Here’s a look at the week that was in the sports world, including some interesting information about that team who is shockingly leading the National League Central Division…
- If you’re searching for a reason why the Reds have started the 2017 season with a surprising 17-14 record and a 1/2 game lead in the National League Central Division, you need to look no further than the bullpen and its marked improvement from 2016. Last season, the top five relievers for Cincinnati ended the year with a 17-20 record, 26 saves, an ERA of 3.69, a WHIP of 1.33 and average of 1.18 home runs per nine innings. So far in 2017, the primary relief corps of Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Drew Storen, Wandy Peralta and Blake Wood have a won-loss record of 5-2, seven saves, an ERA of 2.44, a WHIP of 0.98 and an average of .49 home runs per nine innings. It also helps that the 2017 offense has a +22 run differential compared to a -138 run differential in 2016.
- For those of you keeping score at home, the magic number for the Reds to clinch the National League Central Division is 132.
- After nearly two weeks of over-aggressive sliding, brush backs and bean balls between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre decided they had seen enough. In a conference call with the general managers and field managers of both teams prior to their game last Wednesday, Manfred and Torre essentially said stop the nonsense or else. Kudos to both Manfred and Torre for attempting to get out in front of this mess but they needed to include on the call the primary instigator in the feud, Oriole third baseman Manny Machado. It was Machado who slid hard into Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, prompting the Red Sox to throw at him on two separate occasions, the last one causing Machado to unleash a profanity laced tirade against Boston pitcher Chris Sale. He then decided to make matters worse by taking more time to circle the bases after a home run at Fenway Park than an amateur needs to complete a 200-meter dash. If Machado feels the need to Cadillac around the bases after hitting a home run, then he should expect to have his tower buzzed more often. Manfred and Torre had the right idea on Wednesday. They just missed the chance to pass on the advice Vince Lombardi once gave to one of his players after an excessive touchdown celebration: Act like you’ve been there before.
- Here is this week’s Scoreboard Stumper: From 1967-2016, four rookie pitchers have struck out 150 or more batters in a season while playing for the Reds. Who are they? Check back next week for the answer.
- I keep waiting for the press release from the editors of Webster’s Dictionary announcing that in their next revised version they will update their definition of the word choke to include, “see the Los Angeles Clippers.”
- Let’s just save everyone a lot of time and exaggeration by starting the NBA Finals tomorrow between Golden State and Cleveland and let them play a best of 21-game series to make up for the conference finals games that won’t need to be played. It’s the best opportunity the NBA has to keep everyone interested for the remainder of the playoffs.
- Last week, the University of Kentucky announced they were renaming their football stadium from the only name it’s ever had, Commonwealth Stadium, to Kroger Field. No word yet on whether select sections of the stadium will received double fuel points every time the Wildcats score a touchdown.
- The folks who operate Churchill Downs are fond of telling anyone within earshot that the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports. And while the race lives up to that billing, the problem facing Churchill Downs and the horse racing industry in general is the Derby itself, once one of the most important dates on the sports calendar, begins and ends with those exciting two minutes. In the past, the Derby winner always made the cover of Sports Illustrated, accompanied by a featured story about the day and the race. Today, the Derby is lucky if SI does more than a just publish a couple of photos and a sidebar recap of the race. The sport had hoped the emotional ride to the Triple Crown offered up by American Pharoah in 2015 would return the Derby to its glory days. Unfortunately, it hasn’t and it appears it won’t happen anytime soon. If Churchill Downs wants to make the Derby a front-page, significant event once again, it needs to showcase it during the bright lights of prime time and hold the race at night. The track installed permanent lighting in 2009 and has hosted several Downs After Dark events since the Spring meet of 2010. Why not inject some much needed energy into a once can’t miss event of the season by racing the Run for the Roses under the lights with the iconic Twin Spires providing the ultimate backdrop? Most racing insiders believe, however, the chances of holding the sport’s most prestigious race at night is a fantasy wish at best. But considering that this year’s Derby winner was named Always Dreaming, maybe the prospect of a prime-time Kentucky Derby isn’t as improbable as everyone seems to think.
- There were many Bengals fans who were angered and disappointed the team chose running back Joe Mixon in this year’s draft because of the domestic assault incident involving him and a female in his freshman year at Oklahoma in 2014. The sad truth, however, is that if Mixon makes a meaningful impact in 2017, those feelings of anger and disappointment will quickly fade away. For when it comes to the success of your favorite team, being hypocritical is a small price to pay.
- With the 2017 NFL Draft in the books and Cincinnati fans debating the merits of their picks, now is the perfect time to purchase my book, Legends of the Jungel, for the chance to look back at many of the Bengals previous draft choices that eventually became some of the franchise’s all-time greats. To get your copy, go to the Online Bookstore at iuniverse.com and use the Advanced Search to enter my name, Mark Powell, in the Author Field. You can also order it online at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon.com.