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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Could prayers be answered? Fredericksburg deal falls apart!

A little over an hour before I left for the road office tonight amid the wonderful forecast for snow,I saw the logo for the Hagerstown Suns and the upcoming 35th anniversary season.
I really like the logo and two things drew me in for a closer perusal.
The first was that you can almost (and sometimes can if I move slightly) see where my seats are under the grandstand.
However,the second was more important-35 years and counting.
Kinda of odd from a team and its owner that has spent the last two plus seasons aching to move away with their public pronouncements and spending money like Jack Benny used to,so I checked the Google search that I do every week or two and found this link that Google said had been put up just fifty minutes before.

Apparently,Bruce Quinn and Diamond Nation have had a parting of the ways and the city of Fredericksburg will not be getting the Suns.
The county of Spotsylvania is mentioned in the article as being interested,but the talks would have to start over,the site would have to be spotted well as the Richmond Flying Squirrels could block any move that is 50 miles from their field-the Diamond and I doubt that they would have the funding in order any better than the city of Fredericksburg.
The Suns have apparently decided to swing the pendulum all the way to the other end as they are going to have a season long celebration with giveaways and promotions "during every homestand",just one season after the least promotionally active campaign that I'm aware of anywhere-not just Hagerstown.
This is a good thing and I applaud them for giving this a try.
The team is now here through 2016 and who knows the status of Bruce Quinn after losing a ton of money over the last few seasons.
Could Quinn have a deal to sell the team to a local group in Hagerstown and just is waiting to announce it?
Could Quinn have decided to throw himself into Hagerstown and see if a turnaround is likely?
That will be tough after the burn it to the ground policy of Quinn's tenure,but the grass eventually grows back after it's been burnt away.
If the team is here for two seasons guaranteed,that means another election and perhaps another chance to talk with the ballot box for a council that will back the team with the old argument of facilities.

One thing among all the uncertainties that I can say for sure is this-It's been a long time since the news on the Suns has been this good off the field!


Giants lose the Panda

The  San Francisco Giants thought that they had a chance to re-sign Pablo Sandoval after the post-season.
Turns out that the free spending Boston Red Sox had other things in mind as New York lite signed the Giants third baseman away with a five year deal (6th year on an option) worth 95 million dollars.

Now I'm not going to complain too much about the spending-if you really care,go back and read this from four years ago-nothing's changed,so I'll instead discuss what the Giants need to do and a little about the Panda that Boston bought in their latest trip to the carnival.

The Red Sox had a gaping hole at third base and Sandoval is a good fit there-for now.
Five years at that cost is a hefty amount for a player with weight issues,injury problems (although none in the last two seasons) and for a player that looks like part of a power hitter,doesn't have the production of such,although the move from AT&T Park to Fenway might solve some of that.
An underrated defender,Sandoval will be fine at third for a few years until he may eat his way off the position and for the Red Sox talk of Sandoval transitioning to David Ortiz's DH spot after Ortiz retires,I'm not sure if that's a sure thing either.
Players of Sandoval's size and plate discipline tend to flame out fast and that could happen here.
I think Sandoval is a fine player and could fare very well in Boston,but this is a contract that does have its risks for the Red Sox.

Meanwhile for the Giants,a huge loss as now a team that was already looking for improvement in left field and a starter for the rotation and has added third base as a must need.
The Giants are going to have to do something about third base and other than maybe Chase Headley,there isn't really an answer from free agency.
Not sure if the Giants will get into that race (The Indians are reported to be interested though) and if not the Giants are going to have to make a deal as the only players on the roster that can play the hot corner is veteran utility infielder Joaquin Arias,minor league slugger Adam Duvall and Matt Duffy,who appears better suited for the middle infield positions as far as his bat goes.

The Giants need another arm to slot in behind Madison Bumgarner,the returning from injury Matt Cain,Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum.
Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents and unless one of them returns (Please don't let it be Vogelsong),the Giants will have to get an arm from somewhere because most of the arms that are highly thought of would be rushed to join the rotation,
The Giants have been linked to Jon Lester,who would slot in rather nicely.

The Giants are involved in the race for Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas,who is reported to be perhaps the best power hitter yet of the Cubans to hit the big leagues.
Tomas will not come cheap and a signing of him and Lester might mean the Giants might have to try to get by at third with a bargain basement plan of Arias,Duffy, Duvall or a veteran signed off the scrap heap.
Tomas would more replace the Sandoval bat and give the Giants a chance to have an above average hitting outfield for the first years with Tomas,Angel Pagan returning from injury and Hunter Pence,

It's going to an interesting few weeks in San Francisco and just how and with who they patch these holes with just might determine if the Giants have a chance to repeat or even make the playoffs....


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On the Signing Front

Finally,we return to the signing front after I finally bought some plastic sheets!
I didn't buy nearly enough,so we won't be caught up for a while,but the process can now begin...

Thanks to Mike and Fred Landucci for the their work on the Harrisburg Senators team set and most notably A.J.Cole on his top 100.
The Senators weren't loaded with prospects with the most notable being Cole and Michael Taylor.
Fred and Mike also got two of my pile of Indians prospect Francisco Lindor finished and did the New Britain Rock Cats for me with the biggest catch being difficult signer Eddie Rosario on his top 100 and a few more.
It was my last chance at the Twins because after the season New Britain switched to a Colorado affiliate.

Thanks to Jason Christensen for our annual trade for the Binghamton Mets team set.
The Mets weren't loaded with prospects either,but Kevin Plawecki is a nice prospect behind the plate.

Thanks to Mike Oravec for his constant stream of TTM Indians,Pirates and Giants.
My favorites of this flush is a 1972 of Jack Heidemann and a 1975 of former Buckeye Steve Arlin.

A quick trip to Altoona with Kendall Morris for the Richmond Flying Squirrels saw me not have very much as the team set hadn't been released yet.
Biggest catch was Kyle Crick on a few stragglers since Crick is down to signing two now.
Kyle signed a Bowman and a baseball for me as well.
I try to get the Pirates,Giants and Indians first round picks on baseballs for my collection.
I also added former White Sox first baseman and Richmond manager Russ Morman on three cards as well..

The Wilmington Blue Rocks hit Frederick without a team set to do.
The main gets were out of the Carolina League top prospect sets with Raul Mondesi Jr, Christian Binford,Sean Manaea and Miguel Almonte signing.
Mike Landucci ran down to the field to get Bubba Starling on his top 100.
The best story from this series came when this fellow came up to me and said he hadn't seen me since I was a little kid running around the bowling alley and talked like he really did know me.
Turns it was Randy Thompson,brother of Wilmington hitting coach Milt Thompson.
Randy brought Milt over to me and talked about me as a little kid.Maybe Randy really did know me!!

The Lexington Legends were in Hagerstown for their visit without a team set due to the "Great Brandt Caper of 2014".
As a result I had next to no cards for them other than Cody Reed and Chad Johnson of the SAL top prospect set.
I did get Lucas Giolito and Drew Ward of the Suns on their SAL card and Brett Mooneyham on his Carolina League prospect card.

The Winston-Salem Dash also had no team set for me to do as Brandt hit them as well.
This mainly meant the Carolina League prospect  cards of Courtney Hawkins,who always teases with me but signs-this time Courtney laughed and said "walk with me Bro".
Others on the CL cards were Tim Anderson and Jacob May,Tyler Danish on his SAL prospect card and Brad Goldberg on his Elite card and the former Buckeye added Go Bucks on his card.
I always try to get former Buckeyes to add that to their card...

Another quickie trip to see the Binghamton Mets with Kendall Morris saw me have little,but I did get two heritage cards signed of Brandon Nimmo,who is one of my favorite players ever,very nice and former Pirate prospect Dilson Herrera.
Brandon Nimmo also signed a ball for me....

Corey White came through with a shipment from Tennessee with the star being power prospect Kris Bryant on his USA card and top 100.
I remove my top 100's as they come in and go in a different book,so I'll be doing a Top 100 review after all of this mess is finished!
Corey also got me several Smokies with C.J. Edwards and Zeke DeVoss being the best.
Corey also sent me cards from Huntsville (Brewers) and Mobile (Diamondbacks) with the best being Jonathan Griffin and Jake Barrett from Mobile..

The Frederick Keys team set came out and I did most of them during a meet the team day.
Brandon Kline signed his Carolina League and Keys card with the other CL prospect card getting finished as well with Glynn Davis,Parker Bridwell and Adrian Marin.

The Delmarva Shorebirds entered Hagerstown and DID have a team set.
This was around the time that the SAL All-Star set came out and I got four Suns finished out of the set in Wilmer Difo,John Wooten and Nick Pivetta.
The Shorebirds in the set were number one pick Hunter Harvey,Drew Dosch and Sebastian Vader.
Harvey signed all three cards that I had and is nice,but quiet.
Chance Sisco is a prospect that I like a lot and he was the best get of the team set players...

I took Rachel and Kayla to Frederick to see their hero Will Pinwica-Worms with the Potomac Nationals.
No P-Nats teamer yet,so I had next to no cards.
Still worth it though as Pinwica-Worms would get hurt before another visit to Frederick and then retire,so this was the last time that the ladies saw WPW.
I only had CL prospect cards for Tony Renda and Pedro Severino and Jake Walsh's SAL All-Star card on a very light day...

We squeezed in a shot at the Portland Sea Dogs with Kendall and Derreck in Reading for a pre-game appearance.
The biggest catch was Brian Johnson on a few cards.
I always seemed to miss Johnson in both Hagerstown or Frederick and it was nice to reel him in.
I also added Luis Diaz on his Carolina prospect card and Deven Marrero on a Bowman Blue Wave.
Marrero was down to just one card now,which was too bad as he was very accommodating in the past.

More Red Sox as the Salem version rolled into Frederick.
Some interesting guys this time as I added Madison Younginer,who I had tons of cards for along with Jose Vincio,who was injured the first trip in.
Joe Gunkel signed his SAL All-Star card as did Jantzen Witte,but the most interesting was Mario Martinez.
Martinez was a one time Mariner prospect and I was able to get cards signed from 2008 including a Appalachian League prospect.
It is not often that you get a player signed from six years before in the Carolina League.
Former Royals shortstop U.L.Washington was a Salem coach and came with a less than glowing signing record,but I did get him on an 81 Fleer and 81 Donruss.

We wrap up with the Kannapolis Intimidators,who visited Hagerstown four times this year and due to the Brandt issues never had a team set available for those visits.
A grand total of six cards for this series,but two of the always cool Pete Rose Jr including his 81 Fleer with his dad "Pete and Re-Pete".

A mail success with former Alabama and B.C.Lions running back Johnny Musso.

As large as this was,it barely put a dent in the pile.
Look for lots more Signing Front as the winter progresses





Monday, November 24, 2014

Browns fly over Atlanta 26-24

Billy Cundiff booted a 37 yard field goal on the last play of the game in the Georgia Dome and as a result,the Cleveland Browns moved to 7-4 with a 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Isaiah Crowell rushed for two touchdowns as part of his 88 yard rushing day,while Josh Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards in the win.
Brian Hoyer passed for over 300 yards,but was intercepted three times.
The Browns are scheduled to be in Buffalo next Sunday against the Bills,but due to the weather situation could be playing that game at a neutral site...

Brownie Bits

1) Josh Gordon made an impact in the return to the lineup with his statistics,but really opened things up for Andrew Hawkins,who grabbed 5 passes for 93 yards.
If this is going to be how the benefit of Josh Gordon is going to be for the Browns,please keep Gordon as a model citizen!

2) Josh Gordon is the key to this offense.
Look at the difference in the simple screen that saw Gordon bull his way up sidelines for first downs that no other Brown (and few other WR's in the league) can do.

3) Brian Hoyer was very impressive in the last drive that won the game for Cleveland,but boy was he bad for most of this game.
Hoyer continues to be inaccurate and frustrating to watch,but the record remains the bottom line and that is the bottom line,my friends....

4) Many people have been critical of Josh Gordon for not leaping into the air on a bad Hoyer interception in the endzone,but looking at the angle that Gordon was on,I'm not sure that Gordon could have deflected the ball,even if he had leaped.
Hoyer threw a bad ball and tried to thread a needle that the smarter play would have been to throw the ball into Stone Mountain..

5) Isaiah Crowell ran for his yardage on just twelve carries and in my opinion,Crowell continued to prove that he is the better back than Terrence West,who was OK himself with 62 yards on 14 carries.
Crowell runs hard and looks the part of a workhorse back,if the Browns only give him the chance..

6) Other than one touchdown catch,Joe Haden did a pretty good job keeping Julio Jones under control.
Haden might have had the best game of the year and did it against one of the better pass catchers in the game..

7) Looks like the Browns sustained a huge loss in the league leader in interceptions as Tashaun Gipson might be out for the season with a knee injury suffered late in the game.
The ballhawking Gipson would be another huge loss for a defense already missing Phil Taylor and Karlos Dansby and gives each portion of the defense a missing key member....

8) Mike Pettine did a poor job in clock management late in the first half,but the worst decision almost cost the Browns the game.
Billy Cundiff does not have a huge leg,yet Pettine tried a 60 yard field goal that Cundiff was well short on.
However,Atlanta had called a timeout,so having seen that Cundiff could not get the ball there,one would think that you could have Brian Hoyer put the ball up and hope Josh Gordon could come down with it.
Instead,Cundiff was told to try again and again was short,but this time Devin Hester was waiting and he almost took the ball back for a score.
Joel Bitonio hustled downfield to make the tackle,but Spencer Lannig slowed Hester up to buy Bitonio time to make the play.
Kudos to them both to save the day...

9) Atlanta made some silly decisions too on their final drive that saw Matt Bryant kick a field goal that gave the Falcons the lead on back to back plays.
Smith called a timeout after second down and then called a pass to Devin Hester on 3rd and 2 that Justin Gilbert knocked down.
Right there saved two timeouts that Cleveland would have likely used and then would have had just one timeout left for their final drive.
Poor decisions by Smith allowed the Browns a better chance of winning this game....

10) The best play of the game was made by Paul Kruger,who pressured Matt Ryan,forced him to step up in the pocket,fell to the turf and then got up hustling to sack Ryan anyway!
Kruger was the key signee of 2013,but it's 2014 that the linebacker has begun to pay huge dividends with two sacks yesterday and eight on the season.
Loving that hustle!

11) Just a thought and it may not be one that can be made,but assuming Tashaun Gipson is out for the season,what about Justin Gilbert moving to safety?
Gipson's spot requires more athletic ability and ball skills than the Donte Whitner spot and I would think Gilbert is more than capable of doing that....

12) Finally this.
7-4 with a winnable game against Buffalo at a neutral site.
I don't take any game as a W as a team with losses to Houston and Jacksonville cannot afford to do that,but let's say they win and it's 8-4.
That leaves four games-two at home vs the Colts and Bengals,two on the road vs the Panthers and Ravens.
Beat Buffalo and split the final four,10-6 might be good enough to get them into the playoffs and who saw that coming?


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sloppy Buckeyes slide by Indiana 42-27,Clinch Big 10 East!

The Indiana Hoosiers hung tough with the Ohio State Buckeyes for three quarters before Jalin Marshall atoned for a bad week in Minnesota with four straight touchdowns to lift Ohio State to a 42-27 win over the Hoosiers at the Horseshoe.
Marshall grabbed three touchdown passes from J.T. Barrett and returned a punt for a score to lead the Buckeye rally.
Barrett finished with 302 yards and four touchdowns,although he was intercepted twice.
The Buckeyes improve to 10-1 with the victory and 7-0 in the Big Ten East as the Buckeyes clinched the division title and representative to the Big 10 title game in Indianapolis.
Next Saturday,Ohio State hosts michigan in what is likely to be Brady Hoke's swan song as coach.

Olentangy Offerings

1) Jalin Marshall played Harvey Dent over these last two games,as against Minnesota,he fumbled twice,but he was the dominant player/
The punt return cracked the game,but the one handed catch pictured and two shovel passes caught killed the Hoosiers.
Just hold onto the ball,Jalen and special things happen.

2) J.T,Barrett got two TD passes that were closer to runs,but he got an interception that he didn't deserve either deep in Indiana territory as a good pass was deflected into Indiana hands.
Barrett wasn't terrific,but 400 yards of total offense sure is Ok with me..

3) Ezekiel Elliott scored the first touchdown on a 65 yard run,but only carried 12 times after that.
Sometimes Tom Herman forgets about the running game and against the undersized Hoosiers,pounding the ball more might have blown this one open sooner.

4) Give punter Cameron Johnston a game ball with three of his five punts dying inside the 20.
Great job punting with one ball literally causing a divot in the ground at the one yard line.
Johnston punts in the NFL one day-bank on it..

5) The run defense continues to have problems as Tevin Coleman rushed for 228 yards  and three scores including a 90 yard run.
Look out against Wisconsin and Melvin Gordon,although the West rep will be the winner of the Wisconsin-Minnesota game....

Shorter than usual,but I wanted to get this finished before the Browns start.I may do an editors note version tomorrow...

Pacquiao dominates Algeri and Boxing Challenge!

Manny Pacquiao dropped the undeserving (Yeah,I'm still mad he robbed Ruslan Provodnikov!) Chris Algeri six times and cruised to a unanimous decision to retain his welterweight title without a lost round.

I didn't watch any the PPV fights since I was at the road office,so my opinions aren't added to the results of the boxing challenge.
The challenge got even tighter as I gained one point on R.L.Malpica on the evening.

Each of us earned one point for the Pacquiao victory as both of us had seen a Pacquiao stoppage.
We each earned two points for Jessie Vargas's unanimous win over Antonio DeMarco and two more for Zou Shiming's win over Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym.
R.L earned two points for Vasyl Lomachenko's unanimous win over Chonlatarn Piryaipinyo,while I picked one for the win as I thought Lomachenko would win by KO.

The difference maker? Tony Bellew's split decision win over Nathan Cleverly in England.
I had picked Bellew by a split nod and R.L. took Cleverly by a split win.

That gives me eight points on the day and R.L. added seven points to close the gap for the season,which is just a month away from ending.
R.L.holds a slight 69-68 margin with plenty of boxing coming up in December!

I still have the Ohio State recap to do and if I have time I'll get that finished.
If not,look for a double barreled post tomorrow on Buckeyes and Browns.

Fast start,Slow finish as Raptors roar by Cavaliers 110-93

Courtesy Chuck Crow-Cleveland Plain Dealer
For one period,the Cleveland Cavaliers showed what they are capable of as a combination of excellent ball movement and shooting allowed Cleveland to build a lead as large as 18 points and a 13 point lead at the end of the quarter.
One man changed that as Lou Williams of the Toronto Raptors caught fire and to most peoples surprise,it was Toronto that led at the half and then dominated the third quarter and rolled on to a 110-93 victory over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.
Kevin Love led Cleveland with 23 points and Kyrie Irving added 21 in the loss.
The now 5-7 Cavaliers will host Orlando on Monday....

Swashbucklings

1) The man that caught fire was Lou Williams,who finished with 36 points off the Toronto bench with an amazing 15 of 15 from the line.
The career high for Williams is part of the game as occasionally you will see someone that looks at the basket as the Atlantic Ocean (or Lake Erie in this case) for an evening and it's tough to stop.

2) Kevin Love did seem a bit more comfortable in the offense,which is a piece of good news in this one.
Love shot 8 of 16 on the game,but the tipper for me was this-only one attempted three pointer.
Love looked to get better shots in the low post and was able to take advantage of them off the block.
I hope this continues!

3)  LeBron James is getting his share of the blame for the poor play and some of it is warranted,but I believe that James is in a no-win situation,
James finished with 15 points (6 of 12 shooting),but with 10 assists.
Shoot more and he isn't involving the teammates more,Pass more and he isn't doing his part offensively.

4) However,it has become apparent for the time being that if the Cavaliers are going to win games,the offense needs big scoring numbers from LeBron James.
When James does not score and works more off the passing games,Cleveland generally loses.
Now,I understand that there is a need to tune things ups and I'd rather win games in May than November,but keep that in mind.

5) Austin Carr commented during the Toronto tornado of points in the third quarter that the Cavaliers are "playing five or six guys on a back to back game night and they are starting to wear down",
It's actually seven (five starters,Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson),but it is still a valid point.
David Blatt waits too long to unload the bench,wastes tread on games early in the year and needs to either find something off the pine or hope that David Griffin can do something to help a unproductive group.
It's pretty clear that something needs to be at least tried....

6) Dion Waiters is playing pretty poorly.
Waiters scored just six points over 20 minutes of play and commented after the games that he "likes to have the ball in his hands more".
Looking at the composition of this roster,that simply isn't going to happen.
The problem is that with him playing so poorly he is losing value for a possible trade.
Tough situation for the player and the team...

7) Jonas Valanciunas scored eight points and added just five rebounds for Toronto,but just looking at his low post game and body on the block makes me wish the Cavaliers had taken him,when most expected them to,instead of Tristan Thompson.
Valanciunas had a third period run of a putback rebound for a score,a blocked shot on Kevin Love,a short jump hook over Love and then a rebound to set up a fast break.
I really like Valanciunas coming out of the draft and thought they should have taken him then (I'm not perfect,I liked Derrick Williams over Kyrie Irving in the same draft due to Irving's injury issues).
I can just imagine this team being able to use Anderson Varejao (another double double in the loss) as the energy guy at the 4 of 5 spot off the bench and Valanciunas enabling Kevin Love to play more of a freelance game near the basket....

Back later with a quick boxing challenge update