God bless the Cincinnati Reds. This team has a ton of grit; they never give up. Joey Votto missed about a week's worth of action with a stiff neck. He returned for the first time last night, collected four hits, a homer and a triple. Scott Rolen hit two home runs in the first three innings and recorded four runs batted in. Note: Votto leads the National League with a .326 batting average and Rolen is one homerun away from leading the league. The Reds have the best batting average, best slugging percentage, the best OPS and only one team has hit more homeruns in the Majors.
And after last night's 9-8 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds are back in sole possession of first place with the series finale tonight.
I love this team.
+ Phillip Merling, one of four Dolphins arrested this offseason, was in jail right before the Miami's minicamp "after being charged with aggravated battery against a girlfriend who is two months pregnant with their second child. The defensive end still worked with the starting unit during last weekend’s practices as if nothing had happened." This prompted Alex Marvez to write:
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano took no disciplinary action against Merling even after a chilling 911 call was released by police. A petrified 21-year-old woman had barricaded herself inside their bathroom as the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Merling allegedly attempted to barge inside. The couple’s four-month-old son was in another room.
“Please come help me,” screamed the woman, who claimed this wasn’t the first time Merling had struck her. “He hit me about five times in my face. Please help. He’s way bigger than me.”
As horrifying as the situation sounds, the franchise’s callousness toward the matter is almost as scary. Sparano proclaimed he wasn’t a “judge” after speaking with Merling. Sparano also said the Dolphins were “trying to gather facts, but it really is a league situation right now. The league is handling this.”
This pass-the-buck mentality helps explain why the Dolphins have supplanted Cincinnati and Pittsburgh as the NFL’s new bad boys.
+ Even though the Bengals were once upon a time very heavily involved in the "which veteran safety are we going to sign after the draft" storyline, it doesn't seem likely that Cincinnati will make a run for O.J. Atogwe, a restricted free agent that the St. Louis Rams released because they couldn't agree to a long-term deal and didn't want to pay Atogwe $6.976 million. Brad Biggs writes that Dallas, Detroit, Miami, Minnesota and San Francisco are reportedly the most interested. Atogwe is a five-year veteran with at least 72 tackles or more in each of the past four seasons (including last year's 74 tackles in only 12 games played) and recorded 19 career interceptions.
+ Players aren't sure why the NFL doesn't adopt the new overtime rules in the playoffs for the regular season too.
A few stories at Cincy Jungle in case you missed it.
+ The Bengals will hold an open house this Saturday for potential season ticket buyers.
+ Based on an offensive line numbers game with injuries to Jason Shirley and the unlikely return of Jonathan Luigs before training camp while easing Andre Smith back into action after foot surgery, the Bengals signed offensive lineman Isaac Sowells.
+ Reports started surfacing on Tuesday that the Baltimore Ravens and Shayne Graham are nearing a deal.