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Monday, April 28, 2008

Cleveland Browns Draft Wrapup


The Cleveland Browns continued their win now strategy by continuing to trade future picks in order to attempt for 2008 success in the NFL Draft.

The Browns moved quickly in the fourth round to move up to the 5th pick of the round to work a trade with Dallas and used the pick to select UNLV linebacker Beau Bell.
The Browns traded both their 4th and 5th round picks in order to move up and I liked this move.
Bell was a projected second rounder before suffering a knee injury at Senior Bowl workouts and he injury caused him to drop,but should not cause Bell to miss playing time in training camp.
The addition addressed the Browns largest need and Bell could even break the starting lineup with a good camp.
Bell can play the inside or the outside backer and gives the Browns just what they needed and I fully support the move.

Unfortunately,I cannot say the same for the next Phil Savage move.
Again,Cleveland traded with Dallas (Gasp!) and moved back to their original spot in Round 4 to take tight end Martin Rucker of Missouri.
Rucker is a more of a pass catching tight end than a blocker and does not seem to play a position of need,but was a productive player at Missouri.
Rucker was a Mackey finalist for the top tight end in the nation and was a first team all american for the Tigers.
The knock here is not the player,but the position and the cost for Rucker as Savage shipped the Browns 3rd rounder in 2008 to the Cowboys.
Rucker could turn out to be a steal,if an injury happens,but I think the cost was to high for a player that may not play very much in 2008.

The Browns had no picks in Round 5 and did not have their own 6th rounder having moved it to Philadelphia in a previous trade.
But the Browns did have a sixth rounder,the Seattle Seahawks pick that they obtained for Charlie Frye and Savage could not decide which of two players to select with the pick.
The solution?
Get them both and Savage did just that by again reacquiring a pick that was theirs originally by working a trade with the Eagles for the pick that followed the Seattle pick.
First,the Browns added Ahtyba Rubin,a defensive tackle from Iowa State.
The 300+ plus Rubin is more of a run stuffer than a pass rusher and should help with depth issues at defensive tackle.
The trade with the Eagles brought Wisconsin wideout Paul Hubbard to Cleveland.
The cost of this pick? The Browns 2009 5th rounder.
So Phil Savage,who believes in building the team through the draft has already peddled 2 picks next year.
I don't have a good feeling about this.
Back to Hubbard,a rangy wideout with great leaping skills and was the Big Ten long jump champion in track,but had problems staying on the field.
So I asked about him to the most knowledgeable Wisconsin follower that I know-Ryan.
"Hubbard can jump,but struggles catching the ball"(Isn't catching the ball a must for a pass catcher?)
"Plus he is not very physical and he gets hurt all the time".
"Twice during his career,he looked to be turning the corner and then got hurt and went back to the same mediocre player he was before".
"But he might be OK as a red zone guy,where you just throw the ball up and hope he comes down with it".
Not a sterling endorsement from someone that generally is very scout friendly to Badger players.

The Browns used their final pick in Round 7 on a guy that even I had never heard in Alex Hall.,
a Division II player from St.Augustine college.
Hall is 6'3,but just 235 and is listed as a DE/LB combo player.
Looks to me to be a depth guy,but I don't know enough to be sure....

Overall,Bell makes this an acceptable draft considering the lack of picks and Rucker is a talented player as well,but trading two 2009 picks already and failing to address the secondary at all is very questionable in my opinion.

Back tomorrow with the Seahawks wrapup.

Photo Credit
Bell-Las Vegas Journal Review

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Talkin Baseball

Sorry about the late post,but after an exhausting Saturday,I just needed to catch up on rest for the wonderful real world.
I really have to get a laptop sometime,so I can have more time to do this!
So for today,we will stick to the white pellet and will wait until tomorrow for the pigskin review of the draft.

The Pittsburgh Pirates split their weekend games with the visiting and hated Philadelphia Phillies.
On Saturday,the Phillies jumped all over Matt Morris in the final appearance of Morris as a Pirate (more on that later) and easily grabbed an 8-4 win.
Morris allowed seven batters in a row to reach base after retiring the first two Phils in allowing 6 runs (3 earned) in just one and two third innings.
Two errors in the first by Brian Bixler and Xavier Nady did not help Morris,but it was a matter of time with the lack of stuff that Morris had in falling to 0-4 in what was likely his baseball swan song.
The only Pirate high spot was Nate McLouth's fourth homer of the season in the eighth inning.
McLouth had singled in a run earlier in the contest,while Freddy Sanchez and Brian Bixler had the other Pirate RBI.

But Sunday was a different story as the Pirates avoided a sweep with a 5-1 win behind the pitching of Paul Maholm.
Maholm evened his record at 2-2 with the two hit complete game and looked as good as he has looked in a long time.
The only downside was that he only whiffed two Phillies,but strikeouts are not Maholm's game to begin with,so why quibble???
Nate McLouth once again was the offensive star with 2 homers (5 and 6) and finished the day with 3 RBI.
The other Pirate RBI went Jose Bautista on a fourth inning single and Luis Rivas "earned" the final one in the sixth when grounding into a double play.
Maholm is certainly pitching like the Pirates second best starter thus far,as only the bad pitch to Mike Jacobs in Florida keeping him from a 3-1 record.
No doubt that he is currently performing better than both Tom Gorzelanny and Zach Duke and if even one of those two can be straightened out then the Bucs rotation moves up considerably.
The Pirates go on the road for a seven game road trip that starts tomorrow with a three game visit to the Big Cesspool and then a four game series in their first ever visit to Washington and their new ballpark.
In tomorrow's game,the Pirates will get their first ever look at the Mets new ace in fireballer Johan Santana.-Yikes

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Ian Snell (2-1 4.45 ERA) at New York:Johan Santana (3-2 3.12 ERA) 7:10

Matt Morris was released earlier today and likely will hang up his glove for good.
I cannot imagine anyone that would claim him off waivers and give him a shot,although perhaps he may reappear in 2009 spring training for someone that is willing to let him give it a another go.
The Pirates will be eating the rest of his contract,but that is a good thing in its own way.
Yes,I know that no lower income team can afford to get nothing back for that type of money,but this gives me hope that this time maybe things are different for Pittsburgh with Coonelly/Huntington in charge.
Remember how the Pirates would shove underperforming players with big contracts down the fans throats even though that it was clear that better players were not playing in order to "get as much as we can from these guys"?
Kevin Young,Derek Bell,Pat Meares,Tony Armas etc-the list goes on..........
I totally agree with the call,you have to pay the player anyway,so you might as well play the player that gives you the best chance to win.
Morris seemed like a decent enough person that was actually bothered by his poor performance and called it quits before many would have,so give him credit for that.
Besides,the loss of money to me is well worth it.
If this deal was not done,Dave Littlefield may have kept his job for another year and no amount of money is worth that!

Although I cannot say that I agree with the replacement for Morris in the rotation.
Phil Dumatrait was the choice and even thought the alternative was another dose of John Van Benschoten or Bryan Bullington,I still would gone that way.
Dumatrait has walked 13 batters in 20 innings thus far( showing control issues) and has not exactly dazzled in his bullpen work.
Besides,when you consider the wildness of Tom Gorzelanny,do we really need to add another starter that is having problems finding the strike zone?
Dont get me wrong,I am not sure the alternative choices would have been better,but JVB is dominating at Indianapolis and is better suited to the rotation than the pen.
Another thought is this-with Sean Burnett pitching so well at Indy,shouldn't Burnett have gotten the callup?
I mean Burnett is pitching in relief right now and would not have to make the adjustment in mindset that Van Benschoten will.
Van Benschoten was recalled and will be in the bullpen for tomorrow night's game in New York.

We went to the Frederick Keys game vs Potomac yesterday and got to catch up with some Suns of the past.
Had a great 10 minute conversation with Cory VanAllen and was able to get Cory to agree to an off season interview like we had with Erik Arnesen.
Cory told me that he had trained with Harrisburg all spring and was moved to Potomac the day before going north.
That had to be a tough blow,but his performance thus far with the "P-Nats" was been dominant with a 3-0 records and an 0.88 ERA!
Potomac does not return to Frederick until June 12th and I would wager by that time,Mr VanAllen will be a member of the Harrisburg Senators.

Finally remembered to ask Marvin Lowrance about how he started using "Big Bad John " as his plate music.
Marvin told me that a teammate sent it up for him early in his career and he liked it so much that he decided to keep it.
Marvin said that he never sends it up,just tells the team that he is playing for to use the song when he arrives in town.

The game was a tight one won by Potomac 3-2 in the battle between the top two teams in the Carolina League North Division.
Former Texas Longhorns Adrian Alaniz allowed one run in 5 innings in earning the win.
Former Sun Leonard Davis hit a two run homer that proved to be the game winner for Potomac in the 5th inning,while Matt Wieters killed another ball for his 5th HR for Frederick.
The game also saw an appearance from Washington National Elijah Dukes in Potomac on a rehab assignment as the DH.
Dukes went 0 for 2 with a walk and a hit by pitch and left the stadium in the 7th inning.

Back tomorrow with football thoughts and on the signing front from the Potomac game...

Photo Credits
Morris-Keith Srakocic-AP Photo
Maholm/McClouth-Don Wright-AP Photo
VanAllen and some other guy-Ryan Heimberger

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lazy play sinks Bucs 6-5


Sometimes when you lose a game,the play that is thought of first is the play at the end and sometimes it is when a seemingly insignificant play comes back to haunt you from earlier.
Last night was one of those as the Pirates rallied to come close to a win but not enough in a 6-5 loss to the hated Phillies.
With the Phillies leading 5-0,Pat Burrell slapped a single to left.
Jason Bay then tossed a lazy throw with nothing on it to second.
Except the throw was nowhere near second and Brian Bixler had to leave the bag to go chase the ball and Freddy Sanchez never covered the bag.
Burrell smartly took second since it was given freely and scored on a two out single.
Seems insignificant right?
Whats the difference between 5-0 and 6-0,an ass kicking is an ass-kicking either way.
Well,when you rally with 5 runs,it is the difference between a loss and extra innings.
Zach Duke allowed 6 runs in 6 innings in falling to 0-2 and Duke was involved in what I would call a blunder by John Russell.
The Pirates put up three runs in the 4th and cut the lead to 6-3 on a Jason Bay solo homer (5), hits by Ryan Doumit and Xavier Nady.
Nady would finish the night with 3 RBI as his single would score the other two Pirate runs later in the game.
But back to Russell-with runners on the corners,down by three and two outs,Russell allows Duke to hit instead of a pinch hitter and basically decided to strand the runners.
Duke was easily retired and the inning concluded.
I could understand if this was a 2-1 game in the 4th,but Duke had already allowed 6 runs,what was the advantage to allowing him to hit in this situation?
Dumb,dumb,dumb.
The Pirates did get good outings from the pen as Damaso Marte,John Grabow and Matt Capps combined for three shutout innings.
The series continues tonight at 7 with Matt Morris against former Lakewood Blue Claw Kyle Kendrick. Wow

Pitching Matchup
Philadelphia:Kyle Kendrick (1-2 5.59 ERA) at Pittsburgh:Matt Morris (0-3 9.15 ERA) 7:05

Bullpen Notes
The crowd was loud last night and a large contingent of Phillies fans were there.
Nice to see that the rivalry lives despite the blind eye of baseball.

On the downside-The V-8 uniforms were back.Ugh.
The Pirates in red vs the rival Phillies.Double Ugh.

We will be in Frederick for the Keys game vs the Potomac Nationals.
Coverage here tomorrow.

If I have time,I may be back later for some thoughts on the Seahawks first and /or second round picks.

Photo Credit
John Heller-AP Photo

Friday, April 25, 2008

Seattle Seahawks Draft Preview

The Seahawks have some retooling to do in the final year of the Mike Holmgren era before Jim Mora Jr takes over for 2009.
Seattle needs more on offense than defense in my opinion,but still could use depth help everywhere.

1:Offensive Line
Some observers think that Shaun Alexander was not as faded as he looked last season and the line made him look that bad.
I am not willing to go that far,but All World tackle Walter Jones is getting up there in age and the other starters are average other than Rob Sims,who has improved each of his two seasons.
A eventual replacement for Jones would be smart or at least someone to push on the weaker right side of line led by Chris Gray and Sean Locklear.

2:Running Back
The Seahawks paid a lot of cash to Julius Jones and T.J.Duckett to revitalize the ground attack,but I am not convinced that will do the job.
Even if it does,a young runner would still be a good idea.
The Hawks covet Jonathan Stewart of Oregon badly and would consider him if he fell that far in Round 1.
Seattle will take at least one back during the draft.

3:Defensive Line
The four starters for Seattle are strong,but other than the injury-prone Marcus Tubbs,the depth needs to be addressed.
When the Hawks were an elite team,they were able to rotate 6 or 7 linemen in and out of the game,they have been unable to do that as much lately and look for at least one and maybe more linemen to be brought in.

4:Wide Receiver
Again-depth issues.
With the loss of D.J. Hackett to Carolina,Seattle must continue to rely on the inconsistent Nate Burleson and the aging Bobby Engram far more than they would like to.
Engram can only perform at his current level for so long and Burleson has always been best as a surprise and not when he is to be counted on.
Late round picks Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent both made the team in 2007 and Seattle could take another catcher or two in the late rounds.

5:Tight End
To be honest,I could put this as a larger need,but the Seahawks believe that free agent signee Jeb Putzier could be the answer and the tight end crop in this draft is weak.
The Seahawks need a solid tight end to open the middle of the field and a second day tight end might be a good idea......

Gorzelanny all over the plate in Pirate loss


Tom Gorzelanny had a no hitter at the end of four innings and left the game after five inning,having allowed just two.
However,he walked seven Cardinals in his outing and the Cardinals used his wildness for 3 fifth inning runs and never looked back in a 6-2 Cardinal win.
Gorzelanny had decent stuff,but little command in the losing effort (1-3) and continued to worry Pirate fans of a sudden decline after his abused arm by former manager Jim Tracy at the end of the 2007 season.
I am not saying that Gorzelanny is injured,but something is wrong somewhere,be it mechanical,mental or physical.
Both of the Pirate RBI's went to the struggling Adam LaRoche on a 4th inning double and 9th inning single,so perhaps the long road to respectability has started for LaRoche.
The hated Philadelphia Phillies ride into town tonight for a three game weekend series.

Pitching Matchup
Philadelphia:Adam Eaton (0-0 4.74 ERA) at Pittsburgh;Zach Duke (0-1 4.37 ERA) 7:05

Bullpen Notes
The offensive star for the Cardinals last night was Brian Barton.
Barton was universally considered to be the best player in the Rule 5 draft last winter and several teams passed him over allowing him to fall to the Cardinals.
The Pirates chose Evan Meek over Barton with their pick.

WBA & WBC Cruiserweight king David Haye has made it known that he wants to move up to the Heavyweight division,but was not sure if he wanted to slog his way through contending.
He may not have to as IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko may defend against Haye in the fall and in Haye's native London to boot.
If the bout is actually offered,Haye may never get a better opportunity.

Photo Credit-Gene Puskar AP Photo

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cleveland Browns Draft Preview


The Cleveland Browns do not look to be upgraded in this years draft with the Browns not adding to the roster until the fourth round with the 122nd pick overall and without any chances to move up into the higher rounds.
The Browns likely will be just adding four players for depth and /or special teams from this draft,but here are our opinions on their positions of need.

1:Linebacker
The Browns have some promising young players in D'qwell Jackson and Leon Williams on the inside,veteran Andra Davis is solid as well and Kamerion Wimbley adds pass rush from the outside,but lets face it none of these guys are difference makers,with the arguable exception of Wimbley at times.
Of course it would take a huge amount of luck to grab a difference maker when you make your first selection in Round 4,but this is where I would take a shot first.
If it is all the same,I prefer an outside backer,but an inside man would be fine too

2:Defensive End
Corey Williams is a huge acquisition on one end,but Robaire Smith is average at best on the other and backups Shaun Smith and Melila Purcell are journeymen types.
The Browns have upgraded their pass rush,but more is still needed to truly fix the problem.

3:Cornerback
Cleveland enters the season with two promising second year men as the corners in Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald,but the best cover man from last years Browns is gone as Leigh Bodden was sent to the Lions for defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.
And when you consider the Browns were counting on veteran Kenny Wright as the third corner and he is now in legal difficulty,the Browns could use two of their four picks for corner depth.
Remember McDonald was just a fifth round pick in last seasons draft........

4:Wide Receiver
The Browns look strong on the depth chart,but to me they still are banking on players that are less than reliable.
Braylon Edwards had a huge 2007,but his play (on and off field) needs to continue to mature to become a true number one pass catcher.
Donte Stallworth was brought in to be the 2 man,but there is a reason that Cleveland is his 4th stop in the past 5 years.
Stallworth has all the skills to be a standout,but has only shown flashes of his talent.
Joe Jurevicius is more of a true 3rd wideout/red zone specialist at his best,so Stallworth needs to step up.
Josh Cribbs is more of a gadget play player than a actual every down player and Travis Wilson has been a pure disappointment since being a third rounder pick in 2006.

5:Running Back
The Browns are one play away from watching Jason Wright or Jerome Harrison as the every down back. That would not be good news for anyone and could make the Browns a one dimension offense very quickly.
I am not a huge Jamal Lewis fan,but he is the hardest player to replace on the offense in case of injury..

Pirates rally past Cardinals 7-4

After the St.Louis Cardinals batted in the top of the first against Ian Snell,it looked like a long evening for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After the Cardinals leaped out to a 4 run lead against the top Pirate pitcher,the Pirates did not roll over and instead set about chipping away at the deficit.
In the fourth,Pittsburgh cut the lead on a single by Ryan Doumit and a sac fly by Xavier Nady and the the game was back to even just an inning later as Jason Bay crashed a Todd Wellemeyer pitch over the left field wall for a two run homer (4).
With the game equalized,the Pirates then set about the task of winning the game and they did just that in the 8th inning on a single by Jose Bautista and an two run single by Doug Mientkiewicz to put the contest in the win column at 7-4.
Damaso Marte was the winner (1-0) and Matt Capps picked up save number 6 for the Bucs.
Marte pitched two scoreless innings and looked like the Marte of old.
Give some extra credit to Snell,who after a rocky first,kept the Pirates in the game by allowing no more runs and scattering just 4 hits in his final 5 innings of work.
The mini series against the Redbirds ends tonight at 7 before the hated Phillies come to town for their only visit of the season over the weekend.
The struggling Tom Gorzelanny takes the ball for the Bucs and hopefully takes a step towards regaining form.

Pitching Matchup
St.Louis:Joel Pineiro (0-2 8.10 ERA) at Pittsburgh:Tom Gorzelanny (1-2 9.35 ERA) 7:10

Bullpen Notes

In a less than shocking move,Frank Thomas is back in Oakland.
Billy Beane watched "the Big Hurt" clear waivers and then swooped in and signed Thomas to the minimum contract (and risk) since Toronto will have to pay the rest of his contract.
Great move by the A's and for Thomas.
Look for a huge finish for Thomas as Ryan says "Frank is angry and when Frank is angry-Look out"!

The A's also claimed former Pirate Rajai Davis off waivers from the neighboring Giants.
Davis could help the notoriously slow Oakland club with some pinch running.


MLB hired some guy from CBS to head their new Baseball Channel.
That did not concern me much,but I was interested to hear that the channel will start in January of 2009.

On the signing front

Just one game to get the Lakewood Blue Claws.
Not totally successful in getting the entire team,but was able to get the top prospects.
Julian Sampson talked for a bit and signed that I had.
Some of you may remember Sampson from last years shadow draft selection.
Also among others received signatures from Michael Taylor and Michael Durant before the game and after seeing the play of Dominic Brown,I waited until after the game and made sure I was able to have him sign his Williamsport card.
Since the Phillies High A team is not in the Carolina League,I was taking no chances of a promotion for Brown and while I waited,I added D'Arby Myers from the Claws as well.
West Virginia comes in next week for 4 games during their only Hagerstown trip of the season.

Photo Credits
Bay:Gene Puskar-AP
Thomas-AP
Sampson-Donruss

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pirates split two with Florida,Alexander released

The Pirates broke even in two games against the Florida Marlins at home over the last two days in a museum like setting that has fewer and fewer fans by the evening.

The Pirates and their pink elephant Matt Morris were pummelled by the Marlins on Monday 10-4
Morris,who is the highest paid player in Pirate history,makes just under half of what the entire Marlin roster earns and was rapped for 8 runs in 4 innings in watching his already bloated ERA inflate to over 9 in the loss.
Morris was the losing pitcher and fell to 0-3 on the season and the cries from Pirate fans to move him to the bullpen continued to rise.
I don't feel that way.
Is Morris over paid?Yes
Is he a shot pitcher?Yes,most likely
But the Pirates do not have a viable alternative to replace him,so why not give him a few more starts to maybe increase any marketability for a possible trade.
Phil Dumatrait would likely be given first chance to replace him and that is not an upgrade.
John Van Benschoten is 3-0 at Indianapolis and as much as I would like to see JVB get another chance his story has been seen before-Great at Indianapolis and awful in Pittsburgh,so lets wait a bit longer on that.
I am as tired as anyone of seeing Matt Morris,but considering the options and choices-I have no problem with him in the rotation for a few more starts.
All of that said,the Marlins were smacking ball after ball over the outfielders heads and one could tell that Morris had nothing.
I mean really when Mark Hendrickson (1 for 47 over the last two years) has two hits off you and one is a smoked double off the wall,what else can I add about Morris.
Pirates RBI's to Xavier Nady with two and Ronny Paulino and Morris each added one.

The Buccos did snap their 6 game losing streak last night with a 3-2 win over the Marlins in a game most notable for the end of Nate McLouth's hitting streak at 19 games.
Paul Maholm earned his first win of the year (1-2) with an excellent outing of six innings with just 1 run and 4 fish hits.
All the Pirates scoring came in the sixth on a Ryan Doumit to score Freddy Sanchez and Xavier Nady's game winning single that scored Jason Bay and Doumit.
Matt Capps pitched the scoreless ninth for his 5th save.
The Pirates host the Cardinals tonight at 7.

Pitching Matchup
St.Louis:Todd Wellemeyer (2-0 3.24 ERA) at Pittsburgh:Ian Snell (2-1 4.07 ERA) 7:05

I missed the game as I watched the Lakewood Blue Claws hammer the Hagerstown Suns 10-3.
Kinda of an uninspiring game before very few fans.
Erik Arnesen pitched a few innings in allowing three runs and I saw what could be a future star.
Lakewood outfielder Dominic Brown looks to have all the tools to be a big leaguer and unlike many "toolsy" prospects can make contact.
Brown is blazing fast and looks to be comparable speed wise to former Blue Claw blazer Greg Golson and finished the night with 4 RBI.
Remember that name.
Skipping today's game and will be in Frederick on Saturday for their visit from the Potomac Nationals.
Next Suns game will be on next Tuesday when the West Virginia Power make their only appearance in Hagerstown for 2008.

Bullpen Notes

In an expected move,the Seattle Seahawks released Shaun Alexander.
Alexander was the league MVP in 2005,but his skills eroded quickly after that and was badly faded in 2007.
I am not sure the signings of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett are the answer to the Hawks problems in the ground game,but I am certain that Alexander was not.
I will miss Alexander as he always appeared to be a nice guy and is noted in Seattle for his community work,but this time comes for all players and in the salary cap era comes faster than it used to.
I will try to remember that the back that once was the best in the game and try to forget the back struggling to turn the corner on the sweep and await the day that Shaun Alexander enters the Seahawks ring of honor.

In a hilarious note,the top returning offensive lineman for the michigan wolverines,Justin Boren has announced that he will be transferring and to of all places Ohio State!
Boren is from Columbus and will returning home to finish his career.
Boren's family will have to pay for his education at OSU due to Big Ten rules that transfers inside the conference are ineligible for scholarships.
The last Buckeye that was an inter-conference transfer was former linebacker John Kerr,who transferred from Indiana a few years back.
Boren and his father (a former wolverine) announced plans to transfer last month after being around new coach Rich Rodriguez and figuring out very fast that Rodriguez is one slimy guy!

Finally,Ohio State announced a deal with Navy for a two game series that will see the Buckeyes host Navy in 2009 and return the visit in 2014 in a game in either Baltimore or Washington.

Photo Credits
Morris-Gene Puskar-AP Photo
Maholm-Matt Freed-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Alexander-Elaine Thompson-AP Photo

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cubs steamroller Pirates again




The Pittsburgh Pirates were brushed aside again by the Chicago Cubs and were crunched to the tune of 13-6 at Wrigley Field.
Zach Duke was ripped in losing his first decision of the season (0-1) and has not struck out a batter in either of his last two starts.
I don't want to get into too much detail on the game other than giving Ryan Doumit a tip of the cap for his two homers in the game (3 and 4),but I would like to comment on a few issues.
Adam LaRoche has struggled with the bat in both of his seasons in Pittsburgh,but not with the leather.
But now it seems that his effort there is lacking yesterday,he non-chalanted a low throw on a double play attempt that then eluded him and then he jogged after it.
That miscue would have ended the inning,instead the Cubs continued to add runs.
I have not been a person that has been overly hard on the struggles of Adam LaRoche,but if things like that continue-Look out.
As bad as LaRoche is, one can argue that he is not even the worst player in the Pirate infield.
Jose Bautista has been bad with the stick as well and his glove handling has been far from stellar as well.
If Neil Walker was doing anything at Indianapolis (he is not ), I would be calling for him to be in the lineup.
Bautista still playing shows just how weak the Pirates and their system is,after all it is not like Bautista is Mike Schmidt and his job is secure on past production.
The Pirates simply have no better option and that is not good news.
The Bullpen was pounded around some more in the contest as Franquelis Osoria allowed 5 runs in a inning and Damaso Marte gave up 3 runs in his inning.
Marte just goes to show why you do not give long contracts to relievers,one cannot count on their reliability from year to year and the same goes for trading them when they are at the peak of the marketability as well.
The Pirates return to PNC Park tonight for a two game visit from the Florida Marlins at 7 in an attempt to stop the losing streak at 5 games with Matt Morris.
So much for those thoughts.

Pitching Matchup
Florida:Mark Hendrickson 3-1 3.97 ERA at Pittsburgh:Matt Morris 0-1 7.02 ERA.

Bullpen Notes

I have working on the Browns and Seahawks draft needs and will get them posted before Saturday's NFL Draft for those of you that come here for the football talk.

The Toronto Argonauts signed once dominant wide receiver
David Boston to a contract.
The former Buckeye was once a tremendous pass catcher for the Cardinals,but has become injury plagued and ineffective the last few seasons.
I do not think Boston's game is a good CFL fit,but who knows..........

Not only will Winston-Salem be moving into a new ballpark next season,but they will also have a new name.
The current name (Warthogs) will be dropped in favor of a new unannounced name.
I kinda liked the name and logo,but the uniforms and colors (red,black and neon slime green) were pretty bad.

I have been adding some stuff to the slow day pile.
Look for upcoming features on some of things and people that have been important to me at various times in my life.

Until tomorrow

Photo Credits
Doumit:Nam Huh-AP Photo
Boston:Washington Post
Warthogs:Winston-Salem Warthogs

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cubs crush Pirates 13-1,Calzaghe beats Hopkins


The Pirates could not have played worse if they had not shown up,but they did and were routed for their efforts in a 13-1 ripping at the hands of the Chicago Cubs.
Tom Gorzelanny was crushed at the tune of 7 runs in less than 3 innings of work and walked 4 in continuing to struggle with his command.
Not surprisingly Gorzelanny was the losing pitcher in dropping to 1-2 on the season.
Tyler Yates was maybe even worse as he gave up 4 runs in two thirds of an inning and it would not be an Evan Meek appearance without him giving up any runs,so the Pittsburgh staff other than Phil Dumatrait (?!) did not cover themselves in glory yesterday.
Nate McLouth doubled to keep his hitting streak alive and Freddy Sanchez doubled him home for the only Pirate run in the fifth inning.
The series finishes today at 2:20

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Zach Duke (0-0) at Chicago:Ryan Dempster (2-0) 2:20

Joe Calzaghe won a split decision in Las Vegas over Bernard Hopkins
in last nights Light Heavyweight fight.
Hopkins scored the bouts only knockdown in the first hand with a straight right to score a flash knockdown.
Calzaghe earned scores 0f 116-111 and 115-112 while Hopkins got the nod of one judge 114-113 in a total shock.
We scored it 115-112 for Calzaghe.

Bullpen Notes

Kudos to ESPN Classic for showing the cruiserweight title eliminator between Tomaz Adamek and O'Neil Bell live from Poland.
Adamek earned a TKO when Bell did not answer the bell for Round 8.
There are many great fighters and bouts that go unseen by American audiences from Australia and Europe due to television decisions.
Keep up the good work ESPN!

The Giants designated Rajai Davis for assignment.
Davis was the light hitting speedy outfielder the Pirates sent west for Matt Morris.
Maybe a Nyjer Morgan for Barry Zito is trade is coming soon?????

The Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 1 of their series with the Washington Wizards 93-86.
We will be covering the Cavalier playoff run more as their Eastern Conference title defense progresses.

Photo Credits
Gorzelanny:Jerry Lai-AP Photo
Boxing:John Gichigi-Getty Images

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects 1-5

The final installment of Pirates top prospects.
I may do a post of players to keep an eye on from outside the top 15 on a future slow day.

1:Andrew McCutchen OF
McCutchen struggled a bit last season at AA Altoona after skipping over Lynchburg,but was promoted this season to Indianapolis anyway.
Andrew projects to be a four tool player for sure and if his power develops as he fills out could be a five tool player.
He had real problems in handling breaking pitches at Altoona and I would like to see him spend most of the season in Indy learning to hit the off-speed stuff better.
Defensively,he will be more than capable and should steal quite a few bases in giving the Pirates a hitter that can steal sacks,unlike their recent centerfielders that never realized that you cannot steal second without making it to first.
The Pirates should not be in a rush to have their one blue chip prospect on the roster now,although I would not argue against a September appearance in the Steel City.

2:Neil Walker 3b
Walker is starting at Indianapolis as well and could use a full season there as well.
Walker's offense would have been more valuable as a catcher than his projected value at third,but what is done is done.
Of course a possible draft of Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez may make the Bucco front office reconsider after the season ends.
Walker needs defensive work,but that is to be expected from a player learning third base at higher minor league levels and does not seem to be hopeless there.
Walker switch hits and seems to be a better hitter from the left side,but I am not sure that he will be a huge power hitter from either side.
I like Walker,but something is missing right now from his game.
Neil should be a September call up.

3:Steven Pearce OF
The former first baseman now patrols right field for the Indianapolis Indians and will need time to feel comfortable in the green grass of right.
Pearce was sent down to AAA despite killing the ball in Florida,but the Bucs likely did this for two reasons.One is to showcase Xavier Nady for mid season trades and the other is to keep Pearce's arbitration clock on the same year as McCutchen and Walker.
All the guy does is hit and I suspect nothing in Indianapolis will change that.
Look for Pearce to tear up the International League and become the new right fielder in Pittsburgh after the trade deadline.

4:Daniel Moskos LHP
I think that Brad Lincoln has a little more upside than Moskos,but considering he is coming off Tommy John surgery-Moskos is the less risky choice.
The lefty gunner was drafted by Captain Dave as a future closer,but Neil Huntington moved him to the starting rotation for High A Lynchburg in the spring.
Moskos throws hard (mid 90's) and has a strong slider,but has never put up huge numbers in college (Clemson) and struggled during much of his time at State College.
A fast start in the Carolina League could earn him a mid season promotion to Altoona.

5:Brad Lincoln RHP
Lincoln is expected to start at Low A Hickory soon in his mound return after TJ surgery.
Lincoln throws in the low to mid 90's and uses a strong curve as his breaking ball of choice,but he is slight of build and usually the shelf life of smaller fastball pitchers is not quite as long as others.
I cannot hold any struggles in 2008 against Lincoln as usually the arm takes until the second year following surgery to be totally back with both speed and command.
Lincoln should spend some time in Hickory and could move to Lynchburg before the season ends.

All and all,not a strong system and likely one of the 5 weakest in the game.
Look for a radically different list next year between a (Hopefully) large infusion of talent and the possibility of the top three players on the list being Pirates not prospects in 2009.

Photo Credits
McCutchen-Dean Lima-HardballWarriors.com
Walker-John Beal-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pearce-Bill Gentry
Moskos-Jim Lytle-AP Photo
Lincoln-University of Houston

Devils hit the end of the road,Pirates lose in Chicago

The New Jersey Devils watched their season end last night on friendly ice that was anything but in a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers.
The Rangers will not know their opponent until the Montreal-Boston series ends.
The Devils scored first on a Brian Gionta goal,but the Rangers responded with three first period goals and stretched the lead to 4-1 early in the second period.
That goal looked to be insignificant at the time,but proved to be the game winner.
Bryce Salvador scored a fluke goal in the period to cut the lead to 4-2 and Patrik Elias scored on a 5 on 3 power play to cut into the lead even further.
But despite a frantic 3rd period attack,the Devils would get no closer and after Henrik Lunquist stopped John Madden's penalty shot,one knew the end was near.
Our Devils season in review will go up sometime in the next few weeks,likely after the NFL Draft,but a few quick thoughts on the Devils season.
It is clear that this was a successful season.
It is hard to say that about a first round exit to your rival,but when you consider these obstacles I think it was.
With a new coach,new style of play,the murderous road trip that started the season due to the touch ups to the new arena in Newark and the losses of Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski, the Devils making the top four in the East makes it successful in my opinion.
The easiest cop-out in the hockey world is the myth of the Devils being a slow and defensive team.
Anyone that still uses that one simply has not watched many Devil games this season.
Are they high flying yet?
No,it does not suit the personnel,but I think Brent Sutter is going to continue to refine the team in the style that he wants to play and this Devils team will look a bit different from the team that takes the ice in October.
The Devils have some work to do in the downtime.
They are not as talented as the teams that they have to beat and are a victim of their own organizational success over the last 16 years.
More scoring is needed and a defenseman to run the powerplay and give them a scoring threat from the blueline is a huge need as well.
This season is not what Devils fans expect from an organization that is committed to excellence,but the team is rebuilding on the fly and unlike the other teams (Pittsburgh,Rangers,Philadelphia) the Devils do not fall through the floor when they rebuild-they keep on going with quality teams.
Looking forward to 2009-09 already!

Ian Snell had one bad inning and the insistence of John Russell of shoving Luis Rivas down Pirate fans throat cost them the game in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs.
The Cubs scored all 3 runs in the 4th and scored the final run on a double play ball that would have ended the inning with only two runs in,but Rivas double clutched the ball before tossing to Freddy Sanchez at second and that enabled Eric Patterson to beat the relay peg to first and allowed Geovany Soto to score what proved to be the winning run.
I do not really hold much of the defensive struggles by Rivas against him,he is a second baseman being forced to play out of position for reasons that I cannot figure out.
Isn't Brian Bixler here for now? And didn't this team pay Chris Gomez a million dollars because he could play all the infield spots when needed?
Plus wasn't the quote from the Pirates that they didn't bring Bixler up to sit him?
I know he is struggling at the plate,but he is a natural shortstop,while Rivas is not.
SO why is Rivas the guy in the lineup? If you can figure this out-please let me know.
Xavier Nady's bases loaded walk in the first gave the Bucs an early lead that was not wiped out until the fourth. Nate McLouth smacked a homer(3) to center in the eighth to cut the deficit to 3-2,but the Bucs could score no more.
Tough loss for Ian Snell (2-1),who allowed the 3 runs in 6 innings,while giving up 9 Cub hits and whiffing 5 Bruins.
Franquelis Osoria looked good in two hitless innings of relief.
The Pirates have lost their last three and battle the Cubs this afternoon at 1.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Tom Gorzelanny (1-1) at Chicago:Jason Marquis (0-0) 1:05

Bullpen Notes

For those of you wondering Marty Brodeur did not shake the hand of Sean Avery in the traditional series ending handshake.
I am all for this tradition,but I cannot blame Marty for this,Avery's antics were atrocious and undeserving of a "let bygones be bygones".

Bucknell hoops coach Pat Flannery is stepping down from the post after 14 years at the Pa school.
Flannery led Bucknell to the only two NCAA wins in Patriot League history and will stay at Bucknell in administration.

The NBA owners voted to allow the Sonics to leave Seattle for Oklahoma City after the legal battles are over.
The arena wars in sports get more ridiculous every day.
Oklahoma supported the Hornets well in their hiatus from New Orleans,but I get the feeling that is a short term rush-look at Memphis for an example of a similar sized city that clamored for a team to move there and less than 10 years later is struggling with attendance.

Kudos to CFL for stripping Montreal of their number 1 pick for exceeding the salary cap.
Why have a cap if the penalty is light for going over it?
More leagues should learn from this example.

Finally we like Joe Calzaghe to decision Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas tonight.
It is quite a matchup with this generations top 160 LBer battling the generations best from the 168 Lb division at 175 pounds.
Calzaghe just throws so many punches that I think he will use the Jermain Taylor blueprint for beating the less active Hopkins and get a decision.
I do not see a chance of a KO as Calzaghe has decisioned his best opponents and Hopkins has never been stopped and only floored once in his long career.

Photo Credits
Sutter and Brodeur:Bill Kostroun-AP Photo
McLouth:Nam Huh-AP Photo

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects 6-10

The series continues on yet another slow day.
Bet on tomorrow not following the trend.

6:Jamie Romak OF
The power hitting Romak strikes out too much like Brad Corley,but his is not as much poor plate discipline as much as strikeouts that come with the territory.
Romak also will take a walk (unlike Corley) and has a power stroke that can go all over the park.
Romak is far from speedy,but does have a strong arm in right to make up for some defensive deficiencies.
Simply put,although he is far from a guaranteed star,he is the Pirates top power prospect.
Romak is currently on the DL and should be assigned to Altoona,although a Lynchburg pit stop would not be surprising.

7:Brian Bixler SS
Bixler is currently a temporary Pirate with the injury to Jack Wilson,but with Wilson nearing a return to the lineup,Brian should be returned to Indianapolis.
Bixler has shown an adequate glove,making some excellent plays but his glove work clearly does not match that of Wilson.
Bixler has been a decent average hitter on his way through the minors,but has seemed overmatched at times in his debut.
Some think Bixler profiles best as a utility player,but I think he could be an average shortstop when Wilson is traded,but do not expect more than that.

8:Brian Friday SS
Friday was the Pirates third round pick last year and seems in the mold of Bixler.
Friday skipped Hickory to start at Lynchburg,so the Pirates front office must think he has some long term promise.
Brian is never going hit more than a few homers,but could be a .280 hitter with the proper adjustments.
In fielding is where Friday shines as he has a slick glove and a pretty strong arm,so he should stay at SS instead of a utility player.

9:Duke Welker RHP
The second round pick from Arkansas is starting at Low A Hickory and should be the ace of the staff.
Welker has been plagued with elbow problems,which makes him par for the Littlefield/Creech course.
At his best,Welker can throw in the low to mid 90's and uses his 6'7 frame to deceive the hitter.
Welker does need to work on his changeup and curve though and not be a one pitch pitcher.
Welker's first two starts at Hickory have been dominant,so a mid season Lynchburg is not unrealistic

10:James Boone OF
First,I need to make a correction.
I mixed Boone and Corley up when I did the work on this list.
So keep in mind that Corley is 10 and Boone 11.
Boone has shown flashes of real potential,but it seems like every time that he turns a corner,he suffers a season ending injury that stalls his progress.
Boone is an good athlete and could play any of the three outfield spots in a pinch.
A good all around player with no real shortcomings in his game,Boone needs to make his move this season as being at AA Altoona at the age of 25 means he is running out of time to show true prospecthood.

The Pirates take on the Cubs in just a few minutes,so coverage here tomorrow,

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Ian Snell (2-0) at Chicago:Rich Hill (0-0) 2:20

The New Jersey Devils attempt to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a win in Game 5 of their series vs the Rangers.
A loss and the series ends.

More tomorrow with plenty of coverage and hopefully the finish to the Pirate Prospect series.

Photo Credits
Romak:Joy Absalon-MLB.com
Bixler:Bill Gentry
Friday:Ted Kirk-AP
Welker:Tony Farlow
Boone:Topps

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects 11-15

Finally,here is the beginning of our series on the Pirates top prospects.
Please keep in mind that this list should look very different from next years list.
Why so?
Well,the top three players should be in Pittsburgh and hopefully some talent can be infused into the system with possible trades of some,most or all of Jason Bay,Xavier Nady,Jack Wilson and Damaso Marte.
Not to mention the second pick of June's draft.
Talent that is desperately needed by the way.

11:Brad Corley OF
Corley is currently at AA Altoona and needs a big season to show that he is a true prospect.
The question with Corley is the same as it was on last years list-plate discipline.
AA baseball is usually the line in the sand on true prospect level and Brad will find that the pitching improves here as well,so the adjustments will need to be made here.
Corley has a strong arm and will be not a liability in right,but the key is how he handles the higher level of pitching.

12:Shelby Ford 2b
Ford is currently on the disabled list at AA Altoona.
The Pirates have fast tracked Shelby since his surprise 3rd round selection in the 2006 draft.
Some lists have him higher than I do,but it is beginning to look like he is injury-prone and his defense is average at best.
The biggest problem that Ford has is that Freddy Sanchez may have him blocked at second,as Sanchez is the one Pirate position player that seems to be around long term.
Ford has some nice pop in his bat and needs it as his offense will have to carry the day.

13:Andrew Walker C
Walker just started his season at Low A Hickory after a minor spring training injury.
Walker played well at State College and considering his college experience at TCU,a fast start in the SAL could land him in Lynchburg by mid-season.
Walker could be the Pirates top all around catching prospect in years considering that the Pirates have produced hitters with limited defensive skills or defensive standouts with weak bats.
Walker could be on the fast track considering the systems weak catchers since the move of Neil Walker to third base.

14:Tony Watson LHP
Watson was surprisingly started at Lynchburg after his 9th round selection from Nebraska in last years draft.
I figured if the Pirates were going to have a pitcher skip Hickory that it would be Duke Welker,but it was Watson who not only skipped the SAL,but was given the opening night start for the Hillcats.
Watson never broke 87 MPH on that night,was knocked from the game in less than four innings and appeared to have fringy stuff.
Tony struggled with his slider on that night and seemed to have his problems build off that.
There does not appear to be much margin for error with Watson,who looks like he will have to have excellent command or looks to a lefty long man in the future.

15:Jared Hughes RHP
I am a little higher on Hughes than some,but I think he is beginning to revert to the form that saw him as one of the top high school pitchers of his year.
Hughes does not throw overwhelmingly hard,but uses his height and delivery to be somewhat deceptive to hitters.
Hughes does need a big year at Lynchburg after good,but not great years at Williamsport and Hickory.

Bonus Sleeper
Marcus Davis OF
I liked Davis when I saw him at State College last season and kept an eye on where he would be assigned in the system this season.
He was assigned to Low A Hickory,which was somewhat good news.
Anytime that you spend time in State College and stay in extended spring training instead of going to Hickory is bad news.
Davis led the Spikes in homers,but only hit .232.
Marcus is loaded with tools,but will need to make contact consistently in order to progress up the ladder.

Photo Credits
Corley:Joy Absalon MLB.com
Ford:Unknown
Walker:TCU
Watson:Nebraska
Hughes:John Setzler Jr.
Davis:The Daily Collegian

Devils snap on the life support mask,Pirates pounded again in LA



The New Jersey Devils had their chances to tie their series with the New York Rangers at two games apiece,but ironically the man that kept them in the game helped to seal their demise in a 5-3 Ranger win that gave the Rangers a 3-1 series lead and put the Devils in the difficult position of having to win three games in a row to win the series.
Patrik Elias scored two second period goals to once tie the game and another to give the Devils the lead,but in the third period Elias would give the Rangers the puck and watch helplessly as the puck was quickly moved to an open Marc Staal and within seconds the tie was broken and the game was gone.
After such an excellent outing for Patrik,it was a frustrating ending but such has been this series for the Devils-a few miscues and bad breaks.
The teams are basically pretty evenly matched with the exception of the Rangers having more scoring talent.
So the Devils need to play solid defense and not make the boneheaded error and of course at the worst times-they have done just that.
The other New Jersey goal went to Mike Mottau,who scored in the third to tie the game at 3.
The final Ranger goal was an empty netter.
Game 5 is Friday night at the Rock,here is hoping for a win because I really do not feel like doing a Devils season in review quite yet.

Devils Pitchforks
Gold:Patrik Elias-2 goals
Silver:Mike Mottau-1 goal
Bronze:Marty Brodeur-Some of this stuff cannot be blamed on the goalie

The Pirates finished their first California visit with another thrashing at the hands of the Dodgers in a 8-1 loss.
Poor fielding and balls that just found the right spot gave the Dodgers a 6-0 lead after 2 innings and the Dodgers cruised home from there.
In the first,Los Angeles got things going on what is in the play by play as a bunt single,but actually was a poor play by Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche broke towards the lightly hit ball (not a bunt) and flipped to the covering Maholm with a 3 foot toss.
The problem was the toss needed to be about twice that.
Seems like a small thing in an 8-1 loss,but those are things that start the snowball rolling down the hill.
The next three guys singled and the fourth hit a sac fly and the rout was on.
Maholm was chased after 5 innings and 6 runs allowed,although only 4 were earned in falling to 0-2 on the season.
After that,about the only bright spot was a dazzling double play that the Pirates turned in the 4th as Brian Bixler ranged deep into the hole to backhand the ball and fire to Freddy Sanchez,who then completed the DP with a off balance throw.
Good stuff.
The Pirates are off today and will travel to Chicago for a three game visit to Wrigley Field.

The Hagerstown Suns returned home for a contest against the visiting Delmarva Shorebirds and in the end it was not much of a contest in a 10-1 Delmarva win.
The Shorebirds smacked out 18 hits paced by returning Shorebird David Cash with 4 hits,1 homer and 4 RBI.
Only one Shorebird failed to get a base hit in the game.
Erik Arnesen pitched 3 innings of mop up work allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and fanning 4 Shorebirds.

Bullpen Notes

Anyone notice Sean Avery last night?
Didn't think so.
Once the antics are gone,he will be quickly forgotten.
Although he does seem to be a good match for Vince McMahon's crew of entertainers.

Baltimore prospect Zach Britton started for Delmarva last night and got the win,but the pitcher that I was more impressed with was the reliever Cliff Flagello.
The power armed Flagello struck out 7 Suns in 3 and two thirds and generally overpowered Hagerstown in earning the save.
Toss that name into your memory banks.

I don't know how hard Flagello was throwing as I am in exile in the GA seats for the season (Wait til next year),but I would wager at least low 90's.

On the Signing Front

Not a bad night as I added a few more Suns and a large chunk of the Shorebirds that I needed.
I am passing on tonight's game as the Shorebirds will return many times over the course of the season.
The main Hagerstown player was 2006 first rounder Colton Willems,who signed everything that I had and was quite personable as well.
The Shorebirds top prospects all seemed like good guys and took a bit to talk.
Tyler Henson,Kieron Pope,Ryan Adams all signed everything and swapped some baseball talk as well.
Tony Butler signed everything as well,Butler was part of the Erik Bedard trade with the Mariners and so did the previously mentioned Britton and Flagello.

Maybe back later with the first part of Pirate top prospects.

Photo Credits
Brodeur-Bill Kostroun-AP Photo
Sanchez-Mark Terrill-AP Photo
Flagello-Shorter.Edu

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dodgers pound Pirates 11-2


Slow day today with only the Pirates 11-2 pasting at the hands of Los Angeles to write about.
The Pirates could not take advantage of the wildness of Dodger starter Hong Chi Kuo and came away with just one run from a bases loaded situation in the first inning.
Ronny Paulino's walk gave the Pirates an early 1-0 lead,but it was downhill from there as losing pitcher Matt Morris (0-2) was pounded for 6 runs in four and a third innings.
The bullpen long men fared little better as Phil Dumatrait allowed two runs in an inning and a third,while Evan "Nitro" Meek allowed three runs in a two inning garbage time stint.
The second and final run of the Pittsburgh night came on an 8th inning Freddy Sanchez sac fly that scored Nate McLouth.
The loss ended a four game Pirate winning streak and the trip to Dodger Stadium ends tonight with the finale.

Pirate Hook
Gold:Nate McLouth 2 hits.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Paul Maholm (0-1) at Los Angeles:Brad Penny (1-2) 10:10

The New Jersey Devils will return to MSG for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the New York Rangers tonight at 7.
Coverage here tomorrow.

Thanks to the increase in readers as we have set records for hits in 2 of the last 4 days.
Thanks!

Back tomorrow with Pirates,Devils and coverage of tonight's Hagerstown Suns-Delmarva Shorebirds battle.

Photo Credit
Dumatrait-Chris Carlson-AP Photo

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Where they are now


Here is a quick update on some of the fellows that we got to know and follow and where they are playing this season.
This list should grow each season.....

Jared Hughes-High A Lynchburg 0-2 3.27 ERA
Mike Crotta-High A Lynchburg 2-0 4.76 ERA
Eric Krebs-High A Lynchburg 0-0 0.00 ERA
Mike Felix-Low A Hickory 1-0 0.00 ERA
Cory VanAllen-High A Potomac 1-0 1.93 ERA
Erik Arnesen-Low A Hagerstown 0-0 2.84 ERA
Marco Estrada-AA Harrisburg 1-1 4.50 ERA
Alexandre Periard-High A Brevard County 1-1 5.00 ERA
Mike Ramlow-Low A West Virginia 1-1 4.50 ERA
Brandon Williams-released by Pittsburgh in Spring Training

Adrian Cardenas-High A Clearwater
Chris Marrero-High A Potomac
Justin Maxwell-AA Harrisburg
Mike Daniel-AA Harrisburg
Brad Corley-AA Altoona.
Logan Morrison-High A Jupiter
Nick Weglarz-High A Kinston
Matt McBride-High A Kinston

McLouth homer saves the day!


Nate McLouth was down to both his and the Pirates last strike of the game and he made the best of it with a three run blast into the stands off Dodger closer Takeshi Saito that erased the Los Angeles lead and made Pittsburgh's in a 6-4 Pirate win.
McLouth continued with his season long hitting streak with the homer (2) and continued to show that the Pirates made the correct decision in giving him the centerfield position.
The Pirates took an early two run lead on a Jose Bautista homer (1) in the second and after the Dodgers tied the game regained the lead on an RBI double in the 6th by Xavier Nady.
The Dodgers then scored two in the bottom of the 6th for the lead that would exist until the McLouth homer.
Tyler Yates improved to 2-0 with the win for his scoreless 8th inning and Matt Capps closed the show in the 9th for his 4th save.
Same two teams tonight in LA.

Pirate Hooks
Gold:Nate McLouth-Game winning homer
Silver:Jose Bautista-Two run homer
Bronze:Pirate Bullpen-kept the game close.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Matt Morris (0-1) at Los Angeles:Hong-Chi Kuo (0-0) 10:10

Bullpen Notes

I only watched the first two innings of the game,but listened at work via the XM.
I am not a Dodger fan,actually I have always disliked them.
I have always thought that had I grown up in the 40's or 50's,I would have been a New York Giant fan,perhaps that could be why I dislike them so.
But Dodgers fans are lucky to have the legendary Vin Scully in the booth for a few innings and then the underrated Charley Steiner taking over for the legend for the second half of the game.
I know that I say this every time I listen to a Dodger broadcast,but it gets no better than that.

In another rarity-Congratulations to the NHL for quickly dealing with the BS antics of Sean Avery.
I hope Mr.Avery is investing his money well,he will need it when he is shortly out of the league and in the AHL.
Why?
Teams will not want to put up with the bad pub and worse,the referees beginning to call penalties on him for his act.
It will happen-ask Tyson Nash about that.


Avery is another reason that the instigator penalty needs to be eliminated or at least modified.
I would wholeheartedly support a rule that gives a player that verbally instigates a fight and then refuses to fight the same penalty as the player that throws punches.
That will take away even more of chippiness from the Averys of the league.

And finally,this nonsense of digging up finished concrete to dig up a jersey is ridiculous.
And I am not sure if it even takes the Bronze medal for dumbness.
The media is silly for giving it attention and the Yankees front office guy acting like this equates with the Soviets invading Prague is even more so.
Not to mention the moron that brags about this BEFORE all the work is done,so it can be removed.

Photo Credit:
McLouth:AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

Monday, April 14, 2008

Devils finally catch a break! Pirates sweep Reds

The New Jersey Devils finally watched a pivotal bounce of the puck go their way as John Madden's centering attempt in overtime deflected off the Rangers Marc Staal and into the net for a 4-3 overtime win across the river at Madison Square Garden.
The game was far from easy as the Devils lost leads two times before the badly needed victory.
Sergei Brylin scored early for the Devils in period one for the early lead,but the Rangers would score the next two goals for a Blueshirt lead.
Devil power plays would carry the day in the second,as Patrik Elias and Zach Parise would knock the biscuit in on the man advantage for a 3-2 lead.
The Rangers tied the game in the third,which set the stage for the Madden game winner.
The Devils trimmed the series to a 2-1 Ranger lead and the series will continue in NYC on Wednesday.

Some extra thoughts on the game.
Watch for a quiet rule on the antics of Sean Avery before next season.
The pitching a tent in front of the net and placing the stick inches from the goalies face routine will be outlawed.
It is certainly legal (for now),so one cannot scream for a penalty,but it is ridiculous that it is not.

The Devils carried the game to the Rangers in overtime,but Henrik Lundquist has played so well that I was just waiting for the Devils to get all the good chances,be denied and have a bouncing puck go the Rangers way for the win.
Glad that the Red and Black got the lucky bounce tonight.

The Devils appeared to change strategy against Lundquist and the goal increase showed its effectiveness.
New Jersey was much more aggressive in firing the puck on goal and looking for putbacks than in past Ranger games,where they seemed to do more passing around the perimeter and looking for the perfect shot.

And a special tip of the hat to David Clarkson,who seems to do to Sean Avery what he does to everyone else-Annoy him!!

Devils Pitchforks
Gold:John Madden-The game winner was a deflection,but they all count the same.
Silver:Zach Parise-Goal and could have had another one,all over the ice
Bronze:Paul Martin-Solid defensive evening.

Tom Gorzelanny worked his way through tough conditions and the Pirates burst through in the sixth and seventh innings to blow open a tight game with seven runs to give the Pirates a 9-1 win and a sweep of the series over Cincinnati.
Ryan Doumit (2) gave the Pirates the early lead with a solo homer in the second and Luis Rivas scored Nate McLouth with a third inning double for a 2-0 lead.
Pittsburgh chased Johnny Cueto with three runs in the sixth with the biggest shot being Xavier Nady's two run homer (4) and Jason Bay led the seventh inning onslaught with a three run bomb (3) to finish the scoring.
Gorzelanny was taken from the game in the middle of a rain shower as he was clearly struggling with his control with the wet ball,but it was a good outing before then in evening his record at 1-1.
I do still have some concerns that he does not seem to be throwing as hard as last season and his one strikeout backs me up somewhat.
The Pirates go on the road to Los Angeles tonight for a three game series against the Dodgers.
I will have the XM at work for the game-Vin Scully tonight!

Pirates Hooks
Gold:Tom Gorzelanny-win and only 4 hits allowed in bad conditions.
Silver:Jason Bay-homer, 3 RBI
Bronze:Xavier Nady-Homer,2 RBI.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Zach Duke (0-0) at Los Angeles:Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) 10:10

Bullpen Notes

Tonight starts a season of schedule silliness for the Bucs.
Did you know that each of the Pittsburgh trips to the Pacific time zone this year entails a separate trip?
No California swing this season,4 separate trips to the Cali cities and Arizona.
In this day and age,that is ridiculous.

Former Boston Brave outfielder Tommy Holmes has died at the age of 91.
Holmes was a solid part of the Braves 1948 National League champions and his 37 game hitting streak was the NL standard until Pete Rose's 44 game streak in 1978.

On the Signing Front

We did reasonably well over the course of the Suns-Captains series.
The Captains only have 2 prospects in the BA Top 30 and neither have cards.
The Suns were pretty accommodating and seems like the Nationals have sent some more nice guys to the Hub City.
Michael Burgess signed both cards that I had,although he did not sign everything that others had.
Stephen King was at the game despite being on the DL to sign his 07 Suns card and Steven Souza and Jake Smolinski each signed their Bowman card.
But the early leader for best signer and neat guy may be Stephen Englund,who signed everything and chatted for a while as well.
I will be going to the Suns-Delmarva game on Wednesday to hopefully finish up the Suns stuff that I have and work on the Shorebirds.

Photo Credits
Devils-Bill Kostroun-AP Photo
Gorzo-Keith Srakocic-AP Photo

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pirates nip Reds and a chilly night in Hagerstown

The Pirates got enough from Ian Snell and some solid work from the pen to win their second game in a row over visiting Cincinnati 4-3.
The game winning hit came in the sixth on a Nate McLouth single,which scored Brian Bixler from second after Bixler had finally gotten his elusive first MLB hit.
McLouth is currently leading the league in hits.
Now,I do not expect this to continue at this pace,but McLouth is showing why I had supported him over Chris Duffy for the last few years and seems to have a strong hold on his position.
The Bucs took a two run lead in the second inning on a two run single by Ronny Paulino and surrendered the lead in the Cinci 5th as Snell allowed two runs.
Xavier Nady returned the lead back to Pittsburgh with an RBI single in the bottom of the stanza.
The Reds came right in their next at bat to tie the game before the McLouth hit.
Snell picked up the win to improve to 2-0 and Matt Capps grabbed his third save of the season.
The series concludes today at 1:35 and our first look at Reds fireballer Johnny Cueto.

Pitching Matchup
Cincinnati:Johnny Cueto (1-0) at Pittsburgh:Tom Gorzelanny (0-1) 1:35

Finally the Hagerstown Suns started their season against the visiting Lake County Captains in a twin bill.I watched game one and left after two innings of game two,as I was kinda under-dressed since the weather was great earlier in the day and Rachel was really freezing as well,so we went home and watched the last few innings of the Pirates win.
But it appears that I missed quite the fun (sarcasm) as in the fourth inning,the vicious wind that had been there for a while knocked windows from the Muni press box and sent large jagged chunks tumbling onto the field.
Check our friends over at the Bag of Health and Politics for a witness account and a video of the event.
Before I comment on the game and signings,allow me this ramble.
This is a poor joke and a sad comment on the poor condition that the city keeps Municipal Stadium in.
I cannot and will not blame Will Smith or the Suns for this ridiculous occurrence,this all belongs on the backs of the City and those on the City Council that force this team to play in such a aging facility.
I have had people ask me why I have such concerns about the franchise leaving town.
Think about it,if you are the Washington Nationals or the teams sending the opposition,would you feel safe with large financial investments made in prospects and have them playing in conditions such as this?
It takes many drops of water to fill a glass,but eventually it fills and some things that I am hearing are beginning to make a lot of sense to me.

Onto the game.
2006 first round pick Colton Willems looked very good in picking up the win in shutting the Captains out in his six inning outing.
Willems looks to throw in the low 90's and has good mechanics,looks like a good one.
The Suns have quite a few prospects,most notably outfielder Michael Burgess.
Burgess looks to have power to spare,but needs to learn some plate discipline,but that will come over time for the high schooler.
On the Lake County side this looks like a dreary bunch for the crew from Eastlake and could be a long season.

I did talk to Suns manager and former Pirate Darnell Coles before the game.
Coles is much more personable than former skipper Tommy Herr and signed both cards that I had for him.
I asked Coles if he would answer a few questions for us later in the year and he said sure.
I did say that one thing that I wanted to ask him about was the famous race that was talked about in "Moneyball" that he was involved as a prospect with Oakland GM Billy Beane and he responded with a smile and this quote "Remember this about that race-every guy that was in that race with him was drafted BEFORE him!".
I came away really impressed with Coles and his coach Tony Tarasco as well.
It is good to see a staff that wants to enjoy the town before moving on and with the bright spot of the 2007 Suns coaching staff returning in Paul Menhart,I would bet the Suns have one of the nicest coaching staffs in the SAL.

I will do an On the Signing Front tomorrow,but one more story from Lake County boss
Aaron Holbert.
Holbert had a brief big career,but looks like he could still play and when I asked "Coach,would you sign,please?" he said "Sure,but I'm the manager" with a smile.
I usually call the staff "Coach" when I ask,but Holbert's point out is making me reconsider!

Game 3 of the Devils-Rangers series in tonight at 7.
This is a must win for the Devils or it would look to be all over for their season.

And finally,another great post from "BOHP" on the authors life and experience with his battle with health issues.
If that does not show you some of the problems with our system,I do not know what I can say to change your mind.
Until later

Photo Credits
Snell-Keith Srakocic-AP Photo
Coles-Topps