A new website...and "The Big 50" is now available for pre-order

So, I moved my personal website and blog over to Squarespace. Still not sure what I think about it, but I needed to get away from my old hosting provider for a...well, a host of reasons.

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Anyway...my book is now available for pre-order at Amazon: The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, by Chris Garber and me. Order it now, and have it delivered on the day that it's released to the public: April 15, 2018 from Triumph Books.

Please?

On Kevin Gregg

On Opening Day, Reds manager Bryan Price appeared to anoint Kevin Gregg as the 8th inning setup guy for the Reds. That may or may not change (and may have already changed), but it was a curious decision from the beginning. After all, Gregg was a non-roster invite to spring training, and hadn't particularly distinguished himself. Let's just say that most informed observers were skeptical of the decision to depend on Gregg in high-leverage situations or, indeed, in any situation at all. But he's a Former Closer (TM), and a veteran, so Price was inclined to trust him. After two outings now, Gregg has been ineffective, to say the least.

For whatever reason, I thought I'd go look to see what the 2015 edition of Baseball Prospectus (go purchase it) had to say about Gregg. He didn't merit a full entry in this year's book, but they did mention him. It wasn't encouraging:

Kevin Gregg's career deserves a tombstone, and the epitaph might read: "More career saves than Brian Wilson. He probably never should have been a closer."

Only a matter of time before the Reds dump this guy and bring Sam LeCure back to town, I hope. Please?

MLB managers need to play more video games

I love this:

When Brayan Pena is managing the Reds on his PlayStation, he doesn't care what inning it is, when he needs a big out, he calls on Aroldis Chapman.

"When you've got a guy like that throwing 100 mph, why not?" Pena said laughing, before adding he only calls fastballs for Chapman in those situations on the PlayStation.

I've been complaining for years that Reds managers won't use Chapman in the most high-leverage situations, preferring instead to save him for the typical ninth-inning appearance. (I've also been complaining for years that Chapman is a closer instead of a starter, but let me save that rant for another day). Frankly, Chapman is criminally under-used.

If Pena can figure out the best way to use your best pitcher because of a video game, perhaps we need to chip in and send Reds manager Bryan Price a Playstation 4. I'll pay for the copy of MLB 14: The Show myself.

On Barry Larkin

Yesterday, my favorite baseball player was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Barry Larkin, of course, played for the Cincinnati Reds his entire career. I watched and listened to a lot of Reds games during those years, and Larkin was simply a joy to behold. He should have been elected to the Hall of Fame two years ago, but we'll take what we can get.

For some reason, my most enduring memory of Barry Larkin came in Game 2 of the 1990 World Series. The World hadn't really been fully introduced to Larkin yet, but Reds fans were already beginning to realize what a special kid we had playing shortstop. In Game 2, the A's had taken the lead in the top of the first when Larkin stepped to the plate. Two pitches later, Bob Welch (that year's Cy Young winner) had Larkin in an 0-2 hole.

I'll never forget that next pitch; it was a fastball and it's no exaggeration to say that the ball was eye-level. Inexplicably, Larkin took a mammoth swing and hit a ground-rule double. By the end of the inning, the Reds had taken the lead and my confidence that the Reds could actually pull off a victory was restored.

I guess the reason why I remember that play most was that it was so unlike the Larkin I came to enjoy throughout his career. Larkin was a guy who did the little things correctly; he was a great fielder, an excellent base-runner, he took a walk. On October 17, 1990, he hacked at a pitch, and I'll never forget it.

Anyway, I'm happy for Larkin, and I'm glad I got to watch him play. (Below are a few pics I snapped of Larkin at Great American Ballpark a few years ago.)

UVa baseball rolls into the post-season

It doesn't get much better than this:

The top seed in the ACC tournament and the Coastal Division title had been secured by the time the first pitch was thrown at Miami’s Alex Rodriguez Park on Saturday.

Apparently, that was not enough for top-ranked Virginia in the regular-season finale.

The Cavaliers exploded early and held off a late rally from the ninth-ranked Hurricanes to secure a series-clinching 7-4 victory.

Virginia improved to 45-10 overall and 23-7 in the ACC entering the conference tournament, which starts Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C. The Cavaliers will be joined in their pool by fourth-seeded Miami, fifth-seeded Florida State and eighth-seeded Boston College, which used a tiebreaker to edge out North Carolina.

“To win two out of three in the final weekend to win the league title is a great accomplishment, especially to do it at Miami,” said Virginia coach Brian O’Connor. “Miami has an excellent club this year and we had to play great baseball to win the series with them.”

Let's just be honest: you can't stop Brian O'Connor, you can only hope to contain him. What he has done with this Virginia baseball program is remarkable.

Phase one of the season is complete, and UVa did what they had hoped: win the regular season ACC title. Phase two begins now, and there is no rest for the weary:

John Hicks, Steven Proscia and Keith Werman mulled over the group of teams that the top-ranked Cavaliers (45-10, 23-7 ACC) were given for the upcoming ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

As a reward for landing the event’s top seed, Virginia was “graciously” given single games in pool play with eighth-seeded Boston College, fifth-seeded Florida State and fourth-seeded Miami.

Two of the Cavaliers’ foes (FSU and Miami) entered the week ranked seventh and 14th, respectively, in the nation. The other, Boston College, swept N.C. State, just earned a bid by beating Georgia Tech and leads the league in fielding percentage.

“I was talking to Proscia and ‘Jaz’ [Hicks] and we were like, ‘Wow, Florida State and Miami and Boston College? There’s no easy win there,’” Werman recounted. “But at the same time we were like, ‘Shoot, we are in the best conference in the country.’

“We are never going to be in a spot for an easy win.”

That's an understatement. What a tough group of teams.

Virginia will open with BC on Wednesday, at noon. I'm hoping we'll see Branden Kline get that start, but Coach O'Connor hasn't made that decision yet.

One last note: UVa got the top seed, but there is another thing that makes this even sweeter. Behold:

There is one thing, however, missing from the eight-team event: North Carolina.

The Tar Heels, despite sweeping the Hokies this weekend and making four straight trips to Omaha, lost out to BC on a complex tiebreaker since the two never faced in head-to-head competition.

Heh. Go Hoos.

Final Four

What a weekend! Men's Lacrosse earned a trip to the Final Four with a stirring victory over Stony Brook. Then the Men's Tennis team earned yet another berth in the Final Four by defeating UCLA.

Oh yeah, the baseball team had a pretty good weekend, too. More on that later.

I know a lot of fans are down on the UVa athletic department based upon recent horrific results in football and men's basketball. Let's be honest, though: this athletic department is outstanding. I am constantly amazed at the level of success achieved in non-revenue sports. Makes a man proud to be a Wahoo.

How good is the baseball team doing?

It doesn't get a whole lot better than this, from Baseball America:

Virginia allowed just six runs in its first-ever three-game sweep of North Carolina, running its winning streak to 14 games—tied with Jackson State for longest active streak in the nation. UVa. now leads the ACC by two games over Miami and Georgia Tech. Jr. OF Jarrett Parker had two hits in each game to lead the Cavaliers' offense. After UNC tied the first game of Saturday's doubleheader with a run in the top of the ninth, Jr. OF John Barr delivered a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the frame. In the nightcap, Jr. RHP Robert Morey (9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) became the first Cavalier to throw back-to-back complete games since Andrew Dobies in 2004. Jr. RHP Tyler Wilson (5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R) earned the win in relief Sunday, as Virginia capped its comeback from an early 3-0 deficit with So. 1B John Hicks' walk-off three-run homer in the ninth. It was UVa.'s first walk-off homer since David Adams hit one against Georgia Tech in 2007. The series drew a school-record 13,294 fans.

Wow. Just wow. I almost can't believe they're talking about our Hoos.

Perfect Baseball Weekend

As far as I'm concerned, this was a perfect weekend of baseball. My Cincinnati Reds found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being atop the standings after taking a series from St. Louis. Then, there was this:

John Hicks needed only to stay near the batter’s box long enough to wave his hands towards fair territory to evoke Red Sox great Carlton Fisk’s famous home run from the 1975 World Series.

Instead, the Virginia sophomore raced to first base, looking to the left as his powerful right-handed stroke provided a game-ending homer that caromed halfway up the foul pole in left field.

The three-run smash from the former Goochland High School star ultimately lifted top-ranked Virginia to a 5-3 victory over North Carolina in front of a sellout crowd of 4,825 at Davenport Field, giving the Cavaliers their first three-game sweep over the Tar Heels in program history.

Awesome. Next up, the Hoos will host VMI before beginning a huge series with Miami on Thursday. That series has big implications for the ACC title race. I can't wait....

*By the way, the Reds won the 1975 World Series referenced in the block quote above. :)

Phil Gosselin and Danny Hultzen honored

STL informs us that the top-ranked UVa baseball team has won a couple more honors. Second baseman Phil Gosselin was named Player of the Week in the ACC, and Danny Hultzen won Pitcher of the Week in the conference. The official release with all the relevant information is in the extended entry. The Hoos play VCU tonight. It's the last game before a 9-day break for final exams. After that break, Virginia will host the UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Holes in an important ACC matchup.

After tonight, only seven games remaining in the regular season before the fun really begins.

The No. 1-ranked Virginia baseball team swept the ACC Baseball honors for the week ending May 2, as infielder/outfielder Phil Gosselin (Jr., West Chester, Pa.) earned Player of the Week laurels, while Danny Hultzen (So., Bethesda, Md.) was named Pitcher of the Week.

It marks the first such honor for Gosselin, while Hultzen earned the distinction for the third time in his career and the second time this season (March 1).

The ACC hits leader with 77, Gosselin had hits in all five games (including four multiple-hit games) as Virginia completed a perfect week. Last Tuesday, Gosselin broke a scoreless tie with a two-out grand slam in the second inning of Virginia's 6-3 win over Coastal Carolina, which was ranked as high as fourth nationally. The next night, he tied a career high with four hits against Georgetown.

Gosselin then went 6-for-16 over the weekend at Duke, with three doubles. For the week, the Cavaliers' leadoff hitter was 12-for-25 (.480), had a .500 on base percentage and posted a team-best eight RBI.

Hultzen tossed his first career complete game in dominating fashion, facing just five batters over the minimum in a 12-3 road win Friday at Duke. He held Duke to its second-lowest hit total of the year while retiring the last 10 hitters and 21 of the final 22 batters that he faced. Ten of the final 21 outs came by strikeout. During that stretch, only five balls left the infield.

Overall, the ACC's strikeout leader (94) tied a career high with 13 strikeouts while not walking a batter. He went to a three-ball count to just two of the 32 batters he faced.

Virginia plays host to VCU at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Cavaliers' final game before a nine-day break for final exams.

Wahoo baseball is rollin'

Another great weekend for the baseball team. Yeah, it was just Duke, but still...these are games Virginia must win. The Hoos are ranked number one in the country, swept Duke, and perhaps most importantly, moved into a tie atop the Coastal Division in the ACC standings. Glad to see Coach O'Connor's guys taking care of business.

Director's Cup Update

The updated Director's Cup standings have been released, and UVa has dropped to 8th (they were 5th previously). Eighth, of course, is the highest finish Virginia has ever accomplished in this particular competition (UVa was 8th last year and in 1999). The baseball, lacrosse, and tennis teams are almost assured of garnering more points for the University, so Virginia appears to be almost a lock for their highest Cup finish ever. That's a credit to the individual coaches, but also to Craig Littlepage who, as AD, has presided over the rise to prominence of the Athletic Department as a whole (even as the football and basketball programs have cratered).

Virginia beats Georgetown

I know I'm late in posting on this one but, well, I had to recover first. It was a matchup for the ages...at least for me. My two schools went to battle, and the University of Virginia (CLAS '96) defeated Georgetown University (Law '99). With worlds colliding like this, I expected the worst: human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria! Nope, all that happened was the expected -- a UVa win.

Chanticleers?

Nice win for the Virginia baseball team yesterday over Coastal Carolina. Ordinarily, a victory over Coastal Carolina in any sport wouldn't be considered much to write about, but the baseball Chanticleers are pretty darn good:

Coastal Carolina's baseball team is not accustomed to losing. Then again, not every day do the Chanticleers face an opponent ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America.

This week that team is UVa, and the Wahoos (35-9) showed why Tuesday night. Thanks to Phil Gosselin's second-inning grand slam, Virginia never trailed in a 6-3 win over 10th-ranked Coastal before 2,260 fans at Davenport.

Brian O'Connor's 300th victory as the Cavaliers' coach ended the Chanticleers' 17-game winning streak. Coastal (36-6) hadn't lost since March 28.

"We definitely were jacked up to go against those guys," said UVa catcher John Hicks, who went 2 for 4 and threw out two baserunners.

"They're a very good ball club, and you could definitely tell in the clubhouse before the game that we were ready to go, we were excited for it."

The team is looking really good right now; I'm anxious for the postseason to get here. I'm also excited to see the development of Branden Kline, who got the start against CCU and looked great. He's just going to be a stud next year, that's all.

More reactions from STL and Lambeth Field. One final note: every time I hear Chanticleers, that name reminds me of something that irritates me:

27-4

How about the Hoos? After winning game one of tonight's doubleheader 5-1 behind Danny Hultzen, UVa won the nightcap over Maryland, 27-4. 27-4! The only way that could be sweeter is if Gary Williams were Maryland's baseball coach too.

Disappointment

I understand Coach Brian O'Connor's disappointment; this was a brutal loss:

Inside, the Virginia skipper was stewing about the one that got away. His Cavaliers came within one strike of sweeping the visiting Hokies in the three-game set, but instead the Cavs came unraveled in the ninth inning and dropped an 8-5 decision.

In the process, his two most reliable relievers, Kevin Arico and Tyler Wilson failed in the clutch, allowing Tech to score five runs in the top of the ninth for the win.

Until then, the day had gone pretty well for the Wahoos. Playing before a third consecutive sellout crowd of 4,219, Virginia had found a way to beat the heat of Hokies starter Jesse Hahn, who hit the 96 mph mark with regularity on the day. Sunday starter Cody Winiarski had handcuffed Tech’s batting lineup, scattering four hits and issuing no bases on balls. Reliever Branden Kline gave UVa two flawless innings of relief and centerfielder Jarrett Parker seemed to have rediscovered his batting groove with a 3 for 4 (two RBI) day, including a home run.

Losing a game like that is always a punch in the gut, but losing to the Hokies in this fashion...well, that's another thing entirely. Am I the only person who still isn't comfortable when Arico comes into the game? He kinda scares me far too often.

Still, let's keep it in perspective. The Hokies aren't a bad team -- they are ranked in the top twenty -- and the Hoos did take two of the three games. Yes, a sweep would've been nice, but that happens. The Hoos are going to have to put it behind them, because they have some work to do to keep pace in the ACC. They can't let Georgia Tech and Miami get too far ahead.

Baseball team ranked...third!

Collegiate Baseball newspaper has released its first poll in anticipation of the upcoming baseball season. Our Cavaliers are ranked third in the country, behind Texas and LSU. With snow all around me and a house that is dark without power...it's disconcerting to read anything about baseball. On the other hand, reading about the powerhouse Hoos baseball program is enough to give even the grinch some warm fuzzies. Or something like that.