Friday, June 29, 2007

Just hours away from July 1, you wonder how long it will be before the Reds fire sale begins. It's no secret, for the right price, you can have anyone on the roster, with the exception of Homer Bailey and Aaron Harang. Here are my odds for who goes first:

Scott Hatteberg 1-2
Jeff Conine 2-1
David Weathers 3-1
Adam Dunn 8-1
Bronson Arroyo 10-1
Ken Griffey, Jr 15-1

I think Hatteberg is the right price, is hitting as well as he's ever hit in his career and is a left hander who hits for average. The Yankees are interested, I'm hearing. Conine fits the same suit, from the right handed side of the plate.

Weathers would be a perfect set up guy for the Yankees, Mets and Phillies. Dunn's salary and the fact he can terminate his option year of $13 million in 2008 makes trading him problematic. But the Reds may so inclined to deal him, to get out from under that deal. Arroyo is throwing better than he did in May. But he appears to have a 'tired arm'. Still, I'm told at least one contending team inquired about Arroyo right around opening day this year. The Reds weren't interested in dealing him then. They would be now.

As for Griffey, Jr, I'm hearing he's close to being untouchable. The Reds are said to be less interested in dealing him, as Junior is a local guy, chasing a milestone (600 career HR's) and is a box office attraction. As the Reds aren't expected to be good in 2008, Junior can be counted on to sell tickets.

The big question in all of this, is what can the Reds legitimately expect in return for any of their players. The answer, as you'd expect at this time of the year, is not much. You normally get prospects for 'stars' in mid season. That's what the Reds got from their fire sale in 2003. Eventually, like Harang in '03, you'll get a nice payoff for a mid season sale. But it's a payday that's years away.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Homer Bailey got a lesson in major league baseball tonight. He was rocked in Philly. The phenom only made it through two outs into the second inning, allowing six runs in the process.

This shouldn't be a shock to anyone. Every great pitcher, early in his career, has growing pains. Whether or not Bailey becomes a great pitcher will be determined in the next few years. But what happened to him in Philadelphia tonight, shouldn't do any long term damage. If he's what we think he is, it will probably make him determined to atone, his next time out.

The Mitchell Commission may or may not get to the names of the stars involved in steroid abuse in major league baseball. It may be nothing more than just a ceremonial group, designed to appease the fans, maybe the US Congress. But if it does nothing more than just expose the use of that drug, it will have served its purpose. Look no further than suburban Georgia to see why the side effects of steroids may be so lethal.

Police are just finishing up their investigation into the double murder-suicide of professional wrister, Chris Benoit and his family. Investigators are now saying that Benoit strangled his wife, then suffocated his son and then killed himself using a pulley from a weight machine in his home. Steroids were found, when investigators began their search of the house.

Whether or not 'roid rage' is to blame for this horrific event is something that a coroner will have to determine. But clearly, steroid abuse has sent many professional wresters to an early grave. Eddie Guerrero, Curt Henning, Davey Boy Smith all pro wrestlers, all died early and in their wake, friends and family blamed steroid use (abuse?) for their deaths.

Steroids are a real problem for some professional athletes. But the real concern is how steroid use (abuse?) is becoming a problem with high school athletes. Some states, including New Jersey, have begun mandatory testing of high school athletes to determine whether or not they're taking these illegal drugs. Is it too young to start? Is 43 too young to die? That's how old Benoit was.

Just posted on my web site is the latest "Broo View Podcast" Just go to the "Podcast and More" section to download it and check it out. I've got some comments from the new head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, Billy Gillespie.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Clip and save this! I don't think the Reds are going to trade Ken Griffey, Junior this season, or next. Here's why.

The Reds are brutal, a team pieced together haphazardly and with the hand prints of three different general managers and two ownership groups. It is a classic example of how not to build a baseball team. Worse, there is a whole half of a season upon us with more than half of a home schedule to play. What would make you buy a ticket and watch this team play (other than a loaded gun to your head or a bad case of machochism?) The answer: Griffey.

As he closes in on 600 career home runs, there is at least that drama. And that drama will sell tickets. Bob Castellini is taking a "bath" this season. Next year isn't looking so hot either. The 'buzz' from his buying the Reds has been replaced by the 'fizzle' of wondering if he and his front office know what they're doing. Don't think I'm right? Listen to radio talk shows in Cincinnati or read some chat boards. The ticket buy public isn't happy.

By keeping Junior, Castellini at least keeps a box office attraction. It won't be the same as fielding a winning team. But it will allow Castellini to cut his losses. After the Rheal Cormier, Mike Stanton, Kyle Lohse and other brilliant moves, cutting losses have replaced wins as a barometer for success, for the Cincinnati Reds.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The world lost a true gentleman today and the college football world lost a great coach. Indiana University football coach, Terry Hoeppner lost his battle to brain cancer early this morning. He died just after sunrise, on another glorious day on the Bloomington, Indiana, campus. It was going to be a day of celebration at IU. Groundbreaking was scheduled for a new $55 million dollar athletic complex that included, among other things, an end zone facility for the IU football stadium. In a way, a benchmark for the rebuilding that Hoeppner was doing with the Hoosiers' football program.

Terry Hoeppner was the head coach at Indiana. But to me, he'll always be the head football coach at Miami, Ohio. It's there where I first met him, first as a long time RedHawk assistant and for six years, the head football coach. He knew I was an Ohio Bobcat. But he also knew I respected the job he'd done with the 'Hawks. Not only did they consistently beat my beloved 'Cats, his RedHawks did it with class and style. I always asked Terry to take it easy on my team. He always laughed and said 'no way'. I loved that about him, just loved it.

It says a lot about the man when you look at how he landed Ben Roethlisberger. Hoeppner began recruiting Roethlisberger, when Ben was a receiver at Findlay High School. Roethlisberger didn't quarterback his high school team until he was a senior. And while Ohio State and other bigger schools caught onto him when he blossomed as a senior, Big Ben didn't forget the classy coach who'd been wooing him with the beauty of Oxford. Roethlisberger signed with Miami. And, you know the rest of that story.

The world doesn't have enough Terry Hoepnners. Certainly, the coaching fraternity doesn't have enough. If my son were fortunate enough, or good enough, to have played collegiate football, there are a finite number of coaches I would have wanted him to play for. Even with "green and white" running through my veins, Terry would have been one of those coaches.

May he rest in peace. And may all he touched in his too short life remember how good a person he was.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Here's the problem with dealing Adam Dunn. The best the Reds will get for Dunn is a couple of prospects, probably prospects still a couple of years away from playing in the majors. Is it worth it for the Reds to unload their best power hitter for that?

It's a question that has to be making the rounds of the Reds front office. Dunn is infuriating with his ability to hit for power, tempered with his inability to field and his propensity for striking out. He'll also be making $13 million dollars next year, if the Reds hold onto him. If they don't, if he's traded, Dunn can void the final year of his deal. He'd be a free agent after this season. So that's why he won't bring the kind of payback he would have even a year ago. A "rental", which is what Dunn would be, usually only brings minor leaguers, low level minor leaguers.

And here's the other question the Reds brass has to be asking itself: where do you find offensive numbers that Dunn puts up and at what price? An established outfielder who can approach 30 home runs and drive in 90 (numbers under Dunn's yearly average) would cost between $5-6 million. That's if you can find one on the open market. So in reality, the Reds would be saving $7-8 million in dumping Dunn, regardless of what players come to Cincinnati in the deal. And they'd have to go find an outfielder, as the best outfield prospect in the Reds system is "A" star, Jay Bruce, still years away from the majors.

So it's not quite so simple as merely unloading Dunn and believing that the Reds will get immediate help at the major league level. Dunn may be going. But what comes in may not be what you think.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

As Dave Mason once rhapsodized....'Been away, haven't seen you in awhile, how ya been?'

I've been out east the past week and away from the blog. Hope you're well. Sports in a moment. First, my brush with greatness.

I don't know if you're a "Sopranos" fan or not. I am and truly believe it's one of the classic television programs of all time. In a writer's medium (television) the recently concluded HBO series 'raised the bar' to new heights. The fact that it was shot in and around the neighborhoods I grew up in was merely a side light for me.

The ending of the series last Sunday night was controversial, in that it provide no clean and definitive end to its eight year run. So what? was my reaction. If you followed this series, you knew its creator, David Chase, wouldn't go down that road. His disdain for episodic over the air television is well documented, with each hour neatly packaged with a beginning, middle and end.
That controversy aside, to my brush with "The Sopranos".

The final, controversial scene was shot at an ice cream parlor I've been to dozens of times, mostly as a kid and not in the last 20 years. It sits on Passaic Avenue in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Holsten's is a landmark in that town, a great place for a burger and fries and an ice cream cone. It's also about ten minutes from the home I grew up in. So, on a lark after lunch Tuesday, not 48-hours after the airing of the final "Sopranos", I took a quick drive to Holsten's. Not wanting to be just a gawker, but gawking anyway, I entered the store and bought some candy. While the owner took care of that, I looked around, found the booth where the Sopranos family sat for the filming of the final scene and checked for bullet holes! None found, by the way. It looked exactly how it did in the final episode, and exactly how I remembered it from all those years ago.

I bought the obligatory T-shirt, paid for the candy and left. Though I've spent my entire adult life in television, it was actually pretty cool to be exactly where the penultimate scene of a great television show was filmed.

I'm a geek, I admit it. But if you were into it like I was for the past eight years, you'd do that same thing.

Homer Bailey made his second start for the Cincinnati Reds today. Not great, but not bad either. 101 pitches, only 67 for strikes. He continues to get too cute with marginal hitters and winds up getting in trouble. But I believe he's here to stay.

The more troubling trend is the ineptitude of the Reds bullpen, particularly the centerpiece of that now controversial trade the Reds made last summer. Gary Majewski is either still hurt, or not good. But it's clear now, Reds GM, Wayne Krivsky (whom I still like) should not have made this trade. He sent one quarter of his every day line-up to the Nationals for a pitcher who showed up with a sore arm (Majewski) another pitcher who's developed a sore arm (Bill Bray), a washed up short stop (Royce Clayton) and an infielder that the Reds gave up on who's now tearing it up with Tampa Bay (Brendan Harris).

If you're Bob Castellini and you've seen this mess, do you now allow Krivsky to deal Adam Dunn without first holding Krivsky's feet to the fire over that horrid deal he made last summer? I don't. Dunn is scheduled to make $13 million next season and can opt of that and become a free agent if he's traded before 2008. That means which ever team deals for Dunn is getting basically a 'rental', a player for just the balance of this season. At best the Reds will get prospects in return. That's a major, major step for this organization. Castellini will not only have to sign off on it, he should also make sure he gets a second, unbiased opinion from someone outside the Reds organization that what happened last summer, when Krivsky dealt Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez for a bucket of spare parts, doesn't happen again.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Not bad....not bad at all. 114 pitch night for the phenom....and Homer Bailey only lasts five innings. But he stuck around long enough to leave with a 4-2 lead and pick up his first ever major league win.

He didn't get a lot of help from the Reds defense (welcome to Cincinnati, Homer). A first inning run would've been avoided had Norris Hopper hit the cut off man. But he did get decent run support from Brandon Phillips (solo home run), Jeff Conine (two run home run) and Ken Griffey, Junior (solo home run, career #577).

Bailey needs to concentrate on his 'out' pitch a little more in his next start. He had the count at 2-2 and 3-2 several times and lost the batter. But for starters, no bad, not bad at all.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's not like the NFL draft. You won't see any of the players the Reds (or any MLB team) drafted today in the major leagues any time soon. But the first pick was more than interesting.
The Reds selected Pennsylvania high school catcher, Devin Mesoraco. He's an interesting choice. Mesoraco missed an entire season of high school ball, recovering from Tommy John surgery. But he built his arm strength up and now has one of the best arms in the country.

Mesoraco has a full ride waiting at the University of Virginia. But he left no doubt today that he'll sign with the Reds, instead.

The countdown to Homer Bailey-mania (not to be confused in Cincinnati with Brennaman-ia) is on. The phenom makes his major league debut Friday night, at Great American Ball Park against the Cleveland Indians. Tough opponent to draw in game one. The Indians have one of the more potent line-ups in the game.

Another thing to watch for Friday is whether or not charges will be filed in Georgia against Bengals linebacker, Odell Thurman. Two man and a woman have filed a coplaint with the Monticello, Georgia, police about an incident that happened at a party in that town last weekend. The complaint alleges that Thurman beat up a man and that one of his relatives, a cousin, was involved with theatening a party goer with a gun.

If charges are filed against Thurman, who has the right to apply for re-instatement to the NFL this Monday, it will further his supension that is coming up on a year.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I laugh a lot when I hear fans call for a manager's head. We hear it a lot here in Cincinnati and we're hearing it a lot this season. A lot of fans want Jerry Narron gone. Like last week.

Criticism of Narron ranges from his inability to manage his bullpen to being too placid inside the dugout. He caught a lot of heat a few weeks back when he didn't bolt from the dugout and corral an umpire for a bad call on a third strike. The fact that the game was over and that the next manager to win a 'ball strike' argument will be the first manager to do so didn't matter. They wanted Narron to bust a vein.

I laugh a lot, because I've heard it all before in Cincinnati. It was the same criticism that Bob Boone attracted, Dave Miley too. When things go badly, first blame the manager. Team broadcasters, stand by, you're next.

The facts about our Cincinnati Reds are this: they can't hit with runners in scoring position, they have the worst bullpen in the National League and their defense is anywhere from passable to atrocious.

Narron has control over the third of those problems. Why he hasn't demanded daily infield practice, which was a major league staple for all teams up until about ten years ago, is beyond me. But you can't hold him responsible for his roster. He only has imput, but not the final say.
That rests with his general manager.

The Reds are where they are by no accident. The new owner hasn't been in charge long enough and the owner before him wasn't interested in spending money for players, after signing Griffey, Jr, to a greatly discounted deal in 2000. The owner in the late 80's through the late '90's did her best to dismantle a once prideful minor league system. And her GM failed to sign and develope a starting pitcher of major league quality in eleven years on the job.

But if you fire Jerry Narron, it'll fix all of that right?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It's official. Homer Bailey makes his major league debut this Friday night in Cincinnati against the Indians. The Reds decided to move him up a day, much to Bailey's surprise. Immediately after getting the news he was coming up, he began phoning friends and family members. Within an hour, the Reds brass had changed their minds. It's Friday, not Saturday they told Bailey. Homer scrambled to let his family know. But by then, he was riding a bus back from Durham, NC, through the hills of West Virginia. No cell service ment the update had to be put on hold. Eventually, everyone got the news. And a large contingent from Texas will be at Great American Ball Park Friday night, watching the Reds phenom toss his first major league game.

More thoughts on Bailey are in my latest Broo View Podcast. You can find it on my web site, It's in the 'Podcast and More' section.

If you're the Orlando Magic, would you force Billy Donovan to honor his contract? They won't, of course. But in the real world (where you and I live) you know we'd be forced to honor it. It just proves the absurdity of contract law in professional and collegiate sports. The written word means nothing. College coaches can walk on contracts that have two, three, five years left on them. College presidents allow them to. Now we know that a five year, $27.5 million dollar deal is worthless, for a team trying to make a coach adhere to his written word. What does that say about the spoken word of good faith. Right.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I'm sure the Reds have thought this through. They'd have had to. Homer Bailey will get the call sometime this week to join the team and start Saturday's game against the Indians. His arrival has been hailed and expected for over a year, every since he began making his meteoric rise from the depths of the Reds minor league system to where he is now, "AAA". He is the phenom, the first legitimate pitcher the Reds have developed in almost 20 years.

But think about this: if Bailey comes up and pitches well on Saturday, what happens? A team as desperate as the Reds for a kick start to this dismal season really can't afford to have Bailey here for one start and then banish him back to the minors. They would have to keep him here, right? Well if they do, then what? The next time the Reds would be in need of a fifth starter would be in early July. Surely, they won't let Bailey sit on the bench, or in the bullpen waiting until then. So that means either Kyle Loshe or Matt Belisle must leave the rotation to make room for Bailey. If he pitches well Saturday, keep an eye on that situation.

Waiting in the minors along with Bailey is another phenom: first baseman Joey Votto. Right now, Votto is hitting .318 with 8 homers and 34 runs batted in. And, Votto has been playing some left field. New contact lenses have helped Votto at the plate this season. He could be another call up. If the Reds are out of the running for the NL Central title, and as bad as that division is, no one is out of it right now, then Scott Hatteberg would be a likely candidate for trade. Like Hatteberg, Votto is a left handed hitting first baseman. It's a natural exchange: Hatteberg traded somewhere for whatever the Reds can get. Votto up from the minors.

Votto doesn't strike out a lot, 43 times in only 236 plate appearances. As much as Bailey's call up is anticipated, Votto should draw the same excitement.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Now Chad Johnson wants to race a horse. And he'll do it, for charity, one week from this Saturday at River Downs in Cincinnati. Johnson will race a thorobread, with the money raised from betting going to one of Marvin Lewis' Foundation charities.

It's not the first time a Cincinnati Bengal has raced a horse. It's not even the second time. In 1983, a young Cris Collinsworth raced against a horse that was winless. The horse left CC in the dust. Collinsworth repeated the effort ten years later....he lost again, badly.

Johnson will certainly meet the same fate on Saturday June 9th. You just hope he doesn't pull a hamstring in the process.

Watching the Cubs Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett rumble in their dugout this afternoon made for great theatre. The fact that Lou Piniella now manages the Cubs made it even better. Piniella had an infamous club house dust up with his relief pitcher, Rob Dibble that was caught on tape. Piniella took awhile to explode over the situation. When he did, he said that team mates should fight the opponent, if they have to, not each other.

And they say people don't learn things when they get older.

Have a great weekend. If you live in the greater Cincinnati area, I'll see you Sunday night on "Sports Rock", at 11:35pm on channel 5 WLWT. Among our guests, UFC's Rich Franklin.

And I'm hosting "Sunday Morning Sportstalk" on 700 WLW from 9am-Noon EDT. If you live outside the greater Cincinnati area, it's on XM channel 173.