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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reynaldo Lopez-A Bolt from the Blue

When you watch enough minor league baseball,sometimes you can get a bit numb to things.
Games can become dreary and players become routine,but then are nights like last night when you are surprised to the point that makes you realize why you watch the games.

Reynaldo Lopez may not look the part of a power pitcher,but he sure impressed me in his first appearance in Hagerstown.

Lopez had appeared in two games with the Suns earlier in the season,but both games were on the road,so this was my first game in seeing the Dominican righthander pitch.
Lopez entered the game with the best ERA in the NY/Penn league with Auburn with a number of 0.75 in seven starts,but he had less than impressive numbers in his two Suns starts,so I wasn't sure what to think.

I do now after a sharp start against Greenville that saw Lopez pitch six innings,whiff nine and allow just two hits,one of which was a blooper off the end of the bat.
Lopez throws hard.
As in tremendously hard.
So hard that Bill Cover and I remarked just how loud the pop of the mitt sounded at times to the point of resembling the loud crack you hear from a good firecracker.
For the all of the hype on Lucas Giolito and it's deserved,I haven't heard the catcher's glove ring like that in the starts that I have seen Giolito pitch this season.
It was reported to us that some radar guns (I have always wanted one of those) had registered Lopez as high as 101 MPH during last night's contest.
Normally,without seeing the gun,I would dismiss such things as hyperbole.
I will not this time as I saw (and heard) the pitches-I believe it.
This is a prospect that is flying way under the radar and at just 20 years old,the Nationals may have found themselves a arm for the future that could develop into a fine top to middle part of their rotation down the road.
There is plenty of refinement needed,but the raw ability is there.

Nights like last night are the type of nights that make following this game fun.
When someone without a large background to draw from suddenly shows up and makes you sit up and take notice,it's always a great feeling.
Reynaldo Lopez may or may not be a big leaguer and he has plenty of distance still to go,but I'll remember him one way or another on a chilly (yes,chilly) night in July that he arrived like a bolt from blue and popped that glove.
That is just another reason that I love this game.....

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boxing Challenge-Golovkin blitzes Geale!

I didn't have time to post the boxing challenge between me and R.L. Malpica,but we each added 3 points to our totals.

Heavyweight Bryant Jennings earned a heavyweight title bout with a split decision win over Mike Perez.
Both of us picked Jennings via unanimous decision and added one point to our total.

WBA Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin continued his devastation of the middleweight division with a one punch knockout of former IBF champ Daniel Geale in the third round.
Geale tagged Golovkin with a solid right that saw Golovkin counter with his own to end the fight.
Geale staggered to his feet,but told the referee that an honorable surrender was fine with him.
Gennady Golovkin is the best middleweight in the world,the best puncher in the world and if he could just get a huge name to fight him,maybe the best fighter in the world.
That's how good this man is and no fighter has to see this demolition of Geale,a fine fighter and just shake their head in disbelief.
The only bad part of this is looking back to last summer and imagine had Geale gotten the split decision (he lost a split nod) to Darren Barker and kept his IBF title that this could have been a unification bout.
I doubt WBC champ Miguel Cotto takes on Golovkin,especially when he could make far more money for a winnable bout against Canelo Alvarez,WBO titlist Peter Quillin is unlikely to accept the challenge for his trinket due to promotional considerations,so Golovkin's next bout could be IBF kingpin Sam Soliman,who holds Geale's old belt after Darren Barker passed it to Felix Sturm,who dropped it to Soliman.
Soliman is not up to Geale's standards let alone Golovkin's so look at that to be a similar showcase of Golovkin's skills,but might be the best payday that Soliman could get.
Look for more on Golovkin in a future post...

The three point evening placed R.L.'s lead still at two points at 56-54....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On the signing front

A smaller signing front today,but one that buys some space on the pile!

We start with the Wilmington Blue Rocks,a team loaded with prospects that with one or two exceptions were struggling on the field.
The Wilmington team set had been released quickly (which is a refreshing change from teams that signed contracts with Brandt Sportcards to produce their team sets) and had loads of prospects to ink.

The biggest fish were as always the two with Top 100 cards and I was able to get both in different manners.
Raul Mondesi Jr, was an excellent signer in the SAL last year and kept up the good work in the Carolina League as he signed his 100 and 4 others including his Topps Heritage,Lexington and Wilmington cards.
Mike Landucci ran down to the field and got Bubba Starling on his top 100,which was appreciated.
I would add more from the outfield prospect in the next Blue Rock visit.
The two first rounders from the Royals 2013 draft were both super nice in signing two cards apiece.
Hunter Dozier signed a Bowman Chrome with his Wilmington card,while Sean Manaea signed his Wilmington with a Panini Elite.
Powerarmed Miguel Almonte signed all five cards that I had,but I missed out on local prospect Christian Binford on this occasion as he was the starting pitcher on this evening.
The story on this night was a funny one as Bubba Starling and pitcher Daniel Stumpf switched jerseys (names on the back) to run to the field and then switched back in the dugout.
Not sure if it was an accident (both names starting with ST) or just guys having fun (both signed,so I doubt it was to dodge us),but a interesting note.....

Kendall and I trekked to Altoona for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the worst day of graphing all season.
As in four cards.
At least I did get the two oldest cards finished in 2008 cards for PJ Walters and Richard Bleier,but those and two from Matt Newman finished a bad day in Altoona.
Altoona is easily my least favorite graphing stop on the circuit anymore between the tough accommodations and the usually unfriendly ushers,but this day was bad even by Altoona standards...

The Delmarva Shorebirds were in Hagerstown,but yet no team set was released yet.
So that led to just 2013 first rounder Hunter Harvey,who signed a super sharp Blue Panini numbered to 75 and his blue Bowman mini.
Harvey is nice,but quiet as he signs everything,I just wonder how long that will last...

I'll wrap up with the Akron Rubber Ducks in Harrisburg on a day that was the opposite of the previous note-I was able to get every player in the team set signed including the top Indians prospect in Francisco Lindor.
Lindor usually signs just one card,but after his 1st run through,he returned for a second time around.
He got to me and I told him "Francisco,you already signed for me"
Lindor replied with an outstretched fist for a fist bump and said "you are an honest man,I like that,I'll sign a second one for you".
It's stories of that nature that make this hobby so much fun....
Other Ducks of note include former Cub Bryan LaHair,former first rounder Tyler Naquin and Joe Wendle on his Bowman Chrome.

That's all for this time on the signing front.Still plenty on the pile though,so I'll be back soon for more....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Andrew Wiggins signs-the countdown starts....

The Cleveland Cavaliers made the next step that needed to be made in order to trade for Kevin Love or to just prepare for the upcoming season as Andrew Wiggins signed the maximum contract allowed and started the 30 day clock.

Just what is the 30 day clock?
NBA rules stipulate that rookies cannot be traded for 30 days after signing their first contract,so Wiggins could not be the centerpiece of a Love (or any other) deal before that period of time would elapse.
The Cavaliers could come to an agreement with another team before the time allowed to deal Wiggins,but they cannot announce in until the conclusion of the time period.
Wiggins signed a 5.5 million dollar deal,so he could be included in a trade now to make things work fiscally.

Now,the clock begins and we will be treated to 30 days of rumors.
Will Minnesota deal Love at all? Could they ship him to another team other than the Cavaliers?
It's been known that Golden State wants him,but want to keep Klay Thompson,much as Cleveland wants to try to keep Wiggins.
If Cleveland can make a deal,does it have to include Wiggins?
Is a third team needed to make the trade work?
Is Andrew Wiggins even included in any talks?
There have been so many "sources" that are "close to the talks" saying so many different things,that you just get tired of listening to them all because there is so much information that you just do not know which one to believe.

The bigger question to me is this-Is losing Andrew Wiggins and his huge potential worth trading for Kevin Love?
Well,the first answer is easy-No way unless Love is willing to sign a new contract before the trade is finalized.
Regardless of the pundits that insist that Cleveland "HAS" to make the deal for Love because of the window of the prime of LeBron James,if Love does not agree to an extension before a trade,then to me,Andrew Wiggins is off the table.

The second has a few variables.
Let's assume that Kevin Love does agree to a long term extension,lets say four years,do you think that four years of Love is worth 15 of Andrew Wiggins?
I know that all Cleveland fans want a title and one would have to think that James/Love/Kyrie Irving could produce one,but couldn't one think a Irving/Wiggins combination could thrive far beyond the prime of LeBron James?
Wiggins turns 20 in the middle of next season and Irving becomes 23 in the middle of the season as well,so assuming that you think that LeBron has 4-5 years as his peak time remaining (James is 29 now),that would give Kyrie Irving 10 years left at least and Andrew Wiggins could be a Cavalier for a good 15 years.
Is that worth a title against a potential dynasty run?
I know that we are so desperate for a trophy in anything in Northeast Ohio that one wants to win now,but that choice is not an easy one.

I'm in the keep Andrew Wiggins camp.
For as talented of a player as Kevin Love is,the numbers that he routinely puts up in Minnesota would be reduced in Cleveland naturally as he would no longer be the focal point of the offense.
That isn't why I would not include Andrew Wiggins in a trade.
I wouldn't because I think Wiggins is going to be special.
Special enough that I haven't seen a player with his potential on both ends of the floor since LeBron James and I think keeping him is the best way to maintain chances for the Cavaliers to thrive for the next generation and maybe beyond.

I'd love to land Kevin Love and I'd do whatever it takes to get him even trading Kyrie Irving if need be,although after his agreeing to an extension that is not happening,but I've hopefully made my point on how highly I think of Andrew Wiggins.
One way or another-the countdown has started-See you in a month,...

P.S-I really want one of those Cleveland Basketball shirts,if I can find one in jumbo size-I have to have it!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Someone cares about my opinions???

Apparently so,as my rival in the Boxing Challenge,R.L. Malpica asked me if I would be willing to make a guest appearance on his podcast Corner II Corner and of course,I was more than pleased to accept.

You can hear the show and my thoughts here on various issues in the world of boxing,but I must admit it is always a little surreal hearing yourself speak.
I always found it strange watching myself on TV appearances a few times through the years and I never got over seeing and/or hearing you outside yourself.

I enjoyed being on the show and I sure enjoy doing "radio" or the internet version of it more than television.
Radio features the spoken word and you have to pay attention to what the person is saying,where on television,it often is more important what the person looks like than what they are saying.
I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else,so I'm not trying to be holier than thou,I'm just saying it's easier to process things when you aren't distracted by the looks of the person.
In any event,thanks to R.L. for inviting me on the show,I had a blast doing it and I hope his listeners weren't too bored with my opinions on boxing!
Please check the show for the boxing thoughts or just to hear me ramble,so I get a return invite! Ha Ha!

It's always nice to know that someone thinks enough of your knowledge to be invited to speak and that alone makes me feel pretty good.

I hope to be back tomorrow with a On the Signing Front because the cards are overflowing and need to be reduced a bit!!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Robert Newhouse

Sorry to hear of the passing of my all-time favorite Dallas Cowboy Robert Newhouse at the age of 64 after a battle with heart disease.

Robert Newhouse was never the featured ball carrier on the Dallas powerhouse of the 1970's,but he was the toughest player on the field for those teams.
Newhouse was the fullback,so he blocked for the likes of Calvin Hill and later Tony Dorsett,but had he been a member of another team,he might been their bellwether back.
Newhouse was a star rusher at Houston in college before being the second round selection of the Cowboys in 1972 and with his hard running style could have been the star on some teams.

Instead,Newhouse blocked,caught passes and did the short yardage dirty work that good teams always seem to need and tough players seem to relish.
Newhouse was noted for the size of his thighs for a player,let alone a running back at an astonishing 44 inches,which easily were the largest in the league.
Tackling Robert Newhouse was once described as trying to tackle a rolling bowling ball and given his dimensions-I could certainly believe that.
Watching highlights of the Cowboys and Newhouse saw a player that never stopped pushing downfield and those films would show him taking shot after shot yet spinning forward and never stopping.
Just watching those hits would make one a Robert Newhouse fan,even if I wasn't a Cowboys fan.
I remember as a kid buying the seasonal Topps Football cards and drafting teams against my dad and always taking Robert Newhouse as my fullback.
Dad hated the Cowboys and I did too,but I'm not sure Dad ever understood how I could hate the Cowboys so much,yet love Robert Newhouse!
I would always tell him "wouldn't it be great if the Redskins (I rooted for them as a kid in the NFC) traded for Newhouse?".
He always would say "Tom Landry will never trade anyone to George Allen".

Newhouse's most remembered plays wasn't even a run-it was his long touchdown pass to Golden Richards in the Cowboys 27-10 win over the Broncos in the 1978 Super Bowl.
Watching the play,it's a strong throw as Newhouse rolled to his left and let it fly!

A few years ago when I was in a mailing frenzy over the winter sending cards,I sent some cards to my old favorite and sure enough a month later,all three cards back,signed by my childhood star.
Newhouse worked for the Cowboys in retirement and his son Reggie played a few years with the Cardinals in the late 90's before his health issues came to the forefront.

Best regards to his family for their loss and a final thank you for the great memories of watching Robert Newhouse play....

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cleaning out the ...Never mind..

The Cleveland Cavaliers must be close to a trade with Minnesota or someone else because there is no other reason for tonight's trade with the Utah Jazz other than to accumulate contracts to make a trade work under the salary cap.

The Cavaliers obtained three players,none of which averaged more than four points an outing last season,but all have contracts that would help a potential deal get done.
John Lucas III is the type of player that I actually wouldn't mind seeing the Cavaliers keep around as Lucas can run the point for 10 to 12 minutes a night and get you through some Kyrie Irving rest periods.
At the same time,guys like him can be signed at almost anytime,so it wouldn't be a huge loss.
The other two players are forwards that rarely played in Malcolm Thomas (8 games between the Spurs and Jazz) and Eric Murphy (24 games with the Bulls).
Both fill the power forward role,but would likely be the largest towel waver on the bench for a good team....

Cleveland traded Carrick Felix,who the team picked in the second round in the 2013 draft,a future second rounder and a cool one million dollars to the Jazz in obtaining the above three.
Felix spent time in Canton with the Cavaliers D-League squad and battled injuries as he played just seven games in Cleveland.
Felix might develop into a defensive type or could just as easily never be heard from again,so he appears to be just another player.
The second round pick is part of the price of doing business and the money?
Well,Dan Gilbert ,for all of his mistakes, has never been afraid to spend dollars,let alone a million.

Clearly,this is a deal that was made to lead to another deal,most likely Minnesota and Kevin Love,but it isn't out of the question that it could be another deal in the making.
If the Cavaliers cannot land Love,the need for a big man still exists,so one way or another -Cleveland should be making a trade.
The team cannot enter another year depending on injury-prone Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson as the main bigs up front.
LeBron James or not,that is not a championship level frontline.

Tonight's deal looks small on the surface,but it clears the decks to make a big deal work and that deal will be the once that will tell the tale of the Cavaliers true title hopes....