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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hagerstown/Winchester Suns and a plan to please all!

These are not rumors or anything that I have heard from sources for the most part,more along the lines of things printed and some thoughts of mine.
Just a few things to think about.

I have not given up yet on the Hagerstown Suns staying here,although I am disturbed by things that I have read that Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey is talking to the Suns ownership about bringing a short season team (Think New York/Penn league) team to town to replace the Suns.
Frankly,this would be a financially silly decision and despite my support for the new team (I would certainly be there often),I do not think that the community will support the new team any more than the area do/did the Suns.

Hagerstown baseball has never truly recovered from the day that AA baseball left town and instead of returning to the High A Carolina League (where the town won its only championship since baseball returned to the area),the level dropped to the Low A South Atlantic League.
I have problems believing that the town would be accepting of yet another drop to a league that only plays for eight weeks.
As much as I would like to see baseball here and short season is better than nothing certainly, this will open the door for this from the City Council and County Commissioners-"Since we no longer have a full time tenant,we certainly cannot commit the type of money to fix Municipal Stadium for such a part time tenant".
Another possibility is this scenario,which I call the "Oh,Expletive" scenario-where Hagerstown/Washington County loses the team,then realizes that the lost prestige and travel money lost by allowing the team to leave town is far more substantial than they currently believe.
This ends in either of two not so great results-A)Frederick says "I don't think so as your fans are currently increasing our attendance and revenues or B) Frederick agrees to a short season team only,Hagerstown finally builds a new/renovated facility and discovers that short season baseball draws even fewer people to the facility making it a huge money loser.

I do think Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey is doing his best to keep the team here,although if the Mayor believes a backdoor deal for a NY/Penn team is going to salvage the situation,I believe he is badly misreading the landscape.
I also give the City Council credit for stepping up the funding,although it could be too little too late,thanks to the County Commissioners,who apparently feel that other projects are more important to spend their motel tax money on other than the reason for the tax to begin with.
Although I would like to give a special nod to Ashley Haywood on the City Council,who wants to see a business plan from a team that makes money (although not nearly as much as they could elsewhere),despite her business failing in the downtown due to a  Wait for it....  "Bad Business Plan from Day One!"
Forgive me,if I would rather have someone that knows what a successful business looks like checking things out rather than Ms.Haywood,who offers more gems on what to do with Municipal Stadium without the Suns-

“The Suns have offered us a renovation proposal but they haven’t offered us a business plan for success,” she said. “We’ve been hedging our bets on the stadium being the impetus for them to stay, but we’ve received no confidence from them that that is the case, so we need to switch our perspective a little and plan for the future, whether or not the Suns are going to be here.”


“We need to shift away from building the stadium for the Suns and, rather, if we do choose to build a stadium, build a stadium that will benefit the community in the amenities that it offers, whether or not the Suns stay,”


They don't need to offer a business plan for success,they make money with a slipshod stadium with a nicer facility,they will make more!
Please switch your perspective to something else and what would that something be?
Perhaps a coffee festival at the Muni? Because without a regular tenant,the Muni is going to be a huge waste of space and to attract a new team,you will have to build/renovate anyway,so why not keep the team that is here now?
Enlighten me on the "amenities" that a stadium without a baseball team will offer the area,please?
The NFL coming to Hagerstown,anytime soon?Maybe Wrestlemania?
Nah,let's just have another BluesFest-at least at the Muni,it would not shut the traffic down due to blocked off streets.

I would also like to give a special high five to Winchester,who continue to make progress towards taking care of business and realizing what baseball can mean to towns of theirs and Hagerstown's size and doing what it takes to land it.
Although,I would rather them have the short season team and the Suns stay here,I would have no ill will towards them and would attend games there as well.
I could do without their "Controlled Tsunami" talk about their announcement later this month,but they are excited about baseball coming to their area and I don't blame them a bit.
I wish the people in charge of this area (Bob Bruchey excluded for now) would realize that in a similar fashion.

I have not given up hope yet and I have been told that we have yet to reach end game,but the time is coming near.

Here is hoping the TRS plan is adopted-A new stadium for Hagerstown keeping the SAL and the Suns and a new stadium for Winchester with a short season team for their deserving area or even a full season team from somewhere else works for me.
I hope Bruce Quinn and his group can own both teams under the plan for his efforts in pleasing both towns.
A fairy tale?Maybe,but one that I hope can come true....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time to clean the inbox out a bit before it overflows.

The Cleveland Browns hired an offensive coordinator in West Coast offense crony Brad Childress.
Childress is a past colleague of Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert with the Philadelphia Eagles and of course was the former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
Childress is being hailed as a good hire due to his expertise in the WCO,but considering that Andy Reid called the plays for the Eagles and that Childress called the plays for just one of his seasons with the Vikings,one could argue that Pat Shurmur has more experience in that role than Childress.
That is a fact that needs to be considered as if Pat Shurmur continues to call the plays,than Brad Childress is just another assistant with a fancier title than the others....

The city of Cleveland will be spending five million dollars to renovate the past home of the Indians and practice home of the Browns-League Park.
The field at League Park is still intact as is the ticket building and a bleacher wall is still there,so much of the funding will go to restoring those two buildings and fixing up the field to "MLB size and standards".
I am glad to see the stadium saved,but I do wonder a bit about five million to fix a crumbling field when Cleveland has bridges so bad that my Aunt Becky refuses to cross them anytime that she goes to Cleveland!

Meanwhile,the Browns are asking for improvements to Cleveland Browns Stadium,which for a stadium that is not that old could use them,but wants their share of the funding that they receive each year (850,000) paid in a lump sum that covers the next six years (5.8 million) to fix things right now.
That raises this question to me-Do you think nothing else will be needed to fix for the five years after the payment? And where would that money come from?
Between the economy and the wretched on field performance,this might be the worst time to be asking to get an advance on your allowance!

Quick note on MASN's baseball coverage where Debbi Taylor has gotten the axe as the "reporter" for Washington Nationals games.
Nothing against Taylor,who was nothing spectacular nor horrifying in the role (like Pirate reporter Lacee Collins),but the role,as we have stated in the past,is just superfluous.
Taylor stated the the position was being eliminated and was not being replaced,which is a step forward in coverage.
No word on whether the position will remain on the Baltimore Orioles side of the network.

Sorry to hear of the passing of Robert Hegyes at the age of 60.
Hegyes was famed for his role of tough guy Juan Epstein on the 70's high school comedy Welcome Back Kotter.
The Epstein character was famous for his notes for any occasion (seemingly to be a variation of the Cpl.Klinger notes on MASH) and always signed Epstein's mother.
I have always thought that being an Elementary or Junior High teacher in the 1975-1980 era might have been among the most frustrating times to teach ever when Kotter aired.
From the Arnold Horshack "OOOO's" to Freddie Washington's "Hi There" to the Vinnie Barbarino's "What? Where etc" from half the kids in any class,I might have lost my mind!

Recently had the chance to watch the Phil Ochs documentary on PBS and their American Masters series and found it tremendous.
Whether your interest in music,politics,the 60's or protesting,the film entitled "There but for fortune",has something of interest for most and I give it my highest recommendation.
PBS tends to replay things often,so be on the lookout for it...



The latest story from the "ghost hunter" types is from a 1997 photo at Jim Morrison's grave that supposedly shows an apparition of the Lizard King in the background.
Supposedly it has been tested and called a legitimate photo,but my experience with these things is that they are all one big work....

Finally,two of my comrades are entering the blogosphere joining us and Battlin' Bob.
Ryan has occasionally penned (typed?) a few things at his blog Rebellious Jukebox,which is largely based on the music that Ryan cares about,while Corey is writing for the Fantasy Baseball Vision blog of someone that I don't know.
Check either or both out if you can.

Photo Credit
League Park:Thomas Ondrey-Cleveland Plain Dealer

12-0 run stuns Celtics in Cavalier upset!

The Cleveland Cavaliers gave the Boston Celtics all they wanted for three quarters,but appeared to be fading against the odds in the fourth as they fell behind by 11 points and looked to be looking forward to a rematch at the Q on Tuesday night.
Nothing could be further from the truth as the Cavaliers ripped off the final twelve points of the game and capped it off with a driving Kyrie Irving layup with under three seconds to go for a shocking 88-87 Cleveland win.
Irving led the Cavaliers with 23 points with Anderson Varejao adding 18 points and nine boards to go with immeasurable hustle.
The Cavaliers improve to 8-11 with the win.
The Celtics come to Cleveland tomorrow at seven for 70's night.

Swashbucklings

1) The Irving game winner brought to mind his early season shot that did not fall against Indiana,which allowed the Pacers to drag the game into overtime and hand the Cavaliers a loss there.
Shots will and will not drop at the end of games,but what I was impressed with was the coolness of Irving on the drive.Irving continues to show maturity and poise well beyond what anyone could have expected from a shortened college career.

2) As much as I loved Irving's night,once again the player of the night goes to Anderson Varejao,who's relentless boardwork and loose ball efforts were the main part of the comeback.
Varejao grabbed an offensive board to give Cleveland a second chance to take the lead and then after another miss,dove on the floor to outfight Boston for the ball and have the presence of mind to call timeout rather than be tied up for a jump ball.
As much as I would love the bounty that Varejao would bring on the trade marker,I think I'll just keep him.

3) Another interesting part of the comeback? The Boston "Big Three" each flubbed chances to put the game in the Beantown win column.
Ray Allen missed with a chance to increase a one point lead,Kevin Garnett grabbed a rebound of Allen's miss,but walked with the basketball and Paul Pierce missed with what could have won the game.

4) Daniel Gibson missed another game with a "stiff neck" and Anthony Parker left the game early again with back issues.The Cavalier backcourt is low on depth right now,so a frontcourt player deep on the bench could be a choice to head to Canton for a guard to bulk up the bench.

5) Mychel Thompson got off the bench with the need for minutes and scored his first four career points and contributed a key steal late in the game.
Good for Thompson.It is always a neat thing to see the guys that rarely play succeed a bit!

6) Highlight of the night goes to Alonzo Gee,who flashed across the lane and launched a tomahawk dunk in the face of Kevin Garnett and "Threw the hammer down"!
Gee finished with 14 points off the bench and continues to be my surprise player of the season.

I hope to be back later with a cleaning of an overflowing inbox!

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Not enough time in Cavalier loss to Nets

The Cleveland Cavaliers trailed by ten points at the end of one quarter and they would get no closer until a furious late rally left them three points short in a 99-96 loss to the New Jersey Nets.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 32 points with 21 of the total in the final period.
Antawn Jamison finished with 20 points on the evening in support of Irving.
Cleveland travels to Boston tomorrow for the first of a home and home set over three days....

Swashbucklings

1) I was happy to see the team battle back in a game that was already decided,but let's face it-much of the comeback was in garbage time and off missed Nets free throws.
Liked the effort,but have to be realistic..

2) That does not make up for the listless play over the first three quarters as the Nets pretty much put things into cruise control for the second,third and early fourth in keeping the lead between ten and fifteen points.
I would even say that had the Cavaliers showed up with any intensity for the third quarter,they might have stolen this one away.
On that part-the effort was disappointing...

3) Kyrie Irving's career high came with much of the points coming through the lane as the Nets preferred to give the basket away rather than foul and stop the clock,but I was encouraged to see Irving driving to the hoop rather than chucking up threes in that situation..
Smart play by the rookie to take the sure two rather than risky threes....

4) Ramon Sessions had one of those rare games where his jumper was falling (5-8) and finished as the only Cavalier other than the two mentioned above to finish in double digits with 11 points.
It is really too bad that Sessions' shooting is so unreliable,if he could just improve a little,Cleveland would be able to utilize Sessions so much more over the course of a game.
As it stands now,the Cavaliers just cannot afford to spend too much time with Sessions and the inconsistent Daniel Gibson (zero points in 25 minutes of court time) clanging jumpers off the board like they are tossing cement blocks off Lake Erie....

5) Tristan Thompson returned from his ankle sprain and scored five points in fifteen plus minutes.
Thompson will likely keep the same playing time range for the two Celtic games to avoid a flareup.

Photo Credit-AP

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cleveland Browns 2011 in review-The Defense

Part two in our series looking at the 2011 Cleveland Browns focuses on an improved defense that still has some gaps to fill in,but showed progress in some areas in the past season.

Defensive Line

This was the most improved unit on the season.
Ahtyba Rubin continued to develop as one of the league best all around defensive tackles.
Rubin is one of the rare defensive tackles that can rush the passer and yet play very strong against the run.
First round pick Phil Taylor had his ups and downs,most memorably with his jumping offsides to clinch a loss against Baltimore,but played well enough to be counting on Taylor as a future cornerstone.
Jabaal Sheard played very well at one defensive end after being taken in the second round last draft.
Sheard finished with eight and a half sacks in an excellent rookie season.
Jayme Mitchell was very disappointing in generating a pass rush off the opposite end of Sheard and might be on his way out of Cleveland.
Marcus Benard might have been able to help some,but he missed much of the season after a motorcycle wreck.
None of the depth players did much to impress me,so depth along the line is a need for the Browns,but the team is one more player away from ranking among the better defensive lines in the game

Grade:B+

Linebackers

This group still needs to be upgraded with a playmaker or two,but I cannot say that the Browns did not get the most of what they had in the position.
D'Qwell Jackson had a terrific year after missing much of the last two seasons due to injuries.
Jackson is the type of steady tackling type that does not make impact plays,but makes the solid plays.
Jackson would be even better,I think,if he had more speed around him.
Chris Gogong was equaling Jackson's play by season's end and showed why the Browns signed him to an extension and Kaluka Maiava showed signs of being at least a member of a rotation when he replaced the injured Scott Fujita over the second half of the season.
Fujita missed time in both of his seasons in Cleveland and should not counted on for full time duty.
This unit was used to its utmost,but still needs speed,speed and more speed....

Grade:B

Secondary

Joe Haden started the season strong at one corner,but tailed off in the second half.
I still am not concerned about Haden,but there is no denying that his second half was a not good one.
Sheldon Brown on the other corner is showing his age badly and needs to either be moved to safety,where he might have a few good years left or be allowed to leave.
Brown simply does not have the physical skills to play the corner anymore.
If Brown is moved to safety,the Browns could cut ties with Mike Adams,who I like as a nickel or dime back,but not as much as a full time player.
T.J Ward missed much of the season with injury,but lacked the same impact as in 2010 when he was on the field.The jury is still out on Ward's fit in the Dick Jauron defensive scheme,in my opinion.
Usama Young was very disappointing after being signed from the Saints in one of the few free agents signed in the abbreviated off season.
Dimitri Patterson showed decent skills as a third or even better fourth corner,but I would not feel comfortable with Patterson starting in 2012.
I liked what I saw in limited action from rookie corner Buster Skrine and his fellow rookie safety Eric Hagg.
Both need work,Skrine as a cover corner has the speed,if not the size and needs reps,while Hagg might wind up being a better fit at safety for this defense than T.J. Ward..
The team needs at least one corner,maybe two and a safety might not be a bad idea either.

Grade C

Overall,I saw some good signs from a defense that lacked the overall talent of many teams,yet helped the team hang into games that on pure talent,they should not have been able to do.
Give plenty of credit to Dick Jauron for this groups success.
I liked Rob Ryan,but I must admit that Jauron was a better fit for the talent in Cleveland,although Ryan was not given two picks in the first two rounds of a draft to bulk up the defensive line either.
There are holes to be plugged for 2012,but I like what I see as the beginning of the foundation....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cavaliers snap losing streak 91-81 over Knicks

The Cleveland Cavaliers snapped a four losing streak in their return on home with a 91-81 win over the New York Knicks.
Antawn Jamison led four Cavaliers in double figure scoring with 15 points,but Anderson Vareajo was the player of the evening with 10 points to go with 16 rebounds and 8 of those off the offensive glass.
Cleveland improved to 7-10 with the win and will host the New Jersey Nets tomorrow night at the Q.

Swashbucklings

1) Anderson Vareajo was the player of the night.
Vareajo's game was about more than points or even rebounds,it was the hustle on the floor,which resulted in four steals and the frustration that he caused the Knicks Tyson Chandler and occasionally Amare Stoudemire.
It is nights like these that make Vareajo the piece of the Cavaliers that would bring the most on the trade market and just as much why I wish Cleveland could keep him unless bowled over by a trade proposal..

2) Austin Carr commented on Alonzo Gee having the potential to be a Bruce Bowen type player due to his skills on the defensive end of the floor and I can see some similarities to Bowen.
But Gee has some offensive skills that with work reminds me of another former star Spur defender-Alvin Robertson.
Gee is taller and more of a small forward than a shooting guard,but he just reminds me a lot of Robertson and that would be a nice player for Cleveland.

3) Omri Casspi was having a nice game with 13 points until leaving the game in the third quarter with a cut on his chin which ended his evening as well as requiring six stitches to close the cut.

4) Cleveland was able to get some help from their big men off the bench in the victory as Ryan Hollins hit all four of his field goal attempts to finish with nine points and Samardo Samuels backed up his strong game in Miami with a six point evening.
When you can get those numbers from limited players in their time on the court,the chances of winning nudge higher...

5) First of the year for the Cavs Fanatic unis and these were not that bad.
Using the script of the Andre Miller teams on blue uniform with gold color,they were not that bad at all.
Certainly better than I expected after seeing the attempt last season....

6) Two quick Knick Notes-the first is whenever I hear the name Knickbockers used,I instantly think of an obscure game that I had as a kid called Gnip Gnop.
Wish I knew why!

7) The other is that the Knicks are trying to build their version of the Miami three with Amare Stoudemire,Carmelo Anthony and a piece to be added.
There is more to this game than just numbers and Stoudemire and Anthony's games do not seem to mesh with each other and neither of the pair match up with Mike D"Antoni's offense,which features a run and shoot ASAP aspect than neither player's strength is that style.
The Knicks have real issues and look for either Anthony,Stoudemire and/or D'Antoni to be moving on and perhaps as soon as the trading deadline....



Photo Credits
Vareajo:AP Photo
Gee:Joshua Gunter-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cleveland makes Heat sweat in 92-85 loss

Less than great shooting and 22 turnovers obscured a great defensive effort by the Cleveland Cavaliers,who hung in the game until the final seconds with the Miami Heat before losing 92-85 in Miami.
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with17 points while Samardo Samuels added 15 in a strong effort off the bench.
The 6-10 Cavaliers return home to the Q tonight against the New York Knicks.

Swashbucklings

1) I loved the effort on defense. Cleveland got back on defense quickly and simply did not allow Miami to get their transition game going.
This also gives credit to the coaching staff,who prepared the team very well for Miami's game plan and almost stole a win away from the Heat.

2) Byron Scott is not perfect though,as I thought he waited far too long to re-enter Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter.
Irving is the best player on the team and the threat of Irving driving the lane might have given an extra bit time for some of the jumpers taken in the final quarter and might have resulted in a few falling.
I understanding of the need to keep Irving's minutes under control,but I would rather see those minutes limited in the first or third quarter and used in the fourth to gain late game experience.

3) Samardo Samuels looked very strong in the first half.
Samuels made his first seven shots (most of them slams) and for a half looked like a player ready to step into increased playing time.
Samuels seems to play well when playing a physical interior game and struggles when he falls in love with his outside game,which needs lots of work.

4) Samuels minutes likely increased due to an ankle injury to Tristan Thompson,who sat the game out due to the injury.
Not sure if Thompson will be available over the next few games as of now.

5) Nice to see Lebron James stepped up again with a 8 of 21 shooting performance.
The defense on James was strong and the game plan good,but James looked more than a bit shaky to me,especially late in the game when he looked to have rather been the inbounder than have any interest in taking the big shot and deferring to Chris Bosh,who truly was the Cavalier killer on this night.

6) Just five points and six shots from the floor in a hair under 31 minutes of play from Antawn Jamison?
The veteran was virtually invisible in this one.

7) In the end it was turnovers (20) and missing open shots in the final period that doomed Cleveland in this one.
Those things will happen,but I was very pleased with the effort after two awful games in a row.

Photo Credit-AP

Sabres stick Devils in shootout loss

The New Jersey Devils lost their third game in a row entering the All-Star break with an especially galling 2-1 shootout loss to the visiting Buffalo Sabres at the Rock.
Patrik Elias scored (18 power play) the only goal for the Devils,who fell into a tie with Florida and Toronto for the final playoff spots despite earning one point on the night.
New Jersey will have a week before a return next Tuesday vs the New York Rangers at the Rock.

Hell Raisers

1) Why was this loss especially galling?
Lets start out with the fact that Buffalo had not won a game on the road in the last 12 attempts and New Jersey dropped a game to a last place team at home.
That should be enough,but it isn't.

2) Twice,the Devils had chances to nail down the win in the shootout.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored on Ryan Miller to give the lead and Patrik Elias (third in line) missed a chance to clinch.
Martin Brodeur then watched a Jason Pominville shot glance off his glove when a save ends the game.
Two chances to win before a loss....

3) Two attempts that would have won the game in the third and overtime periods were foiled as well.
Ryan Miller made a terrific overtime save on Ilya Kovalchuk off a sharp pass by Bryce Salvador,but the Adam Henrique shot in the third beat Miller,but hit the post and skidded harmlessly away from the net.

4) Good news bad news,the defense played well as Buffalo was held to just 14 shots.
Bad news is that despite just one getting by Brodeur,the offense was unable to take advantage of the differential....

5) I wish I had more to write other than the less than exciting game.
I plan on possibly doing a half-season in review post over the week time permitting in which we look at the ups,downs and maddening inconsistency of the Devils....

I will be back later with the Cavaliers in Miami against whathisname and the Heat.
I have watched some of the game and the Cavaliers are hanging tough thus far,which is a refreshing change after the loss in Atlanta!

I also know that some of you want more thoughts on the developments of the Hagerstown Suns.
I have plenty and plan on getting them up,but want to do judiciously as things are looking kinda gray right now,but the Mayor of Hagerstown Bob Bruchey is digging in and I like what I know of his efforts thus far to pull the Suns back into town...

Photo Credit:Paul Bereswill-Getty Images

Monday, January 23, 2012

Devils flop against Flyers 4-1

Since this is two days late,I'll keep this post short as I will the follow up post on the Cavaliers loss from Saturday as well...

The New Jersey Devils lost their second straight game to a quality team at the Rock in a row with a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The newest Devil (at that time) Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the only Devils goal (8) off a deflected shot of Adam Larsson's.
The Devils will finish off the first half tomorrow night against Buffalo before taking a week off for the All-Star game and "professional days...

Hell Raisers

1) Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal highlighted his first game as a Devils after being obtained from Carolina for minor league defensemen Joe Sova and a fourth round draft pick.
Ponikarovsky should help the third or fourth line's scoring pop a bit and the cost was not prohibitive,so I am on board with the pickup.

2) The Devils sent Mattias Tedenby to Albany before the game to make space for Ponikarovsky after a disappointing season for the Swede.
Tedenby had scored just one goal and perhaps a stint in Albany will wake up Tedenby's offensive game..

3) New Jersey returned Steve Zalewski to the A-Devils and added defenseman Peter Harrold to the team from the AHL unit.
The Devils were down to just six defensemen with their latest injury hits and needed someone with NHL experience to fill the seventh slot.
Harrold was the choice as he had NHL time with the Los Angeles Kings...

4) The disappointment in the loss for me was allowing two power play goals.
The Devils penalty killers has dropped in status a bit lately as the team has allowed nine PP goals in the last 12 games...

5) The other downside for the special teams was an anemic 0 for 6 on the power play.
The Devils just cannot seem to get things going on the power play and in this game looked even more out of sync than usual..

Photo Credit-AP Photo

On the signing front-

A brief post to knock some more cards off the pile from the signing front as we finish off the Hagerstown Suns season and make more progress on last years minor league stuff.
An extra long day at work yesterday caused me to miss the Devils and Cavaliers posts on their losses.
I may try to return later with short posts on those or may do a feature instead.

The Suns final two opponents were from the Hickory Crawdads (Rangers) and Lakewood Blue Claws (Phillies).
 
Notable additions

Hickory:
Jurickson Profar-one of the games top prospects is not the best signer in the world.
Jake Skole
Cody Buckel-Buckel tends to smear almost every card that he signs.
It did not seem deliberate to me,but others were having the same issue.
Luke Jackson-Diminutive Tim Lincecum look alike was very nice
Kellin Deglan-Ranged from good one night to not so good the next-my experience was OK,thanks to Corey Cunningham for helping with Deglan while I was getting others..
Former big leaguers Storm Davis and Jason Hart were both excellent signers,especially Davis post-game.

Lakewood
Jesse Biddle-One of the nicest players in 2011
Anthony Hewitt
Cameron Rupp

I finished up the Kinston Indians in Frederick after a less than great evening in their first visit after the release of their team set.
Pitchers Trey Haley and Giovanni Soto were the most notable additions.

Thanks to my good friend Kendall Morris for his help with the Lynchburg Hillcats while I was in Tennessee.
Without Kendall's help,I would have missed out on the Lynchburg team set among other cards.
Lynchburg
Andrelton Simmons
Chris Masters
Christian Bethancourt
Joe Leonard
Todd Cunningham
Luis Salazar-former big leaguer and Hillcat manager.

Kendall also got me two Portland Sea Dogs in a trip to Bowie in pitcher Chris Balcolm-Miller and outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker.

Thanks also to Jason Christensen for these players from his travels-Matt Stark,Rod Allen,Curt Smith and Kevin Hooper.

Football through the mail
Former Packers and Cardinals running back Donny Anderson
Former Broncos tight end Riley Odoms
Former Saints kicker Russell Erxleben

Hang in there folks,if you know you have helped me and I have not mentioned you yet,it is because your stuff still is on the pile!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cavaliers smash record!

Now that I have your attention,the record that was broken was a bad one as the Cleveland Cavaliers took it on the chin for their worst home loss in history in a 114-75 loss to the Chicago Bulls and what makes this worse was that Derrick Rose missed the game for the Bulls!
As Warner Wolf used to say-"If you had 38 points and took the under-you lose!".
Anderson Varejao "led" Cleveland as one of only two players with double digit points with 14.
Cleveland travels to Atlanta tonight at seven...

Swashbucklings

1) I wish I had a good thing to write about,but honestly I have none.
The Chicago Bulls are a far far better team than the Cavaliers,but 39 points? at home?
Embarrassing.

2) How do you get embarrassed like this?Well shoot 30 percent from the floor to start.
That came after a a late game bucket or two to raise that percentage.

3) Antwan Jamison 1 of 10 from the floor.
Everyone is entitled to a bad game,but 4 points in a team high 30 minutes of floor time?
That is not just bad,it's rotten!

4) This game was so bad that Luke Harangody and Ryan Hollins got to play!!!

5) Brutalized on the boards? Oh yeah as the Bulls had a 54-38 margin and it seemed far more than that.
I know Chicago is a good board banging team,but the Cavaliers were not just outmuscled,they were outhustled.
Byron Scott has to be very displeased about that.
I am looking forward to seeing how the team bounces back from this in Atlanta tonight against a strong team on the road...

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bruins own the third period in 4-1 Devils loss

At the end of two periods,the New Jersey Devils led the Boston Bruins 1-0 on a Petr Sykora goal (12),but it was one of those leads that seemed like it should have been larger with wide open nets that were missed and shots that clanged off the iron of the post.
Considering the opponent was the Boston Bruins,you had to know that they would be coming and they did with four goals in the final period (1 being an empty netter) in a 4-1 Boston win.
New Jersey hosts Philadelphia tomorrow at one.
Onto the notes....

Hell Raisers

1) No excuses for the loss,Boston's play in the third period might have won the game anyway,but the officials helped little.
David Clarkson was called for a ridiculous hooking call that gave a power play to Boston,who promptly scored on a Nathan Horton goal that could have been overruled for interference.

2) As noted above,it was one of those nights that you could see the end result coming-Steve Zalewski,Mark Fayne and David Clarkson all hit the posts on shots that might have been goals.
Ifs and buts....

3) Kurtis Foster cost the team the first goal as Foster simply stood in front of Martin Brodeur and screened Brodeur off completely.
No chance Marty even saw the shot...

4) Foster will need to step his play up as will the other defensemen as Henrik Tallinder will miss the next 6 to 8 weeks with blood clots in his legs.
Tallinder is not flashy,but is a huge steadying influence and will be missed.
Between Tallinder and Andy Greene's injury,Lou Lamoriello may have to spring into the trade market early to see if he can upgrade the defensemen.

5) Great game by Martin Brodeur.None of the three goals allowed could be close to being considered his fault and his save on Benoit Pouliot ranks among the best of the season.

Photo Credit-Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Latest on the Hagerstown/Winchester Suns

Just a update on the Hagerstown Suns possible move today.
I received quite a few notes on the Ballpark Digest post,so I figured I would address it today.
A reader of ours sent our first post on the topic to BD and was blown off with a "there is more going on than he knows about".
Well,other than I overlooked interest from Kinston NC,which I should not have forgotten about,most of what he writes in the link are things that we already covered over the last month.

However,I do have a few new pieces of information from two different sources.
Please remember although my sources do not deceive,these things are fluid to say the least and rumors at worst,so please keep that in mind...

If Winchester VA is a contender and is willing to build a new park -an available site that currently houses a vacant office building could fit the bill.
I have been to Winchester a handful of times,but never in their downtown,so I have no idea on suitability,but it is something I have heard.

You have heard Winchester Va and Wilmington NC as contenders and Kinston is a strong contender that I have overlooked,but a credible darkhorse on the scene is Columbia SC.
Columbia has been without pro baseball since 2004 when their SAL entry the Capital City Bombers left town to become the Greenville Drive.
One source goes as far to say that Columbia is the city that no one is talking about,yet has a real shot of pulling this off....

My other source tells me that the Atlantic League interest in Hagerstown comes from a owner in the league right now that would like to own their own team in the league and would be willing to jump right in.
This sounds more like an AL expansion than moving a current team to me.

Finally,the Hagerstown offer is based on a plan that the city has approved,but has yet to hear from the county for help.
Have to give the people in city government credit so far,but my source seems to believe that some of the decision makers truly are in denial about the team leaving.
One cannot blame them with the past track record,I suppose,but the county commissioners are leaving the door open for another city to drive through as long as they dither and bicker.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cavaliers welcomed home with Warrior loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers were unable to follow up their win on Monday in Charlotte with a win in their return to the Q and lost to the Golden State Warriors 105-95 after a poor final period.
Antawn Jamison led the Cavaliers with 19 points with Kyrie Irving adding 18.
The Cavaliers take a few days off before hosting the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

Swashbucklings

1) The Cavaliers looked dull on both the physical and mental parts of the game.
Back to back games after a seven games road trip can do that to a team.
That is not an excuse,but the team had to be far under optimum performance levels.

2) However,considering the condensed schedule for this season,all teams will have to fight through the fatigue barrier at one time or another and as such-better teams will deal with that better than others...

3) Semih Erden finished with 14 points and showed some good moves in the low post,especially in the first half.
Erden will be given a ten game or so audition by Byron Scott to see what Erden has to offer on a team lacking size down the middle.

4) Turnovers-as in too many of them.
23 in this loss.
If the Cavaliers want to compete night after night,the turnover numbers need to be at least around the league average if not lower.
That is simplistic,but true for a team of this level...

5) Love the Golden State Blue and Gold uniforms.
Looks like the NBA is moving towards the classic look in unis and most of them get our thumbs up...

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Devils wallop Winnipeg 5-1

The New Jersey Devils returned home from their road trip and promptly laid a whipping on the visiting Winnipeg Jets in a lopsided 5-1 win.
New Jersey scored the first four goals of the game before swapping goals in the final period with Winnipeg.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (18 and 19 power play),Patrik Elias (17),David Clarkson (16) and Petr Sykora (11).
Martin Brodeur had 20 saves in the victory.
The Devils are off tomorrow before hosting the Boston Bruins in what will hopefully be a better game than the 6-1 Bruins win in the last game between the teams.

Hell Raisers

1) Ilya Kovalchuk continues his sizzling streak of scoring with two goals and an assist in the win.
The first goal for Kovalchuk and the first of the game was off a beautiful breakaway that left Chris Mason grasping at air.
A motivated Kovalchuk is a dangerous man,

2) Patrik Elias finished with a goal and two assists,but again Elias was sharper with the pass as his pass from tape to tape to David Clarkson was a perfect one.
Elias is another that has stepped his play up of late.

3) Adam Henrique missed another game with a groin pull,which is supposed to be a mild one.
I would rather the Devils show caution and have Henrique ready,even if it means a short term stay on the IR.
The team was a bit too quick to return Travis Zajac (as was Zajac reportedly) and Zajac was soon back on the IR.
I would hate to see that error happen again....

4) The Devils returned Jacob Josefson from an rehab assignment in Albany and added Brad Mills from the A-Devils as well.
Josefson is back from an ugly broken clavicle from hitting the boards hard earlier in the season.
Nick Palmeiri was returned to Albany in order to add Mills to the roster...

5) All five goal scorers finished the night with multiple points as Patrik Elias,David Clarkson and Petr Sykora each finished with an assist to go with their goals.
Balanced scoring is often the preferred way to go and keeping the load off the Parise/Kovalchuk line is going to pay dividends in the long run...

6) The Devils honored Patrik Elias before the game for his 1000th game with the team.Elias passed the number on the road trip,so this was the first chance to honor the veteran.
Elias received a jersey with Elias 1000 on it as well as a piece of artwork covering his career.

Photo Credit-Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

Cleveland finishes road trip in style in Charlotte!

Kyrie Irving scored 25 points and added seven assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers ended their seven game road trip in style with a 102-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Antawn Jamison added 20 points for the victorious Cavaliers,who evened their record at 6-6 on the season and finished the road trip with three wins out of seven,
Cleveland returns home tonight against the Golden State Warriors at the Q.

Swashbucklings

1) Full credit to the Cleveland defense for the win in this one as the Cavaliers locked down the Bobcats in the second half allowing Charlotte just 37 points over the final two quarters.
Byron Scott has always been a defensive coach and looks to me as his work is beginning to pay off....

2) Daniel Gibson's reputation may that of a shooter,but he was the star defender in this game as he took Charlotte's best player in D.J. Augustine completely out of the game in the fourth quarter.Gibson's steal (and forced foul as a result) on Kemba Walker late in the game was the key play in finishing Charlotte off for the afternoon.

3) Omri Casspi played very well in the third quarter as he continued his strong game against the Lakers (going by the numbers as I missed that game) with 14 points and a great job of taking the ball to the basket.
Casspi had three chances for old school three point plays in the period and that shows his strong plays at the hoop..

4) Antawn Jamison continued his strong shooting with a 20 point game off 9 of 16 shooting from the floor.
If Jamison can shoot that well over the course of the season,the Cavaliers might be able to land a first rounder from a playoff contender for the veteran before the trade deadline....

5) Anthony Parker left the game after nine minutes with back spasms and will miss tonight's game against Golden State.
No word on if this is a long term injury.

6) The Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert have purchased the Arena Football League's Cleveland Gladiators for an undisclosed price.
Bernie Kosar is a friend of Gilbert's and may return to running the team as he did before the AFL's demise after the 2008 season.
Good move for the Cavaliers/Gilbert,who now have three tenants owned by Gilbert to play in the Q with the Cavaliers and the Lake Erie Monsters.

7) Charlotte obtained former Ohio State center Byron (B.J).Mullens from Oklahoma City for a second rounder and I have been very impressed with Mullins in both games with Charlotte.
Sometime it takes a few years for big men to mature after leaving college early,
The Bobcats may have gotten themselves a steal..

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cleveland Browns 2011 in review-The Offense

Today,we start a three part series in which we will look at the season in review for the 2011 Cleveland Browns.
I have time on my hands since ALL four of the teams that I rooted for over the weekend lost,giving me a borderline disgusting final four for the NFL,featuring Baltimore and Murderin' Ray Lewis against New England and cheating Bill Belchick and the Giants and their NYC Hype against San Francisco and their long time member on the disliked list-Jim Harbaugh...

Today,we will focus on the offense,with the next post covering the defense and the third and final post looking at the special teams and coaching....


Quarterback:
Browns fans are split on whether or not Colt McCoy is the long term answer at quarterback.
To me,this is like the question of the chicken or the egg,which came first?
How can Colt McCoy succeed with such limited weapons? or if Colt McCoy was truly a QB to build around,he would make limited talents better,would he not?
Both sides have merit,but from what I saw,I would lean towards McCoy being an decent quarterback with the right team,but not the type that is going to win a Super Bowl with.
McCoy's numbers look better than they really were because of the dink and dunk style of Pat Shurmur and rolling up garbage time numbers in games that were already lost.
The question that so many have is should the Browns replace McCoy or give him one more season with improved skill position talent?
I think it depends on the player available.
Seneca Wallace has seemingly complained his way into a possible chance to win the starting job despite not being able to throw the football accurately beyond twenty yards.
I did not see the Browns improve much in his starts,but apparently someone has in the Browns front office.
I have never seen what Mike Holmgren has seen in Wallace going all the way back to Seattle.
5'11,32 years old (for 2012),a lousy arm and a questionable attitude-what's not to love?
Want a crazy prediction?IF Seneca Wallace is the regular starter for Cleveland in 2012,the Browns will own the first pick in the 2013 draft.
Pat Shurmur picked up former Ram Thaddeus Lewis off waivers to be the third stringer,but Lewis saw no action.

Grade:C-

Running Back:
Peyton Hillis battled injuries all season and seemed to not play when he could have,but looked very strong in two losses late in the season when given plenty of carries before being only given ten carries in a winnable final game against Pittsburgh.
Hillis will likely not return due to the issues during the season and does not seem to be a west coast offense fit or a Pat Shurmur guy.
Hillis always played hard when he was on the field,so his effort there is beyond question,but the Browns will likely allow him to leave.
Montario Hardesty was a huge disappointment in his return from a knee injury.
Hardesty missed most of the second half and rushed for over seventy yards one all season and that was a 95 yard day on a whopping 33 carries in the classic 6-3 win over Seattle.
Perhaps it might take another year for Hardesty to be really over his knee injury,but I think it would be a huge mistake to enter next season with Hardesty being counted on for a major role in the offense.
There is still time to turn things around,but for now trading up in the draft for Hardesty is looking to be a real bust.
Chris Ogbonnaya was brought into town as an emergency measure when both Hillis and Hardesty were injured and was a key in the win over Jacksonville and the should have been win against the Rams.
When the above pair returned,Ogbonnaya was limited to spot duty and special teams.
Ogbonnaya is not a player to hang your hat on,but used properly can be a helpful part of the team.
Owen Marecic was a huge disappointment to me as a rookie fullback.
Marecic was reported to be a great blocker and pass catcher,he proved to be neither.

Grade C-

Wide Receiver

The Browns thought the WCO would magically turn bad receivers into good ones and therefore paid no attention to the position other than drafting Greg Little in the second round.
Little dropped more passes than he should have,but between missing his 2010 college season and being stuck on a team where a rookie was being covered by the opponents best corner because there was no one else to worry about,I liked Little's season.
I think he is a true number two receiver rather than a one,but a solid season all things considered.
Josh Cribbs improved his hands this season,but showed little of the breakaway ability that he shows in special teams.
I still think Cribbs is not a true receiver,but would be better used in situations that showed his versatility.
I have been saying that through three coaches now,so that may not happen.
Mohamed Massaquoi has never been the same player since being hit by James Harrison in Pittsburgh in 2010.
Massaquoi looks tentative and rarely is a factor,which is more production than the team got from Brian Robiskie before his mid season release.
I would not be surprised to see Massaquoi elsewhere next season.
Jordan Norwood showed signs of possibly being able to help as a slot receiver.
Norwood reminds me a little of New Orleans' Lance Moore,which is more valuable on a good team than a bad one.I still liked Norwood's
Carlton Mitchell finally caught three passes after 30 games of not catching one.
Mitchell has the size and speed,but there has to be a reason that he never plays.

Grade D+ and that's only because of Greg Little's development.

Tight End
Ben Watson battled concussion issues all season that finally ended his season early.
Watson was steady but unspectacular and made nowhere near the impact that he did in 2010.
Watson is reportedly considering retirement with his concussion problems.
Evan Moore has the best hands on the team,but the Browns were very inconsistent in their use of Moore,who would occasionally go entire games without seeing a pass.
Moore should have been the red zone target for the team.
Not sure what the team issues are with Moore,but I bet there is something there...
Jordan Cameron was inactive for much of the first half,before seeing the field in the second.
I liked the cameos of Cameron and I can see the physical skills,even though I still think the Browns drafted him too soon..
Grade C

Offensive line

The line took a huge shot with the loss of Eric Steinbach at left guard,which dropped Joe Thomas from dominant at left tackle,to simply a pro bowler.
Steinbach was replaced by rookie Jason Pinkston,who was serviceable in his first year.
Alex Mack was strong at center and despite leading the line in penalties,Shaun Lauvao gives me hope at right guard.
Right tackle is a major problem with Tony Pashos,Oneil Cousins,Artis Hicks and the janitor among others.
Pashos is injury prone and not that good when he plays.
The others are backup types at best,so right tackle is a major need for next season.
All things considered with an injury to a key player (Steinbach),a rookie playing out of position (Pinkston) and basically two rookies at guard,I think things could have been far far worse.

Grade B-






Sunday, January 15, 2012

Devils rally for Winnipeg win!

Goals in the third period by Kurtis Foster (2) and Patrik Elias (16) enabled the New Jersey Devils to rally after being behind for most of the game and earn a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets in Manitoba.

The win gave the Devils three wins of a possible four on their road trip.
The Devils will have two days off before a Tuesday game at the Rock against the same Winnipeg Jets in the first of a six game homestand.

Hell Raisers

1) The Kurtis Foster goal that tied the game came right off a faceoff win by Dainius Zubrus and saw Foster rip off a shot that Ondrej Pavelec had little chance against.
The Foster shot,which ranks as the most powerful among Devil defensemen,was mentioned as the main reason that Foster was brought to New Jersey.

2) The goal was the second of the season for Foster,but his first as a Devil.
I will not be making the distinction between Devils and non-Devils goals in the stat line as possible new additions come to the team...

3) Patrik Elias scored his goal off a deflection of a Adam Larsson shot/pass that saw Elias get to the side of the net and be virtually uncovered.
Larsson will be an outstanding offensive defenseman,if he can show that type of passing ability as his game matures...

4) Elias had a chance to slam the door completely on the Jets with a late period penalty shot,but Elias has at the end of a long shift,when the penalty occurred and not even a time out seemed to revitalize him and the fatigue showed on his missed shot...

5) Martin Brodeur bounced back a bit after a rough game in Calgary,but the goal he allowed should have been stopped.
Andrew Ladd's shot hit off Brodeur's glove and should have been a routine save...

6) Adam Henrique missed the game with a "mild groin strain".
No word if his availability for Tuesday's game.

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Friday, January 13, 2012

Irving makes Phoenix feel the heat

I have been called into work early for tonight and tomorrow,so this will be a shorter version than usual for the Cavaliers 101-90 over the Phoenix Suns in Phoenix,
I think I am going to tape tonight's game against the Lakers,so coverage of that could be tomorrow,Sunday or even combined with Monday afternoon's game against Charlotte.

Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and Antawn Jamison added 23 to move the Cleveland record to 5-5 on the season.
Cleveland is in Los Angeles tonight against the Lakers.

Swashbucklings

1) I did not see the loss in Utah,but Kyrie Irving was thinking shoot (11 of 17 from the floor) just as much as pass in the win and that is what might make Irving eventually shine above other point guards in his age bracket.
Irving's offensive game and jumper seem to be more reliable than that of say Washington's John Wall and that along puts him above many.

2) Irving more than held his own against the old standard Steve Nash.
Nash had a a nice game as well with 16 points and 15 assists,but Irving showed poise in not falling for too many of the veteran's tricks.

3) 17 rebounds with seven off the offensive glass for Anderson Varajao in a strong performance.
Varajao's career high in boards is 18,so that shows the type of evening that he had.
Phoenix did not really have the type of physical big man that will give Varajao issues and he was able to take advantage of the favorable matchup.

4) The inconsistency from three point land continued as the Cavaliers hit 10 of 19 from beyond the arc.
I think that fact will be the difference in wins and losses for the teams this season or at least,it has been that way thus far...

5) Fun stat of the night-Semih Erden fouled out of the game without a point.
Well,that happens to young big men on a rare occasion,but the real rarity is that Erden did so without attempting a shot.
Six fouls,no points and no shots is an unusual stat line....

Photo Credit-Christian Peterson-Getty Images.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Parise's pop lifts Devils over Oilers

Zach Parise's stuff into the open net( 15 power play) off a Patrik Elias pass on a 4 on 3 overtime power play lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
The other Devils goal was scored by Ilya Kovalchuk in the second period (17 shorthanded).
Johan Hedberg earned the win in goal with 23 saves.
The Devils conclude their road trip on Saturday at three in Winnipeg.

Hell Raisers

1) Nice night by Johan Hedberg,even though the number of saves was lower than normal.
Hedberg made some excellent saves and sometimes
quality saves mean just as much as quantity.

2) The Devils have sometimes been accused (by me) of showing too much patience on the power play.
Last night in overtime,they showed just the right amount of patience as Patrik Elias took his time saw the opening and knew either his shot was going in or the teams would have a juicy rebound..

3) The win gives the Devils four points on the trip going into Winnipeg.A four point road trip is OK,a six would be tremendous,so this is a big game for New Jersey on Saturday...

4) Edmonton was missing two of their top offensive stars in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle,but still I thought the defense played well.
Bryce Salvador was strong and Mark Fayne was improved as well...

5) The Devils will sit Travis Zajac down for two weeks to rest his Achilles.
If it is still bothering him,then sitting him is the right thing,so he is available for the playoff run..

6) Ilya Kovalchuk catches a lot of hell from fans,but he has five goals and three assists in his last four games,showing the skills that we all know he has.
Kovalchuk's breakaway shorthanded goal last night was breathtaking...


Photo Credit-AP Photo

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Devils corraled in Calgary 6-3

An awful first period by the New Jersey Devils to crawl into a four goal hole that they were never able to clear out of against the Calgary Flames in Alberta and as such lost to the Flames 6-3 in a game that saw Martin Brodeur chased from the game early in the first period.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (16),Patrik Elias (15 power play) and Adam Henrique (13 shorthanded).
The Devils stay in province tonight against Edmonton at 9;00,which means I will see the first period and then depart for work.
If the game is close,unlike last night,when I leave,I might take the XM box so I can do some coverage.

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur allowed two soft,early goals and was pulled by Johan Hedberg after just seven and a half minutes.
The hook was not a bad one to me as Brodeur was stymied by both shots,neither of which seemed to be overly difficult.

2) The Devils shorthanded strength continued with a Adam Henrique goal.
New Jersey continues to have opportunities when a man down and continues to lead the league in shorthanded goals.

3) Speaking of Adam Henrique,the rookie finished the evening with the "Gordie Howe" hat trick of a goal,assist and a fight with Jarome Ignila.
Henrique hit Ignila cleanly,had Curtis Glencross want to fight him over it and then Ignila stepped in and fought.
Smart decision by Henrique to decide Ignila was worth removing from play for five minutes rather than Glencross.

4) I thought Adam Larsson's play has become more consistent of late and Larsson did have an assist in the game.
Larsson continues to develop,has been avoiding a huge mistake to swing a game recently and shows why he could be the defensive building block for the Devils for years...

5) I was pleased to see that the Devils hung in there and tried hard throughout the loss,twice getting to within two goals.
The second and third periods were fairly evenly played and that is encouraging to me.
All too often,teams just roll over and play out the string and the Devils did not do that.

I have not watched the Cavaliers game yet,but will be doing so this afternoon,so will try to be back later with a post.

Editor's Note-Due to a Directv mishap ( my pass was not kicked in after their free preview weekend),I did not see the Cavaliers loss in Utah.
Things have been since corrected.
I will miss the game against Phoenix,but may do the Lakers game via XM....

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On the signing front-

More from the past years signing front as I continue to try to get cards put away in what seems to be a futile battle!

Until I get these caught up,the lists will be briefer with team name,where acquired in brackets and notable pickups and noted help from a friend..

Mail-
Baseball mail graphs go in order of how I received them,while non-baseball gets listed faster.

Baseball
Former Tigers outfielder Mickey Stanley

Football

Former Bears and Saints running back Brad Muster
Former Jets safety Erik McMillan
Former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson
Former Broncos linebacker Michael Brooks
Former Cardinals safety Ken Greene
Former Patriots and Raiders corner Mike Haynes
Vikings running back Toby Gerhart
Former Colts and Browns quarterback Mike Pagel
Former Dolphin linebacker Zach Thomas-In his Texas Tech uniform!
Former Bills quarterback Frank Reich

Basketball
Former Kings guard Travis Mays
Former coach Larry Brown-enclosed a note thanking me for the letter!

Hockey
Former Oilers winger Petr Klima
Former Devils defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov


Greensboro Grasshoppers (Hagerstown)
Christian Yelich-Signed a ton of cards,but I was the only guy there and told him that was everything that I had for me and my traders.
He said he usually does not do that many,but he'd make an exception..
Zachary Neal-Neal is the pitcher that Bryce Harper blew a kiss to.
Marcell Ozuna
Jordan Conley-former Xavier Musketeer

Richmond Flying Squirrels (Harrisburg)
Francisco Peguero
Charlie Culbertson ( on a yellow tri-star 1/25)
Eric Surkamp
Chuck Lofgren-I had never met Lofgren,who had a mixed reputation among the graphers ,but I found him very nice and chatted a bit.
Two minutes later and down the walkway a bit,Lofgren blew up on another collector saying "Didn't you just see me standing down there and signing for those guys?!"
Chris Dominguez
Wendell Fairley-1 per person

Former Pirate Oliver Perez,who spent the year with Harrisburg,signed one card.

Winston-Salem Dash (Frederick)
Jared Mitchell
Andy Wilkins-Told me to ask Jerry "The King" Lawler to stick around after the game as he wanted his autograph!!
Santos Rodriguez
Jake Petricka

Frederick Keys-Meet the team day
Manny Machado-1 per,which is fine usually,but on Meet the team day?
Kipp Schutz
Jonathan Schoop
Former Oriole Mike Devereaux-always a class act.

Lexington Legends
Tanner Bushue
Jay Austin-Spent so much time talking and joking around with us that the manager yelled at him!
Mike Kvasnicka

Thanks to the following for help
Brad Adams-Tom Browning in Scranton
Bill Cover-Kei Igawa in Harrisburg
Corey Cunningham-Domingo Santana in Hagerstown,the day after the Astros got Santana in the Hunter Pence trade.One day left here for Lexington,get him or not and Corey went over and got him.
Tracy Mackereth-Delino DeShields in Hagerstown,Called into work,stopped by the Muni on my way there and Tracy helped me out with DeShields....
Corey White-Corey got the guys that I missed in Tennessee for me and will have more mentions in future signing fronts,Brian Harper,Brett Jackson,Rebel Ridling,Kevin Rhoderick among others....

Thanks again to my friends and more to come as we only trimmed the stacks from 3 to 2 large piles after this post!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time to clean the inbox a bit and we will start with what I have found out about the recent chatter on the Hagerstown/Winchester Suns (makes me think of the old Kansas City-Omaha Kings from the 1970's).

My source is a very reliable one and tells me that the city of Hagerstown will make a charge to keep the Suns in the Hub City and that the last swing will be a strong one.
I cannot say more than that,but allow me to say this-if this turns out to be what I have been told,the Suns will be the guilty party.
The hangup thus far with the Suns and Winchester appears to be over revenue sharing or lack thereof.
Currently,the Winchester offer that would not include revenue sharing is one that the Suns are not thrilled with.
My concern is this-If Winchester comes up with a revenue sharing offer that the team likes-is that the end game?
My source says-very likely.....

The source adds this and this is a surprise to me-there is an Atlantic League team following the Hagerstown Suns situation very closely and is ready to pounce on the Hub City if the Suns are destined to leave.
Of course,affiliated baseball is much preferable to me and I am sure most fans,but that does say something about the market,if an Atlantic League (The Atlantic League is the Cadillac of Indy ball) owner thinks that highly of the potential here.
Still rather have the Suns,mind you,but this is an acceptable backup plan for me,if not others....

You know how much we love uniform and logo talk,so here is some chatter about some of the NBA uniform changes.
Sadly,the Cavaliers are doing more of those hideous "Cavs Fanatics" on certain home nights this season.
I saw one of them last season and my vision still has not cleared!

Teams with ABA connections through their pasts or the city that they currently play will occasionally wear ABA togs this season.
I love the "Texas" Chapparals of the Spurs,although I like the classy Spurs unis as well and the Minnesota with the Muskie logo and nice colors.
The Memphis golds have a good look as well,although they might be a love em or hate em type..


ESPN's Rob Parker says Atlanta is the worst sports town in America.
Atlanta might be just that,although I would say Miami gives it a strong challenge.
My theory on large Southern cities is that the weather just gives them more things to do and sports are not as important to them as to Northern residents,who sit inside in the winter and like to watch games in the summer.
As a result,sports are not as high on the civic community as you drift further south....

Sorry to hear of the passing of former New York Giant outfielder Don Mueller at the age of  84.
Mueller was part of the shot heard round the world game in 1951 and injured his ankle sliding into third on Whitey Lockman's double shortly before the Bobby Thomson homer.
Mueller's career season was with the 1954 World Champion Giants hitting .344 and a league high 212 hits....

Rare video of former Toronto Maple Leaf Ian Turnbull's five goal game was discovered recently and my friend Rick Ambrozic was part of the find.
The video was found by a contractor that was demolishing a house and found around a thousand Betamax tapes inside.
I have never given up on finding stuff that supposedly does not exist,like this game and the "Bing Crosby" copy of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series.
It only takes one person to tape and keep something.
Rick runs a website RicksTv  that can be found on the link.
Congrats to Rick and the others involved!.
Now when do I get my copy???

Brian Burke says the trend of less fighting in hockey is a "dangerous trend".
Burke's contention is that without the threat of dropping the gloves,dirty stickwork,elbowing etc will continue to rise and therefore make such play increase.
I tend to agree with Burke on this.
When the players police themselves,you get a better game....

Finally,this link has been in the inbox since before Christmas-seven great old time commercials on hockey toys.
Where else can you combine Doug Harvey,the late,great Phil Hartman,Snoopy and Woodstock.the Wayne Gretzky doll and something called Mice Hockey???
Here is one for free,but check the rest out....

Portlandia!

The title is based on the current IFC series Portlandia that takes place near Portland for those of wondering what a "Portlandia" was/is.
The Cleveland Cavaliers hung tough for a while against the talented Portland Trail Blazers and got to within five points in the middle of the third quarter.
In the end,bad shooting (36%), turnovers (24!) and an inability to get back against the Portland transition game doomed the Cavaliers to a 98-78 loss.
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 21 points,with only two other Cavaliers reaching the ten point mark.
Cleveland takes today off before traveling to Salt Lake City and the Jazz tomorrow night.
No Devils or Cavaliers tonight! How will I kill the time?
Looks like a feature coming up!

Swashbucklings

1) 24 turnovers.
Most of which led to Portland fast breaks and easy points off the transition.
Simply put-Few teams will win turning the ball over 24 times,let alone the Cavaliers.

2) Three of twenty four from behind the three point mark for an anemic .125 shooting percentage.
This is going to be a very inconsistent team from night to night from the outside.

3) A very nice night for Kyrie Irving,but as Austin Carr pointed on the telecast,Byron Scott kept Irving in the game throughout despite the large deficit because Scott wants Irving to pick his conditioning up and learn to play with short breaks.
Irving led the team with just under thirty minutes of floor time and Scott's reasoning makes lots of sense to me..

4) I also liked Scott's jerking Omri Casspi from the game ASAP after Casspi's missed three pointer and follow up mope and not even trying to get back against the Blazer break.
Nothing against Casspi,but that type of play cannot be allowed to grow without repercussions.
Good call by Scott..

5) Watching the game and Portland's LaMarcus Aldredge and it seems to me that Aldredge is the template for what Cleveland hopes to eventually receive from Tristan Thompson.
A rangy,athletic big man that can run the floor and be a shotblocking threat on the defensive end.
I haven't seen much of Aldredge,but from last night's game-that would not be a bad template to run a power forward off of!

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Devils speed past Penguins 3-1

The New Jersey Devils allowed the first goal of the game in Pittsburgh,but would not allow another one as the Devils earned a 3-1 win in Pittsburgh behind Martin Brodeur's 41 saves.
Adam Henrique tied the game in the second period with a shorthanded goal (12 shorthanded) and Ilya Kovachuk's bullet a few minutes later (15) was the game winner.
Dainus Zubrus would complete the scoring in the third period (12 power play).
New Jersey will be in Calgary on Tuesday night in the first of their three games in Western Canada.

Hell Raisers

1) Tremendous game by Martin Brodeur in bouncing back from a down effort against Boston in his last start.
Brodeur's play basically won this game for the Devils,especially with his first period play.

2) Brodeur made 12 first period saves with what seemed to be a high number of difficult saves to keep New Jersey from being blown out early.
The Devils only put three shots on Marc-Andre Fleury in the first and the game could have been over early if not for Brodeur.

3) Adam Henrique's shorthanded goal was the ninth shorthanded goal of the season by the Devils,which leads the league.
Now,if the team could just quit allowing shorthanded goals....

4) Fire and Ice adds this note on Martin Brodeur's win in the new Pittsburgh arena.
Brodeur has now won games in 49 different arenas in his career.
Staggering stuff.

5) The Devils placed Anton Volchenkov on the IR and called up Nick Palmeiri from Albany.
Somewhat surprised that the team waited so long to move Volchenkov to the IR,but I suppose the injury just lingered longer than expected..

6) The Devils also are close to sending Jacob Josefson to Albany for some rehab time.
Josefson is recovered from a broken clavicle suffered earlier in the season...

7) Palmeiri played in the win and replaced a scratched Cam Janssen.
As I stand by from yesterday's post,the Devils cannot afford to dress both Janssen and Eric Boulton...

Photo Credit-AP

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Devils win before hitting the road.

The New Jersey Devils snapped a two game losing streak in their last game before a four game road journey with a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
New Jersey had to score two empty net goals to fend off a Panther power play with under three minutes to go to create the inflated margin of victory.
Devils goals to Patrik Elias (14),Ilya Kovalchuk (13 and 14 empty net),Zach Parise (14 empty net) and Adam Henrique (11) with Johan Hedberg getting the win in goal.
The Devils are in Pittsburgh tonight in the first game of the trip against the Penguins before hitting the Western Canada portion with games in Calgary,Edmonton and Winnipeg....

Hell Raisers

1) Patrik Elias enjoyed his 1000th game as a Devils with a goal and assisting on both of Ilya Kovalchuk's goals.
The pass to Kovalchuk that broke the tie was an especially pretty pass by the veteran.
Elias might have been the best player on the ice last night.

2) The Devils were able to fight off the power play that was six on four at times due to a Zach Parise delay of game penalty.
I hate that penalty since it was installed a few years back because it carries little nuance.
The referees have to know what was an intended delay and what is not and the current rules do not allow the referees to take any reason into account.

3) The defense still is giving me concerns.
Andy Greene and Anton Volchenkov are not Bobby Orr and Scott Stevens,but this team playing without both gives increased playing time to players that cannot handle it-Mark Fayne is a target of my disdain lately,although he did finish with a +2 and an assist last night,but the defense needs those players back and soon!

4) In Lou We Trust has been screaming about Peter DeBoer dressing both Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen for a while now and now I must join in.
I am a fan of the enforcer role and have no problem keeping one of them active,but keeping both is simply foolish,especially when Mattias Tedenby gets scratched as he was last night.
Tedenby has struggled this season,but give me one upside to Boulton and Janssen.
Take your time...

5) Steve Zalewski was called up from Albany and made his debut last night.
I like giving career minor leaguers a shot at the big time,but the Devils are doing it too often.
Zalewski AND Tim Sestito and both on the ice often?
See number 4 for my opinion on that.

6) Looks like a rare Gary Bettman good idea is going nowhere as the NHLPA has rejected the realignment plan for next season.
Very shortsighted by the union and the flack should go all on them.
This is not a good sign for the upcoming CBA talks and looks like this could be contentious.
Can this league afford another work stoppage with teams in cities that have issues already?
A lockout might just end in contraction of some teams,which would not be a bad thing for the product,but will look very minor league in the casual fans eyes.

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Friday, January 6, 2012

Visiting Kent State-a National Tragedy

As promised,the final stop of our day trip finally has the right time to be written about.

Cherie and I have wanted to stop by and see the memorial and site of the Kent State shootings of 1970 for years.
I cannot remember how many times that we had planned on trying to find the memorial on the way home from trips and put in on the back burner because we just wanted to get home after a long trip.
Perhaps the shorter excursion helped this year as after a trip to the terrific Hartville Market (Same exit,but 10 miles in the opposite direction,Cherie decided that she was up to finding Swensons and Kent State after I told her that I was fine doing it,but we would do both or neither as we would be going out of our way to find them.

After we ate at Swensons (detailed here),Cherie said that we did not have to stop as we were not sure on how to find the campus.
I had asked a Kent State student that worked at Swensons about how best to find the memorial and she gave a long, detailed and what seemed to be a hassle filled trek to us.
Considering a cold and windy day,I think that more than anything deterred the lovely Cherie.


Rachel was more interested in her milkshake to care either way.
I had attended KSU football games in the past,but Dix Stadium is not part of the campus or if it is,it is on a remote part of it,so I was not familiar with the surroundings.
As we attempted to retrace our route back to 1-76,fate stepped in as I either turned one road too soon or too late and before we knew it,we were alongside the campus and seeing signs for the memorial.
That clinched it for me,we were not going to be that close and skip it yet again.

As we entered campus,we noticed a dearth of parking and as we pulled into the Prentice Hall parking lot (More on what I found out about that later) I asked a campus parking officer,if he knew where we could park as we just wanted to see the memorial,would just be a few minutes,were from out of state (Our rental van had South Carolina plates) etc.
He responded that since I had asked him first,we could park right up front in the restricted area without any issues.
I was very glad that I asked,as when we were leaving,he was taking plate numbers and giving tickets!

As we walked from the parking lot towards the memorial I wondered what a handful of appeared to be mini light poles in four different spots in the parking lot.
What I found out later that these were the places that each of the four students that were killed had actually fallen.
Had I known this,I certainly would have gotten pictures and paid my respects.
I certainly want to see these closer in a future visit.

As we battled the wind in an uphill walk,the first thing that we saw was the marker from the Ohio Historical Society.
The OHS signs are always distinctive and easy to read with this sign covering the events on both sides of the sign.
The memorial was to the right of the turn and simply stated May 4 1970 Memorial.I was mildly surprised that the students were not named,but as we moved further (On the right hand side,the trees near the pictured student) there is a plaque with the names of the casualties and injured.
That is pictured at the top of the post.
I would have thought that the plaque would have been more prominently displayed,but the location is actually a peaceful and tranquil one and a fitting one,I think.

We stood for a bit and then moved along a few of the markers on a walking trail created for visitors,but between the cold and the promise to stay just a short while,we wanted to keep moving,but we did see the marker from the National Register of Historic Places that was added in 2010 on the side of Taylor Hall,which will be the future home of the May 4th visitors center,which I am sure will be a wonderful addition to such a poignant scene.

Cherie and I both agreed that we would like a return again,albeit on a warmer day to take more advantage of the surroundings and hopefully,that will happen soon.

No matter your opinions on the incident (mine may be noted in a future piece,but this is about the memorial),Kent State was a turning point for our country.
I am not sure that things were ever the same again in how we looked at ourselves as a country and it certainly was part of the last issue that truly divided this country from within.
Certainly the Tea Party and Occupy movements pale in comparison to the anti-Vietnam protesters in both voice and importance.

The one thing that I took away was the importance of dialogue.
That seemed to be in short supply in those times.
From President Richard Nixon and his staff,to the Governor of Ohio (James Rhodes),the Ohio National Guard and yes,the protesters,it seemed like no one wanted to sincerely listen and talk with respect to others opinions.
Talking and listening are important in these times as well as then and I wish that we could do more of that both nationally and internationally.
There certainly is a time to fight,but there is always time to talk,reason and discuss.
Last I heard,no person ever was killed by talking.

If you have the opportunity to be near Kent State,stop by and take a look.
I am sure that you will be affected by the scene and at the very least,make you ,as the memorial simply is inscribed,Inquire..Learn.. Reflect.

Photos by Cherie Heimberger