Share It

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cleaning out the Inbox

For the final time in 2010,we dump the inbox out and start anew for 2011.

I'll start with this as my usual yearly disclaimer-If you have any news,items etc that you think I would be interested and might make to this post,feel free to mail it to me (if you are friends) or if I don't know you yet,send it to thoughtsofrs@yahoo.com.
If I use the item,I give the sender credit for sending the idea and placing it on my mind....

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas and that the New Year eve/day will be a good one for all even with the prospect of gas prices heading northward and ruining one of my two planned baseball trips for next season (That's right-two,IF I am lucky enough to afford it with possible projected 3.50 and up gas.)

For those of you that are wondering ( and the one that actually cares-LOL) how my loosely promised "getting back into shape" is going-I don't know,but I do know this much-I am hitting the stationary bike for 24 miles a day (if not more) and have been doing it every day,although there are the occasional exceptions with time constraints.
The setting that I use burns 84 calories a mile,so the 24 miles puts me over 2,000 a day burned.
2,000 is the suggested amount of calories daily for an adult male and I have been generally burning them each day.
I plan on weighing in on Jan 1st for a reference number (No,you cannot have the number)and see how we did from the last weigh in from August.
Next up to add to the list-a planned once or twice a week trip to the asphalt for pickup basketball when it is warm.

I watched the Maryland win in the Military Bowl yesterday,which I even thought about attending.
I think Ralph Friedgen got a raw deal by the school,but I can understand when the circumstances are looked at in their entirety.
When James Franklin started taking assistants to Vanderbilt,there are few people that are going to move their families to College Park for a one year job.
It could have been handled better,but I see the logic.
Maryland needs to hire Mike Leach and turn the attendance issues around with an exciting style of play.
Considering the level of play in the ACC,Leach's innovative offense and the fact that Maryland isn't starting from scratch talent wise-this would be a home run hire for the Terrapins.
Don't forget the added bonus of being the heel on ESPN as anyone that hires Leach will become the bad guy.
That can be quite fun at times....
For more Mike Leach,check this link for how Leach spent his "fall" vacation and more on a really interesting guy....

You have heard about Turducken ( a chicken stuffed inside a duck inside a turkey),but the AA Akron Aeros have gone one better for the baseball fan.
The Aeros have added a "Three Dog Night" (What an awful name though,I instantly think of the PUTRID band by that name) to their menu.
The TDN features a hot dog inside a bratwurst inside a kielbasa,then topped with Sauerkraut and mustard.
Hopefully,the mustard will be one of the two terrific NE Ohio mustards, Stadium or Bertman's.
The sandwich will cost seven bucks and yes,Akron has a good chance to be a stop this season and maybe the TDN.
If Akron makes the cut though,I might be too full for one because this takes precedence.

I commented a few days about the pathetic article on ESPN's Scott Burnside on the Devils,but I was short and mild compared to John Fischer at In Lou we Trust.
John's post rips Burnside's "points" to shreds and destroys his clearly inaccurate post.
If you have the slightest interest in hockey,it is funny as well as devastating to the Burnside article...

Alex Marvez of the Scripps Howard media group has an interesting article on former Olympic weightlifter and pro wrestler Ken Patera's career.
Patera discusses wrestling,why he didn't attempt a 1972 Olympic rematch with Vasili Alexiev and what he is doing today...

Big Don sends us this article in which former Hagerstown Suns catcher Derek Norris answers ten questions.
Norris was one of the nicer Suns in his year here (2009) and is the top catching prospect in the Washington organization....

Finally,the Pirates claimed lefthanded hurler Aaron Thompson off waivers from Washington.
Thompson was acquired by the Nationals from Florida in 2009 and spent most of 2010 with AA Harrisburg.Thompson was also a member of the Greensboro Grasshoppers 2006 rotation made up of all first round draft picks.

Pittsburgh also signed veteran Garrett Atkins to a minor league deal and swapped pitcher Ryan Kelly to Oakland for Corey Wimberly.
The blazing fast Wimberly has a chance to stick as the utility infielder/pinch runner and could battle Josh Rodriguez for that slot on the roster....

British Pop Supremacy

A barrage of Facebook posts got me thinking about this topic.
If you were building a Mount Rushmore for 1960's British Rock/Pop,it is pretty clear to me that the four representatives would be the Beatles,the Rolling Stones,the Who and the Kinks,although the Hollies have a pretty good claim in extending the sculpture to five to me.
But which is the baddest of the bad?
I have always looked at the four like the cliques in high school.
The Beatles were the popular bunch,the Stones were the wannabe rebels that actually just established a different group,the Who were the true out crowd and the Kinks were the intelligent loners out on their own edge.
That isn't to say who is the best,just a way of putting them in a real life order that made sense to me.

All had great songs with my favorites for each listed beside their names.
The only requirement was to keep things in the sixties.
Please keep in mind that these are my top four favorites,not always their biggest hits and not in any order.

Beatles: Day in the Life,Nowhere Man,Run for your life,Revolution
Rolling Stones: Paint it Black,Mothers little helper,It's all over now,Get off my cloud
Who: Substitute,My Generation,Happy Jack,Pictures of Lily
Kinks:You really got me,Dedicated follower of fashion,Well respected Man and Waterloo Sunset.

I could have added more,but you get the point or at least I hope so.
The Beatles certainly were the "poppiest" of the bunch,the Stones might get the edge for having the purest rock sound,The Who was certainly the loudest and with the harder edge and the Kinks had the most contemplative lyrics and maybe the best arrangement work.
All had stars at the top of their games and all had their own unique place in the musical universe.
Who ranks number one? I am not telling,but you can....
Vote in the poll to your right....

Photo Credit-BritishFlag.org

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Better effort,but no W

The New Jersey Devils played hard for 60 minutes and the effort was the best in recent times,but the result was the same as the New York Rangers stormed into Newark and left with a 3-1 win over the Devils.Travis Zajac scored the only Devils goal (5) in the first period.
New Jersey takes Thursday off before New Years Eve and Day games against Atlanta and Carolina.

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils are having so much trouble scoring goals that they are having issues with the ones that do go in.
The goal that Zajac scored was off of what seemed to be 10 putbacks,rebounds and blocks before finally Zajac slipped the only goal of the night through.
Watching that sequence said it all to me-nothing is easy with this team,even when good things happen...

2) Martin Brodeur allowed the tying goal on a miscue of his own with a bad angle on a shot that he got a piece of with his glove,but the second goal was not his fault at all as the shot went off Andy Greene and into the twine.
Tonight was the best game for Brodeur in quite a while...

3) Vladimir Zharkov played 11 minutes in his return,but seemed to receive most of his time on the power play.
Time like that for the younger players could be helpful in getting something out of a bad season.

4) 43 shots and just one goal?
That is a combination of bad luck and nice network by Henrik Lundquist.
I do think tonight was a positive step in the proper direction,but much work still needs to be done.
Mainly with shot direction as just too many shots wind up in the netminders stomach....

5) Dainius Zubrus dropped the gloves and although Brian Boyle clearly got the better of the bout,Zubrus even doing so showed some aggressiveness and effort for the usually mild mannered player...

Photo Credit-Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

Deviled Brownies

I haven't had much to write about over the last few days as I missed most of the Devils losses to the Islanders and Maple Leafs and I had things to do/put off discussing the Browns loss to the Ravens 20-10.

So in that spirit,I'll toss a few thoughts in and consider things caught up as I want to work on a feature post for either tonight or tomorrow before I return to work.

Brownie Bits

1) Colt McCoy looked a little more like a rookie quarterback against the Ravens than in his past starts,but no matter how he played against Baltimore or next Sunday against Pittsburgh,the experience of both playing good defenses and in less than perfect weather can do nothing but prepare McCoy for the full time starting position.

2) McCoy's picks were not all great decisions,but especially on one of them,Mohamed Massaquoi just let Ed Reed go up and take the ball.
I like my receivers to get in there and battle for the ball-Massaquoi didn't.

3) One main reason that Eric Mangini and his sycophant Brian Daboll might be fired this time next week is the constant playing for field goals.
The Browns had plenty of time near the end of the first half to punch a TD in that would have given them the lead,but instead poor clock management allowed them to score just three points.
Mangini was quoted as saying "We didn't want Baltimore to have the ball with any time left to score".
Well,I'll take a 14-13 lead with thirty seconds to go over being down 13-10 and its halftime any time that you want me to choose.
Any other choice is just dumb.

4) The onside kick to start the second half was one of those calls that get kudos when it works and head scratches when it doesn't.
I cannot hammer them for taking a risk,but I will question why that was worth the risk (giving Baltimore great field position),but yet giving Baltimore the ball in their own territory was not deemed worthy of the gamble of attempting to score a touchdown.

5) Ed Reed was the Brown Killer on this day with two picks and a rib crunching hit early in the game on Peyton Hillis that rendered Hillis less than effective (35 yards) for the game.
For all of the media hullabaloo about the overrated "Murderin" Ray Lewis,Ed Reed is the one player on the powerful Baltimore defense that is essential to their success.
I don't have to like Reed being a former Miami Hurricane and Raven,but he might be the best safety of his time and yes,that includes Troy Polamalu.

6) I didn't like seeing Reed having success,but I did laugh seeing him leap out of his sideline jacket with it on fire.
The first thing I thought of was the old NBA JAM game for the Sega Genesis with the announcer screaming-"HE'S ON FIRE"!!!!


7) Joe Thomas was the only Brown voted to the Pro Bowl and I thought Thomas had a bit of a down season compared to his first few campaigns.
Sometimes these things are decided by reputation and the old adage usually comes true that you make your first Pro Bowl the year after you should...

8) Joe Haden grabbed his sixth pick of the season in the loss.
Had Haden started all season,he might have had a shot at defensive rookie of the year,which will likely go to Detroit's Ndomikong Suh.


Hell Raisers

Very few notes from the two losses,which I saw the beginnings of but not the complete version of either game due to work commitments.
Take those two losses off the table and the only real news is the recall of winger Vladmir Zharkov from Albany along with the assignment of Brian Rolston to Albany and placed Rolston on re-entry waivers.
Teams that claim Rolston now would share the cap hit of the contract at a 50/50 rate with the Devils instead of absorbing the entire contract of the 37 year old Rolston.
Rolston's effort wasn't in question,but his skills are declining and the time is right for both parties to attempt to movc on.

Zharkov didn't score a goal last season in New Jersey,but I thought he played well and could have been placed on the team this year without many questions.
Zharkov was the leading scorer for Albany thus far with 18 points with seven goals and eleven assists...

Photo Credit:Ben De Soto-Radical Eats

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Suspensions at Ohio State

I know this will come off as a "homer" post,but I disagree with the decision of the NCAA to suspend five Ohio State Buckeyes for the first five games next season.
I do believe the suspension appeal will likely knock the missed games down a few,but it still could cost the Buckeyes any or all of these three affected players in quarterback Terrelle Pryor,running back Boom Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey.
All three might say that they don't want to miss games and start getting paid for their abilities,but I think all three might be disappointed in a NFL jump.
Between the labor unrest in the league and the fact that none of the three are truly ready to hit the pros,they likely would not be drafted as highly as they think.
Pryor would rank 5th at best among quarterbacks and likely lower than that,Herron would be a late rounder and Posey would be in the middle of the draft,so they would likely benefit more (especially Posey and Pryor) by accepting their medicine and boosting their draft standing for 2012.

The players broke the rules and I don't have a problem with disciplining them for the violation.
My question is this-why was this against the rules?
The players earned the rings and awards that they sold,so why shouldn't they do what they want with them?
Any other college student can sell what they want for needed funds,why not the players?
If Ryan needs some extra money to get through a semester and needs to tap into his baseball card collection or move some comic books to make ends meet,why shouldn't Terrelle Pryor be able to sell his rings?
I am not saying that a violation was not committed,but questioning why a violation is a violation.
The NCAA comes so poorly here with suspensions of players for selling their own items,yet keeping a Cam Newton eligible for his father soliciting offers for his son to play for the highest bidder.
(An aside on Cam Newton,the clock is ticking on this-I place the over/under on the Heisman vacancy for Newton at two years).
The corrupt NCAA also shows its dirty hands in allowing the players to play in the Sugar Bowl as the suspensions should be immediate if this is such a big deal.
The NCAA knows that the ratings will plunge for the game,if the game is a blowout and that simply cannot be allowed.

The biggest violation to me is to the tradition of Ohio State.
Selling the gold pants that you only obtain with wins over michigan or swapping them for tattoos shows me the lack of regard for the traditions of Buckeye football and the lack of respect for the players of the past that worked so hard for them.
One reaps what one sows in collegiate sports as if you put a price value on everything,that means everything.
Maybe it is time for a simpler time in college sports....

My apologies for this being late as this was finished yesterday,but internet issues did not allow a post until today...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

John MacLean fired,Jacques Lemaire returns

The New Jersey Devils finally did what they had to do today with the firing of John MacLean.
Lou Lamoriello gave MacLean every opportunity to turn the ship around and MacLean was just unable to do so with the back to back beatings at the hands of Atlanta and Washington being the final straw.

I don't blame all of the misfortunes this season for the Red and Black on MacLean,although he seemed awful beyond words in arranging lines,some of this has to go on the players lack of effort and some to Lou Lamoriello for his blunders in cap management and personnel decisions.
In hindsight,MacLean's lack of head coaching experience (just one year in the AHL) doomed him right away with some of the players that he would be coaching and it appears to be a bad match.
I had no problem with the hire and I was wrong.
No excuses.
I don't blame it all on MacLean and he sure didn't plan on losing Martin Brodeur for ten games and Zach Parise for half a season etc,but this was the only thing that the Devils could do at this time that could have an impact.

I think Lamoriello and the Devils are fooling themselves,if they truly believe that they are still in the playoff chase,although I would love to be proven wrong,but a winning streak couldn't hurt things any.
Jacques Lemaire will finish the season out,will likely not return for next season and should at least shore up a porous defense with his system and work on the defensive end.
I am sure that Jamie Langenbrunner is less than thrilled with Lemaire after their problems last season,but if that makes it easier for the Devils to move their less than industrious captain-that alone makes me OK with Lemaire being back in Newark.

One rumor is that the Devils are interesting in Bob Hartley for next season,which makes sense when you consider the success of Ilya Kovalchuk with Hartley in Atlanta,but Hartley is unemployed right now,if the Devils are interested,why not now?
I am not a Bob Hartley guy,(As you know,I am a Ted Nolan guy) but he might be what the Devils need-a different perspective.

Some are bashing the Devils for firing MacLean so close to Christmas and I see their point,but this is a business.
Looking at the sorry efforts on the road and the Devils starting a four game homestand with kids out of school for the holidays,the team couldn't take the chance of similar efforts in front of the home fans and allowing attendance to fall,just because of that reason.
John MacLean is a pro,he knows the score.

Finally,I have had three people email me this article and want my thoughts on it.
Scott Burnside is a Devil hater.
Period.
Think I am a homer on this?Just do a search on his columns and judge for yourself.
Burnside has been waiting for the Devils to fall for years and he has a bias.
Considering that though,he makes a good point or two.
The Devils free agent signings have struggled this season,although Bryce Salvador being hurt doesn't exactly make anything his fault and you can make a point that the Devils sometime do stay too much in house on things,but that has its positive side as well as players and coaches know what is expected of them and there is no learning curve there.
Brian Rolston's big signing has been a disaster and that is true,but let's look at Scott Burnside,who knew it was a mistake when he signed....
"Rolston and his booming shot will be a boon to a team that ranked 27th in goals per game and had the 25th-ranked power play last season".
Nice to see Burnside knew it was a mistake made as soon as he signed.
Burnside is critical of players"fleeing" the Devils.
I see little evidence of that-Scott Niedermayer wanted to play with his brother,Brian Rafalski wanted to play near home-those players would have left any team under those circumstances.
The others were either way overpaid-Scott Gomez or players that were easier to replace at cheaper cost-Paul Martin etc.
I don't see that as fleeing the organization.
Scott Burnside has a bias,so do I.
I try to tell the truth as I see it,I hope he does as well.

Photo Credit-Getty Images

An evening at Verizon Center

The New Jersey Devils host the New York Islanders tonight at the Rock in a battle of the two worst teams in hockey.
No promises on coverage,because I have a chance to go into work early and in its own way,waiting for the game to end would be its own little Pay Per View.
PPV for this game might not be an option.

I just started this post and found out about both Jacques Lemaire taking the Devils head coaching job from John MacLean and the stupidity at Ohio State.
I plan on posts on these later or tomorrow at latest.

The Devils 5-1 pasting in Washington was the last straw for John MacLean,but it was my first trip to an NHL game.
I am not going to do a review of another poor performance in what proved to be the swan song for MacLean,but focus more on the evening itself,which proved to be interesting.

The trip from Hagerstown to the Verizon Center could not be easier.
A straight trip down I-70 (and its corollaries 270 and 370) to the nearest Metro stop and straight into the Verizon Center after a half block walk.
The trip isn't short,but it is easy enough..

I wasn't eating at the game either.The Verizon Center was one of just two arena/stadium sites to have a 100 percent failure rate in food vendor inspections and I wasn't about to pay an insane rate for a sandwich to get food poisoning from.
Besides,if I wanted to do that,I could just move back home with Mom and Dad and eat their food (Just kidding,Mom is an excellent cook).
Between the cost ( I am noted to be cheap on stadium food,except when at PNC Park) and that wonderful review from earlier this year-that was not happening considering my past experiences of multiple (and I seriously mean multiple) issues with food poisoning at home as a child/teenager.

I have been critical of Washington Capitals fans in the past for their lack of passion and I have at least revised that opinion of the live crowd.
The arena was loud and rocking for the contest with the teams 80th straight sellout and was the second loudest indoor event that I have ever attended.
The loudest? A column for another time.
I still reserve the right to wait and see how the place is without a superstar player and I still think that they benefit from playing in one of the two worst divisions in major pro sports (The NFC West in the NFL ranks right there this year).

Thanks to my friend Fern (Fern is a season ticket holder with the Caps and graciously allowed me her tickets for the evening despite my Devils fanhood),Ryan and I settled into our seats early and I was surprised how unwelcoming the crowd was towards visiting fans.
I suppose that I am used to baseball fans,where things are so much more laid back at games,but I was taken aback a bit.
I wasn't really directly spoken to until leaving the arena,but I heard quite a few negative comments toward Devils fans,although the Capitals employees seemed very nice and I suppose they could care less since the money spends the same in a sellout evening.
For the most part,I wasn't even spoken to by the fans sitting around me,which was surprising as I figured that I would at least hear that I was sitting in the wrong seats since they would know Fern,I didn't hear anything of the sort or anything else for that matter.

The Verizon Center (A VC abbreviation makes me think of the Viet Cong) has terrific sightlines with scoreboards at each end of the arena with a NHL board that never changes and maybe the best scoreboard around with a super screen that has to be seen to be believed. 

I originally was going to take Cherie to the game,but she had another engagement and took Ryan instead.
I am glad I did as the language was pretty bad.Those of you that know me know my talk can be salty at times to say the least,but this seemed a bit over the top even to me.
Perhaps the group behind us (The row I sat it cheered and acted just fine) was looking to provoke,but they seemed far from the type of fans that most teams look for in any case.
I don't slam Washington fans for that as one could find those types at any and all games,it seems rudeness is a growing phenomenon.
I think for the lovely Cherie,I'll stick to Hershey for her,although I would go back with few reservations.
Ryan and I talked as we left about one lesson that I learned "Don't go,when your team sucks".
Fair enough and the Devils are just that,although in my defense-I didn't figure that they were going to be this bad when I bought the tickets!

Thanks again to Fern for allowing me to check one box off my sports "to do" list and spend an overall cool evening with my son.

I am going to attempt to be back later with more on the return of Jacques Lemaire and this Ohio State issue with the NCAA...

Photo Credit-Unknown

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the signing front

A quick shot from the signing front finishes off my 2010 season with the Potomac Nationals and Kinston Indians in Frederick.

The P-Nats were in late in the year and returned for the Carolina League Northern Division playoffs.
Not a ton of prospects other than Derek Norris,who signed two and CL MVP Tyler Moore.
Most of these players had just their Potomac cards being former Hagerstown Suns.
Former Yankee and Tiger catcher Matt Nokes signed several cards as well.

Kinston had promoted most of their prospects to AA Akron,but there was a few promoted from Lake County.
The top catch was Joe Gardner,who had a terrific season in the Midwest League along with T.J. McFarland,who has one of the stronger arms in the Indians system.
Outfielder Bo Greenwell and shortstop Juan Diaz were others of note.

Next time on the front,I'll be looking at help from my friends at the seasons end with various trades and help....

Tea for Two

For the second week in a row,the Cleveland Browns lost to a team that entered the game with just two wins as Cincinnati nipped the Browns 19-17 in Southern Ohio.
The 5-9 Browns will finish the season at home and could have a huge impact on the AFC North with games against the two title challengers for the division with Baltimore coming to town next week and Pittsburgh finishing the season up on January 2nd.

Brownie Bits

1) Colt McCoy tossed two touchdowns and more important-zero interceptions.
McCoy had to deal with a pass rush all day (more on that below) that was all over him and yet McCoy showed so much poise in not forcing things and making the big mistake.
I really think the Browns have their keeper here,I really do.
Browns fans,I think it is safe to buy your McCoy jersey now.....

2) I know the smart call on the first play of the fourth quarter was to kick the field goal that cut the lead to 16-10 and Eric Mangini did just that,but I still would have went for it.
Nothing ventured and nothing gained.

3) I am still amazed that Robert Royal grabbed the TD pass on the teams first drive.
The toss had very nice touch by McCoy,but the fact that Royal came down with the ball was shocking to me.

4) I still hear the pundits talking about wanting to see McCoy's arm strength in the windy weather and I want to see that as well.
However,keep one thing in mind about this topic-Derek Anderson has an arm that matched anyone that I have seen around for a while and when he needed to step up in the weather,he didn't.
Sometimes,it isn't all about sheer arm strength....

5) The Bengal pass rush was about more than just the four sacks as McCoy was rushed all day and that was a huge difference.
John St.Clair was his usual sieve-like self and Floyd Womack still looks better to me at guard than tackle.
Why this team loves St.Clair so much is more than I can stand ad why isn't Shaun Lauvao getting more time at guard?
Lauvao needs the reps,Womack is better at tackle and anyone St.Clair blocks is going to have success against him....

6) If I see one more 2 yard route to Chansi Stuckey when the Browns needs six,I think I am going to lose my mind.
Stuckey doesn't have the skills to make guys miss and make the yardage on that play,so why is it constantly called?
If Stuckey is open and runs a route to the sticks,that is different,but the player's skills just isn't up to making that play work.

7) Ahtyba Rubin had another strong day with five solo and five assisted tackles.
I believe that Rubin,not the more publicized Shaun Rogers has been the best lineman on the Browns this season.
Rubin is the only player on the D-line that to me looks like a long term keeper for the Browns,no matter the bench boss...

8) We usually have given Rob Ryan and the defense a pass this season and they certainly have been on the field more than they should be,but the last two weeks have seen an alarmingly poor job in stopping the run.
Cedric Benson rushed for more yards against the Browns than he had rushed for in his last three games combined.
Take that with the issues in Buffalo,the looming games against Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall and I don't see improvement coming soon....

9) Eric Wright was injured in the game and was placed on the IR today.
With Wright being a free agent,the UNLV corner has likely played his last game as a Brown.
Look for the Browns add a corner from somewhere for depth purposes and for Coye Francies to get some extra playing time...

10) Brian Robiskie had his best game of the season and not just because he scored a touchdown.
It was the way that he scored it,breaking tackles and showing a little more than usual speed.
I still think Robiskie could be a solid 2nd or 3rd receiver under a new coaching staff....

Photo Credits:John Kuntz-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Baby,I don't care.

The New Jersey Devils didn't bother to care last night in Atlanta,so why should I with this post.
The Thrashers whipped the (Choose any of these or all for all I care) disinterested,uncaring,undisciplined,crummy,brainless (in a hockey sense) Devils 7-1 in Atlanta.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the only goal (8 power play) in a game that saw little effort,enthusiasm,or anything from the Devils,who looked as clueless as a befuddled John MacLean on the bench.
Unreal,I am tempted to skip Hell Raisers as they didn't care enough,so why should I,but here goes anyway...
The Devils are off until a Tuesday visit to Washington,where I will be attending the game.
Gee,I hope I enjoy it as much as this one.

Hell Raisers

1) This team stinks.
Worse yet,they have mailed it in and they know it.

2) John MacLean has to know that his time is either numbered or that the teams roster will be radically altered soon in order for him to stay.
MacLean's closing offering in a 63 second press conference was this- “I’ve got nothing else for you guys.”
He knows that things have to change and the question is this-Is he the change or others.

3) I wrote yesterday about Nashville playing Devils hockey and the defense with the exception of Anton Volchenkov played about as physical as melted custard.
Note that I didn't say Volchenkov played well,but did hit the occasional Thrasher.

4) This note says it all-A HAT TRICK for ERIC BOULTON!!!!????

5) Eric Boulton,who entered the game with one goal all year.
Eric Boulton,who scored two goals ALL LAST SEASON!
Not much more I can add to that.

6) The team hasn't been fighting much lately and could be contributing to being pushed around,but at least Travis Zajac tried last night.
Zajac had just one fight in his career before the game,dropped the gloves and gave it a go.
Add Zajac's name to the short list that I would like to see stay.

7) Did I say this team stinks????

Photo Credit-AP

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Something familiar about this game

The New Jersey Devils generated little offense until it was too late as the Nashville Predators slow danced their way to a 3-1 win over New Jersey at the Rock.
Mattias Tedenby's third period goal (4 power play) allowed the Devils to avoid the shutout.
The Devils are in Atlanta tonight against the Thrashers.

Hell Raisers


1) This game looked familiar to me and for a while,I couldn't figure out why.
As the game progressed,I realized-Nashville plays like the Devils used to.
Snug,tight defense with a no frills offense and once they achieve a lead,they lock it down and hold on to the margin.
I miss those days....

2) Mattias Tedenby's goal was one of those that I used to score in table hockey.
Inside one post,loop around the top and out the other side of the net.
In table hockey,you could have those not count,if you weren't paying attention....

3) The goal at the very end of the first period was a killer.
The Shea Weber fire and pray that scraped Steve Sullivan and barely wiggled across the line from Martin Brodeur was very indicative of the season thus far for the Red and Black.
Just a odd bounce that has gone against the team and that has happened so much this season that the Devils have used two years of up of those in just the few months of the season.

4) 16 shots on goal.
Shot ten not notched until roughly ten minutes to go in the game.
Some of that is due to the way Nashville plays,but you aren't going to win many games that way.
Put the puck on the damn net!

5) I was going to write about the listless play of the defense,but why bother?
It seems pointless,although I'll give Anssi Salmela a break since he is rounding back into shape.
I thought the signing of Anton Volchenkov was going to bring back hitting defensemen as part of Devils hockey?
Volchenkov is trying though and playing physical,so maybe I shouldn't add him to the list.

Photo Credits
Fan:Bruce Bennett-Getty Images
Goal:AP Photo

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bob Feller passes away

A day or two late with this,but a few words on the passing of Bob Feller at the age of 92.
Feller is likely the name most associated with the Cleveland Indians and was a national celebrity with his entry into the major leagues in the radio age.

Looking at the numbers and considering the loss of three years of his career to World War II,Feller has a case to be perhaps the greatest righthanded pitcher ever.
Much is made of the years that Ted Williams missed due to war and justifiably so,but the pre-World War II version of Bob Feller ranks with the Sandy Koufax run as being perhaps the most dominant pitcher in the history of the game.
Bob Feller's stats speak for themselves,although the 3 no hitters and 12 one hitters are pretty amazing and his 266 wins would have certainly exceeded the 300 mark had there been no WWII.
In an era that we live in that has inflated numbers due to weaker clubs in the expansion age,the numbers of the early days of the game sometime pale in comparison.
That is something that needs to be addressed,although the pitching numbers are not as vulnerable to attack than hitting numbers,no hitters,etc seem to come at a higher rate than they did in the time of Bob Feller.

Bob Feller could be terse and reportedly grumpy as this famous SI article shows,but as my brother writes in his post on Feller,that often is just the way of males from that generation.
Gruff doesn't always mean,well mean and often in dealing with people from that time,that type of experience tends to happen.
I'll prefer to remember Feller as the "feller" with the extraordinarily high leg kick and better yet as "Mr.Indian"....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kinston bounced from baseball

Looks like my baseball trip choice this season has been made for me,as the 2011 season will be the last for professional baseball in Kinston,NC.

Today's announcement that the AA Carolina Mudcats (based in Zebulon NC) will be moving their Southern League franchise to a new ballpark in Pensacola,Florida for the 2012 season.
That will be followed by the Kinston Indians moving their High A Carolina League team to Zebulon and will become the new Carolina Mudcats and leaving Kinston without a team.

Kinston was in the Carolina League's smallest market and accordingly was usually at the bottom of attendance as they finished last in the league in 2010 finishing roughly 34,000 fans behind 7th place Lynchburg in attendance.-Any of this sound familiar Hagerstown Suns fans?
Another alarm bell that rang that I didn't notice was the recent move by well respected Kinston GM (and Kinston native,I believe) Shari Massengill to become the Asst.GM of the AAA Gwinnett County Braves.
That makes me think that locally this move was known to be coming.

I feel bad for the people of Kinston as I don't see the town having the size to attract a new team or that the aging Grainger Stadium is the type of facility to grab a team either,but as unfortunate as it is,this is the financial part of the game that continues to creep lower and lower into the minors.

So,whoever plans on going with me on my 2011 trip,it looks like I'll be building around Kinston and going from there.....

Devils stop skid over Coyotes

Martin Brodeur was perfect in goal with 29 saves and the cast around him did their jobs as well as the New Jersey Devils stopped a five game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at the Rock in Newark.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (6 and 7 Power Play) and Mark Fayne (1).
New Jersey takes today off before back to back games on Friday and Saturday against visiting Nashville along with a trip to Atlanta.

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur was superlative in goal,but give some credit to the defense in this.
The team did a nice job keeping the crease clear and played tough hockey in allowing Phoenix few second chances.
More play like that can do nothing but help Brodeur and Hedberg's goals against average.

2) Play of the game goes to Dainius Zubrus,who knocked down a Phoenix pass and DROVE to the net on a 2 on 1 before passing to Ilya Kovalchuk for the one timer and the games first goal.
That is exactly how to get Kovalchuk's game rolling by using the skill of his that ranks with the best in the game-his shot from the perimeter....

3) The two goal game for Kovalchuk was his first as a Devil as his last one was in January with Atlanta.
The Devils seem to possibly be learning a bit on how best to use the sniper and if that indeed is the case,watch the numbers rise...

4) Mark Fayne scored the first goal of his career in the first period.
Always nice to see guys get that first point.
The goal was initially credited to Jamie Langenbrunner,but replays showed the captain never touched the puck.

5) I know it is just one win,but I am somewhat excited about how two of the new lines played in the win.
The Kovalchuk,Arnott and Zubrus line looked to have some real chemistry,while the Elias,Zajac and Langenbrunner line just missed on a few opportunities to really blow the game open.
Hopefully,the Devils stumbled upon a few winners.

6) Anssi Salmela returned to the lineup for the first time all season after missing the start of the season with knee surgery.
Salmela spent the game paired with Anton Volchenkov in what seems to be a good pairing of differing skill sets....

7) Brian Rolston was placed on waivers and cleared.
Rolston played in the game last night and could go on waivers again in the future.
Lou Lamiorello said that the move was a financial decision and part of the Devils dealing with their cap issues...

Photo Credit-AP

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cleaning out the Inbox

The inbox gets a quick cleaning today as we eliminate the inbox buildup.

One piece of Pirate news that I hadn't noted was the announcement of the player to be named later in the Zach Duke trade with Arizona.
The player is pitcher Cesar Valdez and as recently as two years ago,Valdez was one of the top ten prospects in the Diamondbacks organization.
His 2010 Arizona numbers are pretty bad though and his only plus pitch is reported to be a good changeup.
Valdez looks Indianapolis bound to start the season.

Note to teams of all levels from the Hagerstown Suns to the majors,that want to reverse attendance that has miniaturized.
Ticket cuts are always a good idea as the Cleveland Indians are doing this off season.
The Tribe is cutting their bleacher seats in half and are cutting deep into the cost of single game upper box seats.
Cleveland also is slashing their season ticket plans as well with various bonuses and incentives for buyers.
Great idea and credit to the Indians.
I like this so much that I am beginning to ponder a mini two day trip that would hit either Cleveland/Pittsburgh or Cleveland/Cincinnati for a first ever trip to Great American Ballpark.

Near the bottom of the inbox is an article from vacation in which ESPN finally has an article that is fair to Cleveland in the LeBron James saga.
Extremely fair and interesting,Wright Thompson asks the people of the area about the "decision" and covers all the bases.
A great read.

Battlin' Bob sends this note on the Appalachian League's Johnson City Cardinals flattening their huge hill in right field.
We saw the hill on the inaugural trip in 2007 and it was quite a hill for sure.
It added character to the park and fun for the fans,but likely didnt help player development much.
Click the trip link for a picture of the hill....

Watching C-SPAN recently,I enjoyed a one hour program on the David Eisenhower book on the years following the Presidency for Ike based in Gettysburg-Going home to Glory.
I found it really interesting and the book seems well worth the read,if that interests you.

This recent Washington Post piece on David Eisenhower and wife Julie Nixon Eisenhower was interesting as well.
This talked about the book as well as the couple and one thing that I didn't know was that the John Fogerty written,Creedence Clearwater Revival performed song "Fortunate Son" was based on David Eisenhower and Fogerty's percieved special treatment of Eisenhower during the Vietnam War.

Finally,a return to the blogosphere for my little brother or Shane Shadows,if you prefer.
From the Shadows will likely feature wrestling and the Boston Red Sox,but who knows what else
"The Shadowman" will discuss in a post.
Shane's blog has returned to our links page,where his deceased blog had resided in the past..


Photo Credits
Bleachers:Chuck Crow-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lyle Overbay? Or you thought 2010 was bad?

The Pittsburgh Pirates continued a totally underwhelming off season with yet another uninspiring signing of 34 year old first baseman Lyle Overbay.

The contract is reportedly a one year five million dollar deal.
The 34 year old Overbay hit just .243 for Toronto last season,but did hit twenty homers as I search for a bright spot.
Overbay is expected to be the everyday first baseman,although I would imagine someone will spell him against lefthanders,possibly Steve Pearce,but no promises considering the lack of chances that Pearce has received through the years.

If Overbay is the first baseman,Garrett Jones moves to a platoon role in right with the new addition of Matt Diaz.That leaves Pearce as the maybe first baseman against lefties and John Bowker seemingly out in the cold.
I would just love to see guys like Pearce and Bowker get a full season chance to duplicate their AAA stats and do so at a cheap price instead of spending money to say we spent money on guys like Lyle Overbay and to a lesser extent Matt Diaz.
Taking those type of chances is exactly how the Bucs stumbled upon a serviceable player like Garrett Jones and Pearce/Bowker is a cheap and possibly productive platoon,which should be right up the Pirates alley.
This is an 90+ loss team as is with the signings,I would rather take a few high reward risks instead of the Overbays of the world-you know what he will bring to the table.
Best case scenario for Pittsburgh is Overbay overachieves for the first half and maybe he can be moved for a prospect in July.
Outside of that,I see little upside for a five million dollar investment.

Color me unimpressed with this off season as Kevin Correia for Zach Duke looks to be a wash,Scott Olsen has too many issues and not nearly enough production,the signings of Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay don't strike me as upgrades and only the Rule 5 selection of Josh Rodriguez gives me any hope of lessening the playing time of Ronny Cedeno.

I love the drafting and minor league development under Neal Huntington,but the major league decisions leave much to be desired.
I don't expect a contender or even a .500 season,but I do expect smart decisions with an eye on the future and unless Olsen has a huge bounceback year,none of these signings have that type of even possible impact.
I understand about being hamstrung by short pursestrings,but throwing money away is not the way to beat the system.....

Photo Credit-Unknown

Winter with the Hagerstown Suns

Battlin' Bob,Ryan and I stopped over at the Muni to ask if we could snap a few photos of the place and ask a few questions,although in hindsight there are a few that I wish that I had asked.

Bryan Holland,the new director of communications for the Hagerstown Suns, spoke with us a bit about things and when I arrived home and looked at the teams website that he mentioned that had been just updated,I wish that I had asked more questions or looked closer at the website before going to the park.

First off,the good news.
The field looks much better with the off season work and although a decent amount of the legendary left field hump remains,much of it has been eliminated.
That will make not only a better looking field,but a safer one as well.

Bryan also seems to be pretty understanding to the issues of the autograph collectors as well.
Holland says that he used to be one himself and I have found that former/current collectors understand the feelings and generally are willing to work on the issues that collectors face.
It seems to me that the Suns management realizes that the autographers money spends the same as everyone else and wants to help make them happy.

We spoke a bit about Bryce Harper coming to Hagerstown and the issues that will come up with this type of player.
The Hagerstown Suns have never had a player of this stature and it will bring up some issues that the team hasn't dealt with before.
Holland says the team is trying to prepare as best they can,but they can only prepare so much and that sounds reasonable to me.

I know that the facility is going to make things tougher this season.
I don't expect to have tons for Bryce Harper,but I do worry about the increased difficulty of the opposing pitchers with the extra fans that will be going after Harper.
Working on the visitors position players can be achieved by going to the third base side,but the pitchers cut across the outfield to the bullpen and that will make those players a much tougher problem.
This could be a long season or a long period of time that Harper is a Sun.

The team indeed will be adding a video board in addition to keeping the manual scoreboard.Now this I like as it truly brings the best of both worlds to the fan.
More information with a modern scoreboard and keeping the past alive with the manual.
Great call.

The Suns will also be adding more netting down the baselines and despite not being a huge fan of the sightlines that they generally take away,in this case it is a good idea.
The box seats at the Muni have been a injury hazard for years and sometimes you have to lose a little to gain more.
This is a case that it is a smart and safe move.

More points for moving their Feed Your Face night off the same evening as Thirsty Thursdays.
I figured this was going to be an issue last year and it was.
In a facility that has issues with food lines to begin with,keeping intoxicated fans away from the family crowd is a good and smart decision.

The bad news

The team increased ticket prices for walkup day of the game sales.
I realize that is to encourage the early sale,but I am not sure that with a "Fresh start" ownership that raising ticket prices is the way to go.
This will bring extra fans to the park with Bryce Harper,but will it keep them coming without a star?
In my opinion,I doubt it and the Suns could wind up having a Harperless July and August with a ghost town for weeknight games that aren't Thirsty Thursdays.
A better idea would be a decrease in cost for buying in advance.
Instead of boosting GA tickets from seven bucks to nine,offer an advance rate of five or six dollars for an advance GA ticket,that is superior to the current idea.
Times are tough and 36 bucks for the family of four to sit in the rickety bleachers in one of the worst parks in the game might be prove to be a tough sell....

The grandstand will not be returning to general admission status as I had hoped.
The team instead will installing seat backs and eliminating rows to create more leg space in order to add them to the VIP seating.
This doesn't make much sense to me as that area was popular as a GA section,but not nearly so much when forced to pay a higher cost as the 2010 Suns charged.
I might understand it if the team needed more VIP seating because they are selling those out,but that clearly isn't the case...

Looks like the popular pre-season Meet the Suns autograph is going to change to an event for season ticket holders only.
I understand that season ticket holders deserve a bonus and maybe that could be along the lines of a exclusive period of time before the event,but eliminating all others just doesn't make sense to me.
Here is hoping they change their minds as last years event was very well done.

All and all,some good and bad.
In any new venture,new things will be tried and some will be great as some will be ineffective.
Time will tell the results...

Photo Credits-Battlin' Bob McKain

Rotten Tomatoes

Being that Tomatoes are my most hated food and considering that they would be rotten to boot,you can imagine how thrilled I was this weekend.
Between the worst Browns game since last season's trip to Buffalo (that says a lot) and another putrid Devils effort against the Red Wings,this was so bad that I wasn't even up to writing about it.

In any event,here goes,short and to the point on the Cleveland Browns loss to the Buffalo Bills by the wild and crazy score of 13-6.

Brownie Bits

1) Brian Daboll's play calling was pathetic.
Enough said.
You want to point to the top reason of this loss? Look right there.
If Brian Daboll is the OC for the Browns next season,then I am convinced that the team has no idea for the future.

2) Daboll was wonderfully creative against the Saints,Patriots and Jets,so what happened to that guy?
My theory is that in those games,no one gave the Browns a chance and he could try things without being abused for the attempts.
People (I.E.Holmgren and Mangini) would say we would/should lost anyway and why not risk it.
However,in the Panther and Dolphin wins and the loss to the Bills,the Browns were either favored or small underdogs and a play call could make the difference.
That means Daboll calls safe plays and plays not to lose.
When you play not to lose,you usually do just that.

3) More Brian Daboll.
Now,I know that Eric Mangini secretly lives to be Bill Belichick,but does he have to be the Cleveland hooded wonder?
The Daboll game plan looked suspiciously like the early 90's game plans that Belichick and Steve Crosby drew up that greased the skids for Bernie Kosar-two runs up the middle and then a two yard screen pass on third and five.
At least Peyton Hillis is more suited for up the middle running than Eric Metcalf was,I'll give them that!

4) More coaching.
Peyton Hillis is killing Buffalo on the first drive.
The Bills have no answer for Hillis running behind Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach.
None.Zero.The guy that cost Battlin' Bob his job had more answers that famous night at the Muni than Buffalo did.
It is first and goal on Buffalo's six,so a smart person sets up Hillis behind his best blockers at least once,correct?

Nope,Hillis up the middle for four,then behind Floyd Womack (who is a better tackle than guard) and the generally inept John St.Clair for runs of one and one yard.
Fourth and goal from the Buffalo one.
Now you figure,set the tone for the day-Hillis behind Thomas and Steinbach with what got you here.
Nope,field goal.
That is a snow globe's view of Mangini/Daboll football.

5) Finally to the players.
Jake Delhomme is bad.
Jake Delhomme is any adjective for bad or finished that you want to insert here.
Delhomme's arm is shot as any passer that cannot hit the end zone from 43 yards on a Hail Mary has a shot arm.
The only good thing about the loss was this-Imagine a 16-13 Browns OT comeback win after such a snoozer and then look at the wins in spite of under Delhomme.
Cant you see Mangini this week saying despite the possible return to health of Colt McCoy-"we are 3-0 under Jake,he gives us the best chance to win"?
Bleech!

6) Peyton Hillis fumbled three times and needs to put both arms on the ball.
I will say this-the thing that causes fumbles is the same thing that makes Hillis so effective-he never stops and always fights for extra yards.
That is admirable,but secure the ball,OK?

7) Hillis also needs to take some time off on the hurdle move.
Hillis's fumble on the move was the key play of the game after a Browns fumble recovery by Eric Wright put the ball on the Bills 25 with a 3-0 lead,a TD might have put Buffalo in panic mode.
Instead,the Bills dodged a bullet and hung tough.
The hurdle looks awesome and can be effective,but like anything-do it often enough,defenses will begin to counter and Jarious Byrd did with a super strip of Hillis in mid-air.

8) One throw to Ben Watson?
One throw to the only reliable receiver that the team has?
Give some blame to both Delhomme and Daboll on that.

9) The one play that could have saved the day was a big gain that would have kept a drive going and moved the ball into Buffalo territory in the fourth quarter was a dropped pass by Robert Royal.
Royal holds onto that,who knows the result,but why Royal is even thrown the ball in that spot instead of someone that might have a chance of catching it is my point...

10) Two players that did have good games were linebacker Chris Gocong and corner Joe Haden.
Gocong has improved by the week and Haden is making a run at defensive rookie of the year.
I don't think Haden will catch Ndamukond Suh,but I do think the Browns have their long term shutdown corner,that is for sure...

Back later with a visit to the Muni,some Hagerstown Suns news and a inbox cleaning..

Photo Credits-Joshua Gunter-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Saturday, December 11, 2010

No goal means L in Ottawa

The NHL video system missed another chance to make things right when the referees blew a game tying goal by David Clarkson late in the third period allowing the Ottawa Senators to hang to a 3-2 win in the Canadian capital over the New Jersey Devils.
Both Devil goals were on the PP by Patrik Elias (5) and Dainius Zubrus (4).
Devils hockey resumes tonight with the first of a three game homestand against visiting Detroit.

Hell Raisers

1) The goal that was not was clearly a goal.
David Clarkson's skate never left the ice and there was no way that there could have been a kicking motion without the skate either moving forward or leaving the ice.
Clarkson did neither and it cost the Devils at least a point.

2) Which leads me to another complaint.
If the NHL review system in Toronto isn't going to overturn calls like that,what is the point of having a replay system to begin with?
Then,you can add having Kris King decide on what a goal is being a poor decision.
As Ryan said."What does Kris King know about goal scoring to begin with"?

3) The Devils have just 18 points,second lowest in the league and only division rival Islanders are worse.
The Devils are 15 points out of the final playoff spot (Atlanta) and have to jump six teams to do that.
We are getting close to no return.

4) The special teams played well as both goals and the non goal were on the power play.
New Jersey also killed off all four penalties and played reasonably solid,offering few Ottawa chances on the PP..

5) Martin Brodeur looked in form as none of the three goals could be blamed on him.
Between screens and rebounds,Brodeur has little chance on any of them.

6) Ilya Kovalchuk assisted on both goals,so I can hope things are turning his way,finally!

7) Oliver Magnan and Stephen Gionta cleared waivers and were returned to Albany....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Knives and Daggers-

The long awaited (?) return of knives and daggers,the column where nothing but negatives are brought up.
Believe or not,this was asked for by a reader that enjoys the dark side,so here are a few things of late.

HUGE dagger to FX for cancelling arguably my favorite basic cable series ever after just 13 episodes in Terriers.
Donal Logue is terrific as he was in another canceled short run classic in NBC's Life and Michael Raymond James was a newcomer to me,but their characters were terrific and well acted.
Terriers had nuance and in television now,there is little room for growth and nuance.
Check Terriers full episodes out on line,I doubt that you will be disappointed...


Another dagger to a network goes to the Weather Channel.
Ever since NBC purchased TWC,the focus has been less on weather and more on programs and believe or not-movies.
The Weather Channel established its brand on covering live weather and it is getting away from the horse that brought them there.

Second dagger to TWC for breaking up their late shift pairing of Nicole Mitchell and Paul Goodloe.
Goodloe stays in the late spot,while Mitchell ( a long time favorite of mine) will be a floater on an as needed fill in basis.
Ms.Mitchell,a Hurricane Hunter in the Air Force has been rumored to be on the outs with TWC because they aren't happy with her needing time off for military duty on an occasional basis.
If that indeed is the case,TWC deserves yet another dagger!


A knife to TCU,who had been a rooting favorite of mine since battling the football establishment as a non-BCS school for joining the Big East.
TCU instantly becomes the bully of Big East football and the doormat in basketball.
Hope the Big East is worth it when you are sending teams to Syracuse NY and West Orange NJ among others.
Looks like Boise State is the last of the outsiders looking in....

Finally another knife to the Boston Red Sox for signing Carl Crawford for far too long of a deal.
Boston will regret this one as the deal drags on.
Crawford's skills are speed based and I can see Boston paying for a Marquis Grissom with less power for the last 2 or 3 years of this deal.
Anyone want a salary cap yet? How about an adjustment to the luxury tax?
Anything to slow down the Boston/New York train!!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pirates select Josh Rodriguez in Rule 5 Draft

The Pirates added a player and lost a player in this mornings Rule 5 draft as the Pirates added Josh Rodriguez from the Indians with the first overall pick.

Rodriguez was announced as a shortstop,but can play second,third and the outfield as well.
This makes tons of sense for Pittsburgh as they have been unsuccessful in dealing for Jason Bartlett (traded to San Diego) or J.J. Hardy (looks headed to Baltimore as of this writing) and someone needs to spell Ronny Cedeno.
I'll go further than that shortly,but Rodriguez will be a more effective and less costly version of the utility infielder that Neal Huntington goes after every off season and pays far more than the player is worth.
The last few examples of this were Chris Gomez,Luis Rivas,Ramon Vasquez and Bobby Crosby,who proved to be awful with the stick and leather and the Pirates were linked to another one of these types in Alfredo Amazega,which hopefully goes away with the drafting of Rodriguez.

Rodriguez's main tool is the bat and I think he hits a bit at the big league level.
Rodriguez hit well last season with an OPS of .862 at AA Akron (and mostly) AAA Columbus and I could see him hitting 10-15 homers if given the at bats.
Josh turns 26 in ten days and I can see that as somewhat of a red flag,but keep in mind that he missed most of 2009 and lost a year of development time.

I love the pick and will go as far as this-IF the Pirates give him the chance,Josh Rodriguez will be the everyday shortstop in Pittsburgh by the end of the season.
How's that for confidence?

The Pirates lost a player as well,as the Kansas City Royals took righthanded pitcher Nathan Adcock with the fifth overall pick.
Adcock was one of the players that the Pirates acquired from Seattle in the Jack Wilson trade and had his best pro season last year at High A Bradenton with an 11-7 record to go with a 3.38 ERA.
I saw him once after the trade with Lynchburg and he seemed to be average.
Nothing outstanding,but his 2010 placed him back on the radar.
I suspect the Pirates will have a decent chance of having him offered back sometime during the season.

Pittsburgh selected two players in the AAA phase of the draft in which you pay an amount and the  player is yours without a return policy.
Bradley Chalk was a Padre second rounder in 2007,but the outfielder has had few highlights since.
Chalk has a grand total of two homers as a professional and looks like an organizational soldier type.
Travis Scott was selected from the Angels and looks to be a Tim Pahuta with a catchers mitt type.
The type of veteran that is nice to have at High A or AA,but is not a prospect of any sort...

In house story on Josh Rodriguez.
In 2006 when Rodriguez started at short season Mahoning Valley,Ryan and I stopped in Niles to catch a game,which turned out to be a season ending doubleheader.
Rodriguez was the star of the team and collectors had warned us that he was erratic in his signing (he proved to be pretty good when he played for Kinston).
On this day after some post-game festivities,it was obvious that he wanted to get out quickly.
As the team went through this stuff,a fellow that looked a lot like Tommy Chong stood next to us and wouldn't shut up about his "former POW" status.
He pimped this constantly and used it to have a shot at getting anything free that he could.
A line that still lives here with us and Battlin' Bob (who wasn't there) was this "Can a POW get a free t-shirt,man?"
"Chong" then rambled on about liking "number seven" and had a batboy tell Rodriguez (still in center with the team) that this guy wanted to meet him and "sign his POW hat".
Finally,when Rodriguez reluctantly came over,the guy did not have a sharpie or any other write apparatus either.
Ryan jumped in,offered his and then said "Josh,would you mind signing these few"?
Rodriguez signed and then left on a dead sprint out of Niles Ohio forever.

And I hope the POW still has his t-shirt and hat!!

Photo Credit-Jonathan Quilter-Columbus Dispatch

How HBO sent Boxing down the road to oblivion and how I can get it back on track

Sounds pretty presumptuous of me,doesn't it?
Well,I suppose that is part of writing this type of "journalism" (I don't presume that I am a "journalist" for the record) and my opinion is what makes this boat float,so I'll give it a shot.

Reading the three part series (Parts 1,2 and 3 )on HBO Sports and the hold that it has on the professional Boxing game (and Showtime as well to a far lesser extent) by Thomas Hauser recently made me think that my thoughts on how this game has become broken have been pretty dead on.
I have been telling Ryan (among others) that the road to ruin began with fights that used to be on network TV now going to HBO or Showtime.
Coming to the same destination soon from a similar but different track-Pro Wrestling,but we will save that one for another column.....

In the late 70's and early 80's both CBS and ABC would show huge fights on Friday or Saturday evening filled with title fights and big names.
Quite a few times they would be headlined by Larry Holmes (the top heavyweight in the world) defending his title with other solid fights on the undercard.
Sugar Ray Leonard won his first world championship over Wilfred Benitez,who was one of the top 10 fighters in the world on ABC.
Free television!
Both Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks fights were on network television and in prime time.
Can you imagine Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao on CBS?
Now,I am not saying that those type of events can ever come back to free television again as the television world has changed from the three networks,PBS and a few scattered independents,but I am saying that boxing could,no make that needs to return to network TV.

One once could ask any casual sports fan to name boxers and be greeted with names like Leonard,Duran,Hagler,Hearns and the list goes on.
Why is a relatively obscure former lightweight champion from almost 30 years ago still remembered today by fans my age?
Well,its because Ray Mancini was a network television staple on the weekends with a compelling back story and exciting fights.
Even today in the cable/satellite universe-there is no substitute for network exposure.
ESPN is about to find that out with the BCS championship game.
Look at the ratings for the upcoming Auburn-Oregon games and compare them to last years Alabama-Texas tilt on Fox,I'll take last years numbers and give you a few points.....

If you don't see something on a consistent basis,It is a hardship to follow it or at least watch it.
In the internet age,it is easier to know boxing news,but unless you buy Pay Per Views or have subscriptions to both HBO and Showtime,you are not getting to see the stars of the game.
ESPN has the Friday series from January to September,but those are usually not the stars of the game.
Fox Sports has some smaller level world title fights,but rarely are shown live and if you have just one FSN affiliate there are no guarantees you will find it.
So again,how does one expect people to become fans of a sports or particular fighters without exposure to them?

Frankly,you don't,which is why boxing is declining in popularity.
Let's go back to the 80's again,where a HBO fight was considered a special occasion such as a Marvin Hagler title defense or the anticipated Michael Spinks-Dwight Muhammed Qawi title unification bout was considered a big deal back when there were just two world titles.
Why were they big deals?
Because they fought on network TV,people knew them,became fans of them and then wanted to see them against the elite AFTER seeing them go against good competition.

I realize that selling networks on a return to the network air waves in prime time is a tough sell,but start small-let's work on getting weekend boxing back on the network level.
ABC wastes time with SportsNation type drivel,try to get a fight of the week on the air or a fight of the month if that is what it takes to start with.
No one expects to see Manny Pacquaio,but Andre Berto sure could use the publicity or Andre Ward could begin to get mainstream.
Sometimes,you have to take a little less now to make even more down the road.

Which brings us back to HBO which is the bully of the block.
Take this weekend's bout on the network which matches two of the top four 140 pounders in the world-Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana.
This is a world title fight with two exciting fighters and I cannot wait to see it.
Outside of England,few know who they are and I would be shocked if HBO gets any kind of rating out of it.
The other two in the division fight on HBO in January as Americans Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander square off.
Both skilled and top boxers and it should be a great fight,but go to work today and ask a sports fan who Timothy Bradley is.
Both of these fights would have been network fights in the past,maybe Bradley-Alexander would have been an HBO fight,but only after each guy had made 3 or 4 network appearances and brought the bout to a boil where fans needed to see just which of the two was better.

I want HBO and Showtime in the boxing business,I think they can be good for it,but they could be even better with help from other sources helping them build attractions for bigger fights that draw more people to their network to see.
I get HBO for two reasons,Boxing and their excellent sports documentaries,which debuts one on Vince Lombardi on Sunday.
HBO quits showing Boxing and I likely begin to consider dropping HBO.
Showtime wants my dollar? Add more boxing and do more specials like their terrific Full Color Football on the AFL that the network televised in 2009.

HBO could show fights every weekend and I would be all over them and Showtime too (If you are reading this,Showtime Boxing,drop me a line or better yet a comp subscription and I'll lavish your bouts with pub too :) ),but sometimes the needs of the many (the game itself) outweigh the needs of the few ( promoters,etc) or as Mr.Spock paraphrased "the one"-name your entity.

Showtime has two great bantamweight bouts this weekend.
Few will see them,they would be a great weekend doubleheader on sister network CBS and since the goal is to match the winners,move that eventual bout to Showtime.
Same theory,a little less now to make a lot more next time.
Which do you think is better for a Vic Darchinyan-Abner Mares winner?
A win on Showtime or CBS?

Start small and don't be afraid to give the networks good fights.
No one wants to see top fighters pound overmatched competition in order to be on TV.
Match them strong with good opposition,make people want to see them again and that is how you can begin to rebuild a failing sport.

Pay Per View is supposed to be even more special like closed circuit television used to be.
Only the earth moving bouts were on CC or now PPV.
Leonard-Hearns was a closed circuit bout not Hamsho-Scypion.
Top Rank supposedly put on the fight of the year last weekend between Humberto Soto and Urbano Antillion for the WBC Lightweight belt.
Why supposedly? Because few saw it, I sure didn't and I wanted to!
Only hardcore fans know Soto-Antillion and fewer have the money to buy the bout and as a result no one knows and therefore few care.
That is exactly the type of fight that made Ray Mancini among others a star on network TV and could do wonders for others,if the effort is made to do it right.

It will take time,effort and lots of lobbying,but it can be and more importantly-it needs to be done....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Goodbye to Don Meredith and Elizabeth Edwards

Two passings of favorites of mine over the last few days as former Cowboys quarterback and Monday Night Football favorite Don Meredith and was shortly followed by the passing of Elizabeth Edwards,who was the wife of former Presidential candidate John Edwards.


Don Meredith has been a favorite of mine since I was a child as I knew him as the irreverent voice of Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford.
I always loved the "Danderoo" and his constant popping of the pompous balloon that was Cosell.
Meredith seemed to delight in tweaking Cosell with a simple "Oh Hawrrd" and his singing of "Turn out the lights" when a game has been decided is still a staple here when a game is over,yet the time is not run out.


Don Meredith was the quarterback that brought the Dallas Cowboys their first success and yet it never seemed that Dallas fans appreciated Meredith until he was gone or at least until Roger Staubach was on his way to legendary status.
Meredith retired at just 30 and could have been the quarterback that Dallas won their 1st Super Bowl with,after all Meredith was just 33 when the Cowboys defeated Miami for the first title.

Had Meredith not retired,it is possible that Roger Staubach doesn't play for the Cowboys as he either backs Meredith up or moves elsewhere,as just four years separates them in age.
Meredith was the type of announcer that didn't hit you over the head with what he did as a player,but rather calmly told you what he thought was going on in the game you were watching and despite the shtick role that he played on MNF,Meredith seemed to me that underneath it all was a pretty bright guy.
One felt that Meredith was doing the "wink,wink" without doing it visibly and got the point across.

Don Meredith mostly disappeared from the public eye after leaving MNF after the 1984 season and rarely returned other than the occasional "Whatever happened to" article or odd Cowboys or SMU reunion,but on reading some of these articles he seemed pretty happy with the way things turned out.
I suppose that is all one could ask of a life.....

Elizabeth Edwards came into national prominence in the 2004 election when her husband became the Democratic tickets Vice Presidential nominee.
As soon as the election was over,she became a national name with her struggles with cancer.
Edwards later became a advocate for cancer issues as well as a strong supporter of national health care and was involved in the 2008 campaign of John Edwards for the Democratic nomination for President.
Elizabeth Edwards struck a cord with people because she seemed to relate to the average person.
Edwards seemed so nice,but if you watched her speak-you sometimes were struck that this was not a person to be messed with.
That inner toughness combined with a caring nature came across so strongly after the exposure of John Edwards affair and fathering a child with the mistress.
She didn't give him any slack (not that he deserved much) and in her public dealings on the subject came across as a real person that had been lied to and hurt,reacting just as many of us would.
A smart and genuine person,Elizabeth Edwards will be missed.

I return to work tomorrow night,but I still have things to write about,believe it or not.
I still have the promised thoughts on HBO and Boxing that I want to write and get ready for some of your favorite column-the long awaited return of Knives and Daggers-all Dagger edition!!!!!

Photo Credits
Meredith:Unknown
Edwards:Drinkwater/NBCU

Matt Diaz latest Pirate addition

The latest in the Pirates underwhelming winter meeting additions is outfielder Matt Diaz,who signed a two year deal with Pittsburgh today.
The contract will pay the 32 year old Diaz 4.25 million over the course of the contract and puts the Pirate lineup into question as of now.

Diaz suffered a down year in 2010 after a pretty good 2009 and is looked at as an righthanded platoon option in right field with either Garrett Jones or John Bowker.
If the platoon is with Jones then the Pirates might be looking at Steve Pearce at first and a lefty first baseman still to come,but a possible scenario that makes sense to me would be a Diaz/Bowker platoon in right with a Jones/Pearce pairing on the first base side.

One issue that I would like to address as food for thought is this-What about Matt Diaz makes the Pirates better than Lastings Milledge?
Diaz has a little more power ( 34 HR's over the last four seasons to Milledge's 29) and a small advantage in OPS with Milledge being younger and faster.
Looking at both players,I just don't see where Diaz is worth two to three million more over the next two years than Milledge,that is projecting Milledge as making 1 to 1,5 million.
I am not saying Milledge is the superior player,just that I think the Pirates will be paying more money for similar production and that is something that the Pirates cannot afford to do.

Matt Diaz is a hustling player from what I have seen and is likely to be a Pittsburgh fan favorite,but in the end I think for the second time in two days that the Pirates have paid too much either dollars or years for a player that doesn't really improve the club.

I will be back later or tomorrow with some goodbyes to Don Meredith and Elizabeth Edwards.

Photo Credit-Unknown

Barberton Chicken-The Food Feuds rematch!

Our trip to Ohio was fun as always,but a larger than usual vehicle offered more space,but a larger gas tank as well.
With gas prices fluctuating from day to day and in some cases hours,we stayed within an hour (Columbus) and the rest of the time closer than that to home base with consideration of the dollar.
My personal favorite gas story was a 10 AM fill up with gas prices at 2.64 per gallon and returning from Columbus a whopping 2.89!
One would have thought that a major event had occurred,but talking to my friend James that evening,it seems this stuff happens all the time and without any reason at all.
I give this area this much-gas is a little higher,but it stays reasonably consistent,no 25 cents per day price movements...

In any event,despite finally having a chance to stop and try Quaker State and Lube,which I have wanted to try for quite a long time,the highlight of the trip was the rematch of the Food Network's Food Feuds with the top two Barberton Chicken houses going Pollo an Pollo,but with us as the judge and jury on this battle.
It's a bird battle between Belgrade Gardens and White House Chicken!

The initial idea was for us to try one this year (Rachel chose Belgrade Gardens) and the other in next years visit,but driving through the area on our way home,I asked if anyone wanted to have lunch at White House assuming that I could find it.
When Rachel almost leaped over the seat with her approval,I knew that I was onto a decent idea.

Belgrade Gardens is the oldest chicken server in the area having started in 1933 to White House's 1950,but both subscribe to the basics of the "rulebook".
The chicken comes in fresh (usually daily) and will never hit a freezer.
Chicken is seasoned only with salt and are deep fried in lard.
Now,one can see that as delicious as this is,you might buy that this might not be the healthiest meal that you can ever eat,so keep that in mind.
Barberton chicken also cut the meat a bit differently as they sell small pieces off the leg as "drumettes" and sell the back,which in most places is just not cut off the breast.

I ordered the same meal at both with two chicken breasts,fries and cole slaw.
The big difference between the two chickens to me was the crust of the chicken.
White House has a more of a "Golden Brown" type,while Belgrade goes with a thicker crust that seals in the juices of the chicken even more than White House,which does an excellent job of doing just that.
According to the Food Feuds show,this is because Belgrade runs its chicken through the breading machine twice to White House's once and it does show when you look at the chicken.
Both places had great fries and cole slaw,but there was a difference as one had the best slaw that I have ever had.
A mix between a traditional cole slaw and a pepper slaw made Belgrade Gardens slaw the best that I have ever had.

Between the slaw and a slight edge to the chicken,both Rachel and I gave a slight edge to Belgrade Gardens although I would highly recommend both to anyone in the area!
Why wasn't Cherie involved in the voting? Well,she isn't that big of a fried chicken fan......
One other issue-Parking.
Belgrade has a huge parking area,while White House is on the corner of a busy Barberton road.
Best parking for White House is the shopping center across the street,but the road across might take a while..

For more on Barberton chicken try the reviews of Exploring My Way,which is an excellent blog by a writer that travels Northeast Ohio trying interesting places.
Tom Noe's look at Belgrade Gardens and White House can be found by clicking each eatery's name.
I have also added his blog to the links to the right....

Photo Credits-Cherie Heimberger