Three Things: I'm Optimistic, But Probably Not Optimistic Enough.

posted by Mo Egger, ESPN1530. -

Every day there are three things, here are those three things.

1) If not now, and if not next year, then when?  A nice and (mostly) crisp as yesterday's 6-3 Reds win over the Marlins was (It was highlighted by Scooter Gennett hitting a broken-bat home run.  Nothing against Scooter or the amount of pop his bat - broken or intact possesses - but are you sure you really believe that MLB isn't screwing with the ball?), their 2-8 record on this homestand has dumped kegs-worth of water on the idea that hey, they can compete in the second half.

But what about next year? Eh, no. 

The year after?  Well, if this whole rebuilding process isn't yielding meaningfully good results by 2019, then this whole process probably gets started over again, at least to an extent.

Until then, the message from the Reds will remain what it's been for two years: The present is nothing more than something to set up - and build for - the future.  2016 wasn't about 2016. 2017 isn't about 2017. 2018 is- well, you get it.

But are you patient enough to hang with it?  I wrote last week about my own rebuild fatigue. This morning, P-Doc clocks it even better...

Reds fans are sophisticated enough to understand what’s happening here. They’re not patient enough to put up with much more of it.

Yep. It's very, very nice that the Reds are stockpiling young talent. Even nicer that it's pretty easy to identify their core.  There's no shortage of things that suggest that better days are ahead.

But at some point, for a lot of fans, tangible progress is needed. This means the wins need to occur more frequently, and the big league product needs to be more palatable.  Most fans are indeed sophisticated to understand what the Reds are trying to do and why, but they're also very bottom-line oriented. 

The bottom line is that the 2017 Reds are on pace to lose about the same number of games as the 2016 team, and with the rest of the season weighted toward more road games than home, a 2015-matching 98-loss total isn't out of the question. Most Reds fans do have an eye on the future, but what they're seeing in front of them has to improve. Soon.

2) Looking for best-case.  On Saturday, my fiancee and I went out to celebrate an evening of being kid-free. One downtown establishment we strode into had a guy working behind the bar who sought my opinion on what the final record for the Bengals would be this season.  I told him that my current guess was something in the 8-8/9-7 range.

He frowned. 

Then one of his customers proceeded to drop an "oh, come on," that suggested that my guess would prove to be inaccurate.  I didn't press him as to why, not because I wasn't interested, but because I was holding a drink for my other half and didn't want her to get as impatient with me as I am getting with the Reds.

Anyway....camp starts this week, and thank God, because organized, open-to-the-public football practices can help us turn the page from last season's misery and distract us from whatever the local baseball team is doing.  The beginning of camp is always accompanied by optimism, and with a healthier team than the one that petered to the finish line last winter and a draft that may have upgraded the skill positions and the defensive line, I share the belief that this year's Bengals could be better than last year's.

But how much better?  

I'm stuck on this more than most....for the Bengals to be massively better than they were last season, w whole bunch of guys who've done little or nothing in the NFL have to do something.  Wideout. Corner. Offensive line. Defensive end. Defensive tackle.  There are intriguing young players in each of those groups. Many will prove to be quite good.  For the Bengals to be significantly better, nearly all of them have to be quite good. 

And then, the offensive line.  It was shaky last season.  Shaky offensive lines that lose their best two guys rarely improve.  To expect the play of the offensive line to be markedly better than last season, would be to expect a lot of different things to play in its favor. I don't think the odds are in favor of that happening.

That's not to say they won't be better.  Eifert and Bernard appear to be healthy. AJ Green is a full go.  Ross and Mixon could make the Bengals as difficult to prepare for as any in the NFL.  The way Vontaze Burfict played last season has me borderline giddy for how he may perform this season.  The defense has a number of young, though inexperienced, players that are intriguing.  The schedule has the potential to be a little forgiving.  

But take everything I just wrote about in the previous three paragraphs, mix them all together, pour them out, and what do you have?

An 11-win team?  Ten wins?  A team that has a legit chance to challenge for something beyond simply getting to the playoffs?

Since I don't have a thirsty fiancee waiting for me to bring her a drink, I'm interested in your take here - especially if you're more optimistic than I am.  I think the Bengals will spend most of the season joined in the NFL's large middle of the pack, topping out at nine wins, which of course, could put them in the playoffs.  I have a hard time thinking about this team as a legit, championship contender.

Captain Optimism, tell me why I'm wrong.  The links to reach me are below.

3) Kyrie and the Cavs.  There's like a billions different questions about what the Cavs are going to with Kyrie Irving, where he could end up, when they should trade him, if they should trade him, and what will happen as a result of whatever is they do with LeBron James next summer.

The biggest question is, how dysfunctional does an organization have to be to screw up what the Cavs have screwed up?

The owner has gone out of his way to alienate the best player in the league, remarkably during a time when players have more power than ever before, and the tumult has apparently worn down Kyrie Irving so much that he'd rather NOT play with the said best player in the league?

It's fair to wonder about LeBron's role in the deterioration of his relationship with the Cavs, and it's very fair to wonder if Irving would rather be the alpha on a bad team or the sidekick on a great one.  But more than anything, I wonder how bad of an owner Dan Gilbert has to be to eff this all up.

Note: James and I both have the day off, so we're bar-hopping before the FC Cincinnati international friendly tonight, going to the places the various supporter groups post up with before the game.  We're hitting up Mecklenberg Gardens, Mio's Ladder 19, and Hangover Easy. I have a fistfull of tickets to anyone who wants some.  Follow us on Twitter, then say hi. 

Recommended Link Of The Day: This is 40: Tom Brady Leading the Way for Athletes Aging Over the Hill.

Radio Show:  Back at it Wednesday afternoon, with a pre-training camp spectacular.  Join us at 3:05 on ESPN1530. 

Reach me....

Follow me on Twitter @MoEgger1530.

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Email me: mo@espn1530.com

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