Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Andre Smith ate his way, and maybe talked his way, out of millions of dollars this week. Smith is the just finished junior at the University of Alabama, who just happened to be the highest rated offensive tackle in the 2009 NFL draft. That is, until he showed up at the NFL Combine more than a little out of shape, had a series of interviews with NFL teams that were anywhere from bizarre to disasterous and then left the Combine, unannounced, to return to Atlanta where apparently he'll try to drop some tonnage.

I guess this would be a good time to throw in that Smith wasn't allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl in January, because he was deemed to have had inproper contact with an agent. Great agent, who'd allow Smith to show up at the most important pre-draft gathering impersonating a train wreck.

Smith was supposed to have been the top player in the entire 2009 draft class. My guess is, he'll still go in the first round and probably before the middle of the round. But he kissed a boatload of money sayonara with his non-performance in Indianapolis.

More juicy NFL tibbits from our buddy, Mike Florio, at profootballtalk.com

Now, for something completely different. The hardest working man in show business, the late James Brown. But check out the fresh fresh behind him playing bass guitar. That would be a very young 18-years old Bootsy Collins, proud resident of eastside Cincinnati and a member of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, class of 1997

Recess is over. Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf Wednesday. The line will form over there for second-100th place.

Finally, exihibition games begin around MLB on Wednesday. Aaron Harang tossed an inning of scoreless ball today, in an intrasquad game, then 20-more pitches in the bullpen afterward. It all hinges on him, whether or not this is another 72 win season, or the Reds actually have a pulse ni 2009.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday ramblings from a mind that likes to wander....

Ken Griffey, Jr made the right call, heading back to Seattle. But you have to wonder if the Braves feel used....The lack of news coming out of the Reds spring camp is astounding, particularly for a team searching for an identity.....Riddle me this: if the Reds had taken all the time, trouble and money it expended to sign a bucket of spare parts known as Jonny Gomes, Jacque Jones, Wily Tavares and Daryle Ward this season and used it to trade for Nick Swisher or Jermaine Dye or perhaps try to sign Bobby Abreu or Garrett Anderson, wouldn't they be in a better position to field a legitimate left fielder this season? They signed Tavares, apparently, for his speed and defense. Tavares won't hit for average, so why not concede the bat and put Chris Dickerson in center, and sign or trade for one of the legit candidates I just mentioned. Isn't anybody thinking like that in Redsland these days? Just asking.....

The more I think about the Bengals 'tagging' Shayne Graham, the less sense it makes. Didn't the Giants find a kicker mid season? Aren't there are trail of placekickers out there looking for work? For a team that was so challenged scoring points this year, what's the sense in locking up a guy who can only give you three at a time, and letting a guy who can give you twice that (TJ Houshmandzadeh) take a walk? Oh wait, that's right, money. Tag Graham, let TJ go, and save $7.5 million. And if the Bengals complete the 'daily double' and trade Chad Ocho Cinco, your number one wide rceiver this coming season will be, drum roll please, Chris Henry.

Here's the dumbest man in America, at least tonight. The mascots are competing at the NBA All Star weekend. Watch the idiot dressed up like a wolf, standing on the backboard.

The guy just ripped his ACL. Nice

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why did the Bengals elect to franchise tag PK Shayne Graham and not TJ Houshmandzadeh. I'll give you three guesses, and all three answers have to be money.

Plain and simple, end of story.

It would've cost the Bengals just under $10 million for one year of Houshmandzadeh. Tagging Graham is a $2.5 million ticket. That's not to say that Graham isn't a valuable asset. The free agent pool for kickers is limited this off season. But kickers are a dime a dozen in the NFL. And honestly, as bad as this team is, should we really believe that the Bengals will be playing games that will be decided by three or fewer points anytime in the near future?

And who is Carson Palmer going to be tossing the ball to next fall, Graham? Right now, your Bengals wide receiving corps consists of Chad Ocho Cinco, who would probably volunteer to hide in TJ's luggage just to escape Bengal-dom; Chris Henry, who's one good cocktail away from a permanent ban by the NFL Commissioner; Andre Caldwell, who didn't play WR at all until the final game of 2008; and 2008 second round pick Jerome Simpson, who was less visible in the Fall of 1008 than Dick Cheney. Get those season tickets now.

The latest Broo View Podcast is up and posted on my web site: http://www.kenbroo.com/. But, if you're in a hurry, you can download it here. My guests in this episode are Jon Heyman, the baseball writer from Sports Illustrated and from The Sporting News, senior writer Stan McNeal.

Alex Rodriguez looked like a man anguished by the truth, or at least his version of it. I watched his news conference today. I don't doubt he was wrought with emotion. But honestly, are you buying this 'cousin injected me story'? Where's the cousin? What's his name? And this 'boli' that was injected into A-Rod that he said was an over the counter thing in the Dominican Republic? Apparently the chief sports doctor down there says the only way 'boli' is available is on the black market. So apparently laws were broken in that country. Maybe that's why we can't find the cousin.

It's been an awful year for any baseball free agent not named CC Sabathia or Mark Texeira. Are NFL free agents looking at the same scenario. Our pal, Mike Florio from profootballtalk.com weighs on on that.

Personally, I think it's going to be a rough winter for any NFL free agent not named TJ Houshmandzadeh.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Adam Dunn signed for two years, 20-million, Bobby Abreu took six million for a year. I’m wondering if the Reds have missed the boat. Pitchers and catchers are in camp, some of the positional players too. And I’m wondering if the Reds had made one more play in free agency this winter, if they’d be considered as a pre season contender for a playoff spot. Because right now, playoffs and your Cincinnati Reds don’t seem to have any chance of intersecting.

You know what you’re hearing a lot of this winter? “The Reds are going to be better this season”. You’re not hearing “The Reds have a shot to make the playoffs”. It’s “they’re going to be better this season’. I don’t know about you, that doesn’t make me want to go out and buy tickets. Decent rotation? Yes. Nice young players in Votto and Bruce? Yes. Bullpen better? Maybe. What else you got?

You can argue that the Cubs got weaker by trading Mark DeRosa. But did they get 23 and a half games weaker than last season? The answer is, no. And 23 and half is the number of games the Reds finished behind the Cubs last season.

Run production is going to be a major problem for this team this season. Votto and Bruce will have to put up numbers better than last season just for the Reds to approach what they did last year. Brandon Phillips is the real deal. But did Edwin Encarnacion change his approach to hitting in the off season? Did Willy Tavares figure out a way to get on base more than 30-percent of the time in the off season? Did Ramon Hernandez lose the attitude he copped last season in Baltimore?

Did the Reds miss the boat by not making a run at Abreu, who would have brought his .300 average and professionalism to Cincinnati. Maybe he would never consider coming here. Because at his age, at the point he’s at in his career, maybe Abreu only wants to play for a team with a legitimate chance at winning a pennant.

Can you still buy a championship in baseball? The Yankees were in that business back in the 90’s and made it work. They’ve been in that business for this decade too, and it hasn’t. Now, they’ve gone out and spent $430 million total dollars on three players: Mark Texeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. But does the paradigm that worked in the 90’s still work today?

You know, one of the best presents I ever got as a kid was a subscription to The Sporting News. My parents gave that to me as a birthday present when I turned ten. I remember it was in newspaper form, came wrapped up like a cylinder. You had to unwrap it and roll it out so it would lay flat. It came on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday afternoon I knew it was waiting for me when I got home from school. I walked to school, but on Tuesdays, I ran home. The Sporting News was the best. It has box scores from the entire previous week. That’s not even a quaint notion now. It seems ancient. You want a box score, it’s on a dozen web sites five minutes after the game ends. But back then, you got box scores and game reports. You got great columns from writers like Joe Falls of the Detroit Free Press and Bob Broeg from the St. Louis Post Dispatch. I couldn’t find Detroit or St. Louis on a map back then. But Falls and Broeg made me feel like I was in Tiger or Busch Stadium. That was the Sporting News.

Old habits die hard. I still subscribe. It doesn’t come every week in newspaper form. It arrives twice a month in a glossy magazine. Daily you can get it on the web. And I was reminded this week of why I still subscribe.

There s a wonderful series of articles on whether or not buying a baseball team is the route, anymore, to a pennant. The articles contrast how it was before free agency to what it is now. Several writers contributed to the series. But the chief writer is a man by the name of Stan McNeal. Tuesday, I'll have a link on my blog to an interview I did with McNeal about this very subject.

College basketball from the weekend. Xavier wins, UC loses. There’s a lot of concern about the way Xavier has been playing lately. And their throttling of one of the worst teams in the country Saturday probably didn’t make a whole lot of their fans breath easier. The farther you defend them from the basket, the more you send the Muskies to the free throw line, the better chance you have to beat them. Blueprint for Duquesne and Dayton in wins last week. But honestly, you want those problems to pop up now, not in March. I think what I’ve always thought about Xavier: it’s a good team, not great, with a great chance to play on the second weekend of the tournament.

UC has other issues. I’m on record, said it here last week, that if the Bearcats win three of their final seven games and win a game in the Big East Tournament, they’re in the NCAA’s. Three wins in their final seven would put the ‘Cats are 19-12 entering the Big East Tournament. They would’ve finished 9-9 in conference games. They’re 1-1 in their final seven so far. They’re on track to win three. I think they beat West Virginia and Seton Hall here. They may even sneak in another win. Maybe at South Florida, maybe here this week against Louisville. But this is what we’re hearing a lot of lately about UC: they haven’t beaten any team this season that’s a lock to go to the NCAA Tournament. Not one. Don’t give me Georgetown. The Hoyas are on life support. Notre Dame? Not buying it at this point.

So it would be in UC’s best interest if, in the final five games before its conference tournament, if the Bearcats figured out a way to beat Louisville or Syracuse.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First things first, the latest Broo View Podcast is now up and posted on the front page of my web site, www.kenbroo.com. If you're in a hurry, you can download it here. My guest this week is former Reds general manager, Wayne Krivsky. He has some good stuff on whether or not the Reds can morph in to a 'pitching, speed and defense' team this season.

I have to admit, I'm a bit suprised that Adam Dunn will get a two year $20 million deal from the Washington Nationals. Si.com's Tom Verducci has the details.

That's less money than Dunn received over the course of the past two seasons. But it's good money in this economy. Consider that Pat Burrell signed a two year, $16 million deal with the Rays. But then again, Dunn will have to play for the Nats, who are in no danger of going anywhere this season. And it makes you wonder what the market will be for Dunn in a couple of years. Now, all Nationals GM Jim Bowden has to do is sign Griffey, Jr and he'll reunite the Reds outfield of 2002. Of course, that's exactly what the Reds are running away from right?

Bobby Abreu has signed with the Angels. He'll take a major league 'haircut'. Here's the story from the LA Times. Abreu will make about $9 million less this year than last. And it's a big comedown from what he'd been looking for after filing last fall. No way Abreu would have come to Cincinnati. He wants a ring. The Reds are nowhere near winning anything, let along a World Series Championship.

I guess Garrett Anderson is available now, just in case Bob Castellini comes to his senses and falls out of love with Jonny Gomes.

My pal, Mike Florio at sportingnews.com has an intereting take on what the Bengals might do with their franchise tag. Mike of course, operates the wildly popular profootballtalk.com web site.

How about the Bengals tagging no one? In this economy, is a slam dunk that TJ Houshmandzadeh will get the kind of bonus money that's been thrown around in year's past? Aren't there some hard lessons in economics out there for a lot of baseball players this winter?
If the Bengals 'tag' TJ, that's roughly $10 million for this coming season. He's 32, or will be in September. Is TJ worth it? Sure, but it's not my money so I'll spend it for Mike Brown. But Brown, and a lot of other owners who may face declining ticket sales and other revenue this season might be prone to second thoughts this winter.

Ken Griffey Junior's agent, Brian Goldberg, tells me Jr. will have a place to play baseball this coming season and a deal will be announced next week. Goldberg, who'll be one of my guests this Sunday morning on 700 WLW, says four teams are interested in Griffey, Jr. But Goldberg admits that Junior is a 'fallback' plan for teams that don't get Manny, Abreu or Dunn.

My money's on Seattle.

Sugar Ray Leonard...I mean, Brett Favre retired...again. Favre might as well be an aging boxer, he retires so much.

You're building an NFL team from scratch and you want to build your team around one player. Who is your pick? Let me know, send a comment. I might use this as a topic for my radio show.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I said on channel 5 the other night that I knew the next loss for Xavier was out there, but I couldn’t see it on the horizon. There’s a comment that had shelf life of about ten minutes. I’m watching this game Saturday night, the sound was down I was at dinner, and I’m saying to myself…self, the Muskies don’t appear to be playing very good defense in this game. Little did I know that you and I could find three guys off the street and play better defense than the Muskies did. 81-percent is the number of shots Duquesne made in the first half of last night’s game. Do you know how bad you have to play to let the other guy make 81-percent of his shots. And almost as worse, the Muskies turned the ball over seven of their first 14 possessions. Don’t play defense, give the ball away and, and make only 53-percent of your free throws, it’s amazing the Muskies had a chance to win the game.

So was last night a bump in the road, or a warning shot? Well since it was only the third conference loss in the last two seasons for ‘X’, I’m going to say it was just a speed bump. And listening to Sean Miller after the game last night, he almost seemed relieved that his team lost a game this far out from the tournament. I know he wasn’t. But the last thing a coach wants is for his team to get complacent. Things to work on, as they say in the land of coach speak.

Here’s where I think UC is today: very much alive for an NCAA tournament. CBS Sports basketball guru, Seth Davis said Thursday on one of the ESPN shows that UC’s win over Notre Dame this week was devastating to the Irish because…quote…Cincinnati isn’t going to the NCAA tournament. Another opinion that had a shelf life of 15 seconds.

By beating Georgetown, a top 25 team for a long time this season, the Bearcats now have 16-wins. They’re 6-5 in the Big East with seven games to go. They’re 16-8 overall. If they go 3-4 in their final seven, they finish at 19-12, more important 9-9 in the conference. Last year, a ‘500’ Big East record was the threshold for making the NCAA tournament. I think they can go 3-4. They’ve got some games that just aren’t do-able, like at Pittsburgh in a week. But a home game with St. John’s is still in play, so too is a game with Seton Hall. They beat Hugs and West Virginia on the road last season. They got Hugs at Fifth-Third in a couple of weeks. Very do-able. Nancy Zimpher is about to load up the U-Haul, UC is winning again. This is the best week in years for UC fans.

TJ Houshmanzadeh is playing the role of Chad Johnson this winter. Last winter, Ocho Cinco was looking for any hot mic in broadcasting to yap about how much he hated being in Cincinnati and how much he wanted to get traded. To the Dolphins, Eagles, Redskins, you pick any of the other 31-teams in the league, that’s where Ocho Cinco wanted to be. ABC baby, anywhere but Cincinnati. We all know how well that turned out. Ocho Cinco was a runor for most of this season.

The only difference between what Chad did last winter and what’s going on with TJ now, is that TJ actually may have a chance to leave. He is a restricted free agent. And as late as last week, Marvin Lewis said he prefers not to slap a franchise tag on TJ. Perhaps he’s saving it just in case Stacy Andrews grows another leg between now and training camp.

What Marvin, and his boss, Silent Mike should be more interested in, rather than what they prefer to do, is figuring out why their best players want out of here. And if this is coming down to a preference, they may want to consult with Carson Palmer to see if he’d prefer to throw the football at Houshmandzeh or at Chris Henry who runs pass routes about as well as Mike Duncan ran the Republican National Committee this past fall. Oops, got Keith Olbermann there on you, didn’t I?

Maybe number 9 would prefer throwing to last year’s draft blank, second round pick Jerome Simpson.

Of course, Houshmandzadeh can always refuse to sign the franchise contract, but who’s turning down 10-million a year in this economic climate. And if he does refuse to sign, the Bengals could then simply dump him in June, when all of the big money has been spent on other players, leaving TJ to play for a pittance.

The best course of action would be to make a reasonable offer to Houshmandzadeh, who has been the most reasonable player around here in some of the most unreasonable circumstances. But we all know the chance of that happening…

Which brings us to the next big story of the week, the Reds bottom feeding as spring training begins. Darryle Ward, Jacque Jones, be still my thumping heart. What, Robin Jennings wasn’t available? This is beginning to smack of the strategy Jim Bowden had in his time around here: bring in a lot of aging veterans throw ‘em up against the wall and see who sticks.

I understand that you have to have a willing partner to do a deal. But wouldn’t the more prudent business move be to wait and see how desperate players like Bobby Abreu and Garrett Anderson become before clogging up your roster with the likes of Jones, Ward and Jonny Gomes?

Let me just says for the record, I see no value in a goal of finishing with just a winning record. 82-80 does nothing for me. And it shouldn’t do anything for you, unless it gets the Reds into the playoffs. That’s it. That’s the only goal you should demand from your team: making the playoffs. That’s winning. The rest is mediocrity, or worse.

Finally, I could care less about Michael Phelps blowing into a bong pipe. I know he’s an Olympic hero. But honestly, he comes off as a bit of a doof. This is the same guy who celebrated his performance in the 2004 Olympics with a DUI. Now, he’s blowing in to a bong pipe and it was caught on camera. I could spend a whole three hours talking about cell phone cameras and the people who think they’re journalists by clicking away at celebrities or even unsuspecting schleps like me and you. What those people do is far worse than what Phelps did.

Phelps apologized, was baneed from competitive swimming and training fees were suspended for three months. There’s a set back, the Olympics are what, three and a half years away? He’s getting seven, eight million in endorsements? This absolutely has to kill Phelps. So, whomever is running the USA swimming program is looking a little moronic today, too.

But it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to Phelps or the Olympic movment. You probably wouldn’t have given him five seconds of thought until 2012. But now, this. You might even say it’s good marketing. Bangin’ on the bong pipe like a big bass drum. It’s a golden moment.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Do you ever wonder about how different things may have turned out, if Dick Lebeau actually had some players when he was the head coach here? And, if the culture in Bengal-dom was something like he’s got in Pittsburgh, where winning isn’t a surprise, it’s expected?

Because, let’s face it, the man isn’t as dumb as you might’ve thought he was when he coached here. And you could argue that he’s not the head guy now, that he only has to worry about one side of the all. And you’d be right, but you’d also be wrong.

Think about who his quarterback was when he was here: Akili Smith. The only guy in Bengals history who made Akili Smith look good was David Klingler. And it wasn’t just Smith. Remember Scott Mitchell? Remember Gus Frerrotte?

And for every Takeo Spikes, Willie Anderson and Rich Braham there was plenty of Corey Dillon, Michael Westbrook and others who just didn’t give a damn….or were here simply because it was the end of the line and there was no where else to go.

Lebeau was caught up in the votex that got Bruce Coslet and Dave Shula before him and a votex that’s been whipping around Marvin Lewis lately. It was a culture of losing and a team with no plan. Players were drafted, signed and thrown together and dashed with a whole lot of ‘good luck’. For every Lorenzo Neal there was a Mark Roman, or Danny Farmer, or good Lord Sean Brewer. The games were played, lost, players came and went. Lebeau never had a chance.

Oliver Gibson was fat and ineffective, Riall Johnson was in over his head and Reinard Wilson was a candidate for the ultimate draft bust.

You could argue that Lebeau had a hand in this mess. I’m sure the bare bones Bengals front office listened and then did whatever they wanted to.
Lebeau went along because this was his big shot, his chance to be head coach. But he sure got a lot smarter after he left here, didn’t he?

Dick LeBeau didn’t invent the Zone Blitz defense after he left here in 2003. He invented it before he got here in 1984. Between ’84 and ’91, when he left for Pittsburgh the first time in his career, Lebcau’s schemes were part of what made the Bengals perennial contenders. It didn’t get the publicity then that it’s getting now. But it was a big reason why the Bengals got to the Super Bowl in ’89.

My point is, sometimes people don’t succeed because of the situation they’re in. All the talent in the world can’t help you when too much is out of your control and not enough of the power to change it, is.

Admit it, you booed the guy. You chanted Lebeau must go. You roared when he promised in a news conference that his offense was going to score 23 points a game. But he wasn’t dumb when he was here and he didn’t grow brains when he left.

Situations dictate everything. It’s why Lebeau is in the right place at the right time, right now. And why he won another Super Bowl ring Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are everything the Cincinnati Bengals want to be. And can't. You watched the number one franchise in the NFL, maybe all of sports, stage a methodical, spirited comeback to win Super Bowl XLIII. In your wildest dreams, do you think the Bengals could do that, even in a regular season NFL game?

The Steelers are what the Bengals aren't. They have stability at head coach, just three in the last 38 years. Since 1971, only Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin have had that job. Since, 1971, the Bengals have had nine head coaches (Paul Brown, Tiger Johnson, Homer Rice, Forrest Gregg, Sam Wyche, Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau and Marvin Lewis). Each staff has had different assistant coaches.

The Steelers have a bona fide general manager and ten fulltime scouts. The Bengals have no general manager and five full time scouts. And it's not just all on the team.

It's on you and me. Steeler fans demand excellence from their team. Bengals fans reward medicocrity, or worse. Pittsburgh fans sell out Heinz Field because they know what their team is going to do. Bengals fans sell out Paul Brown Stadium and down deep, probably know what their team is going to do as well.

I'm not a Steeler fan, never have been. You wouldn't be able to guess what NFL team I silently root for. But I admire what Pittsburgh has done over the course of the last 38 seasons. And if you can't, or won't because of jealousy, you're missing out on the big picture: winning isn't easy. It's hard work, dedication and focus. The Bengals could use a lot more of all of that.