Holy hell, let's do a blog.
*Starting with the Reds because, you know, they played last night. And won. During a baseball season, some victories feel more significant than others. Last night sure did. Coming off back-to-back losses, the Reds blew a 4-zip lead, blew a prime chance to score in the eighth, and had the makings of a team on the verge of suffering a rather disheartening L to the Mets last night.
But on top of the Reds getting some absolutely stellar bullpen work, Jesse Winker came through with I'll go ahead and say was the biggest hit of the season to date, a ninth inning bomb that he and his teammates seemed very,, very, excited about.
Winker, who many screamed at me a year ago for not having any pop, has clubbed eight homers in just over a month, and in 569 big league plate appearances, he has 22 long ones, not an insignificant total for a guys whose supposed lack of pop threatened to maybe make him the odd man out in the cluster of outfielders the Reds have been using.
A win, and we talk about solid relief pitching and Winker's newfound pop. A loss, and we're complaining even more about Scott Schbler, probably. I know which one I prefer.
*Because I haven't written and said enough about the draft, here are my four basic thoughts, each limited to three sentences or less..
1) From a pure player acquisition standpoint, I think the Bengals did a nice job. Some needs were filled, a few prospects seem like upgrades from what they had, and even if I would've preferred the overall direction of their draft to be different, I can at least understand the thinking that went into nearly every pick.
2) The Drew Sample pick is a clear move in the direction of the Bengals having an actual offensive identity, which will be nice, since recent Bengals teams never really had one. Their identity should revolve around running the ball, both more often and more effectively, mainly because Joe Mixon is their best weapons, but also because their defense is still likely to be, um, bad. The run-first direction of the offense, though, does say something about the limitations of the guy playing quarterback.
3) Speaking of, here's a piece from my final column on what the Bengals didn't do, and seem destined to do now, at quarterback....
This feels exceptionally underwhelming, and not because I have any enmity or animus toward Dalton, but because I view the approaching end of his current contract as an opportunity to improve both the quality of play and the value the Bengals are getting at the game’s most critical position. Dalton might turn in a quality season this fall, and there’s a decent chance that they exceed last year’s win total. If so, then great. But those things also could’ve happened with Haskins waiting in the wings, or with Rosen’s presence looming as the possible long-term guy. Except then we’d have the added intrigue of wondering in what direction the Bengals will eventually go at a position that, for this team, seems as unchallengeable as an authoritarian dictatorship. The Bengals might be just fine with Dalton continuing his unopposed reign as quarterback, but they’re certainly less interesting than they’d be if he had to fend off a legitimate heir to the throne.
I know a lot of this is unfair. To Dalton, a good guy who’s handled every bit of criticism and speculation with complete professionalism and class. To this year’s class of new Bengals, which has potential and which probably deserves more than simply being glossed over in yet another column about Andy Dalton. And to a staff that’s left fingerprints all over this year’s draft and deserves a chance to prove that, collectively, it knows what it’s doing.
But it’s also a staff that is owed the possibilities that accompany open-mindedness and creativity when it comes to the league’s defining and highest-paid spot. Yet despite all of the changes that have defined its offseason, the franchise remains tethered to the same quarterback.
4) This crew of defensive coaches has its hands full. Yes, better health will help, but it's hard to imagine the defense being exponentially better than it was last season.
End of draft takes.
*Know what's fun? Being a casual fan of the team, checking in on them here and there, then going all-in when they make a surprising playoff run. The atmopshere in Columbus for game three tonight should be incredible.
*Bad take alert: Read this, and then tell me what's supposed to happen when an exec that takes a chance on someone like Tyreek Hill ends up running another team like, say, the Browns.
*A good read for your Tuesday: A history of the "red ass" in Major League Baseball.
Radio Show: C. Trent on the Reds at 5:05. Working on a few other things as well. We'll probably shift toward the Reds a little bit, maybe even do some Blue Jackets, and I think there's one thing that this Bengals regime is doing that stands out as different from the previous one. Join me at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
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