Tour and made it to the PGA. He did. But you honestly aren't expecting much from the guy. Still, anytime I perused the leader board I would look for Keegan. Then back in May while on vacation I had a moment to turn on the television to see the end of the Byron Nelson Classic. Leading the pack was Keegan Bradley. I was actually pumped to see the guy win a tournament. I guess that made me a closet-fan of the kid. Now for him to win the PGA Championship is crazy. I can't imagine how he feels. But after watching his game this weekend, he might have a bunch of wins in that golf bag. He can bomb it off the tee, and his putting showed a deft downhill touch. (We won't talk about that chip on 15)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's Votto or Alonso

We'll now have to wait for the off-season, but the Reds have to make a tough decision. Or maybe it's not so tough. But they will either have to trade Yonder Alonso, or trade Joey Votto. A lot of people clamored for Alonso to play left field. Those same people were screaming "What?!" when they saw Alonso imitate a drunken Bleacher Bum on Friday and Saturday while chasing balls in the outfield. So here's the decision: you either trade Alonso or you trade Joey Votto. They both appear to be first basemen and first basemen only. Period. End of story.
Obviously Votto will bring you the most in a trade. But do you even open that door and explore moving your best hitter to another team? Different people handle that type of thing different ways. Some will see it as a slap, some will see it as business. It would be difficult to mess with a situation that clearly works so well for the Reds and Votto. Maybe Alonso makes it an easier decision by whacking the ball around at the major league level. Should he continue to do that, I would think he should fetch a decent prize in return. I'm not one to give up easily but I really don't see a future for either one in the outfield. I think you have to move one of the two before next season.

By the way, two quick observations on some new blood in town: A.J. Green is a thoroughbred. He has that "Wow" factor just running around in practice. He reminds me of one of my all-time favorite Bengals, wide receiver Isaac Curtis. A.J. is that smooth, and he's a little bigger. He also reminds me of Carl Pickens (without the 'tude) the way he goes up and claims the ball in the air. I'm never big on spending high draft picks on wide receivers, but this kid looks pretty special.
Observation Two: Dave Sappelt might be playing left field for the Reds for years to come. He looks the part. Oh, he's not 6'2", 220 lbs., but he sure looks like a ballplayer to me. The hit-robbing catch in left field Sunday was a beauty. But the best thing about Sappelt comes in the batters box. He better get the majority of the playing time out there the rest of the season.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reds Should Sell, Bengals Should Punt

Not that this is a newsflash, but it's just not happening for the Reds this year. Sure, there's two months left and they can make up five and a half games in that time. However, since starting the season with five straight wins they have shown little in the previous four months that convinces me they can make the kind of sustained push it will take to win the division. So there's little intrigue left. Except for improving the club for the future. Let Frazier play more at third, get Mesoraco up from Louisville, allow Alonso to play a lot, make sure it's plenty of Cozart when he comes off the disabled list. Figure out if Chapman is the closer of the future or a starting pitcher, and get him moving in that direction now. The Reds should sell off Ramon Hernandez and Francisco Cordero. Good guys, loyal Reds, but business is business and the Reds need to get better for 2012. They still have a good young core, but it's not good enough to win a mediocre division. The plan should be to get better, and the time is now.

I, like most, have a bad feeling about the season about to unfold for the Bengals. How do I get excited about them signing a "caretaker" quarterback in Bruce Gradkowski? One-third of his wins as a starting quarterback have come against the Bengals. His success in the NFL has been minimal. But I'm still on board with the signing and the reasons are many. Gradkowski is tough, he was a beast at Toledo, and from what I know he would stick his head in a wood-chipper to get a touchdown. It is also said he will know Jay Gruden's offense and will do anything and everything to help the kid, Andy Dalton. I can't help but like a quarterback from the same hard-nosed western Pennsylvania high school conference that produced Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino. But this will still be a season of pain. There is a tremendous learning curve for this team. We still don't know how the roster will be filled out with free agents. I think Benson will return, but I'm not so sure without Joseph. Even with Johnathan, the defense has a chance to be good. But it's going to have to be "scarey good" to carry a team going through a complete offensive transition.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Players Punishing Owners?

The "pie in the sky" predictions of the past two days crashed and burned into the reality that the players aren't dummies. If the owners really changed some language, then your darned right the players are going to read it, read it again, and make sure they aren't getting hosed. The players may be thinking if Mike Brown voted for it, then we must be getting hosed! It could be as simple as Donte' Stallworth saying through Twitter, "unlike congress, the players actually want to read what they are voting on." I also wonder if the players want to punish the owners for opting out of the old deal and imposing this lockout. Not punish them in spite of the players own well-being, but just to make them twist through the weekend. It's fairly well documented that wiping out preseason game revenue will lower the salary cap and end up costing the players money in the end, so it's in the players best interest to play the preseason too. I will say the player reps I've heard this morning have made some excellent points as to why they haven't passed the plan. I just wonder if the players do find something they don't like in the plan, will that lead to more drawn out negotiations? I doubt it would take that long to iron out. I think the players are flexing a little muscle here, and I can't blame them. They also showed some class by issuing the following statement through NFLPA president Kevin Mawae:

STATEMENT FROM KEVIN MAWAE

Player leadership is discussing the most recent written proposal with the NFL, which includes a settlement agreement, deal terms and the right process for addressing recertification. There will not be any further NFLPA statements today out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft.

- Kevin Mawae, NFLPA President

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reds Win But...

When will they win two in a row? The Reds score three runs (one earned) in three games at Pittsburgh. They were lucky to get out of there with one win. A loss would have left the Reds four games under .500 and six games behind the Pirates. Now they are two under and four games out of first. Not great, but still doable, and it looks and feels better than the alternative. Cueto looked awesome again and the relief pitchers did their job, including closer Francisco Cordero. Cordero has bounced back from that disastrous three-blown-saves week before the All-Star break. But the curious move of the game for the Reds came in the seventh inning. Miguel Cairo was on second with one out. Johnny Cueto came to the plate. He had already thrown 97 pitches on a hot, humid day in Pittsburgh. I can't imagine the Reds really want to push him much further. But Cueto hit for himself and grounded out to short. The Reds ended up stranding the runner. Then begins the bottom of the seventh. Cueto throws one pitch and it's drilled too hard for Rolen to handle and resulted in a Pirates runner on first. Cueto was pulled then and there. Obviously Cueto was on a very short leash to begin with. Dusty said after the game they hoped Cueto could make it through the seventh. On this day, I would have been happy with 6 innings, especially with 97 pitches on a brutal day. But that's what makes baseball great, a lot of second-guessing. Now the Reds need to start stringing wins, and it begins by winning back to back games. They haven't done that since June 14-15. Astounding!!!

What made the Cueto move even more baffling to me was the Reds chose to make a defensive substitution heading to the bottom of the seventh. Stubbs replaced Gomes in the lineup. Gomes had been hitting seventh. So, hitting Stubbs for Cueto and inserting the pitcher's spot in the seventh slot in the lineup might have been the way to go. Oh well, who knows???

What Will The NFL Do?

The next few days are going to be wild for the NFL. Maybe the next few weeks are going to be wild. Let's say the new CBA is ratified by the end of the week, then what comes next. Some players earlier in the week alluded to the possibility they would be asked to report to three-day mini-camps as soon as the deal was sealed. Training camps would traditionally open late next week. But what about all of the free agents out there? Would the NFL have teams open camp with free agents still available on the market, and how long would that market be allowed to last? In the Bengals case, would Jonathan Joseph not report to camp with the Bengals, but travel around the country to visit other teams interested in his services? That doesn't seem to fit the best interests of anyone involved. The NFL could delay camp for two to three weeks why the free agency gets settled, but that would involve losing a preseason game or two. The owners won't like that much since they keep the gate.
But I think waiting a couple of weeks to settle free agency and maybe hold a mini-camp in the interim is the best course of action.

Where Did All The Runs Go?

Wednesday morning the talk was about the Reds lack of runs lately. Especially the first two games in Pittsburgh, when not a single Reds player crossed home plate. Two games, zero runs. In the last four games the Reds have scored 1 run, 3 runs, then 0 and 0 in Pittsburgh. You know what comes next. The runs will come in bunches but the pitching won't hold up. Some how, some way, the Reds still lead the league in runs scored. They are two better than the Cardinals, but the Reds have played one more game. It's not one player, but you can't ignore what Jay Bruce hasn't done since being "National League Player of the Month" in May. Since May, Bruce has hit for an average of .217, with five home runs. Three of those homers have come in July, but he is just 11 for 51 (.216) at the plate in July. Jonny Gomes appeared to be coming around with a productive June, but in July he is just 2 for 20 at the plate. So you want to play Chris Heisey more? He is hitting just .211 in June and July, and just 5 for 32 (.156) in the current month. Heisey has provided some pop here and there, but consistency is the biggest problem with the Reds inability to score runs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Reds Return Ready

It was a thankful bunch of Reds that returned to Great American Ball Park Thursday afternoon. First of all, they were thankful for an All-Star break that came after a grueling stretch of games. “Monday afternoon I was supposed to go fishing and I couldn’t because I had to take a nap,” said Reds Manager Dusty Baker. “I felt like I was eight years old again. I hadn’t taken a nap in years.” The Reds suffered four one-run losses in the final week before the break. “You don’t realize the mental and physical energy you are exerting, especially in close games,” continued Baker. “Especially when you’re losing close games.”
The stretch of close games was especially tough on Reds closer Francisco Cordero. He had three blown saves in the final week, after having blown just two the entire season. “It’s not a new start but I got my mind clear and just ready to go for the second half,” said Cordero. Cordero said it helped spending the All-Star break with family and friends. “I know I have to do a better job. Everybody goes through a tough time, but you’ve got to be able to continue and do a better job.”
Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo battled mononucleosis in the first half of the season so the break was a welcome relief to him too. But he is also thankful the Reds aren’t buried in the National League Central Division race. They begin the second half just four games behind first place Milwaukee and St. Louis. “I think we’ve played bad enough that we could have been back 8 to 10 games in another season,” said the veteran starting pitcher. Arroyo continued, “To be where we are is not too bad and hopefully we’ll just get off to a good start and feel fresh about the second half and go forward.”
A good start would do wonders for the Reds. They open the second half with a three-game series at Great American Ball Park against the Cardinals. While Cincinnati fans approach the Cardinals with disdain, the Reds approach them with respect. “Any team that gives you as hard of a fight as the Cardinals do, I mean, we never feel like we’ve locked a game down with those guys until you get the final out,” said Arroyo. “You can’t say that about every ball club.”
The Reds and Cardinals both had workouts Thursday at Great American. The four Reds players who played in the All-Star game were excused for the workout and will report Friday. Pitcher Johnny Cueto will start the opening game of the three-game series for the Reds on Friday night.

Here are the pitching matchups and game times:
Fri vs StL:RHP Johnny Cueto (5-3, 1.96) vs RHP Jake Westbrook (7-4, 5.34)7:10 p.m.

Sat vs StL:RHP Bronson Arroyo (7-7, 5.58) vs RHP Chris Carpenter (4-7, 3.85)7:10 p.m.

Sun vs StL:RHP Homer Bailey (3-4, 4.13) vs LHP Jaime Garcia (9-3, 3.22) 1:10 p.m.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

So Long Interleague Play

I don't want the summer moving by too quickly, but I was looking forward to the end of interleague play. I do like the games with Cleveland, and it doesn't really bother me that some years less-than-marquee teams like the Royals come to town. What stinks is the differences in rules. Once again the American League came out on top in interleague play. I believe the American League has better teams. I also believe Detroit manager Jim Leyland has this thing backwards. Let me say up front, Leyland has more baseball knowledge in his cigarette smoke than I have in my entire body. Leyland claims the National League has the advantage in interleague play because American League pitchers do not normally hit in games. He thinks the hitting and bunting ability of N.L. pitchers outweighs the fact that Amaerican League teams have hired offensive machines known as designated hitters. What kind of a luxury is it to have David Ortiz, Jim Thome, or the Tigers' Victor Martinez? The Tigers can afford to save Martinez the rigors of squatting behind the plate every day because they can still get his bat in the lineup every day as a DH. National League teams can rarely afford to carry one-dimensional players on the roster. How nice would it have been for the Reds to have Yonder Alonso taking hacks as a designated hitter during interleague play? It seems the main reason Alonso isn't around for such duty is because he needs to find a position he can play at the major league level. It may not be a huge advantage for the A.L. teams, but it is a bigger advantage than Bronson Arroyo laying down a sacrifice bunt. I do agree with Leyland that the fairest way to solve this issue is to keep the leagues separate during the regular season.

Friday, July 1, 2011

You Never Know...

...what the day will bring. I was out at the Reds Rookie Success League Friday morning. Along comes Reds owner Bob Castellini and he introduces me to the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox. Very cool...

video

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Big Stretch Before The Break

I would like to make some sweeping statement like, "We'll know all we need to know about the Reds when they reach the All-Star break." But I believe our knowledge will be the same then as it is now. At some point this team needs to get traction and reel off some wins. With seven of the next ten games on the road, it's unlikely to happen now. Especially with four of those games in Milwaukee where the Brewers sport a gaudy 29-11 record at home. I fully expect the Reds to win four to five games out of the next ten and remain 3 to 5 games out of first place. The stretch begins with three game at home against Cleveland, then three in St. Louis followed by the four game series in Milwaukee.
At least the Reds can hang their hat on some stellar pitching. The Reds continue to rack up a healthy number of quality starts. Consistent run scoring has been another issue, with the Reds scoring 2 runs here, 2 runs there, then busting out for 10 in a rout. Still, the statistics bode well for the Reds the rest of the way. They are tops in the division in run differential, and that is usually a nice indicator that more wins should be on the way. The left fielders (Gomes, Heisey, Lewis) have fought their way back to respectability, but shortstop remains a bit of a black hole at the plate. Everybody's favorite minor league shortstop, Zach Cozart, has hit .341 in his last ten games at Louisville and had 6 hits in his last 12 at-bats. Just a thought.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reds Patience Is Wearing Thin

What are they waiting on? Will Zach Cozart have to hit .350, or will the current major league shortstops have to hit .150? The Reds under General Manager Walt Jocketty have shown an incredible amount of patience, and sometimes that is good. Let's face it, Jocketty's patience is a nice yin for the yang of owner Bob Castellini and his popular "damn the torpedoes! Let's win now!" attitude. But it's time, maybe past time, to see what the kid can do at the major league level. Cozart is presently hitting .320 this season, and that is well above his minor league average. Walt is obviously holding out hope that Janish and Renteria can turn it around and Cozart can continue to develop confidence in his offensive skills at Triple-A. It's much better to call up guys who are a finished product. But when you are trying to win games at the major league level, you don't always have that luxury. I understand the dilemma, and the Reds have a lot of smart people grading their players and measuring their readiness at the major league level. But when your guys at the major league level are stinking it up, you have to make the move.

What about the move at the top of the lineup? Even Chris Heisey says he doesn't agree that one game should garner more playing time for himself. But if I'm making the decision, Heisey is leading off Friday night in Baltimore. For a team that needs offense, you can't sit the hot hand. Heisey hit three home runs and scored four runs Wednesday night. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

For what seems like the first time since Jack McKeon was too young to smoke cigars, the Reds are stocked with up-and-coming talent at their Triple-A farm club. We've talked about Cozart, but you can add catcher Devin Mesoraco, outfielder Dave Sappelt, and outfielder/first baseman Yonder Alonso to the list of players forcing the Reds to take another look. Mesoraco is hitting .322, with an on-base percentage above .400. Alonso and Sappelt are both above .300 but hitting has never been an issue with these guys. Finding a position is the issue with Alonso. He's playing left field at Louisville these days but covering ground out there is an issue.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reds Take The Great American Test

The next 15 games for the Reds are against teams from the American League. The next 12 games they will see teams from the American League East Division. The Toronto Blue Jays get the A.L. proceedings started, opening a three game series at Great American Ball Park Friday night. On paper, there is nothing too worrisome about Toronto. The Blue Jays have a mediocre 34-35 record this season, and have lost 8 of their 14 games in June. The worrisome part for the Reds is the Reds themselves. They have scratched out a winning record at home, but not enough of an advantage to stake a claim as the "team to beat" in the Central Division. The Reds are currently 20-15 at home. By comparison, division leader Milwaukee is 25-9 at home. East Division leading Philadelphia is 28-12 at home, while the Giants lead the West with a home record of 19-12. The Reds did themselves a huge favor by playing well on the recent road trip. They have to find a way to make it happen at home. Of course it all begins with pitching. Because of the cozy dimensions, the air current, the humidity from the river, take your pick, hitting is not an issue at Great American Ball Park. That goes for the Reds, and that goes for the opponents. Just consider this about the Reds: They have played 35 games on the road this season and 35 at home. Here are the offensive stats that stand out.
Home:42 home runs, Away: 27 home runs; Home:.276 batting avg., Away:.250 batting avg.; Home:195 runs scores, Away:150 runs scored. We could go on and on about statistics, but the basic issue is this: if the Reds get the solid pitching they've had the past two weeks, they will have a successful homestand. If not, they will continue to hover right where they are. Past history says the Reds starting pitching is a little closer to what we have seen lately as opposed to what they were getting earlier in the season. Johnny Cueto is emerging as an ace. Edinson Volquez without the hair is throwing better. But the one bugaboo that continues to get Reds pitchers in trouble is free passes. They have to cut down on the bases on balls. Especially at Great American Ball Park. That's not the only key to winning at GABP, but it is a big one. The Reds need to start passing the Great American test.

HOCKEY HOOLIGANS? NOT SO FAST

Even though it is not funny, I have to chuckle at the reaction of some who deride those rowdy "fans" who rioted in Vancouver after the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to Boston. I would be willing to bet very few of those "fans" could name a single player on the Canucks. I further doubt many were at the arena for the game. Sure, plenty of fans were around when the trouble started, but the trouble was started by the same rebel-rousing criminals that started trouble prior to the Winter Olympics. The Vancouver police say a group of anarchists dressed as fans were the instigators. They brought masks, goggles, and fire extinguishers among other things. So there was going to be hell raised that night in Vancouver, win or lose. If I were in charge of the Vancouver Police Department, I would have rolled out a few water cannons and made those punks wish they had brought snorkels with them too.

BENGALS 122 OUT OF 122

I appreciate the Bengals response to finishing "dead last" in the rankings of major league sports franchises by "ESPN The Magazine", but it reinforces the prevailing thought that things will never change. I suggest you be fair and read their response. There are valid points. The Bengals do have a great group of players to deal with. They are cooperative, friendly, and courteous. The Bengals have done plenty to help the local high schools and their facilities. While I hate to add a qualifier I must point out the program to upgrade local school facilities is a league initiative in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, among others. But from my perspective the Bengals seem to embrace the program. There are positives, and trust me, as much as sometimes I think maybe the city would have been better off if the Bengals had bolted for Baltimore, it would not. But the Bengals response comes off as if the only problems are wins and losses. That's the biggest part of the equation, but even the most pedestrian fan can see other issues. Maybe a small hall of fame, maybe some retired numbers, maybe honoring former Bengals, most of whom are still beloved by the city. They could do plenty to honor the 1981 Bengals during the upcoming season. Honor the different position groups from those teams during the home games, culminating with a 30 year reunion for the final home game. You could have a big celebration the night before where fans can meet and greet the players who took the Bengals to their first Super Bowl. You think that might leave a positive impression on the fans? What about a weekend "fantasy camp" in Georgetown, or PBS, or Wilmington, where fans can go through workouts supervised by the likes of David Fulcher and Eric Thomas? You think that might help relations? I do, and it would take minimal effort. Things of that nature would help smooth some of the bumps in the Bengals road. Wins would be the biggest thing, but there are other ways to get the fans to "buy in" to what you are doing. If they do a few of those things it might take the sting out of other things, like that disastrous news conference announcing the return of Marvin Lewis. That one hurt.

THE NEW TIGER
By the way, as I type this, I'm watching Rory McIlroy bring the U.S. Open field to its knees. Too bad for American golf that the next "Tiger" is from Northern Ireland. Once this kid learns to finish the big ones, it's over.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good Reds, Bad Reds

Since the Reds are hovering right around the break-even mark, I'm having trouble deciding if I am optimistic or pessimistic about the rest of the season. So I have to lay it all out and come to some sort of conclusion. Good George is the optimist in me, and there are a few things that have Good George feeling that the Reds will stick around. Bad George is the pessimist in me, and there are quite a few things that have Bad George thinking the Reds won't make it back to the postseason.

Good George likes the way the Reds starting pitching has shown up lately. Johnny Cueto is throwing well, Edinson Volquez made a sweet comeback Tuesday night, Mike Leake has shown well of late, and Bronson Arroyo seems to have battled his way through back problems. So the starting pitching has made it back just in time.

Bad George thinks a few good starts is a long way from giving the Reds what they thought they had when they started the season. Because the starting pitching was so bad the bullpen was burned. You have to wonder if the bullpen will recover to become the "lights out" unit it was earlier in the season.

Good George likes the fact Jay Bruce is maturing into a fine major league player. Will he stay hot at the plate? Not as hot as he's been lately, but taking the end of last season and the first two months-plus of this season and you've got another left-handed star hitter in the lineup. Plus the Reds are near the top of the league in a lot of categories, so timely clutch hits should be around the corner.

Bad George says there are still too many holes in this lineup, and that's why the timely hits aren't there. Scott Rolen can be Mr. Clutch, but he's hurting again. He had strep throat to go on top of that ailing shoulder that landed him on the disabled list earlier this season. Bad George is worried Rolen will not get past the shoulder issue, and may not be the same at the plate from here on out. Then there's left field, and shortstop! Bad George thinks the Reds should quit fooling around and bring up Yonder Alonso to at least platoon in left.

Good George thinks the Reds still have time to get it done. It's early June so it is time to get moving. But it's not like this division is so strong that the Reds can't hang around while they find their groove. They still get good defensive play from most positions and if the pitching can be what Good George believes it is, then the Reds are around for the long haul.

Bad George thinks the Reds better get it moving, and it better happen on this road trip. Let's face it, playing good teams on the road is not what this team needs right now. They are coming off a homestand that saw 5 wins in 9 games. The Reds needed better results. The last road trip was a disaster. The Reds went 2-8 on a ten game trip to Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. The first four games of this trip take the Reds to the home of the defending World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are 16-10 at home this season. Then the Reds play the final three games of the trip at Los Angeles. If the Reds just lost two out of three to the Dodgers at Great American Ball Park, then how in the name of Tommy Lasorda are the Reds going to fare well at Chavez Ravine? Then they come back home to take on the American League East. Bad George ain't liking it at all.

After considering all of the above, Average George has to conclude this team is in some trouble. This road trip and the games against the American League present a stretch that can bury this team. Some things need to change. I'm generally an optimistic person and would love to side with Good George, but on this day, Bad George just makes too much sense.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Extended Vacation Over

For me... I actually got back to town Tuesday but you know how it is, it takes several days to catch up and get back in the groove. I'm not sure I'm grooving like jay Bruce, but I'm getting close to a return to normalcy. Bruce is maturing into the hitter we all thought he could be. That is one reason to believe the Reds will be in this for the long haul. Despite the 2-10 road trip and the starting pitching woes, I still like their chances. The starting pitching can't be this bad all season, but if it is, then I'm wrong. I'm betting it will be much better from here on out.

Bengals players are banding together for workouts the next could of weeks. The defense will be working out at Ignition in Mason. The last I heard the offense was trying to secure the Jefferson Ave. Sports Complex at U.C. for workouts. I'm told UC is more than willing to let the players use the complex but there are issues of liability to work out. In New Orleans Drew Brees had to jump through some legal hoops to get proper insurance so the Saints could work out at Tulane. It sounds like the same issues are in play here.

The Jim Tressel saga is quickly turning into the Terrelle Pryor saga. With the sweater-vested one in the rear view mirror, the headlights shine brightly on those still ahead on the Buckeyes highway to probation. But before Tressel fades from view, there are some in the know who claim Tressel is taking one for The Ohio State University. Their version of the story states that when Tressel received the original and now damning email, that he did indeed approach the compliance people at Ohio State. He was told by them to sit tight since there was a criminal investigation involved. That could just be Tressel's version of the events, and it doesn't help his cause that he forwarded the email to Pryor's older friend in Pennsylvania. But I allow myself to believe some of this, since I cannot allow myself to believe Tressel would be that stupid. Unless, of course, the tattoo for gear practice was so rampant, it seemed like no big deal to Tressel. I could believe that one too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Pleasant Surprise

Often times my role takes me away from hard core sports and to places where I meet the everyday heroes of life. Last week I went to see the daughter of Jackie Robinson, Sharon Robinson, give out an award at Lakota Ridge Junior High in West Chester. The award is part of the Breaking Barriers essay contest for students in grades 4-8. Sharon Robinson runs the program for Major League Baseball. She is a wonderful person who loves the students and gave an inspiring account of what made he father tick. It's the same thing that makes Lakota Ridge 8th grader Meggie Zahneis tick. She won the contest out of close to 10,000 entrants from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Meggie is a terrific writer and made a big impression on Ms. Robinson. She also made a huge impression on myself and photographer Paul Mato. Here is a link to the story that aired on WLWT that evening. Meggie sent me a nice Thank You note for covering her event, and I thank her deeply for the nice note. Meggie also included the following narrative about the day. It is written from the point of view of her eyeglasses. Yes, she is a talented young lady and in the short time I talked with her she displayed a keen sense of humor. Thanks again to Meggie and Sharon Robinson for allowing us to meet such inspiring people and to be part of a nice, inspiring day!
===================

If Eyeglasses Could Talk…

Finally! It was almost 6 a.m., and though the sun had started to rise, I was feeling pretty lonely after spending the night alone on the kitchen table. My owner, Meggie, snatches me as soon as she plods downstairs, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. The day starts fairly normally; after Meggie’s teeth are brushed and he backpack packed, she gives her mom the obligatory have-a-good-day kiss, and we head out the door. But today, surprisingly, was different. I could sense Meggie was a little jittery during first-period English, and I start to wonder what was going on as the day wears on. Meggie seems restless, as if anticipating something.

Then, at last, I begin to unravel the mystery that was her excitement. After 6th period, I hear a PA announcement calling Meggie to the guidance office. As she practically runs down the hall, I catch a glimpse of a woman in the office window. I don’t know who she is, yet her face looks vaguely familiar and I can’t help thinking I know her from somewhere. But where? As Meggie impatiently yanks open the office door, I instantly become enveloped in a giant hug from the mystery woman, and caught in a blur of excited voices. It’s then that Meggie finally sheds some light on the woman’s identity, with an ecstatic uttering of, “It’s so great to meet you, Ms Robinson!” So that’s who it is! Of course; Sharon Robinson! I’d seen here face before, on the dust jacket of her books. She’s the daughter of Jackie Robinson! After being temporarily jarred by her monster hug, I recover and revel in Meggie’s big moment. But I still don’t know why on earth Sharon Robinson is here, at Meggie’s school, right in the middle of 7th period!

I soon find out. Meggie joins a posse of relatives, teachers, and classmates in the school gym, which is packed full of students, teachers, and even a few guys with fancy cameras. What is going on here? Then the principal, Mr. Gendreau, starts talking and the gym suddenly gets quiet. I notice that for some reason, Meggie and I aren’t sitting with her classmates. Instead, we sit on some folding chairs next to a podium. My curiosity mounts as Mr. Gendreau reminds everyone to be a considerate audience. The secret is then finally revealed – he introduces Meggie as the grand prize winner of Scholastic and Major League Baseball’s Breaking Barriers essay contest!

Meggie then steps up to the podium, quivering with nervousness and pushing me up further on her nose, Then she takes a deep breath and loudly, clearly begins reading from what I guess is her winning essay. Wow! Am I ever a proud pair of glasses! It amazes me to see the world through Meggie’s eyes; I’m looking out at the crowd of hundreds of people gathered, listening intently to what she is saying, loving every moment of it, just as I know Meggie is. My lenses even start to mist up a little bit.

After the presentation by Ms. Robinson, I’m surprised to see a TV reporter rushing up to Meggie. He introduces himself as George, and requests an interview, which Meggie quickly grants. I sure hope by lenses are clean! I stare straight at the camera as Meggie fields George’s questions. Although I am excited, I can’t help but feel a little intimidated by the shockingly bright light emitted by the cameraman’s equipment.

Then, once the interviews are over, we quickly head to Meggie’s teacher’s classroom Mrs. Redman is waiting there with the class. Ms. Robinson signs copies of her book for everyone, and soon it’s time to go home and get ready again – I’m told Meggie, her brother Nick, and I get to go on the field at the Cincinnati Reds game!

We get home with just enough time for Meggie to tear open her new laptop computer, and wow, is it ever a nice one! It’s so think and light that at first I couldn’t believe my lenses. This day was beginning to feel more and more like Christmas morning in the middle of May!

When we got to the ballpark later that night, I couldn’t wait to me Lorrie from the Reds and get the party started! First, though, Meggie and I take in a little batting practice from the stands and meet up with some family members. Then we make our way to the ticket office, where we finally meet Lorrie and another Breaking Barriers winner. Before long, Meggie’s parents bid adieu and Nick, Meggie and I follow Lorrie around the park to the field. Along the way, we pick up Ms. Robinson and get a standing ovation from some people in the Crosley Room. I feel so important! Next, we head down through a tunnel, passing the visitor’s clubhouse, the umpires’ suite, and finally the visitor’s dugout, my excitement mounting all the way. At long last, we’re on the field! It’s truly amaxing to take in – I was astounded by the sheer size of the place. I’m still in awe of the whole thing.

Then Lorrie positions us on the field and tells us to look straight ahead at a camera I can’t seem to find. Regardless, Meggie and Jacob, the other contest winner, smile and wave happily, while I bask in it all, glad to be along for the ride. We go back to the seats and take in the game.

Later that night, after everyone has gone to bed and I’m once again alone on the kitchen table, I think back on what a great day it’s been. I know I’ll never forget it, but at the same time, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Thanks to everyone who helped make it an unforgettable day!
Meggie Zahneis