CWL Preview Heading Into Final Two Weeks of Stage Two

CWL Stage Two is winding down. Who will make the Finals? (Photo Courtesy CWL, ESL Gaming)

CWL Stage Two is winding down. Who will make the Finals? (Photo Courtesy CWL, ESL Gaming)

It’s been an exciting Stage Two so far for Call of Duty World League. At the start of the Stage, we saw OpTic Gaming start 0-2. Team eLevate started 0-3 and then turned things around in a big way. A 9-4 start from Rise Nation had them sitting near the top of the standings, but a 0-4 skid would follow. We currently have an abundance of teams near the top and each is playing at a high level. OpTic, FaZe Clan, Team EnVyUs, and eLv are all scattered at the top; Rise, Dream Team, and Cloud9 are all looming close behind. The league is deep with talent, in ninth place H2k and Complexity Gaming are both 8-9 and on the outside looking in at the Stage Two Finals.

The only two teams out of contention are 100 Thieves and Team SoloMid. When former CoD champion,  Nadeshot, acquired King Papey and rebranded the team, expectations were high. A quick start has soured into an 11-game losing streak and a 2-15 record. TSM has had high points, beating Rise two weeks ago, but the season has been bad mostly a skid mark for the organization.

The Race For The Top

The race for the top has taken many twists and turns, but things are starting to become clearer. OpTic Gaming has been the team to beat since Black Ops Three started. The Green Wall has won almost everything they’ve competed in, and up to this point, they haven’t slowed a bit. OG is on top of the standings at 13-4 and looking to seal the top seed over the next few weeks.

FaZe Clan enters the stretch run at 12-6, and could easily have a better record. The team has struggled with winning the objective. Slaying hasn’t been a problem for the team; they’ve just found ways to struggle. A great week nine, beating Rise and 100T 6-0, carried over to week 10. A 3-1 win over EnVyUs would push them into second place. However, it all came crumbling down against H2k with a 3-2 defeat. The team is in a good position, but they still need to sure things up. FaZe hasn’t played exceptionally well on LAN this year. The team has eight, 3-0 wins this Stage, double that of OG.

EnVy is in a great spot, currently in third, after a 1-1 week. Things have been more good than bad with nV. However, a 3-0 loss against LG and a 3-1 loss to FaZe have shown the team has holes. LG exposed EnVy with dominant wins in all three games (250-193, 6-1, 13-5). But when you look at EnVy’s play against OpTic, it’s not all that bad. A 250-88 Hardpoint victory headlined a week eight, 3-1 EnVy victory over the top team. Earlier in the Stage, a 3-2 loss to OpTic was another key point for the team. For EnVy, it’s a matter of stepping up when the opportunity presents itself.

Rising, Falling; Deflated, Elevated

Rise Nation and Team eLevate are two teams that have taken different paths to get to where they currently are. eLv sits in fourth place at *******, and Rise are right behind eLv at 10-8. Rise started quickly and has faded recently, and it’s the opposite for eLevate.

eLevate started 0-3 with losses to EnVy, H2k, and OpTic. They were a combined 1-9 in map count over that start. Since then, a 10-4 run has allowed them to move steadily into striking distance in the CWL. They’ve won the map count, 33-20 (62 percent), since the poor start. They are right on pace with OG and FaZe. Many now consider eLevate a top three team. They finished second at MLG Anaheim and nearly beat OpTic before the reverse sweep. eLevate has a little work left, but they’re now considered an elite level CoD team. On Thursday night, once again, eLv had the chance to take the next step forward against OpTic, but couldn’t do so. They allowed OG to win it, easily, 3-0. The biggest question surrounding eLv is, can they consistently beat the top teams?

Rise came into Stage Two as the number consensus number two team. However, that title is starting to fade quickly. The team was 8-3 after a 3-0 sweep against eLevate in week seven. A primetime, Match of the Week, showdown against OG was next. They put up a goose egg, losing 3-0, in a match that was never even close to the Green Wall. Since the 8-3 start, Rise is 2-5. They’ve lost 3-1 to TSM and Luminosity, and they’ve lost 3-0 to FaZe and dT. A 3-1 victory over C9 is the only Rise-like result we’ve seen. Against 100 Thieves on Wednesday, Rise only won Hardpoint by two points (250-248) and Search and Destroy by one round (6-5). For Rise, things are starting to falter. The major slump is something that has to worry all Rise Nation fans.

Fighting To Get In

From sixth place all the way to 10th place, the CWL standings are about as close as can be. Dream Team is sitting in sixth at 9-8, Complexity is 10th at 8-9. With how tight things are, one thing is for sure; two good teams are going to get left out of the party at the Stage Two Finals.

Dream Team has had a roller coaster stage. The team seems to win a match and gain momentum, just to lost the next match and surrender all the gains. A 5-1 start had people whispering some dT love on Reddit and stream. Since then, the team has gone 4-7. In week 10, the team started quickly with a 3-0 victory over Rise. With the opportunity to make this a statement week, they fell short against EnVy, 3-1. It was more of the same. Can they find the momentum from early on in the stage? Or will they continue to have up and down matches?

H2k had the chance to move into the fray with a big win over LG on Thursday night. They did just that. With the win, H2k moved into the seventh spot in the standings. Identical to dT, it was a 5-1 start from H2k that had people talking. Things fell off after the rapid start; they’d only win one match over the course of the next nine matches. But things have turned around, and it’s starting to look like the first three weeks of H2k play has started again. They’ve won their last three matches in 9-4 fashion. A 3-2 victory over FaZe (minus Clayster) was the highlight of the week. They now move into the driver’s seat towards making the Stage Two Finals.

Cloud9 has only one 3-0 victory this stage, week one against dT. It was a 2-5 start for C9, but it’s been a nice resurgence since then. A pair of week 10, 3-1 games, are the epitome of the last few weeks for C9. Much like dT, it’s been a roller coaster. The team beat eLevate 3-1 but then lost on Wednesday night to OG. With TSM and Complexity next week, C9 needs to step up if they want to secure a spot in the finals.

A quick 1-6 start for coL had people considering them one of the bottom feeders this Stage. Picking up Parasite for Nameless has turned out to be a big move for the Complexity squad. However, it was a week of forfeits (one to OpTic, one to Dream Team) that really gave the team a boost. They’re 7-3 since the bad start, but outside of the two forfeits, it’s been a wealth of close matches. They’re much better than the outset, but are they good enough to make it into the finals?

Luminosity lost both of its matches in a crucial week. Losing to eLv 3-0 and then 3-2 to H2k, they fell out of the top eight and all the way to 10th in the CWL standings. Next week brings coL and OG to the schedule; those will both be tough matches and another 0-2 week could push LG out of the Finals. They have to step up or it’ll all be over before it could really start.

Bottom Feeding

For TSM and 100T, this has been quite the disappointing stage. The teams haven’t been able to find the success either wanted. 100T is 2-15, TSM 3-14. Both teams have map win percentages below 20 percent. The third lowest? 47.1 (H2k and coL). This Stage has been a disaster. Both teams have failed to gain any momentum. For the pair of teams, the question now turns from can we make it to the CWL Finals, to can we play in the CWL next year? Major team reconstruction is to be expected for 100T; Nadeshot has already hinted at this. The team makeup will likely include Aches and Remy, but who will be the other two?

Who Makes The Final Eight?

My final eight will be as follows:

  1. OpTic Gaming
  2. FaZe Clan
  3. Team EnVyUs
  4. Team eLevate
  5. Rise Nation
  6. H2k
  7. Dream Team
  8. Cloud9

 

What are your predictions for final standings?

 

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The Greatest Game We Play

Major League Baseball once dominated televison sets and radios, now, it's a dying sport. Or is it? (MLB logo is officially licensed to Major League Baseball)

Major League Baseball once dominated televison sets and radios, now, it’s a dying sport. Or is it? (MLB logo is officially licensed to Major League Baseball)

The greatest game ever played may seem like click-bait. Maybe so. However, I’m not writing to tell you about the greatest individual game. I’m writing to inform you that we live in an age where the greatest game is underappreciated. I’m writing to tell you that you baseball- not football or basketball- is the greatest game ever to be played.

When we’re young, becoming the star of the sports world is the ultimate goal for a lot of us. Some choose football, others basketball, and even some others want to be a star at sprinting. For me, it was baseball. I wanted to play in Ballparks all around the United States. I wanted to stand on the pristine fields of green grass, the watered down infield dirt, and under the shining lights from the heaven above. That was my dream.

Game seven of a World Series, down by one, two on base. I walked through this scenario numerous times in the front yard. I was the pitcher, hitter, and voice on the radio all in one. “And the pitch on its way. Taylor swings, a deep drive to left center, and it’s out of here! A home run, touch ’em all, the Cincinnati Reds are World Champions thanks to the bat of Daniel Taylor!” Man, that was the dream. And I’m sure many of you have had that moment race through your mind. Maybe it was the game-winning touchdown pass, a shot at the buzzer, or a goal to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe it was the home run, or maybe an excellent performance on the mound. We all had those moments.

Sports flow through our blood in the United States, much like the rest of the world. But unlike most countries, baseball has been our pastime for many years. Since it’s beginnings, it’s been America’s sport. Now, as baseball grows around the world, we’ve begun turning our backs on the great game. Football now feels more like the American game. Baseball is big in Latin America, Japan, and South Korea. But in the United States, baseball has been on the decline.

Ask any fan that was alive during the strike years and you’ll usually find the root of the problem. Most fans turned away from the sport after the strike of 1994. That is the most popular answer. Another answer frequented by baseball detractors, it’s too long and boring. On the surface, that may be true. Baseball has a certain time commitment with most games lasting at least two hours, and that’s during a pitcher’s duel. Commercials don’t help things; the games drag on for three or four hours most nights.

Football is usually a two or three-hour commitment, but it’s much more “exciting” with the monstrous tackles and unfathomable touchdowns. Soccer is timed at 90 minutes, only a few extra minutes for extra-time, so you have a good idea of what to expect. Basketball is fast paced and the same with hockey. But baseball isn’t timed- the only of the major sports.

Baseball now consumes a large part of Japan and Latin America. Fireballers in Little League are throwing incredible speeds as the sport continues to grow. (Photo Courtesy, ESPN)

Baseball now consumes a large part of Japan and Latin America. Fireballers in Little League are throwing incredible speeds as the sport continues to grow. (Photo Courtesy, ESPN)

Nine innings with both teams taking a turn on offense. No turnovers or shortened innings, three outs for both sides, and 27 outs for both teams over the course of the afternoon. 162 times a season we do this, and then we get the playoffs. Baseball begins in March and ends in October. Pitchers and catchers report in February, so the season is nine months long. It’s not a short nine months either, days off are a rarity. The All-Star break is the only time teams will have consecutive off days for the entire season.

All of this makes it seem like a slow crawl. In the NFL things happen fast; it’s like a 100-meter dash with only 16 games. One day a week your team plays. In the NBA you have consecutive off days several times in a week – not once a season. The type of season we see in Major League Baseball is truly in a league of its own.

Much of what makes baseball so great is that sentiment. The game truly is a league of its own. Nothing is near exciting and boring, short and long, slow and fast, or interesting as baseball. It’s special.

In baseball, you have one of the most simple goals in mind. Either, throw the ball past the batter on defense. Or hit the ball safely on offense. It’s pitch and hit. See the ball, hit the ball. Easy, right? However, it’s one of the most difficult things humanly possible. Both, pitching and hitting, test the ability of the human body. Baseball stretches the human mind and body as far as possible and tries not to break- and sometimes it does break, spectacularly.

A pitcher is doing something so rare that you can’t simply practice it. Most athletes have a physical gift of some form. But pitchers have something that’s not self-taught. A fastball that touches 95, 98, or even over 100 miles per hour is something that is unthinkable. How? To rubber band your arm and throw a pitch faster than you can legally drive is simply incredible.

What’s even more incredible? Hitting that pitch. In less than 4/10’s of a second you have to decide where the pitch is going, what type of pitch it is, and if you can hit it. Then you have to do it. Your brain is working through incredible speed, computing all of these things faster than the flash of a camera. And then you swing and it. Not only is that good enough, but you also need to place it somewhere on the field that the eight players in fair territory can’t get to it. Even better, you can put it in the stands at least the MLB minimum, 325 feet away for a home run.

The human brain and body can barely keep up. There are times when it’s almost physically impossible. Aroldis Chapman threw the fastest pitch ever recorded at 105.1 MPH. Estimates have Nolan Ryan throwing pitches at over 108. Those are speeds that are nearing the physical and mental limitations of the mind and body to even compute.

Baseball, simply put, is the peak of human performance. They are some of the most physically and mentally gifted humans on this earth.

Sure, the game may be slow, but look at pitch-by-pitch. Slow the game down a little more and just marvel at what is actually happening. Before every pitch, the catcher or dugout will give signals to align the defense up. That’s not random; each player has a certain profile. Where does he hit most often? Is there a pattern? If so, the defense will align themselves up in that manner creating some weird overloads at times.

The Los Angeles Dodgers used a four-man, right side of the infield in a game against the San Diego Padres. (Photo Courtesy, MLB.com)

The Los Angeles Dodgers used a four-man, right side of the infield in a game against the San Diego Padres. (Photo Courtesy, MLB.com)

Now that the defense is aligned, we have to take into account the runner on first. The shortstop and second basemen will look at each other and signal which has the throw should a steal attempt come in. The third base coach has already given signals to the batter and runner; they now know that a hit and run is on.

The catcher, the quarterback of most teams, is computing these things. He decides he wants a fastball outside of the zone, try to get a swing and miss if the hit and run are on so he could throw the runner out. If it’s not, it’s just a waste pitch. From there, the art of pitching is on full display. The pitcher winds and uncorks a ball thrown at 98 to a precise point high and outside. The runner breaks, the second basemen moves to cover the bag, the pitch is there . . . and then you do it again.

Every play is a complex computer problem when you break it down. On the surface, it’s just pitch and catch. See the ball, hit the ball. Simple. The same way now that it was 100 years ago. That’s the beauty of it all.

Diving catches are made routine by the fielders. Home runs that tower through the dark sky look like they’re shot out of cannons. Pitches that boom across the park seem normal. The six-four-three double play just gets us to the bathroom a little sooner. A bang-bang play isn’t really exciting. All of these things are the plays that make up a baseball game. Taken on the surface, they aren’t impressive. We see them all the time. But break down what makes them happen and you see the true beauty.

Baseball is a constant dance between being too wild and out of control, and sitting on the line of impossible. Every play tests the balance of physics. Batters will sometimes describe a tight fastball thrown at 100 as rising, which is physically impossible. However, greats like Hank Aaron have said that the physicists need to put a helmet on and see it for themselves. Optical illusions occur at those speeds. Pitchers can literally fool the human brain- not an easy task.

Baseball is also one of the few sports that isn’t over until the last pitch is thrown. In football, we can usually tell who will win the game five minutes before it’s over, most of the time it’s even sooner. Same with basketball. You can deflate the ball in basketball, dribbling and taking up as much time as allowed. In football, a kneel down will end the game; but before that, a good ground game can ice huge chunks of time. In hockey, you can skate around and lob the puck around to absorb a lot of the clock. Sure, it’s still competitive to a point, but not like baseball.

In baseball, you have to give the offense a chance to win it. It’s the only sport in which you’re not in control of the offense. You don’t have the ball, the defense does. It’s played backward to a certain extent. The pitcher cannot throw around every batter to run the clock out. He has to get three more outs. Your offense could rally at any point. That is where the excitement is.

When you get behind 3-0 in the first, you know it’s not over. Just recently, on June, 5th, the Cincinnati Reds took an early 5-0 lead on the Washington Nationals. The Nats would rally to score the next 10, 10-5. The Reds would come back to make it 10-9 in the ninth. With bases loaded, no outs, and the Reds staring at a surefire tie game, Dusty Baker would’ve loved to take a knee or hold the ball. But they had to come right at the Reds.

A first pitch pop out by Adam Duvall, one out. A three-pitch strikeout against pinch hitter Zack Cozart, two out. Ivan De Jesus Jr. would fly out to centerfielder Michael Taylor to finish the game. Staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, Jonathan Papelbon got the save for the Nationals. You can’t make that up.

The game of baseball is an art form that started in America and now spreads worldwide. It’s a sport that has grown into all sorts of countries. But in the United States, we’re told it’s on the way out. I choose to believe otherwise. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn, truth be told, that’s probably true. But I believe the love for the game of baseball will come back. We just have to show fans what the game is really about. Make fans understand what they’re watching. We should marvel, not just watch, the game.

P.S. Start taking a scorecard or scorebook to the game. Be a part of the living, breathing game of baseball and it will take hold of you unlike any game can. It’s something amazing.

 

Who Is CWL’s Number Two?

Team eLevate is in the thick of second place talk; are they all the way to the number two spot though? (Photo Courtesy: MLG)

Team eLevate is in the thick of second place talk; are they all the way to the number two spot though? (Photo Courtesy: MLG)

With all of the recent happenings in Call of Duty World League, the question is starting to gain more traction. Who is the second best team in the CWL?

OpTic Gaming is the easy number one choice. They’ve been dominant in CoD for over a year now, and during Black Ops Three play, they’ve been nearly untouchable. A Stage One win in the finals and the regular stage play has been followed up by a great Stage Two. They’ve won two LAN events after Anaheim, (ESWC being the other) during the past few months, and they currently sit atop the CWL standings at 10-3 (they didn’t play a match Tuesday evening). Anaheim was total domination from the Green Wall. They only lost three maps, and two of those were in the Championship. A dominant, undefeated weekend and another trophy are returning to Chicago, Illinois with the boys from OpTic.

With all of that being said, OpTic is the only clear choice to be atop the CoD world. The second, third, and fourth best teams are all wide open.

Rise Nation is probably most of the community’s pick for the number two spot. They made it to the Stage One finals against OpTic and nearly won the Stage One Championship. Since then, they’ve maintained a dominant record. However, two LAN events (ESWC & Anaheim) have revealed some flaws for the team. They lost to Team eLevate and finished third. At ESWC they were beaten by Splyce and gave up maps to several EU teams. However, they still weren’t a total embarrassment. A lack of dominant play throughout, they’d get beat 3-0 by OpTic and have to play out of the Loser’s Bracket. They would finish Third at Anaheim after losing to eLevate in the Loser’s Final. The LAN draught continued for Rise and had raised serious questions about the teams ability to take the next step forward. Luminosity Gaming was able to complete the Stage sweep of Rise on Tuesday night, and Rise now sits at 9-6 and in fifth place for Stage play. That comes on the heels of a 3-1 defeat thanks to Team SoloMid, who has been one of the worst teams in the CWL this Stage. Is Rise still number two? We all thought so after Stage One, but maybe they aren’t.

With all of the trouble Rise has had, they’re still a top team. The talk is only gaining traction thanks to stellar play by a variety of other teams in the CWL.

eLevate managed to finish off Anaheim with a second place finish; they performed well above expectations. They nearly beat OpTic, who was flawless for the tournament, and forced a winner-take-all scenario in a second best of five. However, they still lost. In CWL play, they are 8-5, one spot above Rise in the standings. That’s all after an 0-3 start. 8-2 in the last 10 matches, eLv, is making noise in CWL. The only losses since the abysmal start are thanks to Rise and FaZe Clan, two teams we have constantly been talking about. The move to drop Remy and acquire Felony has made huge waves. They dropped Remy’s .74 K/D and picked up Felony’s 1.0 since joining the roster; the slaying has been a huge part of the turnaround. Felony also has added a huge boost to Search and Destroy for eLv, with a score per minute of nearly double that of Remy’s (78-47). The team is riding a hot streak, can they keep it up?

FaZe Clan is another interesting choice. A mainstay in the CoD community, they’ve always been good. However, they’re currently just a step behind OG. They can slay just as well, if not better, than any of the competition. However, they’ve been unable to close games out. A Tuesday evening loss to Dream Team has them sitting in third place. It’s been the inconsistency that often hurts FaZe. With all of the ability to be a top contender, they just have to find the consistent ability to slay and play objectively to really have a shot at number two.

Last but not least, EnVyUs. An enormous 3-1 victory over OpTic before heading to Anaheim gave the team a boost. Since returning they played two matches on Tuesday, winning one and losing the other. The team is in second place on the CWL leaderboards at 10-5. Losses to Rise Nation and Luminosity in Anaheim would be the factor in an early departure for EnVy. Despite that, the team still stands near the top of CWL. They are looking to continue the push now. However, the failure on LAN over the weekend may be a sign. There were some substantial critiques of the event, with slow turn on controllers being the biggest gripe. EnVy may have had a legitimate complaint, but they still finished below what the goal was.

So, who is number two?

Currently, I’ll still give the nod to Rise. They’ve given fits to OpTic over and over again. Despite the dominance from OG of late, they’re still one of the few teams that have shown they can beat OpTic straight up. Yeah, they’ve played below expectations on LAN. But they’ve also won a LAN tournament this year and taken OpTic to the brink of a loss at the conclusion of Stage One. Rise is still number two for now, but eLevate is closing fast. A good run in CWL play and even better showing at Anaheim has placed them in the thick of the talk. They need to finish the season strong, but they’re knocking on Rise’s door right now.

For FaZe and EnVy, they may be above the other two in the standings; they aren’t as good, though. It’s not a wide gap, but it’s still a gap. EnVy beat OG with the Green Wall in Las Vegas, playing at a game shop. So that win isn’t tone setting. A poor performance from both on LAN pushes them to three and four.

My current power rankings:

  1. OpTic Gaming
  2. Rise Nation
  3. Team eLevate
  4. Team EnVyUs
  5. FaZe Clan
  6. Luminosity Gaming
  7. Dream Team
  8. Cloud9

Be sure to follow and subscribe to TGH on our site, Facebook, and Twitter. Feel free to head on over to the fourms and leave your feedback as to who the best teams in the CWL currently are.

Rise Nation-OpTic Gaming, Two Giants Square Off Once Again

OpTic Gaming versus Rise Nation will be a battle for the top of the standings in CWL:NA (Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

OpTic Gaming versus Rise Nation will be a battle for the top of the standings in CWL:NA (Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The epic rivalry that has been developing between Rise and OG will add another chapter tonight. The match of the week will feature two of the undeniable top teams on the Call of Duty scene.

Ever since Rise changed the roster and added Classic, Octane, Slacked, and Loony back as Captain before Black Ops Three, the team has taken a quick rise within the CoD community. A first place finish at UMG South Carolina would be enough to get them noticed. They’d be invited to the CoD World League qualifier and successfully make it into Stage One. They would finish Stage One in second place at 16-6, winning 73 percent of the maps. In the tournament they were coasting through, getting to the Grand Final. That’s where they met OpTic. It would come down to a game five, round 11 victory by OG to derail the dreams of Rise Nation. Since then, Rise has beaten OG in the first matchup (3-1, Week One) and has managed to end up in second place currently. LuminosityGaming, Dream Team, and Team EnVyUs have scarred the record. But they’re looking to put all of that behind them and take the victory against OpTic tonight.

OpTic has been quite the team in BO3. OG would win first place in the Stage One regular season, going 20-2. A 63-19 (91%) map win percentage made the first stage even more impressive. They would then win all three matches in the Stage One tournament, taking first place overall in Stage One. Since then it’s been an interesting Stage Two. The team started out by beating EnVy; two losses to Rise and H2k would soon follow. The H2k match was one OG still considers a win; connection issues coupled with CWL officials not allowing a reset/replay would result in a loss they feel that they would’ve won. Since then the team has won its last seven matches. FaZe and TSM have been the only teams to take OG to a game five this Stage. For OpTic tonights match will be about beating Rise, evening the record for the Stage, and taking a full two-game lead in the standings. It would be big for the team to take that lead into the latter half of Stage Two.

Overall, the teams are about as even as possible. OG has a 1.03 Kill/Death ratio overall, 1.07 for Rise. The two teams both average 72 kills per match. Scump and Octane will both pull the best K/D for their respective teams, both are around 1.2. Looking at stats, Rise averages more captures in Capture the Flag, more dunks and throws in Uplink, and they have a better K/D in Hardpoint. Looking purely at the stats, Rise looks like they’re just a notch above OpTic currently. However, it’s the timely plays and lack of mental errors that push OpTic above most teams. Stats don’t neccessarilly dictate success in CoD; a lot of the time, the team with the better communication and knowledge will win. That’s OG’s philosophy.

Tonight we will get a matchup that dictates the number one team in CWL standings. Can OpTic defeat Rise and open up a two match lead on the rest of the CWL division? Or will Rise take back first place? Leave your comments and predicitions down below; or head over to our fourm page and discuss who you think is the top team in CWL: NA.

The Bengals Draft Guide

Laquon Treadwell is a top level talent, however he's free falling in some mocks. (Photo By: Michael Chang, Getty Images)

Laquon Treadwell is a top level talent, however, he’s free falling in some mocks. (Photo By: Michael Chang, Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Bengals are expected to be one of the teams in competition for the AFC North title in 2016. A year after watching the Bengals implode against arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the team looks to follow-up and make greater strides this season.

We’ll know more about the future of the team after the first round of the draft is completed. Will they go “all-in” for 2016, meaning, do they select what would amount to an impact receiver? Or do they pick a long-term project player as they’ve been known to try?

With the losses of Mohamed Sanu (Atlanta Falcons) and Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions) in the offseason, the Bengals are a few receivers short of the depth they’ve grown accustomed to. With that being one of the glaring holes the team is at a small crossroads. Do they select a receiver early and expect him to put up incredible numbers in his rookie season? Or, do they favor a later round receiver (like Jones and Sanu) and expect him to slot in as the third or fourth option behind A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert?

These questions will be the first of many that the Bengals “War Room” has to debate heading into the draft. They’ll also have to battle the question of picking a receiver with the idea of drafting a project player. 

Last season we saw the Bengals select Cedric Ogbuehi, an offensive linemen that would’ve probably been a top five pick before a season-ending injury pushed him to the bottom of the first round. Ogbuehi has since regained strength and learned under the likes of Andrew Whitworth and company, and developed into a bright star moving forward. He’ll be a starter next season and should be a mainstay for the rest of his career. That project worked out well.

They’ve also selected guys like Darqueze Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Kevin Zeitler and allowed them to work their ways into the starting lineup, not pressuring them to be stars from day one. This method has worked well and has allowed the team to be called “the deepest team in the NFL” or “the most talented team 1-53, in the NFL” from NFL luminaries all over network TV.

With these things in mind, there seem to be a few options for Cincinnati in the first round.

  1. Draft a receiver that fits the bill as a top tier target on Andy Dalton’s offense.
  2. Draft a longer term project that has fell down the board due to injury.
  3. Draft a depth player that will eventually fill a pivotal role. However, this pick won’t make an immediate boom.

These are the essential choices the Bengals have laying at their feet ahead of the draft that is now, right at our doorstep.

If Marvin Lewis dives down the first rabbit hole, he’ll likely please the fan base that believes next season should end with a Super Bowl championship. The fan base is in outcry mode after losing beloved options Jones and Sanu. They want an immediate replacement that will play a fundamental role in the offense.

What options are out there?

  1. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
    Will Fuller may be considered the top receiver on the board with the fall of Treadwell. (Photo By: Walter Football)

    Will Fuller may be considered the top receiver on the board with the fall of Treadwell. (Photo By: Walter Football)

  2. Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
  3. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
  4. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
  5. Michael Thomas, WR, OSU

These are really the five guys we’re going to talk about. Ideally, Laquon Treadwell falls to Cincinnati. You may wonder why that’s an ideal thing? If he’s falling, something has to be wrong, right? People don’t like the leg injury he suffered two years ago. It was a nasty play and leaves question marks everywhere. But for the most part, this point is overplayed. He isn’t the greatness route runner and likely won’t burn many corners with his 4.63 40-yard dash. That’s a lot slower than Green’s 4.5 he ran in 2011. These things do appear to dampen the expectations for Treadwell. But that’s why he isn’t going to be a top 10 pick. He’s falling into the 20’s; there’s a big difference between a can’t miss receiver and a mid-20’s pick. He’s not Green or Julio Jones; he’s Anquan Boldin. A receiver that wins jump balls and outmuscles most corners. He’s a possession guy that’s going to be a great second option opposite of Green.

Should Treadwell fall, he should be the pick.

Fuller and Coleman would both be great number two picks. I’m just a tick lower on them than Treadwell, so both would be home runs for different reasons. Fuller is a blazing fast (4.32) outside threat that looks like a burner that could take the top off of a defense. He could become Green’s best friend in week one. Coleman, much like Fuller, is a blazer. A 4.37 40-yard dash time at his pro day make him a viable option for Cincinnati. He’s a little less polished, and I worry about production inflation in the Big 12. Taken aside, he’s a great route-runner and can burn just as well as Fuller. I would grade Fuller slightly ahead of Coleman, and I assume the Bengals would do the same.

Doctson is the only other receiver I would consider. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and is a bit taller than both of the aforementioned receivers (6’2”). He is the least polished of the big four and wouldn’t turn as many heads. But he fits the bill as a number two beside Green. Thomas is off my board as a first round pick. Should the Bengals trade down (as if that would ever happen), he becomes a much better option in the second round.

Taking option two for the Bengals wouldn’t be as popular as the first choice, at least immediately. Ogbuehi wasn’t a popular pick on the first day, but fans are starting to see why the pick happened and seem to love it.

The main topic of discussion, Notre Dame linebacker, Jaylon Smith, suffered a devastating knee injury to end last season. How has this changed things? Well, he was a consensus top five pick last season, now? He’s in danger of falling into the latter part of the first round. A significant change that opens up a window of opportunity for the Bengals.

Jaylon Smith fell down draft boards after a Fiesta Bowl knee injury derailed his final college football game. (Photo By: Sporting News)

Jaylon Smith fell down draft boards after a Fiesta Bowl knee injury derailed his final college football game. (Photo By: Sporting News)

New information came out today that some doctors are saying his knee is a ticking time bomb with all of the nerve damage. This is a major concern. It could be career jeopardizing. Or, he could come back and be fine. That’s where the gamble comes in. You truly have no idea what you’re going to get from him. He could be the best player from this draft or he could be out of the NFL after two seasons.

The Bengals love their pass rush and you can never have enough solid linebackers. Would they consider this pick? Yes. For sure. Would they pull the trigger? Probably. Will they? Who knows?

The last option would be for the Bengals to select some interior line help on either side of the ball, or maybe some secondary help. The Bengals and Lewis himself, love having depth. They do have holes that could be addressed, but they also have possible fillers on their roster. They can also fill these holes later in the draft.

Some of the names to watch for. . .

  1. Noah Spence, DE, EKU
  2. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

These two have floated around on the Bengals radar. Sure, there are several other options (most of which we haven’t even connected to the Bengals) but these two are the main options to think about.

Spence and Billings will both fill gaps on the Bengals D-Line. Spence could become a great pass rusher and Billings would fill in the gap that Domata Peko is starting to leave. He’s got age and will need a full-time replacement.

If I had to lay down a solid prediction, it would be at the wide receiver position. There have been grumblings that the Bengals aren’t sold on Lewis as a Super Bowl winning coach while also giving him a one-year extension, go figure. With that in mind, this year should be an all-in type of season for the Bengals. For Marvin Lewis to keep his job, 2016 must be a good season. That means they’ll likely try and find the most impactful player in the draft. That will probably come from a receiver.

Which one? That’s where the real debate comes in.

Replacing Lost Players

Brock Osweiler is heading to Houston, where does that leave Denver? (Photo By: ESPN)

Brock Osweiler is heading to Houston, where does that leave Denver? (Photo By: ESPN)

The defending champion Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, and Miami Dolphins all watched as key players departed during the initial salvo of free agency in the NFL. With that in mind, we now look at the replacements.

The NFL never stops, and that means the front offices never stop. Right now I’m sure the war camps inside each respective teams front offices are littered with scouting reports, phone numbers, and pizza boxes. They are all looking for ways to improve the team; and in some cases, repair a damaged team. If you think of free agency like a war, the three teams above are in full retreat. Well, not exactly. The fan bases see things in a different manner than the front offices. The front offices know they have solutions to these problems. Why? They’ve all known about these issues for months, and years in reality, and have prepared to find replacements.

Did the Dolphins know they were going to lose Lamar Miller? Yes. They had to know that the chances were not in their favor that the running back would return.

Who can they find to replace him? Well, if we look at the free agent pool, it’s dwindled. The top targets, Chris Ivory, Doug Martin, and Matt Forte are all gone. Arian Foster, Bilal Powell, and Alfred Morris are the top remaining options. All have considerable concerns.

What will they do to patch up the backfield? It’s actually common sense when we look at it. They just traded the number eight pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and the number 13 pick. A great move for Miami all around and it opens up an even more logical landing spot for their future running back replacement.

With Miller gone, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is the perfect fit in South Beach. ‘Zeke brings an all around beastly running game that has him rated as the draft’s top prospect at the position. Getting him at eight was a possibility. But now at 13, and likely the first team to take a back, it makes too much sense.

The Bengals have known that this offseason was going to be rough for a long time. A lot of free agents is never really a desirable position. However, a lot of starters in the free agent pool is really undesirable. They were able to secure their biggest free agent, safety, George Illoka. Illoka was one of the guys I thought was surely going to leave. He didn’t. And as of writing, Adam Jones appears to be returning to Cincy to finish his roller coaster of a career. This offseason has been really efficient (so far) for the Bengals despite severe losses at a critical position. With the departure of Marvin Jones to Detroit the Bengals had only one of their two free agent receiver’s left to sign. It now appears that Mohamed Sanu will be leaving the Queen City.

The Bengals pass game will now be anchored by A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. But how do they replace the high-flying duo of Jones and Sanu?

The answer is, once again, a simple one. They’ll do it through a combination of rookies and possibly a veteran. However, the rookies will likely play a direct role, much like Green did his rookie season.

Who are the targets? In the first round, there are several that fit the bill. Laquon Treadwell of Ole Miss will be the home run if he falls to Cincy, which appears to be a possibility. Per multiple reports, Treadwell has fallen down draft boards in recent weeks. They’re now saying he’s a mid-to-late first round pick. If he’s there for the Bengals, he’ll be in stripes. Other first round talents are Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas, Notre Dame product Will Fuller, TCU star Josh Doctson, Pittsburgh standout Tyler Boyd (although he carries baggage), and Baylor stud Corey Coleman. Braxton Miller from Ohio State and Sterling Shepard from Oklahoma could be second round pickups. Down the board several picks could happen on days two and three; Jalin Marshall from OSU and Leonte Carroo of Rutgers are both interesting picks to add depth at the position. There are a handful of deep covers that the Bengals will probably have stashed. Jones and Sanu themselves were later picks, fifth round and third respectively.

My take is that they should go rounds one and three or four on receivers. They’ll likely add two or three guys during the three-day draft. And that should be enough to cover the losses of Jones and Sanu.

For the Broncos, they entered 2016 free agency with a clear problem. They had no active QB on the roster that had playing time. Peyton Manning announced his retirement earlier this week, and Brock Osweiler has agreed to terms with the Houston Texans. Without a quarterback life looks bleak in Denver. The fix to this problem won’t sound ideal to Bronco fans, especially coming off of a Super Bowl. But there are a few options.

Via trade there are several backups that could make sense. The top trade target is likely A.J. McCarron of the Bengals. He stepped into a similar role as Osweiler did, filling in for an injured starter with playoff implications on the line. He played decently at times and good, if not great, at others. He is still on his rookie deal and could be gotten for cheap, at least for two more years. He has shown he can win and adjust. This would probably cost a pair of picks, one being early. Not the best option in my opinion. The best option is free agency. The best option is Robert Griffin III. RGIII leaves a bad situation in Washington and now has the chance to revitalize a once-vibrant career.

The best option is free agency. The best option is Robert Griffin III. RGIII leaves a bad situation in Washington and now has the chance to revitalize a once-vibrant career, at least, a career that appeared to be heading in the right direction. A stellar rookie season was marred by injury, and that followed into the next season and into 2015, which was the death nail. Kirk Cousins has taken over in DC, and Griffin is out. He’s got a career 90.6 passer rating and really didn’t look terrible last season with limited opportunity. A new place with a great surrounding cast and tempered expectations are just what the doctor ordered for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

While things may look bad for you fans, they really aren’t. Trust in your organizations to make the most out of the coming days. The draft is just around the corner.

The Queen City’s Spring Training Guide

Anthony DeSclafani is expected to be a top of the rotation starter. (Photo By: Cincinnati Enquirer)

Anthony DeSclafani is expected to be a top of the rotation starter. (Photo By: Cincinnati Enquirer)

The Cincinnati Reds had an interesting offseason. Honestly, it’s been an exciting few years for the Reds organization. From the surprising run in 2010 to spring training 2016 it feels like several eras have passed. In 2010, the Reds had an unexpected surge to win the division. That season would end when Roy Halladay came in with a no-hitter and swept through the Divisional round. 2011 saw a major regression to below .500. That was followed by a phenomenal 2012 season. The Reds appeared to be the best team in baseball, honestly. Joey Votto was a freak, like always, and the pitching rotation matched. Everything was clicking for the organization. You remember, Johnny Cueto gets the ball game one in San Francisco and goes down before recording an out. It looked bad, but the Reds would win game one and two, despite the pitching woes. All they had to do was win one out of the three remaining games, all at home. They got swept. It’s one of the most crushing losses in Cincinnati history, trust me.

From 2012 on, things get weird. A team that was built with heaps of talent never won a World Series. They’ve regressed from the top of the league to the bottom of the NL Central, and now it appears the lower portion of the entire league doesn’t seem too far out of reach.

With a lot of talent moved in the offseason, the Reds still have their rock in Joey Votto. (Photo By: Inhale Sports)

With a lot of talent moved in the offseason, the Reds still have their rock in Joey Votto. (Photo By: Inhale Sports)

The Reds have had multiple players rise in prominence; Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, and the list goes on. The team had a ton of talent, and much like the city’s NFL counterpart could’ve been deemed the most talented team. However, they could never win.

And after last season, finishing 64-98, things blew up. At the deadline the team dealt Johnny Cueto to Kansas City, Marlon Byrd was moved, and the rebuild was officially underway. This offseason the Reds have dealt star third basemen, (All-Star hero, Home Run Derby champion, and local star), Todd Frazier, thus setting off the greater portions of the fan base, much like the Sean Casey trade some time ago. Adding to the fans’ frustration, the team moved Aroldis Chapman to New York. With all of the moving parts, Cincinnati frustrations peaked around the New Year.

But now it’s Spring Training. One of the great baseball cities, Cincinnati is starving for the Reds. Despite the numerous fans threats to move on from the franchise, they’ll be back.

This season isn’t going to be a whole lot of fun if you value winning now; I’ll tell you that before we dig into the preview. However, if you would entertain me in listening, I’ll tell you why to be invested in this team in 2016.

Movement To Youth

The Reds have been an aging team since the beginning of 2010. That year the Reds used 44 different players, that’s a fairly arbitrary number. What it says is that the team used nearly 20 players that were not on the opening day roster at some point that season. A significant portion of those players were just injury holdovers or bench players. The core of that team was Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and Jay Bruce. Only one of those players has since departed the team, Rolen. The starting rotation included: Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Aaron Harang, and Travis Wood. Arroyo, Cueto, Leake, and Bailey would become mainstays over the next few years. Cueto and Leake were both moved at the trade deadline last season, and Bailey is the only that remains on the team.

From then on, with good health and a good core, the team would use 42, 38, and 39 players. In 2014, when things were obviously beginning to fail, the number jumped to 45. Last season, that number was 50. Okay, you don’t understand why this is important. Let me tell you.

The Reds built a core that would not only remain healthy but play well. That only lasted a few years. But it was a great core while it lasted. But in 2014, the ship was clearly sinking. Votto dealt with major injuries throughout the year; the bats turned off (Todd Frazier led the team with a .273 batting average), and the phenomenal pitching was wasted. Johnny Cueto nearly won the Cy Young, but the offense was just horrendous.

Peraza is sure to be one of the bright spots from recent trades. (Photo by: InsideSocial.com)

Peraza is sure to be one of the bright spots from recent trades. (Photo by: InsideSocial.com)

So changes needed to come. Despite the knowledgeable fan knowing this, the front office insisted they could win. The rebuild that we are about to see was slowed by a year (potentially more) thanks to this. Last season was a complete and utter disaster for the Redlegs.

But by mid-season, general manager, Walt Jocketty, and owner, Bob Castellini, finally saw the light. It was time to rebuild. Using rookie starters for a record 64 consecutive starts, the team clearly had both eyes looking ahead, not behind.

Last season was a precursor to what we will soon see on the field at Great American Ballpark. The Reds rotation will likely look like this: Homer Bailey (once he’s healthy), Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, and then any number of up-and-comers. Amongst them, Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson, Tony Cingrani, Brandon Finnegan, Amir Garrett, and a host of other names. It’s going to be a rotation with only one starter that’s seen significant playing time, and he (Bailey) won’t even be ready until May or June.

That means the rotation isn’t going to have a whole lot of track record when Opening Day rolls around.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it’d be nice to have several veterans to teach the young arms the secrets. But that’s probably a little overrated. Admittedly, I wanted Bronson Arroyo to sign with the Reds, but he didn’t, and that’s okay. These guys will now cut their teeth by being thrown into the fire. It’s either going to work out really well or really poorly, or it’ll end up somewhere in between. In other words, nobody knows what is going to happen with this experiment.

That’s just the pitching side of things. And the pitching hasn’t been the problem for the Reds. The offense has.

Jake Cave was acquired via the Rule 5 Draft, can he be an impact performer in Cincinnati? (Photo by YES Network)

Jake Cave was acquired via the Rule 5 Draft, can he be an impact performer in Cincinnati? (Photo by Examiner.com)

On offense, things will look different, but not wholesale, not yet anyway. The Reds will likely continue to try to move right fielder, Jay Bruce, and second basemen, Brandon Phillips. Should they find suitors for each, then it’ll be a mass movement. The Reds will likely have a new face at third base and in left field on Opening Day. Adam Duvall, Kyle Waldrop, Scott Schebler, Tyler Holt, and Jake Cave are all names popping up for the open positions. One of the Reds top prospects, Jesse Winker, is ultimately going to end up somewhere in the outfield as well. So whoever gets the gig better step up quickly or Winker will likely move them at some point this season.

Across the infield, the Reds will have to find playing time for Eugenio Suarez with Zack Cozart likely claiming his starting shortstop role once again. Jose Peraza, one of the Reds favorite trade pickups, will try to find a spot on the infield as well.

And that’s not even the whole picture. The bullpen will be infused with young arms, and we will most likely see several players take a shot at the closer spot vacated by Aroldis Chapman.

There’s one assurance heading into 2016; this team will be filled with youth. And for a fan with a keen eye, this should be a fun season.

Birth of Future Stars

One thing that comes with the youthful movement is the hope that you’ll be watching a future Hall of Famer. Now, I certainly don’t feel confident saying any of the up-and-comers is going to be Hall of Fame caliber, I do know there is a good chance a few stars will play their first innings this season.

In 2007, we saw Joey Votto take his first swings. In limited playing time, he hit .321. That was the first glimpse of what we now know and love. He would hit .297 in his first full season, and since then he’s only hit below .305 one other time, and that was due to injury.

From 2008 all the way through that magical 2010 season, we saw Johnny Cueto cut his teeth from atop the mound. He slowly learned how to be a great pitcher and blossomed into one of the top aces in the Majors. The same can be said about Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce, even Todd Frazier. With the exceptions being Mesoraco and Bruce, the others were not highly sought after. However, they all emerged as not only local stars but superstars. All appearing in an All-Star Game.

Why is this so important?

Well after most of the trades the Reds have made fan reaction has been harsh and full of negative words. However, much like Reds stars that are now gone, the new crop could very quickly turn into a new batch of stars.

The ratings used to grade prospects are sometimes flawed; we can’t put a large stock in what we read online. Scouts have jobs because of their ability to judge talent, at times finding something that other scouts miss. And the Reds have proven that they can find the diamonds in a sea of dirt. Don’t be overly harsh. Sure, they could’ve done something different with their trades and maybe gained some higher rated prospects. But how many times do we see a top tier talent turn out to be a bust? Remember Brandon Larson? And most Hall of Famers didn’t start their careers with the same praise and glory of Bryce Harper or Mike Trout

Let the Reds develop the talent and come back to judge in five years. I feel like you’ll be glad your reserved judgment.

In conclusion, the 2016 Cincinnati Reds will likely not produce in the win column. It’s liable to be a long season at the ballpark. However, if you can turn your head towards 2017 and beyond, you’ll see the importance in 2016.

One of the great things about baseball is that we get to see teams flourish, rebuild, and prosper again. Most sports see dynasty, and that’s true in baseball. But it’s also true that we see a lot of change. Look at the past five seasons for the Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, and Chicago Cubs. Things won’t be great overnight. But it’s all part of the process.

My Top 10 Video Games of All Time

E3 is always a popular stop on the gaming calendar. (Photo By: Sony Entertainment)

E3 is always a popular stop on the gaming calendar. (Photo By: Sony Entertainment)

The top video games of all time is a highly preferential list. Some of us like puzzle games, others favor shooters, and others prefer open world games. It’s a diverse universe, and likely everyone you talk to would have their top 10 list. With that being said, my list ranks superior to all. Why? Because it’s mine. Not to over glorify my list, but I do believe I have a solid list. It’s a mixture of old and new, the games I grew up on and the games that have hooked me to this day.

The early days of my gaming life were heavily influenced by my archaic system, the Sega Genesis. That was the system I grew up with and cut my teeth on. So many great days spent in my toddler years were spent playing Madden Football or Sonic the Hedgehog. It was glorious.

As I grew up, I moved to beefier systems like my PlayStation. The original. Spyro and Crash Team Racing were my most beloved treasures on this system. But Twisted Metal will always hold a special spot in my heart.

I stuck with Sony as the PlayStation 2 came to rise. I had just about every generation of PS2, the bulky one and the slim. Enjoying every minute of Guitar Hero is what I most fondly remember.

But then a great switch came. Never had I played too many online games, but once a few friends began telling me of the greatness of the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, I had to switch. This is where things got real exciting. Shooters have since taken hold and are my primary love. With the 360 I began playing Call of Duty 4. Now, I was no stranger to COD. I had played all of the prior generations. But this, with full online support, this was special.

And shortly after the next generation of gaming systems were unveiled, I had thought the Xbox One would be where I spent the foreseeable future. I preordered the day it was released. The Day One edition would arrive at my house after a long wait from the UPS truck, and I began playing with all of the new goodies.

However, my days of Xbox One were numbered. A game I had longed for, MLB The Show, is exclusive to Sony (they do produce the product) and with the lackluster first year of Xbox One, I decided it was time to switch. A few friends who I’ve been playing with since 360 decided that PS4 was the choice also switched. And as of May 2015, I became a Sony guy once again.

With my history of gaming well established, let’s jump to the list.[button-white url=”http://thegamehaus.com/2016/02/12/my-top-10-video-games-of-all-time-3/2/” target=”_self” position=”right”]Next Page [/button-white]

MLB.TV Is Missing The Mark

MLB.TV allows you to watch four games at once, but not in-market. (Photo By: MLB Marketing)

MLB.TV allows you to watch four games at once, but not in-market. (Photo By: MLB Marketing)

In 2016, it is evident that the days of cable television are numbered. “Cord cutters,” as they’ve become known, are moving from cable and satellite coverage to alternative methods. Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV are amongst the top alternatives. They allow users to watch Netflix, Hulu and YouTube on their televisions, getting a ton of top options from cable. Sure, you lose out on some shows, but for the most part, you can get by – and it’s much cheaper.

SlingTV introduced a partnership with Dish Network that allows subscribers to watch History Channel, HGTV, and a few other leading networks. The biggest addition to Sling was ESPN. This was the final signatory on the walking papers for cable. ESPN has always been one of the top reasons people subscribe to cable; so much so that ESPN gets between $4 and $8 per subscriber each month on any given subscription. It’s by far the biggest profit obtaining cable network. With Sling, however, the writing on the wall became clearer.

It’s still rather expensive to watch ESPN via the app which costs $20 per month. However, if you have Sling, Netflix, and Hulu all on one box, you’re still only paying around $40 per month – much cheaper than the $100+ options from cable companies.

With a reliable internet connection, this is a viable option for almost anyone. My dad lives in the country, and I purchased a Roku for him several years ago (he disconnected his Dish because of the price), it’s been a great decision. He’s not the biggest fan of technology, but he loves this ability. For just pennies on the dollar, he gets pretty much everything he wants on his TV now. I’ve even got him watching YouTube!

With ESPN now on his Roku, I can enjoy sports whenever I’m over. It’s quite the setup.

However, there is one crucial thing missing. Major League Baseball.

MLB is my ultimate weakness and remains the reason I keep a DirecTV subscription of my own. I know, I could get MLBTV (which I do have) and be fine, right? Wrong. I’d miss out on my Cincinnati Reds games. Living “in-market” means I have to have Fox Sports Ohio to watch them, so I do.

This is the worst scheme in baseball right now. Yes, television contracts are huge and the biggest reason this remains the case. But I’m missing out on the opportunity to completely cut the cord and watch everything from AppleTV. Make this happen and it would actually become a dream come true.

However, I doubt this happens anytime soon.

MLB announced this year that you could purchase streams of single teams, not a bad idea. If I move to Georgia or California, I would totally jump on this offer. Oh wait, I wouldn’t have to. I’ve seen pricing figures estimated between $50 and $90. The lower end of that spectrum wouldn’t be too bad, though still silly. For $109 (the new figure after a law settlement) you can watch every game (out of market of course) and really enjoy the baseball season.

So the single team plans aren’t that great of a deal unless they drop it to $30 or something more in the ballpark of fair – so until that would happen, I’ll stick with the full plan.

Itis good to watch any team I want, anywhere I go. But the addition of in-market streaming is still a dream.

I highly doubt we see the full change for quite a few years. They’ll have to find some way to make up for the eventual lost revenue from TV deals. But if they’re paying attention to trends, they’d see that people are cutting cords anyway.

Within 5-10 years I see us being able to purchase in-market streaming for an extra $50-60, and I’d drop that coin in a heartbeat.

So for all of the cord cutters and MLBTV-ers alike, the pipe dream isn’t incredibly

far off. But it’s still further off than we’d like.

Bracing For Bruce To Baltimore

Jun 24, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 24, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Bruce’s days in Cincinnati could be coming to an end. The Cincinnati Reds right fielder has been long rumored to be on the trade block and Thursday evening Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Reds believe the Baltimore Orioles have the prospects to complete a deal. This came on the heels of Rosenthal’s report that the O’s have interest in Bruce. The team is also interested in Pedro Alvarez and Dexter Fowler.

The speculation is that the Orioles will add another hitter before spring training. If that’s via trade or free agency is still yet to be known.

The Bruce trade would make sense for the team. They need a hitter, they don’t want to pay an exuberant amount of money, and he has a ton of upside. The former first-round pick and top prospect in baseball has never lived up to his full potential while in Cincy. The biggest critique of the left-handed slugger has been his lack of consistency and high strikeout numbers.

Coming off of a season in which he slashed .226 / .294 / .434. He can smack balls all over the ballpark, evidenced by his 208 home runs in only eight seasons. However, the last two seasons he’s regressed to the point that his stock isn’t riding very high. That’s bad for Cincinnati, good for Baltimore. For Baltimore, his contract situation only helps.

For Baltimore, his contract situation only helps. He’s signed through 2016 with a club option in 2017. At $12.5 million, he’s affordable as a slugger. He will likely hit a minimum of 25 home runs, and if he gets his average back near .250, or higher, it would be a huge help to the lineup. Even better for Baltimore, should Bruce find the consistency he’s lacked for the duration of his stay with the Reds, he can be picked up on the cheap at $13 million next season. It’s not a bad situation for Baltimore.

For the Reds, with the stock riding so low on Bruce it’s decision time. Already in rebuild mode, Bruce would likely never play for another winning Cincinnati Reds team unless these final two seasons completely tank and they could afford to offer him a deal that would allow the 28-year old to finish his career in Cincinnati. So they’re going to have to move him. Will that happen now or at the deadline? That will likely depend on what Baltimore offers in return.

The prospect exchange for Bruce shouldn’t be too steep of a price. Two years ago when he finished 10th in MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger would’ve been the key time to move him. Stuck in a “win now” mentality the Reds refused to deal him, probably not an entirely ludicrous idea as it appeared his career was beginning to trend straight up. Now, however, Bruce shouldn’t fetch anything too severe.

Should the Orioles be willing to part ways with a few prospects, the deal could happen within the next few days. If they low-ball Reds general manager, Walt Jocketty, and refuse to budge, the Reds would wait until the trade deadline and gamble on Bruce having a great first half of the season.

This seems to be a situation with a lot of winning potential for all involved.

For the Reds, the possible gains would be getting a few decent prospects in return for a player they’re likely to lose in the next few years, or keeping him and either getting a similar return at the deadline or possibly an even better deal (his stock can’t fall a whole lot).

For the Orioles, they can take a gamble on a potential superstar and hope that a new city and staff can do the trick for Bruce. Nelson Cruz had his best season in Baltimore after leaving Texas and nearly finished in the top five for MVP. Something remotely close to that would be a huge infusion of offense for the Orioles. This would all come at a relatively small cost for what they may be getting. Bruce is only 28 and still has heaps of potential.

For Bruce, this trade would mean getting a fresh start with a new coaching staff. Maybe some of the inconsistency could be ironed out, and he can blossom into the star he once appeared to be. He’s had a modestly good career to this point, but that breakout potential is still there. This move would be beneficial for him and probably preferred to a mid-season trade. This would also allow him to play in the more hitter-friendly American League and play in meaningful games – something he wouldn’t get to do in Cincinnati.

A Bruce-Baltimore love affair could be just what the doctor ordered for all parties involved. The O’s get offense, the Reds get prospects, and Bruce gets a chance at revival.