About Me

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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Reds Decline Option on Francisco Cordero...Pick Up Option on Brandon Phillips

Jim Labarbara Music Professor
The Cincinnati Reds declined the $12 million dollar option for 2012 on the contract for closer, Francisco Cordero.  As announced at the end of the season the Reds picked up the option for 2012 on the contract of Brandon Phillips.

The Reds and Phillips continue talks on a contract extension.

The Reds assigned the contracts of  RHP Jared Burton and RHP Daryl Thompson outright to Louisville.  The Reds selected the contract of OF Denis Phipps.

Matt Maloney was claimed on waivers by the Minnesota Twins.

Matt Maloney A Twin

Matt Maloney
Matt Maloney sent a tweet thanking the Reds for everything but he is now a Minnesota Twin.

The Reds have not made an announcement.

thanks for everything reds.....but i am now a Minnesota Twin!!! looking forward to a great new opportunity!!

La Russa Retires a Winner

Three days after his team won the World Series, 67-year old, Tony La Russa retired.

It was the third title his teams have earned in his 33 years as a manager.

La Russa was known as a micro manager, who tightly controlled every facet of his teams games, ends his career third on the all-time list and just 35 wins short of John McGraw, who is second on the list.  Connie Mack is the all-time leader with 3,371 victories.  La Russa finished with 2,728.

La Russa managed the Chicago White Sox from 1979-1986, the Oakland Athletics from 1986-1995 and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1996, through this 2011 championship season.

He was born in Tampa, Florida on October 4, 1944.  His playing career consisted of 15 minor league seasons, beginning in the Kansas City system in 1962.  He never played a game in the Major Leagues.

La Russa lost his ace pitcher, Adam Wainwright, before the season started.  He was sidelined with a severe case of shingles, early in the season.  The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the wild card race in late August but made up the ground to win on the last day of the regular season.

The Cardinals upset the favored Philadelphia Phillies and the Champions of the Central Division, the Milwaukee Brewers to reach the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

After a communications breakdown contributed to a loss that put them on the brink of elimination, the Cardinals rallied to win the last two games.  In the sixth game the Cardinals were twice down to its last strike before they came back to win. Then rode its ace pitcher, Chris Carpenter, to a 6-2 win that made the Cardinals World Champions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

La Russa's Cards Lack Communication Skills

The Texas Rangers prevailed over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.

Mike Napoli hit a bases loaded double to put his squad over the National League champs in a 4-2 win.

How this came about is very questionable.

Jim LaBarbara The Music Proffessor
I must disclose right now that I do not care for Tony La Russa.  I find him arrogant for no good reason.  He talks down to players, coaches, umpires and the media.  Why?  Only he knows.

Since, I cover the Cincinnati Reds.  I've heard all year people bashing Dusty Baker.  I can't even count how many Reds fans mention Tony La Russa as the better manager.  I don't buy it for a minute, having talked to both since 1996.  I've dealt with Baker since 1993 as the manager for San Francisco, then Chicago. Since he came to Cincinnati, I have talked to him nearly every day when the Reds were home and for six weeks during spring training.

Why did St. Louis lose game five?

To start off, they left 12 runners on base.  The manager can't help that.  It happened to Baker much too often this season and Reds fans blamed Baker's lineups.  That blame is misplaced.  One can blame the Reds hitters and/or credit the opposing pitchers but blaming the manager is wrong, weak and unfair.  The same goes tonight for La Russa.  His hitters not getting the big hit is not La Russa's fault.

La Russa, as the manager is responsible for a lack of effective communication during the game.

A little background, there was a game early last season in which the Reds beat the Cardinals by a run.  The game ended with a baserunner, whose name escapes me, was caught stealing second with Albert Pujols at the  plate.  That begs a question.

In game five of the World Series, a tie game, Allen Craig was caught stealing second with Pujols at the plate..  If it was strategy, La Russa should be questioned.  Tim McCarver, the Fox analyst thought that Pujols called the hit and run.  Yet, Pujols didn't swing.  Do you blame Pujols or question La Russa?

As ESPN analyst, Barry Larkin said, "You don't know the Texas Rangers as you know the pitchers in you own league."

The pitch from Alexi Ogando was way up and outside.  Pujols couldn't make contact with the pitch, yet he is supposed to swing to keep the catcher back or possibly distract the catcher.  Pujols didn't swing and catcher Mike Napoli threw Craig out easily.  Ogando then walked Pujols intentionally and ended up pitching out of a bases loaded, two out jam of his own making.

An even larger breakdown in communication occurred in the bottom of the eighth.

Chris Carpenter pitched through the seventh inning.  Octavio Dotel took over to start the eighth.  Michael Young doubled to lead off the inning.  Dotel struck out Adrian Beltre, who earlier tied the game with a home run off Carpenter.

Dotel was ordered to walk Nelson Cruz with lefthanded hitting David Murphy due up.

La Russa brought in newly acquired lefthander, Mark Rzepczynski, to face Murphy.  It was the right move and as also happened quite a few times to Baker in the Reds disappointing season, Rzepczynski's pitch was too good.  Instead of a double play ball, hit hard enough to turn, the weakly hit ball was right back to the mound.  It was like a change up to a hitter.  Murphy had a big swing but he was so far out in front that he hit it weakly off the end of the bat and "Scrabble" couldn't handle it, deflecting the ball to second baseman, Nick Punto.  Punto couldn't make the play and the bases were loades.

La Russa wanted Jason Motte to pitch to Mike Napoli.  Last night La Russa brought in Mitchell Boggs to face Napoli and the catcher drilled the first pitch for a three-run home run.

The problem was, the Cardinals had the wrong pitcher, Lance Lynn warming in the bullpen.  Rzepczynski had to face Napoli.  How did this happen?

In the post game interview, La Russa said that the bullpen couldn't hear him and thought he said Lynn rather than Motte.  He also said that Lynn was unavailable for the game.


The pitching coach, Dave Duncan, is supposed to give the bullpen coach a list of pitchers noting who is available and who is not.  That is a daily chore of every pitching coach in baseball.  Even if they couldn't hear, wouldn't the pregame list throw up a red flag to the bullpen coach?

Could La Russa have mentioned Lynn by mistake?  Could the bullpen coach assume that La Russa had changed his mind?

Larkin on ESPN gave a possible speculation that the St. Louis bullpen is unclear about their roles in the game plan.  La Russa has been using Motte to close games during the last month of the season and the postseason. The Cardinals skipper has declined to name Motte as the closer.  Larkin thinks the lack of such a declaration has led to confusion.

The result was that Rzepczynski was mismatched against Napoli.   Napoli took full advantage, hitting a double to the left field gap to bring home two runs, giving the Rangers the final margin.

The confusion continued for the Cardinals.  La Russa went to the bullpen again and Lynn showed up on the mound again instead of Motte.  La Russa had Lynn intentionally walk Ian Kinsler.  Managers will allow the departing pitcher issue an intentional walk for a couple reasons.  One is a relief pitcher must face one batter.  If Ron Washington brought in a pinch hitter, La Russa can either leave the current pitcher on the mound or find a better matchup.  Secondly, a manager doesn't want a new pitcher to throw four balls intentionally then turn around and be expected to throw strikes.  It sets up the wrong rhythm.

Risking the walk to load the bases with two outs could have led to a big inning at a time when La Russa's team needed to limit damage.

Motte did get out of the inning.

Neftali Feliz came out of the Texas bullpen to close the game but he hit Craig with a two strike pitch.  Pujols came to the plate as the tying run. With a full count Craig was running again.  Again Napoli was thrown out after Pujols struck out swinging.  Feliz walked Matt Holliday but struck out Lance Berkman.

Berkman swung through a pitch that hit off Napoli's shin guard and rolled toward first.  Napoli had to chase it down and throw Berkman out at first.  A weird ending to a weird game.

La Russa's explanation of the poor communication is plausible but he clearly stated his preference for Motte.  But it is also possible that he refused to take blame or "credit the Texas fans" for disrupting communication.

Either way it is the leaders responsibility to communicate clearly and make sure others know the plan.

La Russa insists on keeping strategy secret and on Wednesday his lack of faith in his longtime coaches probably cost his team an important game.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Second Guessing Tony La Russa

The World Series is tied at two games between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Rangers were nursing a 1-0 lead when Cardinal starter, Edwin Jackson walked a pair of batters one out into the sixth inning.

Jim LaBarbara a life amplified by rock and roll
Tony La Russa, who is famous for making pitching changes, opted to bring on Mitchell Boggs to face Mike Napoli.

Napoli hit the first pitch he saw down the left field line that left the playing field for a huge three-run home run, making the score 4-0.  That is how it ended..

While it is well documented that I am not a La Russa fan, the results of the decision do not mean the decision was the wrong one.  I have contended all season long when Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker made similar moves with similar results, that it is up to the pitcher to make a pitch.  Hitters are paid to hit pitches, too.  Even if a pitcher makes a good pitch, it does not guarantee positive results.

This time Napoli made La Russa look like bringing Boggs into the game was the wrong decision.  Maybe it was but results can be deceiving in any given game.

After the Texas pitching staff was pillaged for 16 runs Saturday night, Derek Holland, a 25-year old out of Newark, Ohio, shut down the Cardinals.  Holland worked 8 1/3 innings  Texas manager, Ron Washington, pulled Holland after the lefty walked the Cards, Rafael Furcal.

Neftali Feliz walked Allen Craig but retired Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman  to strand both baserunners.  Pujols flew out to Craig Gentry to finish the night 0-4.  In the 16-7 St. Louis victory over the Rangers on Saturday, The Great Pujols hit three home runs.

Derek Holland Newark Ohio
Holland and Feliz handled the Cardinals all night.

Holland allowed a pair of hits to Lance Berkman and little else.

Josh Hamilton hit an RBI double in the first inning.

Palmer Shows Rust in Oakland

Carson Palmer showed the effects of inactivity.  The former number one draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals was dealt at the National Football League trade deadline to the Oakland Raiders for draft picks the next two years.

Kyle Boller threw three interceptions in the first half of the Raiders tllt at home with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Coach Hue Jackson decided to find out if Palmer could rally the team from a 14-0 deficit with barely a week of practice.

Jim LaBarbara's Book The Music Proffessor
Palmer's first pass was complete but he was hit after the throw and was limping.  He continued but threw three interceptions.  One was returned for a touchdown and one was intercepted because receiver Denarius Moore couldn't handle a decent throw.

It was clear that Palmer, who wears number 3 for Oakland, needs more reps.

Once Palmer has the repetitions in practice to work out his timing with the Raiders pass catchers, there will be time to make a fair assessment.  The half of football in the Raiders 28-0 loss will be inconclusive until Palmer has enough time to work with the Oakland offense.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Infantile Cardinals Duck Media After a Tough Loss

Another reason the St. Louis Cardinals have developed the reputation as weak, whiny, spoiled brats.

Albert Pujols was the most notable among the Cardinals that left the clubhouse early after the Texas Rangers scored two runs in the ninth to even the series one game each.

The following is from Joe Straus in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Adding to the night's strange finish was the postgame absence of the team's veteran core. Following a tough loss on the game's biggest stage, Pujols, left fielder Matt Holliday, catcher Yadier Molina and right fielder Lance Berkman left the clubhouse before reporters were admitted. Club officials were aware of at least two players' early departure but had no explanation for the quick exits.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/article_ec932b34-5acb-52d7-9c7b-6638f69e886f.html#ixzz1bSML0Huj

There is no denying that St. Louis is a good baseball team.  There is no denying that its leader, Tony La Russa is an outstanding manager.

Yet, their totally infantile attitude toward the media and the rest of baseball.

There is a universal dislike among not only the media but among players and coaches around the league.

When things are going well in St. Louis, the Cardinals manager and players are front and center to take credit.    When things are going wrong as it does with every team in baseball at one time or another, they come up with conspiracies, eg. the baseballs are not treated properly and they are given the slick ones.

When Bronson Arroyo was stuffing the Cardinals it must be because he has foreign substance on his cap.  When Kenny Rogers is pitching well against them in the 2006 World Series, he has a foreign substance on his hands.  It turned out to be dirt.  The ribbon boards are not the same brightness when the Cardinals are at bat in Milwaukee.  Most recently La Russa accused umpire Jerry Meals of having a different strike zone for the Cardinals than he had for the Philadelphia Phillies.

When a Cardinal player gets hit by a pitch up and in, it is a dangerous play.  When a Cardinal pitcher hits someone with a similar pitched, naturally it is just one that got away.

St. Louis has a double standard.

Guaranteed the Cardinals as a group are not going to like what is written about them in Friday's papers after they gave up a 1-0 lead.  The moves they made did not work on Thursday night, like they did on Wednesday.  The Cards talked to the media then.  On Wednesday Pujols was available to the media.

On Thursday, he was absent.  He botched a cutoff play that allowed the eventual winning run to move into position that led to a score.

I want to make this clear.  A blotched play, even one that led to the winning run in Game 2 of the World Series, is not the end of the world, much less the series.

Man up Albert.  He is going to want to collect a huge paycheck and his ability and baseball skills are valuable.  But he can not talk to the media only on games in which he performs well.   A real pro faces the music when things don't work out.  That is called being a Pro.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Texas Steal Home Field Advantage In the World Series

The Texas Rangers were scoreless until the ninth inning against the surprising St. Louis Cardinals in Game Two of the World Series in St. Louis.

The Cardinals took the lead in the series on Wednesday with a 3-2 win.  Tony La Russa pushed the right button by sending Allen Craig to pinch hit against Alexi Ogando, a former outfielder who became the Rangers fifth starter.  

Craig poked a single to right in the sixth inning put the St. Louis bullpen which was a problem all year for the Cardinals, to shine in closing the game out.

Game two was a pitching duel between Colby Lewis of Texas and Jaime Garcia of St. Louis.  After singles by David Freese and Nick Punto put runners on the corners with two out against Lewis. 

Jim LaBarbara
Texas manager, Ron Washington, was true to his strategy and brought in Ogando again.  La Russa kept to his strategy and sent Craig to the plate again.  For the second straight night, Craig put his team up by a run.

The Cardinal bullpen, Fernando Salas, and Marc Rzepczynski  (nicknamed Scrabble) held the Rangers off until the ninth.

Jason Motte, the defacto closer, started the ninth for the Cardinals.  Ian Kinsler dropped a single into left field.  The Cardinals, playing "no doubles" allowed the ball to fall in.  it is a strategy similar to footballs prevent defense.  Sometimes it backfires like it did tonight.

The theory is that you force the Rangers hitters to get a series of hits by preventing the extra base hit.  Kinsler spoiled the strategy by getting a great jump on Motte to steal second ahead of a strong throw by Yadier Molina.

Elvis Andrus singled to right center but took second when the throw from Jon Jay eluded Albert Pujols, the cut off man. Kinsler stopped at third.

The inability to handle the throw allowed Andrus to move into scoring position.

La Russa elected to take Motte down in favor of former Red and most recently former Ranger, Arthur Rhodes.

Rhodes job was to strike out Josh Hamilton, another former Red.  Hamilton hit a fly deep enough to score Kinsler with the tying run.

Cleanup hitter Michael Young followed with another sacrifice fly to give Texas its first World Series lead.

Texas closer Neftali Feliz walked Molina to start the inning but struck out Punto, who failed to move Molina along.  He also fanned Schumaker and retired Rafael Furcal with a fly to Nelson Cruz in right.

The Series now becomes a best of five with at least three games in Arlington, Texas giving the Rangers the home field advantage.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Carl Lindner Passes at 92 - Reds Owner and Cincinnati Icon

Carl Lindner was a neighbor to the entire city.  He became a success from humble beginnings.  It is the kind of story that defines America.

He was born in Dayton in April 1919 the year the Cincinnati Reds which he was destined to own, won its first World Series, tainted as it was.

His father Carl was a dairy farmer and started the service for collecting milk produced by local farmers. 

The Lindner's had a home on Williams Avenue in Norwood, Ohio.  At the time milk was delivered to homes in quart containers.  Carl Lindner had a different concept in mind.  He would open a cash and carry store in which customers could purchase milk in half gallon containers and save 24 cents on delivery costs.  The move to retail came at a time when suburbs were sprouting outside the city limits, and the used of affordable automobiles and the baby boom created a business atmosphere more conducive to retail.

To expand into the suburbs, the family had to learn the intricacies of finance and real estate acquisition.  Carl Lindner Jr., who went to night school in order to operate the families home delivery business, developed a working knowledge of finance.  That knowledge led him to form American Financial, which grew into one of the largest banking and insurance firms in the country.

Lindner was Cincinnati through and through.  It is one of the traits of the city.  It is fiercely loyal to its roots.  People ask each other which high school during introductions rather than what college.  The high school indicates the neighborhood of a person's origin and thus its social background.

Lindner, though he never attended high school, eventually funded one, the Cincinnait Hills Christian Academy.

He bought into the Cincinnati Reds, believing that local ownership would keep the small market team from being moved out of town.  His Norwood neighbor Marge Schott owned the team and bought it to prevent out-of-town investors from buying the club. The fear was that ownership from other cities would move the team.  There have been franchise moves in the past, the most recent being the Montreal Expos move to Washington after the 2004 season.

Baseball discourages franchise movement and tradition rules the enterprise.

Carl Lindner Jr was an expert in finance but baseball has a much different system of finance.  The conventional business world is based on return on investment.  Baseball economics are less predictable.

Lindner brought back Ken Griffey Jr, a local product with ties to the City's icon The Big Red Machine.  He invested to bring Griffey to town and Griffey deferred income to allow Lindner to build a team around him.  Injuries and poor personnel moves by general manager Jim Bowden III prevented the Reds from building that winning team.

Lindner's loyalty caused him to over pay another local talent, Barry Larkin, at a point in Larkin's career where his skills didn't merit the investment.  

Bowden believed that Lindner's wealth would give him unlimited access to funds to build and instant winner.  Bowden wanted to deal his way into the win column rather than build a team through the farm system.

When Bowden was relieved of his duties, Lindner hired Dan O'Brien to build the farm system.  O'Brien laid the foundation and drafted Homer Bailey and Jay Bruce.  The youthful talent the Reds are seeing now started at the end of Lindner's ownership.

In 2005 Lindner sold the team to Bob Castellini, another local businessman, who had experience in baseball as an investor in the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lindner died on Monday night at the age of 92.  

He was my neighbor my parents lived on Williams Avenue in Norwood when I was born. Lindner's family lived two blocks down the street in a modest house during that time.  My mother used to take me for ice cream at the original United Dairy Farmers on Montgomery Road.  My first real job was at the United Dairy Farmers in Mt. Airy on Colerain Avenue.  Then had many contacts with Lindner as I covered the Reds for SportsTicker and the Associated Press.

I cannot say that I knew him well but he has had an influence on my life.  May he rest in peace.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Easy Pickins For La Russa Haters

Did Tony La Genius outsmart himself in game three?

The scene:

It is the top of the seventh inning of a scoreless pitching duel between Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia and Phillies southpaw, Cole Hamels.

Shane Victorino singles to open the inning.  With John Mayberry batting, Yadier Molina is charged with a passed ball (insert Brandon Phillips giggles here).  Mayberry flies out.  Placido Polanco grounds out to third.

There are two outs with Victorino on second base with two outs and Carlos Ruiz at the plate with Hamels on deck.

The choices:

1) Allow Garcia pitch to the righthanded hitting Ruiz
2) Bring in a right hander from the bullpen to pitch to Ruiz.  (La Russa has been known to use five pitches to get six outs)
3) Walk Ruiz and pitch to Hamels, a light hitting (.160), left handed batter or a pinch hitter, getting Hamels out of the Cardinals hitter's hair.

La Russa elected to walk Ruiz.

Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, sent Ben Francisco.

Now its La Russa's turn.

1) Bring in a righthander from the bullpen to pitch to Francisco
2) Allow Garcia to pitch to Francisco.

La Russa chose the latter and the Cardinals paid big time.

Francisco hit a game winning three-run home run to put the Phillies in control.

St. Louis scored two runs off the Phillies bullpen but Ryan Madson closed out the win to put Phillie up 2-1 in the series.

Did La Russa make the correct decisions that just happened to turn out badly for the Cardinals?  Did La Russa make the wrong decisions that cost the Cardinals the game?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Red Sox Plagued By A Spoiled Brat Front Office

Boston Red Sox principal owner, John Henry describes baseball as "an affair of the heart."

However, he forgot to use his head.  Using an extensive bank account, he tried to buy pennant after pennant.  The reality of baseball is that players, who are hungry, produce.  Those that are not, have a sense of entitlement.

Second generation baseball man, Terry Francona, saw the decay with his own eyes during his eight year tenure.

Listening to Moneyball baffoon, former number crunching security guard, Bill James over knowledgeable baseball people, the Red Sox after breaking an 86 year drought with Francona as manager in 2004 has slipped into the category of expensive also ran.

The 2004 team was filled with pros like Bronson Arroyo and Kevin Millar, the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the ALCS after losing the first three games.  That team had character.  The 2011 team had characters and spit the bit, losing 20 of its last 27 games.

Henry and his partner Tom Werner, who was a TV executive, took over the team from the Tom Yawkey trust in 2002.  The Red Sox farm system had the team stocked with talent.  The Reds Sox made the playoffs in 2003 and reached game seven against the Yankees in the ALCS.  A home run in extra innings by former Cincinnati Reds player, Aaron Boone, spoiled the season.

The neophyte front office made manager Grady Little the scapegoat.  This head scratching move should have tipped baseball off to the infantile management style that led to the current decay of the Sox.  How can you fire a manager because his team lost a hard fought game on the brink of the World Series.  It took a season of success to get to that point.  One shouldn't throw it away because one game did not go your way regardless of the magnitude.

Dan Duquette, as general manager, built the core of the team that was in place that made the playoffs in 2003 and 2004.

Ivy leaguer, Theo Epstein, was named general manager prior to the 2003 season.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time.  The youthful 28 year old baseball neophyte had the luxury of a big checkbook to go out and buy players.  As any young entitled rich kid would do, he threw money at problems, taking the easy way out.  It was like giving any kid in their mid 20's a credit card with no limit.  He spent and spent.  He hired the number crunching Bill James as an advisor.

The Red Sox had the core in place to win and early success was inevitable when the money could mask the problems.

The Red Sox despite winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007 began to decline under his overspending.

Red Sox players now have little motivation to produce.  The lack of perspective has given way to a decline in production.

Terry Francona with limited baseball talents worked his way to a baseball career.  Unfortunately, his charges lost that work ethic.  Francona stepped down but alluded to lack of commitment from ownership down the stretch.

"I don't know that I felt real comfortable," Francona was quoted in the Boston Globe during the press conference set up for his resignation. "You've got to be all in on this job. I voiced that today. Going through things here to make it work, it's go to be everybody together, and I was questioning some of that a little bit."

Major League baseball has become the playground of the rich and entitled.   John Henry got into baseball with the West Palm Beach Tropics of the Senior Baseball League.

I was an intern with that league during my days at St. John's University's athletic administration program.  I worked in the league office and was in on several conference calls.  I got the impression that the owners had no clue what they were getting into.  They wanted the prestige of owning a baseball team whether or not it made fiscal sense.  They had the money to waste.

The tragedy is that these same rich fans are buying into baseball with the same spend-because-you-have it attitude.  Real baseball people are no longer hold the key baseball operations jobs.

Theo Epstein was a decent PR guy for the San Diego Padres but making baseball decisions is not his strong suit.  It has taken nine years for the decay of the Red Sox to show the folly of building teams with "stats gurus" and check books.

Terry Francona is the fall guy because he knows the team has taken the incorrect approach all along and said so.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bengal Exciting Comeback Win Blacked Out

Irony reigns at Paul Brown Stadium or is it karma?

The hard core Bengal fans are still showing up at Paul Brown Stadium but more of the casual fans are staying away.

The last two weeks the Bengals have been blacked out in Cincinnati.  I was able to watch an exciting comeback on a rogue website at an unnamed location.

The Bengals came back to defeat previously undefeated Buffalo on a last second field goal by Mike Nugent out of Centerville High School and Ohio State out of a hold by Kevin Huber from McNicholas High and the Universtiy to Cincinnati.

Against the odds an offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, who was in arena football of all things, most recently and sawed off rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who is very generously listed at 6'2", engineered a late drive to tie the score.  Without the benefit of mini camps which were cancelled by the labor dispute.

An inspired defense stepped up to give Dalton and his offense a chance to move into position for the last second, game winning, 43-yard field goal.

At one time I worked in one capacity or another every Cincinnati Bengal game from 1968, the teams first year of existence through 1978.  I was able to return every week for another 16 years until the wire service that employed me sold to a competitor that already had staff in place.

During my years of coverage, I tired of the NFL brand of football.  I prefer the high school and college game over the NFL.

Still I am amazed at the accomplishments of Dalton and Gruden.  As a sports fan, I am encouraged by the new blood in the organization.  I have been around the Bengals on and off for over 40 years and am definitely not a fan of Mike Brown and his management style but these guys are pretty easy to root for, at least from a distance.

Cardinals Whine er Win Game Two

When things are going right for the St. Louis Cardinals, La Russa takes credit and gives credit to his team (nothing wrong with the latter) but when things are not going well, there is something sinister going on.

During the TV coverage of Game Two of the National League Division Series against Philadelphia and its ace, Cliff Lee.

The Cardinals sent Chris Carpenter, one of the most proficient gripers in baseball, to the mound.

Carpenter working on three days rest was not sharp.  La Russa's call.  Was it the wrong manager's decision? Considering Carpenter was not sharp in the first inning, allowing three runs, walking two after a leadoff double to Jimmy Rollins.  Carpenter also fell behind Phillie slugger, Ryan Howard.  Howard singled up the middle to score two runs for Philadelphia before Carpenter retired a batter.

Raul Ibanez singled home the third run of the inning.  Carpenter was visibly upset in the second inning after Rollins doubled again with two outs.  Could it be poor pitch location?  Not according to La Russa and his starter.  It was the umpires fault.

On national television, La Russa complained about home plate umpire Jerry Meals strike zone.

The Cardinals eventually came back to win as they pecked away at Lee to score three runs in the third, one run in the sixth to get even and the go ahead run in the seventh.

Did the strike zone change? Or did the Cardinals bullpen pitch better than Carpenter as the Phillies bats were quiet over the last seven innings?

One would like to credit the Cardinals relief pitchers but La Russa is indirectly getting credit through TBS analyst Dennis Eckersley.  A former bullpen ace for La Russa in Oakland and St. Louis, Eckersley gave credit to La Russa for "working" the umpires.  What an insult to the integrity of Meals.

David Wells, the other TBS analyst used the word "whiner" in relation to La Russa and made the assertion that it could back fire on the Cardinals and La Russa because umpires do not like being shown up.

As I watched the game, I couldn't see any difference in the strike zone Meals had.  I could not see a change. Perhaps I could watch a replay and look for one.

The Cardinals hit in the clutch and its bullpen did a grear job.  La Russa's whining is a slap in the face to the efforts of both.  Now it is La Russa "working" the umpire that stands out.

There is a long list of La Russa complaints about various "conspiracies" that work against the Cardinals.  It is getting tiresome.  His act is weak and tired.  Brandon Phillips was vilified for calling out the Cardinals in August 2010, when he told Hall of Fame writer, Hal McCoy that the Cardinals were "whiny little bitches".  As baseball etiquette goes, Phillips statement is frowned upon but if La Russa's whining can be construed as honesty as broadcaster, Bob Brenley said at the time of La Russa's on air complaint, then give Phillips credit for the courage to call La Russa out publicly.