Sports Today: Delay shouldn’t dampen enthusiasm for Cincinnati Reds return

Welcome back baseball!

Well, everywhere but Cincinnati (and Washington, but that city gets enough attention as is).

As I sit here on Thursday, I have to say the Reds proactively bumping everything back a day was probably the right call.

Nothing is better than spending 2-3 hours at the ballpark, especially after a long, cold winter, but is there much worse than spending 5-6 hours at the ballpark in long, cold, possibly winter-like conditions?

I don’t think so.

The Reds enter the 2018 season in what should be a good spot.

After four years of pain (including about 1.5 in which they were bad without really admitting they were starting over yet), this should be the year to officially feel comfortable being optimistic.

That is not the vibe I get from the Internet or radio, however.

Seems like this rebuild has beaten down a lot of people.

Even though the Pirates aren't trying this year, the Reds are a trendy last-place pick in the NL Central, including by our resident Hall of Famer Hal McCoy.

I don’t think the postseason is a realistic destination this year, but I like this team to get back to .500 — maybe better if they weren’t in such a tough division.

There are legitimate prospects or established players at every position in the lineup, though of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions. Shortstop and center field are two places the production is pretty uncertain.

It’s also fair to wonder what Scooter Gennett and Tucker Barnhart will do for an encore after breakout 2017s.

Can Joey Votto do it again at his age?

The bullpen? Who knows? They tend to be unpredictable — unless it looks like they are going to be bad, in which case they probably will be. This one has some good arms and new faces so it should be OK.

Of course it all comes down to the starting rotation.

Overall, the starters were terrible last year, but most of the folks who had the most to do with that are gone, and most of the guys who are back showed positives signs toward the end of the season.

It’s OK to simultaneously be excited about the talent of Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano and even Homer Bailey while remaining wary of arm trouble finding them, too.

The best-case scenario for this team is to move up to .500 while getting a clearer picture about which positions are definitely set for the near future. Then it’s fair for fans to expect corresponding moves to be made, whether it is this summer or next winter.

I guess that also means we’re back to the point of at least hoping the Reds can keep it interesting until the start of NFL training camp...

Speaking of football, Cincinnati Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn wants you to know no such patience is required of football fans in southwest Ohio. 

Via from the NFL owners meetings:

"We are not in a building program. We have too many good players to be building for the future," said Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn Wednesday after commissioner Roger Goodell closed the meetings. "We have so many good players we feel we have to build for now … I think very much the offseason for us has been focused on win now."

This offseason has been interesting to watch considering the first day or two was spent assuming the Bengals would have a new coach and the rest has been about trying to figure out why they should be better since they didn’t get one.

Marvin Lewis and others have been selling 2018 as a new beginning because his staff has such a new look.

I’m a little skeptical of that, but we’ll see.

I like the acquisitions of Cordy Glenn and Preston Brown.

I like that they are interested in upgrading at safety.

I don’t like the blind faith in Andy Dalton, but getting the team to the point it is again so good he can afford to be average isn’t out of the question so I guess things could be worse.

More good news: Lots has happened so far and we haven’t even reached the draft yet...

I did my first recruiting roundup of the year on Wednesday, and it was barely up before something else happened. 

Northmont defensive end Gabe Newburg continues to see his stock rise as he tweeted last night Virginia is the latest team to offer him.

That comes on the heels of offers from Michigan and Iowa this week, as detailed in the aforementioned recruiting roundup.

I thought the 2019 class might be hard-pressed to match the attention the 2018 group was able to drum up, but maybe they will prove me wrong.

RELATED: Ohio’s No. 1 player picks ClemsonSW District DPOY signs with Cincinnati

At least 18 area players have already received at least one Division I offer, including Hayden Bullock.

A lineman from Bellbrook, he received his first offer last week. It came from Air Force.

If you or someone you know is getting significant recruiting attention, I want to know about it!

The easiest way to let me know is via email —

Football recruiting gets the most attention, but we've also got a big three in basketball for 2019 in Samari Curtis of Xenia, Amari Davis of Trotwood-Madison and Andre Gordon of Sidney.

Meanwhile, Wright State is adding an intriguing recruiting class after one of the best seasons in school history. 

Jeremiah Davenport turned some heads while helping Cincinnati Moeller win the Division I state championship.

He will give coach Scott Nagy yet another talented wing next season, when Nagy hopes greater depth lets the Raiders run more often.

Grant Benzinger is a big loss for Wright State, but it’s always great to have a reliable point guard, dominant big man and athleticism on the wings.

Plus Nagy is a proven winner.

All that positive momentum building in Fairborn should just make Dayton more eager for a Gem City Jam to regain some clout, right?

Well, we can dream…

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