Every day there are three things, here are those three things.
I started to write a blog entry about next year's Reds team, but it was going nowhere (I'll probably have a podcast on that topic up later. I can already sense your anticipation), and I had something about how trades in sports don't necessarily need winners and losers, in response to a lot of what was written about the Celtics/Cavs deal, which both teams won and which I love because both organizations had the balls to make, but that too wasn't working.
So, I'll answer three different questions, each of which came in a different form.
1) From a guy wearing a Gilbert Arenas Wizards jersey at a gas station near my kid's day care......
"Is tonight (last night) a must-win for FC Cincinnati?"
You know a sports team has arrived when the "is this a must-win" question gets thrown out there.
Now, I believe that during an NFL season, we can only use the "is this a must-win" topic once a year (for last year's Bengals, it was the Miami game, or so I recall) meaning you can't just throw out the whole must-win thing every time a season hits a crucial juncture.
FC Cincinnati went into last night on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but still with eight matches remaining, and only a point out of the eighth spot.
But with a remaining schedule tilted toward more road matches, and with a poor record away from home this season, a premium is placed on winning at Nippert, especially when the opponent is much lower in the standings.
So I went with yes. Yes, it was a must-win.
Fortunately, FCC was a winner last night, in rather easy and sometimes spectacular fashion over Ottowa. The win helped FC Cincinnati leapfrog two teams and move into sixth place, with a week and a half to rest before their next match.
But if they're going to make the postseason for a second straight year, they will have to play better in road games.
Meaning the must-win question will probably not go away.
(By the way, my fiancee just returned to work after being on maternity leave, meaning that two days a week, I have to drop my infant daughter off at daycare. Is there anything more heart-wrenching that dropping your kid off for the first time to be cared for by a complete stranger? And if I can't stand to leave my kid - who at 13 weeks has absolutely no idea what's happening - and and go on about my day, how will I be expected to let her go spend the rest of her life with some random dude in like 25 years? Also, day care is a racket. That is all.)
2) From this guy on Twitter....
He's technically not a receiver, but I'll go with Tyler Eifert.
He might be the one Bengals most critical to a turnaround season. If healthy, he's a top-five tight end, one of the best red zone targets in the league, and valuable security blanket for a quarterback who could be under a lot of duress.
And he's the key to widening this team's margin for error, which was shrunk by being a middle-of-the-pack team in both red zone efficiency and third down conversion percentage. Last season went awry because of the Bengals' inability to win close games, games that often came down to a play or two, often on third down and in the red zone. Tyler can help them immensely in this area, and while they have a ton of different weapons and players who each bring unique skills to the table, no one outside of AJ Green possesses the proven ability to do the things that Eifert in situations that determine games.
If he plays 16 games, I'll guess the Bengals win more of them than they lose.
3) From my buddy Grant, via a DM conversation...
Most encouraging, most 'meh' and most disappointing Reds for you this year?
I'll go with two for each.
Encouraging: Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto. Suarez because with the bat and the glove, he's proven to be a piece. Maybe at third. Perhaps at short. Maybe as a nice trade asset if they become comfortable enough with Senzel, Peraza, etc. to flip him for pitching. And I still feel like he has some upside.
Votto because this year has been affirmation that he's in no danger of slowing down any time soon. He might not replicate this year's power numbers, but if the idea is to win in 2019, that's much, much more likely to happen if Votto is still an elite offensive threat. Even as he approaches 34, there's nothing to suggest that won't happen.
Disappointing: Jose Peraza and Michael Lorenzen. The Peraza thing is mainly on me, because I put a little too much stock into how he hit after his second call-up last season. The good news is that he's still just 23 and even if his future lies in being a bench guy, he's far from giving up on.
Lorenzen because while he's actually been pretty effective in high-leverage situations, he's still been shaky enough times this season to make me wonder how prominent of a role he should have, and the fact that there's rumblings of him being a starter again illustrates both the questions that linger about the rotation and the uncertainty about how he should be used.
Meh: Zack Cozart and Bryan Price's whole "we're gonna use the bullpen differently" thing. Cozart because while I'm happy for him personally that he's has such a good season, it had very little impact, both in terms of the teams' ability to get something for him and in terms of making the team markedly better. And the fact that there are still some who believe that bringing back Zack next season makes sense.
And Price's bullpen talk because more than three-fourths of the way through the season, it now seems like much ado about nothing. This might not be entirely his fault. The rotation has been a trainwreck. The bullpen has been asked to do way too much, and there's still not enough bona fide big league arms to be all that flexible with relievers. Price has managed the early and middle innings differently, but mainly because of how infrequently his starters have given the Reds length, but he's still managing the later innings by the book.
Radio Show: Back at it tomorrow at Smoke Justis in Covington. Lance is with me for the 3:00 hour, Local 12's Richards Skinner is with me for the 4:00 hours. Tony Pike is with me for the 5:00 hour. I also have three pairs of tickets to Saturday night's Reds game to give away. Be there. Tomorrow. 3:05. ESPN1530.
Recommended Link Of The Day: On the Ground at the Fight of the Century