1) BP. I wrote a blog yesterday morning about Brandon Phillips' time in Cincinnati, which officially came to an end yesterday. Saying goodbye to a guy who's played here for 11 seasons is never easy. The reality though is that the Reds had already long moved on from Brandon, first acquiring Jose Peraza and then Dilson Herrera. The Brandon Phillips that you and I grew to love wasn't going to be the Brandon Phillips we saw play for the Reds in 2017. He was - right or wrong - going to be a bit player, a part-timer, and even if he accepted his new role, it was going to feel awkward watching Brandon serve as a backup.
And it gives all parties about as clean an ending as anyone could've asked for. They don't have to unceremoniously cut him - which I think would've happened this spring had their been no trade - and while we have no idea how Brandon would've publicly or privately handled being a stand-in, let's be honest and acknowledge that everyone wondered whether he'd be so sore about it that he'd at least make life for his teammates and his manager uncomfortable.
I'll go ahead and say in a way that the Reds won't: They were worried about Brandon acting like an ass when he wasn't playing.
John Fay made this point yesterday...
Re: Phillips. Who is the last big-name Red to go out on his own terms. Larkin at the end, but there was a previous rough patch. Bench? #reds— John Fay (@johnfayman) February 12, 2017
I'd argue that Jose Rijo got to leave on his terms, authoring one of the more remarkable comeback stories in 2001 and 2002. Aside from that, there are very few happy endings, not just with the Reds, but in pro sports.
There are, however, and endless number of athletes who've returned for reunions, team Halls of Fame, and commemorative ceremonies. Brandon can, and should, be a part of all of those things when his playing days are over.
2) Spring training. It begins today for the Reds in Goodyear. I'll spare you a warm and fuzzy entry about rebirth, renewal, and how "pitchers and catchers report" are the four greatest words in the English language. (Which they are). We're one step closer to baseball, which means we're one step close to summer nights at the ballpark, which means we're one step closer to me being able to do my favorite thing ever.
But for the Reds specifically, this entire season will have a spring training feel to it. I'm less concerned about the makeup of the rotation on Opening Day than I am who will be in it by the end of the season, and I'm more interested in who emerges in 2017 to lock down jobs for 2018 than I am in who earns a gig over the next seven weeks in Goodyear.
That said, it'll be nice to read the dispatches from Arizona, and soon, there will be baseball on the radio.
3) College basketball.
For UC, the weekend began with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee letting the Bearcats know where they stand, namely outside the top 16 tournament seeds. Interesting, but not worth overreacting to.
Neither is the fact that Cincinnati lost to SMU in Dallas. I'd chalked that game up as a loss immediately after the win over the Mustangs on January 12th, and in the days leading up to it, the game had a major buzz-saw feel to it.
The Bearcats are 22-3.
But....it was the way they played that bugs me. The offense fell apart. UC shot waaaay too many threes, the players stopped moving entirely, they allowed SMU's defense to make them passive, and Troy Caupain was awful.
Aberration? Maybe. Wakeup call? I hope so. Tough to handle? Definitely.
I did a doubleheader on Saturday..XU/Villanova during the day, NKU/Milwaukee at night.
The Musketeers stood little chance of beating the Wildcats, who I think are better than last season's championship team. With Trevon Bluiett hobbling around, whatever chances they did have evaporated. The defending champs are exceptionally well-coached, even if they aren't very deep, and nothing about an environment like the Cintas Center is going to make them come unglued.
The season is at a definitive crossroads for the Muskies. The next three games are winnable, but each are on the road. Bluiett's ankle is a problem. XU's own lack of depth is a problem. Still, they had won their previous three without Edmond Sumner and for all of their shortcomings, they certainly didn't back down against Villanova. If they can survive these next three, they're in good shape. Right now, that seems like a major "if."
NKU roared back from a 13-point second half deficit to beat Milwaukee. The Norse, at 17-9 while playing in their second Horizon League season, are a good bet to get to 20 wins. They have four guys averaging double-figures, play good, team-oriented ball, and John Brannen always seems to get the Norse to play hard.
The arena is nice, the beer is cold, and the program is on the rise. NKU has three homes games remaining. If you like college basketball, and if you're looking for a fun night out on the cheap, go see the Norse play.
And yes, I stayed for the whole 40 minutes.
The alma mater had a hell of a win on Friday, beating Rhode Island on the road. The highlight of the win, aside from Xeyrius Williams' game-winning three, was seeing Josh Cunningham on the court for the first time in months. The Flyers don't have many wins that jump off the page individually, but they do have a number of quality victories - nine over top-100 teams in the RPI - a solid, 19-5 record, and after beating a good Rhody team, would have to completely melt down to not have their name called again in 27 days.
Radio Show: Brandon Phillips trade reaction, spring training storylines, and more. Today at 3:05 on ESPN1530