Friday, October 02, 2015

Greenville 27 Troy 14

Let's start with the positives, shall we?


Oh, wait! I've got one! I took a different route to the game from Columbus, and it was much better, despite the fact that it was almost entirely country roads instead of interstate. There was a little bit of inexplicable stop-and-go, but not nearly as much as on Route 315 and Insterstates 670 and 70. Now, I still need to look for an alternate route out of town for any games south of Troy, but for home games, I think I'm golden.

There's no way to sugarcoat this: the Trojans were bad tonight. No disrespect intended toward Greenville, who has a pretty decent team, but this one should have at least been interesting, but the Trojans just couldn't make it so. As bad as they were, they still managed a slim 14-13 lead at halftime; even competent play could have kept them in it or given them a win. Alas, it was not to be.

The one bright spot on the night was defensive back Bailey Williams (no relation), who was responsible for both Trojan touchdowns. The first he scooped and scored after a blocked field goal that I was stunned Greenville actually tried to kick. The second was an interception that he more or less returned for a touchdown. (He returned the interception to the endzone, but it was called back due to a penalty; still, the good field position led to Troy's lone offensive TD.)

There were some flashes of good things that made it seem like the Trojans could pull this out if they wanted to. The blocked field goal. A blocked extra point. A goal-line stand. But for the most part, I'm flummoxed by how bad the defense was--partially because defense was Troy's redeeming aspect under Coach Brewer and it's amazing the difference from last year to this, and partially because I really though Coach (Charlie) Burgbacher would have them whipped into an acceptable shape by this point of the season. Not so much, at least not tonight. Greenville receivers were often open behind the entire Trojan defense; bad angles were taken; tackling was bad.

Another thing I just want to mention: as long as Coach (Matt) Burgbacher is in charge of this program, Trojan fans need to learn that they can't expect any favors from the officials. He's not shy about getting in their ear pretty vociferously, so it can't come as any surprise later in the game when, say, a receiver gets bumped a little early and no flag comes out. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

So after two straight home games, the Trojans go on the road again next week to take on the Trotwood-Madison Rams. I'll be pulling for the good guys from afar, I'm afraid; Trotwood is a little further than I can expect to make it in time for kickoff from Columbus (or maybe Toledo--my work schedule may have me up north on Friday). I'm going to stay close to home, for once--weather permitting, I think I'm going to stroll just a couple of blocks north to check out the Thomas Worthington Cardinals. And if the weather doesn't permit, I may just stay on the couch with a movie and a cocktail.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Xenia 45 Troy 42

I was at this game, but I don't have very much to say about it. Not because it wasn't a memorable game--it actually got pretty crazy toward the end. No, the reason I don't have much to say about it is because I was at the game with a group of my fellow alumni from Troy High School's class of 1995, and so I wasn't paying as much attention to the game as I usually do.

All I can say is that the Trojans got off to a really slow start. It actually looked like it was going to get ugly for a while, despite both teams' identical 1-3 record coming in. Xenia led 24-7 at half, and a score to begin the fourth quarter put them up 38-14. However, Troy's furious rally began at that point, scoring four TDs from there (in about a five-minute span, actually) to end up with the oh-so-close final score. They actually had another drive as the clock was winding down, and it looked like they were really going to pull it out, when the Buccaneers came away with an interception to seal it.

I was pretty impressed by how loud the Troy crowd got as the game got closer and closer. Troy Memorial Stadium hasn't rocked like that in quite some time. Two game have been played there now this season, two close losses for the home team by a grand total of five points. The Trojans will get another chance to put their first home win on the board next week when they play the Greenville Green Wave (2-3) for Homecoming.

(Also: I had a great time with my classmates. Looking forward to the actual reunion tomorrow night.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wayne 49 Troy 7

As the final score indicates, there really isn't a whole lot to talk about as far as the game is concerned. So let's spend a few minutes first talking about pet peeves. (And no, I'm not going to talk about Friday afternoon Columbus traffic for a change, although I could. Oh, I could.)

First pet peeve: being charged for parking. Dear Wayne: you have a giant parking lot that can accommodate everyone who comes to the game. Charging people $2 to park in said giant parking lot is just a blatant money grab, especially when there aren't really any other parking options. Moreover, this parking lot is part of a public high school. How can you even justify a parking charge? You can't. Stop doing it.

(They also charge $5 for a program. Come on. It's too much.)

Second pet peeve: stadium seats. Ironic given their name, but I don't think these abominations should even be allowed into stadiums. Okay, so that's a little harsh, if you're going to use them, maybe don't come in and set them up directly in front of someone who's claimed a spot in the row behind you. You don't seem to care, but that person has knees, and putting that stadium seat in front of them means they're going to have to contort themselves into some unreasonably uncomfortable position, or else say "screw it" and just let those knees bore into the back of your seat. So, yeah. If you need/want a stadium seat, please find a relatively open area to locate yourself.

Although it didn't come into play tonight, it's the same deal with umbrellas. You bring an umbrella into a stadium, all you're doing is blocking the view of the people behind you, and dripping on them as well. If you're coming to a game where rain might be a factor, do everyone a favor and invest in a poncho or raincoat.

Third pet peeve: the running clock rule. For those who may not be aware, last year the OHSAA instituted a new rule that dictates a running clock for any game in which the point differential is 30 points or greater in the second half. The score of this game was 49-0 at halftime, so the running clock was in effect for the entire second half. I'm not vehemently opposed to the rule itself (although I was when it started; I've come around) - I just think it needs to be tweaked. I think the clock should still stop under all the normal circumstances - first downs, incompletions, runner going out of bounds, etc. - and then the clock can be restarted once the ball is marked ready for play. I get shortening blowouts, but I just don't think the clock should move if a play can't be run.

Fourth pet peeve: Troy playing Wayne at all. I may or may not have written about this before, but the story goes like this. In the mid to late 1990s, when Troy was the dominant football power in the Dayton area and Wayne was nowhere near what they've become, I'm given to understand that a series of games was scheduled between the two teams, and Wayne backed out of it, wanting no part of Ryan Brewer and Matt Dallman and the smashmouth attack the Trojans were using to steamroll teams at the time. Now that the tables are turned, though, the Trojans show up and take their medicine when Wayne shows up on the schedule, which they do an inordinate amount of the time, and I suppose that goes to show...well, something, although I'm not sure what.

Now! That story may or may not be true, and even if it is, it's probably no longer relevant. Jay Minton has been Wayne's coach for a long time, but I'm not sure if he was there when all that allegedly went down, and I know Troy's athletic and football administrations have turned over more than once in the interim. It's probably time for me to get over it, but I haven't yet.

In fact, when this game was played last year at Troy Memorial Stadium, I opted out, choosing instead to stay in town and go see the Kilbourne Wolves play instead. As that game ended in a 54-0 blowout in favor of Wayne, I'd say I made the right choice. Part of me wishes I had done it again this year. I didn't expect a win (although I never rule them out), but I went in hopes that they would find a way to make things interesting, even if only for a while. Those hopes were in vain; Troy was never in this one. Wayne's offensive and defensive lines were just as impressive as Miamisburg's last week, and Wayne has a full stable of ridiculous athletes to complement those lines at the skill positions. One of those athletes was quarterback Messiah DeWeaver; frankly, I had enough of him when he played for Trotwood. On the bright side, now that he's transferred to Wayne, at least he's out of the way in Week 4 and we don't have to see him again in divisional conference play.

It's now been two ugly losses in a row for Troy, but take heart, Trojan fans. The schedule from this point on should be a lot more evenly matched (I'm not sure what Trotwood has, but I can't help but feel that they're on their way back to the pack). Next week, the Trojans return home to Troy Memorial Stadium for just the second time this season, where they'll take on the Xenia Buccaneers, who earned their first win of the season tonight. I'll be there with a cadre of my old classmates, as the THS Class of 1995 descends upon the town to celebrate a 20-year reunion. Watch out, Troy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Miamisburg 43 Troy 15

Another rain-soaked Friday, another interminable slog through inexplicably slow Columbus interstate traffic. To top it off, my GPS (I use the Waze app) took me not to Harmon Field, but rather to a random spot several block northwest of where I needed to be. I suppose I should be grateful it directed me to Miamisburg, at least. I really like Harmon Field and its neighborhood location, but the fact that there's no parking lot to speak of is a bit of a pain when you're pressed for time as it is. The streets nearby were all packed, but I managed to find a spot a couple of blocks south.

Needless to say, I had plenty of time on the drive to wonder why I put myself through this each week and if it's worth it to keep doing to going forward. After all, I've been out of Troy High School for 20 years now (my reunion is coming up in a couple of weeks); maybe the time has come to hang it up.

And then I buy my ticket and walk through the gate, and as soon as I see the field shining green in the stadium lights, see the players on the field getting ready and the cheerleaders doing their routine on the track, and hear the announcer over the loudspeaker and the band playing the national anthem--it's like coming home. When the Trojans are playing, there is nowhere in the world that I'd rather be, and it makes all the traffic snarls and parking snafus worth it (even if it's a close thing sometimes).

And it's funny that I mention all that tonight, because this is the kind of night that makes people question my sanity when I tell them I'm still following my old high school team all these years later (especially now that I'm not exactly local). While, unlike last week, there at least weren't any lightning delays, the weather varied from light drizzle to steady downpour, generally getting heavier as the night went on. As the score got a little lopsided, plenty of folks fled early; as for me, I enjoyed my time in the stands, wet through it may have been, and let the traffic clear out while I stuck around to the bitter end. As always.

The game did get a little lopsided. It was a victory of sorts that the Trojans were able to keep it interesting for as long as they did, and that they didn't let it become a running-clock situation. And that's because Miamisburg has become what Troy used to be: a very solid football team that imposes its will on opponents through physical line play and a dominant running game. Offensive lineman Josh Myers, an Ohio State commit, is already rated as one of the best lineman in the country as a junior, and he lived up to that hype tonight. He's the real deal. The Vikings only threw the ball four times on the night, and didn't really even have to do it that many.

The Trojans, on the other hand, only attempted 17 rushes on the night, which is, I'm sure, the lowest I, and many people, have ever seen from them, given that they were known for so long as such a run-heavy team. The coaching staff, recognizing early on that there was little room to run on Miamisburg's defense, put the ball in the capable hands of quarterback Hayden Kotwica, and he performed pretty admirably, given the circumstances. His touchdown pass on the first drive out of halftime cut the Vikings' lead to 22-15, and it looked like Troy might be able to stay in the game. Unfortunately, Miamisburg answered that score about two minutes later, and the Trojans weren't able to put any more points on the board. Still, Kotwica passed for nearly 300 yards on the night, putting him close to 700 yards in just three games. Needless to say, he's going to put up numbers this season like Trojan fans haven't seen in a very long time.

(Sometime I'm going to get my hands on a copy of Troy's school records in football. They used to print them in the program each year, but stopped doing that for some unknown reason quite some time ago. Although I suppose it's technically possible they put them in there this year--I haven't bought one yet--but I'm not holding my breath.)

At any rate, there's no relief in sight for the Trojans just yet. Next week they return to the scene of their first (and thus far only) win of the season, Heidkamp Stadium in Huber Heights. Instead of the CJ Eagles, though, this time around they'll be facing the actual home team, the Wayne Warriors, last year's state runner-up in Division I and undefeated so far this year as well. I will mention, however, that although Wayne did defeat Troy 54-0 last year (I didn't attend), Troy did beat Wayne the last time the two teams met in Huber Heights--a 14-12 outcome in 2009. So we'll just keep our happy thoughts and hope for a similar outcome this time around, shall we?

Friday, September 04, 2015

Cincinnati Northwest 28 Troy 26

Well, this was certainly an experience. At various points throughout the night, I wasn’t sure I was going to see this game, or if it was even going to happen.

Let’s start with the pre-game.

I live in Columbus, so making it to Troy (or wherever the team is playing on a given night) by kickoff can be an adventure. Tonight, it was more like a nightmare. I get off work at 5:00, so I headed out the door as close to that as possible; luckily, a line of storms was rolling into Columbus right around the same time. That made traffic, often a sludgy mess at 5:00 anyway, a completely ridiculous situation. Traffic was slowed often to the point of stoppage; I scanned through the FM dial for a traffic report to see if there was an accident to blame, but there was not. Just volume and idiocy, I suppose. Just as it finally began to ease and I started to think I was home free, it slowed again—this time there was an accident. And shortly after that mess opened up, it was soon snagged by yet another accident.

Theoretically speaking, leaving Columbus at 5:00 should put me in the stands at Troy Memorial Stadium comfortable in time for the pregame alma mater and national anthem (my drive home after the game, for example, lasted one hour and 23 minutes). On this night, I considered myself lucky to be settling myself in just after 7:00, which is when the game was scheduled to kick off.

Of course, that’s not quite the way it went down, because 7:00 is also the same time the game officials saw the first flash of lightning. In Ohio, visible lightning mandates that the game be delayed by thirty minutes. Now, the first delay didn’t bother me at all—hell, these games shouldn’t kick off until 7:30 anyway. So, perfect. The thirty minutes elapsed and the teams came out to warm up, ready to start just a little late.

Then there was another flash of lightning.

The teams went back into the locker rooms. They put another thirty minutes on the clock. This time around there was more lightning, and each time the clock was reset…until it wasn’t. Eventually, they didn’t bother resetting the clock, and “30:00” just stayed on the scoreboard, seemingly just to let the remaining fans know—and there were a fair few—that the game was apparently never going to start.

Needless to say, I’m not in love with the lightning policy. I understand wanting to keep the kids and fans safe—that’s an admirable goal. But there really needs to be some leeway given to the officials, or some consultation with weather professionals, or something. Anyone with a weather app could see the storm system was moving southeast, and all the visible lightning was to the south. Nobody at the stadium was in any actual danger, and there was no real reason not to play the game on time, or maybe with a short delay after the first strike to determine the appropriate course of action.

At any rate, at some point word finally trickled through the crowd that they were going to wait until 10:00, and if they couldn’t start by then, the game would be postponed. I went under the stands in the meantime to get out of the light rain that was falling, while my wife (via text) urged me to blow off the game and drive back to Columbus. That wasn’t an option, and, as I told her later, it was to her benefit—after the drive and the delay, if I left and they played, I was going to be one unhappy camper.

And it was good that I stayed, because they did play. The game finally kicked off at 9:06, slightly more than two hours after its scheduled time. Had they kicked off on time (as they should/could have), the game would have been nearly over by then.

Now! As for the game itself…well, let me start by saying this. I’m incredibly enthusiastic about this coaching staff and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the short time they’ve had so far. It would be incredibly difficult not to be. That said, a certain share of the blame for this loss lies with them.

Here’s how it went down.

The Trojans kicked off to start the game, and Northwest promptly marched down the field and scored for a 7-0 lead. You could be excused at that point for believing we were in for a repeat of last year’s loss (which—full disclosure—I didn’t see). After that, though, the Trojan D stiffened up while the offense, like last week, found its legs. They scored touchdowns toward the end of both the first and second quarters (missing the extra point after the second) to take a 13-7 lead into halftime.

That was big, because the Trojans received to start the second half with a chance to increase their lead—which they did with another touchdown. Given the earlier missed extra point, this seemed to me like a great spot to go for two; they did not, and missed another kick, making the score 19-7 in favor of the Trojans.

After that touchdown, the Knights started to figure out the Trojan defense once again, driving down the field and putting themselves into scoring range. Troy showed a lot of fight, though, and managed to stop Northwest inside the fifteen and force a field goal attempt. When the Trojans then managed to block that field goal, things looked pretty good. Unfortunately, they fell on the ball rather than picking it up and running—it looked like an easy score, and at the very least would have given the Trojans really good field position.

Now here's where I have whatever issue I have with the coaching. When Troy's offense took the field at this point, they had a 19-7 lead and the third quarter was winding down. It was at this point that the offense inexplicably lined up in the I-formation for really the first time all year. I can only assume that the intent was to start trying to grind the ball out on the ground and keep the clock running. The problem I have is that they were running the ball just fine out of the shotgun read-option they had been running up to that point, so I totally don't understand the switch.

But, the I-formation it was; the Trojans went three and out, and that was pretty much that. The Knights scored three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to go ahead 28-19. Even when Troy reverted to their regular offense, they looked totally out of sorts and just couldn't get anything going. They didn't get their mojo back until the last drive of the game, when they were able to drive down the field and score one final touchdown with two seconds left on the clock, setting the final margin at 28-26.

This would have been a sweet, sweet win, and it's probably one the Trojans should have held onto. But hey, this is a game they lost 23-0 last year, and they've already scored more in two games than they did through seven (winless) games last year. So there's already been great progress, and there's plenty more to come; there's no sense in getting hung up on the "what might have been" of one game. Now Troy will look to come back from this one when they travel next week to take on the Vikings of Miamisburg (2-0).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Troy 42 CJ 31

This, my friends. This. This was a big win for the Troy football program.

Last year the Trojans finished 1-9, one of the worst seasons in their long and storied history. That fact cost Scot Brewer his job as head coach after three disappointing seasons at the helm and paved the way for new coach Matt Burgbacher and his staff to take over. Since Coach Brewer had played and coached under the previous coach, Steve Nolan, Burgbacher's arrival represented the first real new blood in the program since Nolan himself was hired to lead the Trojans in 1984. So there was more than a passing interest in seeing how the team would look in their first game under such circumstances.

Early on, it looked like it might be more of the same, at least in terms of results, as Chaminade-Julienne jumped out to an early 10-0 lead. But the Trojans came alive from there, drawing the Eagles into something of a shootout, finally going ahead for good and then even pulling away a bit in the fourth quarter for the final 11-point victory. It was an impressive all-around win, especially since this game last year ended in a 42-7 smackdown loss on Troy's own home field. Granted, CJ lost some really good players to graduation and transfer, but for those watching, this year's result was pretty clearly a reflection of how much better Troy has gotten.

Coach Burgbacher so far has talked a great deal about the tradition and history of Troy's football program, and there's certainly plenty of that to go around, which he is now in a position to add to. However, given the length of Nolan's tenure and the results of Coach Brewer's, there will naturally be plenty of compare/contrast notes over the course of the season. Here's the main thing I noticed: Coach Nolan was always the epitome of cool, calm, and collected on the sidelines, and while occasionally there would be individual players that you could tell were more emotional, overall the personality of his teams could be described as "businesslike," and that seemed to carry over to Coach Brewer's teams as well. Coach Burgbacher, on the other hand, has got some fire to him, and it seems like the team has embraced that approach. The players were clearly pretty jazzed to be on the field, and when it came down to crunch time and victory was in their grasp, they played like they could smell the blood in the water. It was awesome.

Particularly impressive was the Trojans' play on offense. Coach Brewer's teams were generally pretty solid on defense, but on offense it often seemed like they just couldn't get out of their own way. Last season, they didn't score their 42nd point until their sixth game, and were shut out four times. Although Coach Burgbacher promised to bring back the Wing-T, the offense Troy ran under Coach Nolan, it was not in evidence on this night, as quarterback Hayden Kotwica didn't take a snap from under center until the team lined up in the victory formation for the last two snaps of the game. They ran a lot of read option out of the shotgun, and Kotwica managed it beautifully, rushing for over 60 yards himself and handing off to halfback Marc Scordia 28 times for 168 yards (and two TDs).

Kotwica also completed nine passes (on 20 attempts) for 212 yards and three touchdowns (including a pass to Hayden Jackson that turned into a 97-yard TD, the longest in school history). The passing game brings up another point of comparison to the two previous regimes--Coach Nolan was known for his run-heavy offense, and even during years with a decent passing complement, straight drop-backs were often a mess in terms of pass protection, resulting in a high number of pass plays being run via the bootleg. That continued under Coach Brewer, but early evidence suggests this may be a thing of the past. The offensive line did a great job all around, but I particularly appreciated how they gave Kotwica time in the pocket, as it's something that's been rare to see in years past.

I mentioned Marc Scordia's rushing stats, and he obviously had a good night. He was more workmanlike than flashy, but that was exactly what the Trojans needed, and I for one was quite impressed. He did a really nice job of finding a seam, getting into the secondary, and then falling forward as he was finally brought down. His performance was huge considering expected starter Elijah Pearson didn't make it into the game. Pearson showed flashes of talent last season but had trouble staying on the field due to injuries; hopefully this year won't follow a similar path. He and Scordia together would make a pretty formidable tandem in the backfield.

Defense was the calling card for Coach Brewer's teams, fitting since he served as Coach Nolan's defensive coordinator before taking over as head coach, but this year the Trojans have a ways to go on that side of the ball. As was the case in both of their preseason scrimmages, they gave up a number of big plays and well over 400 yards. To be sure, much of that is to CJ's credit--they have quite a bit of speed, and they're well coached--but they were helped along by plenty of missed tackles. There's good news on this front, however. The first bit is that the Trojans made plays they needed when they needed them. The second bit is that defensive coordinator Charlie Burgbacher--head coach Matt's dad--has been in this coaching business for a long time with a ton of success, and I have every confidence that Troy's defense will grow by leaps and bounds and the season plays out.

So! After one game, the Trojans can officially finish no worse than they did last year, and the Miami Valley has been put on notice that the 2015 Trojans are not the 2014 Trojans. This team is going to be fun to watch. Next week they'll they'll play their first Friday game against Cincinnati Northwest. It'll be good to get back into the friendly confines of Troy Memorial Stadium and see how these new-look Trojans react to playing on their own home turf.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

And Now Their Watch Has Ended

Major League Baseball's trading deadline was yesterday, July 31. In the days leading up to it, the Reds made two trades, divesting themselves of two free-agents-to-be, both pitchers, in Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.

Cueto signed with the Reds out of the Dominican Republic when he was 18 years old. He came up to the big leagues in 2008 as a highly regarded prospect. The 2000s are often referred to by Reds fans as "the Lost Decade"--heralded by the return of prodigal son Ken Griffey, Jr. and with generally pretty decent offense around him, the team's powers-that-be failed to put together any decent pitching staffs during that team, leading to a string of losing seasons that all seemed to start with promise and then go nowhere fast.

Cueto's entrance to the big leagues was one part of the end of that trend. Looking at the box score for his debut, you'll see names like Griffey and Dunn in the lineup while young guys like Votto and Bruce were not; looking at the list of guys who pitched for the Reds that year, you can see the transition that was being made in that area. Cueto joined a staff consisting of guys like Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang that would help them break a 15-year playoff drought just two years later, in 2010.

I watch pretty much every Reds game that's televised, and it's been that way for as long as I've been interested in baseball (when I first got interested, games on TV were much less frequent than they are now, when just about every game is on). Needless to say, during the "Lost Decade," I saw a lot of losing baseball. So it's not just about watching them to see them win (although obviously I prefer when they do). I watch for a variety of reasons, not least of which is seeing young players perform and develop. I can say without hesitation that watching Johnny Cueto develop into one of the best pitchers in the game has been one of the great delights of being a Reds fan over the past seven years. Even last year, when the Reds fell out of the playoff race pretty much right after the All-Star break, Johnny provided a reason to watch as he strove to become the team's first 20-game winner since Danny Jackson in 1988; seeing him do it on the last game of the season wasn't as good as making the playoffs, but it was pretty damned exciting nonetheless.

In a perfect world, Cueto is a guy the Reds would love to keep around. Unfortunately, baseball's economic realities make him a luxury they can't afford. As a free agent this offseason, Johnny is going to command huge dollars. The money is one thing; the years are another. Chances are good that he'll be looking for (and probably receive) a five- or six-year deal. He'll also turn 30 this offseason, meaning that he'll pass the mid-30s mark toward the end of that deal, and whatever team signs him will be paying a premium for a pitcher whose best days are behind him (physically, at least; I feel like Johnny is such a smart pitcher and hard worker that he'll continue to be effective even as his stuff declines).

Cueto is a bigger loss in terms of pitching, but, while I hate to lose him, I have to say that the trade of Mike Leake makes me a bit sadder. Another cog in the Reds' pitching renaissance, Leake was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft. He then made the team the following spring and made his Major League debut without ever pitching in the minor leagues, quite a rare feat. It fascinated me, and as it turned out, his first start coincided with a bit of a rough time in my own life. To distract myself, I decided to drive down to Cincinnati to catch his debut in person. It was a good decision, even if I did end up with a hellacious sunburn (it was a Sunday afternoon game, and I forgot to take sunscreen, a cardinal sin for someone with fair skin). So I've always had a little soft spot for Mike.

As the deadline got closer, I kept hoping against hope that they'd keep and re-sign him instead of trading him away. Sadly (for me), that didn't happen; he was traded in the wee hours of Friday morning. It didn't seem like such a stretch. He won't command nearly as much money as Cueto will, and, as he'll be just 28 after the season ends, a 5- or 6-year deal is less likely to be an albatross toward the end of it. Alas, the Reds' front office did not see it the same way I did.

Those were the only two trades the Reds made, although there was plenty of chatter about other possibilities. It sounded like they seriously entertained offers for outfielder Jay Bruce and hard-throwing pitching phenomenon Aroldis Chapman. I was actually a little disappointed they didn't trade Chapman, although I love watching him pitch, mostly because he could have commanded an awesome return. As big of an asset as he is, I feel like the Reds have mishandled his career--he's so dominant, he's wasted pitching fewer than 100 innings a year as the team's closer. He should have been developed as a starter, and with just one year remaining on his contract, that option almost certainly won't be explored with Cincinnati (and probably not anywhere else, either). I'd be a little surprised if they didn't continue to explore trading him in the offseason.

Bruce, on the other hand, I had mixed feelings about. The Reds have the makings of a pretty potent offense; what they really need is someone (or someones, ideally) who can get on base a ton and set the table for big bats like Votto, Frazier, and Mesoraco (assuming he comes back healthy next year, which I have no reason to believe he won't). The problem is that most of the starting position players are firmly entrenched, so even if you find a guy like that, there's nowhere to put him on the field. As of now, left field (currently manned by Marlon Byrd) is the only real possibility; trading Jay would have opened right field as well. Keeping him isn't a bad option, though. He's another of the big bats like the ones listed above, and while I'm not sure he's as reliable as those guys, the pop he provides can't be denied.

So the main drama for the rest of the Reds' regular season will likely be whether they can maintain their hold on fourth place in the National League Central Division or slip into last, it's certainly shaping up to be an interesting offseason. With these trades augmenting the talent they already have in their system, they have a ton of young pitchers vying to fill out next year's staff. I expect a trade or two to hopefully find that OBP machine they need, and I wouldn't mind seeing them find a crafty veteran to plug into the rotation as well, to mentor the young kids and take some innings load off the bullpen--coming off an injury, I'm not sure you can count on Homer Bailey, the one returning vet, to fill that role.

In the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye on Cueto (now with the Kansas City Royals) and Leake (San Francisco Giants--I expect him to thrive in the NL West) and pulling for them to do well with their new teams. Since the Reds aren't in it this year, it's nice to have a rooting interest in the pennant race (other than hoping the Cardinals get knocked out early in the most humiliating fashion possible).