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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dave Miley Honored By International League

Dave Miley picked up the pieces of the 2003 after Reds' management fired Bob Boone, who was the manager and Jim Bowden, who was the general manager.  Miley had developed many of the Reds' players, earning a place in the International League Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Miley, along with player Jeff Manto and Toledo broadcaster, Jim Weber were elected by living Hall of Famers, executives, broadcasters and members of the media.

Miley had just one full season as a manager in the major leagues.  The 2004 Reds were 76-86 under Miley, a seven game improvement from the previous season..

The Reds picked Miley out of Chamberlain High School in Tampa, Florida as a catcher in the second round of the 1980 draft.

Miley spent eight years as a player in the Reds' system but never reached the major leagues.

Miley was twice chosen as Manager of the Year in the IL in 2007 and 2012.

At the age of 26, Miley changed career paths.  He became the manager of the Reds' Class A entry in the Sally League at Greensboro.  His team turned in a 79-60 record with a team that included his good friend and until this season, Reds' thirdbase coach Mark Berry and future Reds' catcher Eddie Taubensee.

The season earned Miley a promotion to Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League.  He didn't encounter his first of just four losing seasons as a minor league manager until he managed in Class AAA Nashville in 1992.  Nashville was in the American Association. Miley went to Chattanooga for two successful seasons. Then was promoted again to Class AA Indianapolis in the American Association.

Miley is also a member of the Cedar Rapids Hall of Fame.

In 1998 Indianapolis switched to the International League after the American Association was absorbed by the Pacific Coast League and the International League.   Miley ran the Reds' Class AAA entry in Indianapolis and Louisville for six season before getting a crack at managing the big club in Cincinnati.

In his first seven seasons in the IL, Miley compiled a .535 winning percentage.

After his brief stint in the Major Leagues which ended abruptly 70 games into the 2005 season with a 27-43 record in the middle of the teams nine season stay below the .500 mark.  Jerry Narron and Pete Mackanin succeeded Miley but couldn't turn the team around.

St. Louis manager, Tony LaRussa, chose Miley to be one of his coaches in the 2005 All-Star game but the Reds but the Reds' fired Miley a week before the classic.

Miley joined the New York Yankees' organization in Columbus in the IL.  The Yankees ended its working agreement with Columbus and Miley has been with Scranton/Wilkes Barre in the IL for the last seven seasons with a .594 winning percentage in that time.

Miley managed the only Governors Cup seasons that Louisville and Scranton/Wilkes Barre have ever had.

The 51-year old has also managed such stars as David Ortiz as a successful manager in the Winter Leagues. He won the Manager of the Year award for Los Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican Baseball League in 2011-2012, winning the league's championship.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Xavier Survives First Half Georgetown Barrage To Bounce Back

Xavier needed to work on perimeter defense.

Creighton made 14 3-point shots on Sunday when the Musketeers lost its first ever Big East game in Omaha on Sunday.  The first half was similar.  The Georgetown Hoyas made seven of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half before Xavier rallied from a 17-point deficit to win 80-67 at the Cintas Center.

"I was upset with our effort in the first half," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.  "You can't cool your way through a game against a team like Georgetown, you know you scored that's ok, we get to score now.  The next thing you know you don't score a couple times and you're down."

Xavier (14-4, 4-1) trailled 42 to 29 at halftime, due in large part to Georgetown's (11-5, 3-2) ability to hit the 3-point shot.

Xavier scored the first seven points of the second half but Markel Starks and Reggie Cameron hit 3's in response.  Starks scored on a layup with 15:00 minutes left to give Georgetown its biggest lead.

"I am proud of our team.  We closed the gap in the second half then the next thing you know they hit a couple 3's and we were down farther than we were before.  We haven't been down like that in quite awhile.  To be able to take that second punch says a lot."

Xavier players took the coaches halftime advice to mount a comeback from that point on.  Georgetown's zone rendered the Musketeers cold in the first half but the home team was able to get the Hoyas out of it.

"We have a resilient team," Justin Martin said.  "We have a next-play mentality."

The Musketeers were forced to look inward to fight back.

"In the lockerroom after the first half, we had to take a long hard look in the mirror," Isaiah Philmore said.

The Musketeers started to execute on the defensive end, then started making shots of their own.

By the eight minute mark of the second half, James Farr made two free throws after he was fouled after making a hard fought offensive rebound. that closed the gap to two.

"We became a team.  We were tighter.  We needed to talk more and we did," said Semaj Christon, who led Xavier with 18 points.

The team picked its star up in the second half.  Two quick fouls at the 9:05 mark and the 8:57 mark put Christon on the bench with four fouls.  Xavier trailed 61-56 at the time.

In his absence, Xavier held Georgetown to a single field goal and built a 70-67 lead.  Georgetown never scored again.  They were shut out over the final 6:14.

"It's a great feeling that when you go out the team steps it up," Christon said.

The Hoyas admitted to a little fatigue.  It was their third game this week, all on the road.

"That was a very good team at the other end," Georgetown's coach John Thompson III said.  "There was some of that (fatigue) but not only didn't we score in the last six minutes.  They (Xavier) scored every way possible.  They guarded us better in the second half.  We didn't execute.  In hindsight we didn't stick to our offense."

Leading Georgetown scorer Markel Starks, who had 19 points, wouldn't use fatigue as an excuse either.

"We just couldn't score," Starks said.  "I'm not putting the whole blame on fatigue.  We need to fight through it.  If you look back on the whole year, we've either had a good first half or a good second half.  We haven't put it all together yet."

D'Vaunte Smith-Rivera had 18 points for Georgetown.  Smith-Rivera committed to Xavier at one time then changed his mind.

Xavier had four players in double figures.  Dee Davis scored 17.  Philmore scored 14.  Martin contributed 10 points.  Farr scored some key points off the bench and finished with nine.

Cincinnati Reds Make Call To Arms For Spring Training

Unfortunately for the Cincinnati Reds and 28 other major league teams, Clayton Kershaw will not be in training camp when pitchers and catchers report on February 14.

The Reds did invite five pitchers to compete for spots on the club as non-roster players.

LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Tim Crabbe, RHP Drew Hayes, RHP Michael Lorenzen and RHP Robert Stephenson were invited.

Francis was the last pitcher left out of the Reds' 2012 rotation that made every start during the team's run to the Central Division title.  Francis exercised his option to become a free agent and signed with the Colorado Rockies in mid season.  The native of British Columbia was the Rockies first pick in the 2002.  He made 12 starts last season for Colorado. He was 3-5 with a 6.27 ERA.  He pitched well in the spring of 2012 for Cincinnati and nearly made the rotation.  The recent free agent signee will get another chance this spring.

The 25-year old Crabbe was the Reds' pick in the 14th round of the 20089 draft.  The Tucson, Arizona native made 26 starts for Pensacola and Louisville last season with a combined 7-9 record with a 3.06 ERA.

Hayes, the pride of  McKenzie, Tennessee, was invited to the Reds' major league camp last season.  He was chosen by the Reds out of Vanderbilt University where he was a teammate of the Braves' Mike Minor and the Reds' Nick Christiani.  The 11th round choice worked exclusively out of the Pensacola bullpen last season.  Hayes posted 4-3 record with two saves on a 5.43 ERA in 2013.

Lorenzen also played outfield for Cal State Fullerton last season before the Reds plucked him in the first round (supplemental pick) last summer.  Even in the short season, the hard-throwing 6'3" 180 pound athlete pitched at four levels in the Reds organization last season, Arizona Rookie League, Dayton, Bakersfield and Pensacola.  He appeared in 22 games, starting one.  Lorenzen was 1-1 with an even 3.00 ERA with four saves.

Stephenson is coming hard and has an outside shot to make the Reds' rotation.  Stephenson is just 20.  He was taken in the first round of the 2011 draft out of Alhambra High School in Martinez, California.  Stephenson rose three levels last season starting at Dayton where he made 14 starts and was 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA.  He injured his hamstring while turning in a 4-0 record over six starts with an 0.93 ERA.  He walked just five and struck out 50 in the 38.2 innings prior to the setback.  Stephenson made four starts at Bakersfield with a 2-2 record and a 3.07 ERA, then was promoted again to make four more starts at Pensacola.  He was 0-2 with a 4.86 ERA for the Blue Wahoos at Pensacola.

Read more about Stephenson   http://fullofschatz.blogspot.com/2013/07/robert-stephenson-back-in-action-in.html

Professionally edited by ML Schirmer
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Friday, January 10, 2014

Xavier Downs Marquette For Eighth Straight Win Top Big East

The Xavier Musketeers won a knock down drag out fight with the Marquette Warriors, excuse me, Golden Eagles, 86-79.

Marquette was known as the Warriors when the two were both members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference some 30 years ago.

With animated coach Buzz Williams running up, down and out from the sidelines.  Xavier scored more than 80 points. It was the first time the Marquette allowed that many in a game. The teams came into the contest 1and 2 in rebounds and defense. Marquette led the conference in scoring defense with a stingy 61.5 allowed per game.

Semaj Christon scored a career-high 28 points, including a pair of huge 3-point field goals as the teams were tied at 69 with five minutes to go.

"Semaj is good at getting to the basket," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "It is hard to score 28 points on 10 shots. It tells me that they were denying him the ball all over the court.  He has worked so tirelessly on shooting the jump shot.  When he takes a shot and is that comfortable, he becomes a nightmare."

Justin Martin scored 15 points.  Dee Davis had 13. James Farr contributed 10 points in 12 minutes with a key stick back when Xavier really needed it.

"I'm proud of the way James Farr and Jalen Reynolds played when Isaiah Philmore and Matt (Stainbrook) got into foul trouble.  The dunk off the rebound was huge.  It put us in the lockerroom with a six-point lead.

Marquette's big front line gave Xavier fits.

Devante Gardner led the Golden Eagles with 19.  Jake Thomas scored 17 with five 3-point shots. Deonte Burton added 13 and Todd Mayo 10.

Xavier (13-3, 3-0) outrebounded Marquette (9-7, 1-2) 39-20 with Matt Stainbrook and Martin leading the way with eight each.  Gardner led the Golden Eagles with four.

"They were just tougher than we were," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.  "When you get outrebounded by 20 there isn't much you can say.  I googled magic pills but nothing came up.  We just have to work harder and be tougher."

Christon dished out two assists and turned the ball over once.  It was his first turnover in four games.
Martin has scored in double figures in all three of Xavier's Big East contests.

Xavier joins Villanova and Creighton with perfect 3-0 Big East records.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine And Greg Maddux Enter Hall of Fame Today Kent Mercker Talks About Them

Make no mistake, Kent Mercker, is a baseball fan.

As if he won a contest to go to a fantasy camp, the 45-year old from Dublin, Ohio had the best seat in the world to watch newly elected Baseball Hall of Famers, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine pitch for the Atlanta Braves.

If that wasn't enough he got to talk baseball with a Hall of Fame manager also elected in the 2014 class Bobby Cox.

Mercker won the baseball lottery but contrary to his own assesment, "I was fortunate, lucky and lefthanded," he was also blessed with baseball talent.

Drafted in the first round of the draft by the Braves in 1986 two years after Glavine and Maddux were drafted in the second round by Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs respectively, Mercker had pitching talent a lot of it.  He rose to the big leagues with the Braves as a 21-year old.

Glavine was already with the Braves.  Maddux signed with the Braves as a free agent after the 1992 season, his first 20 win campaign and the fifth of his unfathomable 17 straight seasons with 15 or more wins.

Mercker became a fan of the duo and remains so to this day.  He just didn't imagine at the time that his two buddies would be inducted to the highest honor in baseball in their first year of eligibility.

"We were so much alike and such good friends, we were just enjoying the moment," Mercker said. "I never imagined in 1994 that 20 years from now, they would be in the Hall of Fame. You never even knew they were anything special."

Looking back Mercker appreciates not only what they accomplished but how they accomplished it.

Glavine was quiet and didn't say a lot as he went about his business.  The son of a construction worker.  Glavine studied hard.

"He was a blue collar as they come," Mercker said.  "He didn't throw 97 but he didn't have to.  He had a very simple delivery because he didn't try to throw 97.  He had less margin for error so he prepared and knew hitters and what they were going to do."

Maddux wore glasses off the field and looked more like an accountant than a professional athlete.  They look gave him a aura of intelligence that Maddux denied.

"People think I'm smart," Maddux told Mercker one day.  "It is amazing how smart you appear when you can throw the ball where you want to."

Baseball has fallen in love with the power pitcher but neither of the two threw particularly hard.

"They didn't have any flaws in their mechanics.  Their deliveries were so simple," Mercker said.  "They would have eventually been drafted in this age but much lower because they didn't throw that hard.  Glavine had an OK slider but he basically got by with a fastball and change up."

Glavine parlayed his limited skills into an amazing 305 wins.  Maddux won a whopping 355.

Once considered the criteria  for a Hall of Fame pitcher, 300 wins has become increasingly harder for starting pitchers to reach.  Sometime in the 70's managers began using a five-man starting rotation instead of a four man rotation. The expanded use of relief pitchers further cut down the opportunity for starting pitcher to get a decision.  Both pitchers overcame the new facts-of-life for starting pitchers to put up nearly unbelievable records.

Perhaps a handful of Hall of Fame voters failed to consider the new realities of the number when six people somehow left Maddux off their ballots.

"I don't understand how six guys could leave Maddux completely off the ballot," Mercker wondered.  "I was with Maddux on the Cubs in 2004 when he was matching Cy Young's record.  It is hard to imagine winning 15 games for 17 years in a row."

Mercker shared two stories about how precise Maddux was with his pitches.  Perhaps the six would be enlightened if they heard them.

"Before they added the Central Division, we would play two teams on the road, then come home and play the same two teams," Mercker explained.  "Maddux was facing the Cubs back-to-back.  Their thirdbaseman was Jose Hernandez.  The book on him was to wear him out inside, to keep pitching inside.  We had good success with him by doing that.  When Maddux got home to face the Cubs for the second time, he came up to me before facing Hernandez.  He told me, 'Watch this.  They might have to take the firstbase coach to the hospital. Maddux threw Hernandez a pitch up and outside.  Hernandez lined it off the sternum of the firstbase coach.  He knew that Hernandez had to cheat to hit the ball inside and that if he swung at the pitch the only thing he could do with it is line it foul past first.  The coach was O.K. but I called him on it. 'You said they'd have to take him to the hospital,'"

Cox was a great manager because he set an example and let the players play.  He made strategic decisions sure but he trusted his players abilities and their ability to make the right decisions.

"One night there were runners on second and third and the hitter at the plate, handled Maddux pretty well.  When I was on the mound and he wanted me to walk someone, he'd whistle," Mercker said.. " Bobby always asked Maddux.  Leo Mazzone was on the bench and looking for Bobby.  'We're going to walk him aren't we,' Mazzone asked.  'I don't know,' Cox said and went out to talk to Maddux.  'He said he was going to get the guy to foul out to Chipper (thirdbaseman Jones),' Bobby told Leo. Sure enough the hitter pops up to Jones.  Maddux came off the field mumbling under his breath.  'Why are you upset?" Mazzone asked Maddux.  'I told Bobby I was going to get him to hit a pop foul to Chipper.  It was two feet fair."
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"Bobby was the best," Mercker said. "It was so much fun playing for him and with those two guys.  We all watched Bobby.  We watched how he did things and just did what he did. Especially, with the press."

Cox knew what reporters wanted to know and told them after games.  He didn't hide anything.  He went over the decisions that he made and why he made them.  Most of the time the media didn't even ask a question.  Cox had already covered it.   The Braves clubhouse was easy to work because of it.  Players managers, and coaches were never defensive.  They exuded confidence and win or lose let the fans in on what happened during the games.

"You couldn't tell whether Glavine was pitching a shut out or getting beat up on the mound," Mercker said.  "He was exactly the same everyday of the week and they would help you anytime.  Maddux never asked you if you wanted help but if you came to him he would talk all day long.  I would ask him a question and he would say, 'Merck I have been waiting for you to ask me for two weeks. This is what you need to do.' My change up was a cross between Glavine's and Maddux's."

Mercker pitched 18 years and had a nice career.  He won 74 games and was also eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time this season.  He does have an accomplishment that neither of his now enshrined teammates did.  On April 8, 1994, Mercker pitched a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"They were the first two out to greet me," Mercker said.  "They just never thought of themselves as special.  Maddux just thought that he was doing what he supposed to do."

On a day when two teammates and his manager were awarded the highest honor in their profession, Mercker was as happy as if he had been elected.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Xavier Wins Seventh Straight Game

The Xavier Musketeers pulled away from an old rival, the Butler Bulldogs, in a new conference.

The Big East is the third different conference in which the two institutions have competed.  They shared membership in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, the Atlantic 10 and now the Big East.

Xavier (12-3, 2-0) turned a five-point deficit into a 79-68 victory over Butler (10-4, 0-2).

The game was in doubt late in the second half.  With 2:27 left in the game, Xavier was clinging to a 71-68 lead.  The Musketeers scored the last eight points for the final margin.

"It was the tale of two halves," Butler coach Brandon Miller said. "In the second half, we didn't execute well enough to win on either side of the court."

Semaj Christon led all scorers with 20 points, while dishing out eight assists without a single turnover.

"Semaj is such a good athlete.  It is hard to game plan for him," Miller said.  "We used multiple guys on him.  It wasn't just one guy."

Matt Stainbrook tossed in 17 points and corralled seven rebounds.  Justin Martin scored 13 points and also grabbed seven rebounds.  Dee Davis scored all 12 of his points in the second half.

Butler used 61 percent shooting in the first half to take a five point lead, 42-37 into halftime.

Xavier forced seven second half turnovers to reverse its fortune.

Sweet shooting sophomore, Kellen Dunham scored 11 points, seven below his average coming into the game.  He scored just two in the second half.

"Xavier put defenders on him that never left him." Miller said.

"We weren't as good as we needed to be in the first half," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.  "It was a combination as us not executing and Butler making some big time shots."

Dee Davis sat on the bench in the first half with early foul trouble.

"We had our best defender, Dee Davis, on the bench with foul trouble.  He did a great job in the second half," Mack said.  "We were playing on of the best shooters in college basketball."

Khyle Marshall lead the Bulldogs with 14 points.  Elijah Brown scored 10 off the bench.

Butler and Xavier were the top two teams in the old MCC.  Both have grown their programs since then with Butler reaching the NCAA finals two years in a row, 2010 and 2011.  Xavier has been to the "Elite Eight" in 2004 and 2008.

Butler won the last meeting 67-62 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at the end of last season but Xavier owns 32-17 lead in the series.

"It was a great game from beginning to end," Mack said.  "If you're a fan, you had to be on the edge of your seat.  The final score didn't indicate how close the game was."

Neither team got a lot of respect in the preseason polls.

"It was a great game by the number seven and eight teams in the Big East," said Mack mocking the East Coast bias that permeates sports in the US.