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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Danny Rosenbaum Interview-Part 3

Part three of our five part interview with Washington Nationals pitching prospect Danny Rosenbaum.
Danny discusses his growth as a pitcher and some thoughts on Hagerstown Municipal Stadium...

TRS: Paul Menhart has commented that your improved pro stats are due to your willingness to pitch inside,whereas at Xavier,you pitched to the outside edge.
Is this due to the aluminum bats in the college game or simply a refinement in your growth as a pitcher?
DR: Simply refinement in my growth as a pitcher. I've learned so much since I started playing pro ball, from our coordinators and our coaches. This is a mental game, and that's what I have really tried to make strides in.  I continue to try and learn how to be a better pitcher everyday.  My sophomore season of college ball went really well and that's because I was able to work both sides of the plate, but my junior year for some reason I got away from it. Yes, the difference in aluminum and wood is big but that shouldn't change your approach to your game. Being able to pitch inside so important today in this game. I'm so thankful for being able to learn from our great coaching staff.
TRS: You feature a four pitch toolbox (fastball,change,curve and slider) which is your out pitch and which needs the most work?

DR: During this past season, I really focused on trying to figure out my change up. I think I changed the grip on it like 6 times. But I think we finally got somewhere down in instructional league. I need to continue to refine all my pitches being able to throw them in all counts whenever and where ever I want.
TRS:You were the breakout pitching prospect for the 2010 Suns,did you do anything differently to prepare for the 2010 season than in the past?
DR: Well, the previous season I was still pitching in college and like I said before I think the biggest thing differently I focused on was my mental approach. I learned a lot from watching my roommate from college Jordan Conley. He is currently with the Marlins, Jordan was our everyday short stop and closer. He claims himself being a thrower not a pitcher, but he knows how to pitch. Just seeing his demeanor on the mound, knowing you're better than the hitter has helped me so much. I also owe a lot of credit to Bobby Henley, our field coordinator, and Spin Williams, our pitching coordinator. I had a talk with Henley last year when I first signed about pitching inside and being an aggressive and under control pitcher, being able to slow the game down.  And with Spin, being able to work both sides of the plate using my change up, forcing myself to throw it.

TRS: Hagerstown certainly has a quirky stadium and facilities,any thoughts on the Muni and its good side,if any?
DR: The Muni isn't as good as a lot of the other stadiums that I played in this past season, but it was nicer than what we had at school and some of those Atlantic 10 fields. I enjoyed being there, it has some character to it, but it does have a lot of work to do.
TRS:Things about the Muni that you hope to never see again?
DR: Yeah just that field in general, I hope I can keep moving forward in the organization.

Photo Credit:West Coast Scouting.com

Battlin' Bob scores as Hagerstown Suns do the right thing

Quick post,but I plan to be back with a look at past memories and that sometimes they might be better left alone or if time is short,I may put that off and post part three of our interview with Danny Rosenbaum.

This was in my inbox for a few days and was going to be the feature of the next cleaning of the inbox,but Battlin' Bob has already written and the Hagerstown Suns have responded!
The Battler' sent me a link to the Suns website that promoted their new Valet Parking service for season ticker holders,which is fine with me.
Those people help pay the freight and I have no issue with them getting a few perks (although if they are the only fans allowed at the Meet the team session,that is a different can of chowder) for paying up front for their ducats.
The problem was lower in the paragraph,where a new one dollar parking fee was slipped in the release and that would be new for the Suns.

However,the Battler's post brought to "Tony's" attention,who I would guess to be Suns minority owner Tony Dahbura and the website was quickly changed after his response on Bob's blog.
So in short,the Suns are now not charging parking fees.

Credit to the Suns for either correcting an error on their site or realizing the PR mistake in the making and cutting it off before other "media" got wind of this.
And credit to the Battler' for digging this up from underneath an obscure post on the website.
Whether or not,this was in the works-this was the right thing for the Suns to do,but in case it was and you see the Battler' at the Muni this season,give him a word of thanks for the couple bucks that stays in your pocket.


And a final word to the Suns-If someone wants to talk to me and/or the Battler and give us some time for an interview,drop me a line at Thoughtsofrs@yahoo.com.
We'll be fair and try to go word for word with your responses,the questions might be the tough ones,but answering the tough ones can go a long way....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Legends of both the squared circles

Reading my brother's post on wrestling great Ric Flair and the recent bout in West Virginia with almost 49 year old former Cruiser and Heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield,made me think a bit about how so many of the heroes of my youth from both boxing and wrestling have had such difficulties after leaving the ring both financially and otherwise.

When you think about it,veterans of both sports made plenty of money,although elite level boxers made more in their day than pro wrestlers and with a modicum of effort should have been able to put back enough money for a comfortable life after the ring.
There is no reason for a Ric Flair to have to not only be taking bumps at 62 years old,but he should not have to even be in the business unless he chooses to be,let alone having to live a "kayfabe" lifestyle even among the men in the wrestling profession.
Boxing is no different as more often than not,the warriors in the ring are often wheeled around to major fights on appearance fees to pay a few bills and relive a few past glories for a weekend.

Should there be more people interested in these men after their days are finished?
And not to grab a photo or a piece of memorablia either,to legitimately help some of these people that put their bodies (and in the case of boxing,often times minds) on the line for entertainment.
Could there be more education from the world of finance during the peak earning years and have a nest egg to provide an excellent retirement or at least a supplemental fund to add to a job that could help with medical issues etc?

Even if it was not financially based and was used as just a fund to help boxers with their various head injuries from taking shots or wrestlers with back and neck issues from taking slam after slam,would not a sliver of the money that these men worked for be worth putting back and taking care of the inevitable financial issues that are part of coming with both of these games?
This issue is not going away,it didn't go away with boxing as I remember watching a physically shot Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson being wheeled out for major fights as a kid  with the greats staring vacantly and looking twenty years older than they were and it isn't going away with wrestling as the harder and more punishing style is going to make Ric Flair look like a Fortune 500 executive with the damage that some of the wrestlers of the last fifteen years have done to their bodies and few of them will have made the money that Ric Flair has tossed away.

There would be difficulties with this plan.
In boxing,fighters often move from promoter to promoter and different promoters may or may not choose to invest in such a policy.
In the grappling game,this would be an expense for a public traded company such as Vince McMahon's WWE that some might not want to pay.
Not to mention that both of these games have an undercurrent that tends to pull its stars undertow unless said star has been smart from day one with his dollars.
Both of these games look at their athletes as time dated like on the milk carton,only their expiration dates comes when their body is shot.
Some of the hook is the sport itself,as one gets hooked by the game and the game doesn't let you go.The need to be recognized by the fans of the game,the need to be around the sport even if it is just to wave your hat and smile like the Tom Hanks played "Jimmy Dugan" in the film "A league of their own".
The sport is addictive and often times the overdose comes in various forms-financial issues,physical issues and often times emotional issues as men that arent equipped to deal with issues are forced to with a body and mind that cannot deal with them properly.
In the end,unless you have been smart with your money and smart on the physical end,taking care of your body,ending your career when your body tells you that it is time to leave and making sure that you are set with the inevitable issues that all people deal with retirement emotionally from a game that sinks its teeth into your soul-If you havent prepared yourself,things can go bad swiftly.

That is why Ric Flair is still taking bumps and basically panhandling in the wrestling business at 62 and Evander Holyfield is still swapping punches at going on 49.
No matter the reason,if you are still physically in these games at these ages-somewhere the athlete has a problem.
It is only a matter of looking for it.

One final line to think about if this has made you think in any way.
In the wrestling business,which I have been on the periphery,one saying tends to be gold-"A mark and his money are soon parted".
The problem is often times the biggest mark of all is the man in the ring.

Photo Credits-Unknown

Bad defense and officiating=L in Motown

A less than wonderful call by the officials combined with a few key defensive breakdowns ended the New Jersey Devils winning streak against the Detroit Red Wings 3-1.
Brian Rolston scored the only Devils goal (6) in the first period.
The Devils now have the next five days off before a return next Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators at the Rock.

Hell Raisers

1) No blame for this one on Martin Brodeur,who was faultless on all three Detroit goals and hung out to dry on two of the three.Without the strong play of Brodeur,this game wasn't as close as it was...

2) Brian Rolston continued to elevate his play over the last handful of games with his goal against Jimmy Howard.Rolston's goal came not from his shot,but from good ol' fashioned digging around the net as he whacked away at the puck until it squirted under Howard and into the twine.
That is the type of all around,multi-dimensional player that the Devils thought they were signing from Minnesota....

3) Call that could have cost the Devils a point-with 2:28 to go,Ilya Kovalchuk hammered the puck by Jimmy Howard for what looked like the tying goal.
The goal wasn't counted as the referee said that Kovalchuk pushed Howard's glove into the goal and the puck crossed the line only for that reason.
Replays showed that not to be the case and the arbiters didn't even bother to go to "the room" in Toronto to take a look.
The Wings would score the backbreaker a minute or so later as the Devils were changing lines in an attempt to add offense and tie the game....

4) Mark Fraser was literally asleep at the switch as his lazy pass in the first period went straight to Darren Helm,who cruised into the crease alone for the Wings first goal.
I would say that I have no idea what he was thinking,if I thought Fraser was thinking...

5) The second goal was a series of Red Wing skating and passing displays that most teams would be helpless against,but the play was started by another misplay in the Devils end,this time by Mark Fayne.
Fayne's fumble allowed Detroit the opportunity to play with the lead at a point,where they were playing evenly and without emotion....

Photo Credit:Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Danny Rosenbaum Interview-Part 2

We move on to part two of our interview with Danny Rosenbaum.
This will be a five part interview that will finish over the next few days.
I have another interview sitting in the inbox,another with questions already sent and yet another agreed upon interview,so the next month should have some good stuff coming up.
Back with more tomorrow on the Devils final game before the All-Star break...


TRS: What was it like attending a college in a urban environment in Cincinnati?
 
DR: It was great. there's always things to do, and being from Cincinnati, I know the city pretty well. We are about 5 minutes from downtown which has developed into a very nice area. We are 5 minutes from the university of Cincinnati. Its great, I love it.

TRS: Is the Xavier-Cincinnati rivalry as strong in baseball as it is in basketball?
 
DR: Personally I don't think so. It's always a rivalry and it's fun to play each other. But we get to play each other like 3-5 times during the year. A lot of us play or have played with each other on summer teams so you become good friends with them. It's nice to win but it's isn't like playing a weekend series against Dayton or Rhode Island. Basketball on the other hand is a whole different story. The crosstown shootout every year is such an exciting event. It's on ESPN every year and it's an intense battle between these teams that is amazing to watch. I can't really explain what its like to be at one of these games.
Editor's Note: if I could attend one college basketball game,the Xavier-Cincinnati game would be my pick.
Watching on television shows such an electric environment and I am sure that even TV cannot show the true event....
 
TRS:Why did you decide to leave Xavier to join the Nationals rather than return for your senior season?

DR: My junior season didn't go as well as I planned, so I saw this as an opportunity to start over. The Nationals are giving me a shot and I felt like I needed to take it. I was on the border of going back to school but the decision I made just felt right.
 
TRS: Were there some teams more than others that appeared interested in drafting you?
How did you find out about being drafted and how were negotiations?
 
DR: Yeah ,I honestly thought I was going to be drafted by the Blue Jays because there was a scout that came to a lot of my games and showed a lot of interest. But when it came to draft day I thought wrong. I was just sitting there watching my computer and listening with my parents for my name to be called. I didn't have much room to negotiate because I was a mid round draft pick, but it all worked out for the best.

Photo Credit-InsideNova.com

Looking at the East-West Shrine game

I watched the East-West Shrine game twice since Saturday and as part of what I plan on being more extensive coverage of the NFL Draft,I thought I would offer some comments on a few players caught my eye.
This doesn't mean that I am screaming for these players to become Browns or even that they are high draft picks,just some players that showed some qualities that I liked and might be worth taking at various parts of the Browns or some other teams draft.
I will be back later today with part two of the Danny Rosenbaum interview.

Two players on each side of the football really raised their stock with me in this game.
I don't watch a ton of Big East football,but Delone Carter impressed me in Syracuse's bowl game against Kansas State and he did so again in this game.
Carter showed explosiveness around the corner and for a player 5'9,Carter was carrying tacklers and that is always a plus when you are looking at ball carriers.

The other was Texas tight end Greg Smith,who caught four passes for 77 yards.
Smith's 35 yard catch was the longest gain of the day.
Smith showed soft hands and at 6'4,245 has size to make someones team.
I also liked Smith's work in the blocking game and he definitely helped himself in the draft with this game.

On defense,the big winner to me was Brandon Bair of Oregon,who dominated his man during the game and harassed quarterbacks all day.
Bair lined up at both end and tackle,but projects as an end in the NFL at just 265 pounds.
Bair is already 26 years old though and might not have a huge upside due to that.

The other player is unlikely to be drafted,but I could not stop watching him because he seemed to be everywhere.
Josh McNary is a little undersized for a linebacker and doesn't seem exceedingly fast,but the guy is around the ball on every play,including special teams.
Considering that,why will he not be at least a late round pick?
McNary played at Army and will miss the next two seasons with military commitments.
Allow me to say this,I might not draft Josh McNary considering the next two years,but I would be on the phone as soon as the draft ends and attempting to sign him to a free agent contract.
For a little bit,you might get a solid return later on a small investment.


A few others are worth keeping tabs on as well.
Julius Thomas is a former basketball player at Portland State and shows the type of athletic ability that teams are always looking for in a tight end.
Thomas caught a TD and a two point conversion and I think at least would be a goal line asset.
A real sleeper here.....

Justin Trattou of Florida looks to be a rangy DE/OLB type that would appeal to someone running the 3-4 defense.
Trattou isn't big enough to play a 4-3 end,but could fit nicely as a 3-4 pass rusher....

Dontay Moch of Nevada played end in college,but looks like he could be a 3-4 outside backer.
Not as large as Trattou,Moch is more of a tackler and seems more likely to make the conversion to a new position and his Shrine game showed me signs that he has a chance to do that.
Moch impressed me in Nevada's win over Boise State as an end and Saturday's game helped in the eyes of teams looking to see him as a standup linebacker.
I hate to say this,but Moch looks exactly like what the Steelers look for....

Jermale Hines of Ohio State had a solid game and likely cemented his slot in the middle rounds.
Nothing flashy about Hines,just production......

A long shot could be Canadian offensive tackle Matthew O"Donnell.
The massive 6'10 330 pounder was getting beaten on the outside rush early,but improved as the game went on.
Not sure if he has quick enough feet to play the left tackle spot,but has the road grader body to play the right side,someone takes a flyer on him in the seventh round just based on his tools...

I hope to do a similar post on the Senior Bowl next week.
The Senior Bowl has a larger amount of prospects,so it could be a longer post or 2 posts dealing with offensive and defensive prospects...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Danny Rosenbaum Interview-Part 1

We start a five part interview with former Xavier Musketeer pitcher and current Washington Nationals prospect Danny Rosenbaum with part one.
Thanks to Danny for taking the time for us and best wished to him for the 2011 season..


ThoughtsOfRS: Growing up in Ohio,did you ever prefer other sports to baseball?If so what...

Danny Rosenbaum: Yeah, growing up besides baseball I played basketball and soccer. I played basketball until sophomore year of high school and played soccer until 7th grade. Basketball is my favorite sport to watch and play besides baseball. I'm a big college basketball fan. I tried playing football freshman year of high school but I was way too small and I didn't play but in like 2 games.


TRS: Were you ever approached by pro scouts during your high school years and if so were there any teams that seemed more interested in you than others?
DR: Yeah but not many, I got some questionnaires and a Cardinals scout came to my house and talked with me and my family. I talked to a Marlins scout a couple times and a couple others but I knew I wanted to go to school.

TRS:Were you heavily recruited by Midwest colleges and why the selection of Indiana?
DR: Yeah , all my visits were around the Midwest, Indiana, Cincinnati, Xavier, Illinois, Kentucky, Miami of Ohio. I got some calls from other schools that were out of state that were powerhouses but I didn't want to pursue those.
I really liked Indiana's coaching staff and their campus. I've heard great things about the school and just fell in love with it when I took my visit there.

TRS: Why did you decide to transfer from Indiana to Xavier?

DR: I just thought it was a better fit for me to go somewhere else. I loved IU, the campus is great the coaches were great, but it just wasn't right for me. Growing up I was always a big Cincinnati Bearcats fan, and hated Xavier , but I heard a lot of great things about the school and coaches and the team that drew me in. I'm glad I made the right choice to be a Musketeer.

TRS: What are the advantages to playing baseball (a non-revenue sport in college) at the mid-major college level?
DR: Well, being considered a mid-major school means that no one really gives you any respect, especially when playing in the Atlantic 10. So you need to earn your respect year in and year out, it's something to really strive for, which our team has done every year. We don't have the luxuries of what big schools have, like indoor football facilities or warm weather. A lot of teams down south are practicing outside right now where we are practicing in our OLD basketball gym.
It also is very tough being a non revenue sport, because we don't get that extra money to have to spend on nice things. Coach Googins (head coach) considers our team as a very blue collared hard working bunch. I guarantee we work just as hard or harder than anyone else in the country. It's tough to get those top recruits because we don't have the best facilities but everything in the program has been getting better every year. We compete at the top of the A-10 every season.
 
TRS:The disadvantages?
DR: Like every school up north we have to worry about the weather, we cant get outside and if we do we go when its in the 30's and there's some sun. Like I said before those top recruits are tough to get, but we make do with what we got. we bring in some good talent and develop them into great students and players.
Photo Credit-GoXavier.com

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another day Another win

One day after beating the team with the best record in hockey to continue the longest winning streak of the season,the New Jersey Devils stretched the line even farther with a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (14),Patrik Elias (13 power play),Jason Arnott (11 and 12 empty net) and Brian Rolston (5 power play).
The Devils will visit Detroit in their final game before the All-Star break on Wednesday night....

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur returned to the net after skipping the Flyers game and again played well.
The spectacular saves were lacking,but weren't needed as much in this one as Johan Hedberg's game against the Flyers..

2) Three point game for Ilya Kovalchuk with a goal and two assists.
The goal was a deflection off an Andy Greene shot and was the first three point game of the season for Kovalchuk..

3) The Devils power play has begun to arise from a slumber since Jacques Lemaire has begun to use five forwards with the man advantage.
Brian Rolston has suddenly found his shot for now on the point on the power play using this lineup and the power shot that the Devils are paying for has begun to find the net...

4) Alexander Vasyunov played in the win and returned to Albany after the game.
Still wondered why not a defenseman,but why argue with success....

5) Really enjoying the physical play by the Anton Volchenkov/Mark Fraser defensive pairing.
Volchenkov is showing the hard hitting style that made him such a success in Ottawa and Fraser is slowly making a name for himself as the steady,body cracking journeyman defender that good teams always seem to have....

6) Difference make in this one was the backhanded goal by Jason Arnott in the first period with just two seconds remaining.The two goal lead clearly sapped the Panthers and you could see the panic with Scott Clemmensen being yanked for the second stanza.

Photo Credit:Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

Guest Column-10 things I hate about Pittsburgh Steelers fans

This was in my inbox when I arrived home from work.
Thanks to my good friend Big Don for sending it!

Guest columnists on ThoughtsofRS aren't necessarily the opinions of TRS and are the opinions of the guest columnist.
Although on this one.......

TEN THINGS I DISLIKE ABOUT PITTSBURGH STEELERS FANS
BY BIG DON
A SUBURBAN PITTSBURGHER AND NOT A STEELERS FAN

10. STEELER FANS ARE THE LOUDEST PEOPLE (I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE USED TO SCREAMING AT YOUR TELEVISION SET TO WATCH YOUR STEELER HEROES, OR YOU HAVE TO SCREAM OVER PEOPLE AT THE BAR YOU SIT IN ALL DAY, BUT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE SO LOUD IN A NORMAL SITUATION)
9. STEELERS FANS THAT TAKE THEIR SHIRT OFF WHEN IT IS TEN DEGREES OUTSIDE. (THINK OF A BETTER WAY TO GET ON TELEVISION!)
8. IF STEELER FANS LOVE THEIR TEAM SO MUCH, THEN WHY DO THEY PRONOUNCE IT BY SAYING "PICKSBURGH STILLERS" OR "PITTSBURGH STILLERS."
7. "HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO" SOUNDS LIKE IT SHOULD BE LYRICS FROM A SYNTH-POP SONG FROM THE 1980'S.
6.  THE SUPER SEVENTIES STEELERS WERE NOT SO SUPER (A FEW PLAYERS ON THOSE TEAMS HAVE ADMITTED TO USING STEROIDS, (BUT STEELER FANS DON'T VIEW THAT IS CHEATING BECAUSE THOSE PLAYERS WORE A STEELER UNIFORM.)
5. AT THE END OF A 7-9 OR 6-10 SEASON, THERE ARE 10,000 TO 20,000 NO SHOWS AT A STEELERS HOME GAME. (REAL FANS DON'T HOP ON AND OFF THE BANDWAGON, THEY STICK WITH THEIR TEAM. (EXAMPLES: CLEVELAND, BUFFALO, GREEN BAY, WASHINGTON, KANSAS CITY)
4. JUST BECAUSE THE FOLLOWING CITIES HAVE TEAMS IN YOUR STEELERS' DIVISION, YOU HATE THE CITIES OF CLEVELAND, CINCINNATI, AND BALTIMORE, AND MOST OF YOU HAVE NEVER VISITED ANY OF THESE CITIES. (I HAVE VISITED ALL THREE OF THESE PLACES, AND EACH CITY HAS SOMETHING TO OFFER.)
3. STEELER FANS HAVE A "STEELER FLAG" HANGING OUTSIDE THEIR HOUSE. (THIS IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - NOBODY WAS INJURED OR DIED DEFENDING A STEELER FLAG. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN INJURED OR KILLED DEFENDING THE AMERICAN FLAG.)
2. MOST STEELERS FANS SAY "WE ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL" (UNLESS YOU HAVE A TICKET TO THE GAME, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL)
1. STEELERS FANS ON WELFARE IN THE PITTSBURGH AREA SHOULD NOT BE SPENDING MY TAX MONEY ON A $150 - $200 STEELER JERSEY THAT HAS THE LATEST SUPER BOWL PATCH ON IT. (I WILL GLADLY TAKE MY TAX MONEY BACK AND SPEND IT ON TWO OR THREE WEEKS OF FOOD FOR ME, THE ONE THAT EARNED THE MONEY.)
Editors Note-An Honorable Mention from the editor
Why is it a must for Steelers fans to update their Facebook status with every play?
Think about it like this-The people that care are watching the game themselves.
I say this with "love" as some of my Facebook friends are Steeler fans and most of them do this.
For the life of me,I cannot figure out why.....

Photo Credit:Unknown

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pennsylvania Deja Vu

For the second straight game against a Pennsylvania based team,the New Jersey Devils shot to the lead and held off any and all rallies as the Devils added another win to their best run of the season with a 3-1 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia....
Patrik Elias scored two goals to pace the Devil offense (11 and 12 empty net) with Henrik Tallinder (2) providing the other goal.
The Devils are back at the Rock later today hosting the Florida Panthers....

Hell Raisers

1) Jacques Lemaire started Johan Hedberg in net,which I questioned when you look at the strong play of Martin Brodeur of late.
It worked out as Hedberg played very well and one of his third period saves might have a shot at save of the year.
Hedberg's play against a third period barrage by the Flyers made the difference in the game....

2) Colin White was injured with the dreaded "lower body injury" and will miss today's game.
Between White and the injury to Matt Corrente that placed him on the DL,the Devils blueliners will have to continue their recent strong play.

3) With the various injuries,the Devils were allowed to use the emergency callup slot from Albany and surprisingly used it on Alexander Vasyunov.
Nothing against Vasyunov mind you,but a defenseman might have been a better choice right now...

4) Patrik Elias continues his strong play with two goals,but even better was his forechecking which to me has improved since the addition of Jacques Lemaire....

5) The Flyers were their typical cheap selves with dumb penalties but the dumbest came with three minutes to go with a silly crosschecking call on Claude Giroux on Elias.
That forced the Flyers to pull the goalie to be at even strength with the skaters.
A dumb penalty and a costly one for Philadelphia....

Photo Credit-AP

Playoff Pigskin Pickin Machine

A quick look at today's games brings the pickin' machine to the final four of football....

The NFC game features division rival as the Packers visit the Bears for the first time with a title on the line.
Chicago has the home field,but I don't see a ton of advantages otherwise.
Green Bay is playing their best football of the season and they are getting mileage out of every player in the offense right now.
Chicago will have to get plenty of production from the running game to win this one and keep Jay Cutler from being in a position to have to bring the Bears back.
Cutler's history is that of making mistakes in bunch and that makes the difference in this one....

In the AFC,the Jets travel to Pittsburgh for the trip to the Super Bowl.
Both teams have great defenses and strong running games and I give the Jets the edge in shutting down the Pittsburgh receivers.
The two big edges in my opinion are at quarterback and coaching.
Pittsburgh has a huge edge with Ben Rothlisberger over the Jets Mark Sanchez,but the Steelers also have Mike Tomlin,who isn't exactly reliable in the clutch on the coaching end.
I will be rooting for the Jets,but Rothlisberger makes the difference.
Unless New York is able to put Mike Tomlin in a position to have to make big decisions in a close game,then I could see a Jets upset.
Going with head over heart in this one...

Our Picks
Packers 23-13
Steelers 20-14

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A sour night in Cleveland

As I mentioned in an earlier post,I spent last night taking advantage of the free NBA League Pass preview to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers attempt to break a 14 game losing streak.
By luck,it appeared that Cleveland was in a position to possibly do so as the Milwaukee Bucks were the opponent and the Bucks were the lowest scoring team in the league.
As an added bonus,the Bucks two top scorers were missing with John Salmons and Brandon Jennings out with injuries and considering the home court,this looked as promising as Cleveland will have for a while.
The Cavaliers also returned three players to the floor after having to play games with as little as eight men as Joey Graham,Christian Eyenga and Anthony Parker were able to play.
None of that mattered as the Cavaliers were whipped by the visiting Bucks 102-88
Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions each scored 22 points for Cleveland.
Want more Cavalier coverage?
Make those checks next fall payable to Shawn........

Swashbucklings

1) I know Cleveland is missing their best rebounding presence with Anderson Varejao and one of their two best scorers in Mo Williams,but neither of those guys remind me of all time greats and the fact that this team is so reliant on players of that caliber and be this bad shows you just how talented a motivated LeBron James was.

2) Ramon Sessions struggled from the floor (4 for 14),but I liked the way he finds his way to the line.
I dont think that Sessions is the type of guard that title contenders start,but he sure seems to be a energy off the bench type of player even on those teams.

3) J.J.Hickson may have loads of potential as a rebounder,but he is painfully overmatched at center.
Cleveland needs to somehow find a average center for next season in order move Hickson to his natural position at power forward.
Watching Hickson struggle to guard Andrew Bogut was pretty tough to watch...

4) I still like the hustle and effort by Daniel " Boobie" Gibson though.
Gibson is the only healthy link to the beginnings of the Cleveland contenders and he doesn't seem to have quit at all.Like Sessions,Gibson would be best as a role player on a good team,but on this one he needs to play a bigger role.

5) 2009 top pick Christian Eyenga has athletic ability,but it is clear that it is raw ability.
Back in the day,an Eyenga would have either came to the USA as a college player or fine tuned his game in the European leagues and came away with far more polish.
However,considering the Cleveland situation at this time and that the player is here,it would be best to give Eyenga as many minutes as possible....

6) I like Byron Scott as a coach and he sure got a raw deal in losing LeBron James after he was hired as the head man,but if he truly believes that this team isn't rebuilding,he is delusional.
Scott needs to showcase as many of these roleplayers such as Anthony Parker,Joey Graham etc and try to move them for anything that they can get in order to speed the process along..

7) I didn't see much that impressed me about either Manny Harris or Alonzo Gee.
Considering that the pair played a combined thirty-eight minutes,scored a whopping two points and BOTH are starters on this team shows just how far the team has fallen.

8) Fox Sports Ohio has the TV rights to the Cavaliers and feature two of my favorites from the past with Campy Russell on the pre and post game show and Austin Carr as the color analyst.
Nice to see guys sticking with the team and Carr raises some interesting points in his role,although he tends to speak quickly and it might take being a regular watcher to really understand what he is saying.

9) The Cavaliers wore what Fred McLeod say was "a one time only amalgam of Cavalier uniforms of the past".
Good,they were ugly.
I mean you wait thirty years for this franchise to finally wake up and use their true colors and they still wear crud like this???

10) Dan Gilbert "tweeted" this before the game- “You don’t panic when things get tough,” “You think. You examine. You calculate. THEN you strike. And we will strike.”
Not sure what that strike could be at this point to turn things around,but good luck to you.
A better strike would be take your lumps,move in the right direction and hope to rebound in a few years....


Photo Credit-Thomas Ondrey-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Keith Olbermann out at MSNBC

The morning post-work post was going to be filled with my thoughts on the Cleveland Cavaliers and their 15th loss in a row in a rare game that I was able to watch.
NBA League Pass is on a free preview week and with the Devils being off,this was as good as night as any to watch some hoops at work.

However,during Bill Maher's show,he made the announcement that Keith Olbermann has left MSNBC at the conclusion of last night's Countdown program.
Olbermann has been at odds with MSNBC management since he gave three private contributions to Democratic congressional candidates last fall.,but the release came as quite a surprise,considering Olbermann was only halfway through a four year contract.

Olbermann had been known to be difficult to work with at his various stops having what is known as a "Mercurial " personality,but until the November incident,those rumors had not been heard from MSNBC very often.
Keith Olbermann put MSNBC on the map really and despite his inability to challenge Fox's Bill O'Reilly in the ratings,he was strong enough to drop CNN to third place and pummel their ratings to bits.
Olbermann also had some pull at the network at one time as it was his push that enabled Countdown replacement host Rachel Maddow to have her own show following Olbermann's.

I usually watched Countdown at work on their replay,which on Fridays are never shown overnight due to the network's bizarre infatuation with jailhouse shows such as Lockdown,which I think makes them look less of a "news" network and more of a reality rip off channel.
As a result,I missed the announcement on the show,which was reported to come so quickly that promos for Countdown were being shown during the next two programs.



Keith Olbermann was to the left of my opinions,but I thoroughly enjoyed his show.
Olbermann was unafraid to pop the bubble of others and it was his show that gave left leaning people an alternative to the righthanders such as O'Reilly,Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck at Fox.
Countdown was the type of show that was thought provoking and entertaining,even when you didn't agree with what Olbermann was saying,which is more than I can say about most of the Fox opinion shows.

Keith Olbermann is a smart person and sometimes artists with talent come with a difficult temperament that can make them hard to deal with.
That comes with the territory of dealing with great talent,as can be often seen with artists in sports,music etc,but the bigger loss is to the viewing audience.
The one person that was eloquent and entertaining to the audience demographic that didn't lean to right is now off the airwaves and that is a bigger shot to the political TV junkie than anyone can say.
Olbermann was certainly opinionated and his show definitely slanted to his way of thinking,which brings to mind the one issue that I did have with Countdown was that the show never featured guests that disagreed with Olbermann,which in my opinion,cut down on the honest give and take of both sides that could have occurred on the show.
At the same time,Olbermann's opinions were well thought out and never pandered to the level of ridiculous crackpot thinking as that of Glenn Beck and that fact cannot be denied.
Sometimes passionate people can be regarded as angry and I am sure that some looked at Keith Olbermann as angry.
I never did,I looked at him as a talented,passionate man that filled a void that had been left vacant for years and gave the viewer information,opinion and entertainment-that is pretty damn good for a television show.

What's next for Olbermann?
I would think CNN would be interested in snapping him up as soon as a likely non-compete clause would expire.Lord knows Parker/Spitzer isn't cutting it,but CNN wants to stay away from ideological programming (and they wonder why they are in third place) and may not be interested.
Could there be a return to ESPN?
I doubt it,but never say never.
Most likely for now,there could be a radio show with pal Dan Patrick or perhaps a solo show on the radio.

What's next for MSNBC?
Lawrence O'Donnell's show "The Last Word" moves from 10PM to the Countdown slot and Ed Schultz takes "The Ed Show" from 6 PM to the 10 o'clock hour.
Neither show does much for me and I try to split my watching between all three news networks,so MSNBC takes a huge shot here.

Could the timing being a coincidence with the Comcast/NBC merger finally being approved the day before this move?
I doubt,Olbermann might have been more trouble than Comcast wanted to start their regime with and they decided to cut ties now rather than later.

In any event,a loss to intellectual television occurred last night and the results will be interesting to see.

Photo Credit-MSNBC

Cleaning out the Inbox

Cleaning the inbox of some buildup on a slower day.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a nice article on former Cavalier guard Bingo Smith as Bingo continues his recovery from a stroke in April 2009.
The long range shooting of Bingo was before his time as the three pointer came in existence in the NBA in his last year of pro basketball,which was spent with the then San Diego Clippers.

Looks like the Browns are closer to a defensive coordinator hire and looks like former Bears and Bills head man,Dick Jauron will be the choice.
Good selection by the Browns as an experienced defensive boss is a must considering the offensive background and limited experience of new head coach Pat Shurmur.
Dave Wannstedt was also in the running and would have been a good choice,but it looks like Wannstedt is headed to the Bills to work with the Buffalo defense.

Cleveland is having a tougher time hiring an offensive coordinator as most candidates are passing on the job as soon as they hear that Pat Shurmur will be calling the plays.
Going to be tough to add a top notch coach with those restrictions....

Ryan sends us note of the approval of the Comcast/NBC Universal merger.
This should bolster the Versus network (which needs it) and give NBC more ammo to go after other sports properties.
I was and still am against this as I feel that one of the largest cable providers in the country combined with so many networks in their ownership screams an eventual showdown with other television providers for the use of their channels.
Just take a look at last years Direct TV-Versus battle as round one.

NBC Universal isn't high on my list right now anyway after their firing of my favorite on camera meteorologist Nicole Mitchell.
I thought it was bad enough when the suits broke up the Paul Goodloe/Mitchell team for us night owls to begin with,but this is ridiculous.
Especially when you consider this person is still employed with a huge push.


ESPN and the University of Texas will be starting a 24/7 Longhorn network in September.
This seems a bit self-aggrandizing to me,but if Ohio State did the same thing,I'd watch.
This was likely the cost of Texas staying in the Big 12 as they would not have been allowed to do this in any other major conference....

TCU is upset that their only Mountain West game against Boise State looks to be moved to Boise from Fort Worth.
Boise State is replacing Utah on the MWC schedule and Utah was scheduled to play at TCU.
However,the Mountain West is still in the BCS evaluation bubble and Boise State will count,while TCU will not since they are leaving to join the Big East.
It is in the MWC's best interests to help Boise State and since TCU is a non-voting member for the 2010 season and since TCU can't/won't play Boise in the 2012 season,the MWC has a perfect right to do this.
Part of selling your soul to the BCS conference devils,Horned Frogs....

We wrap up with a link to the struggles of Borders Books to stay afloat.
Borders has been mentioned in various articles as being a serious candidate for bankruptcy and possible closure.
I hope that doesn't happen as it is the only "real" book store in the Hagerstown area with Barnes and Noble not having a presence in this zone.
If it has to happen,I would like to see B and N swoop in and take over the same spot and give this town one option for those of us that like to read and need to buy something swiftly....

I hope to be back later today with a rare look at the Cleveland Cavaliers and some thoughts on the loss of Keith Olbermann to MSNBC...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dont be late!

If you missed the first ten minutes of this one,you missed what you needed to see as the New Jersey Devils scored two goals in the first ten minutes and squashed the Pittsburgh Penguins thereafter in a 2-0 win.
Devils goals to Brian Rolston (4) and Nick Palmieri (3).
The Devils play on both weekend dates with a Saturday afternoon visit to Philly and a Sunday home game against Florida...

Hell Raisers

1) Nick Palmieri has scored all three of his goals in the five games since his recall from Albany.
Palmieri has been plugged in on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac and I was surprised and figured it was an ill fit at the time.
Thus far,it is working out....

2) 23 saves for Martin Brodeur in the shutout and no matter where the Devils finish,if Brodeur can keep this level of play,the team will be improved in the second half.
Over the last period of games,Brodeur seems to be seeing the puck better and making saves that were goals earlier in the season.

3) Brian Rolston's goal was his second lately and should Rolston keep this up,it is possible that some team might take a chance on him despite his large salary for next season.
Clearing waivers twice might have woken the veteran up a bit and the better he plays,the more market value he has....

4) Pittsburgh didn't have Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin,although if you play that game,the Devils dont have Zach Parise.
No excuses on this one for Pittsburgh.

5) The Penguins did try to rough the Devils up a bit as Pittsburgh was called for goalie interference twice and ironically the worst infraction drew no call.When your top players are out,teams need to be chippier in their play to win and I had few problems with the play....

6) Credit to the much maligned Devils defense for locking down with the lead and holding it for just about the entire game.
Special note to Andy Greene,who has stepped his game up as of late....

Might be back later with a post and stay tuned next week as we have an interview in with someone new that we haven't interviewed before and just needs to be transcribed...


Photo Credits: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The best team that you never saw....

Is it possible to love a team that you NEVER saw play?
Really,not once.

Not the occasional once a year or two national game appearance or only when they played a game against your local team-NEVER.

Well,I am here to tell you that it is possible as I did and believe it or not at the ages of seven and eight.
I was a junkie from day one and my dad started and fed my addiction through the weekend games,to live games when we lived in Ohio,to the constant stream of magazines in the era before ESPN and sports radio and most important of all-trading cards.
I bought them all baseball,football,hockey and maybe best of all at that time-basketball.

The rural store in our area sold just about all of them and I vividly recall even before school age turning down Popsicles and other treats for walking to the store with either my mother or grandmother in favor of the latest pack of cards from whatever sport was available at that time from Topps as no other company could make cards.
Fleer made these game action NFL cards with team logo stickers,but they didn't have the NFLPA's approval to use names,so they were generally cool looking cards that lacked the trading ability of the Topps cards.

As much as I loved baseball and football at that age,I think I loved basketball the most.
In 1975,I hadn't truly discovered the Cavaliers yet and watched the NBA as a Kareem fan more than anything.
The NBA had a CBS TV contract (with that neat opening that I post here from YouTube occasionally and Brent Musberger screaming his lungs out),but the ABA had no contract at all.
However,I had a small radio that picked up pretty long distances for such a small radio.
I suppose at the time with less stations there were less interference and signals (especially AM ones) could travel a long way.
And one of the best signals to my room at that time (we would move across the street in 1978,literally and the signals that my new room grabbed were different than my old one) was 840 WHAS AM out of Louisville Kentucky and a gentleman named Van Vance and the Kentucky Colonels.
Vance was the "voice of the Colonels" and to me,Vance ranks right there behind Joe Tait as the elite of pro basketball radio announcers for the ability to create that "spoken word picture" of the game in the listeners eye.

As I have written before about other things as a child in a rural community (although size-wise calling it a community is a stretch),I always got a huge kick about feeling like I knew about this secret that few other knew about and the Colonels were one of those for those two years.
The only thing that I had to connect me to those teams were the basketball cards.
No ABA shirts,hats,etc nothing but those cards and the voice of Van Vance,first next to my bed and then under my pillow after the first radio broke.
Sidenote-the second radio I obtained by selling the most "booster tickets" for my little league team and a few years back,I was going through an Ohio flea marker and found the exact "Spirit of 76" radio in its box with original instructions.I bought and have it here,but haven't had the heart to fire her up...
I would use her for the next few years until my brother and I's first good stereo for better reception.

There was just one other child in the neighborhood that collected basketball cards and for the two years that I was a Colonels fan,I would bet that I completed a Colonels team set for both seasons through packs and trades.
The best part was after the ABA/NBA Merger when he decided that he didn't want his basketball cards anymore and I traded for all his cards for doubles of baseball cards.
I also remember quite a few one on one games on his backyard hoop between the Colonels and the Capital/Washington Bullets where Dan Issel took on Elvin Hayes!
Another Colonels/Cavaliers memory for me was the old game BAS-KET which used levers to flip a ball through the net.
Amazingly this simple game is still available!
I cannot remember how many hours Shane and I spent with basketball cards sprawled out around this game playing it.

The Colonels also had one other thing in their favor for those two seasons-Dan Issel.
Issel (His forgotten superstars post can be found here) was my favorite Colonel and one day I wrote his name on a bookcover or something and my gym teacher Brad Keller (what a great guy and influence on me as a child)  saw it and told me about seeing Issel play when he was at Kentucky.
Mr.Keller was cemented in my mind as a great guy then,I mean my gym teacher SAW Dan Issel play!!
Issel could score with the best of them as he showed after the merger with Denver.
Artis Gilmore was the dominant ABA post player of the leagues existence and few could shoot with Louie Dampier,who spent the entire nine years of the league with the Colonels.
Hubie Brown,the noted NBA analyst,was the coach of the 74-75 Colonels and he insists that the title winners were the best team that he ever coached and that includes some pretty decent NBA clubs.


The Colonels were good in the 1975-76 season,but things weren't the same after John Y.Brown (yes,the KFC guy) sold Dan Issel to Baltimore and after the Claws went under to Denver.
John Y. somehow managed to parlay selling the Colonels (and the Colonel) into quite a career that saw him buy the Celtics after selling off the Colonels,Become governor of Kentucky and marry Phyllis George.
The Colonels lacked the second scorer that the team truly needed to keep teams from sagging in on Gilmore and to keep bigger guards from swarming the smaller Dampier on the outside without Issel and after a seven game semi-final series loss to ironically Issel and the Nuggets,the Colonels were history.
To this day,I have seen two Colonels games on NBA TV and they were quite a treat for this aging fan.

I realize this was more about my memories about the Colonels than the Colonels themselves at times and maybe down the road,we can write more about the team of my initial youth than about my memories.
They still are the best team that I never saw...

Photo Credits

Colonels logo-Sportslogos.net
Others-Unknown

Still Here

Just a quick note to say I am still here,just busy doing prep work for three interviews that will be coming up over the off season.
Hope you'll enjoy them as much as I have doing them.
If all goes well,a possible post later tonight.
Devils-Penguins coverage tomorrow night....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Devils sink Islanders 5-2

Five different Devils lit the lamp on Long Island and led the New Jersey Devils a 5-2 win over the Islanders.
After the Devils overtime loss to the Panthers (not covered due to work),the Devils have earned seven of a possible eight points over their last four games.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (13 power play),Dainius Zubrus (7),Mattias Tedenby (5),Rod Pelley (3) and Vladimir Zharkov (1).
The Devils host Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Hell Raisers

1) Despite the Devils latest hot streak,the Devils are still six points behind the Islanders and currently are the worst team in hockey.
I am not sure how I feel about a late season run.
One way to look at things is that winning is always fun and beats watching the mess of a losing club.
On the other hand,I would hate to see a bunch of what turns out to be meaningless wins be the difference in a top three pick and a top ten pick....

2) Interesting game for Mark Fraser,who had his first ever multi-point game with two assists,fought Zenon Konopka and was beaten on both of the Islander scores.
Plenty of camera time for Fraser...

3) Finally,the first career goal for Vladimir Zharkov!
Zharkov had missed so many chances and luck came into play on a few of them,but sometimes in similar situations the players waits so long to come through that when it happens-a flood of good things happen.

4) Mattias Tedenby finally returned after a parade of scratches and scored a goal with an assist added as well.
Tedenby seemed to have the right attitude after the game as the first thing that he referred to was working more on the defensive end.
When a young player that is a noted scorer realizes what he needs to work on,a good career can be expected...

5) And glad to see former Buckeye Rod Pelley get a two point game as well.
If Pelley could ever get to the 12-15 goal mark in a season,he could eventually be a Selke award contender down the road.....

6) Matt Corrente will miss two to four weeks with a shoulder ailment suffered against Tampa on Friday.
No word on a replacement for the defenseman from Albany...

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ryan Van Bibber Interview

I had the chance to ask some questions of Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times,which is the top blog on the St.Louis Rams about his thoughts on Pat Shurmur's stint as the Rams offensive coordinator and to try to get some ideas on what Shurmur will be bringing to Cleveland.
Thanks to Ryan for his time in getting back to me and check out his site for any other Rams information that may interest you...

TRS: I know Pat Shurmur is a West Coast offense coach,but with the Rams did they run the true WCO or more of a mixture due to Steve Spagnuolo's preferences?

RVB: They did run a scaled back version of the WCO under Shurmur in St. Louis for a couple of reasons. First, they lacked talent at WR, and once Mark Clayton was lost for the season, they had no way of stretching the field with any consistency. Second, Shurmur kept the short passing game to help Sam Bradford's transition to the NFL. Another factor was a relatively young offensive line featuring a rookie LT and a second year RT, who didn't play much in his rookie season

TRS: Shurmur's offenses ranked near the bottom of the league in both of his seasons in St.Louis,was this lack of personnel,a lack of creativity in play calling or both?

RVB: Like I said above, the Rams low scoring offense was mostly a product of missing playmakers at WR and TE and inexperience at other key positions. They did improve their scoring by slightly more than a TD per game, but that was coming off a 2009 campaign in which they averaged less than 11 PPG. Spagnuolo kept it pretty conservative too, putting more of the onus for holding leads on the defense, a unit with more talent and experience. The question we all had was whether or not Shurmur and Spags would open it up in 2011 with more talent and another year in the system.

TRS: How popular was Shurmur with close followers of the Rams?
Were Rams fans pleased with his work or frustrated?

RVB:  Fans got frustrated with Shurmur, mostly as a straw man for the offense's inability to score points, the reasons for which are mentioned above. I think once the season ended and fans realized just how far the Rams had come, and how much they still needed, there was much greater understanding and tolerance for what they did on the field this year. However, another season of too conservative play would not have been tolerated.

TRS: Do Rams fans feel like their offense took a hit with the loss of Shurmur,a bump up with his replacement or generally blase'?

RVB: The biggest concern is the impact on Sam Bradford. As you know, Shurmur played a big role in his development, guiding him to one of the most successful rookie seasons in history. Bradford's smart though, and nobody is going to confuse him with Alex Smith. He should be able to handle a change in offense should the Rams go that way with their new OC.

TRS: I saw only two Rams games this season,but did see the final "play in" game vs Seattle.
Shurmur's play calling seemed pretty mundane and the lack of running the football with Steven Jackson against a less than strong defense raised some red flags for me.
Is that reasonably accurate?

RVB: Yes. Nobody can explain that game. In the days after, though, Spagnuolo took the blame for the way the team approached it. If the Rams don't improve next year, fans will not forget that game.

TRS:  Sam Bradford seems to be a big fan of Shurmur and the hope is that Colt McCoy will feel the same way about the tutelage.
Shurmur's reputation is of a QB guru with Donovan McNab in Philly and Bradford.
Should Browns fans expect McCoy to show improvement right away from working with Shurmur?


RVB: I would hope so. It's kind of funny to see Shurmur going from Bradford to McCoy, given the Red River Rivalry those two had in their college careers. McCoy seems well-suited to run that type of offense. Shurmur's great skill with QBs is to play to their strengths and set them up to be successful before asking them to press the limits.

TRS: What should Cleveland fans expect from a Pat Shurmur offense other than the WCO?
Any variations that he will mix in a bit?

RVB:  That's a good question that I'm not sure I have the answer for. Fans in St. Louis were waiting to see what the offense would really look like with some playmakers around Bradford. Losing Donnie Avery and his replacement, Mark Clayton, really took something away from what the Rams could do. I suspect he'll take it slow since McCoy hasn't had a full season of NFL experience and since the Browns will also be looking to bring in some receivers around him.

TRS:  Finally,After seeing Shurmur for two seasons,do you think the Browns made a good or bad hire and why?

RVB:  I think it is a smart move, from this point in time anyway. It seems like Mike Holmgren is going to be something of a de facto head coach, bringing along Shurmur the way Shurmur brings along young QBs

Thanks again to Ryan for taking the time to talk with us.
I will be back later tonight with a look at the Devils afternoon game against the Islanders....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Striking Down the Lightning!

The Tampa Bay Lightning struck first,but they didn't strike best as the New Jersey Devils gunned in the next four goals in the first period and cruised to a 5-2 win over the Lightning.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (11 and 12),Patrik Elias (10),Travis Zajac (7 shorthanded) and Brian Rolston (3).
Devils are in Miami tonight against the Panthers,but just basic coverage as I must go into work early and therefore miss the game....

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur was tremendous in net with save after spectacular save including one on Ryan Malone that he stopped inches before the entire puck crossed the goal line.
Brodeur has posted back to back solid games,could his rest signal a return to form?

2) The win snapped an 11 game road losing streak that dates back to their win in Chicago on November 3rd and was just the second time all season that the team has won back to back games.
A win against Florida tonight would be the first three winning streak of the season...

3) Loved the fact that Ilya Kovalchuk is firing the puck off the wing and taking advantage of his strength-his shot.
Even if Kovalchuk hadn't scored two goals in this one,his change of style bodes well for him and the team-IF he keeps it up.

4) Travis Zajac's shorthanded goal brought a long team drought to an end in that stat as well.
Zajac sent Dwayne Roloson to the showers early,but Tampa's defense was little help to the veteran goalie...

5) Patrik Elias found the open net on a rebound,which is something the team has struggled with.
Could the reported long practices be evening the breaks out a bit?
If that is the case then the team should have a huge second half.

6) Mattias Tedenby a healthy scratch again as Jacques Lemaire isn't happy with the rookie's defensive play.
I would rather Tedenby play at Albany than sit with the Devils...

7) Anssi Salmela was placed on and cleared waivers.
Salmela is still with the team for now...

Photo Credit-AP

Playoff Pigskin Pickin Machine

The machine returns with a more detailed look than last weeks quickie version.

First we start with the AFC game on Saturday.
Baltimore vs Pittsburgh.
I have been told that the painfulness (not a real word) that this battle of the thugs causes me should enable me to ignore this battle of felons,so I'll do just that.
Moving on.

The Jets travel to Massachusetts against the sizzlin hot Patriots.
The Jets are going to need a huge game from either the ground game or Mark Sanchez to win this one.
Considering the way New England is playing,that will be a tough sell.
In other words,Bill Belichick with a week to prepare against Mark Sanchez looks pretty clear to me.

The NFC has the most underrated matchup with the Packers in Atlanta against the Falcons.
Two keys in this one.
The first is this-Can Green Bay run the ball with their unheralded backs against Atlanta in a manner similar to the way they did against the Eagles?
The other features the Packer pass rush against Matt Ryan.
If the Pack can rush Ryan consistently,they likely win this game....

Seattle tries to run the miracle train one more week in Chicago after a stunning win over the Saints last week.
Seattle did beat the Bears in Chicago earlier in the season and Jay Cutler certainly is capable of putting up the 3 and 4 interception game that Seattle would need to win,but the Seahawks seem overmatched with their offense and will need quite a few breaks in this one.
However,the upset is possible....

Our Picks
Ignored (Just kidding) Steelers 16-13
Patriots 31-21
Packers 24-20
Bears 24-13

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pat Shurmur hired as Browns head coach

The selection is a less than sexy one and every time that I think of this,I keep seeing the androgynous Saturday Night Live character "Pat" in my vision,but the Cleveland Browns hired the offensive coordinator of the St.Louis Rams,Pat Shurmur as the latest head coach in what seems to be a parade of thousands.

Shurmur is a less than inspiring pick to me,but at least he isn't Marty Mornhinweg and that is something in his favor.
It appears that Shurmur's main attraction to the Browns was his background in Mike Holmgren's beloved West Coast offense having been trained by Holmgren's top protege' Andy Reid and since Shurmur came up through the Eagles organization,GM Tom Heckert has plenty of familiarity with Shurmur as well.

My main issue with the hire was the overly conservative offense that Shurmur ran with the Rams.
I watched both Rams games against Seattle and wasn't overwhelmed with his play calling in either contest.
In the final game of the season against Seattle,a game that truly was the playoff opener,Shurmur ran Steven Jackson just eleven times in a 16-6 Rams loss and seemed reluctant to let Sam Bradford go down the field very often.
Does any of this sound familiar to you,Browns fans?
Some of this sounds very similar to the Brian Daboll disaster,doesn't it?

Shurmur does seem to have set a strong foundation for success with Sam Bradford and looks to be an excellent choice to be the coach tutoring Colt McCoy,which is a key to the success of the team for both next season and beyond,but I have questions mainly due to his lack of experience.
Experience is not always a end game for a good/bad coach,but I am saying that Cleveland is once again in the position of being the entry level position for head coaches.
First time head coaches are such pot luck and with the West Coast guys,the pot luck has been even more so as they have ranged from successes from Andy Reid and Jon Gruden to middle of the roaders such as Steve Mariucci and failures such as Marty Morninweg.
My main complaint on the WCO coaches are that they have one consistent thread through them all-all of them think they can turn crappy QB's into great ones just by inserting them into their scheme,but as long as McCoy gets to play the full season,I can live with whatever backup is brought in.

All in all,I am pretty non-plussed with the hiring.
However,I trust Mike Holmgren's judgement for the most part and I am willing to give his choice the benefit of the doubt.
Holmgren needs to be right on this one as considering the limb he crawled upon for the selection of Shurmur is a short one.
Browns fans are open minded enough to give Pat Shurmur a chances based on the credibility of Mike Holmgren,a failed Shurmur tenure would take much of that away from this front office...

Photo Credit-Chuck Crow-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the signing front

We finally finish 2010 with a whole bunch of thanks!

If I credited the wrong person with help,please accept my apologies as I should have noted them and not gone on total memory.

In no order at all other than how they are coming off the pile,Thanks to-

Jason Christensen,who sent me an Auburn Doubledays set signed!
Jason also helped me with a New Britain set and gave me others that were too numerous to mention,along with his huge help with the Altoona Curve,which featured Andrew Lambo,who had been just obtained from the Dodgers and was a huge pickup.
Notable players were Ben Revere and Bill Bullock (New Britain) and Rudy Owens,Bryan Morris and Chase D'Arnaud (Altoona).

Big Don helped me with some Altoona players as well with D'Arnaud,Owens,Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison as the standouts.

The always reliable Bill Cover helps me out throughout the year and in this batch,Bill helped me with with Harrisburg players Steve Lombardozzi (I can still hear Karl Micka-Foos screaming that name!),Michael Burgess and one of my all time favorite Suns in Marvin Lowrance.

Tom O'Brien always comes up big for me and his stuff in this batch was great!
Bowie Baysox,Akron Aeros,a few late season callups from Altoona and Portland and great stuff from Indy ball as well.
Notables include Xavier Avery,Brandon Waring and Caleb Joseph (Bowie),Bryan Morris (Altoona),Alex White,Nick Hagadone,Kelvin De La Cruz and the elusive Lonnie Chisenhall (Akron),Anthony Rizzo (Portland),Andy Etchebarren,Danny Cox and Willie Upshaw (Indy Ball).

Chris Rodgers helped me with a few players from the Charlotte Knights with the best pickup being manager and former Indian Chris Chambliss.
Chambliss was special to me as his signature was the player on the glove that I used all through youth baseball.
Jordan Danks also signed his CL prospect card among others.

The "Superfan" David Sloan swapped me a Kurt Angle signature and the daughter of the late Kerry Von Erich,Lacey in a small trade.

Jeff Heimberger had Jimmy "The Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant sign three cards for me at my brother's local Indy wrestling show.

I had a few come in through the mail with former Cardinal pitcher John Stuper and former Browns tackle Doug Dieken signing.

Ebay even added one as I grabbed a certified Spencer Haywood for cheap.
Haywood was a star in both the ABA and NBA.

But the biggest one of all goes to Travis Aldous.
Travis traded me one of my "Mt.Rushmore" wants in Jack Nicklaus for a signed team set of Lakewood.
This one was the biggest this season and thanks to Travis for the help!

The previous "Rushmore" was Nicklaus,Sandy Koufax,Jim Brown and Bobby Orr.

Who will replace Nicklaus?
The huge score would be the late Pete Maravich,but if we keep it to the living,it looks to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or maybe Phil Mickelson.

Thanks again to each and every one of you for all the help from 2010!

Time to clean up

Finally have some time to write after a few days of a mixed bag of time killers.
I plan on trying to get a few things up and in the air today.

The Devils split their last two games since my last writings with a 6-3 win over Tampa (That's right-SIX) and a close 2-1 loss in Philadelphia to the Flyers.
Not a ton of other news from the Devils and since time has gone by,I'll skip on Hell Raisers for those games and maybe add a note or two to the next game review.
The Devils hit the Florida show on Friday and Saturday against the Lightning and Panthers.

The Pirates added reliever Jorge Julio to the system to a minor league deal.
Julio was at one time a closer,but now appears to be playing out the string....

Sorry to hear of the passing of Cookie Gilchrist at the age of 75.
Gilchrist was the best power back of the Buffalo Bills in the infancy of the AFL and also spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL as well.
Gilchrist played linebacker in the CFL as he was a stalwart on both sides of the ball there.
Gilchrist was the first AFL rusher to rush for over 1000 yards in a season and his 243 yard game against the Jets in 1963 was the league standard for yards in one game.

Ryan sends me an interesting link on how to kill the BCS and doing it with the remote.
Simply put-Don't watch.
I suppose I am a middle of the roader with that as I watched Ohio State in the Sugar and Wisconsin in the Rose with Ryan.
I passed on the Orange and Fiesta as I knew they would be mismatches and only watched the end of the BCS title game at work.
This plan is an extreme long shot,but could be somewhat effective....

Big Don sends me a link to how the city of Kinston plans on dealing with the final season of baseball at Grainger Stadium this season.
This was a huge blow to Kinston and I was struck by one line in the article by David Hall of the local Kinston newspaper-"It came completely out of the blue ... but everyone I've talked to in baseball says the only way a deal like this happens is if nobody knows about it. The best way to kill a deal is to make it public."
Interesting stuff and something I will keep in mind.....

ESPN.com looks at the sad state of the Cleveland Indians here.
In many ways,the Indians are a sadder case than the Pirates to have fallen so quickly and being so dull to watch to boot.
The Tribe is a cautionary tale that as much as people like me want to send stars for prospects to rebuild,it doesnt always work.
Look at the Sabathia deal with Milwaukee,Matt LaPorta was supposed to be a cant miss and yet thus far he has.
Michael Brantley doesn't seem to be much different at the plate than he was when I saw him with the West Virginia Power and those were the main chips in the deal.

So far,all the SAL and Carolina league coaching staffs that will play in Hagerstown or Frederick have been announced (to my knowledge anyway) except for three.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers and Delmarva Shorebirds from the SAL and the Frederick Keys from the CL have not released staffs as of now.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Playoff Pigskin Pickin Machine

The Machine has been in the shop for a while,but here are 4 quick picks for the playoffs and BCS title game!

Oregon over Auburn 42-39
Saints over Seahawks 32-10
Jets over Colts 17-14
Ravens over Chiefs 24-13
Packers over Eagles 20-17

Friday, January 7, 2011

Langenbrunner to Dallas,Devils lose again

In a game filled with bad breaks and some fortunate plays for both sides,the New Jersey Devils lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 at the Rock.
Devils goals to David Clarkson (5) and Dainius Zubrus (5).
The same two teams face off tomorrow in Philly at one o'clock....

Earlier today,the Devils shipped their captain and (in my opinion) one of their biggest malcontents on a team seemingly filled with them in Jamie Langenbrunner back where he began to the Dallas Stars.
The Devils are receiving what is reported to be a conditional third round pick.
That doesn't sound great until you hear the conditions,which have the pick becoming a second rounder if Dallas wins a first round playoff series or if Langenbrunner re-signs with Dallas after the season.
Pretty reachable conditions and the pick would put the Devils back into the second round after trading their 2 to Nashville for Jason Arnott.

Hell Raisers

1) We start with a thought on Jamie Langenbrunner,who certainly had his share of up times with the Devils,although his listless play over the last two seasons tarnished his reputation a bit among Devils fans.
At his peak,Langenbrunner was a hard working grinder,good for 15-20 goals and the type of third line winger that successful teams need to have.
Langenbrunner's attitude soured over the last two seasons and his play followed suit.
I cannot say that I will be missing him very much,even in a season such as this.
Now,I am a Dallas Stars fan in round one of the Western playoffs!

2) Two goofy plays last night in the loss,one resulting goal for each team.
The Devils got a break when David Clarkson rang one up and around Brian Boucher that the refs called no goal.
By the time play continued,about 90 seconds had come off the clock before a review was possible.The replay showed the goal and the time was put back on the clock from the point of the goal.

3) The Flyers got a goal on yet another crazy bounce off the boards.
Johan Hedberg left the net to play the puck,the puck went off the boards straight to the front of the net to Scott Hartnell,who slammed the puck into the unprotected net.
Pretty similar to the goal Hedberg allowed against Minnesota.

4) Johan Hedberg had a tremendous game up to that point having stopped numerous Flyer chances caused by Devils mistakes and bad defense.
After that goal,Hedberg's play slipped a bit.
No word on the starter for tomorrow's game.

5) Colin White basically allowed the game clincher as Daniel Briere's shot deflected off the skate of White and in the net.This things happen,but White didn't exactly look aggressive on the play.

6) Mattias Tedenby a healthy scratch again.
No reason given,but if he isn't going to play,ship him back to Albany.
Tedenby is a key part of the future and he needs ice time-no matter the location.


Photo Credit-AP

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cleaning out the Inbox

Sweeping the inbox starts off with a Devils alert as they start the first of back to back meetings with Philadelphia tonight.
I missed the 2-1 loss to the Wild that was due to an unlucky bounce of the puck by Johan Hedberg,who was about the only player that played well according to ILWT.

One note from the baseball world as the Pirates sent pitcher Joe Martinez to the Indians for a player to be named or cash.
One possible return could be for the Indians to allow Josh Rodriguez to be sent to the minors in the event that would be needed....

I suppose dealing Martinez and the lack of a shot that John Bowker would be appear to getting when you look at the Pirates roster makes the Javier Lopez trade of little return.
I really liked the deal with the Giants when they made it,but if the return players aren't going to receive a chance to play then the return will always be lacking....

Sorry to hear of the passing of perhaps the best middleweight never to have won the world title as  "Bad" Bennie Briscoe passed on at the age of 67.
Briscoe fell short in three tries at the world title,back when the world title had just one or two claimants instead of the 512 that we have today.
Briscoe fought just about every middleweight you could list from the 1970's including all time greats Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler and won most of those bouts.
Had there been the plethora of belts then that there are today,Briscoe would have certainly been a world champ and had Briscoe been born later,there could have been quite a series for the world belts between Briscoe and fellow Philly warrior Bernard Hopkins.
Much of life is timing and luck and in the boxing game,Bad Bennie had little of that.



The Cleveland Cavaliers finally have a Cavalier for a mascot instead of a dog,which I could never figure out as they have added Sir CC to the fold.
Never fear though,as Moondog is still around though,although I don't know why a team needs two especially when one isn't really part of the teams nickname.
I remember going to Washington Bullets games as a kid and wondering why the team mascot was a live dachshund named Tiny that ran all over the floor (Literally at times,I'd bet).
I know a Bullet would be a awkward looking mascot,but a dog?

By the way,now that Ted Leonsis owns the "Wizards" as well as the Bullets,how about a return to the Bullets name and red,white and blue unis?
Ryan tells me that both are rumored.
Besides I would like my game used Jimmy Black Bullets jersey to be in style again!!!!

Finally,I was all ready to skip Tiger Woods 2012 for the PS3 in order to save some bucks,but EA Sports did the one thing that made me want to buy-finally adding Augusta National so you can play the Masters.
The course has never been offered before and I cannot wait!
EA has even added the voice of the Masters in Jim Nantz to the game for the first time and paid for the rights to the music that is used during the tournament.
EA is even moving the games release up from its usual June to the end of March so you can play the virtual Masters before the real tournament.

Say whatever you want,but EA Sports puts the money up to do things right.
Now just add the ability to use Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson to the game and it will be just perfect.
This link discusses the amount of work that EA put into adding Augusta National to the game from the video gamer side.

Photo Credit-David Kyle-Getty Images