Jesse Winker led Friday night's Reds/Cardinals with a good, hard line drive single to left center field. As Tommy Pham played the ball back in, Winker charged around first base, making a hard cut toward second before applying the brakes and retreating back to first. Calling the game with George Grande on Fox Sports, Chris Welsh observed that Winker's sharp turn around the bag hinted at a little more aggressiveness being shown by the Reds in interim manager Jim Riggleman's debut, remarking "so far, so good" as Jose Peraza strode to the plate.
Five pitches later, Winker had returned to the dugout, having been erased at second base on the front end of a 4-6-3 double play.
The Reds may look a little different in terms of how they play, but they're the same team that helped fell flat on its face out of the gate, stumbling to the 3-15 start that got Bryan Price fired, with a mark that now sits at an historically bad 3-18 record after this weekend's sweep in St. Louis.
Saturday's loss was especially disheartening, if losses at this point can be described as such. Homer Bailey pitched credibly and the team showed some spunk in tying the game in the seventh before Yadier Molina continued to torture the Reds, this time breaking the tie by hitting a solo bomb off of Jared Hughes. Defeat wouldn't be finalized until the Reds loaded the bases with one out in the ninth before Scooter Gennett rolled into a game-ending DP.
The firing of Bryan Price late last week ignited a fresh round of "a sense of urgency" is needed discussion, fueled mainly by Dick Williams publicly using that phrase again, and again. Maybe a renewed sense of urgency is needed, and maybe the Reds are actually playing with some urgency. But until the talent level is where it needs to be, the Reds can play with the urgency of a guy who's bladder is on the verge of exploding, and it still won't matter.
141 games remain, and I'm fresh out of ways to say the same things.
Here's some stuff...
Luckily, this week we have the NFL Draft, which is as intriguing as any draft in years, and as opportunity-rich for the Bengals as any fan could ask for. I won't bore you with who I think the Bengals will or should draft, because unlike many in my field, I'm honest enough to tell you that I have no idea.
(OK, as you'll see here, that's not entirely true.)
I will tell you that as down as I've been on the Bengals, this draft could provide a pathway to postseason contention. Apologies to any Jaguars fans that might be reading this, but the AFC is still ruled by New England and Pittsburgh, who each have aging quarterbacks. And a season after the conference yielded two of the worst wild cards teams ever, I still can't point to one other AFC team that's gotten markedly better.
KC overpaid for Sammy Watkins, and now Andy Reid is turning to a first-year starter. Oakland is building a really good roster for 2008. Jacksonville made some nice additions, but they still Blake Bortles. Andrew Luck still isn't throwing fully-inflated footballs, which compromises Indy's chances. Baltimore is arguably the most "meh" team in the league. Tennessee's QB is the definition of average. Buffalo isn't giving AJ McCarron anyone to throw to. Tennessee doesn't have anyone who can throw. The Chargers can never seem to put everything together and Philip Rivers is aging. Houston has all sorts of offensive line problems, and no first or second round pick they can use to address them. The rest of the conference isn't even worth mentioning.
Somewhere in that mess of AFC mediocrity is the Bengals, who still have a nice, intact core as well as some high-end guys coming into their second year. If this draft yields the offensive line help they need and the athletic boost the defense is in dire need of, it's not far-fetched at all to think that they can get back to the playoffs.
I'll leave any thoughts about what would happen if they got there for another time.
My Blue Jackets are on the ropes. Honestly, they're lucky to even be in their series with the Capitals, having been outplayed for the overwhelming majority of five games. And they continue to take dumb penalties. And even though they played with more energy than they did in game four, they look winded.
The NBA's Eastern Conference playoffs are fascinating. We have three different series that each seem destined to go seven, and the uber-fun Philadelphia 76ers at times toying with the Miami Heat. For the first time since 2010, I'm betting on the field instead of LeBron James, and because I like how rag-tag they often play, I'm rooting for Indy to upset the Cavs, which means I'm rooting against LeBron for the first time ever in a playoff series. You could sell me on three different teams getting to the NBA Finals.
There's little fascinating about the West. The Pelicans are fascinating. The Jazz are a great story. But neither of those teams are getting in the way of the Houston/Golden State Western Conference Final we've been waiting all year to see.
24K+ for FC Cincinnati v. Pittsburgh at Nippert on Saturday night. During FCC's first season, I had a guy email me nearly every single week telling me that the whole FC Cincinnati thing was a passing fad. During the winter, the same guy emailed often to tell me that the stadium fiasco was going to doom the team at the gate. I wonder what he'll email me with the next time he decides to check in.
All of this is pretty lukewarm, no?
Here's some other stuff....
A few things worth checking from The Athletic...
I wrote about why I want the Bengals to draft Lamar Jackson
Rustin Dodd wrote about one of the most epic managerial rants ever.
Jim Bowden has a lengthy list of potential Reds managerial candidates.
Shannon Russell takes a look at the newest UC Bearcat.
Elsewhere, I spent a large chunk of the weekend perusing some of the NFL Draft pieces done by Danny Kelly of The Ringer.
I liked this oral history of mock drafts.
Peter King is on board with me!
Radio Show: Busy week...Extra Innings the next three nights on 700WLW, and First and Last early mornings on ESPN Radio. Back in my regular spot at 3:05 on ESPN1530 on Thursday and Friday. And I hope you join me at Longneck's in Wilder for the NFL Drat on Thursday night. Here's the flier, with a picture of me from 2011...