Friday, April 29, 2011

Remember This Gruden Guy, And No Trade???

And I'm not talking about Jon. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden may have dropped more good tidbits than his older brother Thursday night, and Jon was on for ESPN's 4 hours-plus of draft coverage. After the Bengals drafted A.J. Green in the first round Thursday night, Gruden entered the press conference room with head coach Marvin Lewis and wide receivers coach James Urban. Lewis left the room after making some fairly reserved comments. Urban gave a nice opening statement about Green, then Gruden took off. "I’m a little bit more excited than anybody else here, I guess. I mean, I feel like I just got up on Christmas and opened up my favorite present. I’m so fired up." said Gruden. Later the former University of Louisville quarterback addressed the question of who will throw the ball to Green "Ah, we’ll find somebody (laughs). Surely somebody ought to come throw to this son-of-a-gun. I might come out of retirement for this guy (laughs). I am fired up. To me, the beauty of throwing to him is that he might be covered and you can put ball up and he will get it." Then came his response to the low score of 10 Green reportedly scored on the NFL Wonderlic test at the combine, “The Wonderlic score (pause)… yeah. I don’t know. All I know is that he plays smart and he makes big plays all the time. He’s consistently done that since he was a freshman in high school, and there’s no Wonderlic test that can take that away. In talking to him and meeting with him, I know that if he is a little slower, which I don’t think he is, we’ll take time with him and make it comfortable for him. That’s our job, and mainly his job (Urban), to make sure that he learns. And he will learn. He’s a great player, and he’s a willing player. He’ll be here on time every day, and he’ll practice hard every day. Wonderlic-shmunderlic. He’s going to be fine.” If Gruden can coach offense the way he answers questions in a refreshing, entertaining way, we're looking at another head coach named Gruden in the NFL.

Marvin Lewis told me Thursday night the Falcons had been talking to the Bengals for the past week. he wouldn't confirm that an offer was made, but if they gave Cleveland 5 picks for the 6th pick, you have to think they were offering at least that to the Bengals. I would have done the deal. The Bengals have too many holes to fill and not enough picks to do it. An extra 2 this year, and an extra 1 and 2 next year would have been handy. Heck, there's no law that you can't use those picks to get something else (Kolb, Flynn) you need when teams can trade again.
Not the best move in my book.

As for Green, think Carl Pickens. Not attitude-wise, but ability-wise when it come to making the contested catch. Pickens rarely, if ever, lost a contested catch. I've seen some tape of A.J., but not a lot. But those who have seen a lot say this guy doesn't lose either. In fact, former Bengal and former scout Charles Fisher went over a play with me that resulted in a Green touchdown on a jump ball. Charles says the cornerback did everything right on the play, but Green still won the battle and came down with the touchdown pass. He is very, very good.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reds Power Outage

With Scott Rolen out, it is simple. Jonny Gomes and Jay Bruce need to be at their best. Teams will be more and more careful with MVP Joey Votto, and if there is no one to make them pay for pitching around Votto, then runs are really going to be tough to come by. Gomes and Bruce were a collective 0 for 7 in Sunday night's shutout at St. Louis. I think those two are capable, but they are going to have to crank it up with three games coming in Milwaukee.

After talking with a few more people, I'm really hoping the Bengals can be disciplined in the draft this week. Do not reach. Sure, they need a quarterback, but I would rather address that in other ways than draft a guy well above his value when playmakers at other positions are available. The truth is, the Bengals have other needs besides quarterback. It could take a couple of years to get this train wreck back on track.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Karma Catches Cardinals

I'm going to call it karma. That might be the easy explanation for the 8th inning in Saturday's game. We still don't know for sure what happened Friday night between the Reds, the Cardinals, and the weather reports. But the Baseball Gods appeared to be paying back St. Louis for some misdeed. The Reds had the most improbable rally in the top of the 8th inning Saturday while trailing 3-2. A one out, two base error, a strikeout to make it two outs, an intentional walk to Votto, Jonny Gomes hit with an 0-2 pitch, and a bases loaded walk to Jay Bruce to tie the game after Bruce fell behind 1-2 in the count. Wow! Then up comes former Cardinal Miguel Cairo and BINGO! A two-run single that proves to be the difference. Now, since Volquez had to be scratched because of the way the weather played out Friday, he could be the man on the mound for the Reds Sunday night. That could bring about another chance for karma. The only time Volquez has pitched in new Busch Stadium was back on June 1, 2009. As bad as the first inning has been for Volquez in 2011, it was worse for Volquez on this night. He left after one inning with numbness in his right hand. That led to Tommy John surgery and Volquez didn't pitch again until July 17, 2010. Should he take the mound in St. Louis Sunday night, he is due for some good karma.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Leake Stops The Leak, For Now

Mike Leake ended a few interesting days with a much needed quality start for the Reds. The youngster was his normal unflappable self in pitching the Reds past the Diamondbacks Thursday afternoon. I'm still wondering if Leake's side of the Macy's alleged shoplifting story is true, (I've heard it definitely was an exchange gone bad) why the Reds and Leake weren't more pro-active. If that story had come out Monday night, that would have doused two days of bad publicity and radio talkers jumping the gun. But I don't know the legal end of things and it could very well be that attorneys are advising everyone involved to keep a lid on it until a judge rules. I still think something should have been done to get out in front and keep Leake from taking fire the past few days, but the unflappable Leake just takes it all in stride. He probably chuckled when Brandon Phillips praised Leake's poise after Thursday's game, then added, "it feels good for him to steal a win like that." Leake would probably even wear one of these tee-shirts St. Louis fans are preparing to wear for the Reds visit this weekend.

The more important thing is the win ended a brutal home stand that should have been much better. Seven games at home against Pittsburgh and Arizona should have translated into at least four, maybe five wins. But baseball doesn't work that way. The Reds could only capture two of the seven games, including a four game skid. So now they have to find a place to make up for it, and there is no better place than St. Louis and Milwaukee. Take two out of three in St. Louis, two out of three in Milwaukee, and things get better in a hurry. However, the Reds were 3-6 in Busch Stadium last season. The last 3-game sweep in St. Louis came back in June 2006. You want more bad news? Since that 3-game sweep, the Reds have not won a single series in St. Louis. They are 0-10-1 in series and 10-24 overall since that sweep. If nothing else, the Reds are due. They've had better luck in Miller Park, where the Reds won four of six games last season.

The big question: will the gloves come off again against the Cardinals? Maybe, but it won't be the Reds firing the first shot of the battle. There was speculation something might heat up last season in St. Louis, but that was in September with both teams focused on winning a division title. With the way the home stand went, the Reds will be focused on getting that winning feeling back. I suspect the Cardinals will do the same, but since former Reds catcher Jason LaRue had to retire in St. Louis after taking a kick to the head by Johnny Cueto, the Cardinals just might be READY TO RUMMMMBBBLLLLE!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Five Things About The Reds

After a little interruption, we're back in action. We'll start with five things for the Reds.
1. They'll be just fine. Last year at this time they were swept in Pittsburgh by the Pirates and had a 5-8 record. They had lost five in a row. You don't want to lose to Pittsburgh on their home field but the Reds continue to lead the division.

2. I'm more worried about Edinson Vlquez walking hitters than I am about his poor first innings. Volquez has walked 11 batters in his last 16 innings. That is a terrible trend, but one he can turn around. His pitches still move and seem lively so I'm not hitting the panic button yet.

3. I'm about to hit the panic button with Aroldis Chapman. Is he really best suited to a setup or closer role where he may have to throw four times in five or six days? It doesn't seem to be agreeing with him, but the Reds can give it one more shot in the coming weeks and if he has anymore warm issues it is time to start his transition back to a starting pitcher.

4. It is disturbing that the Reds left 13 runners on base Sunday, but that will happen from time to time. The truth is, scoring runs isn't not a problem so far. They lead the major leagues in runs scored with 92 through Sunday.

5. The Reds still play in a very winnable division. The Cardinals have come to life, but after two weeks of the regular season, there's little doubt who plays the best defense and who will once again have the best offense. That would be the Reds.

A quick plea the Cincinnati Bengals: DO NOT PANIC ON DRAFT DAY!
The Bengals should not reach for a quarterback in round one. The minute a team panics, mistakes are made. Chances are there could be someone in the second round, but there's nothing wrong with finding a stopgap and draft a qb next year. Forcing the issue is not the answer. You have to rind the right guy.