Saturday, May 27, 2017

Road Trip:Norfolk

I've been on the road a lot over the last week and didn't have a chance to write about the Cavaliers two wins and one loss on their way to winning the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row.
I'm planning a title series preview covering the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors later this week,but since that series doesn't start until next Thursday-I'll do that in a few days...

I added another stadium to my passport as I visited Norfolk Virginia with one of my normal travelers in Derreck Chupak along with Brandon Diehl,who has went on trips with us before and a new voyager in Patrick O'Connor.
I'm not a huge grapher of AAA baseball because it's a lot of work,but this was intriguing because of the visiting Charlotte Knights.
The new Bowman top 100 set was released and with luck,I could get five percent (five for the non-math majors out there! Ha Ha) of the set in one visit with four Knights and one member of the home Norfolk Tides.

The trip was originally scheduled to be taken to Trenton,NJ for the Trenton Thunder and I took off work to do so,but the trip was changed with the reported lack of signing of top prospect Gleyber Torres,scared us off a bit.
Being that I had never been to Norfolk and I was knocking a ball park my list anyway,I was fine with the change.

We drove straight to Harbor Park and did "arrival" so we could get a head start.
AAA graphing is difficult mainly for two reasons-the prospects are getting hammered by graphers from all over as they travel through their various systems and AAA guys are getting their first shot at them and the veterans are often older guys that think they should be in the majors and are grumpy for being in AAA.
I didn't get many players during the arrival period-Tyler Danish,who was always a good signer with the White Sox lower level teams,signed a few,veteran journeyman outfielder Ryan Raburn signed his Indians heritage card,but was grumpy doing it.(I wager he was in a better mood in a few days when he was traded to Washington to bolster their bench) and the biggest catch came with Carson Fulmer.
Fulmer was my first top 100 of the weekend with maybe my favorite card of the entire set-this year's Fulmer showed Fulmer pictured in the throwback uniforms from the early 1980's!
Fulmer signs just one card at a time,but he is so nice and easy to deal with and I'm really rooting for the Vanderbilt product to succeed in the bigs..
Those players all walked from the hotel and we weren't as fortunate with the remainder of the team,who took the bus to the park as none of those players signed.

A quick trip back to our hotel,where a computer snafu left us scrambling for our reservation,having to find Ryan and a re-send of the reservation to finally get settled in before a return to Harbor Park,which despite a mist of rain and winds which made the night long,was not melting in the dark.
We tried to do some pre-game graphing by the visitors dugout in hopes for a few cards to be finished and that's about what we had in a few cards from the Charlotte pitching coach and former Oakland Athletic Steve McCatty.
Harbor Park is a two tiered park with the lower deck having far more seating than the cheaper upper deck and we were given pretty decent seats from the Tides.
We were very fortunate to have two prospects charting for Charlotte with Carson Fulmer signing my second (and final) card for me and former Sun Reynaldo Lopez signing his top 100 for my second of the series.
The cards he signed for us were the only ones that we saw Lopez sign for anyone over our time in Norfolk.
I know that players sign less and less as they move higher and higher in baseball,but this one surprised me a bit.
Lopez was always a great signer and very gregarious in dealing with graphers when in the Washington system,it's sad to see him sour on signing,but I'll still remember him best for one night in Hagerstown.

Norfolk does have some pretty good hot dogs as Brandon recommended and at reasonable prices at 4.50 per.
I had one "Frito Dog" (Chili,Cheese and crushed Frito) and one "Oriole Dog" (real Crab and Mac and Cheese).
I loved the Frito dog and the crab on the Oriole dog was good,but the mac and cheese could have been done without.
I ate one of each and the other guys ate more than that.
If I had ordered another one,it might have been an Oriole-hold the mac!!
The pictured dogs were Derreck's second helping of dogs!!

We left the game after the seventh inning in order to get into position to land the biggest fish-the number one prospect in all of baseball-Yoan Moncada.
Moncada was the largest chip that Boston had in trading for ace starter Chris Sale with the White Sox and Moncada is expected to be a star for the White Sox for years and could be in Chicago soon.
Moncada was ranked as number one in the top 100 set by Bowman and I was never able to get him to sign for me last year in games that I saw him play in the Boston system with both Salem (High A) and Portland (AA).
As we waited for players as the game wound down,more and more people began to arrive.
We were in great position and a fellow that Derreck met earlier in the day arrived and began acting strangely,pointing at us and had some less than nice things to say as reported by Patrick.
Both of us would have loved to have put this guy in his place,but we had came to get Moncada (and others),we didn't want to lose that spot for some guy that likely had too much to drink.
We move on to Brandon's favorite player,Lucas Giolito,who signed his top 100 to me (Lucas always personalizes,which bothers me much less than others,it seems) and then chatted with Brandon and Patrick for a bit.
Lucas threw a seven inning no-hitter earlier this week in his first start since our visit and might be turning things around after a awful start to the season.

As our "friend" continued his proclamations,Moncada peeked out around the corner to check the amount of graphers,he waited a bit and came out.
This is where the leaving early to gain position won the day-Moncada signed for the four of us (Top 100 for me),a kid with a baseball and Derek,who I had just met.
Derek is on the SportGraphing message board and did a Danville team set for me on consignment last season.
Glad I was able to meet him in person as he's a good guy and an excellent grapher!
Moncada was finished now and walked onto the bus and now this guy mentioned earlier went from drunken happy to drunken unhappy!
The guy began to scream at the bus and walked the length of the bus with his middle finger extended.
He then looked to be moving to the parking lot to leave,but a few minutes later,returned to do the same thing!
Finally,his girlfriend/wife showed up and told him he was embarrassing her,which ended his evening.
I don't write this just to demean this fellow,who I hope just had too much to drink,I write to show two things.
1) This type of behavior helps to contribute to why players get tired of fan interaction.
2) The actions of guys like this makes all of us in this hobby look bad and that's sad because even though graphers like this exist,they aren't around all the time.

I wasn't finished after Moncada as I was able to add a few more players in former Padre outfielder Rymer Liriano (two) and former Padre shortstop Everth Cabrera (two) to end the evening at Harbor Park before an Uber ride through what seemed to be the rougher side of Norfolk and Portsmouth,which is where our hotel was located across the river.
At the end of the day,four top 100's down,some other cards finished,a ballpark on the list and a few interesting tales to tell-good day...

After some sleep,we returned to the stadium to see what we could get on arrival before we left for Hagerstown.
I had worked on Charlotte more on day one,but with the 100's finished,I was trying to fill in cards from both teams,but most importantly,the remaining top 100-Norfolk catcher Chance Sisco,who we had been told that came in very early before almost any of the other Tides.
I did get three Knights in former Phillie Cody Asche (minor heritage),Will Lamb ( 2014 Myrtle Beach) and another Tyler Danish (Bowman) that went to Craig out in Utah.
Norfolk did provide a few in former Braves infielder Chris Johnson (Heritage),who was very nice in signing.Jimmy Yacabonis (2016 Frederick) and Mike Yastrzemski (2016 Bowie),so I was able to feel OK about the Sunday morning hour,but I was disappointed to miss Chance Sisco.
The Knights got off their bus and all walked into the stadium without signing,but as I put away my stuff,Brandon came running over and said Chance Sisco had pulled into the lot.
I've lost some weight,but now the time had come-could I run from the stadium end to stadium end before Sisco entered the clubhouse?
Derreck took my briefcase,so it wouldn't slow me down and the race was on!
I was slow before I gained all this weight,but I suppose motivation can occasionally defeat natural gifts because I made it
in time to get Sisco on his top 100 and make it a perfect five for five on the trip!
I wasn't as out of breath as I thought I'd be,but still I'm surprised I pulled that off!
Former Indian Michael Bourn arrived via Uber,but waved us off with "Not today Ya'll" and that finished our day.

We ran into a lot of traffic on the way home,so a long ride became longer,but I had a great time with Derreck,Brandon and Patrick and it was successful as well.
AAA is far tougher than what I usually do (Even AA) and I don't think I'd enjoy it every day,but it was quite fun and I'd consider doing it again-On occasion!!!!

Still plenty to catch up on and that'll include my anniversary trip and my first trip to Whitaker Bank Ballpark,the home of the Lexington Legends...

Boxing Challenge

Lots of things to catch up on here at TRS with trips to Norfolk,Lexington and my 30th anniversary tour stops,but I'll be catching up on those as the week goes on.

First,we have a bout that boxing fans have been salivating over from the time that it was announced as Kell Brook defends his IBF welterweight title against undefeated Errol Spence.
Brook's win over Shawn Porter was far more impressive than Keith Thurman's over the same Porter,has had troubles getting top welterweights to fight him-much in the same fashion as Gennady Golovkin has at middleweight,while the talented Spence has outclassed his own limited competition put in front of him by the PBC and is untested against top opponents.
Brook showed he'll fight anyone by his challenge of Golovkin,but we'll see what that bout took out of him after Golovkin broke his eye socket,but Spence has been off since August and his knockout of Leonard Bungu,who will not bring back memories of Jose Napoles by any means.
I've been back and forth on who I think wins this and this is a true fight that can go either way.
The fight is on Showtime around five in the afternoon-I'll be in Frederick for the Keys and Buies Creek Astros,so I'll be watching on a delay.

The undercard sees the WBA filling its super middleweight title vacancy with former champion Fedor Chudinov,who lost his belt via controversial decision to Felix Sturm,who then failed his post fight drug test against George Groves,who despite his talent has lost three title challenges.
If Groves wins,the UK could see a big money fight there with Groves unifying his WBA title with James DeGale and his IBF title.
Groves decisioned DeGale in 2011 for the only loss in DeGale's career.

The final bout is a non-televised fight from Panama as two former champions fight for a mandatory WBC 122 pound title fight with Rey Vargas.
Anselmo Moreno,a former bantamweight champ, faces Julio Ceja,who once held the belt owned by Vargas...

IBF Welterweight Title.12 rds
Kell Brook vs Errol Spence
R.L:Spence KO 6
TRS:Spence Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBA Super Middleweight Title,12 rds
Fedor Chudinov vs George Groves
R.L: Chudinov Unanimous Decision
TRS:Groves Unanimous Decision

Jr.Featherweights.12 rds
Anselmo Moreno vs Julio Ceja
R.L:Ceja KO 7
TRS:Moreno Unanimous Decision

Monday, May 22, 2017

Boxing Challenge-Hamburglar alert!

Hamburglar Alert!!

My time is very tight after my weekend in Norfolk and so many things to do,but I wanted to update the challenge.
I haven't watched all the weekend fights and I'm trying to do before Fightheads tonight,but I did watch three robberies as Rances Barthelemy won a unanimous decision over Kiryl Relikh that I thought Relikh clearly won (I missed that fight for the challenge though),Andre Dirrell did what a Dirrell does-flop,bitch and moan as he won a belt via DQ that he didn't deserve over Jose Uzcategui.
But both of those pale to the split decision win by Hassan N'Dam over Ryota Murata,Who knocked N'Dam down and on my card won ten of the twelve rounds yet lost a split decision.


Here are the results and points for the weekend

Terrence Crawford TKO 10 Felix Diaz
R.L and TRS 1 point

Ray Beltran KO 2 Jonathan Maicelo
R.L and TRS 1 point

Gary Russell KO 7 Oscar Escandon
R.L 3 pts (win,result and round)
TRS 2 pts (win and result)

Andre Dirrell DQ 8 Jose Uzcategui
R.L and TRS 1 pt

Gervonta Davis KO 3 Liam Walsh
R.L and TRS:2 pts

David Benividez KO 8 Porky Medina
R.L:2 pts
TRS; 1 pt

Naoya Inoue KO 3 Ricardo Rodriguez
R.L and TRS 2 pts

Hassan N'Dam Split Decision Ryota Murata
R.L: 1 pt

Weekend:R.L:13 TRS 10
Year to Date: TRS 68 R.L 62

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cavaliers make history in Game Two rout!!

The Cleveland Cavaliers ran over the Boston Celtics in a way that hasn't been seen since,well ever in game two of the Eastern Conference finals in a history making 130-86 destruction in Boston.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 30 points with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love each adding 23 and 21 respectively in support.

The Cavaliers now lead 2-0 and will attempt to end the series with the next two games in Cleveland...

Swashbucklings

1) Wow! Not sure what I can add to a win like that,so here are some numbers.
Cleveland led Boston by 14 after one quarter,41 at the half (playoff record) and 46 after three..

2) 56 percent shooting and 19 three pointers

3) Loved the off balance shot by JR Smith to end the half and set the record for halftime lead.
When stuff like that goes in-it's your night.

4) Cleveland's top lead was 50 in the second half for a number hard to comprehend..

5) LeBron James was not invited to New York for the league's MVP ceremony,which means he wasn't in the top three of the voting.
Wow...

6) Not much I can add about this other than it seems the rubber match between the Cavaliers and Warriors appears to be a done deal.
I'd wager the series will bring ABC/ESPN record ratings for any NBA Finals ever...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Boxing Challenge

Big and I mean that in the manner of many, boxing weekend coming up with the boxing challenge with bouts on HBO,Showtime,FS1 and overseas as well..

HBO has the biggest bout with the biggest star as Terence Crawford defends his WBC/WBO junior welterweight titles against the slick and talented Felix Diaz.
Diaz has just one loss and I thought he deserved the decision in that split decision loss to Lamont Peterson and has the style to trouble Crawford.
I'd even go this far and say this-Felix Diaz will be the toughest challenge that Terence Crawford has ever faced and this could be a fight that isn't decided until deep into the stretch.
Veteran contender Ray Beltran takes on Jonathan Maicelo in a IBF lightweight eliminator for the mandatory position in the IBF as the co-feature.
Beltran's a tough guy and nice fighter,but I do wonder how he ends up getting HBO slots when other arguably better fighters cannot get those spots.

Showtime fires back with a three bout.two continent card.
From the UK,talented Floyd Mayweather protege' Gervonta Davis travels to make the first defense of his IBF 140 pound title against Liam Walsh.
It'll be interesting to see how Davis reacts to the always boisterous UK crowd against Walsh.
Later from the new boxing hotbed of Oxen Hill,Maryland,the very talented,but just as protected and inactive WBC featherweight champ Gary Russell defends against another contender that appears to be overmatched in Oscar Escandon.
I've said several times on FightHeads that I wish that Russell,his team and Al Haymon believed in his talent as much as I do,but the facts are that Russell is 1-1 vs fighters with a decent resume' (win over a faded Jhonny Gonzalez and lost to Vasyl Lomachenko) and rarely fights,so I fear that he may be on the verge of wasting what could be a profitable career.
I'm usually not a fan of "interim" titles,but here is the only occasion that I can live with them.
James DeGale took a large beating that included a broken jaw in the draw with Badou Jack that attempted to unify the WBC (then held by Jack,now vacated) and DeGale's IBF belts and will be out of action for most of the rest of the year.
The IBF is therefore holding a interim title bout (essentially the top contender for DeGale's return or have the title filled in case he decided to move to 175 pounds) between former champion Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui.
We will see if this bout is entertaining as most Dirrell bouts are not.

Fox Sports One has a card that goes up against Showtime's (which makes little sense since both cards are with the PBC) that has a WBC eliminator at Super Middleweight,which will decide the mandatory contender for the winner of the Anthony Dirrell-Callum Smith fight that will fill the vacancy created when Badou Jack moved to light heavyweight after his draw with James DeGale,
Whew!
Anyhow,the main event here sees talented prospect David Benavidez against veteran "Porky" Medina,who surprisingly gave James DeGale all he wanted in a close decision loss in 2015.
Medina is exactly the type of fighter that young contenders need to test their mettle against and we'll discover a lot about Benavidez in this one.

We wrap up in Japan with a title fight with the best fighter in his division and a silly decision to bring a title back from the always silly WBA.
Naoya Inoue defends his WBO junior bantamweight title against mandatory contender Ricardo Rodriguez.
After the surprising loss by Roman Gonzalez in March,Inoue has risen to number one in the TRS rankings.
The other sees the WBA fill their vacant "regular" middleweight title with former Olympian Ryota Murata against perennial middleweight bridesmaid Hassan N'Dam.
I'm not against the fight,which gives Murata a tough test against a middleweight gatekeeper.
What I am against is the WBA,who claims to be getting rid of their three belts per division policy by shrinking them,reviving a belt that could have been retired after former "regular" title holder Daniel Jacobs was decisioned by Gennady Golovkin.
Bringing it back is counter to that policy...

WBC/WBO Junior Welterweight Titles.12 rds
Terence Crawford vs Felix Diaz
Both:Crawford Unanimous Decision

Lightweights.12 rds
Ray Beltran vs Jonathan Maicelo
Both:Beltran Unanimous Decision

WBC Featherweight Title.12 rds
Gary Russell vs Oscar Escandon
R,L:Russell KO 7
TRS:Russell KO 4

Vacant Interim IBF Super Middleweight Title 12 rds
Andre Dirrell vs Jose Uzcategui
Both:Dirrell Unanimous Decision

IBF Junior Lightweight Title.12 rds
Gervonta Davis vs Liam Walsh
R.L:Davis KO 8
TRS: Davis KO 10

Super Middleweights.12 rds
David Benavidez vs "Porky" Medina
R.L:Benavidez KO 4
TRS:Benavidez Unanimous Decision

WBO Junior Bantamweight Title.12 rds
Naoya Inoue vs  Ricardo Rodriguez
R,L:Inoue KO 6
TRS:Inoue KO 8

Middleweights.12 rds
Hassan N'Dam vs Ryota Murata
R.L:N'Dam Unanimous Decision
TRS:Murata Unanimous Decision



Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts before the busy week that is coming up from various things that happened or just plain popped into my mind...

Yes,that was your author lying on the decrepit walkway that is Hagerstown Municipal Stadium yesterday.
I fell down as one of the many boards that are warped and stick upwards with its gremlins finally grabbed me after all these years of walking.
I ripped my right knee and turned my chronically bad left ankle,so of course it hurts,but not to the point of non-functioning.
It was not the fault of the Suns as the fault of these conditions are the fault of the city,who is responsible for maintenance.
It's a miracle more people don't get hurt there and I wonder with packed crowds possible for Tim Tebow and the Columbia Fireflies in less than two weeks,if more people could get hurt and worse than me..

I watch a decent amount of television series,but right now,the best show that I watch has to be FX's The Americans.
I like some other,but on the heels of FX's past "best show I watch" Justified,The Americans ranks as must see.
The story of 1980's Russian spies as American residents stars actors that I have never heard of (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) before the show began,but both are standouts as is Holly Taylor as their teenage daughter.
Taylor is going to be a star in the business as she progresses to eventual vehicles of her own.
The Americans can be a bit racy and pretty violent,so might want to keep the kids away (too bad,could have been a great teaching tool),but it's very well done and you should be giving it a try.

Spicy food and spices are a usual staple of my dining,but one that has become huge favorite is the sadly named Kick Your Ass Hot Salt with Ghost Pepper.
The lovely Cherie bought me a container as a Christmas gift and it's been a must have ever since.
I used to be a massive salt (over) user and over the last year or so,I have greatly reduced it down almost nil.
Peppers and the various seasonings go a long way towards making the loss of salt not so bad...

The first two of many new ballparks this year starts soon with the first visits being Norfolk,Virginia (AAA Norfolk Tides) and Lexington,Kentucky (Low A Lexington Legends).
Of course,I'll have road trip recaps and looks at the stadiums themselves.

I have my opinions on the scandals surrounding the President and I'll keep them to myself.
Resisting the urge to say "I told you so" on Donald Trump is difficult,but needed to be withheld because we have seen nothing yet but speculation,but here's where I'll take the side of Trump mildly for a bit.
I do think that CNN (and I guess MSNBC too,although I rarely watch them) is beating the horse perhaps too much and give the 35 percent of the people that would believe Donald Trump if he said that the Atlantic Ocean is filled with cherry Kool-Aid,an out that the media is out to get him.
Fox does the same thing,but in a different way as they defend everything that Trump does etc.
The media should be a valuable tool,but the cable networks are just crazy with the need to play "gotcha".
Reverse the name of Barack Obama for Donald Trump and reverse the networks names and you aren't far off in treatment.
As a middle of the road moderate that has things that I agree with from both parties,it's very tough to find a network that reflects my place on the spectrum..

Wrapping up with thoughts on President Trump.
I'm not going to say my opinions on the particulars,but I will step out a bit with a guess-Donald Trump is already looking for a way out.
It's a matter of time and it might come down to when does Donald Trump think that he can spin a loss into a "win" and walk away...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cavaliers cruise by Celtics in Game One 117-104

So much for rust and so much for the home court advantage of the Boston Celtics as the Cleveland Cavaliers ran up and down and through Boston on their way to a deceivingly small thirteen point win
in a game one that spent much of the game in the twenty point margin.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 38 points,but he had plenty of help with Kevin Love scoring 32 points and 12 rebounds along with Tristan Thompson's 20 points and 9 rebounds.
The 117-104 win gave Cleveland a 1-0 series lead and gave home court advantage to the Cavaliers.
Game two is Friday night in Boston.

Swashbucklings

1) I'm not sure what Boston coach Brad Stevens can do in any hope to stop LeBron James.
Stevens (who I'm a big fan of as a coach) tried big,small and in between defenders and none created even the slightest concern for James,who drove by everyone,but Red Auerbach to the basket for easy scores.

2) Boston's best two players were not their best players on this night as Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford combined to shoot 11 for 30 on the evening.
In my opinion,Thomas and Horford are nice players and well suited to win games in the regular season.
However,there always comes a time somewhere in the postseason that teams need to have an Alpha Dog-neither Thomas or Horford are that type of player.

3) Was nice to see Kevin Love setting a playoff career high for points with his 32 points.
Love hit six of nine from three point range and many of them were wide open shots.
The Cavaliers moved the ball around with ease,often leaving the Celtics scrambling and more often than not,unable to reach the open man.
I drove to work late in the third quarter and Sirius radio uses the home team feed,so the Celtics announcers were on and they were bemoaning the lack of defense on Love from beyond the arc.
When the home team's network is griping about their teams lack of defense,you know they have been dominated.

4) Credit to Tristan Thompson for not only his 20 points around the glass,but for establishing that the Cavaliers will be the more physical team inside.
Boston is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league and Cleveland figured to have an advantage inside,but Thompson's offense was unexpected,I'll take it.

5) Kelly Olynyk,the Celtic hero in their game seven win over Washington and before that best known for his MMA submission move on Kevin Love in the 2015 playoffs that knocked Love out for the duration of that playoff run,was completely ineffective.
Ineffective to the tune of two points in sixteen minutes.

6) Game two might be the Celtics stand.
At home and with most counting them out,Boston will need their best effort and I think Cleveland is going to get it.
Boston is in "all in" mode-if the Cavaliers can grab game two,I think this series ends in a sweep...