CINCINNATI - Thoughts on the weekend in sports:
WHAT A GAME
I covered the Winton Woods-La Salle game Friday night. It may have been the best high school game I ever covered in more than 30 years as a sports reporter in town. The only one close was an Elder comeback against Centerville in 1999. Elder won that one 49-42.
It was great that Winton Woods kicker Yeri Velasquez made the game-winner on the final play from scrimmage. As coach Andre Parker said, Velasquez is now the kid who hit the kick against LaSalle, not the kid who missed the kick against Elder in the Warriors' only loss this season.
WHAT A GAME II
After the Winton-La Salle game, I watched a replay of the Colerain-St. Xavier game.
Ivan Pace Jr. played the best two-way game I’ve ever seen at the Division I level. He’s unblockable on defense and unstoppable at running back.
Credit Colerain coach Tom Bolden. If he doesn’t play a half-dozen or so players both ways, there's no way the Cardinals could have beaten St. X.
A WIN IS A WIN
Now that the Bengals did something they haven’t done since 1975 -- win in Denver -- we’ll see if it’s a true turning point. They have Cleveland at home next.
If they win that, they’ll play the Steelers at home with a chance to get back to .500. That would make the season salvageable.
But I don’t think the win in Denver convinced anyone of anything. The running game continues to go nowhere. Joe Mixon averaged 2.45 yards per carry, and Andy Dalton was sacked twice. So the offensive line isn’t getting any better -- and against good teams the o-line has not been good enough to win with.
FC CINCINNATI STADIUM
I’ve got no dog in the FC Cincinnati stadium fight. What puzzles me is the nerve of MLS. How can a league demand that a franchise build a stadium, especially when the franchise thrived for two years in an existing stadium?
I’m guessing the deal gets done and the stadium gets built in Oakley. And, if FC Cincinnati can replicate the Nippert Stadium experience, then the franchise will thrive.
But it made a whole lot more sense to me to just keep the Nippert experience rolling in Corryville.
BASE-RUNNING COST VOTTO MVP
I’m ready to make one baseball prediction. And, no, it’s not the number of wins for the Reds. I get the “Are they going to be any better?” question daily.
I always answer the same way: If they add some pitching, yes.
But here’s my prediction: Joey Votto will be a better base-runner in 2018.
Votto correctly surmised that base-running cost him the MVP. According to fangraphs.com, his weighted runs above average was -9.6. Giancarlo Stanton’s was -2.4. If Votto is even close, his overall WAR would have been above Stanton’s. That likely would have been worth the two points Votto finished behind Stanton.
Votto was the worst base-runner in baseball, according to fangraphs. (Billy Hamilton was the second best, by the way, behind Minnesota's Bryan Buxton.)
Votto mentioned the Great American Ball Park factor.
“I would have led the league in WAR in almost every version, but base-running crushed me,” Votto said. “We play in the toughest base-running ballpark in all of baseball. That doesn’t ever get mentioned. How am I supposed to go first to third or second to home on something? I’m always going to get stopped. Giancarlo gets the benefit of the doubt with a bigger ballpark, but I get smoked because of Great American.
“My career numbers are better on the road (than) at home. Then I don’t get the benefit of the doubt from base-running. Not to say I’m a good base-runner. I’ve got a long way to go.”
That last little bit tells me he’ll work on base-running. Last year, he decided to work on cutting down his strikeouts and on his defense. His strikeout rate dropped from 17.7 to 11.7, and his defensive WAR went from -18.7 to -5.3 (or third best among MLB first basemen).
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.