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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ohio State nips Sparty 17-16

The Ohio State Buckeyes managed to get just enough out of their offense and a better than expected effort out of their defense to nip 20th ranked Michigan State in East Lansing 17-16.
Braxton Miller's 63 yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith late in the third quarter gave the Buckeyes a 17-13 lead that they would hold onto until the final gun.
Miller finished the day with 179 through the air and 136 yards on the ground for the now 5-0 Buckeyes.
Ohio State will host 4-1 Nebraska next Saturday night.

The Buckeye State

1) I thought this was a pickem game that I gave Michigan State the hairline edge for being at home.
The real hairline edge was Braxton Miller.
Miller still needs help with his passing touch,but trust me-in the next three years,Braxton Miller wins the Heisman Trophy.
Book it with your wallet.

2) My biggest worry with a running quarterback almost came true with Miller in this one as twice he left the field shaken up.
Miller fumbled once on a play that left him groggy and only the turnover likely gave him enough time to recover.
Kenny Guiton had to run a play in Miller's absence and had Guiton been the QB that finished this game-Michigan State wins....

3) The running game has been erratic this season,but give the team credit-the running game got the needed first downs to end this game.
Michigan State punted with under five minutes to play and they would never see the ball again,thanks to Miller and Carlos Hyde running the clock out.

4) Hyde's run on third down ended the game and it was a tough and physical run,but it was Hyde on the field at all because of another injury to Jordan Hall.
Hall came up gimpy after a catch in the first half and did not return.
Not good news for next week....

5) A key difference in the win was the through dominance of the Ohio State defensive line.
The Buckeyes held Le'Veon Bell to 45 yards on 17 carries.
That made the Spartans have to win through the air and they were not going to do that...

6) It all was not perfect for Ohio State,who once again showed poor tackling techniques on the only Sparty touchdown of the day.
Keith Mumphrey got through several tackles that saw players trying to strip the ball instead of taking the ball carrier down.
The strip has become more prevalent in football,but it still does not take the place of good ol' tacklin'!

7) Special teams has been an issue in the early season,but they did step up in this one as Bradley Roby blocked a punt.
The block did not result in any points for the Buckeyes,but it was nice to see the ST squad step up with a big play...

8) Ohio State blitzed Andrew Maxwell more times than I can count from the linebackers and even occasionally from the corners and safeties.
The Buckeyes blitzed very seldom in the non-conference schedule,which makes me think that they were saving a lot of looks for the Spartans.
This does make me wonder if they have anything held back for Nebraska next week...

9) Ryan Shazier had his typical big game,but senior Etienne Sabino finished with eight tackles and a sack.
Nice to see Sabino finally getting a chance to play full time and being productive doing it...

10) I always feel bad picking against the Buckeyes and I feel worse when they win,feeling that I didn't faith in my team.
But this time,I don't feel that bad because I know that I would have picked the Buckeyes if this one would have been at Ohio Stadium.
These two teams were that close,especially with a one point game and Michigan State missing a field goal in the game that could have reversed the result.

Photo Credit: Marvin Fong:Cleveland Plain Dealer

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quick PPM

A quickie this week,so I can get some sleep before the Ohio State-Michigan State game

Last Week 4-2
Season 18-6

College
Michigan State over Ohio State 16-13
Bowling Green over Rhode Island 24-14
Texas Tech over Iowa State 31-20
Game of the Week; West Virginia over Baylor 38-29

Pro
Ravens over Browns 27-13-My prediction from earlier
Packers over Saints 35-31
Game of the Week: Jets over 49ers 20-17

Reviewing the tape-Ravens nip Browns 23-16

After missing the second half and then foolishly forgetting the laptop last night,I finally have time to discuss the now 0-4 Browns loss in Baltimore 23-16 Thursday night.
Cleveland took the game down to the final play,but Brandon Weeden threw out of the end zone on the games final play.
Weeden finished with over 300 yards passing on the game,but the Browns only touchdown came on one yard Trent Richardson rush.
Phil Dawson slammed three field goals of over 50 yards for the remaining points.
Cleveland will travel to New York next week and the waiting Giants...

Brownie Bits-These are a "bit" scattered due to me taking notes while watching the tape.
These are not in order of importance..

1) Greg Little reminds me of flashy shortstops that make the difficult play and then kick the easy one.
Little made two difficult plays and dropped three more,one of which would have put the ball on the Baltimore one.
I have supported Little thus far,but the drops are becoming harder to take...

2) The pictured hit on Josh Cribbs was a clean one,I thought.
When you cannot hit players with the arm/shoulder,then the game needs to become touch football.
It pains me to say it,but that was just a good clean football play...

3) Good night from the defensive line as they kept the pressure on Joe Flacco,
Jabaal Sheard had his best game this season and I really like what I have seen thus far from Billy Winn.
There was even a John Hughes sighting as he cleaned up on a pressure from Winn to earn a sack.

4) The punting game needs to be addressed soon.
Reggie Hodges has just not gotten the distance that he had before his Achilles injury and teams are getting better field position than they should.
I would not be surprised to see a punter audition soon...

5) I thought Brandon Weeden was OK.
Not great,but not awful.
Much of his yardage came because he threw 52 times,but averaged a small 6.2 yard per attempt.

6) One thing about Weeden is that he seems to miss a large percentage of his incompletions high .
That tells me that he puts too much on the ball and needs to work on touch...

7) Not enough Trent Richardson.
The Ravens took him out of the game with 47 yards,but only 14 carries.
If you want to base your offense on the running game,Richardson needs more than 14 carries...

8) Very predictable play calling.
Pass on first down,maybe a run on second and pass on third.
No mixing up things up,no variation.Blah.

9) The secondary continues to miss Joe Haden as expected.
The Browns left the game with both safeties T.J. Ward and Usama Young with injuries.
Dmitri Patterson made 11 tackles,which sounds nice until you realize that if a corner is making that many tackles,he is having a lot of passes caught on him...

10) Anquan Boldin is the exact receiver that the Browns lack-A veteran that just catches the ball and runs solid routes.
Cleveland has no one that fills that bill,which is some of why this team struggles a bit in the passing game...

11) Phil Dawson's three 50 yard or longer field goals added him to a short list of players to accomplish that,as he was only the seventh ever to do that in a game.

12) Still very tired of Pat Shurmur's "extended handoff",a play that sees a 3 yard pass play when you need 15 yards for a first down.
I know that is the West Coast philosophy,but on this team,it does not work.

13) I think the NFL has reached its overkill point with Thursday night games every week of the season.
It's too much and I think it will be a mistake long term..

14) I think NFL Network coverage needs to improve.
Brad Nessler is fine at play by play,but Mike Mayock is awful.
I remember when ESPN 2 had the CFL contract and the announcers were Gus Johnson and Mayock.
BLEECH

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thinking of an old friend

It's funny how people come and go in your life and its funny how people long forgotten jump up in memory now and then as well.

I went to school with Mike Kline for all 13 years of school and considered him a friend there.
Not a good friend to the point of doing things together outside of school,but someone that you would say hello to in the halls and would not argue about sitting at your table at lunch.
I didn't have much in common with Mike,I was a sports nut and he was totally about automobiles.
Mike and I played on the same baseball team in little league and he quit halfway through.
He wasn't very good and sports just were not his deal.
Mike always was drawing cars and looking at car magazines that might have been in chinese for all I knew!
I remember Mike being a Ford fan and always was talking about Mustangs and Cougars.
My first car was a Mercury Montego and I remember Mike always asking about it.
The only things that I knew was that it broke down a lot and how to drive it!
I would say we were much better friends in those "wonder years" of elementary school,but we always stayed friendly throughout school.

I most remember Mike for two events in school that showed you the type of person that Mike was.
The first was in fifth grade,as a member of "talented and gifted" class that was in its infancy,every person in the very small class was required to enter the local "film festival" with a filmstrip with your original artwork.
This was a major issue for me as my artistic ability consists of a pretty lopsided stick figure.
Mike (who wasn't in the class) asked me if I wanted his help,despite there being nothing in it for him.
I was happy to accept and save a good grade out of what certainly would have been a poor one (back in the days that I cared about those things in school).
Nothing else but kindness from a child,which is not the rule with children!

The other event was in ninth grade as I was in a locker room brawl that saw me getting the better of it and two friends of the fellow on the losing end begin to inch forward to turn the tide a bit.
Mike Kline stepped out of the spectators to stop those guys and said "this is going to finish how it started-one on one".
Mike had respect from people that was earned and yet,I never remember Mike getting into a fight in all the years that I knew him.
Mike saved me from a three on one that day and I never forgot that.

A week or so back,I was picking up my parents mail and went down a different road with the lovely Cherie and pointed out Mike's house along with two others that I went to school on this back road.
I had not thought of him in a while and the ride was nice bringing back a memory or two.
I only remember seeing him once since 1986 and graduation,in a K-Mart that was so long ago I remember Ryan sitting in the front portion of the cart!

So a few days later,I was sitting at the road office as I am tonight and I saw an article about a Mike Kline memorial car show.
I clicked on it since I had just thought of Mike and discovered that it was the Mike Kline that I had known.
Mike had taken his own life in December of 2010 after running his own side business restoring classic cars.
A few guys that I had known from school as Mike's friends were quoted in the story about what kind of man Mike was and it seemed like Mike was still well liked,but had troubles that he just could not deal with.

When we reflect about those times,they seem so simple.
The important things then prove to usually been not so much and look awfully small compared to running a budget,paying the mortgage and putting the bills in order.
But in some cases,because those times seem so simple,they seem better-they weren't,they just had less responsibility.
Take it easy,Mike-You were a good man.
May you find the peace that you were unable to find here......

Photo Credit:Unknown





Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The 2012 Hagerstown Suns-The Hitters

The 2012 Hagerstown Suns hitters had a variety of position players over the course of a season.
The Suns ranged from legitimate prospects,faded prospects that are attempting to rejuvenate their careers,organizational soldiers and players are about to see their careers go away.

The player of the year for the Suns and the organization (officially) was third baseman Matt Skole.
Skole showed plus power (27 homers) and hit .286 to add to an OPS of over 1,000.
Skole has flaws as he struck out over 100 times and I do not see him playing third in the long term as his range is limited and his arm accuracy is questionable.
The Nationals might consider a move to either first or the outfield in the future...

The other prospect was 2011 compensation pick Brian Goodwin,who hit well after a stint on the disabled list early in the season.
The Nationals in one of their decisions that make one wonder leaped Goodwin from Hagerstown to AA Harrisburg,where he showed power (five homers),but hit just .223 there.
Goodwin has plus speed and appears to me to be a prospect to make a run at the Washington centerfield job in 2014...

The Suns featured a few players returning to the level and a few of them spent 2011 at High A Potomac,so this had to be quite a comedown for them.

Jason Martinson spent the first half with the Suns before a promotion to Potomac.
Martinson hit 22 homers between the two stops,which is impressive for a shortstop and stole thirty bases between the two as well.
However,Martinson still strikes out way too much (167 between the two teams!) and the fielding still is a major issue.The jury is still out on his future considering his contact issues..

J.P. Ramirez spent the first month of the season in Hagerstown before returning to Potomac.
Ramirez was at one time a powerhitting prospect,but that has disappeared from his game as Ramirez hit just two homers combined for the season in 377 at bats.
Considering that power was the main plus tool of Ramirez's game,I would say Ramirez has slipped to the border of the organizational soldier...

Cutter Dykstra spent the entire season with the Suns and spent time at second and third as Dykstra attempts to add versatility to his viability as a prospect.
Dykstra hit .291,stole 32 bases and was better than expected defensively,but hit just seven homers after dropping a level.
Dykstra will need a strong season next year to have a chance of being considered as potential big leaguer,....

Steven Souza was a destroyer in his seventy games in Hagerstown as he smacked 17 homers in 70 games and between Hagerstown and Potomac posted an OPS well over .900.
Souza is now an outfielder,which is now his third position change and is still 23  after seeming to be around forever.
Souza's power spurt might have put him back into the prospect picture slightly,but a caveat-he was at a level far lower (Hagerstown) and then at Potomac was repeating a level,so try to not get too excited all things considered.
Souza should start at Harrisburg next season and needs a quick start to show that he has matured as a player.

The prospects drop off from there though.

Billy Burns hit for a high average (.322),stole 38 bases and played excellent defense.
Burns also hit zero homers and was a little old for the level,so I would hesitate to put him on the prospect list yet,although hustle guys like Burns tend to raise through the system higher than one would think on pure ability.

Caleb Ramsey showed a nice outfield arm and better speed than you expect (22 steals and 10 triples),but only hit seven homers and is 24 years old.
Another college player that looks to be a level behind his age..

The prospects dip even more from there

Khayan Norfork showed flashes in 19 late season games,but will start the season at 24 with only those games above short season.
If the Nationals like his prospects,he'll start next season in Potomac....

Bryce Ortega missed much of the season and showed a steady glove at shortstop,but little power (1 homer) and for an older player (just turned 24),did not show enough with the bat for me to consider a true prospect.

Justin Miller played three different infield spots and is being converted to catcher in the off season.
Another 24 year old showed surprising power (10 homers),but struck out over 100 times and I don't see Miller advancing unless he really clicks behind the plate...

26 year old Brett Newsome was just OK in his fourth year in Hagerstown as a Sun.
Problem is that 26 year olds are not in Hagerstown if they are a prospect....

Adrian Nieto finally had the opportunity to be the full time backstop in his third year in Hagerstown
and did passably (.257 and 6 homers in 70 games),although he missed time again due to injury.
Nieto needs a big jump in Potomac next season or he is likely to be finished as even a mild prospect..

J.R. Higley looks to be through after a season that saw him demoted from Harrisburg and then play poorly for the Suns with a less than stellar effort.
Higley turns 25 in June,I think he is on the way out...

Hendry Jimenez barely hit .205 after a strong 2011 at Auburn,Jimenez has to be looked as a disappointment...

Cole Leonida regressed in his second year as a Sun,hitting under .200.
Leonida looks to be either the insurance catcher that rotates from team to team according to need or headed to independent league play.

The less said about Jeremy Mayo,Carlos Alvarez and Angelberth Montilla the better as none of the three distinguished themselves in limited play with none of the three hitting over .200.

The 2012 Hagerstown Suns won the second half of the SAL,but most of the prospects were gone from the team by the time the title was won.
I like Skole,if he can strike out less and Goodwin has plenty of physical tools,but otherwise-not a ton of optimism for the future outside of those players.






Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The 2012 Hagerstown Suns-The Pitchers

Time for our annual series where we look at the Hagerstown Suns from the previous season.
Today will be the pitchers and tomorrow the position players.

The 2012 Suns were not a team filled with prospect arms,but a few are of interest and many others are either organizational soldiers or non-prospects with plenty still to prove...

The most exciting prospect was 2011 first rounder Alex Meyer.
Meyer put up solid numbers as a Sun,but a mid-season promotion to Potomac saw dominant numbers.
The 6'9 Meyer struck out 139 between the two stops and walked just 45 with hitters hitting in the .210 area against him.
My biggest concern on Meyer is that his fastball seems awfully straight to me,which I think hitters at higher levels will take advantage of.

Taylor Hill finished the season with the most starts of the staff and was promoted to Potomac late in the season.
The former Vanderbilt Commodore finished with an ERA just under five,which for a college pitcher in the SAL is a huge disappointment.
Hill has underwhelming stuff and I think his 2012 season made me think of Matt Grace's 2011 campaign here. Grace did not pitch well at Potomac and I don't see Hill doing substantially better next season either.

The Nationals did send a few touted prospects to Hagerstown,but other than Meyer,all disappointed.

Matt Purke was a high bonus (2.75 million) third round pick from 2011,but in his two starts here clearly looked like an injured pitcher.
Purke's radar gun readings were in the mid 80's at best in his two starts in the Hub City (Purke made three total) and looked like a pitcher that was either on his way to the DL (he was) or getting ready to leave the game.
Purke's last outing made me think of the swan song of former first rounder Colton Willems in that I almost felt sorry for him being on the mound.
At this point,I think the Nationals might have lost a lot of money on Purke...

Brian Dupra was a college righthander was expected to move quickly through Hagerstown.
Instead,Dupra was hammered around the Muni (7+ ERA) and after eight starts hit the disabled list for the season.
Dupra walked 15 and only whiffed 20 in 37 innings in what had to be a disappointing season for both Dupra and the Nationals.

Kylin Turnbull spent some time on the disabled list,but didn't pitch well when he was healthy.
The lefty finished with an ERA over five and does not strike out many (51 in 89 innings),which is always an SAL warning sign to me.
I'd expect the 2011 fourth rounder to return here next year on performance,but might be promoted by attrition.

Hagerstown used three late callups as the basis of their late season rotation.
Blake Schwartz pitched the best of the three,but he is almost 23,came to the level late and is a flyball pitcher.
Schwartz will need to move quickly to be considered a true prospect.
Dixon Anderson had control problems (6 walks in 9 innings),bounces a lot of breaking balls,but does keep the ball down.
Brian Rauh had his numbers inflated by one bad start in Greensboro,or his stats would have been far better.
Rauh might be a guy that I am not willing to cross off the list yet,although I really do not have a concrete reason for doing so.

The rest of a less than motley crew bring hints of prospecthood,but just that hints.
Wirkin Estevez  showed the ability to keep the ball on the ground and was just 20,so despite a less than great season,I'm willing to keep him in mind for another year.
Taylor Jordan returned late in the season from Tommy John surgery and was hit hard in 40 innings.
Jordan's ERA was not awful (4.05),but opposing teams hit over .300 against him.
Bobby Hansen struggled in Potomac and was demoted midway through the season and his numbers did not improve.
Hansen walked more than he struck out and I have concerns about Hansen's future after an injury that ended his 2011 early.

The most interesting member of the bullpen to me was Christian Meza.
Meza struck out 94 in 88 innings and had an ERA of under three.
Combine that with being a lefthander and I think Meza has a chance to at least be a situational lefty down the road.

Nate Karns started and relieved for the Suns and earned a deserved promotion to Potomac,whre he was placed in the P-Nats rotation and posted similar numbers.
I didn't see much of Karns,but the numbers cannot be denied...
Karns should be moved to Harrisburg next season and was the Nationals minor league pitcher of the year.

Aaron Barrett pitched well as the Hagerstown closer and was even better after a Potomac promotion.
Barrett struck out 73 batters in 51 innings and Washington sent him to the Arizona Fall League.
My red flag on Barrett is that he turns 25 before next season,so he will have to be moved somewhat quickly.

Colin Bates posted similar numbers to Barrett,except for strikeouts.
Bates is a groundball pitcher,so of course he needs to keep the ball down and locate it well to succeed.
Bates too turns 25 before 2013 starts,so he has time to make up....

Richie Mirowski (ERA of two) and Ben Hawkins (almost a strikeout an inning,opponent average of .224) are the remaining relievers that are worth keeping tabs on with intriguing numbers.

The remaining arms are organizational soldier types or players headed for Independent leagues around the country unless they are able to improve in 2013.

Hope to be back tomorrow with the hitters....







Monday, September 24, 2012

Dear Aunt Becky or Bills 24 Browns 14

You think YOU are overmatched?
I was told today by my favorite Aunt Becky,that even when the Browns lose that I find a silver lining.
I know,I know-Aunt Becky does not know her nephew that well,if she thinks that I think that way,but today we take the gloves off.
I cannot think of one good part of the Cleveland Browns 24-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills,other than the touchdown run by Trent Richardson,who bounced his TD run outside when the inside run showed no holes as the only part of a miserable day for Richardson and the Browns.
So to my beloved Aunt Becky-this one's for you!

Brownie Bits

1) Typical script for the Browns-Give away points early,get a score to make the game reasonably close,the defense cannot make the one stop that the team desperately needs and the offense sputters in the late going.

2) Yes,Brandon Weeden made a nice throw on the touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin,but every other pass of any distance was either overthrown out of bounds or surprisingly more often than not-underthrown.
I may be wrong (I'm not),but was it not that Brandon Weeden had a stronger arm and more accurate arm throwing the deep ball that was trumpeted as a prime reason Weeden was brought in over the lesser armed Colt McCoy?

3) Weeden also seemed to have a large number of passes batted down or deflected off the line of scrimmage.
This is not all on Weeden as the Buffalo defensive line dominated the line play all day,but some of that goes on him as the man letting the ball go.
Was it not another reason that Brandon Weeden was touted ahead of Colt McCoy that his height advantage would keep in the pocket more,less balls batted down and an ability to see more of the downfield area?
Yeah,I thought so....

4) The template to beat this team is pretty straight forward.
Control Trent Richardson at all costs.
Make Brandon Weeden and his untested receivers beat you.
At this point,nothing that I have seen makes me think that is likely.
Follow that plan and even mediocre teams like Buffalo can defeat you.

5) Buffalo had lost their last eight games on the road before this game and yet they strolled in with two marches down the field,took the crowd out of the game and established that they were controlling this game.
Why the Browns always come out so flat at home is befuddling to me.
You want a reason that Pat Shurmur is toast sooner or later? That is as good of a reason as any...

6) I'll keep this common complaint brief.
Still tired of two yard pass routes when you need eight yards.
Although those plays do seem to work remarkably well AGAINST the Browns. Of course other teams have linebackers that can run and stop those players from running downfield,but that's beside the point....

7) I have tried to be a booster of Greg Little through all the dropped passes,but I've have enough of the Usain Bolt Arrow Shot.
Of course,I might be more tolerant if the performance was after a 80 yard gain or a touchdown,but after a 12 yard pass play?
Thanks for the show,Greg and thanks for the great two catches for 17 yard game as well....

8) The Browns injured C.J. Spiller in the first quarter after he had caught a TD pass of 32 yards that he walked into the end zone with.
So one would think that without Spiller and the previously injured Fred Jackson,the Bills and third string back Tashard Choice would have some problems running the ball.
That was not the case as Choice finished with 91 yards in three quarters of action.
Almost 100 yards to a third string back in three quarters.That says it all....

9) This is another common complaint-Sheldon Brown needs to play less.
Or not at all.
Buffalo picked on Brown in the same way that chickens pick on a injured member of the flock.
Wherever Brown was,the ball seemed to follow to that Bill receiver.
And it almost always was caught.
And not by Sheldon Brown.

10) The offensive line was offensive.
Mario Williams had been ineffective in the first two games and he was very strong against the Browns as was the rest of the Buffalo defensive line.
Mark Anderson,Marcell Darius,Kyle Williams,didn't matter as they dominated all day long...

11) Pat Shurmur has little stomach for any call that takes a chance.
Down 10 points with a little over six minutes to go with a fourth down on tap.
The ball is on the Cleveland 36 and that makes it game over if you don't make it,but it's game over with a punt too.
Shurmur's call-Punt.
Boo.

12) Lots of Bills fans and by the end of the game,the Buffalo fans outnumbered the long gone Browns fans.
Partially,the reason is that Browns fans are becoming so beaten down by the product,but the other is why I wrote in Talkin' Browns  that Buffalo in the division made so much more sense than Baltimore-Proximity.
The division would have been so much more travel friendly with the Bills for opposing fans to travel around for division games....

13) Jimmy Haslam made an appearance in the CBS booth during the game and he strikes me as a guy that is in this business to win and even though there will be mistakes made,they will not be made out of ambivalence.
Haslam reminds me a lot of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in that winning will be paramount and the team will pay the price to do so.
Just a gut feeling,but I think Jimmy Haslam did not buy this team to lose...

14) This was the must win game and you have to think 0-5 is a layup with road games against the Ravens and Giants and the Bengals at home is not a gimme'.
Unless something unexpected arises,I do think you are looking at 0-6 going into Indianapolis....

15) Finish up strong as Vince Cellini used to say.
The Browns have not been blown out in any their games,but only the Eagles game was truly a game that I felt that got away.
The last two losses were deceiving in score,but I never truly felt the Browns were a serious threat to pull the game out.
Other than that,not much to feel good about...

Photo Credits;Cleveland Plain Dealer


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Enigmatic Buckeyes get by UAB

The enigma that is the Ohio State Buckeyes continued on Saturday with a far closer than expected 29-15 win over the UAB Blazers at Ohio Stadium.
Braxton Miller ran for two touchdowns and Jordan Hall finished with 105 yards on the ground to pace the win.
The Buckeyes improve to 4-0 with the win and will travel to East Lansing to start Big Ten play against Michigan State next Saturday.

Buckeye Leaves

1) This was a very disappointing game for me as I watched the tape.I did not watch the game live (that will change next week) as I have been sleeping a lot this week and well for a change,so I did not want to get off schedule for what I figured to be a blowout.
The fact that it is wasn't makes it disappointing..

2) UAB outgained the Buckeyes and made more first downs as well.
Sometimes that stat can be deceiving as teams can score defensive touchdowns or turnovers can result in short scoring drives.
Ohio State did have one of those as a Doran Grant forced fumble and follow up recovery set one up,but for the most part that was not the case-red flag one.

3) Red flag two-Special teams allowing a blocked punt on the first punt of the game.
UAB cruised in almost untouched to block Ben Buchanan's boot and walk in the end zone.
Urban Meyer coaches the special teams,so one would think that this will addressed well before next weeks game in East Lansing....

4) One had to be pleased with the defense as the unit kept the Blazers out of the end zone (Special teams TD and three field goals) especially considering the game was without injured Bradley Roby...

5) Some compare Braxton Miller to Terrelle Pryor as running quarterbacks.
Other than effectiveness,there is little in common.
Pryor ran with a gliding style and was a much more powerful runner.
Miller runs with moves that make you think of a running back with cutbacks and fakes.
Totally different style..

6) Cutting this one short today,but one final point-Ohio State is 4-0.
They should be.
However,how they have gotten there when you consider the competition makes me worry.
The offense has basically been Braxton Miller runs around and occasionally throws a deep ball.
I think they will mature as the season goes on,but next week looms very large after a less than strong non-conference run,,,

Photo Credit:Cleveland Plain Dealer

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The brave men of the Pirate Berets?

Put the Pittsburgh Pirates second half collapse (which is really a weak word for both of these collapses) aside for a second (or a column) and focus on the latest piece of ridiculousness from the Pirates.
This latest piece of silly thinking continues to make the Pirates a joke of baseball showing a organization that is so busy trying to 'think outside the box' that they fly off the end of the box and out of coherent thought.

Apparently,the Pirates GM Neal Huntington has given far more control than he probably should to Kyle Stark,the assistant GM/the teams director of player development,which is a fancy term that means that Kyle Stark is in charge of the Pirates farm system.
Stark's zany ideas for developing players have included in the past and just concluded last week for 2012 ,a boot camp that puts players through "Intense SEAL Drills".
That's SEAL as in the elite NAVY unit,not Lou Seal the San Francisco Giant mascot.

I respect our military and believe that training for their job is a must,so this is not a shot on them at all.
However,we all have,in any job,trainings that enable us to do our jobs,but these are not one size fit all trainings.
The things that I learn to do my job are different than those that work in retail,which is different from those that work on vehicles etc and my point is more that these do not make sense for the skills needed to be a professional athlete,with the possible exception of those participating in the combat sports.
Now,,any professional athlete should be in good enough shape in order to do these drills(within reason) and that is not really my point as it is not the physical aspect of this training that concerns me.
It is the fact that the team is sending their BEST prospects to run with telephone poles on their shoulders,blasted with water at 5 AM,flipping truck tires and my personal favorite-hand to hand combat.
Professional athletes run the risk of injury in everyday workouts,but to risk your highest rated players of the future for what appears to be nothing more than Kyle Stark's real life Call of Duty fetish is risky at best and foolish at worst.
These drills led to a minor knee injury to Jameson Taillon last year and putting at risk a player that you paid a multi-million dollar bonus to in these senseless programs is the epitome' of reckless thinking.
You think the Pirates are a synonym for laughingstock now?
Imagine the howling if a Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon suffers a injury that changed their career path.
We all know how susceptible to injury pitchers are to begin with,does it not seem downright dumb to risk these types of investments in something that has nothing to do with baseball?

Moving away from the physical risks,lets move to the issue that might concern me even more-how these programs affect the players mentally.
No.not that it would drive them off the deep end ,but this point makes me wonder-If players in the minors feel a lack of faith in the organization,would that hurt the organization years down the road when the Pirates are attempting to sign players to long term contracts?
If you feel that issues persist inside the organization and would have a negative memory of an experience (s),I would think that would weigh heavily against returning to a team when you have the option to go elsewhere.
That is a question that may not be answered for years as these players have to make the majors and then serve their time to earn free agent status,but it will be interesting to look back at that years from now,especially if Neal Huntington and Kyle Stark are in their positions for a while.

The Kyle Stark email seems to me to be,well ridiculous.
Considering that and the "Hoka Hey" stuff,it really is no different than you see it in many everyday jobs.
People that are often out of touch and hold higher positions in the corporate world put out this type of "inspirational" memos/newsletters all the time and usually they just make people snicker as they send it around the office before it winds up in the email trash or the literal trash.
It's funny to read,but it rarely motivates anyone,no matter the originators intent,but it still is harmless in its basis.
It does show how a man in an important position with the Pirates and it can be argued that for Pittsburgh there might not be a more important position than in developing players,is thinking in a manner that seems to be suited for anything other than developing young baseball players.
What Stark says is not as important to me as the thinking behind it and that thinking is not baseball based.
Check the email out.
It says the word baseball twice in the first paragraph and then the word is never mentioned again for the remainder of the mail.

Now,consider the amount of money that the Pirates have spent in the draft and the players that the Pirates have truly developed thus far with the money/players that have been given to Kyle Stark and his "innovative" ideas and come up with the players that they have developed.
Pedro Alvarez,Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon out of the draft.
SO outside of players selected with either the first or second pick of the draft,these ideas have basically produced zero players with all of those dollars.

This has to be embarrassing to owner Bob Nutting and his top front office Frank Coonelly in combination with the latest collapse that has taken a division leader that might fail in getting to .500 yet again,a feat that seemed to be a fait accompli' a month ago,perhaps to the point of a change in management personnel.
Considering this debacle combined with the late summer swoon and the controversy involving the State College Spikes,Neal Huntington might be somewhat wobbly,but I would be stunned if Kyle Stark survives this PR attack considering his track record to begin with.

All and all,this has to be a minor embarrassment to the team,but the bigger concern has be the decrease in confidence by fans in the Pirates front office
I have tried to believe in the direction that the team has tried to take,as I believe there is not another viable direction to build Pittsburgh other than through younger (and cheaper) talent,but even for me-this raises doubts on whether or not the Pirates are on the right track.
Hoka Hey was the war cry of the Native American Crazy Horse and Stark uses this to conclude his email.
Crazy Horse or just plain Crazy?
You make the call....

Pigskin Pickin' Machine

The PPM returns with another weekend of football and the picks for said games.

Ohio State (3-0) finishes their non-conference schedule with a visit from the 0-2 UAB Blazers.
This looks like a tuneup for the conference season as plenty of backups should get playing time.
UAB is one of the worst teams in the nation against the run and look for Braxton Miller and Jordan Hall to enjoy big games...

Bowling Green (1-2) travels to Blacksburg Virginia and an angry bunch of Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1).
The Hokies coming off an upset loss to previously winless Pittsburgh in a loss that caused them to fall from the top 25,should be sharp in this one.
Bowling Green goes back on the road after their loss to rival Toledo and should have another tough game.
Might be closer than some think...

The game of the week is in the ACC?
Yep,as tenth ranked Clemson (3-0 1-0 ACC) faces off with fourth ranked Florida State (3-0 1-0 ACC) in Tallahassee.
Taji Boyd to Sammy Watkins might be the most explosive passive combination in the country for Clemson and the Seminoles might have the best defense in the country.
This might be a rare ACC game that I bother to watch.

In the NFL,the Browns host 1-1 Buffalo in a game as I detailed yesterday might be a must win for the 0-2 Brownies.
The key in this one is Buffalo passer Ryan Fitzpatrick,who is maddeningly inconsistent.
Can Fitzpatrick take advantage of a Browns secondary without Joe Haden?
Or does he come up with a bad day with multiple interceptions?
The answer to that decides the winner.

0-2 New Orleans hosts the 0-2 Kansas City Chiefs in a must win game for the Saints.
The Saints have stumbled from the gate and will have to win this game in order to avoid a disastrous start to the season.
The Chiefs have not looked strong in either of their losses,but Carolina beat New Orleans and have looked bad in both of their losses,so I would not want to put too much into that.
The home game combined with the Chief defense makes me think that this is the bounce back week...

The game of the week has the 2-0 Falcons visiting the 2-0 Chargers.
The Chargers have won without Ryan Matthews and he is expected to return.
Michael Turner may be on the bench for Atlanta,but the Matt Ryan led passing game is the focal point of the Falcon offense anyway,so that might not be a factor.
Should be a high scoring game.

Last week:5-2
Season:14-4

Ohio State over UAB 52-6
Virginia Tech over Bowling Green 24-16
Florida State over Clemson 21-14
Browns over Bills 17-14
Saints over Chiefs 34-16
Falcons over Chargers 28-24



Friday, September 21, 2012

Talkin' Browns!

Talkin' Browns is another occasional feature where I will
discuss Browns issues from off the field and some thoughts about the team on various topics.

The hot topic of the day is Jimmy Haslam's meeting with Cleveland city officials to "find ways to maximize Browns Stadium".
These immediately got the Cleveland media buzzing about changing CBS and installing a retractable dome.
Folks,that is not going to happen,so I would not even give that a second thought.
Cleveland Browns Stadium is built on the remnants of the original Cleveland Municipal Stadium,which was built on a landfill.
To make this brief-the foundation would not able to support a roof as is and retrofitting a 13 year old stadium to add that feature would likely be cost prohibitive,so this is not a concern at all to me.
However,if it was a concern,I would clearly be against it.
The one advantage that cold weather teams such as Cleveland,Buffalo,Chicago,Green Bay etc, have is the winter weather and I would hate to see this advantage tossed away like Minnesota (Zero Super Bowls since moving indoors) and Detroit have done.

Jimmy Haslam has talked about the need for marketing the product and making changes on many levels.
I have no problem selling naming rights to the stadium,if some money can be made.
It is not like the Cleveland Browns Stadium name is iconic or anything,so I have little to object to with that idea.

However,I do have major issues with any prospective uniform changes that cover more than taking Al Lerner's initials off the sleeves and that includes any changes to the helmet.
Cleveland Browns fans fought so hard to keep those colors and heritage,which includes the uniforms and helmet and to change now seems silly to me.
I understand the temptation to try to sell more merchandise by the thinking of new stuff sells,but I think this will be a disappointment to Mr.Haslam.
In order to change anything radically,you have to either change the helmets or go to either orange jerseys or the two tone style,which usually are a dismal failure and get changed as soon they possibly can as Buffalo did when they made that error.
If you want to stay away from that,then you have to make a minor change and considering that,why even bother?
In the end,it would be a mistake to try it and if they do,they will quickly have to play out the string (When you change uniforms,there is a commitment to not change again for a specified period of time) and then return to the traditional Browns uniforms.

The Browns will have their best chance for an early season win this Sunday with the Buffalo Bills hitting Lake Erie.
This game is very important to the Browns as it means the difference between 1-4 and 0-5 as the Browns travel to Baltimore and New York after this game for games against the Ravens and Giants and neither of those look like winnable games for the Brownies.
Why does that sound like a big deal?
Well,it might be a damn big deal to Pat Shurmur,who could then take 0-5 into two winnable games against the Bengals at home and at Indianapolis before Baltimore going into the bye week.
So if one is 0-5,splits the two winnable games and then loses to Baltimore that equals 1-7 with the bye coming up,Dallas and Pittsburgh waiting on the other side,Jimmy Haslam being the official owner by then-that spells this scenario.
Pat Shurmur goes,Either Brad Childress or Dick Jauron in as interim coach,more likely Jauron as Haslam shows right away that losing is not acceptable.
That is why this game is important to Pat Shurmur and he knows it.

I have a soft spot for Buffalo,especially since they adopted their retro uniforms and dumped those horrific two tone togs (See,Mr Haslam what works?).
I had hoped that the Bills would have wound up in the AFC North when the divisions were realigned for two reasons.
First,Buffalo would have been a perfect fit geographically with both teams off Lake Erie along with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and it also would have taken away some of the sting of the Ravens as they would have not played as often.
It would never have taken it away as Baltimore fans know when they play the Colts,the pain is still there,but it would have died down a bit.

One more word on the on field product as corner Sheldon Brown's role will be downplayed and he will play fewer snaps with Buster Skrine and Dmitri Patterson earning more playing time.
Now,if the Browns would have listened to me and realized that Brown was not a full time corner before the season started and addressed this issue in the off season,perhaps the Joe Haden suspension would not have hit the team as hard as it has!







Thursday, September 20, 2012

Taking the tour at the Muni

   I was able to find time in my busy (snicker) post-baseball schedule to take the tour given by the city of Hagerstown of Municipal Stadium and frankly nothing changed my mind.
In fact,they solidified my thoughts that the Muni was not only obsolete,but decrepit as well.

Rachel and I decided to take the tour,mainly to see some of the "sights",see some parts of the facility that you rarely get to see and snap some pictures for this post.
As we entered the stadium,I told Rachel to be ready for some nastiness and these things can occasionally get heated.
When people with passionate feelings on both sides collide in the political arena,there often can be times when things can get less than civil and I wanted her to know that up front.
We sat in the "wonderful" first base bleachers (Boy,did I HATE sitting in those during the Mandalay year that the Grandstand was considered a separate area) and I would guess there was between 100-150 people attending.
I would say the crowd was pretty split,but the anti-stadium people were more visible and more vocal.
I knew most of the pro-stadium supporters as we all attend the games,but I was surprised to not see more supporters.
My best guess was that the six o'clock start time might have hurt some people being able to make it,although one could apply that to either side.
The main speakers were from the city-City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman and City Engineer Rodney Tissue.
Both walked the attendees through a pamphlet to show just how outdated the Muni is and compared it to other stadiums in the South Atlantic League.
I thought the pamphlet was informative mainly as it showed the dates that various improvements were made and gave me a handy reference point for future posts on the Muni.
It was made clear that questions were to be asked on the tour,which was broken into two groups,but that was not acceptable to two older gentlemen,who kept insisting that they had questions.
Zimmerman and Tissue politely dismissed their requests,which led to a few people growling about that and a few members of the "Hagerstown Tea Party" chimed in with their thoughts,which I didn't remember anyone asking for at that time.
I can never understand why people cannot follow the rules of a discussion in these cases.
It was the city's game,so they make the rules,Don't like it? Don't come.

The tour started  and we seemed to be in the anti-stadium group (luck of the draw) as we saw the clubhouses and trust me they were worse than I had been expecting.
The Suns clubhouse was certainly nicer than the visitors,which was about the size of my living room and dining room put together,but still not exactly the lap of luxury either.
The visitors clubhouse was small and just plain nasty.
Locker rooms are never going to be the cleanest of places-25 to 30 men in a room is never going remind anyone of Martha Stewart,but it was pretty bad.
The locker stalls were about the same size for both team as each player appeared to have a space roughly about three to four feet wide and a small stool to sit on.
Players would not have space for a chair in front of these lockers,if available and shoving 25 chairs in either locker room would be a tight fit,but downright impossible in the visitors.

Rachel and I attempted to stay near the back of our group in order to discuss things among ourselves and try to somewhat avoid the tea party people.
We were able to walk along the outfield wall starting from right to left and was astonished at the condition of the visitors bullpen.
Garbage everywhere and a pretty poor area for pitchers to warm up in.
Perhaps,things could have been cleaned up (or not),but even with a strong dose of Mr.Clean,they were still substandard.

The famed hill in the left field area was even more pronounced when you are actually on the field.
I came away even more convinced that the teams that play there are courting injury to their left fielders and to a lesser degree the centerfielders.
It was pretty neat to see the area where we sit from the perspectives of the players on the field,which I thought was well worth the time spent

We made the turn and found one funny thing in the area that is used for storage by the field crew.
A nacho cheese machine sitting directly next to bags of lime and other such tools of the trade.
I have always knew the Muni's food was bad,but Ortho Nacho Cheese?

The questions became more insistent about the stadium's funding (the mystery 15 million dollar man),what becomes of the Muni (unknown),why can't the city buy some of the neighboring buildings to help a Muni renovation (appears that the owners want more money and the city wants a new field anyway),the price of parking downtown (It is going to happen) and most often-most people HATE the site selected downtown.
I heard several of the opponents ( the non tea-party members) basically say this refrain- "I am not anti-stadium,I just dislike the proposed location".
I am not a fan of the site selected and wish that an I-81 site would have been the pick.
I think it would draw more fans from other cities and I think that it would take away many of the worries about traffic bottlenecks as well.
I also believe that when someone slaps 15 million dollars on the table and make that a condition of the deal,you listen to their words.

As the tour ended,it was beginning to get tiresome to hear the same voices that never change their line of questioning,so we left the stadium to the remainder of the people and I had this thought.
I don't think this changed one mind on either side,I think people just hunkered down and burrowed in their already dug in bunkers..

In conclusion,nothing was really accomplished,but I did get an evening with my daughter,some pictures (up later) and some time with the closed minded.
There you go,people-my charity work for the week!

Come back later when I add some pictures and live video to this!

Affiliate shakeup!

Here is a delayed post on the various shakeups on affiliate changes that affect us locals on the autograph circuit from the Eastern League to the New York/Penn League.

The AA Eastern League was unaffected and stood pat as all the affiliates stayed with their parent teams as did the High A Carolina League.
So if you liked those leagues before,I am sure that you will love them now!

The Low A South Atlantic League had just one new team enter the league in the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals will be the new parent club of the Lexington Legends,who will make two stops in Hagerstown next season.
Lexington may draw some extra fans next season as it is possible that Hagerstown native Christian Binford could be assigned to the Legends.
The loss to the graphers though is the departure of the Houston Astros,as now there will be two opportunities for the Royals between Lexington and Wilmington of the Carolina League.
Unfortunately for locals,that means that we will miss the top overall pick of last years draft in the Astros Carlos Correa with the Astros no longer in any of the local leagues.

The New York/Penn League swapped three teams around from inside the league,but the effect was good and bad for the author.
The State College Spikes had been at odds with the Pittsburgh Pirates for months and it had been rumored that the relationship between the two teams was beyond repair.
The rumors proved to be correct as the St.Louis Cardinals swooped in and grabbed the Spikes from the Pirates,
The Cardinals had been in State College for the first season of the Spikes and had reportedly been reluctant to leave,so this made lots of sense to me.
The Pirates then hooked up with the Jamestown Jammers,who had already filed the paperwork to request a move for 2014 (likely to be Morgantown WV),so the Pirates will play in Jamestown for a year and then move to Morgantown,which is a town firmly in Pittsburgh territory.
In order for the Pirates to take over in Jamestown,the Jammers had to break their contract with the Miami Marlins,who had no choice,but to take the last team remaining in the former home for the Cardinals-the Batavia Muckdogs.
As much as I will miss having the Pirates in State College,I could not have picked a better replacement for them than the Cardinals.
The Cardinals New York/Penn entry is the only chance to get Cardinal autographs,so if this had to happen,I am happy with the Cardinals....

Back later or tomorrow with a look at my evening at the Muni as the city tries to sell that the Muni needs replaced.
If you have a thimble full of common sense,that would not be a tough sell,but some of the crowd was missing said thimble.......

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Steve Sabol and his influence

This post was planned to be on the minor league shakeup,but something more important shoves this to a later post.
Steve Sabol of NFL Films has passed away due to brain cancer at the age of 69.
Steve Sabol and his father Ed might have had more to do with the popularity of the NFL than anyone else and I do not think that is a bit of hyperbole either.

NFL Films and their weekly TV shows in the 1970's brought highlights from other games that fans could not see and put them to music that added passion to the film.
NFL Films and the Sabols were not just making highlights available,they were making mini-movies for 23 minutes and using a football game from the week before as the plot of the film.
Combine the film making skills with the music of Sam Spence adding drama and excitement to the film,NFL Films brought the excitement of the league to more than just cities that had teams in the league and made fans out of non-fans.



NFL Films was the innovator as they did things that are commonplace today,but were revolutionary then.
Recall all those classic slow-motion shots of the football spinning through its spiral as the camera followed the ball against the backdrop of the stadium and then suddenly a pair of hands appear to snatch the ball out of the air?
Those frames go to the credit of NFL Films for being progressive enough to realize that to make a niche',they needed to do things differently than standard highlight films of the era and by not just thinking outside the box,but not even in the same continent,they changed not just sports films,they changed how fans watched and cared about the game.

Ed and Steve Sabol marketed the NFL in such a way that cannot be appreciated by anyone that grew up later than the 1970's through their magic and in my opinion,did more for the game than any commissioner,coach or players has done to take the game to the massive audience that now is part of the giant that is the National Football League.
Take away the NFL Game of the Week and This Week in Pro Football from its time and fans would barely see the other teams in the league.
If there is was no NFL Films,the Monday Night highlights that were such a staple for all of us old timers in the 70's (narrated by Howard Cosell) do not exist.
I remember so vividly as a child,begging to stay up until halftime on a school night to be able to see those clips and Cosell's nasally voice (But THERE goes little Joe Washington down the sideline!) voicing over the games from the day before that had seldomly been aired.


I also wager that there is a lot of people between 40 and 50 that can look back and remember running the ball in playground football games with the music of NFL Films running through their heads as they played.
As much as I love seeing all my teams today,there is a small part that misses those times because they just seemed so special because they were not commonplace and part of the everyday routine as it can be currently..

Ed Sabol was far overdue for his induction for the Hall of Fame and Steve Sabol deserves a bust in Canton as well for his contributions to professional football.
Here is hoping that Steve Sabol gets his recognition during the next class of inductees.
He certainly deserves it....



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Ten sports stops to make!

Time for another lists posts that will cover ten stops that I would eventually like to make in the sports world!
The list is contained to stadiums and arenas only and ones that I have never personally set foot in...

1) AT&T Park-San Francisco.
Perhaps the most unlikely stop for me hit on this list.
I would like to see in person,the only field that (on TV) rivals Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

2) Ohio Stadium-Columbus
Being a Buckeye fan,this ranks at the top,but I must admit to being a bit hesitant squeezed into a backless seat with over 100,000 people for multiple hours...

3) Ivor Wynne Stadium-Hamilton,Canada
This one is not going to happen as Ivor Wynne is hosting its final season of CFL football in favor of a new stadium for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Would need a passport though...

4) Wrigley Field-Chicago
This one I can see happening at the historic yard.
If I hit Wrigley,I'd try schedule trips to new Comiskey and Miller Park in Milwaukee as well,since I would be in the area...

5) Gund Arena-Cleveland
This one is likely to happen sometimes.
Cleveland is 20+ years away from needing a new arena,but I always lament never being to an event at the Richfield Coliseum and don't want to let another one get away...

6) Russell Diethrick Park-Jamestown NY
With tonight's affiliate moves (more tomorrow),Jamestown is the town left standing,but only for now.
The Jammers and the coolest hats in the NY-Penn league,if not minor league period will be moving to Morgantown WV for 2014.
I missed out on seeing Grainger Stadium in Kinston,I am going to try find a way to hit Diethrick Park,if at all possible!

7) Fenway Park-Boston
Formerly a park that would be far higher on the list,but between the growing annoyance of Red Sox fans and from what I have heard,a sometimes difficult time buying seats that are together to sit with ones pals,Fenway has dropped on the list.
Still one that I would like to see though...

8) Doyt Perry Stadium-Bowling Green Ohio
The stadium for my favorite MAC school makes the list and this is doable down the road.
MAC football games are fun to go to as they have plenty of atmosphere,yet are not packed to the gills either.
The Doyt is the smallest stadium in the conference,so it seems to me to have more of an Ohio high school game feel,which is a good thing!

9) Prudential Center-Newark
Home of the Devils and likely Rachel's top pick on this list,the biggest issue for me is getting there.
Not wild about driving to big cities and the New York metro area is the biggest.

10) Minute Maid Park-Houston
Minute Maid is clearly the best of the retractable roof stadiums in my opinion and with the Astros being so bad,tickets are easy to get.....

Honorable mention-no particular order
Minor league baseball
Mckechnie Field-Bradenton Florida

Major league baseball
Great American Ballpark-Cincinnati Ohio

NFL
Lambeau Field-Green Bay Wisconsin

CFL
Taylor Field-Regina,Saskatchewan

College Football
Neyland Stadium-Knoxville Tennessee


Monday, September 17, 2012

Browns better,but not good enough.....

Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson each picked up their games and the Cleveland Browns offense improved from their problems against Philadelphia.
However,other issues popped up in Cincinnati and the Browns lost to the Bengals 34-27.
Trent Richardson rushed for 109 yards and finished with a touchdown rushing and receiving,while Brandon Weeden threw for 322 yards with two touchdowns as both players bounced back from mediocre opening games.
The now 0-2 Browns will host the 1-1 Buffalo Bills next week in Cleveland....

Brownie Bits

1) Trent Richardson was exactly the back that fans hoped that they would get when the Browns drafted him showing power and speed.
I must admit that I had questions about Richardson,albeit minor ones,but today went a lot way towards answering those questions.
It is just one game,but this game showed what the Browns might have in the backfield....

2) What I liked most from Trent Richardson was especially the moves in the open field on his catch for a touchdown.
Richardson made Bengals miss in the open field and that is what makes 15 yard gain into fifty yard gains...

3) Brandon Weeden also gave me a bit of hope.
Yes,he still overthrew receivers on long routes and many of his completions came on short tosses,but showed the ability to stay in the pocket and find his man.
The news was not all perfect for Weeden,but was a massive improvement over last Sunday against the Eagles.

4) Weeden finished the day without being picked off,but that was somewhat fortunate for the Browns as Weeden forced many of the long attempts into double coverage and could have easily finished the day with two or more interceptions.

5) Very strong pass rush on Andy Dalton as the Browns finished the day with six dumps of the Bengal passer with D'Qwell Jackson having three of them.
The total is somewhat deceiving as at least two or three of them were Dalton scrambles that lost a yard,but nonetheless the Cleveland pass rush was improved.

6) The Browns secondary missed Joe Haden as expected,but Sheldon Brown played just one snap before his day was finished.
Cleveland allowed two touchdowns of 44 and 50 yards through the air and Buster Skrine struggled badly throughout the game.
This was bad today-no questions there,but giving Skrine and rookie Trevin Wade playing time now when they are forced to might pay dividends down the road as the Browns either give a young player needed experience or realize said player just is not strong in coverage.

7) Cleveland must be practicing with Ohio State when you look at the number of missed tackles in the loss.
We (I watched the game with Ryan,Battlin' Bob and Jeff) counted seven clearly missed tackles and an another that could have made the play on the Adam "Pac Man" Jones punt return for the first score of the game,early in the first quarter.

8) Special teams has been a issue since some poor efforts in the pre-season.
The return game was not as a sharp as against the Eagles and the tackling,as detailed above,needs immediate improvement..

9) D'Qwell Jackson might be getting a fine for a vicious hit that I didn't think was that bad.
It was a huge hit,but he did not lead with the helmet or make contact with the helmet of the pass catcher.
All of that and I still think his paycheck will be a lot lighter...

10) Ten penalties.
Still too many with an offsides on a SAFETY! (T.J.Ward) being the most head shaking.
The offensive line was nabbed for three holding penalties and two false starts.
Sound simple to correct?

11) The Bills coming into town next week make me wonder what the Browns fans are going to get.
Buffalo was pasted by the Jets and then whipped Kansas City badly on Sunday.
The Bills are capable of scoring lots of points on one Sunday and then disappearing the next week.
I think this game against Buffalo will go a long way towards what type of season that Cleveland will see.
Considering the season is just two weeks old,the Browns schedule does not see a team that started 0-2 until December with the Raiders and Chiefs,so a win would seem to be key in the campaign...

Photo Credit:Joshua Gunter-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Scared by the Bear

The Ohio State Buckeyes were given all they could handle in the second half by the California Golden Bears after dominating the first half and it took a Braxton Miller long toss to Devin Smith to allow the Buckeyes to escape with a 35-28 win at Ohio Stadium.
Miller finished with 249 yards passing on the day with four touchdowns with two each to Jake Stoneburner and Devin Smith.
The now 3-0 Buckeyes host UAB next week in wrapping up the non-conference schedule...

Buckeye Leaves

1) Disappointing.
I'll take the win,but very disappointed.
In many things as I'll detail below,but foremost is this-Poor tackling.
It was not just missed tackles,it was a failure to wrap up the ball carrier and that is even worse.
That means poor fundamentals.

2) Poor tackling led to two long touchdown runs by Cal's backup running back Brendan Bigelow,who finished with 160 yards rushing on just four carries.
Both runs should been stopped for average gains,but the first one was clearly on Bigelow for a great balancing act,but just as much on the Buckeyes for not finishing the play.
The play is not over until the whistle blows,gentlemen....

3) The Buckeye offense did score five touchdowns,so it was not all bad,but Ohio State was bottled up from the entire third quarter until the two touchdowns in the fourth.
Cal made adjustments at the half that bottled Miller by taking away his safety valves and using two spies to make sure that he did not tuck the ball down and run.
Look for other teams to watch the film and see just how effective this tactic was-and use it for themselves.

4) Jordan Hall finished with 87 yards on 17 carries and showed some rust in his return despite averaging five yards a carry.
I hope this is part of working his way back into shape,because Hall might be the difference in taking the load off Braxton Miller...

5) Devon Smith has become the big play receiver the team has been looking for and his game winning touchdown showed why.
Smith just finds a way to make plays.
Braxton Miller was scrambling around and drew the corner up to protect the sideline run.
That gave Smith time to run unhindered down the sideline with only the ball to worry about.
Some players just make plays,as simple as that ....

6) Ohio State collected six sacks with the team sending blitzes from off the corner and from various linebackers.
The rush from different locations loosened up the defensive line,enabling them to get more push off the line and keep them in the face of the quarterback all day long.

7) Great day from John Simon and the returning Nathan Williams as well.
Both of those two look All-Big Ten bound.

8) Three missed field goals for Cal in a game they lost by seven.

9) Loved the the short pop over the middle for Jake Stoneburner's two touchdowns.
The defense comes up to defend the fullback leaving Stoneburner wide open.
I laughed with both of those calls as that one step drop and dump to the tight end was a staple of my football video games when I needed a short yardage play...

10)  Eleven more penalties for OSU.
Far too many and there will be a game where the Buckeyes pay dearly if this issue is not cleaned up soon.....

Photo Credit:Marvin Fong-Cleveland Plain Dealer



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pigskin Pickin' Machine

The PPM returns with more action this weekend and some interesting games.

Ohio State (2-0) host Pac 12 opponent Cal (1-1) at Ohio Stadium.
Cal is not expected to be one of the better teams in the Pac 12 and might not be of the same caliber as last weeks opponent Central Florida,who hung around the Buckeyes for a while.
Ohio State now is down to their third string running back after injuries,but a Cal defense that allowed 31 points to Southern Utah should not prove to be too much of a problem...

Bowling Green (1-1) battles bitter rival Toledo (1-1) at the Glass Bowl for the Peace Pipe in each teams MAC opener.
The Falcons defeated Idaho last week,but did not look sharp doing it.
Toledo dropped an overtime decision to Arizona in Tucson (same Arizona that dumped Oklahoma State last week) two weeks ago before a 34-31 win in Wyoming last week against the Cowboys.
Toledo will score lots of points with a balanced attack and this game might go a long towards seeing if Bowling Green is a true contender in the MAC.

Texas Tech (2-0) returns to Lubbock after their crushing of Texas State last week and the waiting New Mexico Lobos (1-1).
The Lobos were crushed in Austin by Texas 45-0 last week and this one might be similar.
Name the score in this one....

The game of the week is in the Pac 12 as number 2 USC (2-0) travels to 21st ranked Stanford (2-0).
Stanford has won the last three meetings between these teams,but Andrew Luck is not a Cardinal anymore.
Stanford's first two opponents were softies and the first quarter is very important to keep themselves in the game.
I think Stanford hangs around for a half and then things move forward for USC...

In the pros,the Browns (0-1) come off their near miss against the Eagles to travel to Southern Ohio against an angry bunch of Bengals (0-1) who were whipped by Baltimore on Monday night.
I would like to think that the offense could not get much worse than last week and that gives some hope.
But the Browns will still have to show a sliver of a passing game to try to loosen things up for Trent Richardson and without Joe Haden to cover A.J. Green,the Bengals will be able to throw deep and often.....

The 0-1 Saints hit Carolina after a disappointing home loss to Washington and Robert Griffin.
Their reward? Cam Newton.
Drew Brees was less than accurate last week and maybe the off season issues caught up a bit.
That loss makes this one a must win against a Panthers team that might be missing Steve Smith...

The game of the week is on Monday as the Broncos and Peyton Manning travel to Atlanta for the Falcons.
Atlanta showed a high powered passing game last week in Kansas City and I think being on their home track could make for a terrific game next Monday night!

Last Week 5-2
Season 9-2

Ohio State over Cal 45-21
Toledo over Bowling Green 35-26
Texas Tech over New Mexico 40-10
USC over Stanford 34-23
Bengals over Browns 24-9
Saints over Panthers 28-17
Falcons over Broncos 32-24



Friday, September 14, 2012

The overhand right!

I have decided to start a occasional feature on boxing where I look at upcoming fights,results from the ring and any comments involving the periphery of the game as well.
Hope you enjoy it.
Each column with the overhand right will have a feared puncher's picture and we start with Thomas "the Hitman" Hearns to your -Wait for it.....right....

Big night for boxing Saturday night with HBO putting the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr-Sergio Martinez card on its pay per view arm and Showtime countering with the Saul Alvarez-Josesito Lopez slate on its parent network.
I'll get to see neither live as I'll be at the road office,but I will get to view the Showtime card when I arrive home from work.

Why HBO and Showtime are putting major events against each other when the numbers will cannibalize each other seems to be a mistake to me,but such is the state of boxing to hurt itself.
Put the three 'titles' aside (sorry WBO),the true "leagues" that are beginning to divide the sport are HBO and Showtime....

I am really looking forward to the Martinez-Chavez fight,not only because I think it will be one of the better fights this year,but I like both fighters.
As an avowed huge fan of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr,I naturally pull for Jr.,but I have come to be quite a fan of Sergio Martinez as well,who despite not holding a belt,is the true middleweight champion.
I can see Chavez bullying his way past Martinez,who for all of his success at 160,is more of a true 154 pounder,but the more likely scenario to me has Martinez sticking and moving and wearing Chavez down in the later rounds for a stoppage or a comfortable decision win...

With the winner of the Martinez-Chavez fight holding both a belt and the real championship,their next fight should be against WBA and IBF titlist Daniel Geale of Australia,who unified those two belts with a split decision win over Felix Sturm in Germany,but I have a better idea.
Considering that Saturday's winner might want an optional defense,what about Geale vs Gennady Golovkin,who was so impressive a few weeks back ?
And better yet have both fights on the same HBO cards to then have the winners fight on an HBO pay per view card next year?
I need to get into this business!!

I am happy to see Josesito Lopez getting a nice paycheck in his WBC Jr.Middleweight championship bout against Saul Alvarez after his upset over Victor Ortiz,but I just cannot see the tough as rocks Lopez keeping Alvarez at bay giving away two divisions over his natural weight.
Showtime has this one along with two other title fights as well as the return of Marcos Maidana.
Maidana was supposed be returning to the 140 pound division after his dull performance in losing to Devon Alexander,but will be taking on Jesus Soto-Karass at 147.

Speaking of Maidana,could there be a better action fight to be made than Maidana against fellow Argentine Lucas Matthysse?
I would love to see that fight!

Looks like Juan Manuel Marquez will get his fourth crack at Manny Pacquaio in December.
I thought Marquez won all three of the previous bouts,but is 0-2-1 against the Pac Man.
Despite the "win" by Timothy Bradley over Pacquaio,there is next to no demand to see a rematch of a bout that only two people think that the winner won.
I thought the fight was closer than most observers,but still I had Pacquaio a clear winner....

WBA 122 pound champ Guillermo Rigondeaux's defense on the Martinez-Chavez undercard has been on and off three times since its announcement,but for now it is back on.
Rigondeaux's management team has sued the fighter in order to block Saturday's defense against Roberto Marraquin.
The bout is promoted by Top Rank and the management team claims that Golden Boy Promotions has offered a better contract.
That may be so,but no one at the Jr,Featherweight level brings the money or name that Top Rank's Nonito Donaire does and a contract with Golden Boy takes that fight off the table.
Considering the speed of the talented Cuban,I might even pick Rigondeaux to upset Donaire if that fight is ever made.

I haven't had the time to watch the documentary on HBO on the Klitschko brothers,but it looks like a film that finally shows some of the back story of the brothers that dominated the heavyweight division,yet never seemed to gain traction in the United States.....

Hope you enjoyed this and as always- looking for feedback.....

Photo Credits:Unknown











Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cleaning out the inbox

Cleaning out the inbox starts with a great news item for me with the NBC Sports Network televising the occasional Canadian Football League game.
I wish that the network would show more of the early season games before the NFL season starts,but any US exposure is a great thing!
The best part of all is that the network will be putting all of the leagues playoff games on the air and that is great news for a league that has such a great game,but sometimes struggles in getting people to know what a terrific league they have in Canada....

ESPN has an interesting article on the concussion issue and compares the rate for concussions between the NFL and the CFL.
One idea for why the lower rate for the CFL that is listed in the article is the one yard between the defensive line and the line of scrimmage.
That makes some sense to me,but I would counter against that as players could get more of a running start from the linebackers.
Another thought is that the three downs of the Canadian game compared to the four down American style makes the running game more of an accessory than something that can a bulwark of the offense.
The more physical ground game could be more physically demanding than the air attack.
One of my all time favorites in football period,let alone the CFL is a focal point in the article as well.
Matt Dunigan played for several CFL teams and suffers from concussion symptoms from damage during his career.
Matt also discusses why he pulled his son Dolan from the gridiron and moved him to the diamond.
His reasons makes one think just how football could eventually be affected by the growing concerns about head injuries...

Grantland looks at the lost generation of Pittsburgh Pirates fans as well how things got as bad as they did for Pittsburgh baseball fans.
Although,with the way the Pirates have been playing over the last month,what appeared to be a foregone conclusion with the snapping of the losing streak record,the article appears to be written before it was a finished product.
After tonight's loss to the Reds,the Bucs have fallen to just 72-70 along with fading from the wild card race.
As this writing,Pittsburgh has exactly 20 games to go and the Pirates would need to go 9-11 to break the skein and play .500 baseball at 10-10 to finish with a winning record.
What once appeared to be destined is no longer a guarantee.....

ESPN has a long and detailed article on the late former Pirate Dock Ellis,who's claim to to have tossed his 1970 no-hitter is discused as well as the post-baseball career of Ellis,who worked extensively with drug and alcohol addicts after getting himself cleaned up from similar addictions.
Dock Ellis was always a special player to me as I detailed in this post from the past....

Over the last week,ESPN Classic has been showing some footage from the 1972 Munich Olympics,which along with the 1976 Montreal games are the two that I followed closely.
I have lost some interest in the Olympics through the years,but athletes that competed in those two games are still memorable to me and if I can find some sort of card of many of them,are athletes that I try to add to my autograph collection.
Watching the Munich marathon win by Frank Shorter made me think of Shorter's silver medal run against East Germany's Waldemar Cierpinski,who would repeat his win in the American boycotted 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
The article from five years ago discusses Cierpinski's being named as one of many of the drug enhanced athletes from the now defunct East German team.
I am planning on a post soon on the 1972 controversy between the Americans and Soviet Union basketball final since I have taped the game to watch in its entirety.