Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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If anyone has read my last post, then you know I am a big supporter of Cleveland sports. For those who know me personally, you also know I haven't been the most fond of the city of Cincinnati over the past couple of years either. Yes, even I have been drawn into the drama on Twitter between Cleveland and Cincy fans over whose teams are worse and which city's crime rates are worse just to prove a stupid, meaningless point. (By the way, Cincinnati has a projected crime rate of 20,495 of total incidents in 2013 and Cleveland is projected over 29,000 incidents by the end of this year. Neither are numbers to be proud of by any means!)
Reviewing my most recent post on Cleveland sports made me realize at least two things for certain. The first being that I have a well connected network of friends and family who are passionate Cleveland sports fans and will be forever. Second is that living in Columbus, Ohio over the past 5 years has also allowed me to develop relationships with people who are extremely passionate about Cincinnati as well. So, in honor of all Cincinnati sports fans, I am dedicating this post to the Queen City. See, I'm not THAT biased guys, right?
Lets start with the Redlegs, who are currently in third place of the NL Central at 55-43. Yes, the Reds have the seventh best record in baseball and are barely clinging onto a wild card position. I honestly feel for Reds fans. Incredibly strong regular seasons the last two years have ended in playoff disgust and heartache (as a Cleveland fan, I know heartache when I see it). You win almost 57 percent of the time and you are STILL behind, of all teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates in the division!
Let's look at the big picture though. The Reds have over a five game lead in the last wild card spot and have a better strength of schedule than the Pirates, Dodgers and Phillies. They rank third in runs scored and third in ERA in the NL. Consistency will become key through the next two months. The bottom line is the Reds are a well-rounded, experienced team that needs to avoid some injuries and they will be in contention at the end of this year.
How concerned should Reds fans be of making the playoffs? They shouldn't be at all! I have a hard time seeing the Pirates pitching staff staying as hot as it has been through the tough months of August and September (currently lowest ERA in the NL) and they should slide a bit. But whether you want to believe it or not, they aren't going to just fall off the map like in years past. They actually do have talent and will end up this season over .500, but I do see the Reds jumping the Pirates in the standings this mid-August.
Bengals: Finished 10-6 in 2012 & lost in the Wild Card game against Houston
I am not big on digging too much into teams that aren't even in preseason yet, but let's just recap where the Bengals are positioning themselves for this coming year.
After exiting the playoffs in the first round the last two seasons, the Bengals will try to fine tune a young, talented squad into becoming AFC North Champions for the first time since 2009. There were no glaring issues with this team entering the off-season and the front office has done a swift job in retaining some talent (resigned Rey Maualuga and Andre Smith), while also doing what good teams do best, drafting well.
Tyler Eifert going in the first round of this year’s draft for the Bengals was a bit of a surprise to some, but I personally love the pick. Eifert brings size and intelligence to the TE position and even has experience dropping out wide. As it became evident in the playoffs last year, Dalton needs more than Green out wide. With an improved Mohamed Sanu along with the addition of Eifert, Dalton should begin to show more consistency in his game.
On the defensive side, the Bengals would love to have a healthy Dre Kirkpatrick back after only playing five games last year due to injury, and they need to find a free safety that can really contribute as Taylor Mays has not lived up to all the hype. Despite a couple other positional battles that will be taking place in the pre-season, this side of the ball should once again rank in the Top 10.
Bengals fans should be excited about the upcoming year, but also a bit nervous. With some of the core players such as Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Gresham all becoming free agents after this upcoming year, the Bengals will need to realize that the window of opportunity won't be open forever. But what can you expect? With a deep and talented roster comes a higher expectation and it's time for the Bengals to live up to them.
How does everyone else feel about their favorite team? Is it World Series or bust for your Reds? How many wins is enough for the Bengals in 2013? Leave your thoughts below!