By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave and it is so close to Opening Day I can smell something, and it isn’t from the horses in the Findlay Market parade.
—FAMILIAR REFRAIN: It has started already and the season hasn’t begun. The Cincinnati Reds injured list is growing by the day.
**To nobody’s surprise, Joey Votto won’t be in the lineup Thursday for Opening Day and was placed on the injured list. He is not game-ready after his August surgery on his shoulder and biceps.
The plan is for him to begin a rehab assignment Friday in Nashville with the Louisville Bats.
More significantly, Votto told MLB.com that if he does not perform up to his expectations this season, “I will retire.”
**In news that is not really news because it happens so frequently, outfielder Nick Senzel is on the injured list with his broken big toe. He also will do a rehab assignment with Louisville, most likely some time next week.
**Four pitchers will begin the season on the injured list. . .Luke Weaver (right shoulder), Lucas Sims (back issues), Tejay Antone (Tommy John surgery) and Vladimir Gutierrez (Tommy John surgery).
All are listed as possible returnees at mid-season.
—QUOTE: From Benjamin Franklin, most likely a Philadephia Phillies fan: “Write your injuries in dust, write your benefits in marble.” (Fans are hopeful the Reds won’t be left in the dust, the way they were last season with their 3-22 start.)
—OH, MAMA: In our last episode, I dedicated a Sonny & Cher song to Cincinnati Reds COO Phil Castellini called, ‘Where Do You Go?’
As a follow-up, Ryan Roth, the best Elvis Presley tribute singer you’ll ever hear, dedicated a Mama & The Papas song called, ‘Go Where You Wanna Go.’
—YEAH, PLAY BETTER: The New York Mets set a dubious record last season. They were in first place for 175 days and didn’t finish first. It’s the most days a team ever spent in first place and didn’t finish first.
The Mets led the National League East by 10 1/2 game on June 1 and won 101 games. Atlanta also won 101 games and won the division by winning the season series against New York, including a three-game sweep the last weeek of the season. Maybe the Mets’ projected $347 million payroll this season will purchase them that one extra win.
—QUOTE: From New York Mets manager Buck Showalter when asked if he had any inspirational quotes to hang in the clubhouse: “If I would have one, it would say ‘Play Better.’” (He needed it before that last Braves series.)
—ROOT, ROOT, ROOT: A line from my all-time favorite sports writer, Jim Murray: “. . .and it’s root, root, root for the home team and if they don’t win it’s to be expected.” (Do we need to say which team that applies to this season?)
—PLAYING THE PORTAL: Love it or hate it, the transfer portal is the main reason this year’s NCAA tournament is March Mayhem. A team can become relevant overnight.
Consider Miami as Exhibit A. Nigel Pack, the team’s superstud, transferred from Kansas State. Why? 800,000 reasons.
Miami backers got him a two-year $800,000 NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) deal with LifeWallet that includes a car — and it ain’t no Ford Focus. And every Miami scholarship football players is offered $540,000 endorsement deals.
Clearly, Miami is the best pro franchise playing at the collegiate level.
There were approximately 1,450 players in the basketball transfer portal last year and more than that are expected this year.
Florida Atlantic? The Owls dealt with seven transfers on its roster after last season, four coming and three going out.
—QUOTE: From Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood on the transfer portal: “Look, you have to stay on top of transfers at every moment because that’s essential in building a roster.” (Doesn’t he mean, in most cases, buying a roster?)
—HOW MANY MILLIONS?: The rumor is that University of Texas backers have promised quarterback Arch Manning $18 million in NIL money.
Manning is a nephew to former NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Eli Manning and a grandson to Hall of Fame quarterback Archie Manning.
The good thing about the rumor is that Arch Manning said he will share that $18 million with his Texas teammates. It’s the Manning Way.
—WHAT ARE THE ODDS?: The University of Houston played 37 games and was the only Division I team in the country that was favored in every one of its games.
The Cougars finished 33-4 and being the underdog didn’t bother Alabama, Temple, Memphis and especially Miami in the NCAA tournament.
—QUOTE: From Wally Cox, TV’s Mr. Peepers: “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here.”
—WHO’S NO. 2?: A fun fact from columnist Mark Whicker. . .well, not so fun for UCLA basketball fans.
Remember when the NCAA tournament was for second place every year because John Wooden’s UCLA teams were going to win it?
Not so much lately. In the last 48 years, UCLA has won one national title (1995). In those 48 years, Duke and North Carolina have won five while Kentucky and Connecticut haver won four.
—QUOTE: From UCLA’s legendary John Wooden: “Do not give up on your dreams, or your dreams willl give up on you.” (UCLA fans have been dreaming of another NCAA title for a long, long time.)
—LONG SHOT LUKE: Franklin native Luke Kennard set a Memphis Grizzlies record by making 10 of 11 three-point shots Friday and scored 30 points. And most of them came from the front porch of Graceland. It was a performance that would have made Steph Curry proud.
Not bad for a guy who doesn’t even start. He scored those 30 in 24 minutes, half the game. And he is being paid $13.7 million this season.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer person. Just call him Long Shot Luke. And he is left handed, so that’s what I expect.
—QUOTE: From NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “The three-point shot has created a situation akin to Lotto. (Kareem scored 38,387 NBA points and made exactly one three-pointer. With his sky hook, he didn’t need it.)
—ANSWER ME THIS: A quote I hate to hear when a coach/athlete is asked a question and he gives the meaningless answer: “It is what it is.” (What is what it is?)