Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Random thoughts on an icy night in the 'nati.....

I really want to pick the Cardinals in this upcoming Super Bowl. But look at their record. Every time they've played a team with a better than average defense, they've lost. Dick LeBeau will simply not allow Larry Fitzgerald to beat his team. It's the Steelers defensive coordinator's track record. His game plan is to neutralize the other team's best player and make someone else try to make plays.

Steelers 23 Cardinals 13.

I did an interview with Reds General Manager, Walt Jocketty today. He's convinced the team will contend this season and won more than it loses. It's a far cry from Bob Castellini's guarantees. But if the Reds win six more than they lose, that'd be an 84-78 record, and a legit Widl Card contender. Can they do it? I don't see how a team can go from a 'power' team to a 'pitching, defense and speed' team overnight and became a contender. Maybe it's happened before. But I can't remember when. The Reds are banking a lot on their pitching this year. And while the back end of the rotation is better than most team's, the front end (Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo) has to pitch as billed, something it didn't do last season.

Jocketty says he's a Homer Bailey fan. Well, that's one. Bailey has been nothing but a disappointment since his big league arrival two summers ago.

If you watch the Super Bowl only for the commercials...get a life. But if you watch for the GAME as well as the commercials, well here's a taste of the new Coke ad. It's an update on the ad Coke did over 30 years ago with former Steeler, Mean Joe Green.

Loved what I've seen of it so far...pretty much 'spot on'

I was reading an issue of Sports Illustrated from late December, the other night. I always read this stuff weeks after publication, just not enough hours in the day. In the magazine was a story about how Dick LeBeau developed the 'Zone Blitz' defense as he prepared to take over the Cincinnati Bengals defense in 1984. He spent time at LSU discussing it with then LSU head coach, Bill Arnsparger. On my radio show last Sunday, on 700 WLW, former Bengals head coach, Sam Wyche confirmed the story. Wyche said it wasn't known as the 'Zone Blitz' back in '84. But from then until LeBeau and Wyche left the team in '92, several key elements of today's top defense were implemented. Down linemen were dropped back into pass coverage. Linebackers rushed the passer. Often times, only two players lined up in a 'two point stance'. And since the late Bill Walsh admitted that his self designed "West Coast Offense" was really formulated when he was with the Bengals back in the early 70's, you have two of the most effective football schemes ever diagramed and implemented here in Cincinnati.

I often wonder if Paul Brown had to do it over again, if he would have given the head coach's job to Walsh and not his long time friend and assistant coach, Bill Johnson.

How can a Xavier basketball team be this good and not generate any 'buzz' in Cincinnati? Radio sports talk host always complain about it? Is it that 10,000 people watch the Muskies play at the Cintas Center and, in reality, they're the only people who really care about the team? I hope not, but I wonder about that.

All UC basketball fans want to do is grumble about Mick Cronin and Nancy Zimpher. Get over it. Bob Huggins isn't coming back. Zimpher might leave, but don't bet on it. And Cronin inherited a program in complete disarray, with recruiting three to four years behind every other Division I school.

9 Big East teams will make the NCAA Tournament and 14 may wind up playing in post season tournaments. Now, we have a 16 team event, just announced last night, called the CollegeInsider.com tournament. That goes with the CBI, the 16 team tournament that debuted last season for non-NCAA and NIT teams. So, if you're scoring at home, 113 Division I NCAA teams will get to play in a post season tournament after this season.

Just booked for my Sunday morning radio show on 700 WLW: Mike Lombardi, former NFL general manager now with the nationalfootballpost.com. I'm on from 9am-Noon EST. If you don't live in the greater Cincinnati area, and you have a Sirius-XM radio, I'm on channel 173.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Urban legend says an athlete came up with this phrase: it is what it is. I always thought it was Sylvester Stallone in one of the Rocky movies. But whatever, ‘it is what it is’ is the current speak for ‘what are you gonna do’ or ‘what you see is what you get’ or ‘that’s the way it goes’, catch phrases for the powerless from generations gone by.

It is what it is. The Cincinnati Reds are what they are. That’s basically what Bob Castellini told us earlier this week. No more big money free agents will find their way to Great American Ball Park. The economy stinks, if you haven’t heard. So instead of getting Bobby Abreu, we get Jonny Gomes. That’ll make up those 23 and a half games the Cubs put between themselves and your Cincinnati Reds last season.

Castellini circled around late in the week. He was on 700 WLW twice on Friday, clarifying remarks he made as the Reds Caravan shoved off on Thursday. Yes, he believes, the Reds can contend this season. No, he said, he never meant to say the Reds weren’t going to win this season, And no, he didn’t mean the Reds were going to win a championship that first year he owned the team, which was the distinct impression that he left the day he bought the club. Smart to clarify, considering he had three busloads of his employees scattered about the hinterlands this week, drumming up ticket sales.

I like Castellini, because in an era of gray, he seems to be a black or white guy. Those who work for him like to say he’s someone who holds his employees accountable. That’s a novel concept in this day and age. But the Reds owner is in a real tough spot. The Reds weren’t very good last summer, or the summer before that or any summer in the last 13 years, except in 1999 when they were just good enough to miss the playoffs by a game. History isn’t on Castellini’s side right now. The glow of the Big Red Machine only shines on people over 40 right now and no Reds fan under 25 really remembers that wire to wire season of 1990. Ticket sales have become problematic. When almost a generation of your fans haven’t seen champagne splashing in your clubhouse, it’s a real problem.

Winning will change all of that, except winning takes money. And nobody who isn’t named Steinbrenner is spending money this winter. So there in lies the Reds big problem: It takes winning to attract fans who spend money, it takes money to buy free agents. But money is tight because of the lousy economy.

All of the Reds starting rotation is back, including Aaron Harang who couldn’t possibly be any worse than he was last season.

The young phenoms are back, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. Brandon Phillips is at worst the second best second baseman in the National League.

But honestly, what else has this team done since the end of last season that would lead you to believe that it can make up the 23 and a half games that stood between it and a division title, or the 16-games that the Reds missed out on being a wild card team?

Willy Tavares and Roberto Hernandez? Nice pieces, but hardly franchise changing players. Jonny Gomes? Please.

It is, what it is. Teams come out of nowhere to wins pennants. Look at the Rays. But not often. Most years, you can pretty much tell in March who’ll be playing in October: Yanks, Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Angels, Tigers, pick four of those in the AL. Mets, Phils, Cards, Cubs, Dodgers, Snakes, pick four of those in the NL.

Baseball has become a predictable sport, dominated by teams that spend the most money. There’s inbalance that only a salary cap will address. But the players union has always filed that under ‘good luck’. It’s why the key to winning in baseball is building a solid, dependable farm system. Marge Schott had no patience for it. Jim Bowden couldn’t find pitching with a search warrant. Reds fans have been told to be patient for too long.

That’s the fix Bob Castellini is in. It is what it is. But is it good enough to contend for a pennant? I don’t see it. Maybe you do. I hope you’re right.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Big weekend coming up (no seriously, big weekend) and a lot to get to. Down time in the chase for the Super Bowl trophy leaves the stage for the Xavier Musketeers on Saturday night. They've got a road game at LSU. Years ago, with Dale Brown and Shaq, this would be a totally unwinnable game for the Muskies. But the SEC is down this year and the Muskies are hot. It's an 8pm tip on cable.

UC has the weekend off. Bummer, with the way they've been playing. It'll be a struggle for Mick to get to 20 wins. But if he does, in that conference, he could have an NCAA bid.

Bengals coaches continue to work in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl. They'll coach the North squad Saturday night. It's an 8pm kickoff. I'm hoping they've found some talent in the group that's at this game that'll help begin to turn things around.

Here's another avenue to pursue. Apparently Bart Scott, the talented linebacker who's been a stalwart on that Ravens defense is a free agent. The Ravens may 'tag' him, but probably not. On my radio show last week on 700 WLW, Jarrett Bell from USA Today told me that Scott keeps boxing gloves in his locker. I like that.

The latest Broo View Podcast is now posted. You can find it on the front page of my web site: www.kenbroo.com. My guest is Bell. The topic is Bengals. If you're in a hurry, just click here to download.

The Reds caravan rolls on through the hinterlands this weekend. Bob Castellini said today on the Bill Cunningham show on 700 WLW that he believes the Reds will not only have a winning record this season, but also contend for the NL Central division. God Bless him, it's great to be optimistic. And his number one goal right now is to tub thump for his team so people will buy tickets. But honestly, how can you look at the Reds everyday 8 and say it will be competitive with the Cubs, or even the Cardinals? Short stop is a huge question, since Alex Gonzalez hasn't played an inning since the 2007 season (and only played part of that year due to family issues). In left field, you're looking at a platoon with a guy who's been a career minor leaguer (Chris Dickerson) and an outfielder that's bounced between AAA and the majors the past four seasons (Jonny Gomes). And if Johnny Cueto hasn't figured out that 40 pitches an inning is a bad thing, we're right back to where we were last year, when the Reds finished a whopping 23.5 game out of first.

But hey, it's only January. Everybody's 0-0 right now, right?

i'll see you tonight at 6 & 11p on WLWT Channel 5 and Sunday night at 11:35 on Sports Rock. Our special guest, former Bengal Ickey Woods. Sunday is the 20th anniversary of the Bengals last trip to the Super Bowl. Memo to anyone younger than 25: yes the Bengals actually played in a Super Bowl.

On my radio show this Sunday, my guests will be former Bengal David Fulcher, foxsports.com baseball expert, Ken Rosenthal, Xavier basketball TV analyst, Steve Wolf and Pete Rose. I'm on from 9am-Noon EST on 700 WLW. You can also hear it on Sirius-XM Channel 173.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What you see, is what you get, as the Dramatics sang back in 1972 (or Brittany a couple of years ago...ugh) and as Bob Castellini basically said today. The Reds will make no more major player moves before spring training. It's the economy, stupid (apologies to the Bush-Clinton '92 campaign). With the economy in the dumper, Castellini is done spending money. The Reds payroll will top out in the mid $70 million range this season, roughly what it was last year.

So it raises the quetion, why should we believe that this team will be any better than the team that finished 23 and a half games out of first place in 2008? The answer is, we shouldn't. It's the same pitching staff, with the addition of bullpen tosser Arthur Rhodes. It's the same 'everyday 8', with the exception of Ramon Hernandez behind the plate and Wily Tavares in centerfield. The offense lost 100 rbi per season when Adam Dunn left. And even though Hernandez averages about 64 rbi a season, the Reds cathers last season combined for 75 rbi. Tavares will help with defense and he swiped 68 bases last year. But remember, the previous two years before coming to the Reds, the much maligned Corey Patterson stole 82 bases for Baltimore. Worse, Tavares' on base percentage in '08 (.308) was dangerously close to Patterson's awful number (.238).

So how would you expect this group to seriously challenge the Cubs or Cardinals? I don't. In the past few weeks, Castellini has had an epiphany. He's either figured out, or has been told, that even with adding another big bat (Bobby Abreu anyone), the risk of paying good money in a bad economy wouldn't be worth the potential reward, a pennant. Grief to dollars, we like to call it in the swinging, swirling world of broadcasting.

Yes, sometimes teams come out of nowhere to win championships. Look at the Tampa Bay Rays. But more often than not, those teams have laid a solid foundation for winning, by drafting smartly and filling in with prudent free agent sigings. The Reds haven't been known for either recently. As late as 2003, most of their free agent signings were washed up players looking for one last payday. And from the mid-90's until 2003, the Reds were unable to draft a pitcher who effectively threw at the big league level.

Now Castellini is telling his fans to be patient for at least another season. If you've won something, anything in the past 13-seasons, that would be a lot easier sell than where the Reds are coming from. The future isn't quite yet now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's posted! The latest Broo View Podcast is available on the front page of my web site: www.kenbroo.com. My guest in this episode (#187) is Tim Dierkes, who runs the web site mlbtraderumors.com. Our topics: how the rough economy is hurting a lot of baseball free agents.

Incidentally, just booked as our guest this Sunday night on Sports Rock (11:35p EST on WLWT Channel 5 in Cincinnati) is former Cincinnati Bengals running back, Ickey Woods. Dave Lapham, George Vogel, Ickey and I will break down the week in sports and look ahead to the Super Bowl. We'll have inside reports from both Arizona and Pittsburgh and we've cooked up another exciting game to play: "For Better Or Worse".

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In a previous life, here's a sample of what I did. 20 years ago, Monster Truck racing was my life. My partner on these broadcasts is my good friend and native Oklahoman, Mike Galloway. And for several winters, we spent weekends making the circuit on the USHRA Monster Truck circuit. The shows were produced by the now defunct Bud Sports and aired on ESPN. Don't remember where this race took place. But in a lot of ways, it seems like yesterday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You have to have cold, cold blood not to be happy for former Bengals lineman, Willie Anderson. Cut loose by the Bengals in the summer, on the basis of what appears to be bad information about his health, Anderson quickly caught on with the Baltimore Ravens. And Sunday, he'll play for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Remember, in 12 seasons with the Bengals, Willie got to sniff the playoffs only once. Often, he was the best player on a lot of horrid Bengals teams. According to yahoo.com sports in this story, Willie isn't celebrating anything yet. But here's hoping he will be shortly. Tell me if Willie Anderson wouldn't have been the best offensive lineman on the Bengals this season.
Just posted today, the latest Broo View Podcast. My guest this week is Damon Durante from www.betUS.com. Has the current economic meltdown hurt the sports gambling industry? We talk about that and a lot more. I also have some insights into what's been going on around Cincinnati. You can download the latest Broo View Podcast on my web site: www.kenbroo.com. If you're in a hurry, you can simply click here.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Our buddy, Mike Florio a profootballtalk.com doesn't like the NFL's overtime rules. Neither do I. Here's Florio's take.

When a coin flip becomes the most important things in a professional football game, you got a problem.
Pitchers and catchers report to the Reds spring training complex in about a month. Here's something to warm you up. Bronson Arroyo, appearing on a TV sports show in Boston. Wait until you hear how he describes his 2009 Cincinnati Reds!

I guess the bar is really low this season. All you have to look at is the left field platoon of Dickerson/Hairston...unless Walt can coax some more $$$ out of Big Bob

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Just posted on the front page of my web site www.kenbroo.com the latest Broo View Podcast. I have an indepth interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Our topic, the continuing off-season saga of the Cincinnati Reds. If you're in a hurry, you can download it here.

By the way, vote on my latest poll question, just to the right on what you think the Reds may do next.

Rocco Baldelli signed with the Red Sox today. The Reds were interested. So why did Boston get the former Rays' outfielder? Two reasons: Baldelli has a better shot at being a part of a championship team there, than here and the Sox can take a risk on Baldelli's health a lot easier than the Reds could have.

I still see the Reds making a move. They must get a legitimate left fielder if they want to contend this summer. A trade with the Yankees for Xavier Nady makes sense. It'll probably cost the Reds one of their pitching prospects, most probably Darryl Thompson who threw seven terrific innings against the Yanks in New York last summer. But you have to do a deal, or why would you make a trade for a catcher (Hernandez) and sign an outfielder (Tavares) in the off season. If you weren't bent on contending (and building strictly threw the farm system) you would simply go with your kids.

Steelers, Ravens, Giants and Panthers this weekend....but it's still early. If that plays out, conference championship weekend will be one of the all-timers.

After watching the University of Cincinnati play Providence last night, one thing that struck me was the amount of empty seats. They announced the crowd at over 6,612. But honestly, it appeared to be somewhere around 4,500. The lack of student support, considering that school resumed this week, was particularly troubling.

The fallout from the dismissal of Bob Huggins and Andy Kennedy continues to have a direct consequence for this current UC team and coaching staff. The nine months that the program was in limbo, back in the 2005-2006 season, was devastating. For all intents and purposes, recruting stopped. Considering that players are now being recruited as early as high school sophomores and tracked as early as 8th grade, it's not a stretch to say that period has affected four years of recruiting.

Worse, within days of taking over the UC program, Mick Cronin lost his best returning player when guard Devan Downey transferred. And his other two top returning players basically flunked out of school, James White, who opted out for the NBA and guard Jihad Muhammad.

So it's no mystery why this UC basketball team has fallen into hard times and off the radar screen. But you wonder when it will become the 'thing to do again' in Cincinnati. The real magic of the Huggins regime wasn't that he galvanized the UC base. The real magic was his ability to bring casual fans into the UC loop. Anyone who coaches or operates a team will tell you, there is no harder thing to accomplish.

UC is a long way away from those days.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I can't believe that the college football season is actually ending. There've only been, what, 97 bowls games since mid December?

Ohio State played OK against Texas. But when you allow a wide receiver to catch 171 yards of pass receptions, don't you think it would've been a good idea to put a cornerback on Quan Cosby, instead of a safety, with the game on the line?

I got an email tonight after the 6p news from a viewer upset that I didn't mention the GMAC Bowl was occuring this evening. My guess is 95% of the viewing public had no idea that Tulsa is playing Ball State. His rationale was that Ball State is in Indiana and that SE Indiana is part of the WLWT viewing area. UmmmHmmm. Of course, in Muncie, WLWT is only a rumor. If we paid attention to every college that has alumni living in the greater Cincinnati area, we'd have time for nothing else. Alert to viewers, the pecking order for coverage in Cincinnati is in this order: Reds, Bengals, high school football, UC, Xavier and then everything else. Usually, we don't have time for 'everything else'. But I may run Ball State vs Tulsa highlights tonight at 11p, as I used to be the 'voice' of the Universtiy of Tulsa basketball team.

The Bengals coaching staff will work the upcoming Senior Bowl, coaching the North sqaud. They'll get a first hand look at the senior talent available for April's draft. They worked the game in 2004 and decided to take three players they coached in that game. Great. The draft that year netted our Bengals 1: Chris Perry 2: Keiwan Ratliff 2A: Madieu Williams 3: Caleb Miller. Gone, gone, gone and gone. I can't wait to see what this year brings.

The season ending edition of Bengals Report Podcast is now posted on the front page of my web site, http://www.kenbroo.com/. When you download it, you'll hear Bengals Report executive editor, Mark Hardin and I wrap up the season, with comments from Marvin Lewis, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and safety Chris Crocker.

This guy's kidding right? Tony Dungy may leave on his own. But it's obvious this guy at the Indianpolis Star hasn't spent a country minute watching the Bengals play. You don't want Dungy in Indy? Well Tony, come on down!

Help is apparently on the way for the beleaguerd UC basketball Bearcats. Too bad he's not available to play right now.

The start of the MLB season is still three months away. There's ice on the streets of Cincinnati tonight. But here's something that'll get your baseball juices going.

Doug Gallant is the Reds grounds crew chief. There's nobody better in his business.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I'll be posting more info here as the day progesses, but I wanted to share an article with you on the UC Bearcats that was in the Washington Post earlier this week. It's a great read and more great national pub for what Brian Kelly is getting done. Here's the link.