Monday, August 29, 2016

Browns cut K'Waun Williams,Trade Andy Lee to Carolina

The Cleveland Browns keep on moving as on the same day that the team released linebacker Paul Kruger,the Browns cut corner K'Waun Williams and traded Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee to the Carolina Panthers...

Williams,who had been the nickel corner for the Browns in his two years in Cleveland after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Pitt,had been suspended for refusing to enter the pre-season opener.
Williams claimed an ankle injury,which was medically confirmed,but the team suspended him for two weeks anyway.
That suspension was expiring this week,but the writing for Williams was on the wall and with Jamar Taylor and Tramon Williams as veterans ahead of him on the depth chart,the tenure for Williams in Cleveland looked to be finished.
Williams might be claimed off waivers by San Francisco,where defensive coordinator Jim O'Neill (formerly with the Browns) might have interest in working with a player that played well for him in the past...

Meanwhile,the Browns sent punter Andy Lee and a seventh round pick in the 2017 draft to the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers in exchange for rookie punter Travis Redfern and the Panthers fourth round selection in 2018.
Lee is one of the league's best punters,but getting a fourth round pick for a punter is a pretty nice return.
Lee and Hue Jackson had gotten into verbal jousting in the Browns loss to Tampa Bay last week for a weak effort by Lee against a Buccaneer returner,but even if things were truly settled,the lowly Browns would have been hard pressed to turn down that type of offer,even if the choice is two years away.
Travis Redfern will likely be the Browns punter with zero NFL experience,so look for punters to be on speed dial if Redfern stumbles early.

The Browns will miss Andy Lee,but seriously does losing a punter make much of a difference in the win/loss and the team basically turned a seventh round pick (traded a 2015 to San Francisco) into a good year from Lee and a future fourth rounder.
One cannot argue with that and while K'Wan Williams loses depth in the secondary,the situation clearly couldn't be tolerated..

The beat goes on in Cleveland,but the team seems to have somewhat of a clue as they continue to accumulate future assets.
The key will be taking advantage of those picks-something that has been in short supply in recent years...

Another contract casualty-Browns cut Paul Kruger

The Cleveland Browns continue to be all in-for down the road that is as the Browns released a group of players in order to hit the mandated roster limit.

There were four names that stood of the bunch,but one name carried the most weight-that of linebacker Paul Kruger.
Kruger,who was brought into Cleveland to be the classic edge pass rusher for the Browns in 2013,only produced the expected numbers in 2014 with eleven sacks as the other two seasons saw Kruger combine for just seven and with Ray Horton's return to Cleveland as defensive coordinator (Kruger had 4.5 sacks under Horton),you could make a case that both teams could profit from the decision to release Kruger.
The Browns are trying to get younger (and cheaper) and for the money they would pay Kruger (6.5 million) the team could use that time to play and see just what they have in players like Nate Orchard for one example.
Cleveland saves 6.5 million in actual dollars that they do not have to pay Kruger,but they also save money under the salary cap by releasing him now.
I'd rate Paul Kruger as a disappointment in Cleveland,but I'd wager that he could flourish in a new environment,especially if it is one where he is not the main pass rushing threat.

The other releases of note saw a new kicker decided and a quarterback released.
Travis Coons was released,which means former Buccaneer Patrick Murray will be the starting kicker.
Coons struggled with long field goals in his only season in Cleveland and on a bad team,a big leg goes a long way.

Austin Davis was released and set the Browns quarterback situation for a bit.
Davis played a few games late last season with injury issues at the position and despite signing a long term contract,Davis looked to be on borrowed time with the coaching change after a less than shiny stint.

The other player was tight end E.J.Bibbs,who looked to have the physical skills for a pass catching tight end,but rarely saw the field and his skill set seems to be different from the tight ends that Hue Jackson prefers-think Tyler Eifert rather than the stockier target rather than the taller more angular types.
I liked Bibbs and had hoped he'd get a chance to play more....

Will try again to be back later with the Pulaski trip...

Whatever happened to Danny Taylor?

At this time of year with the Little League World Series taking place,I get questions about the game.
After all,I played for five years,sat in the announcers booth for five more and coached for another ten,so some people (especially those that were familiar with a particular) want to ask questions on occasions.

The player that I get asked most about is the late Nick Adenhart because I was an assistant coach on an All-Star team of Nick's and coached against him (we beat him three of four times with the fourth ending in a tie,Little League can be goofy) and people want to know about my thoughts on Nick as a youth player.

However,the question that I get asked most is a variation on this "Wasn't Nick the best player that you ever saw in your time" and people are surprised to hear me answer "No".
Nick certainly was the best pitcher that I ever coached against,but he wasn't the best that I ever saw.

The most dominant player that I ever saw was a guy named Danny Taylor,who dominated the little league in town and then dominated the Pony League even further.
In fact,when I coached later,I asked a long time local baseball icon a similar question and without a skip of the needle-his answer was Danny Taylor.
That showed me that my memory was not embellished by age.
Danny Taylor was three years older than me and I only faced him one time,when someone had the brilliant idea to have him pitch to the kids trying out for the league.
No one touched him,but that might have been the point-If a 9 year old could even foul one off Taylor,he might be a prospect!
I don't remember if I fouled one off or not,but I'm doubtful that happened.

I remember reasonably well a game with Taylor pitching for "Byron's" against Brad Martin of "Byers Market" and throwing a no-hitter with a 1-0 win as Taylor homered for the game's only hit.
That game was a game that was talked about for years that even as I sat in the booth,so it wasn't (yet again) a game that got better with age.
I remember some of the newspaper clipping and he was just as dominant in Pony League,but he must have peaked early or had an injury in the days where such things weren't as closely paid attention to because his name wasn't heard as much by my freshman year in high school where Taylor was a senior and on the baseball team.
I don't remember as much about him there and I don't believe that he was ever drafted.

Watching the ESPN program about the 1982 Kirkland Washington LLWS winners and their star pitcher Cody Webster made me think of Danny Taylor as a player that might have peaked too soon and whatever happened to him.
Since I wasn't friends with him,there would be no reason to know other than his dad helped coach me one season when I played and I have no idea where he is or what he does.
Still,his name comes up when the above question is asked a few times a year to me and I wonder just what happened to Danny Taylor and how such a dominant player never received a chance to play at the professional level.

Imagine just how many players have similar stories in the game and you get an idea of just how hard it is to make it in professional baseball..

Will try to be back next time with a look at our road trip to Pulaski and Calfee Park...

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Road Trip-Princeton

I'll be starting my review of the Appalachian League trip with Fred and Michael Landucci today with the first part of day one.
I'll be doing this as quickly as I can,but other things could postpone the series on occasion.
Also,things could be changing here at the TRS flagship as my internet connection at work is going away effective Monday,so I'm not sure how I am going to handle that.
In order for me to access the net,I may have to buy a "Jetpack" and add an extra bill.
Since an extra bill is the main reason that I do not carry a cell phone around,something may have to give and that might be internet access at work.
That trickles down to less time to talk to you (friends and readers) and less time to work on the blog.
The podcast might be affected a little less because I can do that and upload later at home,but this is going to be something that I deal with.
Just wanted to keep you informed...

The first part of day one was at Hunnicutt Field in Princeton,West Virginia.
Princeton is located in the southern portion of the state and we were able to reach there with little difficulty,although we did have one memorable stop on the way at an unlikely place-a dull little gas station.
You see,all season at various minor parks,the one thread is the constant reference to the "official chip of minor league baseball" Uncle Ray's.
However,none of these parks actually sell this chip,so its been a running joke all season about the chip that is so good that no one actually sells it-until this gas station in New Castle VA,which brought a hearty laugh from Fred and a quick purchase of the bag by Fred!
Once,Fred opened the bag and we all tried them,what we found was a thoroughly mediocre chip and the bag spent the rest of the trip in the back seat-untouched and unloved!

When arriving at H.P.Hunnicutt Field,we stayed on the visitors side of the stadium as we waited for the visiting Bluefield Blue Jays and parked our car across the street in a strip mall parking lot.
The parking lot had a steep hill and we waited for a bit until the bus arrived.
When it did,we saw one of the weirdest sights yet as the bus driver parked in the lot rather than beside the stadium with the players walking down this hill.
The bus driver left the bus and started yelling back and forth with the manager with both raising their voices with Dennis Holmberg (Bluefield manager) hollering "you better hope none of my players turn an ankle going down this hill".
Holmberg was pretty unhappy and I decided not to ask him to sign the two cards that I had.
I didn't have a lot of cards for Bluefield,but did get Vladimir Guerrero Jr on two cards and Matt Morgan to sign his Bowman.

Hunnicutt Field is a true throwback as you enter from the right field area and hit the only team stand,which is a little hutch that was manned by Amanda,who was so nice in taking care of us.
It goes a long way when employees are nice to you,which is a lesson that the Suns could learn!
Hunnicutt has next to no access to get the home Rays,although Michael was able to get the Rays number one pick Joshua Lowe by dropping a ball down to him and catching a reverse toss.
You are literally 15 feet above the playing surface and except for a small area that you can carefully squeeze a card in,are unable to get cards to players.
I mean,even the book guys could drop the book down,but wouldn't able to have the book returned.
I did get the one Ray that I wanted in Adrian Rondon using the small fence area,but I wouldn't count on getting enough guys finished for a team set.
If you want to do the Rays at Hunnicutt Field,you might want get them going into the stadium or leaving after the game...

We didn't watch much of the game there as we had planned to graph and make the one hour drive to Pulaski for the Greeneville Astros against the hometown Pulaski Yankees,but did watch an inning so we could watch Vlad Guerrero Jr hit (he singled) and grabbed a hot dog (only a dollar).
We sat on a picnic bench right behind home plate in an area that would cost a huge amount at a big league park.
It felt like we could have called balls and strikes!

All and all,I liked Princeton.
The employees were nice and the park quirky,even with the bad autograph access.
I'd return to Hunnicutt Field-especially if you want the visiting team,who is far easier to do...

Next time in the road trip series-We'll take a look at the Pulaski portion of the day!

Photo Credits:Fred Landucci

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cleaning out the inbox

Time to clean out the inbox and we'll start with Eleven Warriors and their look at Kyle Snyder,the Ohio State junior,who became the youngest United State wrestler to ever win Olympic gold.
The in-depth article on Snyder was written just before he won the gold and goes into Snyder's high school and international background.
Eleven Warriors might be best known as a OSU football site,but it is so much more than that in its Buckeye coverage....

New writes an article about the giving side of Yankee prospect Clint Frazier.
Frazier,who was the painful part for me to lose in the Indians acquisition of Andrew Miller.
I was really impressed with my own small interaction with Clint last year in Frederick,but this article shows so much more from the young man.
I don't want to spoil the article,but this is the type of player that doesn't come along every day and if the Indians don't kick the door with Miller in the next two seasons,they might regret that trade for a long time-No matter how well Andrew Miller pitches,,,,

I've written before about journeyman players from the seventies that I rooted for and had no other reason than a baseball card,name or picture in a magazine,
One of those was righthanded pitcher Lynn McGlothen,who had a few good seasons,but enjoyed an average career before dying in a fire in 1984.
Bruce Markusen selected McGlothen as the topic of his latest Card Corner and covers his tragic death along with his various stops in baseball.
The card that I liked of McGlothen's was his 1976 Topps card with his huge smile hanging around the batting cage in what looks to be Shea Stadium.

Joe Plum found this note in Popular Science with a fisherman
that found a 75 pound pearl inside a giant clam over a decade ago and hid it away until then.
Pearls are usually found in oysters not clams,but clams are capable of making pearls in some situations....

I wrap with a note from Battlin' Bob,who doesn't appear here as much as he used to,but still possesses a sharp wit and some of the funnier Facebook posts around.
The Battler found this link from his hometown of Butler PA on Charlie a 55 year old Amazon parrot that hatched in the Butler Woolworth's and then was the store mascot for 35 years before the store closed.
Charlie is still living in a private home and still has very few physical issues.

Coming soon will be the start of the Appalachian League recap!!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Road Trip-West Virginia

Since the Ohio trip was somewhat shortened by the lack of reasonable hotel rates and I drove home,it looked like my original plan to break up the trip home with a stop in Morgantown WV to hit another new stadium was kiboshed.

On the way home,I talked about it with Cherie and since the game started at four and we still had the rental car,the day trip to Morgantown and the Black Bears was on.

We stopped in Lavale MD for a Dairy Queen "Grill and Chill".
Hagerstown's two DQ's are all desserts and Cherie complains about that a lot,so that was an easy selection.
Clear,fast and friendly,the Cumberland suburb was a nice respite on our trip with their five dollar lunch that included a large sundae.
We had a little problem finding the stadium since the address wasn't listed in the GPS,but it really is quite easy to find after you have been there once.
The stadium is surrounded by a shopping area with a mall,Wal-Mart,Target,Best Buy etc,so once you have been there once,there are plenty of markers to remember for future visits.

We then arrived late,but I didn't want to graph today anyway.
Neither team (Black Bears or visiting Williamsport Crosscutters) had released their team sets,so I didn't have a particular time involved to arrive and between that and the issues in finding the stadium,we arrived in the second inning...
The Black Bears gave us the best seats in the place and we were even told so by the usher that seated us-"Whoa,these are the best seats that we have,so zero complaints there.

The field is close to the fans and is one of the few stadiums in the minors (Not sure if I can think of any others) that uses artificial turf for a surface anymore.
Monongalia County Ballpark was (like State College) built to be shared between the team and a university-in this case West Virginia University,
Since the Big 12 (WVU) has some national powerhouse baseball programs with the colder season Big 10 being a lesser light,the need to get games finished in weather that is not warm is a much bigger deal for the Mountaineers than it is in State College for Penn State.
Therefore the answer is to have a playing surface capable of playing those and that is artificial turf.

MCB's turf did bring back some memories of childhood baseball as on two occasions,balls were hit off the turf,bringing a small puff of dust and crazy hops over infielders that wouldn't have dealt with the surface very often.
One of the two resulted in a triple that brought to mind Willie McGee or Lonnie Smith roaring around second base after a turf aided triple into the gap.

Most of the entrances there are down the left field line for the fans and you walk up a steep incline.
The team pays attention to this as they offer gold cart rides from the parking lot to the park and from the ticket booth to your seat,if you need it.
I hope the team continues to use the carts as so many people in those situations would have difficulty getting around the Black Bears.
It does give an interesting visual when you enter the field and it is pretty unique.

Now for the downside-this might be the worst environment for autographing that I have ever been in and I didn't even bring anything to get signed!
As a newer ballpark,the Black Bears used the baseball recommended screen to run from dugout to dugout and severely limited access there.
That wouldn't be so bad,if the grass area (each side of the field down the baseline with a contoured hill) was available for fans.
It isn't as fans aren't allowed to be on it.
I suppose you might be able to access some visiting team relief pitchers as their bullpen is reachable near the entrance,but anyone else and you look to be spending your time graphing outside the stadium.

If you want to go to a game with a nice ballpark-I'd would say there are plenty of positives to stopping by and seeing the Black Bears and would recommend it.
If you are a autographer and want to try to get someone there-I would give it the lowest grade I could give,so keep that in mind before going to Morgantown.

Plan on being back soon with the trip to the Appy league and still owe a podcast.

Browns give up on another #1- Barkevious Mingo traded to Patriots

The Cleveland Browns admitted yet another defeat on a first round draft pick and said goodbye to the final remaining link to the Joe Banner/Mike Lombardi administration as the Browns traded 2013 first rounder Barkevious Mingo to the New England Patriots for a 2017 5th round draft pick.

Mingo was the sixth overall pick in one of the weaker drafts in recent history,but despite me liking the pick (although I did slightly prefer Jarvis Jones of Georgia at the same position chosen by the Steelers),came with some red flags as far as production from a strong program in LSU.
Mingo had a fast start in his rookie year and looked to be on his way to at least being a strong situational pass rusher.
However,after the firing of Rob Chudzinski and defensive coordinator Ray Horton at the end of that season,Mingo seemed lost in the Mike Pettine scheme and was relegated to special teams (he was quite good,but special teams for the 6th overall pick) and dropped back in coverage,which he struggled with and was the opposite of what he possessed in his skillset.

The biggest issue that I saw with Mingo was that he just wasn't strong enough to get past offensive tackles to get to the passer and his speed,while impressive,made him essentially a one run racehorse.
I remember many times watching Mingo just miss sacks a fraction of a second after the ball had been released and even futilely holding onto a quarterback,but unable to take him down to complete the play.

Mingo could be a helpful piece for New England,which has done such a good job in rehabilitating players in the past and with his physical skills should at least help on special teams at worst.
Mingo could perhaps be developed as a pass rusher and on a team that he could be deployed against a lesser offensive lineman might be helpful on occasion.

The Browns have jettisoned another wasted first rounder,but there is a positive aspect with getting a fifth rounder (although it's closer to a sixth,considering the Patriots are more than likely to be picking at the bottom of the first round.
The return is nothing to excite yourself over,but something for a player that was more than likely to be released in 10 days certainly beats nothing at all.

Cleveland continues in yet another mass cleaning of the franchise and even though I am still doubtful of the capabilities of Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta,so far I have seen nothing that I have been red faced furious over and only two things that stand that I have major questions with-the overdrafting of Cody Kessler in the 3rd round (Hue Jackson likely has a piece of that as well) and the inability to keep Mitchell Schwartz when the player wanted to return to accept a previous team offer.

Small steps for a team that may have to overachieve to surpass the 3-13 season of 2015,but I'm somewhat optimistic that the right steps are at least being considered.

Next time-West Virginia and the Black Bears....