OBSERVATIONS: Pick Five Pitchers From Column Eleven

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, writing about baseball — and other stuff — while the snow flurries fly. But it is only 45 days until the Cincinnati Reds play their first exhibtion game in Goodyear, AZ against the Cleveland Indi. . .oops, Guardians.

—THE LINE IS LONG: When the Cincinnati Reds have spring training roll call, 11 prospective starting pitchers will be seated on clubhouse folding chairs.

Eleven? Has any team used an 11-man rotation? No, and the Reds won’t either. It is what is called a fluid situation.

In alphabetical order, here are the candidates and hold the applause until the end: Andrew Abbott, Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Phillip Lyons, Nick Martinez, Frankie Montas, Connor Phillips, Lyon Richardson, Carson Spiers, Levi Stoudt, Brandon Willliamson.

It is doubtful there are enough spring training innings to sort it out and Reds general manager Nick Krall indicated that tryouts might leak right into the start of the season.

“All of our counterparts joke about this. . .you can never have too much pitching,” Krall told The Athletic. “We’re going to let a lot of this play out into the season. Where guys coming into spring training, there’s going to be some jobs to win and we’ll have to figure out where everyone fits.”

The main problem is the Reds don’t have a legitimate No. 1 and a No. 2 is a stretch. Ashcraft led the starting staff last season with only 145 2/3 innings, followed by Greene’s 125 2/3, Williamson’s 117 and Lodolo’s 103 2/3. Injuries affected nearly every one of them.

And there is the same situation with an overstuffed infield: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Elly De La Cruz, Jonathan India, Noel Marte, Matt McLain, Spencer Steer.

And about India, still appearing to be the odd man out, Krall said, “It’s wait and see. Jonathan’s had some injuries. We’ll see where he is coming into spring training and go from there.”

Where is he? In limbo.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan:“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation and you have to reach down and prove something.” (The Reds hope at least five of their rotation candidates can reach down real low and real fast.)

—SOME LOVE, PLEASE: The Associated Press Top 25 college basketball rankings came out this week and the Dayton Flyers just missed. They were the first team mentioned as teams also receiving votes. They had 125 points, just behind No. 25 Texas.

Now here’s the thing. The Flyers are 12-2 and one of their losses was to No. 2 Houston (14-1). It is my prejudicial opinion that the Flyers deserve more love.

For goodness sakes, there are four teams in the Top 25 with four losses, Marquette (11), Creighton (22), Gonzaga (23) and Florida Atlantic (24)

And there are eight teams with three losses.

Florida Atlantic has lost to Bryant, Florida Gulf Coast and Charlotte. Gonzaga has lost to Washington (9-6) and dropped its last game to San Diego State.

—QUOTE: From former North Carolina coach Dean Smith: “Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat.” (That describes UD’s Flyer perfectly, except sometimes they almost make their fans require pacemakers.)

—PENIX CAN’T BACK IT UP: Turns out that U-Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was all bravado, false bravado

Before the national championship game against Michigan, Penix Jr. said he thought he was going to have the best game of his career.

His best was not his best — 27 for 51 for 255 yards and two interceptions that led to points in Michigan’s 34-13 no-doubter.

The Michigan defense knocked the Jr. out of Penix and was in his face like a fork and a spoon. And after the game it looked as if he had been stabbed with a knife seven times. As he staggered off the field, he looked as if he had been ambushed in a crosswalk by a cement truck.

Thought I’d never say this, but hail to the victors, not only the champions of the west, but of the east, south and north, too.

—A FLYER MAKING GOOD: If John McKeon isn’t the No. 1 University of Dayton basketball fan, he is in the Top Five. And I can’t name the other four.

Over the holidays, he visited the Left Coast and took in a Portland-Golden State NBA game. Why?

Former Flyer Toumani Camara is starting for the Trail Blazers. Said McKeon, “He didn’t have it easy. He had to guard Steph Curry. And he did all right.”

Camara was picked in the second round of the 2023 draft by Portland and he is averaging seven points and five rebounds.

—OH, WHAT A BITE: Remember when boxer/cannibal Mike Tyson bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear during a fight in Las Vegas?

Sports columnist/legend Jim Murray was ringside and wrote: “Tyson should not be allowed to fight again, unless it is against a grizzly bear. We’ve all heard of a hungry fighter, but never one who tried to eat his opponent. The referee decided to halt proceedings before Tyson tried to put Holyfield in a pot.”

Geez, wish I could write like that.

—POPULARITY CONTEST: A survey out of Las Vegas on the most popular sports teams, based on social media hits:

1 – Dallas Cowboys (Is it because of the stars on their helmets or that Jerry Jones has a fast trigger finger?)

2 – Miami Heat (I think they have the NBA team confused with the Miami Heat TV show, but star Oleg Prudius isn’t tall enough for the NBA.

3 – Buffalo Bills (Is that because of quarterback Josh Allen? He played at the University of Wyoming, so we know the least populated state didn’t crash cyperspace.)

4 – Atlanta Braves (We knew it wouldn’t be the Cincinnati Reds, but where are the New York Yankees?)

5 – Golden State Warriors (Yes, Steph Curry has that many fans and they must have hit the search button as often as Curry hits a three-pointer from downtown San Francisco.)

And the most popular Ohio franchise? Not the Reds. Not the Bengals. Not the Bluejackets. It’s the Cleveland Browns.

—THE BISCUIT WAS BAD: Next to Secretariat, Seabiscuit is probably the most popular race horse of all-time.

Amazingly, Seabiscuit raced 17 times, most in maiden, claiming and allowance races, before he won. And when he won his 18th start, his reward was $750. It cost that much to feed him oats for a week.

But he suddenly became a track zephyr and set records for the mile at 17 different tracks, including River Downs in Cincinnati (now Belterra).

He won 33 of his last 72 race and won $437,730, which is equivalent to $9.88 million today. And he won the famous match race with War Admiral, considered the fastest horse alive at the time.

—QUOTE: From comedian W.C. Fields: “Horse sense is what keeps a horse from betting on people.”

—TOP IT OFF: I recently saw on TV a PGA tour player top a ball off the tee. It reminded me of the day I stood on the second tee at Madden Golf Course.

I topped my tee shot and it skittered about 25 yards through the grass. My playing partner, Jim Taylor, one of my journalism mentors, looked at me disgustedly and said, “I have a hen that can lay an egg farther than that.”

To which I quickly dubbed my second shot.

—SLICE AND DICE: Nadine makes the best French onion soup on Planet Earth, even better than The Caroline in Troy, which is the best I’ve tasted in any restaurant.

And I really enjoyed the soup after the 2 1/2 hours we spent in the emergency room after Nadine tried to cut her finger off slicing the onions on her mandoline. The mandoline now sleeps with tin cans, bread wrappers and other assorted trash.

—PLAYLIST NO. 7: More songs from my old tapes:

Every Breath You Take (The Police), Just When I Needed You Most (Randy VanWarmer), Blowin’ In The Wind (Bob Dylan), I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder), Babe (Styx), Then He Kissed Me (The Crystals), Devil In Disguise (Elvis Presley), Be My Baby (The Ronettes).

Don’t Worry Baby (Beach Boys), Tragedy (BeeGees), Time In A Bottle (Jim Croce), You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (Bachman Turner Overdrive), Waterloo (Abba), Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love (Barry White), Imagine (John Lennon), You’re My Inspireation (Peter Cetera).

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