By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, anxious to see if the Cleveland Browns can beat the Cincinnati Bengals for the sixth straight time. . .or if the Bengals can beat the Browns for the first time in six tries. It is all in your point of view.
—CENTRALLY SPEAKING: Baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego are over, so what did teams in the National League Central do:
*St. Louis Cardinals: Signed free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five-year $90 million contract to replace retired Yadier Molina. Signed pitcher Adam Wainwright to a one-year $17.5 million deal for his last season before retirement.
*Chicago Cubs: Signed free agent pitcher Jameson Taillon to a four-year $68 million deal. Signed free agent outfielder Cody Bellinger to a one-year $17.5 million deal.
*Pittsburgh Pirates: Signed third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes to a seven-year $60 million deal. Signed free agent first baseman Carlos Santana to a one-year $6.7 million contract. Signed outfielder Bryan Reynolds to a one-year $6.7 million contract.
*Cincinnati Reds: ? ? ? ? ?
Oh, wait. The Reds did select outfielder Blake Sabol in the Rule 5 draft. . .then immediately traded him to the San Francisco Giants in a pre-arranged deal for a player to be identified later or cash considerations.
Reminds of the time the Reds traded a player for cash and manager John McNamara was infuriated. He pulled his wallet from his pants, yanked out a wad of bills, threw them on the floor and said, “Now tell me that cash can hit or pitch for me.”
—WHERE WERE THEY? — Rumor has it that the Reds actually attended the meetings, for no apparent reason other than face time in the Manchester Hyatt hotel lobby.
Since the cash-strapped and dump-salary Reds can’t offer free agents big bucks, what is their selling points? How can they entice players?
Well, instead of a lot of cash-money, general manager Nick Krall told MLB.com what the team offers.
“We can offer you some opportunities at different places,” he said. “If you have an opportunity to come to our ballpark, it’s a hitter-friendly park. Pitchers come in and they get a chance to work with our coaching staff, improve and get to go out on the market next year. We’ve got the opportunity to let you play. I think that’s a win-win for some people.”
That fishing hook remains with nothing but a dangling worm. And what does that message tell the fans? Pay good money and watch another 100-loss team?
Before the Reds came home empty-handed, GM Krall told MLB.com, “. . .we laid the groundwork here with a lot of different things.”
Wait a minute. Hasn’t this ownership group already run this proud franchise into the ground?
—BUYING A TRINKET: The World Series trophy, a 24” by 11” bauble, costs $20,000 to $30,000 to make. The New York Yankees continue to try to buy that bauble by throwing millions into the wind.
They have invested more than $1 billion in three players — Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton.
What is sad about all the money thrust at MLB players is that there are reportedly 3 1/2 million homeless people in America and 1 1/2 million are children.
Fans keep calling for a salary cap, which the Players’ Association will never approve. Really, though, whose fault is it? The owners. They shove the cash in front of the players.
And who would benefit from a salary cap? The owners, of course. They’d get to keep more money instead of giving it to the players.
—PADDING THE PADRES: The San Diego Padres threw a wallet stuffed with $400 million at free agent Aaron Judge. But they missed. He ducked and signed a $360 million deal to stay with the New York Yankees.
So the Padres took a few bucks out of the wallet and tossed $280 million for 11 years at a shortstop who leads the league in having his name misspelled. . .Xander Bogaerts.
Wait a second. Don’t the Padres have an excellent shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr.? They sure do. But they’re moving him to the outfield when he finishes his 80-game suspension at the start of 2023. He can return April 20 after missing the first 12 games.
The Padres must have discovered gold in the Mission Hills. In addition to Bogaerts making $280 million, Tatis has a 14-year $340 million deal and Manny Machado owns a 10-year $300 million contract.
—MAKING A STATEMENT: A few years ago Grant Basile and a few other Wright State basketball players showed up at a Wright State-Dayton volleyball match.
Basille and the rest of the WSU players held up a sign that read, “Play us in basketball.”
That never happened in Basile’s four years at Wright State, so one naturally wonders what Basile did to the Flyers Wednesday night was a statement.
Basile is now a graduate student at Virginia Tech and scored 23 points, 20 in the first half, as the Hokies tore UD asunder, piece by piece, 77-49.
Was that a ‘take that’ statement from Basile? Basile’s post-game remarks in the Richmond Times Dispatch make it appear so.
“We never got a chance to play them [at Wright State]. We would’ve loved to,” Basile said. “It was a lot of fun to actually get to play them. They’re a great program. I was excited.”
And deadly. To the Flyers, he was The Creature That Ate Muncie.
It must be ex-Raider week. Wright State’s other defector, Tanner Holden, transferred from Wright Stare to Ohio State. One night after Basile’s barrage, Holden hit a three-pointer from downtown Bexley at the buzzer to beat Rutgers, 67-66.
—THREE AND OUT: University of Dayton basketball coach Anthony Grant should hold up a ‘Stop’ sign when he sees one of his players about to launch a three-pointer.
The Flyers were 3 for 15 from beyond the trey line (20%) during a 77-49 terrible time at Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, missing threes is a UD trait. The Flyers have shot below 20% from three in four of their last six games.
For the year, UD is 54 for 200, 27%. That puts them 341st out of 363 Division I basketball schools.
—QUOTE: From former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy: “Shooting percentage is just as much about decision making as it is about technique” (And some of UD’s decision-making on shooting threes is highly questionable.)
—GEORGIA ON THEIR MINDS: It seems as if the entire college football world believes Ohio State backed into the playoffs and that the Buckeyes are the salad before Georgia takes on the main course. . .baked Wolverine.
So I’ve searched far and wide, low and high, hither and yon for somebody who believes the Buckeyes, 6 1/2-point underdogs, can beat Gaw-ja. I found two.
Eleven folks from CBS Sports made predictions and ten picked Georgia. The outlier is Barrett Sallee, who picked the Buckeyes because their long layoff enables running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams to get healthy.
The other OSU predictor is Pete Fiutak of The College Football News and he says Ohio State wins by 34-30.
—NO DFENCE: (Notice how I spell defence with ‘c’ like they do in hockey.)
In an NHL game this week, the Columbus Blue Jackets forgot how to play it, whether it is defence or defense. They lost to the Buffalo Sabres, 9-4.
Not only did they give up nine goals, five were scored by one man, forward Tage Thompson. And not only did he score five goals, he scored four during an 11-minute span in the first period.
He is the first player in NHL history to light the red lamp four times in the first period and, hey, the guy is 6-foot-7 so it isn’t like he sneaked up on the goalie. . .if the Blue Jackets used a goalie in the first period.
—QUOTE: From former NHL broadcaster Rick Jeanneret: “Are you ready Region of Doom? Here comes the Buffalo Sabres.” (Did anybody give the Blue Jackets that warning that the Sabres were coming?)