Monday, August 31, 2009

More later in the day on Tuesday but a programming note. Sunday night at 11:35 on WLWT's Sports Rock, we're going to televise a Tommy John surgery, direct from the operating room. It's fascinating stuff. Maybe not for the hyper squeamish, but fascinating.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Good Monday Morning!

Andre Smith signed with the Bengals Sunday, finally, agreeing to a deal he could have signed over a month ago. There are no winners in this negotiation.

Smith did himself no favors by holding out. The money is roughly what the Bengals made in their initial offer. And while Smith's agent tried to spin it by saying it was a four year deal, while most rookie contracts are six year offerings (thus, supposedly freeing the player to jump into the free agent pool two years earlier) the reality is the Bengals hold an option after the first four years are complete that would effectively make this a six year contract and then it would be for substantially less money than what the player picked immediately after Smith received, even less than what the player picked in Smith's spot in 2008 got.

The agent did himself no favors. Alvin Keels came off as a bit of a clown in his "Hard Knocks" appearances. And if he thinks any other agent or prospective 2010 client won't be able to see through what he got from the Bengals, he's kidding himself. Mr. Keels, you just got Bengal-ized.

The Bengals were losers here too. On two levels, they lost this battle. On the field, the wasted a training camp by not having a key member of Carson Palmer's protection unit. There is no way Smith will be able to make up the ground he lost. It's a crash course now to get him in some sort of game ready state by the season opener, now less than two weeks away. In the court of public opinion, the Bengals lost as well. They solidified their reputation of 'winning at the bank means more than winning on the field'.

This was nobody's finest hour.

In my business, we search for answers and information. It drives us. Some of the time the people you need answers and information from do little to help you. It’s not in their best interest. Some of the time, you find the information you’re looking for by simply asking the right questions. And sometimes, you ask and seek and you still can’t find what you’re looking for, even answers to some basic questions.

There are some basic questions about our two professional teams that need answering. And today, we don’t have them. That’s bad for the Bengals, who’ve got two weeks to come up with answers. Two weeks from right now, we’ll be hours from a game that actually matters. It’s not so bad for the Reds. They’ve got more than seven months to figure things out.

Some here are some questions about both.

Is the Bengals offensive line as bad as its looked?
Is the Reds 5 game winning streak a sign that this team can compete next season?
Is the Bengals running attack, 4.3 yards per carry in three games for real?
Has the light bulb finally gone ‘on’ for Chris Henry?

Four questions that no one has an answer for. So unlike fans in Boston, New York or even Dallas, you and I are left to guess.

The offensive line? What have you see through three of these exhibition games that would lead you to believe that Carson Palmer would be in one piece by Halloween? The party line from the locker room is “the line is coming together’/ But then, what we see are six sacks allowed to a Rams team that’s only going to the playoffs if it buys tickets. Did the starting front five allow all six sacks? No. But who didn’t see this coming? Isn’t this the reason why the Bengals drafted the ever expanding Andre Smith? And let me ask you this: did you see Hard Knocks this week? Did you see the little skit some of his eventual team mates put on, mocking Smith? Do you think maybe there might be some deep seeded animosity there? Smith was holding out for one payday that might be larger than what a lot of those guys may make in their NFL lifetimes. And while they sweat through a training camp, he was at home eating ribs and God knows what else. Did anyone in that Bengals front office ‘not’ see this coming? Did they not know that when they drafted him, he’d had a quarterback taken immediately before him and the mercurial Oakland Raiders selecting immediately after?

Eleven sacks allowed in three games. The Patriots defense should be pretty good this season. But the Rams and Saints?

Has the light bulb finally gone off for Chris Henry? I’m watching this guy. He’s got speed. And I don’t want to diminish anything he’s done so far in these exhibition games. 13-catches 217 yards and three touchdowns. But let’s be careful here. All three of his TD receptions have come against the other guys’ second stringers. Two of the three TD receptions appear to have been on the same kind of play. Henry runs a fade route well. But one trick ponies rarely make it big in the NFL. Can he make a catch over the middle? Is he willing to do that? Why is Marvin Lewis saying that Henry isn’t doing the other things a receiver needs to do?

We know how Henry handles failure. Not well. Will he handle success any differently? So is the light bulb on? It appears to be. I hope. But this is a guy who’s one good nocturnal mishap away from adios.

Is the Bengals running attack, 4.3 yards per carry for real? Bernard Scott averaged five yards a carry against the Saints. But he didn’t get into the game until after the Saints starting front seven was pulled from the game.
Against the Saints starters, they Bengals rushed nine times for 30 yards.

Against the Patriots, the Bengals rolled up 173 yards of rushing offense. Very impressive. They averaged just under 3.3 yards per carry.

Against the Rams, it was 144 yards on the ground, averaging 4.4 per carry.
Again, very impressive. Five fumbles lost? Not so impresive

But on balance so far, the Bengals running attack has been good.

Next up: is the Reds recent five game wining streak a sign that the team can compete next season? No. It’s a sign from God that you have to wake up and look at history.

How many years have we been in this exact spot? Here’s the script. We should know it by heart. Reds go to spring training with a collection of players that other teams have given up on or ‘projects’ coming back from one malady or another. Hype rolls out of spring training about how this pitcher has found his stuff again, or how this outfielder was just caught up in a numbers crunch on his last time, or how he’s completely back from whatever surgery pieced his body back together. Or Zeus zapped the guy with a lightning bolt or some other nonsense. Team breaks camp, starts out hot and looks like a contender…finally. And by Memorial Day, everybody is talking about the Bengals.

Then, along about mid August, when you can’t tell who’s playing for the Reds even with a scorecard, the team rips off a string of wins. It all sounds and looks great. Until you realize, it’s all happening with absolutely no pressure on the team, because it’s not a contender.

Look, good baseball is good baseball. But there’s a stark difference between playing well when you’re in the middle of a pennant race, as opposed to playing out a season. This year, like just about every year since 1995, the Reds are just playing out a season. When the heats not on, how do you really know how well a team can perform.

Remember a couple of years ago, you got so giddy over a pitcher named Tom Shearn. Nice guy, great story, lived in a trailer behind the centerfield fence at the ballpark in Louisville. Got hot in the second half of another lost season and everyone was talking him up. Where’s Shearn today?

Repeat after me: a team not in a pennant race does not have the same pressures and scrutiny that a team fighting for a pennant has. So no, I’m not encouraged about next season, given this recent winning streak. Nice, but the Reds have a multitude of sins to address before next opening day.

Here’s what they need to do in no particular order: they need to unload payroll to they can add better players. Arroyo, Harang or Cordero have to go. They need to take the cash they save there and go buy a left fielder, or second baseman or catcher that can protect Joey Votto, Brandon Phillps and Jay Bruce.

If they could bring the old scoreboard back and get a refund on the $10 million they spent on the new scoreboard….and spend the money on players, that would be good.

They need to continue developing talent in the minors. They need to stop changing general managers. They need to take a serious look at the quality of coaching that’s going on at the major league level. Too many base running gaffes this season, too many errors, too many times the team has failed in the game of fundamentals.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Random thoughts for a random Friday.

The happiest man on the planet today is Bengals holdout lineman, Andre Smith. He heard all he needed to hear Thursday night: Bengals allow six sacks in loss to Rams...

Smith better not get too giddy. He's still dealing with Mike Brown and daughter Katie...

Carson Palmer has all the mobility of a refrigerator. What do you figure his life expectancy is behind this current O-Line? .....

And let's not forget, the Rams aren't going to the Super Bowl this year, unless then buy their tickets in bulk....

The Reds have won four in a row? You mean the Reds who play in Cincinnati? Really?....

So they get hot now. We've been down this road before. Team falls out of contention in June, then gets hot in late August. Guess what? The games don't matter anymore. The heat has been off this team since June 1. Players play differently when there is no pressure on them. That's exactly the situation the Reds are in now. Major League Baseball is a whole different deal if you're involved in a pennant race.

Before you get all giddy about Reds pitcher Justin Lehr, remember these two words: Tom Shearn. Remember him? Came up from AAA late in the year a few seasons back. Great story, the guy had been living in a camper behind the center field fence in Louisville. Shearn was successful pitching late in the year (when the games didn't matter) and a lot of Reds fans thought he could win 15-20 the following season.

I like what career minor leaguer Lehr has done. But I also know reality....

UC signed a deal this week for a game against the University of Tennessee in football in 2011. It's a one game deal, no return match to Cincinnati. Think about how different this might have been, had Brian Kelly taken that job that was open in Rocky Top last winter...

BK, incidentally is my guest this Sunday morning on 700 WLW at 10:06am. He's also guesting with us Sunday night on WLWT's Sports Rock!

I hate what Michael Vick did with those dogs. But is there anything more hackneyed than animal rights groups protesting the Eagles signing him? Get real people. Everyone knows what he did and knows what he did was wrong. We get it. But here's what you don't get: all the protestation in the world won't make the Eagles dump Vick. And contractually, they'd have to pay him anyway. He went to the Federal 'Pen'. His job is playing football. You can't deny a man the right to earn his living after he's paid his penance....

But if ever tried to touch my dog....

Have a great weekend....updates when warranted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hey! It's Wednesday

The Reds scored eight runs Tuesday night, and still almost lost. In fact, up 6-1 in the 9th, the bullpen (Cordero and Massett with some help frm Rhodes) allowed the Brewers to score five and erase a lead and a terrific seven innings of work by Bronson Arroyo.

Further proof that this Cincinnati Reds team is brutal. Eight runs is about four games worth for the Reds. So that was refreshing. But when the bullpen imploded it pointed to yet another problem this team has: synchronicity. OK Sting, you're saying, explain that!

Simple: when one phase of a team is going well, hitting last night, the opposite phase of that team (pitching) needs to pick up its game. Good teams, contending teams, do that. Teams like the Reds don't. Why? Because the Reds are a collection of misfits and cast offs, sprinkled with stars like Votto and Phillips. Last night, the only members of the starting eight that were 'home grown' were Votto and Drew Stubbs. A team thrown together (and that's exactly what your Cincinnati Reds are) doesn't play the game with synchronicity.

I'm leaving a wake up call for 2011.

I hope I'm dead wrong on this one. But I think we've seen the last of Bengals TE Ben Utecht. He spoke with some of the media, including WLWT, in the Bengals locker room Tuesday and hinted that retirement may be an option for him. Utecht, lured away from the Colts in 2008 in free agency, suffered a concussion in a helmet to helmet hit with Bengals linebacker, Darryl Blackstock in a practice this summer. It was Utecht's 5th concussion. He's now consulting with two specialists, one in Cincinnati and another in New York City.

Concussions are serious, serious business. Ask quarterback Trent Green, who retired last year after multiple concussions. Maybe Utecht plays again. But if he does, it won't be anytime soon.

Ted Kennedy passed away Tuesday night, losing a battle with brain cancer. I won't go into his politics and whether or not I agreed with them. But I will say this: anyone who is 50 or older remembers the violent deaths of his older brothers and how Ted Kennedy assumed the title of patriarch of America's most glamorous family. He was 37 when his father died in 1969. Try being a patriarch, when everything your family does from politics to dining at Wendy's is a news flash.

Ted Kennedy made his share of mistakes, some fatal. But he was the last link to the elegance of the JFK White House. Doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or Republican. His passing is a seminal moment.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good Monday Morning!

Anyway you look at it, you had a better weekend that Aaron Harang, who had his appendix burst on him in Pittsburgh.

I’ve been looking long and hard at the Reds this week. I see no way this team competes for a division title next season. I’ve done the math. I’ve crunched the roster. None of it adds up to a very good 2010 season.

I watched the Bengals play the Patriots this week. I love what I’m seeing from Ochocinco. I think the first team secondary looks really good. I like what the linebackers are doing. But honestly, I’m not seeing enough to make me believe that this team is eleven wins good this season. And it’s going to take eleven to get into the playoffs.

I’m trying real hard to find in the pile of pony dung today. Maybe you can help me. If you can, dial in now.

The Reds are such an easy target these days. I almost feel guilty sitting here and picking them apart. They’ve simply misplayed just about everything this season. They really haven’t done anything right since Spring Training 2008, when they signed Corey Patterson to about $2.99 million more than anyone else was going to pay him.

They’re everyday eight would have trouble competing in Triple-A. Their starting rotation is in shambles and their bullpen, well, does it even matter when you can only score two or three runs per night.

It would defy ridicule to say they’ll be a contending team in 2010. Here’s what this team is going to look like next season, particularly if they can’t unload Harang, Arroyo or Cordero. The outfield will be Chris Heisey in left, Drew Stubbs in center and Jay Bruce in right. From a dollars and cents stand point, not bad. You’ll get a starting outfield for under a million and a half.

Scott Rolen will eat a lot of money at third. But move Brandon Phillips to short, put Double-A phenom Todd Frazier at second and leave Joey Votto at first and you’ll get an infield for about $20 million.

They won’t pick up Ramon Hernandez and his $8.5 million option. Ryan Hanigan will cost them about $600,000. They go out and sign a free agent catcher (Henry Blanco, Greg Zaun, Johnny Estrada pick one). Catching shouldn’t set the Reds back more than $1 million in 2009.

We’re at $22.5 million. Not bad.

Now, pitching. OK, Harang, Arroyo and Cordero combined are scheduled to make $35 million. Dump Cordero and you’ve got $14 million off the books. Who’d want him? The Cubs need him right now. And the Yankees about ready to schedule Grecian Formula night for Mariano Rivera. I’d start with those two teams and see where it takes me.

Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez will both get somethwer in the neighborhood of $600,000 each, Volquez maybe a little less considering he won’t pitch before August. We’re now at about $46.5 million. The only other big dollar contracts in the bullpen belong to Arthur Rhodes, who’ll make $2 million next season, and, amazingly the $2.5 million Mike Lincoln is due.

All they need at this point is to find some unsuspecting sucker to fall in love with Willy Tavares and his $4 million dollar salary and the Reds are back in business. They’ve got their $70 million limit in sight.

But is it good enough? In a word, no. The Cubs will have new owners in 2010. They didn’t buy that team to watch it lose some more. The Cardinals have an ownership group that’s proven it will do just about anything to win. To a lesser degree, so have the suit who own the Astros.

The Reds won’t cut it, spending nickels and dimes. I’m not expecting much next season.

You watched the Bengals game Friday night. I did. Look before we all get giddy over what they did against the Patriots, this team still has only two touchdowns in two pre season games. Penalties and turnovers have stalled drives in both games. I’ve got some breaking news for you: if Carson Palmer isn’t in the line-up, this team isn’t going to be a whole lot better than it was last season. There’ll be too many three and outs on offense which means the defense gets fatigued from too much time on the field.

When you watch exhibition football games, you have to see what a player is accomplishing against what the other team is throwing at him. Bengals first teamers up against the other guys’ second teamers, or Bengals second teamers up against the other guys’ second teamers tells you little.

Coaches can evaluate how a player does invidually, whether he makes the cut at the right time, runs a crisp pass route, blocks with good technique. Evaluating those things doesn’t change, no matter who’s on the field.

But before we all start anointing Brian Leonard, or De De Dorsey or get caught up in how good Robert Geathers looks remember: it’s called exhibition football for a reason. These are the Bengals. They’ve gone 4-0 in pre-seasons and went onto lay a dozen eggs when the games matter.

And I wouldn’t read too much into Thursday nigh

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Random thoughts for a random Friday....

The Bengals defense looked good in the team's exhibition game win over the Patriots...but....remember that the Bengals left their first team defense in the game long after the Patriots had pulled their starters.

Ochocinco's placekicker was very impressive. He has many athletic gifts. But it makes me sad that the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson hasn't always shared them fully with us.

After watching JT O'Sullivan and Jared Palmer work tonight my one thought is this: if Carson Palmer is injured the Bengals should immediately call the Bills and ask if they can get Ryan Fitzpatrick back...

Wide receiver Jerome Simpson, just about legally a bust, will have a lot of trouble making this roster. Two pass interference penalties, one that wiped out at touchdown, might have sealed it for him....

Hard Knocks was better this week. But where's the drama?

The Reds should pull out all stops and trade either Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo (or both) right now. Neither pitcher has ever had higher trade value. Both have baggage. Harang carries about $25 million in guaranteed salary for the next two season. Arroyo's salary is close to that. But his baggage is the PEDs he admitted to using between 1998 and 2003....

When Willy Tavares went to the DL this week, was that the last we'll see of him? I don't think Bob Castellini will 'eat' Tavares guaranteed $4 million next season. But don't be surprised if the Reds send him to another team and pay a large chunk of that.

$7.8 million for Tavares and $3 million last year for Corey Patterson. All that, for two men who get on base about as often as a dead man.....

Here's the Reds starting outfield next season: Chris Heisey in left, Chris Dickerson in center and Jay Bruce in right field. They all be under contract for less than $1.3 million. You heard it here first....

Don't be completely surprised if the Reds wind up trading Brandon Phillips this off-season. He has two years to go on a 4 yr $28 million deal. Phillips value is reasonably high and the Reds have a second baseman in waitng at AA in Todd Frazier.

They're not going to contend next season, so why not?

Will Dusty Baker return for his third and final season? The short answer is, absolutely. They owe Dusty $4 million. It'd take at least $1-1.5 million to hire his replacement. The Reds are in no positon to 'eat' $5.5 million just to make Dusty leave....

Guests on my Sunday AM radio showon 700 WLW include Dave Laurila from Baseball Prospectus and Dr. Peter Weyand, a sports physiologist from SMU who believes a sub 9 second 100 meter dash is a real possibility. Put that in your Usain Bolt and smoke it. My show airs from 9am-Noon EDT and can be heard on, as well as the 50,000 watt flame thrower.

I don't think there are a lot of University of Kentucky basketball fans who care that John Calipari left a mess in Memphis, now with that school vacating a Final 4 season and 38 wins. But there should be some uneasy folks in Lexington, KY. Coach Cal has a track record. It's the second Final 4 season one of his teams has had to vacate wins. UMass, being the other school...

So let me get this straight. Browns WR Donte Stallworth kills a pedestrian and gets 30 days in jail and Giants WR shoots himself in the leg with a gun in a NYC nightclubs and gets two years in the slammer. Huh?

Have a great weekend. You tood Plaxico.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Good Monday Morning!

You know, there are mercy rules all over the place. Mercy rules in softball. 10 run rules. Mercy rules in early knothole, every kid gets to play, even the kid who doesn’t know if a baseball is blown up or stuffed.

There are mercy rules in life. Guy wants to date a girl Girls says yes, but you got to get a date for my friend. Friend has a face like an anchor. Guy’s got to find her a date.

Mercy rules apply to women too. Yeah I’ll go out with you. My mom is friends with your mom and to get her off my back, I’ll go out with you Charlie. Just don’t call looking for a bonus round.

So how come there aren’t any mercy rules in major league baseball? Not for games,, for players. I’m watching Aaron Harang pitch the other night, multi tasking because the Bengals were on the other channel, playing their exhibition opener. Harang is working all sides of the plate, mixing pitches, confounding batters and doing everything you want a big league pitcher to do. He’s everything but perfect. And with this current group of players the Reds are running out there every night, if you’re not perfect, the chances of a Reds pitcher winning a game are about as good as getting Bernie Madoff to make reparations.

You can make an argument that the best trade the Reds have made in the last seven years was Jose Guillen to the Oakland A’s for Aaron Harang. Sure, Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo is right up there. So is the deal that got Brandon Phillips here. But when acting GM Brad Kuhlman pulled off Guillen for Harang, it was brilliance.

Too bad none of the current Reds got the memo.

The Reds are hitting .239 in games that Harang pitches. When anyone else not named Harang is on the mound, it jumps to a whopping .241. This team is constructed about as well as a condemned home. But I digress.

Harang has been everything you’d want a pitcher to be. He takes the ball every five days. He generally pitches deep into games. He has his stinkers. What pitcher doesn’t? But the dude never, as in ever, complains about his lack of run support. He’s a team guy. This is the same guy who Dusty sent out in relief at San Diego last season, pitched about four innings three days after a start and then took the ball three days later for his next start. Harang hasn’t been the same pitcher since. As a man named Stengel once said, you could look it up.

So there he was, on the mound Friday night trying to be what all of us can’t be: perfect. Harang allowed six hits, just two that hurt him, solo home runs. It was beyond a quality start. But, he got no runs from the everyday eight behind him. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. It’s almost an every start ‘thing’ for Harang.

Aaron Harang needs the mercy rule.

The Reds should trade him to some team that actually has a pulse. Call it time off for good behavior. The Yankees would do. The Red Sox would be a good fit. The Dodgers would be the ultimate for the San Diego kid.

But it’s probably not going to happen. Harang is due $12.5 million next season and it jumps to $14.5 in 2011 if he’s traded before then. That’s a lot of loot for any pitcher, even more so for a guy who’s probably going to lead the league in losses for a second year in a row. As good as Harang could be with run support, how do you sell that to your fans?

I’ve always been a firm believer that a team never gets better by trading its best player. Losers do that. Winners find a way to build their team around their best player. Bad as his record is, Aaron Harang is the best starting pitcher the Reds have. Johnny Cueto throws too many pitches. Bronson Arroyo has eleven wins, but you never know from start to start what you’re going to get from him. And in day games, feg-gedda-boud-it. Edinson Volquez has an elbow with stitching that would make Frankenstein’s monster proud.

Harang has gone through his swoon. He’s back on his game. He takes the ball every five days, gets little run support, never moans about it and even gave you that above and beyond (and frankly stupid) relief game in San Diego last year. He deserves his own mercy rule.

Give the guy a break. Trade him. With the way the rest of your team plays when he’s on the mound, you don’t deserve him.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Random thoughts for a random Friday....

Adam Dunn is back in town, on pace to hit his usual 40 HR's and drive in 100 runs. He's also hitting about 30 points higher right now than his career average. Dunn took a look at the $10 million scoreboard in left field and said, not completely sarcastically, "Nice addition". I added, "now all they need is something to put on it."....

Before anyone gets too giddy about Jonny Gomes hitting three home runs Thursday night, remember, it was against Nationals pitching....

Bronson Arroyo says he still takes supplements on the MLB banned list but hasng't flunked a drug test so "I must be OK". Wrong. The league office wants to talk with him. Let's hope it's just a little guidance..

Arroyo's complete game Thursday night is further indication that he'll be back next season. He has elevens on a bad ballclub and his $11 million price tag next season will scare off most teams. The ones that won't be scared off (Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox) won't need him....

If Aaron Harang gets traded BEFORE next season, his 2011 option goes to $14.5 million? What team is going to trade for him?.....

Here's all I want to see from the Bengals Friday night: Carson Palmer out of the game in one piece. If anything happens to Palmer, this team goes from an 8-8 club to another 4 win season.

8-8 is about it, I'm afraid. Don't get caught up in the hype until you see how the Bengals look playing against somebody other than themselves....

First episode of "Hard Knocks" gets a C+ from the Broo View. The photography was beyond excellent. The story lines were hardly compelling. Perhaps it gets better as the series progresses. But the first episode was hardly an attention grabber....

Jim Lippincott looked a little buffoonish as he went to cut fullback JD Runnells. Lippincott, who is a very nice man, looked like he had the people skills of a drone. I'm hoping it was editing that made him look that way. I'm hoping he tells the editor he didn't appreciate it....

Ditto for trainer Paul Sparling. His treatment of Reggie Kelly, the so called inspirational leader of the Bengals, when he snapped his Achilles tendon was callous. Kelly deserved better treatment. Talk about no bedside manner....

Come on people!!!!!!

Did you see the footage from that coaches meeting that Mike Brown was presiding over? No doubt now who's in charge. And you mean to tell me, the debate over moving a defensive end to tight end was the best NFL Films could come up with? Really?

Well, since BJ Raji has now signed (the #9 overall pick) should it not be easier for the Bengals to come to a deal with Andre Smith? By the way, Smith should have politely declined the opportunity to appear, in abstentia, on Hard Knocks. He had quick feet and a gut that could consume Rhode Island...

If Smith doesn't sign in time to play in the third pre-season game, and we're about a week away from that deadline, he'll be of little help to the Bengals this season....

Saddest story I've read on WLWT News 5 in a long time: Odell Thurman signs to play in the UFL. This will be his fourth year out of the NFL. He's only had one season. He could have been a multi-millionaire by now.....

Michael Vick signs with the Eagles? Brilliant move on their part. Donovan McNabb isn't mobile anymore, Vick will bring an entirely new dimension, if only for a handful of plays. The Eagles just got a leg up on the Giants in the NFC East.....

Brian Kelly worked the UC football team for three hours Thursday. This is a man whose prior workouts were quicker than some primetime network TV shows. Wonder what that's all about?

I'm talking sports, as always, this Sunday morning at 9am on 700 WLW. Among my guests, Sports Illustrated's Ross Tucker, Darren Rovell from CNBC and a man who can tell you how to snag a Major League Baseball player's autograph. Adam Dunn will also join me. Hope you will too..

Sunday night on Cincinnati's channel 5, Sports Rock! welcomes former Bengal Artrell Hawkins and Wildman Walker. We'll also welcome one of the newest members of the NFL Hall Of Fame, former Steeler and Raven, Rod Woodson.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's Wednesday! Go out and party...

Here's what I want to see Friday night when tbe Bengals actually hit some people other than the folks they shower with: Carson Palmer upright. If that happens, it 's a major improvement over last year's exhibition game against the Saints. Remember that one? That's the game where former Bengal, Kevin Kaesviharn sacked Palmer and bloodied his nose. What prelude to a bummer that was.

Palmer is the franchise. This team has little chance of contending for a playoff spot, in my humble opinion. But it has no chance without Palmer playing every game. For the record, see how things worked out last season in October and November with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It's always what's up front that counts. And if this offensive line isn't any better this season than last, we'll all be immersed in Reds hot stove talk by Halloween. Does anyone else find it a little disconcerting that aside from Bobbie Williams and Andrew Whitworth, there isn't a single member of that offensive line that's logged appreciable time blocking an NFL defensive lineman.

And speaking of that, here's something else I'm looking for Friday night: heat on the Saints quarterback. The Bengals couldn't rush a fraternity last season. And despite all the happy horse s#@t we're hearing about how well the defense played last season (most of those stats were padded against bad teams at the end of the season) last year we saw this group get dragged up and down the field far too often. The heat is on (no pun intended) defensive ends Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers to get into the opposing quarterback's face.

Pre-season games are interesting for about ten minutes. Let's see if your Cincinnati Bengals can squeeze their 15 minutes of fame into that time period.
Just posted to the front page of my web site is the latest Broo View Podcast. In this episode, I have an interview with Reds AA phenom, Todd Frazier, who appears to be on the fast track to Cincinnati. On the fly? You can download it here!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Tuesday!

Did you see Willy Tavares in action last night? Did you see the ineptitude that has turned this town against him, and is slowly turning the town against the man who traded for him, Walt Jocketty?

Inside of one half inning, Tavares ran into the wall in centerfield twice, TWICE, without making the catch. The first time was somewhat forgivable: Tavares was trying to track down a long fly ball. But the second time, two batters after the first run in, Tavares went back on a fly ball, ran into the wall with his back to the field and the ball bounced IN FRONT of him.

And this is what the Reds paid close to $7 million dollars for?

Look you can can on one hand this is Bob Castellini's money and he should take issue with Jocketty who signed Tavares for $7 mil when Tavares could have been had for close to the MLB minimum. And Castellini should. But the reason why this is so important to you is that Castellini's payroll this year is $75 million and will be close to that next year. And he's in no position to be throwing good money after bad.

Tavares came here with a reputation of stealing bases and making plays in the field that highlight his speed. We've seen far to little of either. The Reds are in no position to eat his contract. But they are in a position to bench Tavares and let others have a shot at his job. When Chris Dickerson is healthy, he should start every day in left field. Dickerson should have been the starting centerfielder all along. When September rolls around, both Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey should be brought up from AAA and allowed to get a taste of major league baseball.

And sometime soon, Castellini should call Jocketty into his office as ask Walt exactly where is the guy who was GM in St. Louis and very successful at that. Maybe between the two of them, they can find that guy before another season is flushed because of ill advised player acquisitions.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Good Monday Morning!

I really, really really want to drink the Kool Aid. Pour me a glass of strawberry Kool Aid and let me believe. Of course, I’ve wanted to drink the Kool Aid every year since 1990. It’s a Bengals fan’s number one drink. But why should we drink this year. Because Carson Palmer is healthy?

I need more than that. And I need more than just some intrasquad scrimmage to get me geeked. Remember, the Bengals were playing against each other this weekend.

The great Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the House, once said, the problem with being Irish is that you know, in the end, the world will always break your heart. The problem with being a Bengals fans is that you know in the end, the team will always break your wallet, your pride and then center in on your heart. Akili Smith, Darnay Scott, Trumaine Mack, Neil O’Donnell, pick your favorite, you know they’ve killed you at one time or another.

Here are the three reasons I keep hearing from some Bengals fans why they believe this year will be more like 2005 than….pick any other year since 1990. One: Palmer is healthy. Two: Rey Maualuga is our answer to Troy Polamalu. Three: Tank Johnson and/or Roy Williams have ridden into town from Dallas.

Palmer’s healthy. Great, how long you figure that’ll last? It’s what’s up front that counts. And right now, I’m counting only Bobbie Williams and Andrew Whitworth who’ve proven they can block an NFL defensive lineman. And before we get all giddy about Palmer’s elbow: it’s a lot different trying to throw the ball in and around 300 pound men running downhill at your head, then simply dropping back and throwing in one on one drills or flag football. Not saying his elbow won’t hold up. I’m just sayin’

Rey Maualuga can be everything that Odell Thurman should’ve been, but wasn’t. By all account, Rey Rey is a clean liver, hard hitter, from a championship football program. He’s also very good. But here’s the thing about rookies: their best seasons tend to be after they stop being rookies. Tbe learning curve for Maualuga will be steep.

Tank Jonson? Tank was good in Chicago, but got into a lot of trouble. Tanks wasn’t all that great in Dallas. That’s how he wound up here. You think the Dallas Cowboys are in any position to lose good defensive linemen? And Roy Williams, great nose for the ball. But will he stay on the field come third down? Chris Crocker, Chinedum Ndukwe, Roy Williams they all make big plays. But somebody is coming off the field on third down. And as good as Crocker is at safety, does he have the speed to play nickel back? My advice is use pencil, not pen on that depth chart.

Look, the Bengals will be better in 2009 than 2008. They’d have a hard time being worse. There is depth. If Palmer goes down, JT O’Sullivan is a better back up than Ryan Fitzpatrick. If Cedric Benson is hurt, the trade with the Cardinals that brought here looks genius. If Chris Henry is really Tom Cruise and not Sean Penn, score one for central casting.

But before we all get wrapped up in the blue smoke out of Georgetown and the Kool Aid flavor of the year, remember this: the Bengals, play in the same division as the Steelers and Ravens. And until they can prove they can beat those teams, nothing matters.

Four division winners and two wild card teams make the conference playoffs.
The Steelers, Patriots Colts and Chargers all enter this season as favorites to win their division. Wild card contenders can be found playing in New York, Buffalo, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston, Baltimore, Miami and, OK, Cincinnati. It will take eleven wins to get in. New England won eleven in 2008 and didn’t get in. But eleven is the number. Do you honestly see eleven wins on the Bengals schedule this season? Honestly?

I might, after watching some pre season games against teams other than a Bengals split squad. I’m thirsty, I want a drink. I really do. But I can’t take a sip. Not yet.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Dusty Baker got a 'vote of confidence' Wednesday from Reds chief, Bob Castellini. What else would you expect Castellini to say except that Baker was his guy? The Reds owe Baker in excess of $3.5 million next season and the Reds are in no position to eat that deal. The real question is: is Baker the right guy for this team?

Injures aside, the Reds have been an under-performing group this season. Jay Bruce, before getting injured, couldn't have hit a beach ball. Aaron Harang is a shadow of what he was two year ago. And Willy Tavares has been good money poorly spent. This ballclub was poorly constructed and it remains a hapharzard compilation of too many GM's (5 in the last 7 years) and too many managers (5 in the last 7 years) and a farm system that until 2004 was in complete atrophy.

Firing Baker would only add to the chaos. But the Reds need some fresh voices. They've had too many pitching coaches and too many hitting coaches since 2000. But it's obvious to me, that Dick Pole and Brook Jacoby aren't getting through to their students. With each, there seems to be no specific philosophy. My guess is, if there are changes to be made in the off season, they'll start with the major league coaches on Baker's staff.

As I plan ahead for my weekly radio show on 700 WLW, two of my guests will address the Reds situation. One, is Denny Knobler, from I want to ask Denny about the recent trade for Scott Rolen (I remain a big supporter of that move) and if the real blue print the Reds should follow is the one designed by the Twins former GM, Terry Ryan.

Another guest will be Reds AA second baseman, Todd Frazier. The thing I want to know from Todd is whether or not he's tired of getting pushed around the diamond. He's now at second, but has player short, third and left this season. Is he a man without a position? Or is he at second now, so the Reds can move Brandon Phillips to short stop next season? Reds GM Walt Jocketty says 'no'. Maybe he's really saying 'no', because Phillips could be traded in the off season? Just a thought.

See you tonight at 6p and 11p on WLWT Channel 5 in Cincinnati

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Just posted to my web site is the latest Broo View Podcast. My guest is MLB umpire, Joe West, who just called his 4,000th career game. Joe and I visit about that and what it takes to get a manager or player thrown out of a game. Joe also talks about his singing career. If you're on the fly, you can also download it here.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Good Monday Morning!

Scott Rolen's head has more hits than he does. Ouch....when Jason Marquis's fastball hit the newest Red in the head, you could hear an entire city screaming. Good thing he's OK.

For the record, I’m a big Scott Rolen fan. Liked him a lot when he played for the Cardinals. Liked him a lot when he played in Philly. He’s a no nonsense baseball player. A good clubhouse guy, as they like to say in the game.. He’ll provide leadership this team hasn’t seen since the days of Greg Vaughn. And you have to go back to that era to find the last time the Reds made a mid season trade to bring in a player the magnitude of Scott Rolen. In ’99, it was Juan Guzman who was supposed to push the Reds over the top. Remember who the Reds traded to the Orioles to get Guzman? BJ Ryan, then just two innings into his major league career.

Turned out to be a much better deal for the Orioles than the Reds. Guzman was a rent a player. Ryan went on to be a solid closer for the O’s and later the Blue Jays, before he blew out his arm.

So to get Rolen, the Reds had to give up a couple of pitchers who might be like BJ Ryan. Josh Reonicke throws hard. Minor League pitcher Zach Stewart throws a lot of ground ball outs.

So what? If you can’t find guys like that every year in the player draft, you shouldn’t be working in professional baseball. Well, come to think of it, the group that ran the Reds front office up until the middle of the 2003 season couldn’t find pitchers like that. And most of them ARE out of major league baseball.

Protecting prospects is good. They are the backbone of any organization. They learn the game the way you want it played and they’re cost certain for a long, long time. But too often, the Reds have fallen in love with their prospects, refused to include them on any deals that would help the team at the big league level. And those prospects turned out to be suspects.

I heard a lot talk Friday about how Stewart and Roenicke might be players the Reds wished they had held onto to, how each could be solid additions to the Blue Jays major league roster right now.

Who cares? This is Cincinnati we’re talking about, the land of lost baseball. The last time this team won at the big league level, the world hadn’t heard of Bernie Madoff, hanging chads or corporate bailouts. The last time the Reds had a winning season, General Motors stock was considered a strong buy.

I hope Stewart and Roenicke have long and productive careers. But this was a good deal. Rolen won’t fix every problem this team has. The Reds still lack legitimate power in a power hitting ballpark. Their starting pitching has been either injured or grossly over-estimated. And we’re still waiting for this team to play the game fundamentally sound: hitting the cutoff man, executing the bunt, converting the routine double play ball consistently.

But the economy stinks, attendance is down and Bob Castellini promises were beginning to sound hollow. Nothing matters in your minor league system unless it helps the big league club. This is a good deal. It should have been made a month ago.