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Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Signing Front

We return to the signing front as we begin to whittle down the two massive piles (and third smaller one) from the past season.

I'll start with a few non-baseball graphs

Former Chiefs and Cowboys running back Paul Palmer
Former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore (Certified) via Ebay.
Former Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion Michael Spinks

We traveled to Wilmington for the Carolina vs California League All-Star game and it was a long grueling day.
Upon arriving,we were able to get a few people outside the hotel which shares a parking lot with the stadium.
It was a long and hot day compounded by a stadium with zero places to eat around the area.
This day was so bad that the lovely Cherie implemented a new policy for me of bringing a small cooler with drinks for future trips.
A steamy day spent on concrete combined with an hour plus wait to get into the stadium and then another wait in line before the graphing session started.
This was truly the turning point in me attempting to take better care of myself.
I was simply worn out,flushed and running on fumes by the end of the one hour session.
Heat,concrete and hustle took it out of me to the point of having my friends become concerned about me.
I've tried to be smarter since this day,but I had it better than my friend,Fred.
Fred was so worn out that he wavered on his feet,grabbed my shoulder to manage to stay on his feet and was on the edge of passing out before we tried to get him to a place to sit.
The Wilmington GM hollered "No,it's not time yet".
My response was " If you don't get him inside to sit down,he's going to pass out right here in front of the gate!".
That scared them enough to let Fred in the door for a seat and some water,but Wilmington's staff really handled that wrong to have a line that long in exposed sun for such a long period was asking for trouble,

The session itself was productive enough with the Carolina players on one side of the concourse and the California players on the others.
Of course,we chose to hit the California guys first and though I didn't get all of them,I did pretty well.
We waited in the longest line for the most touted California Leaguer in Carlos Correa,who signed one of my two top 100's.
The Correa line often clogged,so I was glad to get my one,I guess.
I also added 2013 top 100's of Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Trevor Story of the Rockies.
I only had one of Seager's two top 100's,so he was fine.
The other nice additions were Padres prospects Hunter Renfroe,who signed everything I had, and Joe Ross,Diamondbacks prospect Brandon Drury,A's catcher Bruce Maxwell and Reds outfielders Jesse Winker and Kyle Waldrop.
I added a few Carolina prospects as the session was wrapping as I exhaustedly stumbled out of the stadium and we all would eat (a salad) for me at an overpriced,but very clean rest area before finishing the ride home.
A long,interesting and fun day that helped me straighten out a bit and learn some things too....

The next set featured the Boston Red Sox as their affiliates were in both Hagerstown and Frederick at the same time with the Greenville Drive visited Hagerstown and the Frederick Keys hosting the Salem Red Sox.
Greenville's big prospect was pitcher Trey Ball,who not only was less than friendly (he did sign two for me) he had an ERA over seven.
The Drive also had a nice prospect in outfielder Manuel Margot,who signed a Bowman Chrome,a Lowell team set card and a NY/Penn top prospect card.third baseman Carlos Asuaje,who said "no duplicate cards,my agent told me so" and pitcher Jamie Callahan,who was very nice.

The Salem Red Sox had their team set out,so I was able to start working away on that a bit,
This year's edition of the High A Sawx were not loaded with prospects with the highest rated being pitchers Pat Light,Madison Youngnier and Simon Mercedes.
Not a memorable series or many great graphs tossed into the collection.

I also got two cool cards from Corey White in Tennessee,most notably former big leaguer Joel Pineiro on his 2011 Heritage and Arodys Vizcaino on his 2011 Carolina League top prospect card.
I love getting older cards signed that I've given up on getting finished.
Corey also got Charlie Cutler from the 2013 Altoona set and Drew Gagnon from the Florida State League top prospect set...

This barely put a dent in the pile,so there will be plenty more signing fronts to come!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest Post-Binghamton Mets win the Eastern League

Today we feature a guest column from my good friend Jason Christensen.
Jason asked to do a post on his hometown team,the Binghamton Mets and their recent winning of the Eastern League title and we were happy to provide the space...

The last time the Binghamton Mets won the Eastern League championship, Jayce Boyd was 2 1/2 months from his third birthday.
Boyd ended the Mets' 20-year title drought Friday night, delivering a walk-off single after Steven Matz flirted with a no-hitter, as Binghamton completed a sweep of Richmond with a 2-1 victory.
Pinch-hitting in the bottom of the ninth inning, Boyd lined a single to center field off reliever Steven Okert to score Gavin Cecchini with the winning run and send the Mets' Double-A affiliate to the third title in team history and first since 1994.

Being in attendance for that game was one of the best sports moments I have witnessed it is only behind the Duke-Syracuse game from the Carrier Dome last season. Going into the game the Mets needed that one win and I was glad that got it done in the first try. I know when you give a team enough chances anything can happen. The crowd was unbelievable and it was nice to almost a sellout crowd especially with high school football going on.

I would actually be not telling the truth if I said I knew the Mets were going to win the Championship. In the East Division series the Mets were down to the Portland Sea Dogs two games to one and had to do almost the impossible win two games on the road. The impossible did happen they won game 4 11-4 and the final game 8-5. In my opinion those were the two best teams in the Eastern League. The Sea Dogs were a great team and still were tough even with the callups of pitcher Henry Owens, hitters Mookie Betts,Travis Shaw, and Blake Swihart they were still a tough foe. Owens, Shaw, and Swihart were called up to Pawtucket which won this years Governors Cup title.

The Mets were clearly the best team there was a few holdovers from last seasons team that had the best record through the regular season. I always say it takes more than one person to win a championship I would say a full team effort. The Mets were hit a blow to start the postseason with  second basemen Dilson Herrera being called up to the New York Mets however TJ Rivera was able to pick up the slack and was one of the key performers in the offseason. Catcher Xorge Carrillo won the MVP of the postseason well deserved with clutch hitting and a great performance behind the plate however there was two pitchers that I would say were the key performers in the bullpen during the postseason. Hansel Robles who was a starter beginning of the season pitched 6 2/3 innings and had 10 strikeouts and closer Cody Satterwhite who had two wins and two saves in the postseason also did not give up a run.

I was excited I was able to witness the final game and see the celebration also was neat was getting a photo with the Eastern League Championship I sure wasn't the only one. Writing this article it would of felt better if my friend's (That's me) hometown team Hagerstown Suns won their title but they also had a great season. I always say repeat but in minor league baseball that is tough to do.  I just hope I don't have to wait another 20 years to see it again

Monday, September 15, 2014

The NEW Kardiac Kids? Browns nip Saints 26-24!

Photo Credit;Joshua Gunter Cleveland Plain Dealer
For the second consecutive week,the Cleveland Browns went down to the game's final play (well,there was a kickoff) to decide a winner,but this time the site and the victor was changed as Billy Cundiff drilled a 29 yard field goal to lift the Browns to an upset 26-24 win in their home opener over the New Orleans Saints.
Brian Hoyer threw for over 200 yards and a touchdown,Terrence West ran for his first NFL score and Tayshaun Gipson grabbed a pass that bounced off Jimmy Graham's hands and returned it sixty two yards for the other Browns touchdown.
The stunningly 1-1 Browns host Baltimore next week in what has suddenly become an interesting game.....

Brownie Bits

1) Many keys in this game and I'll get to those as we proceed,but I feel very good about this team.
Maybe for this season,this is not sustainable and perhaps it is,however when you consider the lack of pass catching talent and this team won this game without Jordan Cameron (let alone Josh Gordon),one has to feel pretty good about what is being possibly put together in Cleveland.

2) The play that put Billy Cundiff in position to kick the game winner was the broken coverage on Andrew Hawkins,who was so wide open that Brian Hoyer almost put too much air under the football like a punt.
I appreciate Hoyer not wanting to overthrow and had he thrown the ball differently,Hawkins may have cruised in for a touchdown,but it was scary watching the ball float and Hawkins having to twist under it to make the grab,,,

3) However,the real game saver was neither Billy Cundiff's kick or the pass to Andrew Hawkins,it was a fourth down conversion by Brian Hoyer on a pass to Gary Barnidge,who wouldn't remind you of Kellen Winslow Jr,let alone Kellen Winslow Sr.
That was where I began to believe in this team.
In the past,I would have expected a Colt McCoy swing pass for 2 yards when you needed six....

4) Now I know Jimmy Graham had a huge day,but you expect the best pass catching tight end in the game to do so and Joe Haden isn't going to be able to cover him one on one in the end zone and neither is anyone else.
Too much size and strength there.Let's remember that this was Jimmy Graham before killing the Browns for giving up numbers to the tight end.

5) Loved the offensive line work too.
The Saints and Rob Ryan like to use the blitz and overwhelm you with numbers along with having two very good pass rushers in Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette.
The Browns line looked very strong against the group as only Gallette on the final drive of the game reached Hoyer for a sack.
Combine that with the solid run blocking and I really liked how they handled the Saints.

6) I like the pair of rookie backs in Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell.
West has the edge for now,but Crowell is the breakaway back.
I know Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan like the committee back system and when Ben Tate returns,things will be somewhat muddled,but Crowell might grab hold of the job and never look back,if he got a game with 20+ carries,
His skills are that good...

7) Yes,I know Johnny Manziel made his debut and I'm not against a "Johnny Football" Package,but if you have one,let him throw the ball and make something happen.
Having the play result in a handoff makes me think of all those Josh Cribbs Wildcat formation that ended in a sweep for four yards a few years back.

8) The Browns overcame two kicking game breakdowns in the win.
Photo Credit:John Kuntz Cleveland Plain Dealer
The botched snap on an extra point meant the Browns were down by one on the final drive rather than tied and Billy Cundiff smacked a field goal off an upright that a Saints penalty overturned.
Fortunate that these were able to be overcome,but I hope that this is not a worry of things to come.

9) Karlos Dansby is a beast.
Not the typical veteran that has a nice contract and then plays out the string here.
Dansby's sack of Drew Brees on the last New Orleans drive took the Saints out of field goal range and allowed the Browns to play for a field goal to win rather than a touchdown.
Dansby is all over the field and exactly the type of three down linebacker that you love to have as Dansby makes the routine tackle,rushes the passer and is solid in pass coverage.
Love this guy!

10) The Browns will need to toughen up against the run though.
Allowing 174 yards to the pass happy Saints is not a good day.

11) Like the new colored Browns end zones.
The team took an online vote for brown or orange and brown grabbed an overwhelming win.
It looked good and I liked it,but I voted for orange and here is why.
The football is brown and can't you just see a "breaking the plane" replay that is shown as "inconclusive evidence" with a brown football into a brown end zone?
This is still Cleveland sports after all!

12) Now that we have colored end zones finally,next step-Brownie the Elf at midfield!
Let's do this!

13) Wrapping up,I'm excited.
Winning games without all weapons present and showing heart and toughness every week-that is what Cleveland Browns football should be all about.
I'm really beginning to start buying into "Play like a Brown" and not because that generally has meant bad football....

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Suns lose decisive Game Five

Before we start,I likely will not be doing a post on Ohio State's 66-0 blasting of Kent State.
Since Saturday was so busy (more next week),I didn't see the game as I badly needed the rest and considering the score,I doubt if I watch the tape,

The Hagerstown Suns had a chance to give the hometown "crowd" a rarity-as in not just a championship,but a title on home ground.
The Suns fell short in the decisive game five as they lost to the Asheville Tourists 4-1 at the Muni.
This post will cover the three home games at the stadium,where the Suns lost two of the three (winning game four,but losing the third and fifth games).
I am planning a post soon that looks back at the season with some scouting reports on players and maybe some memories from the season.
But that's for later.

1) I was decidedly unimpressed with the umpiring in this series over the course of all three games.
It didn't decide the series on one play,but they were consistently missing calls for both teams every night and don't get me started on the strike zones.
If this is the best crew that the league could assemble,I wonder how bad some of the others were over the course of the season....

2) OK,Get me started on the strike zone.
I would make a real case that this series was decided in game three when the Tourists defeated Reynaldo Lopez in large part because Lopez lacking his best stuff simply could not get any call on his curve.
That changed the game as Lopez had to become fastball dependent and gave up three runs including a long homer to Jordan Patterson.

3) The Lopez loss then meant the Suns were in a position of having to win back to back games started by Travis Ott and Nick Pivetta and that was simply unlikely to happen against a team the quality of the Tourists.
Ott pitched passably enough in game four in his two and two thirds even he did allow two homers,but he did work his way out of a bases loaded situation in the second without allowing a run.

4) The Suns bullpen had been an Achilles Heel all season,but in the three games here,the Suns relievers allowed just one run and that was a run allowed in game three by Nick Lee after the Tourists already had a sizable lead.
Excellent work by a often questioned unit.

5) Jake Johansen's outing in game four in relief of Ott was the underrated point of that victory,
The hard throwing,but erratic Texan fired three and two third innings and allowed just one hit in keeping the Suns close as the team teetered close to elimination.
Johansen may have had a disappointing season,but he showed the potential to have a future in the bullpen and came up huge when the Suns needed it most.

6) I've been to a lot of games at the dreary and crumbling Muni and most of the time,it's the same regulars watching the game,but I have never heard a roar like I did when Cody Dent's three run homer to right field cleared the wall.
The old stadium was trembling from a nice,but not packed crowd and it was the moment that I want to remember from the 2014 season.

7) As excited as I was to have game five and a chance to win the series,I was not confident by any means.
That was mainly because Nick Pivetta was getting the start.
I know some think Pivetta is a prospect because he made the All-Star team,but Nick Pivetta is the prototype reason that smart baseball people don't look at wins as a top pitching statistic.
When Pivetta pitched this season,you had to count on scoring four (and usually five) runs or more to win the game.
I don't consider a pitcher like that in the South Atlantic League to be a prospect.
Pivetta did what he usually did (four runs in five innings) and on this night-the Hagerstown offense could not pick him up.

8) I mentioned this point earlier in the series,but I still never understood the reasoning behind starting club handed Carlos Lopez at first and the usually dependable Jimmy Yezzo at DH.
Lopez made some errors during the series and not that Yezzo is Mark Grace at the sack,but he was far superior to Lopez around the bag.
When you could flipped the pair's position and still had the same lineup,I wonder why that was done.

9) When you have four umpires,you shouldn't miss a home run call.
In game three,the umpires did just that in the ninth inning as Wilmer Difo's shot cleared the first level of the fence for a homer and yet the call was a double.
At the right field wall at the Muni,the wall is separated so the visiting team's relievers can walk under the wall to reach their bullpen,If the ball hits above that point,,the ruling is supposed to be a home run.It did and it wasn't and I might have been the closest fan to the play.

10) Craig Manuel returned to the team to catch the final two games after Spencer Kieboom injured himself stealing a base in game three.
Rather attempting to steal a base that is as the slow booted Kieboom was out by the proverbial country mile,was injured on the play and then was removed from the game for Austin Chubb after the play and Manuel for the series.
As much as I like Craig Manuel personally,Spencer Kieboom is the superior bat,even if he may be the inferior defensive catcher.
Offensively,the Suns certainly took a hit in the batting order without Kieboom.

11) I picked Asheville to win the series because of their superior sticks,but give their arms some credit too.
Konner Wade beat the Suns twice and never allowed a run in either start,while Zach Jemiola came into game three with a plus five ERA and definitely the B-Side to Reynaldo Lopez and fired a gem over eight and a third innings.
When Lopez was not as his usual form and the absence of Lucas Giolito (more on that soon),the Suns advantage on the hill over the course of the season disappeared and they were never going to have the hitting edge not with....

12) Patrick Anderson's insistence of playing David Masters at shortstop was basically giving Asheville an out each time at the plate.
Anderson often used Wilmer Difo at short during the season with Brennan Middleton at second.
Now Middleton is not a prospect or exactly Robinson Cano (.253 O HR's) in the lineup,but compared to the anemic bat of Masters (.182 O HR's),the Suns gave some outs away during this series.
When the casual fans are groaning each time that Masters name was announced,you know you have problems.
It almost came across as the Nationals brass wanted to see Masters play and told Anderson so.

13) I did like Anderson's handling of the pitching staff in the series.
He didn't leave a pitcher in that was getting hammered and wasn't afraid to go to the pen early either.
Anderson's removal of Travis Ott in game four after allowing two homers and a 3-0 deficit saved the game for the Suns in the third inning.
Anderson's decisive decision kept his team in the game before things got out of hand,which it seemed was precariously close to happening.

14) Now to the big question-Lucas Giolito.
Would the Suns have won this series with the righthander making the start.
Well,I wouldn't go as far to say yes,but you have to think a Giolito start rather than two Nick Pivetta starts would have increased their chances.
I'll get into the whys and wherefores on the Nationals in my season-ending Suns review,but the parent club's cap of Giolito at 98 innings was ridiculous.
I see no correlation in injury between 98 innings pitching and 108 for a season even considering Giolito's past Tommy John surgery.
They could have easily told Patrick Anderson that he could have Giolito for ten innings in the playoffs (Greensboro and Asheville) to be used at his discretion,Whether he wanted to use them in two five inning starts or a shorter mix from the bullpen.

15)   Finally,the better team won.
Asheville just has more talent as their top six hitters in the batting order last night all are of super to decent prospect status-I really like Jose Briceno's arm behind the plate,David Dahl is putting things together off an injury plagued 2013 and Raimel Tapia looks to have plenty of tools for a 20 year old.
In comparison,the Suns really had just three in Rafael Bautista,Wilmer Difo (who was my surprise of the season) and Drew Ward (so young playing the entire year at 19 that I might even return him to Hagerstown to start next year) and frankly I might take any of the Rockies six over any of the three Suns as prospects.
The Suns needed to outpitch Asheville and get some luck,they just couldn't get enough of either...

Back later with the New Orleans Saints in Cleveland....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pigskin Picking Machine

I'm exhausted after a really long and fun day,so I'm keeping the PPM short this week.
Look for some fun posts early next week

Ohio State over Kent State 41-10
Bowling Green over Indiana 33-29
Boise State over Connecticut 28-14
Washington over Illinois 45-28

Late Editor's Note at 3;30
Texas Tech over Arkansas 48-44
Game of the Week
Georgia over South Carolina 29-19

Saints over Browns 31-20

Game of the Week
49ers over Bears 26-17

Last Week;7-2

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest appearance and long day!

Yesterday was a very long day and today will be as well.
I'm going to offer thoughts on Game 3 of the SAL Championship series later on with the other games in the set,
Just too zonked with a work run and baseball,but when we get caught up,I'll have lots of stuff for you that I hope you enjoy!

Until then,If you get a chance,check out my guest appearance on my buddy R.L.Malpica's Corner 2 Corner Boxing Podcast.
I always have a good time doing the show,so if you give a listen to R.L's show and give him some support,I'd appreciate it!
Plus,it might keep me in the guest rotation!  Ha Ha,

See you soon!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rain Rain,Go away and...

A few different quickie notes,which normally would cover a cleaning of the inbox,but with rain in today's forecast,I'm busy rooting for it to stay in order to see tonight's SAL Game Three of their championship series.
As the series is currently tied at a game apiece,I'm guaranteed of two more trips to the Muni,if not three.
I not only want to see tonight's contest,a rainout would make a potential game five on Sunday-that puts it dead against the Browns vs the Saints.
I know which I will choose,but that doesn't mean that I hope it turns out that way!

Pulaski VA. looked to be in trouble for keeping their Appalachian League after the Seattle Mariners decided to leave town.
New owners bought Calfee Park and intend to put some money into the field as well as a housing complex for the players,which was a badly addition from what I hear.
However.the Mariners leaving placed the 2015 season in jeopardy as the Appalachian League level teams can be filled with complex teams in Arizona or Florida.
But the New York Yankees came to the rescue and will be placing a team in Pulaski!
The Yankees are not a team with a recent Appalachian history,but will be welcomed in a town that small time baseball is truly a part of the community.
Thanks to the ever faithful Big Don for the link.

Today is the day for teams to notify affiliates that they intend to shop around.
Most of the teams on this circuit have already announced extensions,but here are the teams that have not as of yet.
SAL:Augusta (Giants),Savannah (Mets)
Carolina: Carolina (Indians),Lynchburg (Braves),Myrtle Beach (Rangers)
Eastern:Erie (Tigers),New Britain (Twins)

That doesn't mean those teams would be leaving those cities or even the league as sometimes things shuffle inside the league,just those teams have deals that have not been extended
There are other teams at that level that could come in,but I doubt that would happen in many of those cases.

We wrap up with word from our friend Lefty Koch of the passing of Richard Kiel.
Kiel was famous for the hulking character Jaws in the James Bond films,Voltaire in the TV series The Wild Wild West and Mr.Larson in Happy Gilmore.
The 7'1 Kiel was a great choice  for roles that needed size because he could do verbal roles without being difficult to understand like Andre the Giant for an example.
Kiel was 74 years old