As baseball season nears, playoffs up in air
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this weekend without the profound uncertainty that preceded the NBA and NFL seasons, but they don't have a final answer about a fundamental part of the game. How many teams will be in the playoffs?
Source: Oswalt willing to wait and join team midseason
Mozeliak: Oswalt not for Cards
St Louis Post Dispatch
Mozeliak made the circuit of St. Louis media this morning, at one point insisting Oswalt "would not be pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals."
"I never had any confidence we were going to bring him in," Mozeliak said. "I was paying attention to the market and ultimately, I've always stated I've felt comfortable with our five."
Where is the love for Cincinnati hoops?
Rick Bozich, Louisville Courier Journal
Cincinnati has only sold out one of its 16 home games. The Bearcats’ are averaging 7,546 fans per game in a facility that has room for 13,176. Put down your calculator. I’ve done the numbers — that means 43 percent of the available seats have not been filled this season.
UC ranks 13th in the Big East in average attendance, leading Seton Hall (7,376), Rutgers (5,229) and South Florida (3,219).
That means the Bearcats trail DePaul. It’s never a good sign to trail DePaul in anything.
Ever wonder what the conversation would be like in this city if Dusty Baker, Marvin Lewis, Mick Cronin or Butch Jones were coaching this Xavier basketball season?
A Xavier team that started the season 8-0, and had people talking Final 4, is in desperation mode just to made the NCAA tournament field.
Xavier is 9-10 since December 10, the date of the Crosstown Shootout.
This topic hit me as I read two national perspectives yesterday. Dan Wetzel, of Yahoo, wrote about the job Mick Cronin has done rallying his team and from a season on the brink.
Wetzel: that moment was the start of an unusual, unexpected turnaround for a team, a difficult challenge answered by a up-and-coming coach and perhaps even the start of a new era for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Jeff Goodman, of CBSSports.com, wrote about the struggles of Xavier and Chris Mack to fix problems.
Goodman: there's virtually no leadership on this team. These guys clearly don't enjoy playing with one another -- and that was blatantly and painfully obvious in Tuesday night's demoralizing 80-73 loss at UMass.
Mack has overseen a team that has been selfish and rudderless. A team that has had its toughness, focus, defense, desire and leadership questioned. 74 days since the brawl and it is still being questioned? So much for fixing issues. I said it last week. Xavier looks like a team of players tired of Mack and looking for Spring Break and/or graduation. They show flashes and the occasional emotional rise up...see a 4-game win streak in January and a gritty OT win vs Dayton.
But they have shown no ability to maintain. Now at crunch time they have gone L-W-L-W-L in their last five games and 4-5 in last nine games.
They appear disinterested/unprepared on defense many times. They allowed 47 first half points vs Temple, including a 16-0 run. They've allowed 80, 83 and 85 in the last three games. How many first half double digit holes have they dug? At times they even appear indifferent to each other on the court, as if chemistry is a foreign concept. Sure that falls on guys that have been around like seniors Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease, and even a veteran like Mark Lyons.
One of the staples of the "Xavier Way" is seniors feeling and feeding off of that sense of urgency down the stretch of their senior season I witnessed that from the likes of David West, Stanley Burrell, and Jason Love.
What I witnessed Tuesday night, in a big time A-10 road game, was Xavier turning the ball over 16 times in the first half and falling behind by 20 points at UMass. After the game Frease told Shannon Russell of the Enquirer, “We just weren’t ready to play from the beginning.” Huh? Surely this ultimately falls on Mack...doesn't it. The coach? I had a college coach say to me last week that he thinks Chris is at a crossroads in his young coaching career. I would agree.
Mack fumbled the moments at the end of the Shootout and the hours and days after the Shootout. Mack and the Musketeers seem like they have played with a 74 day hangover from the events that day.
Can it be fixed? XU still has the same pieces that had them ranked #8 earlier in the year. The same pieces that beat Vandy, Purdue, Butler, Gonzaga, Georgia and UC.
Yet in reality their biggest RPI win came all the way back on December 26 at Vandy and December 3 vs Purdue.
Right now Mack's the boss of one of a handful of the most disappointing teams in colege basketball. If he can patch Xavier up they are a team I would not want to see in the NCAA tournament. If he can't nobody will have to worry about the NCAA tournament.
Single Game Tickets go on sale beginning 9 a.m. Saturday
Not including Opening Day
CINCINNATI (February 23, 2012) — Individual game tickets for the 2012 Cincinnati Reds regular season home games at Great American Ball Park go on sale Saturday, February 25 at 9 a.m. ET, not including the Opening Day game on April 5.
Get the best seats for your favorite games of the season including the Spring Showcase Futures Game on April 3, Opening Night on April 7, the four Bobblehead games, the Reds Hall of Fame Induction Game on June 23 and matchups against the Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Tigers, Twins and more.
The 2012 season features many unique giveaways and promotions, including:
• April 7 - 2012 Team Calendar
• April 28 - Reds Fleece Blanket
• May 12 - Joey Votto Bobblehead
• June 9 - Reds Grilling Set
• June 23 - Sean Casey Bobblehead
• July 14 - Reds Lawn Flag
• July 18 - Jay Bruce Bobblehead
• July 21 - Reds Soft-Sided Cooler
• Aug. 4 - Johnny Cueto Bobblehead
• Aug. 18 - Barry Larkin Cap Night giveaway (replica cap from Barry’s 1995 MVP season)
• Aug. 25 - Reds Stein
• Sept. 8 - 2012 Team Photo
Kids Giveaways on Sundays:
• April 8 - Easter Tin
• April 29 - Team Baseball Card Sets
• May 13 - Jay Bruce Cereal Bowl and Spoon Set
• May 27 - Binoculars
• June 10 - Die-Cast Toy Car
• June 24 - Batting Gloves
• July 15 - Braided Necklace
• July 22 - Mini Mascot Set
• Fireworks Fridays: May 11 & 25, June 8 & 22, July 13 & 20, Aug. 3, 17, & 24
Fans have many options to get single game tickets on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.:
- Internet: reds.com
- Phone: 513-381-REDS or 877-647-REDS (7337)
- In person: Great American Ball Park ticket windows, select Kroger stores with Ticketmaster retail outlets and Reds.com kiosks on Crosley Terrace, Fountain Square and at the downtown Cincinnati Skyline Chili at 4th and Sycamore.
Want Opening Day tickets? Try the 10-game Reds Power Pack!
The Reds Power Pack guarantees Opening Day and provides fans with tickets to ten of the best games of the season. On sale now at: reds.com/tickets.
Lineup makeup: Cozart second?
Mark Sheldon, MLB.COM
“Everything right now is in theory,” Baker said on Thursday. “It’s subject to change. I will come up with something that will be a topic for discussion, I’m sure.”
Question of the week: 6 straight years and 16 of 17, an under-.500 team made MLB playoffs next season. Which team in 2012?
@dschoenfield Dave Schoenfield, ESPN MLB
Who is the best breakout candidate for Reds in '12?
Drew Stubbs 7.18 %
Jay Bruce 17.13 %
Aroldis Chapman 5.32 %
Homer Bailey 23.15 %
Zack Cozart 23.84 %
Devin Mesoraco 13.19 %
Juan Francisco 1.85 %
Chris Heisey 8.33 %
Spring Training Cam from Goodyear?
Listener, and Twitter follower, Randy Klemme presented this idea to me.
I'd like to take it and run with it. The basic premise is this: If fan can't get to Goodyear for spring training, how about bringing Goodyear to the fans?
Idea: Spring Training Cam. Allow fans to view spring training workouts on cameras positioned on each field at the Goodyear complex.
I admit this would be more for the diehard fans. I think the uniqueness of the opportunity would probably wear off after a few minutes for most fans.
But this is all about access. Earlier this week I was looking at the Kentucky Speedway Construction Cam. If I can watch construction work being why not Reds workouts? There is a South Observation Tower in the middle of a clover leaf set-up of four practice fields at the Goodyear complex.
Daily workouts, drills, batting practice, etc take place on those fields.
The idea would be to set up four cameras, one for each field, on top of the Observation Tower. The cameras would be stationary. The Reds could place field microphones on the top of each backstop fence. Fans could then access the cameras through Reds.com. Fans would click on Camera 1-2-3-4. That would give them a view of the drills going on at a given moment, complete with the natural sound of the crack of the bat and pop of the mitt.
Camera 1: Batting practice. Fans could watch everyone from Joey Votto to Neftali Soto take swings. They could check out Drew Stubbs working on bunting.
Camera 2: Fielding drills. Fans could watch Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips working on turning double plays. They could get a glimpse of Billy Hamilton.
Camera 3: Pitcher's fielding drills.
Camera 4: Outfield/base running drills.
I would love to have a camera in the main stadium for all spring training games as well. But you would run into broadcast rights issues with MLB.
The bottom line for me is so much excitement is built up each year for Reds baseball. From Reds Fest to the caravan to the off season signings/trades fans get fired up. Once the team heads to Goodyear there seems to be a disconnect. Not many fans can get to spring training. This would be a perfect way to connect to fans and take them to the scene. Maybe the first year the access if offered free of charge.
Then in year two the Reds could introduce an on-line fee to access the cameras.
Fans interested could sign up for a week or the entire spring training.
All proceeds could go to the Reds Community Fund.
The Reds could sell sponsorship for the cameras and even run commercials on the feed.
I always ask what downside is to an idea. In this case the downside would be limited.
The cost to set up cameras would be nominal. They would be stationary so nobody is needed to move and pan the camera to follow action.
The on-field microphones would add to the flavor but would also open viewers to possible profanity. You could always have a mute button option for viewers.
What do you think? Interested?
(Middletown Journal photo)
Did you miss him?
Brett Tomko joined me on Sports Talk last night. He talked about the excitement of coming back, his health, and how he's willing to fill whatever role the Reds need, even at AAA this year. He also talked about the struggle to comeback after 2009 injury and how he felt selfish about it. Did you know his dad won a contest to decide the nickname of an NBA team? Listen HERE.
More on how Tomko's dad picked the nickname of an NBA team
Brandon Phillips tackles tough hill and a new season
John Popovich, WCPO
"It will be a different year," said Phillips, alluding to the fact that he's expected to bat leadoff for the Reds. He'll also be building his case for a new contract if the Reds decide they can't afford him.
Phillips though isn't lobbying to get out of town.
"I want to be in my city," he said. "They took me in."
Now the question is whether they can keep him here.
Fay: Phillips on contract and leading off
The Phillips Dilemma
Brandon Phillips is in camp. Brandon Phillips is a free agent at the end of the season. Will Brandon be with the Reds in 2013 and beyond? Welcome to the $50+M question for the 2012 season. The question was asked yesterday and will be asked throughout the season. Phillips is one of the best 2B in the game. He's just about everything a franchise could ask for. He's the face of the Reds. He gets an embraces being a Red. He connects with fans. He plays the game with an enthusiasm this city craves. He's a rock star on the caravan. As Walt Jocketty told me, "Rarely do you see players of his stature doing stuff like the caravan".
He wants to finish his career here. I thought he became a voice for the team last season and continues to grow into a leadership role.
However....He will make $12M this season, the final year of his contract.
He will turn 31-years old during the 2012 season. He figures to want a 4-5 year deal at around $14-15M a year. Can the Reds allocate that kind of money to him? Should they? I'd love to see Brandon finish his career in a Reds uniform. But this is a classic Head vs Heart issue. Heart says keep him. Head says he's a luxury item the Reds can't afford to keep.
The Yankees can afford to reward players for past performances. The Reds cannot. The Reds must pay for present and future production.
The Reds have three minor league middle infield prospects. All three players are ranked in the Top 10 of the organization. They are not ML ready...yet: Billy Hamilton, Di Di Gregorious and Henry Rodriguez.
Here is what some other top 2B will make in 2013:
Dan Uggla, $13M, Chase Utley $15M, Dustin Pedroia $8M, Rickie Weeks $10M, Ian Kinsler $7M.
I would not be in a rush to sign Brandon at this point. Brandon will get paid this year. Let's see how the season goes. Maybe the Reds fall out of the race and they are better off trading him in July. Maybe one of the prospects has a breakout year and provides hope he's ready for the majors in 2013.
Common sense says the dollars don't work. In addition to Brandon's deal the Reds have Joey Votto to deal with.
Here are some payroll obligations for 2013:
Votto: $19.5M ($17M salary + $2.5M bonus)
That's $48.5M for 5 players.....not factoring in the $13-14-15M it would take for Brandon.
Don't forget the $4.5M budget/deferred for Ryan Madson in 2013 and $2M for 2014...when he won't likely even be with the team.
Anyone think a Phillips contract works in 2013? The Reds 2012 payroll figures to be around $80M for 25 players.
A Votto deal figures to be in the range of 8 years at $200M starting in 2014 ($25M per year).
The Reds will lose the $6.5M of Rolen's contract after this season.
They will lose the $6.5M of Arroyo's contract after 2013.
But they also face the increasing salaries of Bruce and Cueto and rising salaries of guys like Latos, Marshall, Leake, Stubbs and others.
Brandon wants to be a Red for live. Joey Votto was willing to only sign through 2013.
Joey is the better player and younger player. Phillips would not cost as much. Phillips plays a more important position. The Reds can't make Votto stay.
Brandon's issue comes up before Votto's. How much easier would it be if the Reds already knew Votto's status after 2013?
Can they afford both? Can they afford either? Can they only keep one of them?
As I said last night I would not want to be Walt Jocketty making these decisions.
If I were Walt I don't think I'd want to re-sign one player and don't think I can afford to re-sign the other player.
Some big boys on Reds' pitching staff
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds might not have the best pitching staff in baseball, but it certainly ranks among the tallest. Of the 18 pitchers on Cincinnati's 40-man roster, 13 stand 6 feet, 3 inches or taller. That doesn't even include veteran Jeff Francis, a non-roster invitee who stands 6-foot-5.
Jay Bruce slims down
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Cincinnati Reds fans will see less of Jay Bruce this season.
The outfielder has reported to camp weighing 16 pounds less than at the end of last season. It's a noticeable change for the All-Star, who thinks the slimmer body will make him faster and help him get through the season better.
"I just felt I wasn't getting any thinner," Bruce said on Wednesday. "I thought that 15 or 16 fewer pounds on my body would help me get through the season. I have never been a speed guy but this might make me a little faster."
Check out what a scout told John Thornton about Mike Wallace Sweepstakes
Bengals positioned to clean up in free agency
Dayton Daily News
Cincinnati is somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million under the salary cap and possibly could buy themselves a championship if they play their cards right. The team has built a solid foundation but is missing a few pieces to the puzzle that could put them in a position to win it all.
This all hinges on owner Mike Brown spending the money wisely. Now we know Brown hasn’t made some of the best decisions in terms of signing free agents in recent years. Hypothetically speaking, the Bengals are more accustomed to doing their free-agent shopping at Kohl’s than Nordstrom.
Musketeers to Wear Throwback Jerseys Against Richmond
CINCINNATI -- Xavier Athletics announced today that the Musketeers will wear throwback jerseys for Saturday’s home game against the Richmond Spiders. For the sixth straight year, Xavier will wear a uniform on “Throwback Night” to honor a past Xavier team.
The jerseys are reminiscent of the uniforms worn 10 years ago during the 2001-02 season. That season marked Xavier’s first year of their men’s basketball partnership with Nike.
The 2001-02 Musketeers won the Atlantic 10 Conference West Division Regular Season Championship and the A-10 Tournament Championship. Xavier finished 26-6 and advanced to the NCAA Championship Second Round. The Musketeers were led by junior David West, who averaged a team best 18.3 ppg and 9.8 rpg.
The game worn jerseys will be auctioned off online at GoXavier.com immediately following the conclusion of the game on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Tickets are still available and may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or online at GoXavier.com or Ticketmaster.com.
Bracket: If the Big East tournament started today
NCAA First Four festival planned in Dayton
UC vs UL shapes up as game of mix-and-match
Louisville Courier Journal
Out of necessity, Cincinnati adopted a four-guard lineup in the games it played with key frontcourt players suspended for their roles in the Xavier brawl. Now it’s a luxury the Bearcats hope to use against the University of Louisville tonight. The Cardinals’ dilemma could be whether to use their own four-guard lineup that led them back at DePaul on Saturday or to stay with their usual starters and make the Bearcats try to handle their size.
Bracketology Implications: What to know tonight
Cincinnati (19-8, 9-5) vs #17 Louisville (21-6)
While Louisville is firmly in the field, these are two teams with schizophrenic personalities. On any given night, either one can look awful or great. Cincinnati can't afford an off night here. Sure, they've had some head-scratching losses, but if they were to add Louisville to a resume that includes wins over Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Seton Hall, they'd be tough to keep out. In the Big East, you get many arrows to hit the bulls-eye, and luckily Cincy (though far from a great team) has hit the target enough to stay in contention.
Brawl changed course of UC season
“I’ve never been this embarrassed,” Cronin said, adding that he, at that moment, could only hope he wasn’t asked to resign.
In fact, he wasn’t asked to resign. And, in fact, that moment was the start of an unusual, unexpected turnaround for a team, a difficult challenge answered by a up-and-coming coach and perhaps even the start of a new era for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Fight only start of Xavier's problems
AMHERST, Mass. -- It's been 73 days since The Fight, the moment that by nearly every account completely altered Xavier's entire season. The Musketeers were rolling, having just torn in-state rival Cincinnati apart with a 23-point victory -- the eighth consecutive win to open the 2011-12 slate.
When Tu Holloway started talking trash to Ge'Lawn Guyn at the end of the rout, when Dez Wells delivered the push and when the team's supposed leaders -- Holloway and Mark Lyons -- got up on the podium immediately after the game and failed to apologize for their actions, well, that's when Xavier's season began to crumble.
Tonight: #8 NKU vs #2 Bellarmine at Bank of Kentucky Center
Bellarmine stokes ire across GLVC