Sports Today: Against all odds, NFL gets something right

Published: Thursday, December 07, 2017 @ 10:17 AM

Bengals free safety George Iloka intercepted a pass against the Redskins last season in London. More recently, he made a pass at his girlfriend, Gaby Barcelo, and she accepted his singing video proposal and agreed to marry.
Getty Images
Bengals free safety George Iloka intercepted a pass against the Redskins last season in London. More recently, he made a pass at his girlfriend, Gaby Barcelo, and she accepted his singing video proposal and agreed to marry.(Getty Images)

Well, at least the NFL hasn’t gotten everything wrong this week. 

The league was correct to overturn George Iloka’s suspension

A few minutes before we found out that news, I suggested to another reporter in the Bengals locker room the appeal probably consisted of the team sending multiple versions of the same hit from any other week of the season that might draw a flag but don’t result in suspensions. 

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Marvin Lewis implied that’s pretty much what they did, and apparently it worked. 

The suspension of Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was upheld, although I tend to think it should not have been, either. 

RELATED: The NFL gets dumber by the day

By rule, both hits were penalties. Maybe they allowed the suspension to stand on Smith-Schuster because of the taunting, which should be punished but not that severely. 

Those decisions apparently led Steelers safety Mike Mitchell to go on a bit of a tirade for reporters in Pittsburgh. 

(Warning: Some NSFW language) 

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve always viewed Mitchell as one of the guys who goes over the edge too often. There are hits he has delivered that look more like he was going for the head than the ball. 

There are players who don’t understand there can be a difference, however fine the line might be, and he is one of them. Iloka has flirted with the line, too. 

Nonetheless, Mitchell makes some good points. 

»RELATED: Bengals Weekend Forecast: First look at the Chicago Bears

As I wrote earlier this week, some safety measures are good but we’ve gone overboard. 

Obviously, there’s still a lot of confusion with how punishment is handed down, too. 

Good thing the same afternoon we found out Roger Goodell will still be the commissioner for another five years and the NFLPA is considering adding the disastrous college football targeting rules to the NFL rather than trying reforms that might actually work… 

I certainly feel bad for John Ross. 

It’s not his fault he can’t stay healthy nor that the Bengals drafted him when they should not have. 

I felt at the time the No. 9 pick in the draft would have been better spent on a defensive difference-maker (based on the best players available) or traded to get into position to take an offensive lineman (there were none good enough to draft at that spot). 

They ended up fixing improving the defense with some later picks, but the offensive line is still in terrible shape. 

The clinching problems with drafting Ross, though, was the depth already at that position. 

Assuming he was healthy when they said he was, Ross still had to be better than the other six guys to be active on game days because only so many can be. 

But hopefully this is just a tough opening chapter to a great story for Ross, who really is fast and seems to be a very thoughtful young man who just ended up in a tough situation… 

The Dayton Flyers got back into the win column with a 79-66 decision over Tennessee Tech

The big guys (Josh Cunningham and Kosas Antetokounmpo) both had double-doubles and Darrell Davis had 19 points. 

That’s a pretty good formula for success. 

Jalen Crutcher didn’t do much from a scoring standpoint, but he handed out seven assists (with four turnovers), and coach Anthony Grant got another 14 points apiece from Trey Landers (glue guy growing into a larger role) and Jordan Davis (intriguing freshman). 

What’s not to like?… 

One also has to admire the confidence of Cole Gentry. 

Who is Cole Gentry? 

If Wright State is going to have another 20-win season, he’ll probably be a big part of it. 

The South Dakota State transfer becomes eligible next week, and he has big goals in mind for the Raiders

“The goal is always the same — win the conference. And we definitely have the pieces to do it,” Gentry said. “It’s a matter of execution and game-planning. But we definitely have the guys capable of winning the championship, and that’s what we’re expecting to do.”

After losing top scorer Mark Alstork to a graduate transfer (he’s at Illinois), the Raiders are off to an uninspiring 5-4 start, but the preseason doesn’t matter a whole lot considering the Horizon League is only going to get one team into the NCAA tournament anyway. 

Gentry figures to change how coach Scott Nagy’s team is able to play by the time conference play begins, and it will be interesting to see the results… 

Lastly, congratulations are in order for Kelsey Mitchell. 

The senior from Cincinnati became the all-time leading scorer for Ohio State women’s basketball last night as the Buckeyes trounced Florida 103-77. 

She passed Katie Smith earlier this season and broke Jantel Lavender’s record (2,818) against the Gators, finishing the night with 2,840 points. 

Next up is the Big Ten record of 3,093 set by Rachel Banham of Minnesota two years ago. 

Mitchell still has an outside shot at catching Kelsey Plum, who set the NCAA career mark of 3,527 at Washington last season. 

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Cruiser cam: Troopers rescue Colombian players from I-71 berm

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 5:51 PM

Ohio State Trooper finds Colombian disc team on I-71

Three Colombians in Ohio for the World Flying Disc World Championships chuckled as they were delivered to their hotel in an Ohio Highway Patrol cruiser on July, a cruiser-cam video shows.

The drop-off at the Cincinnati Marriott Northeast concluded a series of events on July 12 touched off when two players and a volunteer affiliated with Oso Club Ultimate were put off a Greyhound bus about midnight on Interstate 71 north of Cincinnati, according to Lt. Scott Kuntz, commander of the highway patrol’s Cincinnati post.

RELATED: 3 Colombians in town for world championships put off bus on I-71

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“Sorry you guys had a bad experience,” the unidentified trooper said after pulling up next to the three men standing with their luggage in the berm.

The trooper also expressed surprise the men were let off on I-71.

“The interstate is dangerous,” he said in the video obtained by this news organization.

RELATED: 5,000 expected for ‘Olympics of Ultimate’

After talking briefly with the men, the trooper tells them he will have to call for another trooper to carry them and their luggage to the hotel.

He also expressed surprise after the men, one of whom was able to speak some English, told him they were let off because they spoke Spanish.

“That’s not illegal,” the trooper said.

Kuntz said a motorist reported “pedestrians walking on the interstate” southbound in the northbound lanes.

“We were just basically helping them get to where they needed to be,” Kuntz said Friday.

No citations were issued.

RELATED: 128 teams from around world coming to Warren County

“We were just thankful we were able to get them where they needed to be,” Kuntz said.

The incident prompted some controversy after another player contacted media and posted on social media claiming the three were taken off the bus for speaking Spanish.

Greyhound investigated and issued a statement:

“Upon our investigation, we determined that this was not an act of discrimination. In fact, English is not the driver’s first language either. Our policy states that customers must be transported to the destination that is printed on their tickets, and the customers were upset and became unruly when the driver refused to drop them off in another city about 32 miles outside of Cincinnati.”

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On Friday, the Oso was still playing to place, but was out of medal contention.

Play continued in Lebanon today and moves to Mason on Saturday for the final games and closing ceremonies at Mason High School.

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Hamilton grad impressive, but Dragons fall 1-0 in 10 innings

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 5:42 PM

Hamilton High School graduate Patrick McGuff turned in another impressive outing for the Dayton Dragons on Thursday night, but that couldn’t prevent the host Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers) from posting a 1-0 win in 10 innings.

»KATZ: After the draft

McGuff made his second start since being signed as a free agent from the Evansville Otters of the independent Frontier League. He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing two hits, two walks and striking out three.

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Dragons reliever Wendolyn Bautista (3-5, 3.61 ERA) was charged with the loss. He was just as impressive, working 4.2 innings, allowing two hits, walking one and striking out six.

»RELATED: Dragons photo gallery

All minor-league games begin extra innings with a free runner at second base. Dayton couldn’t score despite runners on first and third with no outs.

Andy Sugilio had three hits to lead the Dragons and catcher Mark Kolozsvary the team’s other two hits. Both had doubles.

»RELATED: Dragons fall in series finale

It was the third straight loss for the Dragons (12-15 second half and 43-52 overall). Wisconsin (12-14, 43-52) hosts Dayton in the series finale at 8 p.m. Friday. Scheduled to start for the Dragons is pitcher Hunter Greene (3-7, 4.69 ERA). It’ll be his first appearance since pitching in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game.

»FACEBOOK: For more sports you should like Marc Pendleton

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After the draft: Teams always on the lookout for the next best thing

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 4:18 PM


            Dragons outfielder Malik Collymore was signed by the parent-club Reds as a free agent. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
            MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Dragons outfielder Malik Collymore was signed by the parent-club Reds as a free agent. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF(MARC PENDLETON / STAFF)

With the potential of 40 new players being signed by major league franchises every summer from the free agent draft – not counting international free agents mostly out of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic – it would seem franchises would have enough players to stock their teams.

Think again. Attrition – including injuries, releases and other needs – create vacancies, especially in the minor leagues.

»RELATED: Dragons photo gallery

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Certainly the Reds have enough players to fill their seven stateside minor league teams. The rookie-level Greeneville, Tennessee Reds were added this season. They just don’t want to have 18 second basemen in the system and no catchers. Sometimes, though, extra players are needed.

That’s why all teams check out other players, often working trades or signing dropped free agents.

This season, the Dayton Dragons have already used six players not originally signed by them: outfielders Lorenzo Cedrola, Malik Collymore and Logan Taylor as well as pitchers Aneurys Zabala and Patrick McGuff and catcher Hendrik Clementina.

»RELATED: Dragons drop series opener to Timber Rattlers

To have so many imports in the low minor leagues is not unusual. The Reds have a history of dipping into independent leagues, where teams are not owned by major league franchises. McGuff and Taylor fit that profile.

One of the most successful Reds’ acquisitions came near the end of the 2002 season when the Dragons ran out of healthy catchers. Reds farm director Tim Naehring – and other scouts – spotted undrafted Ryan Hanigan in the collegiate Cape Cod League.

Offering an immediate position, the Reds landed Hanigan in late August. He hit .273 while playing excellent defense with the Dragons in six games.

»RELATED: Dragons fall in series finale

That was enough to get him invited to spring training, followed by a longer stint at Dayton, where he batted .277 in 92 games for the Dragons, augmenting his defense, in 2003.

He made it to the Reds in 2007, playing most of 11 seasons in the majors. This summer, he is with the Giants’ Class AAA Sacramento River Cats.

Oddly, in the same season he joined the Dragons, Hanigan became teammates with Matt Boone, who was signed after failing to get higher than Class A ball with the Tigers over several seasons. Matt is the son of Bob Boone, who was winding down a short career as manager of the Reds. Bob insisted Matt was the best of his baseball-playing sons, which was not the case.

»RELATED: Making rosters work just part of the formula

Matt Boone hit .190 in limited duty in 2002 and .195 in ‘03. He still wasn’t going to get out of Class A ball, but the Dragons had a third baseman.

There was also the case of infielder/outfielder Jeremiah Piepkorn, a fifth-year senior at North Dakota State who was signed prior to the 2004 draft. He looked like a bust, too, posting a .168 batting average over 28 games before his season abruptly ended with what was thought to be an appendicitis attack - it was food poisoning.

The next season, now 25 and still in the Midwest League, Piepkorn hit a fine .266, leading the Dragons with 22 homers and 77 RBIs. He played a couple more years, making it to Class AA, and finished his career in an independent league.

Minor league teams also obtain players from trades made at the major league level.

»RELATED: Dragons first baseman suspended

That’s how Hendrik Clementina made it here, a prospect gained from trading pitcher Tony Cingrani to the Dodgers. Former major league outfielder Scott Van Slyke also came to the Reds in that trade. He was released, picked up by the Marlins and released again. Clementina is among the Dragons’ top hitters.

Sometimes a trade will cost a minor league team a player. In the Ken Griffey Jr. trade to the Reds in 1999, outfielder Mike Cameron and pitcher Brett Tomko went to the Mariners and minor leaguers Jake Meyer and Antonio Perez went west. Perez likely would have been Dayton’s second baseman in 2000. He eventually made it to the majors.

Also in 2000, pitcher Brian Reith was traded from the Yankees to the Reds and played for the Dragons, eventually becoming the first Dragons player to make it to the majors.

Reith came to the Reds organization along with celebrated former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson, a third baseman whose major-league career spanned just nine at-bats and one hit.

The following March, Henson went back to the Yankees along with outfielder Michael Coleman for Wily Mo Pena, a star with the 2001 Dragons who had received a large free agent bonus from the Yanks.

Sometimes you don’t have to draft a player to get a good one.

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Amazing stat explains just how good this Reds player is at the plate

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 12:53 PM

The Reds' Joey Votto hits a grand slam in the third inning against the Tigers on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
The Reds' Joey Votto hits a grand slam in the third inning against the Tigers on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto pointed to his ability to hit the ball hard and where he wants to on a consistent basis as his greatest strength last week.

“If I want to hit fly balls all the time, I can,” Votto said. “If I want to hit line drives all the time, I can.”

» ASK HAL: Should Riggleman win Manager of the Year Award?

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The numbers prove that. According to FanGraphs.com, Votto has popped out on the infield only 16 times in his career and not at all in 2018. Jeremy Frank, of NGBaseball.com, brought this stat to everyone’s attention this week on Twitter.

Votto has popped out in the infield only seven times since 2010, and according to Frank, the average player with the same number of plate appearances (5,341) would have popped up in the infield 127 times.

» MORE ON REDS: Five questions for second halfThree storylines to follow

Votto and the Reds return to action Friday in their first game after the All-Star break, playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. Votto leads the National League with a .422 on-base percentage. He’s hitting .289 with nine home runs and 55 RBIs.

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