Northern Kentucky Lets Early Lead Slip Away In Youngstown

The Norse (6-8) jumped out to an early six-point lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Tyler White and Deontae Cole, and held on to a one point lead at the half.  Senior guard, Chad Jackson (Scott County, KY) pitched in 16 and Jalen Billups (Shroder Prep, Cincinnati), came off the bench for NKU to add 12 points and 10 rebounds; but it wasn’t enough as Youngstown State (9-6) slid past NKU 74-78.  The Norse finished the game with 5 players in double digit scoring but went 5-13 as a team from the foul line.

The Norse next host Toledo at home on Saturday, 4:00 p.m.

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Reds Acquire Marlon Byrd Via Trade :-(

C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that the Reds have traded pitching prospect Ben Lively to the Phillies for outfielder Marlon Byrd and possibly cash money.  Byrd, who turned 37 in August, has produced a .278/.333/.427 line over 5,450 career plate appearances.  In 2014, Byrd hit 25 home runs (5 more than his career best) and struck out 185 times, while posting a .312 on base percentage.  Disappointing acquisition to say the least; especially for a team that struggled getting men on base for the past 4 seasons.

Ben Lively is a 22-year-old medium to hard thrower, who spent 2014 at high A Bakersfield and double A Pensacola.  Over the course of Lively’s minor league career he has posted strike out rates (K/9) of  11.9 Rk,15.8 A, 10.8 A+,  and 9.5 AA.  He also has displayed excellent control.  Several sources projected him to be a mid rotation starter.

Scout, Ethan Purser wrote this about Lively (via Baseballprospectus.com):

Lively has good stuff across the board and, perhaps more importantly, shows good pitchability with realistic room for growth in this department. He goes into at-bats with a plan, executes, and pitches with major confidence, wanting to shove the fastball down hitters’ throats. The fastball, while not a crazy weapon in terms of pure velocity, plays up due to its sneakiness and gives the pitcher a weapon going forward. The secondary arsenal is highlighted by the potential above-average slider, and while the curveball and changeup only project to average at the highest level, Lively should be able to deploy these pitches with confidence and keep hitters guessing with a few minor refinements. Overall, Lively looks like a good bet to blossom into a mid-rotation workhorse, a great outcome from a fourth-round selection. He should be ready sometime in 2015.

Unless the Reds end up in the World Series on the back of Marlon Byrd (unlikely), the trade looks to be desperate and doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.  If I were the Phillies, I would’ve unloaded a 38 year old outfielder, who just had his best season in years, for a starting pitcher in a heart beat.  What is Walt doing?

Diabetes Is No Laughing Matter: The Sugar Bowl Preview

Ohio State is in the Sugar Bowl.  So is Alabama.  Both Ohio and Alabama frequent the top 10…in lists of fattest states.  Let’s face it, Ohio is the Alabama of the north.  I guess that makes Indiana the Mississippi of the north but without all the good music and food. I digress.

Besides Urban Meyer, Ohio State’s Sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa is really all that is worth mentioning about the Buckeyes.  Bosa was an obvious Meyer recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School (STAHS) in Fort Lauderdale.  Twenty former STAHS “students” have played in the NFL; including, MIchael Irvin, Brian Piccolo, Daryl Porter, and Bengals Geno Atkins and Gio Bernard.

Bosa was named a unanimous first team All-American, the 27th Buckeye to be picked as such in 84 years.  At 6’5 285, he still has room to grow.  If Bosa stays healthy, he is probably going to be a top 3 NFL draft pick when he decides to be tired of living in Columbus and chasing around below average looking women.

Alabama right tackle, Austin Shepherd will be tasked with blocking Bosa.  Shepherd, while not looking like much of a monster, can play too. Shepherd’s resume this year includes holding Missouri defensive end Shane Ray, the SEC sacks leader, to one combined sack and the Texas A&M freshman defensive end Myles Garrett, who had 11 sacks, did not record a tackle for loss or sack against Alabama this season.

Ohio State will be starting a third string quarterback, whose name is not important. Alabama is favored by only 9, probably because all of the bad betting coming out of the delusional Big 10 fan base.  The spread should really be more like 14.  By the way, there are 14 teams in the Big 10.  I guess when a Columbus girl says she is a size 10, she’s really a size 14.

Ohio State cannot hold Alabama down enough on defense to win and they really have no one to cover WR Armani Cooper.  Urban Meyer had a very high scoring offense this year; especially considering the injuries he had to deal with.  But with that said, Arkansas has a better resume than Ohio State, especially in a playoff scenario.  Look people, Bosa is a stud but lets put that into perspective.  Alabama has had 60 unanimous All-Americans, 2 this season in Cooper and safety Landon Collins, and 20 over the LAST SEVEN YEARS.

That is all in the past, I know, but if Urban Meyer can bring a 3rd string quarterback to the Sugar Bowl and beat Alabama in the first playoff ever, Jim Harbaugh has no chance and he might as well quit right now.

Ohio State struggled against Navy.  Cincinnati exposed some weaknesses in the Buckeye defense.  Virginia Tech scored 35 and handed the Buckeyes a loss.  Penn State, Michigan State, and Minnesota gave OSU fits.  The Buckeye fans will travel well and keep every Red Lobster and Captain D’s in New Orleans busy this week.  But in the end, they are facing a very good team that is practically playing a home game.  There is no question that OSU is the 4 seed in this playoff and I believe they will once again be exposed.

Here is one quick note from Sports Illustrated:

Perhaps the most impressive number from Alabama’s sparkling season is Sims’ pass efficiency rating. His 161.9 mark ranks No. 7 in the FBS, ahead of stars like Dak Prescott, Brett Hundley and Connor Cook. Sims staying efficient and turnover free will be the key for Alabama. It’s really that simple.

My prediction: Alabama 42, Ohio State 16

The Sugar Bowl will be played on New Years Day night at 8:30 on ESPN.

Finding Hope Where There Is None: Reds Left Field

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.”
~Robert H. Schuller

Okay.  It’s almost 2015.  Pitchers and catchers report in less than 8 weeks.  Who is going to play left field for the Reds on opening day?  We still don’t know; but I will tell who will be playing left field before 2015 is over, Jesse Winker.

For those not familiar with the Arizona Fall League (AFL), it is a six team league ran by MLB that begins shortly after the regular season is over.  The league is composed of primarily AA and AAA minor league prospects. Each MLB club holds a position draft to determine who is going to play in the AFL and each club can opt to send 1 Class A player.  The league was created to provide a controlled, monitored scouting opportunity for MLB execs before players left for the winter.

The AFL is used to figure out where a prospect is in their developement.  Players who do well in the AFL environment can jump ahead minor league levels.  It is a quality league that resembles the futures all-star game on a nightly basis but over the course of a 32 game schedule.

This past fall, Jesse Winker did well in the AFL.  He won the AFL batting title while hitting .338/.440/.559.  The 6’3 210 pound Winker turned 21 last August and spent 2014 at high A Bakersfield (.317/.426/.580, 13HR, 53 games) and AA Pensacola (.208/.326/.518 in 21 games).  The most exciting thing about Winker is his combination of power and plate discipline, In 2014, he totaled 68 SO and 54 BB in 74 games.  Exhale.

Although a different type of hitter than Billy Hamilton, he is a far better hitter than Hamilton at similar ages and levels.  His list of comparables includes Anthony Rizzo, Oscar Taveras, and Freddie Freeman.  Now that is really exciting news.  Of course there are naysayers out there.   Not everyone loves him, but you would be hard pressed to find any prospect list that didn’t have him in the top 50.

If scouting is your kind of thing, Ethan Purser had this to say:

The ceiling, while not incredibly high, is that of a B.J. Surhoff-type hitter in his prime, one who can hit for a .280-plus average with home run totals in the high-teens/low-twenties with plenty of gap power. Despite the lack of plus tools across the board and the left-field profile, that’s an above-average regular in today’s game. He’s only 20-years-old in the Southern League, and while he has struggled initially to adapt to the way pitchers are attacking him, I see Winker eventually adjusting and making his way to the majors at the end of the 2015 season.

B.J. Surhoff.  Are you freaking kidding me? That is wonderful.  Surhoff played 18 seasons in the majors and did this over his career: .282/.332/.413.  Those numbers include catching in over 700 games.  I believe Winker has more power than Surhoff and the plate discipline numbers he is putting up probably mean some of those singles will turn into doubles and some doubles will turn into home runs. The Reds starting left fielder slugged .375 in 2014.  It cannot get worse than that.

If this was some other organization, we may see Winker in the lineup sooner than later.  However, this is the Reds and we are probably going to have to suffer through at least 80 games or so of a retread before we get to Winker.   Here’s hoping Winker gets at bats very soon that matter in the MLB standings like this one.

Bengals vs. Steelers Preview, Week 17, December 28, 2014

199323-330-0Only the Bengals would be a 3.5 point dog one week after waxing the sweethearts of the AFC.  In writing this preview, I just keep flashing back to 2005.  I’m pretty sure that season caused the entire Bengal fandom to experience PTSD.

Marvin’s motto over the last few seasons has been, “don’t flinch.”  After being punched in the face so many times as a fan, it is hard not to flinch.  The Benglas  cuddled with us on Monday night.  They held our hands and kissed us on the mouth.  They were very unselfish lovers.  They gave us hope that this time they were changed men.  We believed.  We let them back in and handed them the keys to our heart.

Now, they have to leave again.  Another road trip to Pittsburgh.  We hope and we believe as we sit and wait, wait for their return.  Will they have a relapse?  We still have questions and so does Vegas.

The game has been flexed to primetime (8:30 p.m.).  This is the biggest game in the NFL thus far this season.

The winner on Sunday night wins the division.  The AFC North division is nothing to sneeze at.  Its big boy football that has brought home multiple Superbowl appearances and wins over the last 15 years.  I’m worried.

After all, this is what I have lived with:

Passing Leader (all-time): Ken Anderson – 32,838 yards
Rushing Leader (all-time): Corey Dillon – 8,061 yards
Receiving Leader (all-time): Chad Johnson – 10,783 yards
Winningest Coach (all-time): Marvin Lewis – 100 wins

Two of those guys, you wouldn’t want in your living room.

How can the Bengals win?

Not by giving up 25 points in the 4th quarter as they did just 3 weeks ago.  The Bengals must play defense and stop the run.  That is their recipe for success. No one can beat the Bengals only throwing. NO ONE.  Dre Kirkpatrick can’t start for the Bengals.  The Bengals backup secondary is better than what most teams have starting.

The last time these two teams met, Andy Dalton threw for 322 yards.  The Bengals rushed for 85 yards and went MIA in the 4th quarter.  They were embarrassed. I have to wonder how much of Dick Lebeau’s game plan was to bet that Andy Dalton couldn’t do enough to win.  I also wonder how much of that loss three weeks ago had to do with Hue Jackson not realizing he was being taken out of his game plan.

The Bengals have an identity now which makes writing a preview a little easier.  They play great pass defense, they sometimes are good against the run and they can pound you on offense if you let them.  Defenses are closing off the Bengals game breakers, leaving Gresham as the go to option.  Dalton has been able to find him.

But this is the Steelers, at home.  Anything bad can happen.  The Bengals have not been good against tight ends this year (or ever) and Heath Miller is having an All Pro year.  Rey Malaluaga must have information on Marvin Lewis.  He continues to fall down way too often. He gives himself up to blockers and seems lost at times, still.  That can’t be part of his positional assignment.

I believe the Bengals will win.  How can you be so sure they will lose after last week?  James Harrison is starting for the Steelers again.  Pittsburgh is aging at some very key positions.  The last time the Bengals lost to the Steelers they had just won three straight games on the road. I see growth.  I feel loved.  But then I look at Roethlisberger’s season and realize that he deserves the MVP.   I am as confused as a drunk girl in a bathroom stall.

I look for the Bengals to run and run and run then find the deep ball.  Dick Lebeau knows how to defend the Bengals and that means Andy Dalton is going to get shots over the middle of the field.  He better take advantage. There is too much on the line.  Legacies are at stake.  Reputations.  The opportunity is too big to pass up.  Lebeau is going to go all in to not be embarrassed like the Broncos were on Monday night.  Dalton and the screen package will be big Sunday night.  The deep ball will return. I wouldn’t want to be Ike Taylor.

The Steelers have played over their heads.  They can’t possibly put up 500 yards against the team we saw Monday night.  They can’t possibly be prepared to stop Jeremy Hill since he has been named starter.  It was the last Pittsburgh game that earned Hill this start.  Hue recognized the team was going in the wrong direction.

Bengals we miss you and we love your face.  We will be here for you.  Don’t take advantage.  Be gentle. Please win.

Scott County to Take on Shadow Mountain, Arizona in the Beach Ball Classic

The Scott County boys basketball team is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina playing in the Beach Ball Classic.  The tip off is Saturaday, December 27 at 7:00 p.m. against Shadow Mountain, Arizona.  Shadow Mountain is coached by former NBA guard Mike Bibby.  Bibby’s son Michael is a key player for Shadow Mountain.  You can watch the live stream of the game here.  Knott County, playing in the same tournament, won earlier today, beating North Little Rock, Arkansas.