By HAL McCOY
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while counting the days until spring training and the NCAA basketball tournament, two of my most favorite things.
—What price glory? Ask Obidiah (‘Just call me Obi’) Toppin.
On the last two trips to St. Louis and Richmond, the University of Dayton assigned a security guard to accompany Toppin wherever he goes — except when he slam dunks. And he will have that shadow the rest of the season.
Why? With his popularity, Toppin is being mobbed. Mostly, though, it is to keep agents and scouts away from him.
When the Flyers played last Saturday at the University of Richmond, the Spiders student section serenaded Toppin with, “Toppin sucks” and “overrated,” even when he executed that windmill slam dunk.
Toppin responded with 24 points, 12 rebounds, five slam dunks, four blocked shots, three assists and a partridge in a pear tree.
Stay classy, Richmond.
—QUOTE: From Reggie Jackson, baseball’s Mr. October: “People don’t boo nobodies.”
—The Cincinnati Reds continue to gather outfielders like migrant workers picking fruit.
After signing Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year $21 million deal, they signed outfielder Nick Castellanos to a four-year $64 million contract.
With that kind of money, it is assured that Akiyama will play center field and Castellanos will play left field.
That leaves one spot for Aristides Aquino, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin, unless the club plans to use a six-man outfield.
Aquino was an August demon and a September dud. So which is he, really? If he doesn’t play solidly during spring training he could end up in Triple-A to start the season.
The Reds also signed infielder Mike Moustakas to a four-year $64 million contract, so it is for sure he will play second base.
That leaves Nick Senzel out in the cold, right? There are reports that Senzel is being dangled as trade bait. Could the Los Angeles Dodgers be interested in a package for shortstop Corey Seager? Right now, Freddy Galvis is the anointed shortstop. He is a top-shelf glove with a suspect bat and Seager would be an upgrade that would make the Reds formidable.
The only weak spot right now is the bullpen, somebody to go with Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson. Can they trust Raisel Iglesias as the closer?
An upgrade is needed and Senzel could be used to add bullpen strength.
Stay tuned. After spending $164 million on three free agents and pitcher Wade Miley (two years, $15 million) the next move probably is a trade.
For sure, the Reds are giving it the ol’ professional try and have moved themselves into contenders instead of their usual pretenders in the National League Central.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher and manager Bob Lemon: “I’ve come to the conclusion that the two most imporant things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.” (Hey, Reds, are you listening?)
—Yes, Kobe Bryant was named after the Japanese kobe beef. But what is with his middle name. Bean?
Just a guess, but maybe it is because his father, Joe Bryant, also an NBA player, was nicknamed Jellybean.
—While is it fun watching the University of Dayton basketball team, it is almost as much fun watching the Wright State University basketball team.
While UD star Obi Toppin is as smooth as a silk dress, Wright State star Loudon Love should wear a blue collar on top of his uniform and carry a lunch pail.
He is not blessed with Toppin’s natural ability, but Love is a guy who has to work hard for everything he gets. While Toppin is a ghost around the basket, Love is a beast who would run over his grandmother to get a rebound.
QUOTE: From former Chicago Bulls ferocious rebounder Dennis Rodman: “I’m hungrier than those other guys out there. Every rebound is personal challenge.” (That seems to be Love’s attitude, too.)
MY FAVORITE BASEBALL MOVIES: Major League (I watched it every year before going to spring training to get me in the mood), Bull Durham, Field of Dreams (my field of dreams was a vacant lot in Akron near my home with a billboard as the outfield wall), A League of Their Own (baseball with skirts), The Natural (Robert Redford looks as if he really could play the game), Eight Men Out (Did the Black Sox really throw the 1919 World Series, or just take the money and try to win?), The Sandlot (“You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”), Bang the Drum Slowly (A baseball tear jerker.)
But my favorite sports movie of all-time: Hoosiers. Does any basketball team run ‘The Picket Fence?”