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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Indians are all in,Pirates just a small wager

The Cleveland Indians shoved all their chips into the table in an attempt to win now,the Pittsburgh Pirates made a one dollar spin on the slot machine to take a chance as both teams made trades on the day before the deadline.
First,a look at the Pirates,who dropped another game to the Phillies last night 7-4.
Pittsburgh attempts to avoid the sweep today at 1:35.

Neal Huntington attempts to replace the worst hitting first baseman in baseball in Lyle Overbay with the seemingly near the end of the road Derrek Lee.
Lee was obtained yesterday from the Orioles for Bradenton first baseman Aaron Baker,who was assigned to the Frederick Keys.
Lee's numbers are not anything to get too excited about-.246 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs,but he has hit well over the last three weeks and with some luck,might be getting hot at the right time.
Lee has to be an upgrade over Overbay,but should not be looked at as the answer to the offensive woes.
Baker was leapfrogged by Matt Curry as the top first baseman in the Pittsburgh farm system and does not seem to a loss that I'll worry about for now.
Baker is most noted for being 2010's target by the Hagerstown Heckler,that shows up occasionally and acts like an ass for an evening.
Baker shut the guy down with a long homer on this night.

The Indians made two moves,one major and one lesser.
The major deal was obtaining Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez in exchange for the two top pitching prospects in the Cleveland system in 2009 top pick Alex White and 2010 first rounder Drew Pomerantz,along with AA starter Joe Gardner and utility player Matt McBride.
Jimenez struggled early this season,but has been strong since April despite a reported dip in velocity.
Well,considering he was a 97-98 MPH guy,I can live with a drop to 95.
It's the 90-92 pitcher falling to 88 that concerns me more than Jimenez's fall.
Give the Indians credit,they went out and got a top of the rotation starter after losing their past ones.
I hate losing Drew Pomerantz,who looks to be the best of the four.Pomerantz has elite stuff and could have been in the 2012 Indian rotation.
Power armed lefties are not easily available and Pomerantz is the type that the team could have controlled for six seasons.
Alex White is another loss,but between his finger issues and something I just cannot put my finger on (No pun intended),I do not feel as bad about.
Joe Gardner was a super guy,when I met him last season,but his numbers at Akron are pedestrian and his reliance on the sinker makes me think that he is a 5th starter at best.
Matt McBride has always been a favorite of mine,but has always struggled in his AAA attempts and might not hit enough for a corner outfielder or first baseman and is unlikely to ever catch again.
Whether you like this deal or not and I am in the middle,one has to give the Indians credit to getting the major leaguers in a big deal instead of prospects.
As much I love prospects and minors-none of them can be sure things and Jimenez is an established player signed at a reasonable rate for multiple seasons.
I think the Tribe will miss Pomerantz,but I applaud the gamble.

Cleveland also traded Orlando Cabrera to the Giants for AAA outfielder Thomas Neal.
Cabrera had been playing second base for the Tribe,but was going to have his time reduced with the recent callup of Jason Kipnis.
Cabrera will be starting at short in San Francisco with Miguel Tejada currently on the DL.
Neal was hitting above .290 in Fresno,but has seen a dip in power since he played for AA Richmond last season after hitting 22 homers in the hitter friendly California League in 2009.
I am not sure on Neal's future,but whatever the return was for Cabrera,who was leaving at the end of the season was worth the effort...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Browns trade for Broderick Bunkley



The Cleveland Browns traded their fifth round pick in the 2012 draft to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley.
Bunkley was the Eagles first round selection in 2006 and despite missing some time with an arm injury last season,is a solid and durable run stopper.
The former Florida State Seminole is added to the defensive tackle rotation with Ahytba Rubin and first round pick Phil Taylor in a rotation that looks to me to be a very solid group against the run.
Bunkley is not known as a pass rusher with just six sacks over his career,but should prove to be an excellent addition.

I generally am not a huge proponent of moving draft picks,but since the Browns have two fourth rounders in the 2012 draft,adding a physical run stuffer like Bunkley to the rotation not only gives the team depth at defensive tackle,but keeps two quality players in the lineup at the same time at all times.
It is refreshing to see that someone with the Browns has finally realized that after years of ignoring the fact that you play in a northern and run oriented division that you need to have a physical defense that stops the run-like say the successful teams in the division in Baltimore and Pittsburgh!?
This is the type of deal that does not improve you overnight,but helps to change the culture by saying to other teams-you are not going to run over us anymore.

Good move by the Browns in addressing a need,the next stop has to be a corner.
I would love Nate Clements,but someone has to be brought in to be the third corner at worst and preferably the second and move Sheldon Brown to the third spot..
The Eagles had to move someone after their free agent moves of yesterday and kudos to the Browns for taking advantage of the Eagles issues to add a nice player at a more than reasonable price.

Pirates bombed,Seahawks add building blocks

Charlie Morton was ripped for eight runs in the first two innings and the Phillies cruised to a 10-3 win that frankly,I quit paying much attention to after the third inning.
Morton dropped to 8-6 with the loss and other than Chris LeRoux being placed on the disabled list and Pedro Ciraco returning from Indianapolis,I do not have much else on this one.
I have to go into work early,so it is unlikely that I will have coverage on tonight's game in Philly....

The Seattle Seahawks said goodbye to the long time face of the franchise,but signed a passer to compete to replace him,added a top notch receiver and the best run blocker that Seattle has had since the loss of Steve Hutchinson a few years ago.

Matt Hasselbeck was supposedly the top priority for the Seahawks at quarterback,but something either went awry or the efforts were not all that strong as Hasselbeck signed a three year deal to start in Tennessee.
As much as I respect the years of service,Hasselbeck is past his prime and Seattle needs to see if Charlie Whitehurst is worth the cost of dropping down in the second round and adding a third to bring Whitehurst from San Diego,only to sit behind Hasselbeck last season.
Whitehurst will be challenged by former Viking Tavaris Jackson,who was signed to a deal.
Jackson does not do much for me and even though I am not a Whitehurst believer,I lean more towards giving him the shot first.
Neither are the long term answer in my opinion,although either would make fine backups..

The other two signings are excellent ones with Robert Gallery added from the Raiders to start at guard and Sidney Rice signed from the Vikings to add the deep threat that the team lacked at wide receiver.
Gallery is stronger as a run blocker than a pass protector,but with Gallery and Russel Okung on the left side,Seattle is stronger on the line than they have been since the Super Bowl season.
Gallery also will be key in helping the O-line adjust to the new line coach-Tom Cable of the Raiders.
Sidney Rice is young (24),somewhat proven and has the type of ability that makes average quarterbacks good.Size and speed make Rice the type of addition that is different than past Seattle receivers signed through free agency like Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmanzedeh.
Seattle lost linebacker Will Herring to the Saints and replaced him with former starter Leroy Hill,who re-signed with the team.
Herring is a small loss,but nothing to lose sleep over...

I like the Seahawks moves,especially adding Robert Gallery as the team has to be committing to the run more with the questions under center.
Look for more Seahawk coverage this season with my work schedule changing to open up Sundays....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Browns dip into the free agency pool

The Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks chose two different ways to get into the water that is the free agency pool.
The Browns slowly tested the waters and made some lower name signings,while the Seahawks leaped in with a splash.
We will look at the early moves by the Seahawks either today or tomorrow.

Cleveland signed just two players early and re-signed another that should be a starter.
The Browns traded for Minnesota defensive end Jayme Mitchell last season and never dressed him for a game.Mitchell was a bad fit for the 3-4 defense preferred by Eric Mangini,but was a solid 4-3 end for the Vikings.
Mitchell must have liked something after getting paid last season to practice as the Browns re-signed Mitchell to a two year contract.
Mitchell becomes an immediate starter for the Browns at left defensive end.

The Browns added a new starter at safety in former Saints Usama Young..Young played his college ball at Kent State and spent the last four seasons as a reserve and special teams player for New Orleans.
Young will step into the spot vacated by free agent Abram Elam,who was not going to be re-signed.

Cleveland also added a needed player in Green Bay running back Brandon Jackson.
Jackson is not a full time back,but he is a reasonably decent blocker and excellent pass catcher from the backfield and fits the third down pass catching back role perfectly.
Jackson had been a disappointment in his attempts to become the full time back in Green Bay and had been unable to hold off various backs throughout his Packer tenure,but used in the proper positions could be a nice addition..

The Browns lost corner Eric Wright to the Lions and the unexpected loss puts the Browns into a position of needing to add a cornerback over the next few days.
Wright had an awful 2010,but still has plenty of talent and I wish the Browns would have found a way to keep him.
However,the Browns are now down to two corners with experience in Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown and a veteran is a must.
One player that is surprisingly on the market is former Ohio State star Nate Clements,who was dropped by the 49ers.Clements was released for contract reasons more than performance issues,so signing Clements to go with Haden and transitioning Brown to the third corner would be an upgrade even over the expected trio of Haden,Brown and Wright...

As of this writing,the Browns have signed all of their draft picks except first rounder Phil Taylor,which is expected to be sometime tonight or tomorrow.

The Browns do have some money to spend as they are under the salary "floor" and will have to spend some although the team has said they will not be a huge player in the market.
The Browns should have a few positions targeted besides the gaping need at corner.
Despite re-signing Jayme Mitchell,another defensive end is needed,a right tackle to insure against another injury to Tony Pashos might be a nice thought as would be a linebacker against D'Qwell Jackson's latest return from injury and I still would like to see another wide receiver brought into the fold.
I'll be here with more when players are added and I'll try to do a Seattle version of this soon....

Pirates win despite another delay

So for the fourth and final time of the series between the Pirates and Braves,I did not get to see the entire game due to a just under an hour rain delay.
What I missed was most of the scoring in a 5-2 Pirate win that salvaged a split of the wild four game set.
Kevin Correia allowed two runs over six and a third innings to improve to 12-8 and Joel Hanrahan clicked up save number thirty on the season.
Andrew McCutchen hit his 15th homer as part of a three RBI day.
The Pirates are in Philadelphia tonight for the first of three games against the Phillies....

Pirate Hooks

1) Andrew McCutchen had been in a mild slump,but an adjustment resulted in a three hit,three RBI night.
One thing about this game from whatever level it is that the game is played-it takes very little to screw up your mechanics in any part of the game and the slightest change can change  or fix things....

2) Kevin Correia had been awful in his first two post All Star starts,but looked a bit fresher Thursday as only one of the two runs,he allowed was earned..
One difference from his last outing is this-1 walk in six plus compared to three in four plus in his previous start.
This sounds elementary,but Correia is not the type of pitcher that can afford being behind in the count,not that many can,but especially pitchers with ordinary stuff....

3) Finally a win against Derek Lowe,who had taken the ball ten times against the Pirates and walked away with ten wins! Nice to break that string!

4) One thing that shows the desperation of the Pirates to get some offense going-Garrett Jones hitting second?
Not great speed,doesn't move many runners over and is not a terrific contact guy-that Jones is in that spot shows the lack of options at this point for Clint Hurdle...

(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tribe lands Fukudome

The Cleveland Indians obtained outfielder Kosuke Fukudome today from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for minor leaguers Carlton Smith and Abner Abreu.

The Indians needed an outfielder in the worst way with recent injuries to Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo and Fukudome should step right in and fill some of that gap created by those injuries.
Fukudome brings an above average on base percentage,some decent speed that does not show up in his stolen base numbers and has an excellent arm from right field.
Fukudome will never live up to the "poor man's Ichiro" comparisons that accompanied him from japan and he is overpaid for his production,but is not a terrible player at all-just not as valuable as his salary would suggest.

Headed to the Cubs are AAA pitcher Carlton Smith and High A outfielder Abner Abreu..
Smith is not a huge loss and looks to be just another organizational arm,but Abreu has some upside and after injuries slowed him in 2009 (after a great start at low A Lake County) and 2010 at Kinston has rebounded well this season.
Abreu has plus power and an excellent arm to go with underrated speed,but plate discipline has been the main issue.
I rated Abreu as the fourteenth rated prospect in the system entering the season and I do hate to see the Indians give up on him,but the immediate need for a contending team in a winnable division took precedence.
For Tribe farm expert Tony Lastoria's take on the deal,click here.

Devils swap Rolston for Hunter

The planned "Hawk Talk" goes on the back burner with two trades today with one involving the Indians (Post later) and the Devils swapping the high salary of Brian Rolston to the New York Islanders for Trent Hunter.

Brian Rolston had picked up his play last season after passing through waivers,but was still owed over five million dollars for the upcoming season,while Hunter has two years remaining on his contract,but at a much smaller hit of two million a season.
The obvious way to look at this is to say that the money saved from this trade will help sign Zach Parise and it very well might,but let's look at this from a strictly hockey angle for now.

Assuming that Trent Hunter is 100 % healthy after a torn MCL that limited him to 17 games last season and assuming that the team did not acquire him to simply buy him out and create extra cap space,I can see how the Devils could actually profit on the ice as well as off it with the trade.

The Devils moved a player from their strongest position (left wing) and added a player to their weakest (right wing).
Hunter looks to a player that you can count on to score 10 to 20 goals a season and is a reasonably decent two way player.
In other words,a healthy Trent Hunter could be a nice fit on the third or fourth lines.
Hunter is 31 and coming off an injury,so this is far from a sure bet,but considering the cost and age of Brian Rolston,this type of return was about as good as the Devils were going to get.
This could mean the end of David Clarkson with the Devils as Hunter,Clarkson and recent additions Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen,look to be four guys for two spots.
Clarkson has always been a favorite of mine,but he looks to be the most marketable player of the four and possibly the odd man out.
Here is hoping for Clarkson(IF he HAS to go) to be shipped to Winnipeg and the Jets...

Brian Rolston did not bring the game that he was so heavily paid for to town and with the exception of his second half of last season was wildly overpaid,but he did so with class and did not become a locker room cancer,even after bring waived-which many players would have done.
Rolston still can help a young team like the Islanders,so it makes sense for them as well.

I hope to be back later with some thoughts on the Indians trade for Kosuke Fukudome with some luck from the clock....

Three part games in Hotlanta

I have seen parts of all three games of the Pirates trip to Atlanta,but none of them completely.
Game one,I saw the last three innings after a rain delayed start and because it was on ESPN,Game two only because I got out of bed for a drink and checking the score,saw the game was amazingly still going on and yesterday's game saw the first nine innings,but the tape cut off before the Braves tenth inning game winner due to work.

So,with that in mind,I'll do some Pirate hooks with a bonus hook or two and hopefully tonight's game will be see in its entirety.

Pirate Hooks

1) First off,the play at the plate.
Yes,Julio Lugo was out and it was an awful way to lose a game,but despite all that-I still will take a pass on Instant Replay in baseball.
Tough one to lose,but I'll take it over the alternative...

2) Funny thing about this game-I remember staying up late and watching the last marathon Braves game when WTBS televised all the Braves games on ESPN of all things on a permitted jump in.
That game is also known as the "Rick Camp" game for a light hitting pitcher that tied the game with his only career homer.
Whatever happened to Camp? Well,In September 2005, Camp was sentenced to three years in federal prison for conspiring to steal more than $2 million from a mental health center in Georgia.

3) Chase D'Arnaud to the disabled list and Chris Leroux brought up to help an exhausted bullpen.
So,what happens? Leroux is put into the game and loses in the tenth...

4) If this sounds pessimistic,I apologize,but I do wonder if the "Lugo" call might turn out to be the Pirates "Chico Ruiz".
Ruiz was a rookie utility infielder for the Reds that stole home with FRANK ROBINSON at bat to score the only run in a 1-0 Reds win over the Phillies in 1964.
Up until that point,the Phillies "Year of the Blue Snow" season had gone the best way possible for a team with basically two bats (Dick Allen and Johnny Callison) and two starting arms (Jim Bunning and Chris Short) and were in first place.
This game started a ten game losing streak in September that saw the Cardinals streak by the Phils for a one game margin over the Phillies and Reds.
The Pirates have had so much go their way,could the luck well begin to run dry?

5) Player I am tired of seeing (Besides the obvious choice of Lyle Overbay) ?
Right now,the call goes to Xavier Paul.
Paul is less than average defensively for the most part,he is an awful pinch hitter and his speed is his only real asset.

6) Player I hope sticks around? How about Michael McKenry?
McKenry would not be my choice as a first string catcher for an entire season,but I like him as the backup when Ryan Doumit returns from his rehab assignment in Indianapolis...

7) Carlos Beltran did not want to be a Pirate?
Well,If the Pirates had to trade an equivalent to Zach Wheeler,who the Giants sent to New York for Beltran,I am not interested in that price for two months of a player that would have walked after the season..

8) The Pirates have two choices,overpay for a Hunter Pence and hope he makes the difference or stand pat and take their chances.
I'll take stand pat,when you consider the likely cost of obtaining a player that actually could make a difference....

I hope to be back later with some Hawk talk on their free agent additions and subtractions,since the Browns have made nary a ripple in the free agent pool thus far...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thoughts on Pirates-Cardinals

Sorry about missing a few days,but with continuing to work like crazy and both the Hagerstown Suns and Frederick Keys at home,time has been very short.

Good news on the horizon though,as tonight is technically the last overtime day of this marathon.
I do have Tuesday off before working my regular four days and then-YES-a VACATION!
So I hope to have time to finally do some features again then and the report on this years baseball trip.

Instead on concentrating on each game of the series for the Pirates against the Cardinals,in which Pittsburgh was very fortunate to win one game and remain in a tie for first,I'll just add some thoughts on the series and with some luck return to game coverage with tonight's game against the Braves in Atlanta.
No promises as tomorrow has tons of off day stuff for me to take care (including Greenville's getaway day here) in my first off day in just under two weeks...

Pirate Hooks

1) As I said above,the Pirates were fortunate to escape with one win in the series and a look at the lineup tells why-The Cardinals can run Pujols,Holliday and Berkman in the 3,4,5 spots with Pittsburgh responding with Neil Walker,Andrew McCutchen and Lyle Overbay.
If you cannot see the difference there,nothing that I can write will help your vision improve.

2) I understand the calls for the Pirates to add a player of impact and it would show the people that say that the team does not care about winning that they made an attempt,but I feel the team is short on talent to truly contend and a huge move would cost more than a PR attempt would be worth.
I am not against any moves,just ones that would cost a high price in young players that the teams has spent the last few years as part of the long term plan.

3) Another worry is the sudden reverting to form of Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm,who were both pasted in their post All-Star break appearances.
My main concern of this miracle run was this pair and Charlie Morton continuing to do what they had never done in the past for an entire season over the course of the second half.
Thus far those worries have been warranted.

4) The Pirates placed Alex Presley on the DL with a bad thumb and recalled Pedro Alvarez from Indianapolis.
Alvarez might be the bat that the team is looking for,if his trend of strong second halves continues from his minor league and 2010 history...

5) The Cardinals have underachieved and the Brewers are about where one expected them to be,but looking at their rosters,I see only one of them able to make an impact move.
I could see a team moving someone to the Cardinals to take a shot at the talented Colby Rasmus,but the Brewers look to me to be out of minor league bullets for the most part....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Devils add DeBoer,lose Doc Emrick

A bit behind on some of the latest New Jersey Devils news,so I'll get started with this post without any Pirate news for today.
That is unless you think the signing of Jason Grilli from AAA is worth a post and in that case-sorry to disappoint.

The Devils have hired a new coach,added a player to the roster and Devils fans lost our announcer of the last twenty one seasons since our last Devils update.

The new bench boss of the Devils will be former Florida head coach Peter DeBoer.
The 43 year old DeBoer had spent the last three season in Miami with the Panthers before being fired at the end of last season.
DeBoer spent his previous coaching career in junior hockey with Kitchener and coached two current Devils there in David Clarkson and Mark Fraser.
I am kind of in the middle on the move being as I dont really remember much about DeBoer on the occasions that the Devils played Florida,so I am open minded on the hire.
I'll see how it goes as I cannot blame DeBoer for the Panthers being a bad team as they were before and likely after his tenure...

The Devils now will begin to hire a new announcer for their televsion broadcasts as Mike "Doc" Emrick will be moving on as the voice of the NHL on NBC and Versus.
This was not a Devils or MSG network decision as they had offered Emrick a contract extension to keep the best in the business with the Devils,but Emrick's age (65) and wish to reduce his travel schedule (Emrick lives in michigan) made Emrick decide to scale back the workload a bit,which one can easily understand.
Devils fans are going to miss having Emrick mostly to themselves,but he still can be heard and Emrick will always be a part of Devils history and the Devils family.
Thanks to Battlin' Bob for being the first person to tell me of this,although I got this letter in my inbox shortly after finding out from the Battler.
I will be doing a future post on Emrick down the road when time permits...

Now the question is= who replaces Emrick in an seemingly impossible task?
Unless a candidate comes in from out of town,it looks like the two most likely candidates are either Devils radio voice Matt Laughlin or TV pre-game host and Emrick fill in Steve Cangelosi.
Of those two,I would easily prefer Laughlin as Steve Cangelosi is not very good (in my opinion).
Actually with his screaming of "SCORE" which sounds more like "SCAR!",he actually is pretty annoying,although not Greg Brown level bad.
For that matter,I would not mind to see Cangelosi gone altogether to do Red Bull soccer or whatever it is he does otherwise with Laughlin/mystery candidate on the play by play and Christine Simpson as the host of the pre and post game shows .

The Devils signed Eric Boulton of Winnipeg to a head scratching two year deal worth 1.3 million over the two years.
This is one that I do not quite get coming so shortly after signing Cam Janssen,do the Devils really need two enforcers?
And even if so,is Boulton worth this contract?
I just do not see it.
Boulton scored six goals last season,three of them in one game against the Devils,perhaps the team did not see any other Boulton games????

The Devils also quietly folded their ECHL team,the Trenton Devils recently.
No real reason given,although I would guess money loss as Trenton was the only ECHL team owned by an NHL franchise...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Three runs is enough...

Three runs over two games usually is not enough to win two games,but the Pittsburgh Pirates received enough quality pitching to earn two wins.
The 2-0 and 1-0 wins combined with losses by the Cardinals and Brewers moved the Buccos into sole position in the first place slot in the NL Central standings.
Charlie Morton moved to 8-5 with the win in the Monday game,with Joel Hanrahan added the save for his 27th save of the season.
James McDonald was the winner (6-4) and Joel Hanrahan earned save number 28 with the win on Tuesday.
The Pirates will attempt the sweep of the Reds today at 12:35.

Pirate Hooks

1) The play of the two days was the spectacular play by Chase D'arnaud on Monday.
After the game returned from a long delay (that kept me from watching too much of that one),D'Arnaud's race to grab a ball up the middle with the bases loaded and two down was successful and followed by a flip of the ball with his glove to Neil Walker for the inning ending force.
Great play that might have meant the difference in the win.

2) The rain delay was another long one and it seems to me that Pittsburgh might lead the country in rain delays this season.

3) Both Charlie Morton and James McDonald pitched well in their wins,but I saw more of McDonald's win.McDonald was very sharp until his final inning when he seemed to lose control of both the fastball and the curve.
If McDonald can get over this hump that he falls into in the fifth and sixth inning so often,he could develop into a solid near top starter.

4) Sabremetricans have often complained about the percentages of playing "little ball",but when you play like the Pirates do,it is often a need,not a choice.
Pittsburgh has to take runs whenever they can and how they do it does not really matter...

5) Neil Walker has ran his hitting streak to 13 games with his double last night..

Photo Credit:Getty Images

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pulling it out of the fire!

The Pittsburgh Pirate bullpen blew a lead and in a stunning reversal of the usual order,the offense picked up the slack with three runs in the top of the eleventh to give the Pirates a 7-5 win and move into a three way tie for first in the National League Central.
Chris LeRoux was the winning pitcher (1-0) with Chris Resop (1) earning the save.
Pittsburgh returns home for a three game set against the Reds tonight with Charlie Morton (7-5 3.85ERA) versus Dontrelle Willis (0-0 0.00 ERA).

Pirate Hooks

1) Alex Presley was the lead bat in this one with three hits and three RBI.
Presley continues to carry the hot bat and did so in front of what seemed to be half the Minute Maid Park outfield filled with family from Louisiana.

2) The eleventh innings was a wild one that saw Pittsburgh score three runs off of just two hits,but also saw two errors by two different Astro pitchers and a passed ball score a run.
If I had to pick the worst team that I have seen this season putting the record aside-I still pick the Astros.
This team is so bad that even the less than superbly talented Pirates has far more talent than Houston.
I would say that if I were starting an expansion team and could have ten players from this team,I would struggle to get there with players I would feel good about.


3) For the record-I'd take Wandy Rodriguez,Bud Norris,young prospect Jordan Lyles,Michael Bourn,Hunter Pence,Brett Wallace,Jeff Keppinger and then it thins to having to take the huge salaries of Carlos Lee and Brett Myers along with the final pick of JA Happ.
How many of those guys start for even the Pirates?
Pence easily,maybe Wallace since Lyle Overbay stinks so bad and a few of the pitchers.

4) Houston walked Eric Fryer intentionally in the second inning to pitch to Kevin Correia with runners in scoring position.
Correia then knocked two runs in with a base hit.
Not very often you see a player hitting .100 intentionally walked.

5) Joel Hanrahan allowed Houston to tie the game in the ninth.
The blown save was the first of the season for Hanrahan,not bad for mid-July....

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One day and five outs

The Pittsburgh Pirates reign at the top of the National League Central ended after one day as the bullpen could not hold a one run lead in the eighth inning in Houston as the Astros rallied to a 6-4 win over the Pirates.Jose Veras was the loser (2-3) after allowing three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning.
Three Pirates smashed solo homers in the loss-Neil Walker (9),Lyle Overbay (7) and Brandon Wood (5).
The series concludes today at 2:05 with Kevin Correia (11-7) against Wandy Rodriguez (6-6).

Pirate Hooks

1) The tying run in the eighth inning scored by Hunter Pence was close,but I thought he was safe.
Clint Hurdle disagreed and argued strongly.I thought Pence beat the tag by Michael McKenry,but the real play was made by Chase D'Arnaud,who was hamped by a slow roller and Pence running on contact to almost nail Pence anyway.

2) Four hits for Neil Walker in the game,including a homer.Walker is working on a ten game hitting streak and his numbers stack up well against the best second basemen in the game.

3) I do not want to jump the gun on what may be a blip on the radar,but Jose Veras allowed three runs on just one hit,but struggled with control and consistently fell behind in the count.
One game is not a pattern,but keep an eye on the workload on Chris Resop and Veras as the season progresses.

4) It was nice to see some power from the offense,it was just too bad that in each situation no one was on base.
The Pirates are going to have to do something for the offense other than relying on the same players every night.
Whether it be by trade,praying for help from Pedro Alvarez or playing the hot hand as things go-something will have to be done,if the team is to stay in the race.

5) Brandon Wood's homer was a bomb.
Video replays are a bit fuzzy,but watching and listening to the game,a discernable clang is heard when the ball lands.
I cannot be certain,but I would guess that ball hit the back glass of the enclosed dome and in an outside park might have kept on going.

Photo Credit: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Place and the British Open

It may be a short stay,but the Pittsburgh Pirates moved into first place with a 4-0 win over the Houston Astros in Houston.
Jeff Karstens (8-4) went the distance for his first complete game of the season and threw just 83 pitches on the game.
I did not see the game,so I don't have Pirate hooks,but the numbers look terrific for Karstens on the day.

The Pirates activated Joe Beimel from the DL and sent Daniel Moskos to Indianapolis before the game.I was a formality that either Moskos or Tony Watson was going to be the player that made space for Beimel on the roster...

Paul Maholm (6-9 2.96 ERA) faces Bud Norris (5-6 3.46 ERA) at 7:05 tonight,so with some luck,I'll get to see this one!

I love to watch Major tournament golf.
There I said it.
Especially the Masters and the British Open for different reasons.
The Masters has the fortune of being the official bridge to springtime and the lush course that is Augusta National along with being the only major that uses the same site every year.
However,in some ways I enjoy the British Open even more.
One can almost imagine golfers 100 years ago hacking their way around the various courses in Great Britain,it is somewhat difficult to think of things in the same way with the well manicured American courses.
The weather is always fun to see too as one watches players muddle through weather that would have them inside their homes on similar days in the USA.
The British Open also seems (along with the PGA) seems to have the unlikely winner pop up more than the other majors,perhaps that is due to the lack of time that many have playing links golf,which basically boils down to playing golf along the ground more than through the air.
 But I suppose the main reason is that the British Open coverage starts at three or four in the morning and I can watch at work,which often costs me getting to watch events.
Something kinda nice about watching a nice quiet event in the cool of the summer darkness.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thanks to all and a few thoughts

Thanks for all the emails and Facebook posts wishing me a happy birthday.
They are appreciated.
For all the flaws in social media,the great thing about it is keeping in touch with people that you might not see as often yet want to stay in touch.
Mind you,I am selective in whom I am friends with,so no overkill issues like some people can have.

A few thoughts on some non sports things.

The debt ceiling increase to me is a political football that both sides are using like a 40's football game.where all they do is punt it back and forth.
Cannot someone on both side step up and be a adult?

Of all ,the people in this fight,the one person that comes looking the worst is the Republican leader,Eric Cantor,who comes across as the political version of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder in both looks and behavior.

Absolutely loved the C-Span Q & A with Reason magazine's Nick Gillespie last Sunday.
Much of the libertarian platform makes sense to me as a hybrid of the best of both parties in my opinion.
If you like different ideas,check it out...

Thumbs down to ESPN for suspending their excellent college football writer Bruce Feldman for helping ESPN target Mike Leach with his new book that takes aim at ESPN and their "employee" Craig James.
Feldman has a real beef considering that ESPN GAVE Feldman permission to help Leach with his project as long as he did not speak about it,which he has not.
When you combine this with their legal assault on Ohio State (which may or may not be deserved) ESPN is rapidly going downhill as a news organization.
Anyone really think that ESPN would give the University of Texas similar treatment after going into bed with them with the "Longhorn Network"?

The Paul Williams "win" over Erislandy Lara on HBO last week was so mind numbingly awful that it is a week past and I am STILL not over it!
The judges have been suspended by the state of New Jersey indefinitely,that should tell you how bad it was.
The decision actually made the previous HBO card's bad decision over Devon Alexander over Lucas Matthysse look logical.
Don't count on a rematch unless HBO demands it-Williams has as much chance of accepting that as I do of fighting as a middleweight!
Boxing kicks itself again!

Doubtful Pirate coverage on their return to the field tonight as I work early and the game is in Houston for an 8:00 EST start anyway.

Look for more Winnipeg Jets coverage than I thought,I am talking to one person about coming aboard for Jets coverage and Ryan might be around for an occasional Jets related column.

Three New Jersey Devil notes as former Devil enforcer Cam Janssen has signed a one year two way (means he can play for New Jersey or Albany) contract.
Janssen was traded to the Blues a few years back for Bryce Salvador.

The Devils were looking for an AHL enforcer after swapping Pierre-Luc LeBlond to Calgary for a fifth round pick in next years draft,which was more than I thought he was valued at...

The Devils also lost defenseman Anssi Salmela to the KHL in Russia.Salmela signed a two year deal worth a total of three million.
I always liked Salmela,but the crowded corps on the blueline meant someone had to go and still more may have to.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cleaning out the Inbox

The inbox needs emptied big time and with the Pirates still off,now seems like a good time to do so.

We start with a few goodbyes.

Goodbye to Lorenzo Charles,who passed away in an accident involving the bus he was driving in North Carolina at the age of 47.
Charles was most remembered for his slam dunk at the buzzer to lift N.C. State to the 1983 National title in a massive upset over heavily favored Houston.
Charles played briefly in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks after his days with the Wolfpack.

Another basketball loss was former UNLV star power forward Armen "the Hammer" Gilliam at the age of 47 also after playing in a pickup game in Pittsburgh.
Gilliam was the second overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns and played for four other NBA teams as well.
The Hammer might have been the Running Rebels best player in their history until the arrival of Larry Johnson.
Gilliam had recently signed some cards for me,which was lucky on my part.

Goodbye to former WBC Jr Welterweight champion Billy Costello at the age of 55 after a bout with cancer.Costello always was an action fighter and was a network TV staple after winning the belt from Bruce Curry on a 10th round knockout.
Costello would make three defenses of the belt before losing to Lonnie Smith via KO.
Costello often worked the big fights held in New York as a ringside judge in recent years.

Goodbye to former baseball manager Dick Williams at the age of 82.
Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008 with a resume' that included two world championships with Oakland and appearances with Boston and San Diego in the fall classic as well.
Williams also was the manager of the Montreal Expos in the late 1970's when the Expos had some large amounts of talent that included Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.

If you see the plus 1 graphic at the bottom of each post and you like a post,I ask that you click that to show you enjoyed it.
I know many of you are uncomfortable with commenting a lot or at all,but the more clicks of approval that the post gets,the higher search rating it gets on Google and that increases readership.
I thank any and all in advance for the help....

Interesting article on prodigious slugger Wily Mo Pena.
I remember thinking the Red Sox got a steal when obtaining Pena for Bronson Arroyo a few years back.
Despite Pena's obvious issues with strikeouts,I had always hoped the Pirates would take a shot at Wily Mo.
His power is hard to find and I sure would have preferred to live with the K's and 30 homers than some of the players the Pirates have ran out to right field over the last few seasons....

Finally, this is way too late,but here are links to my posts on the Hagerstown Suns at the mid season mark at NationalsProspects.com on the hitters and pitchers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Looking at the Power

A few notes on the Hagerstown Suns series against the West Virginia Power from last week.
I saw two entire games and some of the third,so I have a pretty good idea of the scouting reports.
I did not see many of the relievers and none of the prospects such as Zack Von Rosenberg and I missed Colton Cain's start in game two of the doubleheader.
Game one just ran far too long and I had to get to work.

Honestly,the Power's position players left much to be desired and did not measure to the prospects from the 2010 squad.
I liked some of what I saw from shortstop Drew Maggi and outfielder Mel Rojas Jr,but neither shined to the point of being considered a sure thing.
Both look to have plus speed for their position and look like potential plus defenders to me,but both strike out a lot,which in this league always gives me reason for pause.
The only other position player worth mentioned was the Power's only SAL non-pitcher All-Star in outfielder Dan Grovatt.
The former Virginia Cavalier walks a lot,but lacks a real plus tool,which will hamper him as he moves up the ladder..

Zac Fuesser impressed in the first game of the series with six shutout innings of an eventual loss.
Fuesser didnt get much above 90 on the radar gun,he mixes his pitches well and kept the Suns off balance with his curve and change.
Fuesser has made three starts since being added to the rotation in place of Zack Von Rosenberg and allowed just two runs in seventeen innings.
Fuesser strikes me as a guy that might never be high on prospect lists,but slowly climbs the ladder on productivity,such as Rudy Owens has through the system...

2010 first rounder Jameson Taillon had his worst outing of the season against the Suns,but the numbers do not tell the entire truth.
Taillon's defense betrayed him in the third inning on two plays that should have been outs and became base hits.
Taillon's curve was unhittable by Hagerstown,but the Pirates organizational philosophy is to establish fastball command first and the breaking stuff second,so Taillon did not throw it nearly as much as he would have under different circumstances.
I was sitting right beside a radar gun and he was consistently in the 94-95 MPH range.
Jameson Taillon looks to me to be the real deal....

Tyler Waldron of Oregon State pitched the final game of the series and I watched a few innings before I went home.
Waldron allowed one run that I saw ,but seemed to struggle with anything other than a low-mid 90's fastball as far as control goes.
The fastball looked decent enough speed wise,but did not have a ton of movement.
Waldron looks to perhaps be better suited as a bullpen arm.

I may be back later with the inbox cleanup or that may be tomorrow's post.

Five reasons that the Pirates stay in the race and five that they won't

Sorry I missed Monday,I was in Frederick for the Kinston Indians and badly needed to catch up on some rest.
I hope to follow this with two more posts between today and tomorrow.

I am surprised as anyone with the Pittsburgh Pirates play in the first half,after all-I picked them to lose 98 games!
This post will look at five reasons that the Pirates could continue in their run to the NL Central finish line and then counterpoint those reasons for why they will fade from the race....

1: Starting Pitching.

Point:
The Pirates starting pitching has carried the team throughout this run,Could it be that Kevin Correia was the steal of the free agency crop and Paul Maholm has matured into a solid,above average major league starter?
Jeff Karstens is among the leaders in ERA,Charlie Morton has begun to harness his talent and James McDonald has rebounded after a slow point.
There is no reason that this cannot continue...

Counterpoint:
Look at the points and tell me that all or most of these players will continue to pitch this way all season.
I might give you McDonald and Morton maturing a bit and maybe one of Correia,Karstens and Maholm making 2011 their career year,but all of them?
That is asking a lot for three average pitchers at best to keep up high mark seasons for the entire year...


2) The Bullpen

Point:
The Bullpen will continue to be among the best in the game.
The bullpen has overwhelmed opponents after Neal Huntington has loaded the pen with power arms.
Joel Hanrahan is the best closer in the league to date,Chris Resop and Jose Veras have been pleasant surprises and Daniel McCutchen seems to have finally found his role.
Daniel Moskos and Tony Watson have been decent in their MLB debuts and maybe Evan Meek could return.
IF these guys pitch to this level,the starters could drop a bit and not cause the team to suffer....

Counterpoint:
Clint Hurdle has used these guys often in the first half,they are more likely to run out of gas as the second half goes on than to maintain their performance.
Jose Veras and Chris Resop have both shown some recent signs of weariness and you cannot rely on two rookie lefties out of the pen as your only two southpaws without some growing pains...

3) Players returning from injury will upgrade the team further..

Point:
The Pirates can only improve when the rash of injuries subsides and players begin to come back.
Ryan Doumit instantly improves the catching position and if Pedro Alvarez hits in the manner he usually does after an adjustment period,the Pirates upgrade the offense immensely without making a deal at all.
Jose Tabata returns to bolster the outfield,Steve Pearce as a lefty killer and pinch hit bat and Ronny Cedeno back at shortstop and the team is almost brand new in some ways.
Toss in Joe Beimel as a lefty veteran to relieve the stress on Watson and Moskos and the team improved before any deals at all....

Counterpoint:
All that sounds good,but in most cases,decisions will have to be made with those players against the players that has actually helped the team make such first half strides.
Doumit brings a better bat,but his well known defensive deficiencies will take some of his advantages away.
Alvarez should improve,but I was saying all through the year before he got hurt.
To play Tabata,the Pirates will have to sit or send down the sizzling Alex Presley and I would argue the Pirates need a better shortstop than erratic Cedeno to begin with,let alone celebrate a return.
Plus,you know your team has issues when Joe Beimel is being heralded as a solution to your woes....

4) The veterans signed in the off season will prove to be crucial to the second half.

Point:
Neal Huntington has gotten reasonable production from his signings and solid production from Kevin Correia.
Correia made the All-Star team,Matt Diaz is rounding into form after a strong last month and Lyle Overbay has been about what you would expect with the bat and helping the infield as expected with a strong glove.
There is reason to believe that all three could improve in the second half and at least two should...

Counterpoint:

I believe they will be crucial,just not helpful.
Kevin Correia will have to maintain this level of performance,which he has never been able to do before,Matt Diaz has yet to homer on a team in desperate need of power and Lyle Overbay has been a general waste of money,which most thinking people figured out to begin with.
Considering the players involved,I do not have one meaningful reason to expect that these three players will suddenly become second half contributors...

5:Will the Pirates be buyers or sellers before the trading deadline?

Point:
Buyers.The fanbase is starving for a contender and in lieu of that ,the string of losing seasons has an above average chance of being snapped.
The team is just one game out of first place and one or two additions could make the difference as long as none of the building block prospects are moved.
This is finally the chance for the front office to slam the door on the constant claims of being cheap and not caring about winning over making money.
Look at Milwaukee-you take your chance to win it when you can.....

Counterpoint:
Sellers. Neal Huntington knows that to many degrees that the first half was a mirage filled with crazy fluky wins and by players exceeding their normal numbers.
Huntington also knows that the plan could be busted by short term thinking.
Let's look at Milwaukee,who has gutted their farm system in an attempt to win this season and will possibly be the worst team in the division next year when those players walk.
The plan is to have a chance to compete every season and throwing valuable long term chips into the middle of the table for one year of glory isnt worth the risk.
Besides,the Pirates have to win the division as they have little chance at the wild card,having already given away seven games to the Atlanta Braves in that race.
Is it worth moving those prospects?I dont think so and I would even argue that if contenders want to make offers for some of the Pirate players of some value,you have to at least consider the offer even with the PR hit.
Paul Maholm has a nine million dollar option for next season,do you want to pay that money on the hope he continues to pitch well and the team stays in the race?
If some of the bats such as Garrett Jones,Lyle Overbay or Matt Diaz get even reasonable offers,you have to consider them and what a powerhouse team like New York,Boston or Philadelphia have bullpen issues and blow the Pirates away with an offer for Joel Hanrahan?
Enjoy this run,Pirate fans,but the plan needs to be stuck with and not changed over a few good months...

Hope you enjoyed this,I hope to be back later with some inbox cleaning and some more sad goodbyes....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cutch to All Stars,Alvarez to AAA,Pirates lose

On a day that saw a wrong corrected and a projected cornerstone assigned to AAA,the Pittsburgh Pirates received a less than strong outing by losing pitcher Kevin Correia (11-7) and dropped the game to the Chicago Cubs 6-3 at PNC Park.
The series and first half ends today as the Pirates throw Paul Maholm (5-9 3.08 ERA) at the Cubs and Ramon Ortiz (0-1 3.00 ERA) at 1:35

Pirate Hooks

1) The Pirates never seemed to be truly into this game as the Cubs scored runs off Kevin Correia in each of the four innings that he pitched.,but the stage was set for this with another bad send by third base coach Nick Leyva,who has made a habit of these things this season.
After Alex Presley led off with a double,Chase D'Arnaud singled to shallow right.
Instead of holding Presley at third,men on the corners,no one out,Leyva sends him home where a Kosuke Fukodome throw and an excellent plate block by Koyie Hill gunned him down.
Neil Walker then singled,which would have scored Presley and the next two batters were retired for a no run inning.
No one out,two on and your best two hitters about to bat and you send??
Sometimes a bit of discretion makes the difference...

2) The team placed the announcement on the scoreboard of Andrew McCutchen making the All Star team to a standing ovation and an tip of the hat from Cutch.
McCutchen deserved the honor,although I still think it is too bad that it took an injury and a belated media barrage to get him there.

3) Matt Diaz knocked in two runs in a little over half a game.Diaz was brought in the double switch to remove Kevin Correia from the mound.
Diaz has improved since a .300+ June,but the fact that the All Star break is here and he has yet to homer makes me still want a bigger bat for the everyday lineup...

4) Pedro Alvarez was activated off the disabled list and then assigned to AAA Indianapolis,which I am sure he is just thrilled with.
Alvarez was hitting just .208 with two homers before his injury.
This might be a move to keep him playing for a few days while the Bucs are on break,but it could not hurt his bat any to get the extra reps...

5) Give mop up man Chris LeRoux some credit for keeping things close last night when the Cubs threatened to bust the game wide open.
LeRoux kept the Cubs from further damage by keeping inherited runners from scoring and whiffed three in an inning and a third.

Photo Credit-AP

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Meeting Bernie Kosar

Yesterday was a long and tiring day,but well worth the effort as I was able to meet an all time favorite of mine in former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar.
The Kosar story follows,but first a word to the seamheads expecting to read about the West Virginia Power.
I have decided due to time constraints to do one or two posts on the series on Monday or Tuesday.
Yesterday's rainout and afternoon start tomorrow,combined with two rare off days and the Pirates All-Star breaks will give me more time to do that and the promised point/counterpoint post on the Pirates contention prospects in the second half.


I came home to grab my stuff for work a bit late as I wanted to get much as I could finished of the Power on Thursday  in anticipation of possible bad weather on Friday (Good move,game rained out) and a quick perusal of the mailbox before I left.
Waiting for me was a link from Battlin' Bob on a Bernie Kosar appearance at Longaberger Baskets in the outlet mall here in town.
I was familiar with the name,but knew little about the baskets and I didn't even know there was a store in town!
When I saw the time (10 am -noon) I knew I was in for a long day.
First,I had to work the rest of the night, then take the lovely Cherie to work so I could keep the car, then hit the outlets and find the store that I did not even know was in existence.
That was not the hard part,it was finding where to get in line for Kosar.

A long line outside elicited some groaning from Rachel,my partner on this day,but as I quickly explained this looked like five people compared to my Delmarva nightmare.
One other man with his daughter walked out the store and said it would be another two hours before they arrived (the bad weather in Ohio would arrive here later in the day cancelling the Suns-Power game).
As we stood in what we thought was the line,a lady asked whether I was a "Consultant" and this was the Consultant line.
I replied that I was not and was waiting for Kosar,who the lady asked Who?
The guy before had referred to the CEO for Longaberger as "Michelle",which I assumed was her name,so I said "The person traveling with "Michelle Longaberger",only be corrected by about ten middle aged women that her name was Tami.
Thanks for the bad intel,bud,like I am supposed to know that!
I took that in stride though,I suppose I would react the same way if some lady said "I am here to see the person traveling with Bob Kosar".
We slide into the heavily trafficked store and found a gentleman with a Longaberger badge and asked where the line was,which he promptly pointed to in the wrong spot.
Not wanted to cut in front of anyone and get pounded by baskets,I went back to this fellow and asked again to be in the right position.
This time,he told me to ask people in the area if this was the "Tami line".
That was successful and we were about 10-15th in line at about 10:00.

This meant listening to loads of Longaberger info and learning more than I ever cared to know about baskets.How sturdy are they? (some can carry 40 pounds),the difference between first and second quality,the most expensive baskets they sell ($1,200) and their pottery line,which I did like a great deal.
I turned to Rachel said they looked similar to FiestaWare (our choice of china) and the consultant in front of us quickly turned around and said "It's better than FiestaWare!!!!"
As I began to wonder whether these people were nuts or not,I remembered Delmarva and what if someone entirely sports/autographs non-educated would have seen that mess and talked to everyone there-they would have had questions too.
Any situation that has tons of people passionate about the same thing in one spot is going to be a bit crazy.
Time wound on and despite being tired of being on my feet,it really was not that bad.
The ladies were really nice and attempted to educate me-(If this remotely interests you, check out the Longaberger site of Roseann Harris,who seems to be the walking encyclopedia of all things Longaberger and gave me her business card-Roseann,this one is for you...)

Finally at 11:15,a little earlier than expected.Ms.Longaberger and Bernie walked in the door (I found later on line,the pair are currently dating,which makes Bernie Kosar at a Maryland Longaberger basket signing make a load more sense now than it did then) and as soon as they entered the store,Kosar sees my jersey and walks over and shakes my hand!
Very cool!
After they get in position and the local politicians get their photo op with Tami Longaberger,Bernie is standing there with nothing to do,so what does he do?
He walks over and talks to me for the next five minutes about the Browns (He expects them to be somewhat improved),the Cleveland Gladiators (the Arena league team that Kosar part-owns),the local fans and who they prefer Ravens or Redskins (neither,I'd say Steelers hold a slight lead) etc.
That ended so the same PR guy that relentlessly shilled for Hagerstown on the PBS program "Our Town-Hagerstown" took the microphone speaking for about five minutes on the local politicians there etc.

Sidebar-I highly recommend Our Town-Hagerstown as the most hilarious piece of unintentional humor that I have seen in years.
It is on either PBS or if you have Antietam Cable,it is available for free using the On Demand service....
You have not lived until you have seen City Councilwoman Ashley Haywood put herself over for "Having lived abroad in New York"(She said this kind of awkwardly and I don't think she meant it to sound the way it did) and dressing for a television appearance like she was prepping for a Women's Lib rally in 1973.
Not to mention two minutes on the Hagerstown Suns,but close to nine (I timed it,I know- get a life) on the culture of downtown Hagerstown and its continuing efforts to become the Paris of North America
If you live locally and enjoy funny things that were not intended to be so funny-I could not recommend this more....-Back to the show

After PR guy was finished recognizing half the county,Tami Longaberger then spoke briefly (PR guy needs to take lessons to how to be concise) and began to start the signing.
A Longaberger person then went through the line and said "Tami was limited to signing one item".
I did not have anything for her of course,although I had I known her name was Tami,I might have brought my DVD of the TAMI Show.
Imagine if Tami accompanied Bernie to a sports signing,I'd be lucky to get one or two things signed!
The lady then said "You are just here for Bernie?I answered in the affirmative and she then took around the line of people right to Bernie,who resumed football talk as he signed two cards,a mini helmet and Cherie's Kosar jersey!
When I had him personalize to Cherie and how excited she would be,he responded "happy to make the husband the good guy tonight"!
We spoke a few more minutes on football,told him how huge a fan my favorite Aunt Becky was of him,took a picture together and then one with Rachel,I then thanked again for such a thrill,shook hands with the legend and turned to walk away.
I got some steps away when I heard him call out "hey,would you like me to sign your jersey too"?
I said of course as Bernie walked over signed the 9 on the back of the jersey with "Go Browns,Bernie Kosar #19".
It took about 5 minutes to leave the store and a long day still remained,but it was well worth some weariness and leg pain to meet an all time favorite.

Thanks to Bernie Kosar for such a great memory,to the Longaberger company for making it possible and to the ladies in line for making what could have been a long day into a pretty pleasant one.

Now,Becky,which Browns game are we hitting this year???

Photo Credit;Rachel Heimberger

Big Mac Mckenry?

I watched the first seven and a half innings of the Pirates games against the visiting Chicago Cubs and when the tape cut off for when I left for work,the Cubs held a 4-3 lead.
After the tape was finished and I flipped to ESPN,I discovered a 7-4 Pirate win off a three run homer by Michael McKenry (1) off Carlos Marmol of all people!
The McKenry homer broke a 4-4 tie and allowed Daniel McCutchen to vulture the win (3-1) after a one out eighth inning appearance.
Joel Hanrahan pitched the ninth for save 26.
Andrew McCutchen homered  (13) earlier for the Pirates.

The series continues tonight with Kevin Correia (11-6 3.74 ERA) against Ryan Dempster for Chicago (5-6 4.99 ERA).

Pirate Hooks

1) I was glad to see the team get James McDonald off the hook for an undeserved loss after Chris Resop allowed his inherited runners to score.
McDonald had some control issues at times,but did not deserve an L for his efforts...

2) On a night that saw both Chris Resop and Jose Veras struggle for the thus far excellent bullpen,it was nice to see the offense step,especially Michael McKenry,who had to feel great about his first homer period,putting aside the situation and who it was off of.

3) The offense is going to need to continue to do these types of things as it is unrealistic to believe that the pitching will get any better and maybe even unlikely to maintain this level of performance.

4) The play of the game besides the game winner?
How about Neil Walker's infield single by hustling up the line to beat Darwin Barney's throw and allow BOTH Alex Presley and Chase D'Arnaud to score on an infield single?
That is a rarity and all from hustle..

5) A Cubs note-I watched the game on the Cubs network to avoid Greg Brown and Bob Brenly was replaced for the night by the surprisingly good Todd Hollinsworth.
The Cubs could do worse than Hollinsworth full time when the inevitable day comes that some stupid team hires Bob Brenly to manage again...

Photo Credit_AP Photo

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bernie Kosar!

Short on time today,but my reason is a good one.
Waited to meet Browns great Bernie Kosar and finally was able to.
I'll write a post on this and on last nights West Virginia Power game soon,but for now,I wanted to get this picture up...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Five in the sixth-pick up sticks....

The Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to be on their way to another win until a disastrous sixth inning saw five Houston Astro runners cross the plate,giving Houston a lead that they would never give up in a 8-2 Houston victory.
Charlie Morton was the loser (7-5) after allowing all five runs in the sixth inning.
Pittsburgh dropped to third place in the division with the loss and takes today off before a weekend series against the Cubs before the four day layoff next week...

Pirate Hooks

1) Charlie Morton was terrific for five innings,but one did not need to be an expert to see the difference in the sixth inning.
Simply put-Morton's ball began to rise in the zone and Houston hammered him.
I cannot say the reason was mechanical or not for sure,but it is becoming apparent that despite Morton's tools that he has a small margin for error.

2) Andrew McCutchen knocked both Pirate runs in,but his sixth inning defensively was the largest part of the Astros big inning.
McCutchen bobbled and then lost the ball on one play that resulted in an Astro run and his misplay on a Carlos Lee hit allowed the lumbering Lee to earn a triple on a play that could have been an out or at maximum a single.

3) Pittsburgh did have a chance to get back in the game in the seventh with two runners on and one out,but Bud Norris retired Xavier Paul on a popout and Alex Presley on a flyball.
Paul and Presley strike me as similar players and on a team closer to full strength,I doubt the Pirates have room for two outfielders that bring a similar toolset....

4) As I am sure you know,I like Bud Norris and despite the loss,it was cool to see Norris get the win for the struggling Astros.Looking at the entire situation from contract status,money,skills etc,there is not one pitcher on the Pirates that I would keep over Norris in a straight up deal...

5) Now that Drayton McLane is selling the Astros,any chance of the new owners going back to the orange colors instead of the red brick that McLane loved so much?
Ryan once told me that Houston wore the "brick" unis all the time because McLane loved them and wanted them to wear them at home as well as the road.
Only difference is the word Houston on the roads and Astros at home.

6) Rachel doesn't watch a ton of baseball,but she watched last night with me (I loved every minute) and the one thing that she said with excitement (besides the Pirate Parrot) was watched one play and exclaiming "Man,that guy is fast!"-the player?Michael Bourn of Houston,who for my money is the fastest player in the game....

7) Look for coverage on the West Virginia Power's only visit to Hagerstown this season.
I have tickets to all four games,.two of which I can see totally and the other two I will stay as much as possible.

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wood'nt it be nice?

Brandon Wood rapped out three hits including a two run homer (4) on a three RBI day to back winning pitcher Jeff Karstens (7-4) one run stint over seven innings to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-1 win over visiting Houston.
The Pirates remain just one game behind first place St.Louis in the NL Central.
The Pirates will attempt the sweep of the series tonight against the Astros with Charlie Morton (7-4 3.63 ERA) versus Houston's Bud Norris (4-6 3.51 ERA) at 7:05.


Pirate Hooks

1) In a season of many surprises,Jeff Karstens continuing to produce is the largest in my opinion.
Karstens has parlayed average stuff at best into an excellent season thus far.
Karstens and his slow and slower pitches have developed into almost a righthanded Jamie Moyer type...

2) Brandon Wood was only playing because the Pirates wanted to take it cautious with Josh Harrison after his issues on Sunday,but it paid off on this day.
Three hits and three RBI to go with the long homer showed the occasional glimpse on why so many were high on Wood as a prospect with the Angels.

3) The Buccos did have some luck against Wandy Rodriguez though as other than Wood's homer,not a lot of balls were struck hard.
Some of the hits were even off broken bats bringing the old phrase to mind,"better to lucky than good".

4) The win was number 45 on the season.
Last year win 45 came on September 3rd-quite a difference...

5) Three hits for Matt Diaz and two for Lyle Overbay.
I have been hard on both of these players,but both have improved recently,
Could this run for both players be enough to keep them in the lineup shuffle that will take place when Jose Tabata,Pedro Alvarez etc return?

6) The Pirates sent Cesar Valdez to Florida for a player to be named later.
Valdez had been pitching at Indianapolis after being obtained for Zack Duke from the Arizona Diamondbacks..

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On the signing front

The signing front returns with a few visits,hits from the mailbox and help from my friends.
The Greenville Drive and Salem Red Sox hit town from the Boston Red Sox organization with prospects.
Greenville prospects included Miles Head,who killed the ball for the first half and now is with Salem,Jose Garcia,Brandon Jacobs (super nice guy),Sean Coyle  and former Texas Longhorn Brandon Workman,who signed his Donruss Elite college card,I always like those.
The biggest addition of a small amount for Salem was 2010 first rounder Kolbrin Vitek.
The biggest disappointment was not getting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo,who was promoted the day Greenville hit Hagerstown and started the day I saw Salem in Frederick.
Hope to add Ranaudo in Salem's next visit...

The Greensboro Grasshoppers were pretty slim in prospects this time around,but I did add first round pick Christian Yelich,who made the SAL All Star team.

The Delmarva Shorebirds made their final trip to the Muni and added some good signings.
Manny Machado still signs one per,but is nice about it and signs as many as he can.
Mychal Givens was there on the first night before being send to Aberdeen to rehab and signed all three cards that I had for him.
Jarret Martin,Brendan Webb and David Walters were also nice additions.

The Hagerstown Suns set came out around this time at their 22 dollar cost.
Still think that they cost themselves money with the decision,but it's over and done with.
I have started work on the team set and added some of the players on this homestand.
Notable prospects included Taylor Jordan,Adrian Sanchez and Blake Kelso as well as nice guys Sean Nicol and Cole Leonida....

Thanks to Tom O'brien for adding his usual excellent help.
On the first batch,Tom was able to get Tom Brunansky,the former MLB outfielder,who Tom reports as a great signer and added a Boog Powell with the Indians uniform,which is always a nice touch.
Tom would send a second batch of help with the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
The Squirrels featured the sometimes tough sign Nick Noonan,pitching prospect Eric Surkamp and infielder Charlie Culbertson.
Tom also helped with Bowie pitching prospect Wynn Pelzer and former big leaguers and current Indy ball managers Von Hayes and Andy Etchebarren

Jason Christensen helped me from Binghampton with some cards that I missed from the Altoona Curve and Harrisburg Senators.
Altoona hits included Brock Holt,Tim Alderson and Bryan Morris,while Harrisburg featured Derek Norris and Steve Lombardozzi (I still hear that awful Suns PA guy screaming that in my head).
Jason also helped with Binghampton manager Wally Backman and prospect Reece Havens.

"The Superfan" Dave Sloan added former Pirate and Rule V pick of the Royals Nathan Adcock for me at Camden Yards.

Kendall Morris took a road trip to Frisco Texas and took a few cards with him for me.
Padre prospects James Darnell and Jaff Decker signed as well as former Boston farmhand Casey Kelly to go with Rangers prospect Martin Perez.

Thanks to all of you for your help!

Mail Successes-These drop this time of year as I do not send as much stuff out.
Most of this stuff sent from prime mailing season
Baseball
Former White Sox and Pirate pitcher Ross Baumgarten
Former Tiger and White Sox pitcher Lerrin LaGrow
Former Padre pitcher Tom Dukes-also included a signed postcard of himself as well
Former Indian pitcher Curt Wardle
Former Giants pitcher Billy O'Dell
Former Rangers shortstop Jeff Kunkel
Former White Sox third baseman Bill Melton
Former Indians and Rangers pitcher Steve Hargan

Football
Browns wide receiver Greg Little-EBAY
Former USFL and Chiefs guard Mark Adickes
Former 49er defensive tackle and current Browns DL coach Dwaine Board
Former Patriots running back Allen Carter
Former Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax-Included an extra signed card of his own
Former Packers quarterback Anthony Dilweg,who included a super note as well.

Misc
Former Light Heavyweight Champion-Bob Foster-EBAY
Country star Glen Campbell
Actress Cheryl Ladd
Those last two are great pickups for me of stars that I have been a fan of going back to my early childhood.....

Only one game out?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are just one game out of first place in the NL Central after yesterday's 5-3 win over the Houston Astros at sold out PNC Park.
Paul Maholm pitched six solid innings in improving to 5-9 on the season.
The series continues tonight with Jeff Karstens (6-4 2.65 ERA) vs Houston's always tough Wandy Rodriguez (6-4 2.97 ERA) at 7:05

Pirate Hooks

1) I am working on a post over the All-Star break that will feature me arguing against myself on why the Pirates are going to make a run this season at the playoffs and why this is a glimpse of the future,but a mirage of the present.
I think you'll enjoy it.

2) Clint Hurdle was complaining yesterday about Andrew McCutchen not being on the All-Star team,but perhaps Hurdle should blame himself a bit as well.
I seem to remember a few weeks back an interview on the pre-game show where Hurdle said something along the lines of  that he did not plan on talking to NL manager Bruce Bochy about any of his players.
That might not have worked out for the best...

3) With that in mind,Hurdle earned himself points for his pointed barbs on McCutchen not making the team or even the "final vote".
The All-Star game does not mean what it used to,but McCutchen certainly deserved to be on the list of the "final five" at minimum.

4) Three more hits for Alex Presley,who has been a short term spark for the offense,which the team was in desperate need of.
It will be an interesting shakeup on the horizon for Clint Hurdle,IF Presley continues to hit and Jose Tabata returns from the disabled list.

5) My answer to that would be Presley in left,Tabata to right,Garret Jones to first and Lyle Overbay to the bench or even released to open some money for a possible addition to the lineup,if the team still has a chance at the trade deadline....

6) Normally,I am not wild about the gimmick hats for holiday games,but this years version was one that I didn't mind so much.

7) Josh Harrison left the game after a home plate collision in the third inning.
Harrison will be likely be day to day.

Photo Credit:Getty Images

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bryce Harper is Going Going Gone!

Today's callup of Bryce Harper to AA Harrisburg ends "Harpermania" in Hagerstown and slowly eases Bryce Harper into the pages of Suns history.
Oh,you'll still see the Harperstown shirts around for a few years as they dwindle in number and the Suns would be less than smart if they did not do some sort of Harper related giveaway next season for the collecting crowd,but Bryce Harper is beginning to make the transition from player to memory in Hagerstown.

What kind of a legacy will Harper have here?
Well,to the average fan that saw him play a few times,Bryce Harper will be remembered for long homers,a powerful throwing arm and autograph lines that almost could have walked him to Harrisburg.
I do not want to speak for the average Suns regular,but I would wager that most of them are not unhappy to see Harper hit the bricks out of town.
It certainly weakens the team on the field,but the fan experience just improved 100 percent at the Muni.
The fan that came to games to see Bryce Harper will now drive up I-81 and leave us fans here in the Hub City alone to enjoy our little club without the invaders looking to get something signed from the baseball messiah (this coming from an autograph geek) or just wishing to see the projected "next big thing".

I never spoke to Bryce Harper in his three months here in Hagerstown.
Never asked him for an autograph (Full Disclosure,David Sloan did get me one for my collection),never asked for anything from him.
I just sat back and watched the show from the cheap seats and I did not always like what I saw.
Some nights,it was not bad-long homers and his consistent hustling play made one unable to find issues with his efforts.
I think very highly of Harper as a player and a prospect and on those nights,he was usually accommodating to the fans and signed for many fans-those were the good nights.

However,there were the bad nights,that saw the immaturity of temper tantrums,the refusal to even look at fans as Harper trotted onto the field (or sprinted off) as if the residents of this small town were beneath the latest sports hero of exalted status as dubbed by various media.
As Harper's stay lengthened,he began to revert to his behavior when he first hit town acting as if he was above it all.
A recent conversation that I witnessed went like this.
Person-"Hey,Bryce,great game last night,nice shot".
Harper-"sdieif" at a low decibel that only dogs and people as close as I was could hear that much.

I will not miss watching people not just ask for any autograph,but literally beg and lower themselves for Bryce Harper to sign an item.
Some of these people would get their item signed and others would not,but even if you were lucky enough to get the signature,would the memory truly be a good one?
I mean,it was not just asking in many cases,but literally lowering yourself to the begging area for the chance of an eighteen year old "Mr Harper" to scribble his name on your item?
To me,that would not be worth remembering.

I often comment on the weirdness of this hobby that I am involved in.
I got into the hobby as a way of staying close to the game that I love after simply tiring of the politics of youth baseball and it is fun for me even to this day.
As I once said to Battlin' Bob about this blog and about his -"When the day comes that it is not fun,stop doing it",that applies to the autograph hobby as well.
When it is not fun,I'll quit.
Really,when you boil it down,what we do is ask young men to sign their name on pieces of cardboard.
Silly?Yep,but not more silly than women driving to Ohio to spend hundreds of dollars to buy baskets to hold house keys in or dressing up like Chewbacca from Star Wars or blowing animals to kingdom come for sport or any other of the millions of things that we Earth inhabitants use to occupy our downtime.

Bryce Harper may or may not be the player that many fans expect to see patrolling the outfield for the Washington Nationals,but despite some nice stories about the night he slammed a ball over right center in a shot that ranks as the longest shot I have seen in Hagerstown and being possibly the best player to spend a decent amount of time in a Hagerstown Suns uniform,the overall experience was bittersweet at best.
And now,life returns to normal and back to what makes me come to the parks that I visit-the game that I love so much..

Photo Credit:Cherie Heimberger

First on the "Marquis"



The Pittsburgh Pirates managed a split of their series with the Washington Nationals with a 10-2 blasting that saw eight Pirate runs off Jason Marquis and Collin Balester in the first two innings.

Sorry about no link,no record for winning pitcher Kevin Correia and no other information.
I'll clean this up tomorrow,but I do not want to find out the results of today's afternoon game against Houston and doing those links adds to the chance of me finding out the result....

Pirate Hooks

1) Andrew McCutchen just murdered the ball in the series.
I have no exact numbers,but it seemed like every at bat resulted in a bullet to the gap.
Cutch has really hit the gas of late and had he started just a hair sooner.....

2) Would have easily made the All-Star team.
The All-Stars is not really the achievement that it should be considering the process,but choosing by the player ability and nothing more-McCutchen should have been there...

3) Not that Joel Hanrahan and his perfect 24/24 in save chances didn't deserve it,he certainly did,but credibility takes time and until the Pirates earn respect,they are going to be a one player team....

4) The Bucs returned Brad Lincoln to Indianapolis after his Saturday start and added Chris LeRoux from AAA.
LeRoux mopped up the ninth inning of the win.
So essentially,it was LeRoux for Tim Wood,which is fine with me....

Sorry for the short post.,but check the reasons above for the shortness.
Another post coming soon.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images