Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Butler vs. Sherman

It was a good-old high school basketball matchup.
Shawnee's Jerin Butler vs. Kenton's Garrick Sherman.
Stats-wise, Sherman came out on top.
But, more importantly, Butler and Shawnee won the game Friday night 70-62 at Shawnee.
Butler finished with 24 points, including 18 in the second half.
Sherman had 27 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.
In the end, it was an impressive performance by both.
Butler did his job in the second half, continually sneaking in for his 12-to-15 foot jumper. He hit 6 of 8 from the field in the second half. Every time the Indians needed a key basket, he delivered.
Sherman was equally impressive in the first half with 14 points and 14 rebounds at halftime.
The 6-foot-10 junior Sherman has it all. He's quick, has great hands, a nice shot and runs the floor well. Iowa is really after him, as are all the Mid-American Conference schools.
With his talent, he deserves to play at the highest level.
But on Friday night, it was Butler who led his team to the victory.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Coldwater slayed the dragon

Truly remarkable.
Almost unbelievable.
That was the comeback effort of Coldwater in its 28-27 Division IV state championship victory over No. 1 ranked and USA Today's No.8 Youngstown Cardinal Mooney Saturday at Massillon.
It took a pair of razzle-dazzle trick plays, a blocked extra point and solid play from the defense to turn back Mooney.
Overall, it was the best state championship game I've seen. And I've covering preps for The Lima News since 1986.
So what stands out?
Well, Kurt Schlarman's blocked extra point in the final seconds to preserve the 28-27 victory for sure.
But there was also Keith Wenning throwing his two big passes -- one on the reverse and one on the double pass.
The two big touchdown catches by Ryan Geier, one on reverse pass and one leaping over Tim Marlowe in the end zone.
There was also the play of 186-pound defensive tackle Tyler Kunk, who was giving up plenty of size and weight to the Mooney line, but found a way to make plays.
There was the Coldwater offensive line giving quarterback Cory Klenke time to hit his receivers in the second half.
There was Coldwater coming back from a 21-7 deficit entering the final quarter.
Afterward, Mooney was stunned.
Coldwater celebrated.
"We slayed the dragons," Kunk said after the game.
Once again, the Midwest Athletic Conference had done just that.
With Marion Local winning the Division V title Friday, it was the third year in a row that two MAC teams brought home state titles.
But this one was certainly one for the ages.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Flyers lean on defense, special teams

Marion Local had just enough offense.
But the Flyers relied big time on their defense and special teams.
It was defense and special teams that drove Marion Local to the Division V football state championship Friday with a 20-14 victory over Youngstown Ursuline. This is the Flyers' fourth football state championship.
First, the defense.
Defensive end Luke Bertke had three sacks, seven tackles and the game-winning 19-yard interception for a touchdown.
Linebacker Greg Koesters had 12 tackles and blocked a punt.
The entire defense held Ursuline's running game in check to a tune of 98 yards on the ground. While Ursuline quarterback Lamar McQueen got loose for 69 yards, tailback and 1,100-yard rusher Darrell Mason was held to 11 yards on 12 carries.
That might has well be nothing.
When the Flyers trailed 7-0, they got a blocked punt from Koesters and Dustin Heitkamp recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. That tied the game at 7.
And with the game tied at 14 in the final quarter, Bertke picked off a lobbed middle screen and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown.
Sure, quarterback Chris Stucke ran for 70 yards and threw for 76 with a touchdown.
And Ben Schaefer did run for 70 yards.
But, in the end, when the Flyers needed a state championship-type play, they turned to their defense and special teams.
And that's why the Flyers are 15-0 and state champions for the second straight year.

Flyers lean on defense, special teams

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cordero to boost woeful pen

It's a start.
Signing Brewers closer Franciso Cordero is certainly a move in the right direction.
Reds owner Bob Castellini freed up over $40 million for four years to sign Cordero, a true closer. This should help plug up a bullpen that ranked last in the league last year.
It also will move David Weathers from the closer role back to the set-up role, where he beefs up a terrible set-up staff. Super rookie Jared Burton will also help the set-up staff.
The problem is the bullpen still includes Mike Stanton, Gary Majewski and Todd Coffey. All three were awful last year.
So more bullpen help is needed.
The Reds also need at least one starter to go with Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.
A trade might be the only way to provide help here. Someone like Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn or Josh Hamilton would have to be dealt.
For now, signing Cordero is a huge step forward.
It's the perfect way for the Reds to kick off the hot stove league.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Coldwater faces the supreme test

The blowouts are over for Coldwater.
This week the Cavaliers face six-time state champion Youngstown Cardinal Mooney for the Division IV state championship.
But before we spend too much time bowing down to Mooney, let's face one fact:
This is a pretty special Coldwater team.
Cory Klenke is a strong-armed, accurate passer at the center of the Cavs' spread offense.
Ryan Geier is a speedy wide receiver on the outside. Tony Harlamert has run for 27 touchdowns, caught 10 TDs and run back two interceptions for scores.
Then, there's the Coldwater defense, led by sack machine Tyler Kunk.
It's the wide-open Coldwater offense vs. the run-happy Mooney attack.
Mooney may be favored.
But never be surprised if a Midwest Athletic Conference team wins.
Marion Local and Coldwater will be trying to make it three straight years that two MAC teams have won state titles in the same year.
It's the MAC.
Don't be surprised if they do it again.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Marion Local impressive again

Marion Local finally had a "this is it" moment.
The Flyers were pressed to the limit Friday night in the Division V state semifinals against Patrick Henry.
Marion Local trailed 20-14 early in the third quarter.
That's when the Marion Local offensive line took over. The Flyers scored 28 unanswered points to pull away with a 42-20 victory over the Patriots.
And, yes, Patrick Henry quarterback Tom Busch missed the second half with a separated shoulder. Certainly, that was a factor in the final score.
But Marion Local's running game ended up with 297 yards for the night. Quarterback Chris Stucke ran for 110, Ben Schaefer ran for 91 and Ben Smith had 73 yards. The Patriots never stopped any of them.
On the other side, Marion Local's defense held Drew Kuesel, who had 221 yards last week, to 48 yards on 17 carries before he left with just under six minutes to go with a knee injury.
Running the ball, mixing in the pass and playing tough defense against the run.
So far, it's been a winning formula for the 14-0 Flyers.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nuxhall: A friend to all who heard him

My best memories of Joe Nuxhall weren't the times I talked to him.
They were the times I'd sit on the front porch with my dad listening to him on the radio.
Nuxhall, the longtime color man of Reds' radio, passed away this past weekend.
Everyone who knew or heard Nuxhall on the air liked him. He was a hard person not to like.
Nuxhall had a passion for baseball and his broadcasts came across that way. His "get out of here" or "stay fair" calls on Reds' home runs were legendary.
So were his interviews with players like Tony Perez.
I'll never forget how hard my dad laughed at some of the things Nuxhall said on the air, some of them intentional, some not.
In the end, Nuxhall was an everyday guy from Hamilton, who became a major league baseball player. He never forgot his roots or the fans who adored him.
A few years ago, he came to Lima for his book signing. Over 200 people waited in line to shake his hand or get his autograph.
Most just wanted to say thanks for how much he had meant to them over the years.
With each person who said, "Thanks Joe for all those years on the air," he nodded and said, "Thanks, I really appreciate that."
And he really did. He was that kind of guy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pleasant stuffs O-G

Ottawa-Glandorf ran at will against Fostoria.
Against Marion Pleasant, it went nowhere.
Marion Pleasant's speed and quickness, especially on defense, controlled the Titans in its 48-21 victory over O-G in the Division IV regional semifinals Saturday at Tiffin.
Nowhere was this more evident that watching O-G super sophomore Logan Kaufman, who steamrolled for 270 yards and three touchdowns last week.
Saturday, as soon as Kaufman touched the ball, he was hit by two Pleasant defenders. Kaufman did roll his ankle in the first half, but played the second half. O-G coach Ken Schriner wouldn't use Kaufman's ankle injury or the ankle injury to quarterback Jake Meyer as an excuse.
O-G needed its 'A' game to win Saturday. It didn't get it.
O-G threw four interceptions and botched a punt.
Kaufman finished with 32 yards on 14 carries.
Here's the bottom line: On Saturday, Marion Pleasant was quicker, faster and the better team.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reds whiff on Lidge

The Reds badly need bullpen help.
Brad Lidge would have helped, but they weren't able to get him.
Lidge was dealt from the Astros to the Phillies for three minor league players. The minor league players were a pitcher, an outfielder and a third baseman.
In order to get Lidge, the Reds would have had to give up a top everyday player, like third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, or a top-rung minor league prospect. The Reds weren't willing to give up a Joey Votto or minor league player of the year Jay Bruce.
That's understandable.
Votto and Bruce are the team's future.
But the Reds have to understand that this bullpen hole must be filled. The club also needs at least another starter.
We'll see how the winter plays out.
But right now, giving up Encarnacion, Adam Dunn or Josh Hamilton is the only way the problem will be fixed.
So for now, Lidge will be the Phillies' closer.
And the Reds are still looking.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Kaufman crushes Fostoria

It was the Ottawa-Glandorf offensive line.
And it was 198-pound sophomore Logan Kaufman running behind it.
That was enough for O-G to roll to a 35-18 victory over Fostoria in the opening round of the Division IV football playoffs Saturday at Fostoria.
Kaufman bulldozed straight ahead for 270 yards on 38 carries with three touchdowns. He had TD runs of 44, 41 and 7 yards.
I know we have mentioned it on these blogs before, but it is worth mentioning again. Kaufman is one of the better sophomore running backs I've seen in a while. He should put up some big numbers at O-G before his career is over.
And enough can't be said of his offensive line with left tackle A.J. Hohenbrink and center Doug Cramer leading the way. He had some huge holes to get through, then ran over people after that.
O-G quarterback Jake Meyer can throw. He proved that against Shawnee in the WBL title game. But he didn't have to throw against Fostoria, completing only 2 of 5 for 52 yards and one touchdown.
Next up for O-G is Marion Pleasant.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Offensive balance powers O-G

Ottawa-Glandorf could run with Logan Kaufman.
O-G could pass with Jake Meyer.
That was the difference in O-G's 28-7 victory over Shawnee Friday for the Western Buckeye League championship.
I'd give the O-G offensive line, led by 315-pound A.J. Hohenbrink, the game ball.
The O-line gave Meyer plenty of time to throw. It also paved the way for Kaufman.
Then, there's the O-G defense.
The Titans smothered Brandon Stephenson, holding him to 79 yards on 15 carries. Most of those yards came on a 56-yard touchdown romp.
From my seat in the pressbox Friday, I heard plenty of Shawnee fans complaining and yelling at coach Dick West on what he should have done.
Fans must remember where this program was before West arrived.
And, on this night, pure and simple, the Titans were the better team.
The only down side for the Titans is that wide receiver Luke Bellman injured his collarbone in the game and is probably lost for the playoffs.
But the bottom line is this: The Titans won the WBL and are still playing.
They will open the Division IV playoffs at Fostoria at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Plenty of blame to go around

Tribe fans, read this slowly.
Third-base coach Joel Skinner did not cost the Indians the ALCS.
Did he make a mistake in not waving Kenny Lofton home in Game 7?
But go back a few games if you want the reason why the Tribe lost the series.
Ace C.C. Sabathia had a 10.55 ERA in two ALCS starts.
Fausto Cabrera had a 16.50 ERA in the ALCS, including getting blown off the mound in Game 6.
The bullpen, which was the cornerstone to this team, took a few hits, as well. Rafael Perez's ERA was 45.00 in three ALCS appearances. And we all know what happened to team MVP Rafael Betancourt in his Game 7 meltdown.
Then, there's Travis Hafner, who hit .148 with 12 strikeouts in 27 at-bats. Grady Sizemore hit .222 for the series.
And let's give the Red Sox credit. Their pitching was better, especially with Josh Beckett and closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Forget Skinner.
There are plenty of others who came up short when the series was there for the taking.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

LCC defends NWC title

Lima Central Catholic went to Lafayette and brought back the Northwest Conference football championship Friday. The T-Birds ran over Allen East 28-0.
The LCC offensive line was dominate, especially in the first half when LCC ran out to a 28-0 lead. Chris O'Brien went over 100 yards and Michael Corwin and Todd Ruggley also ran through big holes most of the night.
The T-Birds' defense, led by Scott Kayatin, smothered the Allen East running game and 1,300-yard rusher Blaine Schmitt.
LCC used two quarterbacks. Matt Huffman is the running quarterback, while Lance Helmig came in when the team wanted to throw. Helmig played the second half, with Huffman getting a rest with the team comfortably ahead.
I've never been a big fan of using a two quarterback system. So we'll see how it works out for the T-Birds come playoff time.
One thing is for sure: LCC has the offensive line and the running backs to run over the NWC.
It's done it all year. And it did it Friday night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tribe's pitching the difference

The Indians' bullpen has been dominate.
Indians starters Jake Westbrook in Game 3 and Paul Byrd in Game 4 did their job.
That's been the difference.
And that's why the Indians hold a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox.
Unless Boston can pull itself off the mat with some miracle pitching, the Red Sox are done.
Stick a fork in them.
Indians MVP Rafael Betancourt turned in two more perfect innings of relief Tuesday. That gives him 5.1 shutout innings for the ALCS. Jensen Lewis and Joe Borowski have also done their jobs in the pen.
Meanwhile, Boston's pen with Manny Delcarmen, Eric Gagne, Javier Lopez has been a mess. And Red Sox starters Tim Wakefield, Dice-K and aging Curt Schilling have all taken a beating. Only ace Josh Beckett has pitched well.
The Indians have the superior pitching and a bullpen that has been nasty.
The Red Sox are teetering on saying good night.
And it's because of the Indians' pitching.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reds need much more than Baker

The Reds hired Dusty Baker as their next manager.
Please excuse me while I yawn.
Baker seems to be a pleasant fellow. I saw him sign autographs and chat with fans for close to 45 minutes after another loss at Wrigley Field last year.
But whether Baker can or can't manage isn't the question. He did take the Giants to the World Series. He guided the Cubs to the playoffs before they collapsed and finished 66-96 in 2006.
The Reds need pitching, pitching and more pitching.
Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are the only givens in the rotation.
The bullpen is a complete mess. Youngster Jared Burton showed promise and veteran David Weathers was steady. The remainder of the pen proved to be a nightly adventure.
Baker is probably a good choice. Interim manager Pete Mackanin would have been just as worthy.
The Reds aren't going anywhere without pitching. The staff needs two more starters and at least three more relievers.
Top prospects first baseman-outfielder Joey Votto and outfielder Jay Bruce, The Sporting News' minor league player of the year, won't fill that void.
Either will Baker.

Shawnee's defense shines

It's time to talk about the Shawnee defense.
Most of the year the Shawnee spotlight has been on running back Brandon Stephenson.
And rightly so.
The junior is one of the top backs in the state.
But Shawnee's defense has been like a wall the last few weeks.
The Indians' had two fourth-quarter stands Friday to post a 14-7 victory at St. Marys.
It was Shawnee's first victory at St. Marys since 1966.
Shawnee defensive end Tyler Rhoades provided the game-winning sack in the final seconds on a fourth-and-goal play.
Yes, that's the same Rhoades who had four sacks in a 35-14 victory at Defiance.
The Shawnee linebackers made the big stops when they had to. Sophomore Nick Truesdale had 17 tackles, while fellow sophomore Zac Rosenbauer made 15 tackles. Sheldon Hall had 11 tackles, including one where he probably loosened a few fillings.
Stephenson and the defense have put the Indians in a position where they control their own destiny.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tribe is counting on its pen

Sure, the Indians have starters C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona.
But if the Indians are to bump off the highly paid Red Sox, the bullpen will have to continue to produce.
One area the Indians have the advantage is their bullpen.
OK, closer Joe Borowski is as steady as a wino around the holidays, but the rest of the pen is close to unhittable. Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt and Jensen Lewis form the best bullpen trio among the final four teams. It will be up to them to subdue the Red Sox big bats of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell.
The Indians also need a good series from the unsung guys like Victor Martinez, Casey Blake and Ryan Garko.
I'm not making a prediction, but the Red Sox are favored.
But that means nothing this time of year.
You can ask last year's 83-win Cardinals all about that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

You need a great bullpen

Pitching, pitching and more pitching.
The Indians had it in their Division Series victory over the Yankees.
The Yankees' arms were either old and worn out or young and burned out.
The Indians' starters' were far superior to the Yankees, even No. 4 starter Paul Byrd, who handcuffed the Yankees in Game 4. Before that, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona did their job. They got the ballgame to the bullpen.
The real difference was the pen. The Indians' pen allowed only two earned runs in the series. Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis and even shaky Joe Borowski did their jobs baffling a solid Yankees' lineup.
On the other side, the Indians hammered Chien-Ming Wang TWICE. The Tribe was beating on Roger Clemens before he was suddenly hurting and needed to be removed from the game. Only Andy Pettitte was effective among the Yankee starters.
The Indians also got plenty of key two-out RBI hits.
Timely hitting and plenty of pitching, including a strong bullpen.
It worked in the Division Series.
The Indians will need more of the same against Boston, which has its rotation set with Josh Beckett, Dice-K Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'd take my chances with Marmol

Cubs set-up man Carlos Marmol had done the job all year.
So why bash Cubs manager Lou Piniella for bringing him in to start the seventh inning of Game 1 against the Diamondbacks?
Sure, Marmol didn't do the job, giving up two runs, including a home run to Mark Reynolds in a 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the Division Series Wednesday.
Could starter Carlos Zambrano gone another inning?
He had only thrown 85 pitches in giving up one run on four hits through six innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
But Marmol had dominated all year. In 59 games, he had a 1.43 earned-run average. He had 96 strikeouts in 69 innings.
So, second guess Piniella all you want for holding Zambrano back since he's scheduled to start Game 4. But this game was on the bullpen's shoulders.
And on this night, the Cubs' bullpen collapsed.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shawnee dominates

Simply dominating.
That's what Shawnee's 35-14 victory Friday at Defiance was.
The Indians controlled the offensive line and ran at will over Defiance. Brandon Stephenson ran for 121 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. Fullback James Dillard added 62 yards on five carries with two touchdowns.
In all, Shawnee ran for 287 yards.
The Indians' defense was equally impressive. The defense swarmed Defiance quarterback Adam Wagner all night and sacked him seven times. Defensive end Tyler Rhoades lived in the Defiance backfield and had four sacks.
The Indians led 35-0 in the final quarter before Defiance's subs added two meaningless scores against the Shawnee second team.
Shawnee has won four in a row and is 4-2, 4-1 in the Western Buckeye League.
In all, it was a totally impressive performance by the Indians.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wedge pushed all the right buttons

It all comes down to pushing the right buttons.
Former Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo told me that years ago when we were having a discussion about the importance of a manager.
Sure, a team has to have talent. After that, exactly what is the key role of a manager?
I asked him about the importance Sparky Anderson played guiding the Big Red Machine to World Championships in 1975 and 1976.
“Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows when it’s time to bunt, steal or pinch-hit,” Santo said. “Most know when to take a pitcher out. The difference between the good managers and all the others is the good ones know how to push the buttons and motivate all 25 guys in the clubhouse. You might have to push 25 different buttons to get 25 guys going in the right direction. Certain guys respond differently to different things. That’s exactly what Sparky did and that’s why he was a great manager.”
That story comes to mind today concerning the heat Indians manager Eric Wedge has taken this year.
If you turned on Sports Time Ohio’s talk show after an Indians’ game this year, you would think Wedge was the worst manager in the history of baseball.
He never bunted at the right time.
He never pinch-hit at the right time. If he pinch-hit, he pinch-hit the wrong guy.
And he never knew when to make a pitching change. He took guys out too soon or he left them in well after they were roasting on the spit.
This all according to the talking heads and callers on STO.
Here’s a news flash for them.
The Indians are in the playoffs.
So, to me, Wedge has done plenty right.
So forget about if Wedge didn’t bunt here or there.
In the end, all those moves mean very little over 162 games. My feeling is that most of those moves even themselves out over a long season.
What matters is Wedge was able to motivate and use his intensity to push 25 guys in the right direction.
According to a former third baseman, “He pushed the right buttons.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Big black sack attack

Ohio Northern's defense batted around John Carroll quarterback Mark Petruziello like a pinata Saturday.
ONU registered a team-record 10 sacks in the Polar Bears' 23-13 victory over John Carroll at Dial-Roberson Stadium. That broke the mark of nine sacks set against Bluffton in 1995.
ONU, ranked No. 12 in the nation, is now 3-0, 2-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference.
Here's a capsule look at the game:
ONU linebacker Lenny Trusnik led the defensive surge with 2.5 sacks, along with his 10 tackles.
Nine different Polar Bears had at least a half of a sack.
Defensive back Cullen Rasmussen had a career-high 12 tackles.
Quarterback Jeff Pankratz looked sharp in throwing for 168 yards and one touchdown. Elder High product Ben Wittwer had career highs for catches (eight) and yards (108) with one touchdown.
The offensive line had trouble opening holes for running back R.J. Meadows, who had gone over 100 yards rushing in the first two games. He was held to 68 yards on 20 carries. Trevis Stephens did run for 31 yards on six carries.
ONU is at Otterbein at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Reds showcase dogs, prospects

I went to all three Reds-Cardinals games last week in Cincinnati.
One of those nights was Dog Night, in which close to 400 fans brought their dogs to the park dressed in Reds' gear. The fans and dogs then paraded around the field before the game.
Here are a few impressions of the series:
First baseman-outfield prospect Joey Votto has a lively bat and appears to have the inside track on starting at first base next year.
Infielder Jeff Keppinger can hit. Period. He should start at shortstop or third base next year.
Norris Hopper will make an excellent reserve outfielder next year, as he does everything but hit with power.
I saw Josh Hamilton injure his hamstring in the outfield and is out for the remainder of the year. Let's hope that he is not prone to injuries in the future. He already missed time with a stomach ailment and a wrist injury.
Aaron Harang deserves votes for the Cy Young, going 15-4 for this team.
Brandon Phillips deserves the Gold Glove.
Reliever Jared Burton should start the year as a top set-up man until the Reds make some deals.
Never walk behind the dog section during Dog Night at the park.
The Reds need at least two more starters and three more relievers to contend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ONU shines in opener

Here's what we learned from Ohio Northern's 42-0 opening day victory over Millikin:
ONU running back R.J. Meadows is back. He made his return from knee surgery last October to run for 122 yards on 18 carries with a 2-yard touchdown run. On several runs, he showed a good burst up the middle and carried a few tacklers along the way.
First-year full-time starter quarterback Jeff Pankratz is more than capable of taking over the offense. He looked sharp in completing 14 of 23 for 230 yards. He threw three touchdowns of 44, 39 and 30 yards.
David Delk looked like a No. 1 wide receiver in making five catches for 141 yards with three touchdowns. That helped the passing game look much improved over last year.
The offensive line did its job in opening holes and not allowing Pankratz to be sacked.
The defense did its job in holding Millikin to 18 yards rushing and flying at Millikin QBs for five sacks.
Now let's see what happens in Week 2. ONU opens its Ohio Athletic Conference season at 1:30 Saturday at Muskingum.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

This Reds team isn't good enough to contend

Forget about the recent surge the Reds made in August.
It’s time to think about next season.
Here’s what we learned about the 2007 Reds:
Brandon Phillips is a Gold Glove second baseman and one of the top hitting infielders in the league.
Scott Hatteberg is valuable with his ability to get on base consistently and drive in runs.
David Ross isn’t much of a hitter, but is a defensive stopper with his ability to throw runners out.
Edwin Encarnacion is inconsistent in the field and with the bat.
Jeff Keppinger can hit line drives in his sleep. He must play every day at third base or shortstop next year.
Josh Hamilton is amazing. He takes off four years and has still proven he has that special quality the way the ball explodes off his bat. He’s also a plus outfielder with a rocket arm.
Ken Griffey Jr. still has something left. And he actually stayed healthy.
Because of Adam Dunn’s power, he will draw the most trade interest. He still strikes out too much to be considered a clutch hitter.
Outfielder Jay Bruce is on the way and should reach the majors sometime next year. I saw him with Sarasota this summer and he reminded me of a young Austin Kearns.
Rookie starters Bobby Livingston and Phil Dumatrait aren’t ready for the majors.
Rookie phenom Homer Bailey can’t be penciled in for a starting spot next year.
The Reds’ relief pitching is horrible. It’s time to bite the bullet and release Todd Coffey. Mike Stanton also needs to be sent packing.
Rookie reliever Jared Burton showed plenty of promise. Rookie John Coutlangus also seems to have a future.
David Weathers had an excellent year and could be a great set-up man if a true closer is acquired.
Eddie Guardado is still a huge question mark.
Aaron Harang is a No. 1 quality starter.
Bronson Arroyo can be a quality No. 2 starter, but needs to do a better job locating his breaking pitch and show more confidence in his fastball.
The experiment of having Matt Belisle start didn’t work out and he needs to return to the bullpen.
In the end, the Reds need two more starters and at least three more relievers.
In order to get them, Dunn, Encarnacion and Hatteberg must be dangled as trade bait.
What we really have learned is once again this team isn’t good enough to contend.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

ONU's Trusnik makes Jets' practice squad

Ohio Northern product Jason Trusnik is a New York Jet.
It didn't seem that way on Saturday, as Trusnik was let go with the team's final round of cuts. But just a few days later, Trusnik and six other players were signed to the Jets' practice squad.
The former All-American from Ohio Northern is making the move from defensive end to linebacker. He had made four tackles in the four preseason games, including two in the final preseason game against the Eagles.
This is great news for Trusnik and ONU.
Now Trusnik can learn and wait in the wings on the practice squad. If injuries hit, he could even be activated.
He has made the leap from Division III player to a member of the NFL.
But more than anything else, Trusnik has realized his dream.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Jets cut Trusnik

Ohio Northern product Jason Trusnik was among the New York Jets' final cuts on Saturday.
The former All-American defensive end at ONU was trying to make it with the Jets at outside linebacker. In his four exhibition games, he had four tackles, including two in the final preseason game against the Eagles.
Among the Jets' cuts at linebacker were former Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel and Andre Wadsworth.
Trusnik has a passion for the game and hopefully this experience will help him with his next move in football. ONU's Jamal Robertson went to Europe and Stacey Hairston played in Canada before landing in the NFL.
Hopefully, Trusnik can catch on somewhere else to keep his dream alive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wedge is no idiot, trust me

Can we just take a sabbatical on the Eric Wedge bashing?
Every night I turn on the talk show on Sports Time Ohio, the hosts and callers are taking their turns at the Cleveland Indians' manager like he was a pinata.
Why didn't he bunt Jhonny Peralta?
Maybe because Wedge doesn't think he can bunt.
Why didn't he play Kenny Lofton?
How about because he's too old to play every day.
Why didn't he pinch-hit so-and-so?
Probably because it wasn't a favorable matchup based on history.
Or why didn't he stick longer with the starter? That's followed the next night by why did he stick with the starter?
I realize the Indians are far from perfect.
But consider they are hitting .268, which ranks seventh in the league. They are fifth in runs scored. The pitching ranks sixth in the league with a 4.38 ERA.
And, entering today, the Indians are in first place, 3.5 games ahead of the Tigers.
All I know is Wedge could manage my team any day.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Thunderboomies make a mess of opening night

What a mess.
The round of lightning and thunderstorms played havoc with the opening night of high school football Friday.
I was at Shawnee, where the game was delayed one hour and 28 minutes because of lightning. The game was finally called official with Columbus St. Francis DeSales knocking off Shawnee 20-0. There was 6:30 left in the third quarter when lightning and rain stopped the game again and it was declared official.
But here's the catch.
When the Ohio High School Athletic Association added another round of playoffs a few years back and pushed the opening day back another week, it opened the door for this.
Two games in August only invites 90-degree games and lightning delays.
If we want more teams in the playoffs and a longer playoff format, this is what we have to expect in August.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ONU's Meadows returns to full speed

One number stood out to me during Ohio Northern's first week of football practice this week.
That was the time running back R.J. Meadows was timed in the 40 last Saturday. Meadows is more than back after being sidelined for the final four games last year with a knee injury. He underwent surgery for torn cartilage and a torn meniscus in his right knee on Oct. 23.
After plenty of rehab time and extensive work at a sports training facility in Cleveland, he's ready. His 4.44 time was faster than his previous best of 4.52.
The 6-foot junior Meadows ran for 724 yards last year. As a freshman, he ripped through Ohio Athletic Conference defenses for 936 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Meadows also has put on 15 pounds and now weighs 220.
At 220, with that kind of speed, a healthy Meadows could once again cause serious problems for OAC defenses.
ONU opens against Millikin at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at ONU's Dial-Roberson Stadium.

Blue Jackets sign Peca

The Columbus Blue Jackets broke away from their offseason trend of signing no names and signed center Michael Peca.
He should provide a lift with his two-way ability. Peca is a two-time Selke winner as the league's top defensive forward.
How much offense he can bring to an offensive-challenged team remains to be seen.
Peca suffered a broken leg with the Maple Leafs last year and was limited to four goals and 11 assists in 35 games. He scored only nine goals in 71 games with Edmonton in 2005-06.
The Peca you might remember was a three-time 20-goal scorer with Buffalo.
The 33-year-old Peca is a bit different. He hasn't scored more than 13 goals in a season since he had 25 with the Islanders in 2001-02.
For the Blue Jackets, however, this signing can be considered an upgrade.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mohr's journey begins

Elida's Brooks Mohr begins his baseball trek next month.
Mohr, a 27th-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, will head off to the instructional league at Peoria, Ariz., in a few weeks.
From there, he will be sent to either Peoria or Class A Everett (Wash.) next spring.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander has the physical talent. His delivery is smooth and effortless.
The ball explodes out of his hand, with his fastball hitting the radar gun between 89 and 92 mph.
It's the mental side of the game that Mohr, and young players like him, must learn.
It's adjusting to life thousands of miles from home. The bus rides are long, tedious and often well after midnight.
It's coping with not having your best stuff and how to win without it. Or having it, but learning when and where to throw it. And how to get ahead consistently in the count.
It doesn't happen overnight.
He can't let the doubters or critics get in his head.
The key will be his drive and passion for the game.
As long as he has that, he has a chance to make it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Baseball wish list

I'm a baseball guy.
But here are a few tweaks I'd make to Major League Baseball if Proud to be Your Bud Selig ever asked my opinion.
Start every weekend World Series game at 1 p.m. Start the weekday World Series games at 7.
Eliminate the designated hitter.
Trim interleague play back to one three-game series against a team's geographical rival.
Impose a team salary cap and a minimum team salary.
Instruct umpires to call the strike zone the way it is written in the rule book. More strikes will translate into a faster game.
In the World Series, give the team with the best regular-season record the home-field advantage.
Make it mandatory for home team players to sign autographs after batting practice.
Have a $5 bleacher seat in every park. Also have a "family section."
Have one minor league type event (like the dizzy-bat race) each night.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Brennaman to return

Marty Brennaman will be back.
The Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster made it official when he signed a three-year extension with the Reds through 2010. His current contract was to expire after this year.
Brennaman's matter-of-fact, tell-it-like-it-is approach is unique.
He has never been a team cheerleader. Instead, he offers a candid approach to what he sees.
This year, as bad as the Reds have floundered, he has been quite critical of the Reds' bullpen. And rightly so. It's the worst in the league.
This year, broadcasters Jeff Brantley and Brennaman's son, Thom, have jumped in and have also been very critical of the Reds.
I've always liked Brennaman and admired his approach. If you don't like it, you don't have to listen.

Bonds' record is a joke

Barry Bonds cheated.
Pure and simple.
I'm convinced he used steroids to get bigger, stronger and to aid in his daily recovery time. You don't go from 180 pounds to 240 in a short amount of time like he did without some artificial help.
Check out his head. Check out his body. It's pretty obvious he was pumping something into his veins over the years.
Sure, he was a great player before the steroid era. But I believe what he did added at least 100 home runs to his career total.
Not only did it give him extra boost on each home run, it aided his bounce-back ability at his age. It also helped him better deal with all the travel.
What it didn't do is help his attitude. He is still a miserable human being.
Hit all the home runs you want. In my eyes, you are a cheater and your record is tainted.
The stigma of how he achieved his record will forever hang over him like a buzzard circling its prey.

Final memories of the 2007 Locos

I’ll remember a pitching staff that ranked first in the league (2.99 earned-run average) behind Matt Bischoff’s ability to throw strikes en route to a 5-0 record and league-leading 1.02 ERA.
I’ll remember a team batting average going from .220 just before the break to finishing at .263 behind B.J. Holloway (.371), Casey Ingle (.351) and Bryan Bonner (.347). Daniel Furuto hit .295 and led the team in home runs (five) and RBIs (18).
I’ll remember the Locos sweeping all three games from the New York Yankees of the GLCL, Columbus.
I’ll remember probably the best Locos’ infield defense ever.
The team stumbled at the end, going 1-2 in the playoffs, but when the team ERA was around 2.50 at the All-Star break, one figured the baseball pendulum would begin to swing the other way.
It all added up to a 26-12 Great Lakes Collegiate League regular-season championship.
More than anything else, I’ll remember this team played hard every day. Diving plays in the infield occurred on a nightly basis.
You can’t ask for anything more.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Locos All-Time Team

We had close to 400 people vote for the Locos' All-Time Team. That's an amazing response and thanks to all of you who took the time to vote.
Eric Wedge remains the best player I saw put on a Lima uniform. He had the arm, could hit for average and had power. He was also a true leader.
Anyone who voted knows how difficult it was to select the pitchers. But no matter who you selected, you couldn't go wrong.
The most dominating Locos' pitcher I've seen was 2004 closer Rony Mercado. He had the most unhittable change-up, outside of former Reds right-hander Mario Soto.
Among my favorite players are Mike Smith, Joe Cheney, Mercado, Mark Abro and Brian Simmons. Other favorites not on the team are Mudcat Brewer, Ryan Steinbach, Ethan Barlow and Adam Mandel.
Who are your favorite players?