Sports Today: Joey Votto says what everyone is thinking


Joey Votto proved again he is the greatest by not only saying a bunch of cool stuff but waiting until Monday to do it so it wouldn’t get lost over a three-day weekend. 

The Cincinnati Reds first baseman sounded like one part fan, one part player, one part owner and all wise man in his first comments of this season. 

Joey Votto on current state of Reds: “Something has to start changing and going in a different direction”

Here are the cliff notes: 

  • It’s time to win now — or at least make winning soon look realistic. 
  • Fans are justified in feeling frustrated if that doesn’t happen. 
  • The team is on the right course as far as trusting who is on the roster — but those guys better feel some urgency to get the job done now. 
  • They’ve been smart not to sign any contracts that could compromise future roster flexibility. (Votto’s mega-deal looked like it would be an exception when he signed it, but the market has caught and passed him.) 

I approve of all of these messages. 

I’m excited to see how the young pitchers do this season and who in the lineup proves he has staying power. 

Votto is unique among star athletes in that he can say reasonably what others might make sound like a hot take or empty rhetoric. 

“It’s time to win!” is easy to say. 

It’s what should be said, probably, and therefore it’s easy to dismiss. 

But with Votto it’s like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” 

Of course, Votto’s ability to replicate his amazing 2017 is going to be a big key to the Reds getting better as a team in 2018, especially with Zack Cozart’s exit… 

Meanwhile, basketball season chugged on with Dayton and Wright State winning (twice in the case of the Raiders) and Ohio State losing again. 

I was at the Nutter Center on Friday night and very impressed with what I saw as the Raiders outlasted Northern Kentucky 69-67 to move back into first place in the Horizon League. 

The WSU and NKU provided a reminder that the NCAA tournament needs more of these teams and fewer boring middle-of-the-road Power 5 teams with double-digit losses. 

›› HARTMAN: Don’t look now, but Wright State is for real

Nebraska might have a better roster (then again, it might not), but the Cornhuskers already squandered multiple chances to prove they are one of the best 30 or so teams in the country. 

Why give them another? 

I picked Nebraska in part because they were the subject of a Mid-Major Madness editorial on just this topic, but I’m sure there are a dozen other teams that fit the bill just as well if not better. 

The point of playing a tournament, especially one this large, is not to name the best teams but to see who would win if they all were put into a pool and had to play each other. 

It’s to see who can prove they are the best — or at least give us a hell of a thrill trying. 

And what’s more thrilling, seeing a Horizon League team try to knock off a Power 5 champion or watching another Power 5 team that already lost 10 times to similar foes do it? 

Pretty easy for me to answer — especially seeing just how many talented players were on those rosters Friday night… 

  

Wright State avoided a letdown loss last night. 

Grant Benzinger scored 20 points on his Senior Night, leaving the Raiders two wins from at least a share of the Horizon League championship and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. 

Ohio State and Dayton are back in action tonight. 

The Flyers play host to Saint Louis. The game is on ESPNU if you can’t make it out to UD Arena. 

The Billikens already beat Dayton once this season, but the home team is the favorite according to KenPom. 

Two interesting things happened for the Flyers over the weekend: Coach Anthony Grant picked up his second recruit for the 2018 class and he played a walk-on minutes over veteran point guard John Crosby

Here’s what you need to know about the newest Flyer, Jhery Matos

Regarding the current team, I think it is pretty clear Grant has been handling minutes with an eye on the future all season. 

» WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Flyers clinch A-10 title

He’s done this in two ways: Some players seem to be allowed to play through mistakes while others haven’t been afforded even the time to make them. 

I am of the opinion a similar approach has paid off for Wright State coach Scott Nagy, who has his guys playing the way he wants them to in his second year in Fairborn, but there is certainly risk. 

» FORDHAM GAME: NotesWesterfield sees actionPhotosGame story

No coach wins without good players, but few teams succeed without everyone being on board with personal expectations, either. 

If Grant is trying to send a message to some of his players (who obviously have the physical ability to play at this level) it comes with the risk of some of those players deciding to go elsewhere. 

Maybe that, too, will lead to a team being better than the sum of its parts, but only time will tell… 

Along those same lines: Ohio State’s thin roster has been exposed late in what was a dream season that is starting to look more like just a nice story. 

Penn State might just be a bad matchup for the Buckeyes, but Michigan was clearly better in a Sunday showdown in Ann Arbor. 

The Wolverines have a coach who has been recruiting his types of guys and developing them for years now while the end of Thad Matta’s career at Ohio State was marked by disinterested play, recruiting mismatches and mistakes and eventually numerous transfers. 

Matta’s attempt to reset the program two years ago didn’t work. 

Now Chris Holtmann has done a lot of good stuff with what is left, but the reality these Buckeyes are limited offensively may be setting in. 

They play Rutgers tonight in the final home game of the season. Then it’s a trip to Indiana that could be tricky. 

After the Big Ten tournament, they’ll have almost two weeks off, so at least fatigue shouldn’t be a problem when the Big Dance rolls around. 

Everyone knowing the team has to play offensively through Keita Bates-Diop probably still will be, though. 


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