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Justin Williams

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The Aroldis Debate

At this point, I’m assuming Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker could care less about fans and baseball analysts questioning his coaching style. (That, or he’s completely oblivious; either way, it’s of no consequence to him.) Reds fans have made groaning about Baker’s day-to-day lineup management the city’s new favorite pastime, and how Baker handles his club—he’s known as a “player’s manager,” makes decisions on gut instinct and “feel,” leaves pitchers in to get out of their own jams, ditto for hitters and slumps—has oft been a point of criticism among the media. The man has been successful in spite of those traits, making it difficult to classify them as faults. I’m sure if you asked him about it straight up, he’d happily direct your attention to the Reds’ two NL Central titles in the last three years, before sardonically asking how many the team won while the last handful of managers were at the helm.

Votto Gets Animated

The fact that I consider Joey Votto to be one of the more boring star athletes of my lifetime is far from controversial. That’s his shtick, his persona, on par with the likes of Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental/Yawn. I also have no problem with Votto’s general apathy, and would assume that most Reds fans feel the same way. If you can spray liners to every inch of a baseball diamond with the ease of tossing rocks into a pond, there’s really no need to be a rambunctious hooligan to boot.

You’re So Very Special Teams

Resting on their laurels is not a consequence that has befallen the Cincinnati Bengals all that often, as the laurels on which to chillax haven’t necessarily been abounding with excess in recent years. The franchise has reached a stage of consistent enough success that the free agency period is actually worthy of attention—meaning fans (and other teams) don’t immediately assume that any talented/potentially expensive free agent on the roster will bolt for the first squad to wave cash at them, and that attracting decent names on the market with the club’s chasm of cap space isn’t as wildly a farfetched proposition as it once was—but it’s also not as if Marvin Lewis & Co. are proven (or Machiavellian) enough to sit idly by in the offseason while the pawns battle it out. All of this to say that with 2013 NFL Free Agency upon us, the Bengals have remained busy in a proactive fashion early on.

Win a Date with Billy Hamilton

As Kevin Noonan discussed in last week’s Spring Training Update, the performance and progress of Shin-Soo Choo in centerfield will be one of the more intriguing storylines for the Reds this month and as we enter the regular season in April. And while there is very little collective doubt that Choo will be an upgrade at the plate over erstwhile centerfielder and professional air-shifter Drew Stubbs, it’s the defensive side of the argument that has Reds fans mildly concerned. If there was one area at which Stubbs was consistently adept—aside from wailing madly on oxygen particles—it was manning the center of Cincy’s outfield, tracking down deep flys and snagging fast-sinking liners before they found empty grass. How Choo handles himself with the glove will be closely and eagerly watched in the near future. He doesn’t necessarily have to reach Stubbs’s level of proficiency in the outfield, as long he makes up for it with his bat.

Troy’s Cafe

Troy’s Café is not what it seems. Located at the end of a plain West Chester strip mall populated with beauty salons and florists, its earth-toned walls—accented by colorful canvases and decorative wine bottles—exude a sophisticated ambiance. But after sitting down and perusing the menu, we had to place our order at the front counter, fast-food style. And the help-yourself ethos didn’t end there.

Sneak Peek at Horseshoe Casino

The new Cincinnati Horseshoe Casino held media tours of its spacious and well-lit gaming floor on Tuesday morning, providing an early glimpse of what the public will experience when the slots and tables open for business.

Offseason Roundtable

As the constant barrage of bloviating on ESPN and NFL Network make absolutely obvious, there is no offseason in professional football. Free agency is set to kick off in March, the draft is in April, and some notable gridiron star will be sure to commit a felonious act or embroil himself in a PED scandal come May or June. With that in mind, we’ve pooled a few of our esteemed Bengals writers and pontificators to set the table for this offseason and shed some insight on how the team should approach the 2013 slate. Our roundtable of colleagues includes: native Brit and blog stalwart Ben Bergin, blog contributors Matt Pentz (of the Longview Daily News) and Adam Flango (of CBS Sports), and the dynamic duo of Josh Kirkendall and Anthony Cosenza from the venerated Cincy Jungle blog of SB Nation. Are you ready for some football soothsaying?

Alex Pappademas Sucks at Football

Alex Pappademas is a man of many talents—writing, most notably—and passions: comic book culture, cinema, the Kardashians, etc. Currently a pop culture writer for Grantland, his work has also been published by outlets such as GQ and The New York Times Magazine, covering everything from big-budget film directors to innovative guitarists, even contemplating the mysterious fig that is Ryan Gosling (though haven’t we all?). But sports is a subject that has long evaded his cognitive grasp, especially professional football. This naturally led to his amusing and insightful Grantland column, “I Suck at Football,” a season-spanning immersion project that examined his attempts to acquaint himself with the NFL from a novice perspective, often weaving in aspects of his personal life and discussing how the two intersect. At some point in the process, Pappademas aligned himself with the Cincinnati Bengals, a simultaneously entertaining and curious life choice. I chatted with Pappademas about the column, being a football virgin, and life as a Bengals fan.

Agony of Improvement

The pain of watching that football plummet to the turf only a few mere steps beyond the lanky, outstretched arms of AJ Green has yet to fully dissipate. It’s not a deeply emotional or tragic pain; there are things in life far more important than losing an NFL playoff game. But it is a pain nonetheless, one brewed in the kettle of just-missed opportunities and trivial life moments you wish could provide a mulligan.

Things Have Changed

The biggest issue miring the Cincinnati Bengals during the string of disgraceful football and NFL cellar dwelling of the '90s was the infuriatingly static nature of the organization. Nothing ever got better, because little if any measures were ever taken to improve things. You know that Einstein quote about insanity? It’s as if the Bengals were on a mission to prove the man’s contention infallibly true.
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