By Matthew McAdow
Spring Training Awaits
Spring Training is right around the corner and this could be the most interesting Spring Training of the last decade for the Reds. While I don’t expect the Reds to have a fantastic 2023 season, Spring Training will give all Reds fans a glimpse of the future and an understanding of where the young players are at in their careers. Reds Spring Training begins on February 25th and they will have 31 Spring Training games before the season officially “kicks off” on March 30th. Elly De La Cruz and many other young individuals look to make a name for themselves this Spring, while many other roster positions will be a competition for the Opening Day roster. Spencer Steer, Jose Barrero, Kevin Newman, Stuart Fairchild, Will Benson, and a few others will be fun to track over the month of Spring Training, as they are potentially playing for their claim of the position in March. I am eager to see how things play out in the field, as well as the pitching rotation, as Weaver, Williamson, Cessa, and Dunn look to make an immediate impact with the Reds roster as well. So many questions about this roster come to my mind when thinking about this season: Can Votto still play and remain healthy?…Can India repeat his rookie year or was that a one-year wonder?…Can Stephenson play an entire year healthy behind the plate?…Will the young core of the rotation be able to handle that many innings?…Will the team be able to produce enough runs to stay competitive in the NL Central?…With so many questions and zero expectations, this Spring Training will be entertaining and give us all an idea of what 2023 has in store for us. Good or bad, I am eager to watch this team progress and young players continue to improve, as there is a ton of talent in the Reds organization.
A.J. Green Retires
Adriel Jeremiah Green, arguably the best Bengals receiver of all-time, hung up the cleats this past week and retired from the game of football. Growing up watching number 18 was such a thrill week in and week out. While the Bengals didn’t have playoff success during the A.J. era, I hope fans don’t forget just how good he was. Cincinnati drafted A.J. fourth overall in the 2011 draft and he played with Cincinnati all the way up until 2020, before playing two seasons in Arizona. A.J. was a 7 time Pro Bowler, and ranks 2nd All-Time in Bengals history in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. In 6 of his first 7 seasons, he had over 1,000 receiving yards. I will never forget his fight with Jalen Ramsey, the Hail Mary tip to force overtime against the Ravens, his 200 yard performances, the Hail Mary at half against Cleveland, or his game winning touchdown against the Falcons. His chemistry with Andy Dalton was fun to watch and those two brought many good performances to Cincinnati. While we have been spoiled with good playoff performances from the new Era Bengals, A.J. Green provided hope for a decade for the Queen City. From all of us in Cincinnati, thank you A.J. and good luck in your retirement endeavors.
John Sadak joins Matt’s Take
This week, Cincinnati Reds broadcaster, John Sadak kindly joined Matt’s Take for a second time. John is tremendous at what he does and is a true professional. John provides great insight to all Reds fans and he does a fantastic job at keeping fans engaged for 9 innings of baseball day in and day out. As baseball is quickly approaching, I think all of us in Cincinnati can’t wait to hear your voice come the end of March.
Q: With Spring Training right around the corner, what are you looking forward to the most out of this ball club in Arizona?
A: “I’m eager to see the next steps. How is Graham Ashcraft’s secondary pitch coming along? How do Jonathan India/Tyler Stephenson/Joey Votto rebound from their respective injuries/surgeries? What’s the outfield going to look like? How do the rule changes impact this team? How does Elly De La Cruz perform with the deserved hype growing? And who are we not talking about that will make noise in the spring that could springboard into the season, like Alexis Diaz achieved last year?”
Q: Do you believe Joey has a chance to be at full strength before the beginning of the season?
A: “Certainly he has a chance. He’s as hard a worker as I’ve ever encountered. He knows his body incredibly well and takes great care of it. Among those that can recover from that type of injury and surgery in that window of time, he’s one of those guys. But I also believe whatever happens will be the proper decision.”
Q: If you had to guess what the current lineup would look like come March 30th, what do you believe that would be?
A: “I think there will be a lot of fluidity to the lineup. I think it has a chance to vary more than the norm out of spring training with a greater emphasis on versatility.”
Q: Wil Myers was a huge addition to the team this off-season. He is a former All-Star, former Rookie of the Year, and has a 30 home run season under his belt. Do you expect him to make an immediate impact with the Reds?
A: “Yes. I had the chance to cover him during his time in the Royals’ minor league system. At the time they were experimenting with making him a catcher. He stood out even then with his tools at the plate. I think he will greatly enjoy hitting at GABP. And his direct nature will endear him to the fanbase. He’s honest and a man of the people.”
Q: As Lodolo, Greene, and Ashcraft continue to grow as Major League pitchers, who else do you expect has potential to be a solid starter in the Reds rotation this season?
A: “I think Luis Cessa can fill one of those roles well. I spoke with him this off-season. He pointed out how he prepared on every level to relieve last season. He believes he’ll be better set for this season with his entire program built around starting in 2023. I saw him start regularly at AAA for the Yankees in Scranton over several seasons. He has the pitch mix to vary himself multiple times through an MLB lineup and give the Reds a chance to win each time out.”
Q: With Opening Day being just over a month away, what are you looking forward to the most come March 30th?
A: “Everything that goes into Opening Day. The parade. The energy. The pageantry. There’s a magic to baseball period. One that moves us even more on the holiday that is Opening Day. I love being at the ballpark. I love being with our TV crew, my partners, our studio voices, the radio guys and everyone on the production side that makes our shows go. Baseball teams, both in the clubhouse and with the traveling crews that cover them, become second families for all of us. I’m excited to be with everyone, every day, all season long.”
Thom Brennaman joins Matt’s Take
Thom Brennaman kindly joined Matt’s Take this week as well for a Q&A. Thom was a joy to talk baseball with and I hope to talk baseball with him again in the future. As we all know, Thom is the son of the radio legend, Marty Brennaman. Thom spent time broadcasting for the Cubs in the early 1990’s, worked for Fox Sports covering collegiate sports, and spent time as a broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds. Thom is now the host of “Off the Bench” on Chatterbox Sports and continues to bring his opinions and expertise to his audience on a weekly basis.
Q: If you could sit and watch a baseball game with anyone past or present, who would you choose?
A: “Well I would sit with my son and my dad. For a player, I think it would be Joe Morgan because he just knew so much about the game. Actually I could flip a coin between Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver.”
Q: Who would you consider the greatest Red of All-Time?
A: “I would say Pete Rose. You can make a strong argument for Johnny Bench and Barry Larkin. Frank Robinson, I think would have been the greatest Red of All-Time had he stayed a Red…If I had to pick one though, I would pick Pete Rose.”
Q: What is your favorite Reds moment?
A: “I had a chance to broadcast the Jay Bruce homerun in 2010 when he clinched the National League Central Division with a homerun to center field against Houston.”
Q: Who has been the most interesting person you’ve had on your show, “Off the Bench?”
A: “I would say Mike Reid. I think he is one of the most interesting people I think I have ever come across in my life. He was a former first round draft pick by the Bengals back in the late 1960’s or early 70’s from Penn State, was a college Player of the Year, All-Pro for his first four years in the league, and at 26 years old he quit to start writing music. He went on to write over 50 number 1 hits from Ronnie Milsap to Michael Jackson to Neil Diamond to Luke Bryan. He is an amazingly interesting guy…He is in the College Football Hall of Fame”
Q: How many games, realistically, do you believe the Reds can win this year?
A: “Realistically, probably 72 and that might be high. You’re leaning on many young, inexperienced, but very talented pitchers. I don’t know what kind of innings they will be able to pitch…From an offensive stand point, at least right now and that could change, it is hard to see where they are getting much offense.”
Q: What are your future career goals?
A: “I would love to have a chance to broadcast live sporting events again. And hopefully that will happen, but if it doesn’t happen, then it is not the end of the world. I hope that there is someone out there and I believe there is, I don’t know who it is today, but I hope there is someone that is willing to give me another crack at it.”
Q: Is Joey Votto a Hall of Famer?
A: “He is going to be a Hall of Famer. I think he has reached certain plateaus that are pretty standard operating procedure based on old school statistics…He will certainly far exceed a lot of the Sabermetric numbers that the young voters are looking at more closely, so yes he will be.”