Monday, December 5, 2016

Giants sign Mark Melancon

The first shot at the Winter Meetings was fired as the San Francisco Giants addressed the biggest need on their pitching staff as they signed Mark Melancon to a four year contract worth 62 million.
Melancon split last season between Pittsburgh and Washington and notched 47 saves to go with an ERA of 1.64 in the two stops.
Melancon will turn 32 before the start of the 2017 season,so this deal will run into his late 30's.

The Giants filled their number one need on the pitching staff and arguably their top need overall in slotting Melancon in as the closer over the next four years .
I mean,when you blow 30 save situations in the course of a season and two ninth inning leads in the playoffs,it does not require being a Mensa member to figure that one out!

Let's start with the bad news and what I don't like in the deal..
Melancon is expensive-15.5 million dollars isn't cheap and I've stated in the past that I am not always crazy about huge contract to relievers,especially those that end in the pitchers mid to late 30's.
I always worry about how often relievers bounce from good seasons to poor ones and then back again.
Melancon has been a consistent pitcher throughout his career other than an awful 2012 with Boston,so I'm not too worried about that fluctuation with him,but there is a little nagging worry that there could be at least a blip of four years and one could argue that he is due.
Melancon also isn't as visually impressive pitcher to watch as an Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen (hang in there,I'll spin this in the other direction below),so he won't be blowing anyone away.
That's a minor quibble,but sometimes just a small change in velocity could make a huge difference in effectiveness...

Now,the positive-Mark Melancon has been a pitcher that relies on his curve and cutter and by not being a high gas thrower,might have the type of toolbox that allows him to age a little better than Chapman or Jansen might.
Melancon is the safest pick of the three because of that reason and another one that seems simplistic-he throws strikes.
Melancon consistently notches low walk rates and doesn't hit the odd batter either.
Add to that,Melancon is tough to run on and allows few stolen bases,which is a factor that we (me included) often overlook with closers as many times when you come into a game,you have runners on base and quite often pinch runners,which let's face it usually aren't slow.
Melancon has also been consistent-as noted above,other than in 2012,Mark Melancon has posted consistently stellar stats and even at his age,doesn't appear to be slowing down.
I've always liked Melancon,I remember quite a few conversations with my former boss Emily (I really liked her,she left me alone!) about him and I think this is a good decision for the Giants on the overall.

In closing,I'll say this-Entering the off-season,I think the Giants needed a closer and a power bat.
I preferred Kenley Jansen as my top choice as a closer.
Aroldis Chapman for as good as he is,can occasionally have these nights that he has no idea where the ball is going and I'm never thrilled when teams that I root for sign guys that have been in legal trouble and especially for something as important as domestic abuse,so I wasn't on the Chapman train.
However,I think Giants fans can rest easy-Mark Melancon was signed early and even at his cost,might have been a steal.
Locking him up this early in the free agent period might have saved a lot of money that can be helpful in landing that badly needed stick for the lineup.
It'll be interesting to see just how much Jansen and Chapman sign for and gauge that against the contract of Melancon..
Now,lets see about that bat and I wonder about the plans of a certain Tribe in Cleveland....

Gassiev outpoints Lebedev,Saunders wins-Boxing Challenge

The Boxing Challenge rolled on through Europe as all four fights from the challenge were overseas.
Ramon Malpica and I each added three points for the weekend to bring the total to 136-112.

Murat Gassiev won the IBF cruiserweight title with a split decision win over WBA/IBF champ Denis Lebedev in Moscow.
No,that's not a typo,Lebedev applied for a waiver with the WBA to not put that belt on the line,which the WBA ridiculously granted despite Gassiev being ranked by the organization and the fight being at the division weight.
I'm a fan of titles,but this was just idiotic as Lebedev keeps his title despite the loss.
The fight was a good and close one that I scored 115-112 for Gassiev.
Gassiev dropped Lebedev with a body shot in the fifth round and was the harder puncher to offset the busier Lebedev.
Ramon and I each added one point for the Gassiev win.

However,the knockout of the weekend came on the same card in Moscow.
I sometimes criticize sanctioning bodies for rating fighters from countries where their true mettle is not tested until they hit the big time,but occasionally you can hit oil.
This strike came with Julius Indongo,who had never fought outside of Namibia (which will never be confused with even a middling boxing country) knocked Eduard Troyanovsky silly in less than a minute with a right hand that won Indongo the IBF junior welterweight title.
I'm not sure if Indongo is a star in the making (I had never even heard of Indongo before signing for the fight) or a one punch wonder like Bredis Prescott was when he starched Amir Khan,but what a shot!!!

I haven't watched Billy Joe Saunders and his unanimous decision win to retain his WBO middleweight title over Artur Akakov yet,but it's been reported to be a very close fight against an opponent with less than strong credentials.
Saunders defeated Andy Lee for the title a year ago and this was his first defense and wobbled past against a hand-picked opponent.
Saunders seems to have little interest in fighting top notch foes,although he is quite active in talking about fighting them,as he has turned down huge paydays to fight Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
The WBO needs to look into this and have Saunders fight someone soon.
Ramon and each added two points for the win.

Editor's Note: I have now watched the fight and scored Saunders a 115-112 winner.

In Moscow,I haven't seen this fight as of now either,but Denis Shafikov shaded Richard Commey via split decision to earn Shafikov a title fight at lightweight against IBF champion Robert Easter,who had won the vacant belt in his last fight via split decision over Commey.
Ramon and I each picked Commey for no points...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge gets a weekend with nice matchups with none of them on American TV.
Three title fights or title eliminators from Russia is paced by a fight that I am very excited to see as WBA and IBF Cruiserweight champ Denis Lebedev defends against top contender Murat Gassiev.
This should be a great fight and I hope to see it on YouTube!!

WBO Middleweight champ Billy Jo Saunders returns to action for his first title defense since winning it from Andy Lee a year ago vs Artur Akavov in Scotland.
I've never seen Akakov,but it says a lot considering Saunders aversion to top competition,I'm not expecting much.

WBA/IBF Cruiserweight titles.12 rds
Denis Lebedev vs Murat Gassiev
R.L;Gassiev Unanimous Decision
TRS:Gassiev KO 10

IBF Jr.Welterweight title.12 rds
Eduardo Troyanovsky vs Julius Indongo
R.L;Troyanovsky Unanimous Decision
TRS:Troyanvsky KO 7

Lightweights.12 rds
Richard Commey vs Denis Shafikov
Both:Commey Unanimous Decision

WBO Middleweight title.12 rds
Billy Jo Saunders vs Artur Akavov
Both:Saunders Unanimous Decision

The challenge stands at 133-109

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pigskin Picking Machine

Another early week for the PPM with conference title games kicking off early..

Last week:8-2
Overall: 85-30

College Title Games

Western Michigan 35 Ohio U. 20

Pac 12
Washington 30 Colorado 20

Conference USA
Western Kentucky 45 Louisiana Tech 38

Navy 36 Temple 24

Alabama 35 Florida 15

Mountain West
San Diego State 40 Wyoming 36

Clemson 29 Virginia Tech 14

Big Ten
Wisconsin 28 Penn State 17

Saints over Lions 35-31

Game of the Week
Chiefs over Falcons 28-24

Rotten Game of the Week
Bears over 49ers 16-13

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cleaning out the inbox

The inbox cleaning begins with three passings of note from the entertainment and sports worlds.

Florence Henderson passed at the age of 82.
Henderson,who along with Shirley Jones,was the mother of the nation's children in the 70's from her iconic role as Carol Brady on "the Brady Bunch" was known for being a Broadway star and comedian before landing the role for Carol Brady,which brought her lasting fame,if not a bit of typecasting.
Henderson was also known to people my age after the Brady Bunch with her long time association with Wesson Oil.
I mean those commercials were around for years and often featured Henderson singing the "Wessonality" jingle and floating around the kitchen.
Henderson never really left the spotlight in the 40+ years after the Brady Bunch's cancellation,as she was involved with every reincarnation of the show as well as more stage work,guest appearances on television and lots of game shows spot when game shows still ruled morning television.
I'm not sure anyone under 60 wasn't a little sad upon hearing of the loss of Florence Henderson.

The other entertainment loss was actor Ron Glass at the age of 71.
Glass was best known for his role of Harris on the 70's sitcom "Barney Miller",but gained cult fame over the last decade for the role of Shepherd Book on the cult sci-fi drama "Firefly".
I wasn't a massive Barney Miller fan,although in the three channel days,I watched my share of it,but I did enjoy the brief run of Firefly and its movie sequel Serenity.
Glass acted in various tv shows that didn't really catch on such as an 1980's version of the Odd Couple with Demond Wilson of Sanford and Son...

The sports loss was Ralph Branca at the age of 90.
Branca won 21 games in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers,but was better known for allowing "the shot heard round the world" home run to Bobby Thomson in 1951.
Branca never was the same pitcher after the home run as he would win just 20 games over the next (and final) five years of his career after a back injury the following spring..
Branca came off bitter and angry in my opinion on the HBO documentary on the 1951 pennant race between the Giants and Dodgers with an insistence that Thomson knew the pitch that was coming via a stolen sign in the famous game,but watching the program it was pretty easy to see that Branca and Thomson had become friends over the years and seemed to enjoy being linked together in baseball history...

The New York Times writes about the huge James Webb Telescope that will be launched in 2018 to see even further out into space than the Hubble telescope.
The Hubble was expected to be out of use by the time of the Webb's entry into space,but it looks like the two will be in service for at least a few years together.
The Webb's rotation will be around a million miles away from Earth and with its infrared equipment will be able to see things that even the Hubble would be unable to see.

Some of you that listen to the podcast might remember when we had Ricky Cobb of the Super 70's Sports show on the podcast.
Ricky gets some great guys and he recently landed my favorite ABA player of all time in Dan Issel to do his show.
It's a great hour and basketball fans of all ages should enjoy it.
I wrote a post on Issel back in 2008 as a member of our Forgotten Superstars universe and it can be found here.

SABR always has great articles from contributors that offer biographies of players that are forgotten by the regular fan.
This one was just listed on the site features 1970's righthander Lynn McGlothen,who would die in a fire in 1984.
McGlothen was an erratic pitcher that was once compared to Bob Gibson.
McGlothen never approached the level of Gibson,but did have his good days with an All-Star game appearance.
My favorite memory of McGlothen comes from his 1977 Topps baseball card as he is wearing the 1976 Bicentennial hat of the St.Louis Cardinals.
A few teams wore the "Cake Pan" hats in the 1976 season (The Pirates continued to wear theirs for years after) and the 1977 cards are the only cards to features those hats for teams other than the Pirates..

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

GI Joe and the Adventure Team

My friend Joe Plum follows a site called Atlas Obscura on Facebook and I find many interesting things on the site.
I don't have to follow it because Joe does all the work for me,but this article on GI Joe made me think back to childhood.

I knew about the origin of GI Joe and why the Vietnam War contributed to the downfall of the toy line,but what actually happened was memories of toys that I didn't actually have,but wanted desperately.

The GI Joe of my childhood was actually the least popular of the toys.
The original was extremely popular before the Vietnam War and the smaller figures that were re-introduced with the GI Joe "Real American Hero" cartoon series were the big hits for the toy line,but my age group was right in between those two.
My childhood featured the GI Joe Adventure Team,which didn't have the military aspect,but tried different angles to get kids to want the toys.
"Realistic" hair,Kung fu grip,"talking",beards and "eagle eyes" that moved were a few of the gimmicks that were used to sell the Adventure Team to an audience that had challengers from the Mego Super Heroes and other stars of the age such as Steve Austin-the Six Million Dollar Man and Evel Knievel..
It didn't matter much because the team didn't sell as well as their military counterpart or the smaller version of the 80's and other than guys like me from that narrow time frame,these are not nearly as well thought of by collectors or fans of the line

The line sold several of the "playsets" that such things sold through the years to kids to accentuate the figures and the one that I remember best was "Search for the Stolen Idol" which basically was a helicopter with a Buddha looking idol.
This (and secret of the mummy's tomb) looked to be the coolest thing that I could imagine and of course,I wanted all of this stuff.!

I really wanted the blond and red haired Joe because they looked so radically different from the standard Joe (there was an Air,Sea,Land,Adventurer and Standard,each with a different hair and beard color) and they would have been such a cool addition to my other toys.
Other than playing sports,I don't remember being much of an "outside" kid,but I do remember taking various figures outside and putting them in various scenes in my yard or even at my parents cabin on our weekend trips there.
Those toys might have been the only thing to get me out of the house!

In the end and I'm sure my parents would have no idea what I'm writing about or even remotely remember why.
I remember being pretty disappointed,which is likely kinda selfish,but I'll give an 6-8 year old a pass,but the story continues years later...

I'm walking through Wal-Mart and suddenly I see piles of these Joe's lying around.
I collected a lot more at this time than I do right now,but I had no idea why these were and ran to the shopping cart and the lovely Cherie with my find.
She wasn't quite so thrilled with what turned out to be a limited re-issue of the original's for Wal-Mart only.
In the end,I reluctantly put my haul back,steely in my resolve to buy them next week.
Next week,they were off to wherever unsold (or maybe someone bought them) toys go to-never to be seen by me again.
I think I'll get by,although they look so neat and they'd make a great display whenever the day comes that I am able to display such things-(keep in mind,if you happen to have these things-let me know),but I've got lots of cool stuff already (wait til you see the Star Trek figures).

All these memories (or in this case non-memories) brought up by a website that didn't even write about what I really wanted!!!

Hope you enjoyed a little bit of reminiscing of G.I.Joe and his Adventure Team,drop me a line,if you like these types of stories....

Monday, November 28, 2016

Giants KO Browns 27-13

The Cleveland Browns defense played better than expected,but the offense could not produce points inside the red zone and the Browns fell to 0-12 with a 27-13 loss to the New York Giants in Cleveland.
Josh McCown threw for over 300 yards and the Browns only touchdown on a pass to Corey Coleman,while Terrelle Pryor finished with six catches for 131 yards as the main offensive star.
The Browns have a bye week this Sunday and return on 12/11 at home vs the Bengals...

Brownie Bits

1) Offensive line. Offensive line.Offensive line.
After Pittsburgh (and its 13 sacks entering the game) rolled over the Browns for eight dumps of the passer,the Giants ranked 29th in the league added seven more sacks.
The Browns just cannot protect the passer and the off season decisions took an average group and made it awful.

2) You know what I might do-Call the Rams and ask what the cost for Greg Robinson might be?
The former top five pick has been benched for them,wonder if they'd be interested after the season.
I also have no idea why we have seen nothing (more below) from former first rounder and waiver claimee Jonathan Cooper either-like he could be any worse?

3) Game was still in question until former Buckeye Jonathan Hankins stripped Josh McCown of the ball and Jason Pierre-Paul cruised into the end zone for the crushing blow.
I know the Browns need so much,but boy,they have to do something on the line,don't they?

4) Terrelle Pryor went over one hundred yards with a 54 yard catch on the day against the foul mouthed tweeter Janoris Jenkins,but as far as in the game,you can see Pryor's frustration building on the sideline with the Browns.
I was asked last night did I think Pryor was going to stay a Brown (free agent after the season),I think he wants to and I think he feels like he owes something to Hue Jackson

5) Josh McCown threw for 300 plus and didn't throw an interception,which looks nice on the box score.
The reality is different as he often was inaccurate and either threw the ball too soon or too late-taking a sack or a hit.
That's not all his fault,considering his protection,but I thought before that Josh McCown gave the Browns the best chance to win a game.
Not sure I agree with that now as McCown is looking every bit of his 37,but who would be a better choice??

6) Isaiah Crowell has struggled of late and again,the line play is a good reason for that,but his fumble inside the Browns 30 handed the Giants the football and the ensuing drive resulted in a Giants touchdown.
Ball possession has nothing to do with line play.Tuck it in.

7) The pass defense didn't play that badly.
Yes.Eli Manning threw for 3 scores,but the Browns held him to under 200 yards passing and Joe Haden did a better job than expected against Odell Beckham.
The secondary has been horrid at times this year,but I thought they had some good points in this game.

8) I was glad to see Rashard Higgins and Seth DeValve catch a few passes in playing time.
I'd like to see more playing time for both of these young receivers-especially Higgins,who should have been playing more when Corey Coleman was out with injury..

9) The offensive line got worse with John Greco's foot injury that ended the veteran guards season.
The Browns have now lost both of their starting guards,so maybe now Jonathan Cooper will see some playing time...

10) 0-12,Can this team get a win?
The Bengals are in flux and that's in Cleveland,so maybe.
I doubt Buffalo or Pittsburgh are likely road losses and I still think San Diego at home is the one.
Until then,lets hope for a San Francisco win.
Believe or not,the 49ers won their opener and haven't won since.
I'd hate to see 1-15 not be worth the top pick in the draft....