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Friday, August 27, 2010

Indians rally to nip A's


Matt LaPorta's two run homer (8) turned a one run deficit into the winning margin off Oakland pitcher Vin Mazzaro as the Cleveland Indians snapped a five game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the visiting Athletics.
Justin Masterson (5-12) was the winning pitcher and Chris Perez pitched the final inning and two thirds for save number 16.
The Indian coverage continues tonight against the Royals,since the Pirates start in Milwaukee takes that out of any chance of taking the tape to work.
Josh Tomlin (1-3) for Cleveland against former Pirate top pick Bryan Bullington (1-2) for Kansas City are your pitchers.
Pittsburgh will throw James McDonald (2-3) at Milwaukee versus Chris Narveson (9-7).

War Chants

1) Matt LaPorta's homer won the game for Cleveland,but the play that made it happen was Trevor Crowe's single with two out that gave LaPorta the chance to hit.
Crowe went with the pitch and took it the other way,exactly what non-power hitters should do and often don't.....

2) LaPorta had just four hits in his previous 45 at bats before the shot into the seats.
LaPorta's struggles (along with Michael Brantley) make the C.C. Sabathia trade look not so great,but the Indians are just now seeing what they have in LaPorta.
Why the Tribe signed Russell Branyan to the detriment of LaPorta's development still makes me shake my head.

3) Chris Perez's long outing to earn the save is uncommon anymore,but years ago a two inning or so was quite common in the days of Gossage,Sutter and Fingers.
Sometimes the outs you need in the seventh or eighth inning can be just as important,if not more than in the ninth.

4) Justin Masterson pitched as well as I have seen him yet,but I believe that with his stuff and motion,he will play better in the bullpen as either an eventual closer or setup man...

5) The evening was marked by Puppypalooza,an event where fans can bring their dogs.
One Boxer on the STO broadcast looked exactly like Big Ed.
These are fun to see on TV,but I kinda doubt I would enjoy being there very much...

Bullpen Notes

Looking at this list of teams that have their affiliations end with big league teams next month,it appears that both the Pirates and Indians are staying with the pat hand.
Pittsburgh has already signed extensions through 2012 with all of their teams,while Cleveland only needs Kinston and Mahoning Valley,both of which are expected formalities.

I have heard from various sources that the AA Eastern League looks to have one deal done off the record.
Harrisburg would add the Giants,while Richmond would gain the Nationals.
Both teams win in that scenario as the Giants get the better facility,while Washington gets to expand its footprint deeper into Virginia with the Richmond pickup.

Editors Note-later in the day.
So much for those sources as the Nationals announced they are staying in Harrisburg with Richmond sticking with the Giants.....

South Atlantic League franchises that have not signed extensions through 2012 are Augusta,Delmarva,Hagerstown,Hickory and Lakewood.
Delmarva,Hagerstown and Lakewood are just a matter of signing the papers I would think.

Carolina League teams that have not renewed include Kinston,Lynchburg,Myrtle Beach and Wilmington.
Kinston and Myrtle Beach are likely unannounced deals,no word on Wilmington or Lynchburg.
Wilmington is likely happen with the prospect heavy Royals,but Lynchburg could be shopping for a replacement for the Reds after their forced one year shotgun wedding.....

A quick signing front thank you to the Superfan,who not only picked me up a Aberdeen Ironbirds set,he was able to get most of the cards signed for me as well.

Photo Credits
LaPorta-Chuck Crow-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Other McCutchen

The McCutchen that one rarely hears about and if so,often in a negative fashion fired six shutout innings and the offense picked him up in the third with Neil Walker's bases clearing triple to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 homestand ending win over the St.Louis Cardinals.
Daniel McCutchen (2-5) allowed just three hits in his best effort as a Pirate.
Garrett Jones hit his nineteenth homer in the victory.
Pittsburgh is off today before starting a weekend series in Milwaukee.
Coverage tonight of Cleveland vs Oakland and Friday coverage will feature the Wahoos as well with the Central time start for the Pirates on Friday making it impossible to take the tape to work.
Both of the weekend Pirate games will bring things back to normal....

Pirate Hooks

1) Daniel McCutchen doesn't have overwhelming stuff,but on this night he was able to do the two things that flyball pitchers need when they aren't true power arms-got ahead in the count and made sure that he didn't have to throw pitches down the center and was fortunate enough to have the flies be hit to someone.
Sometimes,pitching can be a bit lucky,but take nothing away from McCutchen-he pitched very well....

2) Brian Burres was recalled from Indianapolis to replace Ross Ohlendorf,who was placed on the DL.
The Pirates report that Burres is slated for the bullpen and things are pointing to Charlie Morton as the rotation replacement for September...

3) Neil Walker's three run triple was the second day in a row that Walker finished with three RBI in a game.
Walker's triple was just a little short of leaving the ballpark and was almost a grand slam homer...

4) John Russell announced that the McCutchen start was just a spot start and that Jeff Karstens and the replacement for Ohlendorf will be the rotation regulars.
I don't really see where it matters much,but whatever....

5) The Pirates lead Baltimore by two games for the first draft pick in 2011...

Photo Credits-Peter Diana-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Day one-Columbus

Better later than never,we begin to look back at last month's Ohio swing beginning with our stop in Columbus for the Columbus Clippers at their almost new stadium,Huntington Park.
I discussed the autographing in a Signing Front recently,so I'll skip that part of the show.

We left early in the morning as I left work at 3:30 AM instead of the usual 8:30 in order to get a early start to the weekend.
We didn't stop anywhere until a stop at the Hartville Flea Market,which simply put is tremendous for not just the various items that are for sale through the facility,but for the terrific food for sale at various stands.
Ryan and Corey each were chomping fruit from the farmers market,I preferred fresh green peppers as my "healthy" snack.
"The Jeff" was nowhere to be found until later,so he didn't enjoy the fresh produce,although he did purchase a sega genesis system for twenty bucks.

We then drove further down the road and decided to stop at Ashland's Ashland/Wooster Drive In for a coney or two before proceeding to Columbus.
The Jeff rarely gets the joy of the Ohio coney anymore and Corey had never had one,being an Ohio newbie and anything at Ashland/Wooster is not to be missed,but as good as the coney is,the shredded chicken sandwich might be even better.

With Ashland being a little over a hour from Columbus,we had decided early on that we would kill the time with some of the excellent shopping that the Ohio capital had to offer.
Polaris Fashion Place is far more than just fashion as the two floor mall is flanked by several stores that give any shopper plenty of choices to spend their money.
No matter your shopping preference,something is around the Polaris area to either shop at or kill time while others shop.
After hitting the stores,we stopped at Dave and Buster's for food and games.
I had been there the last time that I had been in Columbus,but the others had not.
Dave and Busters offer an advertised deal that for 15.95,you get a meal and ten dollars worth of game play.
The food is decent enough,although I have had better meals,but for the combination of food plus entertainment,it is difficult to beat the value.
Plenty of controversy between Ryan and Corey on whom wound up holding the pop a shot record for the place.
I played for a while and did reasonably well at times,but started cleaning up at the trivia machines instead.
All the guys would give me their tickets at the end of the day and I cashed them in for eight packs of 2009 Tri-Star provisions,which was an overpriced set that I didn't buy at the time,so all the cards were needed pickups.
After a stop at the most underrated department store around in Meijer.
I didn't spend much this time,but I often spend decent money on my trips there.
Meijer is mainly a Ohio,Indiana and Michigan chain,so as much as I would hope that Meijer would expand to Maryland,the prospect is unlikely.

Finally,the time was close enough to check out Huntington Park for the Columbus Clippers against the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Huntington Park is in its second year and is definitely an throwback type park.
On this night,the place was sold out with the exception of standing room only,which we stood well above the right field wall and was within distance of catching a homer of the high wall.
Mike Lowell was on a rehab assignment for the PawSox,so that was pretty cool and the sellout crowd of 10,000 was into the game.
I thought the field was dynamite in its layout and loved the use of the buildings around the ballpark to integrate into the view from home plate.
The Columbus skyline is visible,but it doesn't quite stand out like some other parks that I have seen and the one disappointment was on the Clipper team shop which wasn't as good as it could have been.
I did buy a Clipper team set and picked up other team sets for collectors,but otherwise the selection was disappointing.
Columbus is the second AAA stadium that I have seen games at and I would give it a edge over the nice ballpark in Allentown Pa simply on aesthetics.
All and all,a great day and after a ride to the hotel,some badly needed rest was obtained.
In the future,when time permits,the story of day two in Cleveland and Lake County shall be told.
Until then...

Photo Credits
Huntington Park-Scott McCauley
Ashland/Wooster Drive In-Ashland-Wooster.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pirates late rush deals defeat to the Cards


Adam Wainwright controlled the Pirates for five innings and then suddenly the Buccos managed to score four runs off the Cy Young contender between innings six and seven to gain a lead that they managed to survive a ninth inning that had loss for Pittsburgh written all over it for a 4-3 win at PNC Park.
Neil Walker knocked in three of the four runs in the rally that had to especially sting the Cards as they lost an opportunity to gain a game on the Reds,who were steamrolled in San Francisco.
Joel Hanrahan (3-1) was the winner with Evan Meek earning the save (2).
The Pirates conclude the series tonight with Daniel McCutchen (1-5) against Jake Westbrook (7-8).

Pirate Hooks

1) Inning nine was a nerve wracking one as the Cards scored a run to cut the lead to one basically caused by two fielding miscues that weren't called errors.
Evan Meek got in the way of a grounder that Ronny Cedeno would have at least gotten one out of,if not a double play,while Pedro Alvarez misplayed a Albert Pujols shot that could have been a twin killing to the end the game and instead loaded the bases with just one out.

2) Give Evan Meek credit for hanging in there after those plays (although one was his) and popping up both Matt Holliday and Felipe Lopez to end the game.
For all of the issues that I have with John Russell as a manager,his gradual handling of Meek in attempting to add responsibility slowly to the closer of the future has been both intelligent and well done....

3) Paul Maholm pitched well over six and two thirds as other than a first inning homer by Holliday,the Cards were pretty much shut down by the southpaw.
Maholm deserved a win,but avoided a loss with the rally.

4) I had been talking about Andrew McCutchen covering great ground and then just missing hauling the ball in lately,but McCutchen scored a run in just a manner as Jose Tabata's triple ricocheted off the glove of Jon Jay.
Once in a while,the breaks can go your way...

5) Hustle play of the evening goes to Ronny Cedeno,who rarely gets mentioned in this type of hook.
On the Pujols shot to Alvarez,the ball dribbled into shallow left and normally would have scored a run,but Cedeno was hustling over the ball with such speed that third base coach Jose Oquendo had to hold his runner at third,which had he scored would have tied the game.
Nice job by Cedeno.

6) Ross Ohlendorf is finished for the year,although he said he could return late in the year,but the risk isn't worth the reward for the Texan.
Ohlendorf has a strained lat muscle between his right (throwing ) shoulder that will not require surgery,but will need rest.
Good news for both Ohlendorf and the Pirates....

7) Jeff Karstens will be skipping his scheduled start tonight with "arm fatigue".
Daniel McCutchen in his place shouldn't make a difference one way or another against the Cardinals..

The Pirates had an unexpected fiasco on their hands as a leak somewhere in the pipeline released the Pirates financial statements for the last few years.
This type of stuff generally doesn't interest me as money matters aren't really my area of interest.
Being forced to watch CNBC might just be my version of the "football widow" that cannot stand sports,so keep that in mind.
Some interesting sniglets though ( and yes,I know the word "Sniglet" doesn't totally apply here!)
and I'll try to address a few.

The Pirates made a chip over five million dollars as profit last season.
Now,that is a lot for you and me,but for a professional sports team not really a huge chunk of change.
Basically that profit could be seen as paying Zach Duke for this season and two of the low wage young players on the team and that is about it.
The bigger question that I have is this-If that is all that the team made,can the team truly afford to compete as the salaries grow?
I would wager that they can,but they are going to have to consistently spend in the amateur draft and Latin markets,be creative as they have been in taking long shots in non-traditional baseball areas and most importantly-not afraid to cut and cull popular players when the time comes to do so.
As Billy Beane has been quoted as saying "small market teams hit the bottom with a thud not a bounce",meaning that teams that are short financially fall apart,it takes years to make a competitive run at things again.
Look at Beane's current squad as just such an example....

The other issue that stood out was the 20 million that was distributed to members of the Pirate ownership group in 2007/2008.
That is exactly the type of thing that makes the Pirates group look greedy and likely why they were so upset that this information hit the general public.
Bob Nutting claims that this payout was to help members of the group pay their taxes on the team and that this is not occurring every year.
I have far more of an issue with that occurring in 2007 than right now when you consider the money that the Pirates have put into the program now compared to then.

I am not a Bob Nutting fan and I still suspect that his family is getting more than they list somehow,but I cannot complain about the current spending and attempting to change the organization.
Sorry,if this comes back to baseball again.
I just hate finances!

Photo Credit-Matt Freed:Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reviewing the tape-Raining against the Rams


We begin the review of the tape for the Browns 19-17 loss in a all night downpour at Cleveland Stadium to the St.Louis Rams with a note on the weather.
It rained.
All game,all night.
That always adds an extra issue to evaluating talent that you need to make decisions on.
Cleveland's next pre-season game is this Saturday vs the Lions and NFLNetwork is showing that one live,so I should be able to see it earlier than the first two games.
I still have to review the Seattle-Green Bay game,but haven't had the time to watch it as of now...

Brownie Bits

1) This was a dull game.
Between the rain and the Rams reluctance to use Sam Bradford in a manner that could not be used as anything other than conservative,the game was often tedious to watch.

2) Five turnovers doomed the Browns and that just was the turnovers and doesn't count the handful of times that Cleveland recovered their own miscues.
Jerome Harrison was fumbling often and although it seemed mostly due to the weather conditions,Cleveland is not a place that you want to play,if you need perfect conditions to play in...

3) Jake Delhomme played the entire first half and finished 12 of 16 and a TD to Ben Watson,who made a great catch in the back of the end zone for the score.
The grab was initially called incomplete,but reviews showed Watson kept both feet in bounds for the six points.

4) Seneca Wallace seems to have sewn up the backup role,if he didn't have it already after his TD pass to Josh Cribbs.
Wallace threw a pick as well,but he is the backup from what I have seen.

5) Colt McCoy was three and out in his only possession of the game,while Brett Ratliff was picked off on the games final possession and finished one of four.
I would never have said this going into the exhibition slate,but with Ratliff's background with Eric Mangini and the poor play of McCoy,the battle for the third QB is closer than one might think.

6) Colt McCoy was Mike Holmgren's pick and I still think that he wins that battle,but what better way could you make a statement that no one has any entitlement at all than to drop a third round pick if performance is not up to par.
I don't think that is the way that they will or should go,but it is an interesting premise...

7) The player of the game to me was Peyton Hillis,who had the most carries in the game (12),but was running through Rams and caught three passes on swings out of the backfield.
A interesting look for the Browns might be some formations that use Hillis in the halfback slot with vicious blocking Lawrence Vickers running lead from the fullback slot.

8) The Browns went for the first down twice on fourth down in the first half with Delhomme in the game,succeeding once of the pair of attempts.
A field goal in one of those situations would have won the game.
However,I loved both calls as these games are to try things and show different possibilities for real situations,who cares who wins these games as long things are looked at for the regular season....

9) Eric Wright had five tackles and changed his number from 24 to 21 in his first game of the season.
Wright should still be the starter opposite Sheldon Brown,but don't rule out throwing top pick Joe Haden into the mix.
Wright along with Brandon McDonald have seemed to have a sense of entitlement as far as their jobs in the past and neither Wright as a starter,nor McDonald as a backup should have that right now..

10) Not many on defense stood out,but linebacker Chris Gogong did have six tackles and was the only Brown around the quarterback as the Browns pass rush was awful to say the least and I could say more...

Photo Credit-John Kuntz-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Pirate catchup

The Pirates have went 1-2 since our last post.
Various reasons for missing time range from missing the rain shortened six inning loss to the Mets to a commandeered PC by Rachel and just a general lack of time/sleep.
So this will be a general note covering the rain loss,the 2-1 win over Johan Santana and the Mets and the 10-2 rear kicking yesterday by the Cardinals.
The Cardinals series continues with Paul Maholm (7-12) against the Redbirds Adam Wainwright (17-7).

The rain shortened loss wasn't a big loss for me as it turns out,but I was looking forward to seeing Jon Niese against James McDonald.

The encouraging part of the win over the Mets had to be the power shown by Lastings Milledge and Jose Tabata with each drilling a solo homer that made the difference in the win.
Both Milledge and Tabata's main questions with the bat were going to be how much power could they produce and one game certainly doesn't answer those questions,but considering who they hit them off of (Johan Santana ),one has to be encouraged a little bit.

Zach Duke allowed a single run in seven innings as he got the "duke" in Sunday's win.
Duke pitches well against the Mets as he is 4-1 lifetime with an ERA under three.
One school of thought is this-Duke's stuff is eminently hittable and many of the Met hitters aren't the most disciplined around.
That type of team is just the type that Duke should have a chance of success against.

Less said the better about the loss yesterday,but I do feel bad for Ross Ohlendorf,who was removed in the first inning with a shoulder injury and picked up the loss (1-11).
Ohlendorf walked and allowed a single to the first two batters and then left the contest.
An MRI will taken today to check for any possible issues.
Considering this season,if anything is found at all,his season should be shut down.
Ohlendorf's numbers are very similar to last season's stats,which weren't exactly Cy Young material,but better than 1-11 for sure....

Before yesterday's game Jeff Clement was placed on the DL with knee soreness and Justin Thomas was recalled from Indianapolis.
Thomas was expected to be around for a week or so as a needed bullpen arm.

The Post-Gazette is reporting that if Ohlendorf is placed on the DL that the expected replacement will likely be Charlie Morton-Yay.

Look for an interview with Wilbur Miller and our updated top 15 Pirate prospect list over the next week or two.

Back later with a look at the tape of the Browns loss to the Rams.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back to back


Two back to back losses for the Pirates since our latest post as Florida concluded a winning series with a 4-2 win over Paul Maholm (7-12).
Andrew McCutchen's solo shot in the ninth inning (12) was the only Pittsburgh long ball.
Last night,the New York Mets came into town for a weekend series and promptly spanked the Buccos and Jeff Karstens (2-10) 7-2.
Ryan Doumit's solo homer (10) was the only offensive highlight for the Pirates.
Tonight's pitching matchup is one that I am looking forward to seeing as James McDonald (2-2) takes on former Hagerstown Sun Jon Niese (7-5) in a battle of young pitchers that have pitched well lately.

Pirate Hooks

1) Alex Sanabia of the Marlins looked awful sharp for a last minute starter in the loss to Florida.
Sanabia replaced the injured Sean West and allowed just four hits to Pittsburgh.
Steve Blass kept commenting about when he would fall apart,but it never really happened as the Pirates actually hit Florida closer Leo Nunez better than Sanabia.

2) The Pirates entered the final inning against Florida down 4-1,but between McCutchen's homer and Neil Walker's single actually brought the tying run to the plate.
Nunez then whiffed both Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez to end the game.

3) Jameson Taillon was in Pittsburgh for his press conference and sat in on an inning on the Pirate broadcast.
Taillon seems like a really likable young man and his appearance was about the only good thing for the Pirates over the last two days.

4) Taillon said that both he and Stetson Allie will traveling with State College for the last two weeks of the season,but will not be pitching in games there.
State College,huh?Hmmm.....

5) Jeff Karstens was hit early and often in the Mets loss,but I wont even comment on his pitching.
What drives me nuts is his deliberate style in which it took almost 20 minutes for the Mets to finish the top of the first.
Karstens kept throwing over to first,which I understood for Jose Reyes,but for Chris Carter?
The same Carter that hasn't stolen a base all season?????

6) The Pirates have clinched a losing record for the 18th season in a row.
Never saw that coming....

7) The Pirates announced a two year renewal with State College as their rookie league team.
Pittsburgh has now committed to Altoona,Bradenton and State College.
Indianapolis and West Virginia are still open,but West Virginia is likely a formality...

Photo Credit
Keith Skarocic-AP Photo

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pirates land Heredia


Unlike this time last year when the hype was for Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano that the Pirates were supposedly in the lead to sign when the international signing period began only to lose Sano to the Twins-this time the Pirates closed the deal quickly in landing 16 year old Mexican pitcher Luis Heredia.

The 2.6 million dollar bonus that the Pirates paid to Heredia and his Mexican league team smashed the previous high that the Pirates had paid to an international free agent,which was 400,000.
The 6'6 Heredia is reported to be the top available pitcher of the international players and throws five pitches,with four of the five being reported as above average.
Heredia throws in the low 90's and considering his age,one would think that there is room to improve on his fastball.
One cannot help but be pleased that the Pirates have added three high impact power arms over the last few days and attempt to change the pitching poor Pirate system for better.

Bullpen Notes

Hoping to have an interview in a week or so with Pirate farm system guru Wilbur Miller over the next week or so,as well as our take on the top fifteen prospects in the system as well.....

The Mountain West made their move to restock their conference with adding Fresno State and Nevada to help replace Utah and the rumored possible loss of BYU,who wants to be a football independent in what would be a colossal mistake.
Nice to have Fresno back,but I would have preferred UTEP over Nevada as a original WAC member (Most of the original WAC became the Mountain West) returning to the fold.

Derrek Lee sent to Atlanta and one of the three pitchers going to the Cubs is Tyrelle Harris,who became one of our favorites earlier this year as we detailed in a recent on the signing front.
Good luck to Harris in the Cubs system...

The Seattle Seahawks swapped disappointing 2008 first round picks at defensive end this week.
One day after trading for Kentwan Balmer from the 49ers for a sixth rounder,Seattle sent Lawrence Jackson to the Lions for an undisclosed,but reportedly similar 2011 draft pick.
The Seahawks took Jackson one pick before the Niners grabbed Balmer in the 2008 draft.
Balmer is a bigger more physical player than Jackson,whom the coaching staff seemed to believe was not fast enough as a rusher or physical enough against the run.
Ironically,the same coaching staff led by Pete Carroll that moved Jackson along,is the same reason that many fantasy football kingpins listed Jackson as a possible sleeper pick at defensive end.
Just because a coach has had you on his team before doesn't mean he likes you or your game...

Balmer,on the other hand,seemed to have had issues with Mike Singletary,the Niner defensive scheme or both and has yet to register a sack in two season in San Francisco.
Not sure how this works out or whether in the end,it is simply shuffling deck chairs...

Marlins win by a gill

The Pittsburgh Pirates wasted an excellent outing from Ross Ohlendorf (1-10) and lost to the Florida Marlins 3-2.
Both Pirate runs came off solo homers from Ryan Doumit (9) and Andrew McCutchen (11)off Josh Johnson.
The series concludes tonight with Pittsburgh sending Paul Maholm (7-11) against Alex Sanabria (1-1).
Sanabria must be a last minute replacement for Sean West,who was scheduled to start the game....

Pirate Hooks

1) Ever notice what seems to be an insurance run often makes the difference in the result of the game?
Last night,in the eighth,John Russell left Ross Ohlendorf in the game,when it looked to me that he was tiring.
Ronny Paulino doubled to lead off the inning,a sac bunt and sac fly (more on that next) later,Florida had its insurance run.
A run that made Andrew McCutchen's homer in the bottom of the inning,nothing more than stat filler.

2) The Hanley Ramirez sac fly that scored Paulino was a shallow fly in foul territory that Lastings Milledge had to run a long way to catch,but Ronny Paulino isn't exactly Willie Wilson,so anything resembling a good throw nails him dead at the dish.
Problem is that the throw didn't resemble a good one and Paulino slid in safely..

3) I feel bad for Ross Ohlendorf,who will not bring back memories of Jim Bunning has pitched well enough to win some of these losses that he has accumulated.
Ohlendorf has only had one bad start in the last month and only one other in the month before that.
A little bit of run support can go a long way.

4) The homer that Ryan Doumit hit was hammered and had the ball not scraped the top of the trees might have become the second ball to be hit into the river on the fly.
I watched the Marlins feed and they showed the Daryle Ward shot that remains the only air to river shot and I would bet that ball gets knocked down by the trees,since they are considerably higher now than then.

5) Hate to keep harping on Andrew McCutchen's glovework,but again last night it cost a run.
McCutchen covers so much ground and can be such a stellar defender,but lately,it just seems a bit off.
Could it be as simple as taking your eyes off the ball?

6) Stetson Allie reported to PNC Park yesterday for the traditional tour and press conference.
Allie says he would prefer to close,but the Pirates will start his career in the rotation.
Smart move by the team as I believe that it is far easier to test players as starters and then move them to the pen if needed than vice versa.
Jameson Tallion will be in Pittsburgh today.

7) If Allie starts in West Virginia next season along with Taillon,the projected rotation of the Power could be the most prospect filled rotation that the SAL has seen in years.
A Taillon,Allie,Zach Von Rosenberg,Colton Cain and anyone of Tyler Waldron,Zach Dotson or Brooks Pounders ranks right up there with the Greensboro rotation of number one picks a few years back of Chris Volstad,Sean West,Brett Sinkbeil,Aaron Thompson and Ryan Tucker....

Photo Credit-Pittsburgh Pirates.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reviewing the tape-Browns nip Packers


Phil Dawson drilled two field goals in the last 90 seconds of the game to lift the Cleveland Browns to a pre-season opening 27-24 win over the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay.
Dawson nailed bombs of 58 yards to tie and 46 to win the game on the final play.
Cleveland's next home game will be at home against the St.Louis Rams.

Brownie Bits

1) Outside of the first quarter,this game was pretty dull,but Jake Delhomme's only possession was strong enough as he was 6 of 7 and led the Browns to a quick touchdown.
A small sample for sure,but Delhomme looked plenty sharp to me against the Packers defensive starters.

2) Seneca Wallace threw two touchdowns in his time and both showed why Browns fans could see an improved passing game this season.
Brian Robiskie's acrobatic grab was a work of art and Ben Watson's TD straight down the seam gave me hope that Watson could use his skills down the middle and open things up for Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi downfield.

3) Colt McCoy had a few nice scrambles,but his passing wasn't at its peak as the interception that he threw should have been heaved into the stands.
Rookie QB's have struggles,so I don't put too much into this yet.

4) I liked Peyton Hillis as an offensive weapon at fullback.
Hillis will never be the blocker that Lawrence Vickers is,but he will be more of a offensive threat than Vickers will ever be.
Hillis could be a valuable pickup for Cleveland.

5) I know Josh Cribbs was being sat from returning kicks,but why was first round pick Joe Haden doing the job?
That move made zero sense to me when you consider the risk of injury compared to anything that the Browns got out of Haden as a returner.

6) Punter Dave Zastadil was placed on the IR and is finished for the season.
Reggie Hodges appears likely to be the replacement for the solid booting Zastadil....

7) I was also encouraged by the play of nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin,who stripped the ball from Ryan Grant in the first quarter and led to a Browns touchdown.
If Rubin can play the nose and Shaun Rogers can move to an end,the Browns defensive line improves right there.

8) The defensive player of the game was T.J. Ward,who was all over the field with 8 and a half tackles.
Had Ward been able to take down John Kuhn on a Packer TD run instead of bouncing off of him,Ward might have had an A+ type game...

Photo Credit:Jim Prisching-AP Photo

Back to normal

The usual outings returned for the Pirates last night as they were shut out by the Florida Marlins 6-0.Zach Duke was the loser (5-12) despite allowing just three hits through the first four innings.
Florida ripped the game open with a four run fifth inning.
Things do not get much better tonight with the Marlins sending their ace to the mound in Josh Johnson (10-5) vs Ross Ohlendorf (1-9)

Pirate Hooks

1) I discussed Andrew McCutchen's sudden defensive lapses and last night,it happened again as he looked to make a spectacular catch to bail the Pirates out of a sixth inning jam.
Instead the ground jarred the ball loose,the Marlins scored a run and a visibly upset Zach Duke was forced from the game...

2) Play of the game goes to the Pittsburgh sixth,when the Bucs loaded the sacks against Ricky Nolasco with two down.
With a chance to make things a game again,Neil Walker fanned and that was pretty much the game....

3) Ryan Doumit,as noted last week,seems to have real problems moving in on fly balls.
This tends to be a problem when you are an outfielder.
Doumit might have flinched slightly on a Wes Helms pop that dropped in for a single.
If that ball is caught,McCutchen's near miss doesn't happen because the Pirates are in the dugout.

4) Zach Duke will always be a pitch to contact hurler.
That is what he is,attempting to change that would be like a tiger trying to change his stripes.
On this team,that is bad news with such inconsistent fielding.
Duke would be of a far more use on a better team than he will be in trying to help the Pirates out of the morass...

5) To this day,I still blame Jim Colborn for ruining Duke to an extent.
Duke has never resembled the same player that rocketed through the minors and had such a sterling rookie year since Colborn "fixed" his mechanics.
Sometimes,one needs to leave well enough alone.
Colborn has not worked as a pitching coach since....

Photo Credit:Matt Freed-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bobby Thomson passes away,Indians draft talk


Bobby Thomson,the hero of the 1951 "Shot heard around the world" passed away yesterday at the age of 86,
Thomson's homer off Ralph Branca to lift the Giants to the National League pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers remains the top moment in baseball history,rivaled only by the Bill Mazeroski homer off Ralph Terry to win the 1960 World Series for Pittsburgh.
Thomson spent his career with the Giants,Milwaukee Braves before some career ending cameos with the Cubs,Orioles and Red Sox.
Eight times,Thomson hit 20 home runs or more back when 20 homers meant something with a career high of 32 with those previously noted 51 Giants as well as knocking in over 100 RBI for four occasions.
Thomson also made way for two future Hall of Famers as Willie Mays forced Thomson to move from center field to third base and his broken ankle in 1954 after the Giants traded him to the Braves allowed Hank Aaron to get his major league career started.
When you read books on baseball in the 50's (which Thomson is often a key part of) or the various specials on the "shot",one thing that always comes through is what a nice guy that Bobby Thomson seemed like.
One final note,When I wrote former players for autographs over the winter,Bobby Thomson was in the first batch of stuff that I sent out.
I didn't know that he was in poor health,but I did know he was getting up there in years,so I wasn't sure if I would get a response or not.
Thomson was the first player that returned to me with three very nice,sharp signatures.
Our condolences to the Thomson family....

Just a thought,I know Bobby Thomson never played for the San Francisco Giants,but he is such a huge part of the Giants legacy that maybe the Giants could do something special for Thomson.
The San Francisco Giants would not exist,if there were not New York Giants first.

Another quick Thomson story.
When I was a kid,my aunt gave me a whole bunch of old Red Man chewing tobacco cards from my later great grandfather.
I still have them today,but the funny thing is that I suspect that he or someone must have been a Brooklyn Dodger fan.Why?
Two cards are crumpled badly and with wrinkles all through them-both New York Giants,Hoyt Wilhelm and yes,Bobby Thomson.
I sometimes like to imagine where the Thomson card was on that day in 1951,
Did my great grandfather or someone else just destroy that card after hearing the ball disappear over the Polo Grounds wall over one of the many radio networks carrying the game?
Always makes me smile wondering about that.
Well,considering the card came out in 1952 that wasnt the case,but someone sure still had some hard feelings towards Thomson and the Giants!
I suppose I'll never know the true answer...
And yes,I have the complete radio broadcast of that game and enjoy listening to it to this day...

For more on the classic Red Man baseball card sets,check out RedManCards.com.
The memories are well worth your time.....

The Cleveland Indians made a late push with their draft picks and signed their first three picks at the deadline after adding their fourth rounder earlier in the day.
Fourth rounder Kyle Blair left the University of San Diego for the Indians offer of 580,000.Blair will report to Mahoning Valley.
Just before the deadline,the Tribe signed first round pitcher Drew Pomerantz for a bonus of 2.65 million,second round outfielder LeVon Washington for 1.2 million and third round shortstop Tony Wolters for 1.3 million.
Pomerantz,the 6'5 lefty thrower from Ole Miss, will likely take the same career path as last year's top pick Alex White with a start at High A Kinston and hopefully moving to AA Akron mid-season.
Washington,a Florida JUCO outfielder will likely start next season at Low A Lake County,while Wolters,a California high school shortstop could start at Lake County,although staying in Arizona next spring and waiting until Mahoning Valley gets underway is a possibility as well.
I like what the Indians attempted to do here,especially with Wolters,who had committed to San Diego and was willing to go to college,if the money wasn't right
I liked Pomerantz to go to the Indians fifth overall,but would have been furious with the Pirates picking him at two,so that seems about right.
The jury is still out on Washington,who signed for more with the Indians than he turned down from Tampa as their top pick in 2009 as scouts say that he has lost some speed over the last year,which had been a plus feature.....

Photo Credit-Red Man Cards.com

On the signing front-II


More on the signing front as I have a huge pile on cards that need to be filed and I usually don't file them until I have posted that particular bunch up on the blogosphere.

The Frederick Keys giveaway set is reported to be one of the harder sets to find this season in minor league baseball.
I have my two from the last minute trip to Frederick referred to in the last "Signing Front" as my dad asked me "You want me to give you mine"?
The easy answer was "Of course,are you nuts?!"
The Keys are not loaded with prospects this season despite winning the Carolina League's Northern Division title in the first half.
Other than since promoted Xavier Avery and the returning from injury L.J. Hoes,only Ron Welty has emerged from the pack as a possible prospect with the stick.
All three signed their card for me as did two of three most intriguing arms on the Keys in Ryan Berry and Brett Jacobsen.
The other pitcher was Rick Zagone now with AA Bowie,who had been promoted before the set was released.
Thanks to Corey Cunningham and his wife Krista,who did all the work on the Keys set for me.
Thanks,guys!

I had low expectations for signatures on our Ohio swing.
I didn't bring very much and was looking at anything that I was able to get as a bonus.
In Columbus,I was able to nab pitchers Jensen Lewis and Zach Putnam as both were signing in the concourse before the game and "the Jeff" ran over and got them to sign their cards,Lewis signed his just purchased Columbus card,while Putnam signed his Akron card that I had brought with me.
Otherwise,I was able to get a few players that I knew from Hagerstown and Frederick days as Nick Weglarz and Jared Goedart each signed their Akron cards and Jose Constanza signed his Columbus card.
Weglarz talked a little about the wonderful "Muni",it never ceases to amaze me how many eye rolls I get when mentioning Hagerstown to players.
Josh Tomlin signed his Columbus card and talked for about five minutes.
Tomlin was two days away from his callup to the Indians and has always been such a class act.

In Lake County,I had three cards as I held onto the Captains for next season at Kinston and "the Jeff" attempted to get the two players that I had for the Peoria Cubs signed.
Jeff reports that Hak-Ju Lee signed his Midwest League card with a smile,but Logan Watkins ignored his request from feet away.
I had been told that Watkins was not a willing signer and he lived down to the billing.
Thanks again to Jeff for the help.

The West Virginia Power made their final visit into Hagerstown and I had two days to complete my favorite SAL team since the first two games of the set was during the Ohio trip.
Fortunately,the Power are a good signing team and I was able to get everyone that was available in the team set.
Notable additions were Jarek Cunningham,Rogelio Noris and Evan Chambers....

I had very little for the Lynchburg Hillcats as I had finished most of them earlier in the season,but traveling with Bill Cover is always a pleasure,so I filled in a few and tried to help Bill as much as I could.
Donnie Joseph signed his Midwest League top prospect card and I filled in three other needs.During the game,I checked the Keys team store and checked on the Carolina League prospect set,which to my surprise was in.
This set is released every year late in the season to most collectors dismay and usually many of the players in the set have moved on.
Lynchburg had just one player still there in the set-Donnie Joseph,so we had to wait until after the game.
Which of course went into extra innings and Joseph then blew a lead and Frederick won the game.
SO that meant I had to ask Joseph to sign after a heartbreaking loss.
Fortunately, for me another collector asked him first,so I didn't feel like a heel.
Joseph was cool as always,but I must admit I would have felt uncomfortable asking...

Thanks for Jason Christensen for his help with the Binghamton Mets team set as well other cool stuff.
Jason got Erik Arnesen on his Harrisburg card for me,Boston prospects Casey Kelly,Alex Wilson and Jose Iglasis,former Twins first rounders Kyle Gibson and Ben Revere,Pirate shortstop hopeful Chase D'Arnaud on his Bowman Chrome Blue card among others that he was kind enough to get for me and send me some extras as well...

The next signing front will take a look at the Lexington Legends,Greensboro Grasshoppers as well as more brought in from other friends...

Losing streak snapped


The Pirates scored two runs in the first inning and James McDonald (2-2) made them hold up with seven innings of one run and three hit pitching.
Pittsburgh used a four run sixth to break the game open and end their seven game losing streak.
Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez each knocked in three runs while Andrew McCutchen homered (10) to end the scoring.
The series continues tonight with the Pirates sending Zach Duke (5-11) to the hill against Ricky Nolasco (13-8) for Florida at 7:05.

Pirate Hooks

1) I am trying not to get too overenthusiastic over James McDonald,but I cannot help but like a pitcher with that type of curveball.
I realize that he has looked great in two starts at PNC and not so great on the road,but to me,McDonald has a real chance to develop as a solid starter and not a Jeff Karstens type either.

2) What do I like so much about McDonald besides the 12 to 6 curve?
I like that he uses the standard three pitch toolbox (fastball,curve and change) and doesn't get away from that.
One thing that I have seen over the years is teams forcing players to add pitches during their minor league years.
The result is that the time used forcing a new pitch is time taken away from truly mastering their three basic pitches for use at the highest level.
McDonald hasn't done that and I think the Dodgers deserve some credit for that as well...

3) John Russell returned his "2-5" parts of the batting order to normal and was able to have some production between Garrett Jones in the cleanup spot and Pedro Alvarez in the five notch with a combined six of a possible seven RBI for the night.
I don't think Jones is a "4" hitter on a good team or even on this one in a year or two,but for now
he is the best choice for that spot in the lineup.

4) Andrew McCutchen ripped a homer and stole a base,but one thing that I am becoming concerned about is the sudden near misses on spectacular catch attempts.
Plays that once were made are now becoming more and more "almosts".
I don't believe that it is any lack of effort,but something seems to be a bit askew for McCutchen defensively lately...

5) An interesting note on Neil Walker from the Post-Gazette-Walker is hitting .382 with runners in scoring position and that is second to only Josh Hamilton of the Rangers in all of baseball.
Smart move by John Russell moving Walker into the third spot in the batting order considering those numbers.

Hoping to be back later with a look at the Cleveland Indians signings at the deadline later today.

Photo Credit-Matt Freed-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pirates sign Taillon and Allie!



Before tonight's win over Florida (post to come later),the bigger story was the Pirates ability to land Jameson Taillon,Stetson Allie or both.
The answer was both as the Pirates continued to step their investment in the amateur draft as they added two of the top pitchers in the draft and arguably the top two high school pitchers that were available.
Taillon signed for what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported as over 6.3 million,but under seven million,while Allie signed for between 1.5 and 2 million below his pre-draft asking price of three million,which scared teams off and allowed a top ten type prospect to slide to the Pirates in round two.

Both are likely to report to the Gulf Coast League or State College, although it will be more to acclimate themselves with professional baseball than to pitch over the final weeks of the season.
It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Taillon could start next season at West Virginia and perhaps Allie as well,although that could be less likely.
Finally,the Pirates have used the draft for legitimate gas throwers after years of watching sinkerballers and change of speed masters and although the change will take a while to go into affect with the players needing to progress through the system,hope continues for the Pirates.

Pittsburgh also went over slot to sign outfielder Dan Grovatt of Virginia (11th),Arizona State's slick fielding shortstop Andrew Maggi (15th) and Texas high school first baseman Jared Lakind (23rd) in their final haul of the signing season.
The Pirates finish with signing their top five picks and six of their top ten selections.
The Pirate total price tag looks to be around the 12 million dollar mark.

The Indians signed all three of their early picks and I'll post more on that later today along with the Bucco win over Florida.

Photo Credits-Unknown

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seahawks win in Carroll debut

The Pete Carroll era in Seattle kicked off with a 20-18 exhibition win over the visiting Tennessee Titans at Qwest Field.
Charlie Whitehurst played most of the game,although Matt Hasselbeck got the start and Whitehurst threw for 214 yards with two touchdowns to lead the Hawks to the win.
Seattle's second pre-season game is next Saturday at Green Bay.

Puget Sounds

1) I was dubious of the trade for Charlie Whitehurst and I am still a long way from sold,but I have to admit,I really liked what I saw against the Titans.
Whitehurst played mostly against the Tennessee backups,but showed a strong arm with a reasonably quick release and gave me some hope for his future in Seattle.
I still think they could have landed Whitehurst for less than the team paid,but I feel better after the game than going into it....

2) Defensively,I thought that Red Bryant looked strong.Bryant was a run stuffer at defensive tackle,but has been moved to defensive end under the new defense,
Bryant made a few tackles against the run,but was surprisingly strong rushing the passer as well,narrowly missing a sack.
It is early,but I liked what I saw from Bryant....

3) The comeback of former first round bust and former USC star under Pete Carroll,Mike Williams got off to a strong start with a 51 yard touchdown catch from Whitehurst that showed some speed that Williams had often lacked as a pro,but maybe even more importantly,I liked Williams blocking in the game.

4) Justin Forsett looked pretty good and Julius Jones didn't in their battle for the top ball carrier on the team.
Looking at the box score,there isn't much to separate them with Forsett rushing for 17 yds on seven carries to Jones 13 on five,but watching the runners,Forsett has so much more burst to the hole and despite his size ran harder.
Bet on Forsett as the starter...

5) Russell Okung came into camp late,but was immediately in the game and I like Okung,who got dinged up a bit blocking two Titans and successfully.
I still think Washington is going to regret taking Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams over Okung....

6) Kevin Vickerson looked good in his Seattle debut as he was quick off the snap and able to penetrate up the middle.
The biggest Seattle question in the front seven is pass rushing and Vickerson could be a key cog in getting more rush on the passer.

7) Dexter Davis of Arizona State was a late round pick,but he seemed to be all over the place and had a sack.
Davis looks to be a tweener,but might stick as an all around player,if he can contribute on special teams...

8) Keep an eye on former Eagle second rounder Matt McCoy making the team.
McCoy looks to be one of those steady types that just makes the basic tackle and when you look at the scoresheet wound up with eight or nine tackles for the day.

9) We should have a decent handle on the Packers too this time next week as the Browns played them in week one and then the Hawks in week two.

Photo Credit-Otto Greule Jr-Getty Images

King of the road?


Roger Miller sure couldn't have been speaking of the Pittsburgh Pirates with his hit "King of the Road" as the Pirates completed a winless road trip with another loss to the Astros,this one being a 8-2 decision.
Jeff Karstens was the losing pitcher in this one and drops to 2-9 on the campaign.
The Florida Marlins are in Pittsburgh for four games starting tonight with Chris Volstad (6-8) against the Buccos James McDonald (1-2) at 7;05

Pirate Hooks

1) There are many players through the years that seem to own Pirate hurlers,Atlanta's Brian McCann comes to mind for one,but Hunter Pence of the Astros seems to be right up there with the best.
If Houston needs a big hit,it seems Pence is usually the batter and produces.
If he leads off an inning,he seems get things started.
Just one of those things,I suppose....

2) Play of the game goes to Houston's Carlos Lee,who hit home plate umpire Alan Porter in the head on his back swing in the sixth inning.
Pence had smashed a ground rule double and then Lee hit Porter causing a delay.
For whatever the reason Jeff Karstens wasn't the same after the delay and Houston took the lead and never looked back...

3) Looks like the Buccos have given up on Lastings Milledge as an everyday outfielder.
Ever since the recall of Jeff Clement,Milledge has been the odd man out against righthanders.
Not that Milledge has been super or anything near that level,but not sure that he has been bad enough to deserve a playing time reduction considering the team he plays on.

4) Is there a quirkier ballpark all around than Minute Maid Park?
Certainly not of any newer parks.
Considering Tal's Hill,the flag pole in the playing field,the Crawford boxes that produce pop fly homers that bring back memories of the Polo Grounds and the direct changes in the outfield fence distance,Minute Maid sure brings lots of things in to play.
Of the retractable dome parks,Houston's is my clear favorite.....

5) Midnight tonight is the deadline to sign draft picks.
The Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates are "very close" with first rounder Jameson Taillon and "optimistic" on second rounder Stetson Allie.
Since I am off work tonight,I will be watching things live on the deadline and hope to have a post up and ready as soon as news is announced...

Bullpen Note

Apparently no one,other than Tony Lastoria and his terrific Indians Prospect Insider cares about the Indians deadline signings as I found no information from any of the Northern Ohio dailies on the Indians status with first rounder Drew Pomerantz,second rounder Levon Washington or third round shortstop Tony Wolters,who I hope Cleveland finds a way to sign.
We will likely do a Tribe deadline post as well.

Back later with a review of the tape of Seattle's win over Tennessee in pre-season football..

Photo Credit-David J.Phillip-AP Photo

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This Bud's for Pittsburgh


John Russell shuffled his lineup for hitters two through five last night in Houston and for two batters,the move looked pretty good as Andrew McCutchen tripled and Garrett Jones homered (17) off Bud Norris for a 2-0 Pirate lead.
Norris then shut the water off for the evening as he struck 14 Pirates out over the next seven innings and his offense did just enough against Paul Maholm (7-11) to give Norris and the Astros a 3-2 win.
Houston goes for the sweep this afternoon with J.A.Happ (2-1) against Jeff Karstens (2-8) for Pittsburgh.

Pirate Hooks

1) Remember this note from a few weeks back?
Bud Norris has the type of arm that you just don't give up on and I love the makeup of Norris.
Anytime Houston wants to trade this guy,I am listening for the Pirates or Indians.

2) Paul Maholm pitched well,except he couldnt seem to get Hunter Pence out.
These things happen,some players you own,other players own you.
In any case,Maholm could have used some help with the bats..

3) Key to the game was in the second inning and Pittsburgh holding a two run lead on Norris-Runners on third and second with one out and later bases loaded with two out.
Net result-zero runs and a chance to take a young pitcher out of rhythm by the wayside....

4) As far as Russell's lineup changes,after the homer by Garrett Jones,none of the players involved had a hit.
Sometimes,lineups are be overrated,but I cant knock Russell for this.
He is trying to do something to shake up a slumping team,no problems for trying....

5) Argenis Diaz again at short for Ronny Cedeno,who can run,but cannot swing a bat with a shoulder injury.
If this persists and Cedeno has to go on the DL,the Pirates may have little choice but call up Brian Friday or Pedro Ciriaco from Indianapolis.
I suppose Akinori Iwamura could get the call in order to protect those two from having to sit,but if that is done,Pittsburgh still has just one shortstop.

Bullpen Notes

Yes,it is the long awaited return of bullpen notes!

Montreal was upset city last night as Jean Pascal retained his WBC Lt. Heavyweight belt against the hyped Chad Dawson by 11th round technical decision.
We had Pascal ahead 8-3 on our scorecards by rounds and no knockdowns were scored.
HBO had been hyping Dawson for months and Larry Merchant said all with this line in the middle rounds-"If Chad Dawson is one of the top three fighters in the world,I'm (Merchant ) Edward R.Murrow!"
Well said,Larry.

Davey Johnson was at the Muni last night and what a class act.
Davey signed for everyone and was a terrific guy.
Sometimes,I wonder why I stay in this hobby-last night was one of the reasons why.
A chance to meet someone from my youth,who turned out to be super nice.
A refreshing change from the occasional player that I meet.

Speaking of the Hagerstown Suns,a quick story from a reliable source.
This person is of the highest character and I have no reason to question his word,but I was not there for this story.
However,if this person said it,then I have zero reason to doubt their word.
Their account follows,I have made a few edits to protect their identity.

"Game was just over when I got out of the (vehicle). I saw (Collector's name) standing inside so I thought I would walk in. The (Employee) stopped me at the gates and said "your hand stamped"? and I said "no, isn't the game over"?. He then said something about still charging because it was fireworks night. I just shook my head and walked away. I guess you can only see the fireworks from inside the stadium???

I understand not wanting to give things away for free,I really do,but it was pretty clear knowing this person that they weren't interested in fireworks,they just wanted some signatures from players going off the field while in uniform to be able to see who they were better than they would have outside.
I wouldn't even venture to know what the team would have charged even if they did want to see fireworks,but my larger point is that now a regular customer has a negative view of the product and for what reason?
I do know this much,the person wasn't Bob Flannery because he believes in customer service and I have never seen a situation that Flannery hasn't handled with grace when dealing with fans.

Photo Credits
Norris-Houston Chronicle
Pascal-Dawson:Peter McCabe-Canadian Press

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pre-season football


The pre-season starts tonight with the Browns against the Packers and the Seahawks against the Titans.
Thanks to NFL Network,I will be able do a little bit of scouting of both teams as they go through the exhibition slate.

Seattle's game against Tennessee is being shown live tonight,so a look at the Seahawks game will be first as the Browns game will be not be shown until sometime on Monday.

With both teams under new regimes and one with a new coaching staff,checking these games out should be fun and I hope to have time to offer a few perspectives on things.

If things break right,I could be able to watch the Seattle game tomorrow and have some thoughts as early as Monday.....

Mariners sink Tribe 3-2


Since the Pirates were in Houston and lost,I watched the Indians,who dropped a 3-2 decision to the Seattle Mariners at Progressive Field.
Fausto Carmona (11-10) was the hard luck loser as the Cleveland defense was far from helpful.
We return to Pirate coverage tonight against the Astros as Paul Maholm faces off against blog favorite Bud Norris at 7:05.

War Chants

1) Key play of the game was pretty easy as Jason Donald kicked the hard hit but easily playable grounder by Adam Moore with two out.
The eventual winning run scored on that play in the sixth.
Simply put,Donald has to make the play.
And if he cannot,his chances of sticking in the big leagues will become very long in short order.

2) Fausto Carmona was stuck with a hard luck loss considering the boot from Donald.
When Carmona is right and he isn't always,he is a groundball pitching machine and it seems like the difference between being sharp and struggling looks to me to be about 3 MPH on the fastball....

3) Seattle could have been in good shape to cruise home to victory,but the Tribe gunned two runners down at the plate and both were with less than two outs.
Shin-Soo Choo's throwout from right field was the more visually impressive,but a relay from Trevor Crowe through Asdrubal Cabrera meant just as much.
Tough to understand two runners both in similar situations being sent home....

4) The Indians top power hitter is Choo with 14 homers,no other Indian is in double digits.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Indians haven't had a season without a 20 homer hitter since 1983 and boy,do I remember those Indian teams-Ugh.....

5) One problem for the Indians right now is that not that they are playing young players,it is more that they are playing young players that aren't very good.
Trevor Crowe and Michael Brantley look to be 4th or 5th outfielders at best,Jason Donald looks to be maybe a utility type and Andy Marte has disappointed for years.
And that is just with the guys that played yesterday and before you look at the 4A guys like Shelley Duncan and Laynce Nix.
The Indians had better hope the next wave of prospects come through or this losing could last a while....

Photo Credit-Chuck Crow-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Friday, August 13, 2010

It sure isn't 1979


It sure isn't 1979 anymore as both the Pirates and the San Diego Padres wore seventies uniforms for yesterday's game,but these Pirates aren't your dad's or even yours and the Padres took a 3-0 win to complete a sweep not only of this series,but the season series.
Zach Duke was the loser in falling to 5-11.
The Pirates are in Houston tonight with Ross Ohlendorf (1-9) against the Astros Brett Myers (8-7).
No coverage with the late start,likely Indians coverage tonight against Seattle.

Pirate Hooks

1) I thought Zach Duke pitched pretty well considering one of his three runs allowed was an unearned one.
Other than the homer allowed to Ryan Ludwick,I had no complaints with Duke.

2) Of course,any offensive help would have been nice too.
Top five batters in the order yesterday- 1 for 17.

3) The Pirates wore about the worst combination of their 70's togs that they could with the pinstriped tops and black pants-ugh.
They made the McDonald's Padre uniforms look passable...

4) The series in Houston looks to be a battle of bad baseball.
Neither team is exactly all time greats,but this could be really ugly hardball..

5) Andrew McCutchen continues a slump that has sent his average below .280.
I wouldn't say this is a long term concern,just that teams are getting a book on him and he needs to adjust to their adjustments.

Photo Credit-Gregory Bull-AP Photo

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On the signing front


More from the signing front as we look at visits from both of the Atlanta Braves affiliates in A ball-the Rome Braves and Myrtle Beach Pelicans and a abbreviated evening for the Kinston Indians in Frederick.

I only had time to get a few cards signed for Kinston as the game was a last minute trip with my dad.
Considering the circumstances getting what I did was a success for me as I had to settle for mostly pitchers with exception of outfield prospect Abner Abreu,who is always very nice.
T.J. House always has time to talk when he signs and I am hoping that House becomes a success in the bigs because I love his attitude.
Other nice additions were Marty Popham and Cory Burns,who are both pitching well this season.

Rome hit Hagerstown with prospects,but some were down with injuries.
Brett DeVall signed everything I had and was super nice as was promising catching prospect Christian Bethancourt.
Pitchers Cory Rasmus,Robinson Lopez and David Hale were other nice pickups,although Hale was a player that I just missed until the final day of the series....

Myrtle Beach was disappointing as I missed "Uber prospect Julio Teheran as he dazzled the Keys in his start.
I was unable to stay until the games end due to work and when I returned the next day,Teheran had been promoted to AA Mississippi.
Bummer.
Teheran was signing before the game,but was pulled away by manager Rocket Wheeler,who apologized to us for taking him away.
Cannot be upset about that,he is there to do a job after all and Wheeler was very nice about it.
Randall Delgado went to AA with Teheran,but I was able to get Delgado as well as righthander Zeke Spruill,who I had missed three times for various reasons.
Spruill had a mixed reputation for signing,but did all I had and chatted some as well.
The star to me though was Tyrelle Harris,who left the clubhouse with a good natured word or two that asked "Who has anything for Harris!?"
Super guy and spent about five minutes talking after he was finished signing.

I also was able to get two Suns to sign their AFLAC High School cards as both Destin Hood and Adrian Nieto signed.
Nieto always talks to me a bit when he signs and I am hoping that the Washington organization gives him more of a chances next season behind the plate

Thanks to some friends around this time.

To Bill Cover for getting me Dominic Brown's leaping catch Clearwater card signed at Reading.

To the "Superfan" for getting me former Indian All Star Ray Fosse on three cards including his 1973 Kelloggs Card at Camden Yards.

The following players signed through the mail as well-former Met outfielder Dan Norman and former Padre pitcher Floyd Chiffer.

The next signing front will look at the second Frederick Keys set,West Virginia's final visit,stuff signed on the trip and a bounty of stuff sent by another friend....

Cleaning out the Inbox


Time for a few sweeps of the inbox before a busy week that begins tonight.
Between work,baseball games every night as the minor season roars near its end,trips to the car dealership and the always popular work inservices,things will be mildly hectic.

We lead off with this-No,I haven't forgotten about blogging our Ohio trip and I hope to do that sometime next week.
I have gotten a few comments about it and wanted to let you know that it is still in the works.

Major League Baseball made an official stat change a few weeks back when an RBI was discovered to be mistakenly credited to Roger Maris in 1961.
Why is this a big deal?
Well,Maris tied for the title with Baltimore's Jim Gentile before the change and now Gentile holds the title alone.
Gentile claims that the Orioles held that tie against him at contract time and had he led the league rather than tying that the team claimed they would have given him an extra five grand.
Should Gentile receive a check from the Orioles?
Maybe,Maybe not,but the team should certainly recognize the achievement with a ceremony or something permanent at Camden Yards.

ESPN had another great article on the history of the Madden football video game series.
Since I bought the PS3 and Madden 2010,I rarely played the game and could have had the new game that was released earlier in the week for free with Visa points.
But,I will not.
Why?
Two words might tell you all you need to know on why I wont be buying-Gus Johnson.....
Sorry,EA Sports.

Looks like another new product at Sharpie as Battlin' Bob sends this note on the development of the Liquid Pencil.
Sharpie claims it will erase cleanly for three days before it then becomes permanent.
I'll believe it when I see it-I remember the EraserMate that was going to make ink clean to erase too....

The Battler also sent this note on the city of Hagerstown giving out Florescent light bulbs to low to moderate income families.
As someone that uses the bulbs with enthusiasm,I give the city its due for a good idea!

Finally,if you are up late tonight (as I will be) wander outside and see if you can catch a glimpse of tonight's Perseids Meteor Shower and their peak.
Whether you are a space junkie or just like looking at amazing things,it is well worth the time....

Late rally not enough in latest loss


The Pirates combined some less than stellar baseball with a late rally to make the score somewhat presentable in an 8-5 defeat in San Diego to the Padres.
James McDonald was the losing pitcher and is now 1-2.
The series concludes tonight at 6:35 with Zach Duke (5-10) against Jon Garland (10-8).

Pirate Hooks

1) Dumb play number one-James McDonald makes a nice play on a Adrian Gonzalez bunt,but has no chance to throw Gonzalez out.
Instead of holding the ball,McDonald throws the ball down the line,Gonzalez moved to second on the miscue,advanced to third on a sac fly and scored on a wild pitch.

2) More bad baseball-Ryan Doumit doesn't charge what looked to be a catchable fly ball by Jerry Hairston and instead plays the hop.
If Doumit catches it with no runners on,it is the third out of the inning and if he misplays it,there still is just a runner on with two down.
San Diego eventually scores three runs in the inning.

3) I suppose I could be too tough on Doumit,but he clearly isn't an outfielder and rapidly is looking to be a player without a true position.
Doumit might be on his way out unless his bat can play enough at a corner outfield to make up for questionable defense and I am not sure he can do that.

4) Another rough outing for Chan Ho Park with a three run outing for one inning of work.
I don't see anything different for Park,but watching the game,I looked up his numbers over the course of his career and he has never been anything but bad except for two stints in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.
Maybe the Dodgers could use a bullpen arm? I doubt that they would be interested.

5) Watched the game off the Padre feed and really liked Dick Enberg's game call.
Enberg has always been a terrific announcer,but I had forgotten just how good the seventy five year old Enberg was at baseball.
Very enjoyable evening.....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The process begins


Battlin' Bob sent me this link about five seconds after I read this article as the latest attempt to bring Hagerstown into the 21st century (if not the late 20th) and bring a new stadium to Hagerstown.

There have been attempts to pull this off in the past and even a fund put into place to help pay for a new facility,but the efforts never seem to get off the ground.
This time,however,I think that there should be a legitimate chance of finally having what other cities in the state have-a stadium that the community can be proud of.
Tony Dahbura is a heavy hitter in the community and for the first time that I can remember,the Suns have a local businessman with the type of credibility to move things in the proper direction.
In the past failures,the team usually had out of town owners/representatives and in this area,that usually doesn't bode well for success.

The Hagerstown City Council discussed a new stadium for the Suns as being a "cornerstone of an East Hagerstown revitalization project" and deciding to lobby Annapolis for funds to contribute to such.
My question is this-Why has it taken this long to lobby for state funding to replace/renovate a eighty year old facility?
The Hagerstown Suns are Western Maryland's (sorry,Frederick isn't Western Maryland) only professional sports franchise and were the only pro team in the state outside of the Baltimore city limits from 1981-1989.
It was the success of the Hagerstown franchise that enabled cities like Frederick,Salisbury,Bowie and Aberdeen to successfully lobby for state funding to help pay for state of the art stadiums,while leaving Hagerstown with a field that is the laughingstock of pro baseball and I say that with no disrespect to the Suns employees as there is only so much that one can do with what one has.
I like Municipal Stadium and its bizarre charm,but I don't have to play there and the flaws in watching a game there are more than I care listing right now.

Talking to players on the opposing teams that come to town,I know how the Muni is thought of and how (no pun intended) it makes our town look minor league.
Hearing about the glittering parks in Lakewood,Charleston and having seen the terrific one in Greensboro,it is difficult to swallow having Hagerstown being the area that is spoken of with eye rolls,guffaws and jokes because of the state of the Muni.

I understand the thoughts of those that argue for spending on other areas,but isn't the quality of life in Western Maryland just as important as those in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington?
Doesn't Hagerstown deserve something similar to what Frederick and Salisbury have?

If this idea does not get off the ground,then the County Commissioners and City Council need to step up and explain why the doubling of the area hotel/motel tax that was intended to help pay for the stadium has not only not been used for its purpose,but where indeed the funding has gone.

As for some of the politicians,I would love to have an opportunity to ask some of these gentlemen where they stand.
Because from where I sit,I see many of these office holders showing up at games,tossing a hat on,throwing the first pitch as the team treats them with pomp and circumstance and then as soon as the evening is over,having not a whit of interest in helping the Suns and the area have something to be proud of.
I can understand someone being against what could be considered a luxury item in these economic times,but if that is the case for a politician,please stay away then as one only looks like a hypocrite and I would think that no one running for office wants that look.

In closing,I am hoping that anyone reading this would consider supporting a new field for the Hagerstown Suns and giving the team,the town and the area finally what it deserves-what other towns have had for years.......

Back after a few crazy days-Pirates edition


It took a while,but I am back after a few crazy,but fun days.
Lots of personal things going on (all good) that have kept me hopping!
I'll attempt to catch up sometime today,but fair warning-I haven't seen the last three Pirate games,so not sure how much I bring to the table on that.

I did see the Pittsburgh debut of James McDonald,who was very impressive.
I really liked McDonald's overhand curve,which you don't see from righthanders nearly as much as you used to.
It seems to me that righties favor the slider more than the curveball in today's game.

I also saw the Pedro Alvarez walkoff homer game and that had to be the most excitement that I had seen in PNC Park in quite a while.
It is evenings like that one that give Pirate fans hope for the Huntington plan working out and showing that Pittsburgh fans can care about the Bucs just as much as they support the Steelers and Penguins.

I should be in good shape to see tonight's game (last before I return to work) and tomorrow's (thanks to San Diego for scheduling a late afternoon game) before missing Friday's game in Houston before seeing the final two games against the Astros.

The Pirates fired pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho,both supposedly for disloyalty to John Russell,who apparently has entrenched himself into the organization as a stalwart as he claimed the firings were "His call".
Don't look for this to change much on the field much in either a positive or negative fashion.

The Pirates did make a few roster moves as Ryan Doumit returned from a rehab assignment,which meant that Erik Kratz was returned to Indianapolis.
Indianapolis backup Luke Carlin was then sent to the Indians as the past considerations for Brian Bixler,Bixler was traded to the Nationals last week in return for cash considerations.
Whew!

We mentioned the Pirates had come to an agreement with 4th round pick Nick Kingham before we left,but Kingham signed for a bonus of 480,000.
The Bucs also signed Brandon Cumpton a Georgia Tech righthander and ninth rounder as well as seventeenth rounder Ryan Hafner.
Cumpton is headed to State College with Kingham and Hafner headed to the GCL.


The Pirates are still in talks with Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie.
The deadline is midnight next Monday and I look for things to go down to the wire,but I am encouraged that both sides have been quiet about the discussions.
That is usually a very good sign.

Pittsburgh is currently 39-73 on the season and with the latest Baltimore win streak have moved to just a half game behind the Orioles for the leagues worst record and therefore first pick in next year's draft.

I hope to be back later with more news on the Hagerstown Suns move for a new ballpark and the Devils having to try to sign Ilya Kovalchuk all over again after his contract being voided.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thinking about Little League baseball


I think about my coaching days so often,usually sitting around someplace with Ryan and Corey or when a former player speaks to me,usually at a Suns game or somewhere else in the community.
I look back quite fondly at many things,not so fondly at others and quite bitterly at a few.

But few things make me feel better than when a grown man tells me how much that he enjoyed playing for me or how much they learned about the game from me or even in some cases that they hope that I would make a future comeback and coach their children.
I have given thought to it,but in each occasion,two things come to mind-I have never lost a game since joining the autograph game and having to tell the lovely Cherie that I am stepping back into that pit.
She remembers the downside to coaching without the joys of it-disgruntled parents, board of director types that know little about the game other than pushing their kids for undeserved All Star squads in return for their efforts,losses that eat at you and the time that you need to put into your team in order for them to be their best.

These things popped up today when Battlin' Bob sent me this link to an article to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail about a fight during downtime at the Maryland state tournament for 11 and 12 year olds.
Full disclosure-I coached for years at Halfway little league (the league that this team represented) and I know personally one of the gentlemen involved,so I could be claimed to have some sort of bias.
I have no more information about this incident than what you read and I have spoken to no one from Halfway that could be involved with the league,but I will say this-I know Les Martin,he is a good baseball man and more importantly-a good man.

Managing baseball can be difficult and managing All Star baseball is the toughest of the bunch.
First of all,I have stated many times over the last 16 years this fact-Usually there are 10 players that could be justifiably picked for the final two spots on any All Star roster and it really is that close for those final spots.
And often those spots go to an undeserving player that played on a team with a dad for a manager or someone that had a parent on the board of directors.
That not only screws over a more deserving player (Funny,how that never is placed on those blurbs on the Little League World Series broadcasts:Joey Smith age 12,favorite team Detroit Tigers,likes Dirtbikes,should have never been on the team to begin with because he hit .176,but mom was the concession stand manager,so Bob Jones,who batted .612 stays home because his parents aren't in the same bowling league as the league player agent),but hamstrings the manager as he now has to find playing time for the player somewhere and a better player pays the price-like it or not.
Plus that player often has the parent complaining about the manager "Colton played third base every inning for Ledo Pizza and now you play him two innings in right field".
No mention of Colton playing every inning on a 3-17 team or that he would have been a part time player on a good team,just that you are a moron for not playing him enough as the geniuses at Ledo that won three games knew how to use him!
Dealing with parents and league officials were the worst part about the job.
The same bunch that always spin this longtime line "It's all for the kids" were the same people that were upset if you didn't win enough games.
The coaches are never safe-win championships,then "my kid didn't play enough",lose games "How much can you know,we ARE 4-16 you know".

Perhaps Les Martin shouldn't have stooped to the level of the fans and slugged it out with Mr.Downes (Parents name),but I can understand his frustration and I can certainly say that I wished I had done that (In that moment only) a time or two.
I had my share of issues,never to that degree because I always remembered from day one this old Buddy Ryan line-"Listen to the fans and you might as well sit up there with them".
I ran the club,not the fans and I had my share of fans and quite a few detractors (many from other clubs,but some on mine as well) just like Buddy did,but things had to be done my way and success or failure could fall on my decisions.
Now that I think about it,there was a lot of Buddy Ryan in my coaching days!

In any event,little league baseball isn't as pure as it likes to put on,not that makes them any different than any other organization and even though the fight doesn't cover anyone with glory,it is surprising to me that it doesn't happen more often than it does.
The changes that I would make in that would be astounding,but I'll keep quiet for now,one never knows-I get a few requests a year to make a comeback,you know!!

Until tomorrow with Pirates-Rockies....
P.S.-If any of this interested you in the slightest,there are stories about youth baseball that could fill MANY slow news days in the fall and winter when they are more prevalent,just let me know.