Saturday, May 31, 2014

Froch vs Groves and the Boxing challenge

In an era where the best fights usually wind up on pay per view and where increasingly even HBO and Showtime have become showcases for the pay per views,there is a shining exception this week as Carl Froch defends his IBF Super Middleweight belt in a rematch against challenger George Groves.

Groves dropped Froch in their first bout and generally dominated the heavily favored champion before a Froch rally dropped Groves and a seemingly fine Groves had the bout stopped by a bad call by the referee.
That call was so bad that the IBF called for an immediate rematch and the bout sold out 80,000 seat Wembley Stadium in a day.
Yes,I typed 80 THOUSAND.
But,boxing is dead,right?

The rematch will be on HBO and shown live,which is different from their 1st bout,which was shown on AWE TV,which Direct Tv doesn't carry, and I watched the United Kingdom feed online.
I'm really looking forward to this one.

This weeks picks in the boxing challenge

IBF Super Miiddleweight title.12 rds
Carl Froch vs George Groves
R.L:Froch KO 7
TRS: Groves split decision

IBF Middleweight title,12 rds
Felix Sturm vs Sam Soliman
R.L: Sturm unanimous decision
TRS:Sturm split decision

WBA Featherweight title 12 rds
Simpiwe Vetyeka vs Nonito Donaire
R.L. Donaire KO 5
TRS:Donaire KO 8

IBF Featherweight title.12rds
Evgeny Gradovich vs Alexander Miskirtichan
Both of us; Gradovich unanimous decision

Featherweights.12 rds
Nicholas Walters vs Vic Darchinyan
R.L:Walters unanimous decision
TRS:Darchinyan unanimous decision

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On the Signing Front

Time to get a few things off the pile from the signing front.

We start with some thanks.

Thanks to Kendall Morris for the 1976 SSPC Craig Swan card.
I recently finally bought a set of SSPC's after wanting one for years,so I always love getting those signed...

Thanks to Mike Oravec for continuing to give my cards of the Indians,Pirates and Giants/
The big scores this time were former Bucco skipper Jim Leyland,Cory Snyder as a Giant and "Lightning" Lonnie Smith as a Pirate among others..

Thanks to Tom O'Brien,who worked on the Akron Rubber Ducks in the home opener for the Bowie BaySox.
The best additions were Tyler Naquin,Cody Anderson and Joe Wendle on their Heritage cards,but the most interesting was Justin Toole on his Carolina and Akron team set cards.
Toole was one of those players that never seemed to be where I was when I saw Carolina and Akron last season,so I was glad to finally get him.

Thanks to Derreck Chupak,who got some Mets and Yankees players for me in a trip to Salisbury MD and the Delmarva Shorebirds.
The top Charleston players were first rounder Aaron Judge and top 100 member Miguel Andujar,while Savannah was paced by the Mets top pick Dominic Smith and infielder Gavin Cecchini.

Derreck,Brad and I made a pilgrimage to Reading PA for the Ryne Sandberg bobble.
Reading,which after our first trip instituted the "Chupak Rule" of one fan one bobble, hosted the Harrisburg Senators and we did pre-game for the Senators.
I had very little,but did get the always engaging Quincy Lattimore on his 2013 Akron card.
Quincy is one of those players that you hope would make the big time,just because he's so nice.
Drew Vettleson is new to the Nationals organization and was very nice in signing all four cards.
I also got Mitch Canham on his Oregon State card on an old Elite.
I always love those college cards in the day before Elite lost the rights to use the college logos.
Matt Skole signed his heritage in finishing off the small deck of cards on the day.

I had very little for the Lakewood Blue Claws,as most of their stuff had been finished already.
Other than a Blue Wave refractor of Dylan Cozens,there was little of note...

A trip to Altoona and the world's worst ushers brought the Richmond Flying Squirrels to town and being a Giants affiliate,I had some stuff for them.
Sadly the team's top prospect,Kyle Crick,started the game,so I didn't get any cards for him finished,but I did get pitching prospects Clayton Blackburn and Adelberto Meija on their cards.
Another nice addition was Richmond pitching coach Jerry Cram on his 1971 Topps.
This was also Steeler day at Curve.Pa and they brought the one Steeler that I cared about as former Buckeye Cameron Heyward was the guest.
Heyward signed my Buckeye mini helmet,so now I need to get another.
I always like to have a Buckeye and Brown helmet around that are blank for just that type of situation on short notice....

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans came to Frederick with one of the two deepest teams of prospects around (Wilmington is the other) and didn't disappoint.
I had four cards for power hitting third sacker Joey Gallo,who was standing right out front by the concession stand as we walked into the stadium.
Gallo was very nice and signed all for everyone except one person that had oodles of stuff,but still signed a large amount there.
Another top prospect in Jorge Alfaro signed five cards and yet another in Nick Williams signed both of his.
Cody Buckel was once a hot prospect,having been in the Bowman Top 100 subset last season and in AA,but something had went awry with his control and he had fallen to High A.
Since Cody left the Carolina League,he was in every set that Topps makes it seems,so I was loaded.
Buckel signed three,but I got the Top 100,so that was all that mattered,although his Carolina League prospect and Heritage were pretty cool too....
We also were excited to add the comebacking Jason Knapp,who signed his 2009 SAL Top Prospect card and his only card as a Lake County Captain.
Knapp was the key part of the Indians trade with the Phillies that saw Cliff Lee head to Philly,but had so many injury issues that other than a few games with the Captains,would not pitch in the Cleveland organization and wound up retiring.
Knapp was very nice and an easy to root for player.
Plus it's always neat to get cards signed out of the box when you think that there is no chance those are getting signed...

However,the story of the day was with Pelican reliever Keone Kela,who refused to sign an index card for "Index Card Bob".
Bob attempted to talk Kela into signing it,Kela didn't bite and walked away into the clubhouse.
Bob was quite vocal in his responses and Kela had to have heard him.
When Kela emerged from the clubhouse,Brad asked him to sign (I didn't have anything for him) and was blown off.
Kela got halfway down the steps,stopped,turned around and said "Guess now you guys can write in your little books that I'm a D@#%head".
It kinda surprised us because he was not a guy with a bad reputation or anything.
Derreck said he was very nice the next evening,so I guess "ICB"'s complaints just got to him.
I'm sure it can happen that a good guy can just get upset for a brief moment.

That takes some stuff off the pile,so this post buys me a little time before the next edition....






Monday, May 26, 2014

Where's the baseball?

I've been asked this question before,but again recently-Where's the baseball?

Well,the easy answer is I'm away,but the hard answer is that even when I've been home to watch a game,I haven't been putting recaps up.
I might change that today with two games.
The Indians and one of my favorites in Josh Tomlin are in Chicago against the White Sox,which means that I can have a Hawk Harrelson broadcast and then when that's over,I can flip over and catch the Giants in progress against the Cubs.

I love baseball,but one thing that makes it great (it's around every day) is the thing that takes away the urgency to write.
If I skip a Browns or Buckeyes game,I wait an entire week to write on another,while baseball almost always can provide another chance the next day.
At this time of year,there is another factor as well.
The major league teams are still reluctant to tinker with their teams after convincing themselves that their moves during the winter will make them contenders,they don't want to give up on a player too early.
That means fewer personnel moves and then fewer posts about said moves.

Even taking that into consideration,I still love to write about baseball and I could write on baseball issues more than any other sport.
That may be because baseball's system is broken more than the other sports,but that gives me even more to write about the games problems and perhaps how to fix it.
I could write more about the Hagerstown Suns and on the field,there is plenty to be positive about,but even with all the winning,there still is the fog hanging over the stadium with a team that is destined to leave,a city determined to let them and a ownership group that is playing out the string.

I need to find more time to write,more time to think about posts about baseball and I'm working on it.
Anymore,my sleep is getting worse and worse and if I am going to be up,then I might as well take advantage of being awake!

Just thought that I would explain a bit and let the record should just why things are what they are..

Stevenson outpoints Fonfara and Boxing Challenge.

R.L.Malpica took 3 more points than I on Saturday night and regained the Boxing Challenge lead by one point at 38-37.

Adonis Stevenson retained his WBC Lt.Heavyweight title via unanimous decision over Andreji Fonfara.
Stevenson was floored in round nine,while Fonfara went down in round one.
I scored the bout for Stevenson 115-111.
Both R.L and I earned one point for picking Stevenson.

Jhonny Gonzalez took a technical unanimous decision over Clive Atwell to keep his WBC Featherweight belt over 10 rounds.
R.L. took two points for the unanimous win,while I earned one for picking Gonzalez.

Each of us earned two points for Jermell Charlo's unanimous but dull win over Charlie Ota,but R.L added two points for David Lemieux's KO win over Fernando Guerrero in a bout that I regretted picking Guerrero almost as soon as I made the pick!
These things happen sometimes!

The challenge continues this weekend with a big series of picks on fights from overseas including the big Carl Froch-George Groves rematch...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

David Letterman and me

David Letterman announced his retirement from the late night game effective in 2015 recently and I wanted to take a bit to talk about the man that changed the game despite never being the top dawg in the yard..

Not the fellow that you see at 11;30 on CBS,I haven't watched that show (or any other talk show since Tom Snyder's ) for years.
I'm talking about the NBC 12;30 version than influenced so many of my age and as a result-the shows of today are evolutionary (or inferior,depending on your view) of what the Letterman show was doing 30 years ago.

Instead of doing a list of stuff that the Late Show did like jumping into a vat of water while wearing an Alka Seltzer suit,I'd rather write about the teenager that went to lengths to watch the show and how.
I got on the Letterman bandwagon almost from the beginning as I remembered his short-lived morning show that had some of the same type of stuff,but not the audience.
The morning show had the right content but the wrong people watching it.
I remember watching it at home with my late aunt and recall me laughing like crazy and Edna was befuddled-as just what the hell was so funny.
Since I knew the name and show,I was ready to be a watcher at 14,but there was one problem-that was a LONG night for a 9th grader and the resulting laughter wasn't going to fly with my parents at that hour on a school night,so that led to our getting a VCR and setting the timer every night for the show.
The problem with that was these were the initial crop of VCR's,which weren't digital,so they had buttons for channels 2-13 and the button for the channel had to be pushed in.
If my parents watched any TV after I went to bed and changed the channel,I was likely to get a whole lot of nothing.,so that led to a lot of 11;30 "bathroom trips" to check on the VCR to make sure it was set on NBC.
One of these trips would lead to one of the most memorable discussions that I ever had with my father as a kid and no-I won't rehash it here!

Even thought Dave was about the same age as my parents,they didn't get his humor which was more along the lines of the high school,college and young adult age group that became his core demographic.
My dad once looked at me and Shane and said "What the hell is so funny about this S@#t?"
Meanwhile,we were dying as Dave went into a store called "Just Shades"and asked if he could buy a lamp or a light bulb.
It was exactly what we were looking for and the humor that flew over the heads of many had found its home.
That spelled out what Shane and I had been doing forever-screwing with people that never had a clue that they were being messed with!
Some might even say I'm still known to do that on occasion(wink wink)


I remember so fondly those episodes that were right from the 'kids destruction" handbook when he would take household items and show them being crushed in an hydraulic press or tossed off a roof.
It was just stuff that younger people loved it;"Man, wonder what it would look like if I tossed a watermelon to the street from the roof?"
Basic humor taken to the hilt by the bemused response of Letterman,who often looked like he was barely able to contain himself from busting out laughing.

Letterman's brilliance faded a bit on CBS as he had to change a bit to adapt to the older audience and the more mainstream guests as the NBC show would often have comics that few knew and musical acts that were cult attractions,the CBS version had to be more like his rival Jay Leno,who despite being more popular could never hold a candle to Dave.
Over the last few years,Letterman has slipped from a solid second in the late night ratings to third behind Jimmy Kimmel of ABC,who was a long time Letterman fan and whos show reminds me most of the old Late Night show and had become the status quo as those of us that loved Letterman because he broke off from the Johnny Carson format now were the stale demographic.
Now young people are watching Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon as their innovators.
For me?
I think I'll just stick with the Letterman of his prime,think of the memories and maybe even chuckle aloud....


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Boxing Challenge!

Tonight's picks for the Boxing Challenge for R.L.Malpica and myself.

WBC Lt.Heavywt title.12 rds
Adonis Stevenson vs Andrej Fonfara

R.L:Stevenson KO 8
TRS;Stevenson KO 6

WBC Featherwt title 12 rds
Jhonny Gonzalez vs Clive Atwell

R.L; Gonzalez Unanimous Decision
TRS: Gonzalez KO 9

Middleweights.10 rds
David Lemieux vs Fernando Guerrero

R.L; Lemieux KO 4
TRS:Guerrero Unanimous Decision

Jr.Middleweights,12 rds
Jermell Charlo vs Charlie Ota

Both:Charlo Unanimous Decision

27 years

Nope,that isn't our anniversary post for the blog,its 27 years of marriage for me and the lovely Cherie.

Now that makes me reflect in a positive manner because it's been a really nice run.
I've never been overly demonstrative about how happy our marriage has been,because often times the people that brag about how great things are become the same people that proclaim how bad things are on Facebook!
However,when it comes to these type of benchmarks,I attempt to put into writing how I feel about the love of my life.
I have told the story before that saw us get together,but what I'd like to get across is how things never really changed.
My wife is the person that I go to first when I need to vent and the person that I look for first when seeking counsel.
She may not be knowledgeable about everything or I may not even use the tack that she proposes,but her voice is consistently speaking with one intent-whats best for me,even if it isn't the way I'd handle things.

Cherie is the kindest and gentlest soul that I know and I've never met anyone with the grace and heart that she has,but she can be downright dogged in determination if she believes that I've been wronged.
People that think that the little quiet gal is laid back have been stunned to deal with the tiger that comes out when your author has been messed with.
Ask quite a few over the years from the fellow in the middle of a football game that I was playing in to baseball mothers that were overly aggressive to family members-Cherie is not one to be messed with when she comes to my defense.

But those times have been scarce over the years,as she brings such a warmth and spirit to all that know her,Cherie has a calmness that can defuse the upset and she always has what's best for me (you) in the end.
Cherie is quite devout in her faith in God and despite the fact that I don't share that with her,she has never made it an issue in our marriage by being overbearing about it,although I'm sure that she hasn't given up on me yet!
Cherie also has been tireless in her passion for homeschooling both of our children and she believes wholeheartedly in our decision to teach our children at home that has been proven to be the right one.

Cherie has stuck by me as I've changed from the headstrong young man that believed he knew all the answers to the paunchy middles aged man that,well,still thinks that he has all the answers.
I would be the first to say that Cherie has been the difference in a good life for me and she deserves all the credit for keeping me together enough to enjoy it.
Thanks for 27 great years and the numbers are just going to keep getting larger.....

Friday, May 23, 2014

Back tonight

I have some posts in store for later this week,but I wanted to apologize for missing a few days.
Apparently as I age,I have developed an allergy to something and my eyes are paying the toll.
This occurred last year at a similar time and I shrugged it off as getting something in the eyes.
Now it is obvious that this is something else and I had to leave last night's Suns game vs Asheville because of the discomfort.
Just wanted to give you an update and I hope to get back soon.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports version

Now it's time to sift a few nuggets from the pan from the sports world to finish that inbox cleaning!

Since our last writing about the Browns,the team made the decision to waive Greg Little after the signings of Miles Austin and Earl Bennett.
I'm fine with that decision.
Greg Little has tremendous physical skills and despite his rockhanded play (at times ) as a Brown,I still think that he could be a productive player eventually.
It just won't be in Cleveland nor do I believe that it would have happened had the Browns kept him around.
Sometimes in sports,it takes new surroundings or the fact that for the first time ever in your athletic life,someone doesn't think you are good enough for the work ethic to kick in and that is when a player could turn things around.
Greg Little tweeted after the Raiders claimed him that he had circled the Browns game against the Raiders on the schedule and though I can understand why he is upset,I hope that he realized eventually that the Browns gave him chance after chance to catch the football and he just didn't do it consistently enough.
Little is just 24 and I wouldn't have been against keeping him around for another year,but it might have best for Little and the Browns for him to move on...

The Sporting News is ranking the various baseball teams local announcers and the Giants team of Duane Kuiper,Mike Krukow and Amy Gutierrez might win their contest.
I know they would win mine as they are the main reason (along with their time slot) that I began to root for the Giants.
Watching a Giants game is just fun with their crew and summer late nights (off work) are just better with Kuip,Kruk and Amy G.

Having met former Indians third baseman Buddy Bell last year and briefly again last week,it made me think of this article from Waiting for Next Year,a Cleveland oriented sports site covering Ohio teams.
It's a neat look at the 70's Indians,some of them which are forgotten and even a note on my favorite childhood player in Toby Harrah.
My favorite part is a story on umpiring that saw Bell and umpire Ron Luciano switch positions in a spring training game!
Great read.

That catches us up on the inbox.
I have a post in mind for next time that I hope you enjoy!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cleaning out the inbox-Non Sports Edition

Time for another cleaning of the inbox of items that wait for me to dump it out!

One of my favorites and maybe (on Fox) my favorite has finally gotten her own show as Jamie Colby will be hosting "Strange Inheritances" which will be a program on people that have had odd things left to them after someone passes on.
The program will air on the Fox Business Network and Jamie has missed her normal weekend duties while making the show.
I have always thought that Ms.Colby has been chronically underused by Fox and here is hoping that this is just the beginning of the network taking more advantage of her talents and skills...

An old urban legend has always been told that Atari dumped thousands of the failed ET game that led to the decline of Atari in a New Mexico landfill.
Most of the time these things are just rumor,but a filmmaker making a documentary on the rise and fall of Atari cut a deal to find out if it was true or not.
Surprisingly it was as they were found in the town dump of Alamogordo.
The town had made a deal with the filmmakers for them to receive 250 cartridges or 10 % of the amount found,whichever was the greater number.
The ET game was a game that the company put tons of money behind and watched it fail due to the difficulty and low sales of the game.
Atari was soon finished and video games in the U.S. were passe' until the return of the Nintendo system a few years later...

When you live in the Mid-Atlantic states,blue crabs are a part of life in the summer.
They might not be as big of a part this summer or if so-you might pay for them as the brutal winter of 2014 has slammed the blue crab population hard and damaged the females especially hard.
The Washington Post reports that the female crab population has dipped to 69 million and the crab in general lost a quarter of its population.
I always liked the taste of the female crab better and they usually were cheaper,but most prefer males.
The number of females in the water according to not enough to sustain the population and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration-there need to be between 160 to 215 million females if the population to rise to the 828 million level from 1991.
This needs to be addressed quickly if there is a hope of turning the tide and I wouldn't be a bit against a few year moratorium against the catching of any female crabs,if that is what it takes to preserve this for future.
Sometimes,you need to take a hit short term for a better long term.

I've been active on Twitter and I like it far more than I ever thought that I would.
One recent surprise was a recent recommendation to follow former WMAR anchor Mary Beth Marsden,who might be the only thing that I ever liked out of Baltimore!
I remember her leaving television and hadn't heard much from her since I lost Baltimore stations when we bought the house and hooked up Direct Tv,but it seems she is doing quite well in radio in Baltimore with the biggest news station there- WBAL.
Marsden is also heavily involved in making films about autism and is a passionate advocate for the autistic community.
Haven't heard her work at WBAL,but she was the only good thing about watching Baltimore news when I lived elsewhere,so it's nice to see her doing well.
An article on Marsden's autisic work can be found here.

That cleans out the non-sports inbox,I will try to do the sports version tomorrow....


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Marquez decisions Alvarado,boxing challenge

Juan Manuel Marquez was simply a cut above Mike Alvarado and grabbed a clear cut unanimous decision at the Fabulous Forum.
Marquez was able to take Alvarado and make him revert from his normal attacking skills and made him tentatively box from the outside.
Each fighter scored a knockdown with Marquez scoring his in the 8th and Alvarado returning the favor in the 9th.
The bout was pretty pedestrian for eight rounds,but with Alvarado needing a KO to win,the Denver native stepped up the aggression for the final four rounds and turned them into a highly entertaining scrap.
I scored the bout 117-109 for Marquez,who moves to a possible fifth bout with Manny Pacquiao with the victory.

In the boxing challenge,I added one point to my lead over R.L.Malpica to extend it to 33-31.
I earned two points for Marquez's unanimous decision win,with R.L.earning one point for the Marquez victory.
Each of us picked up one point for Viktor Postol's knockout over Selduk Aydin in a dull undercard card that I find surprising as an HBO bout....

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Quick Boxing Challenge

Quick picks in the boxing challenger from R.L and me

Both of us picked the same winners on tonight's HBO card,but different ways in the main event.
Juan Manuel Marquez vs Mike Alvarado

R.L;Marquez KO 10
TRS: Marquez unanimous decision

Both of us picked Viktor Postol with a unanimous decision win over Selcuk Aydin

Obscure TV Shows for 200,Alex

It's funny how obscure things stick on your head from your childhood.
I've written many times about the importance of television in my childhood living in a very rural area,but some shows just aren't meant to be memorable-yet two of them are.

It's because of theme songs that stuck in your head and often times it's pieces of said theme song.
Sometimes you barely remembered who starred in the show,let alone a particular episode!
Two cases of this came from CBS in the 1979/80 television season with California Fever and Ladies Man.
The theme song to California Fever has stuck with me for 35 years,although the lyrics weren't perfect when I found it on Youtube this morning,it was pretty close for a 10 episode run 35 years ago!
However,despite watching the show enough to remember the theme song,I remembered the star as Clark Brandon (Brandon actually starred in Mr.Merlin,another one year and out show-I had other reasons for that one to be told in a future post) and it was actually Jimmy McNichol,a teen star of the time.
Other than the song and watching it,most likely with Shane,I remember next to nothing about it, other than being your typical teenage show,so I'll let Wikipedia describe this classic-"The show featured a group of Los Angeles teenagers living an exotic life of disco,the beach,the opposite sex and music.
The series was short-lived lasting ten episodes".
Gee,with a description like that,I wonder why it didn't make it?
Here for your listening pleasure or not...-California Fever



For all that I love about today's TV choices,there is something to be said for simplicity and having three networks producing new shows meant that shows were given more chance to find an audience and that audience would often sample lots of different shows too.
I miss that a little..

Ladies Man was a Lawrence Pressman comedy vehicle that saw a single dad working as the only male at a women's magazine.
Other than Pressman most of his co-stars would only be familiar to TV junkies of the time,Karen Morrow,who seemed to be the queen of one and out shows,character actor Herbert Edelman and Louise Sorel,who starred in soap opera,but more notably to me as a guest star on Star Trek.
Ladies Man,if I recall correctly was given a better time slot than California Fever by CBS,which had to battle Happy Days,which then was certain death.
I seem to remember Ladies Man being on before or after Alice,which would mean Sunday and a nice slot in those days for a CBS Show.
The theme song was often tossed out by Shane and I through the years as a running joke between us as only us and maybe Lawrence Pressman were the only people that remembered it.
I cannot recall ever hearing one or both of us bellow out "How do I fit in with a room full of women",without the other laughing or cracking a smile.
Ladies Man lasted one forgettable season and 16 episodes,but yet due to its opening song-it's proven to be quite memorable.
Memories that make you laugh and think back-I suppose there are worse things to recall from a simpler time that saw television be such an important part of my life.
And on occasion,it's the company you kept when you make those memories as well.
Enough,already-here's Ladies Man....





A night with Big Don and Mike

A few brief notes on our biggest fan's trip to Hagerstown,its decrepit stadium and some things about us...

Big Don and his pal Mike make a visit here every year and this year's trip saw them visit a few cities with Hagerstown among them.
Big Don wasn't in the greatest of moods early,but the amenities of the Muni turned that frown upside down.
Well,not really being that it doesn't have any,but the company might have helped being that the lovely Cherie showed up.

Big Don always makes me laugh and despite some cranky old guy (at 45,I say 62+ qualifies as "old guy") a few rows down that apparently thinks that sports talk (albeit sometimes loud with Derreck nearby) at a ballpark isn't worth doing,I had a great time.
As someone easily annoyed,I could have agreed with this guy had this been at a big league park where ushers never let you move,but at a 1/8th filled Muni,he could have moved anywhere he wanted,so "wah".
The Muni was its typical self as the Suns grabbed game one of the twin bill against Lakewood in winning what seemed to be their thousandth game in a row vs Lakewood before the Blue Claws snapped the losing streak by winning game two.

Big Don often likes to talk about the blog and I don't often talk about things here,so that was enjoyable.
Most of my friends know about what I write about here and some even read from time to time if something catches their eye,but for the most part,it's Big Don that reads what we write.
Don takes the time to read,give me feedback and few things make me feel good about what I do here than an email from Don telling me that he liked something or related something to his life.

Anyway,I talked to Don about the blog and gave him some business cards from Rachel's Christmas gift and told him how frustrated I get sometimes with the blog.
Allow me to explain,the main frustration is my lack of promotional skills to get us more widely read.
Don replied "I know,I can sense that at times in your writing".
In a odd way,it made me feel good that A) Someone reads enough to care about the blog and B) that my writing reflects my moods well.
It made me look at things this evening and think about things.
Nothing changed or anything,just think.
That never hurts,does it?

Despite one of my least favorite graphers making an appearance,having to leave to go to work instead of having fun doing postgame and cranky guy,I had a good time seeing Don and Mike and I was able to look at things here.
Not a bad night.

A few words on the Hagerstown Suns before I leave for the day.
The Suns are terrific on the field having a record of 31-9 of this writing,have one of the games top prospects in Lucas Giolito and have the luxury of having the highest foul ball possibility to fan ratio in the game.
They also inflate attendance,which is really bad because the inflated numbers are really low and have perhaps the barest bones staff that you would ever see in professional baseball.
Having said that-I am having the most fun that I've ever had going to Suns games.
Other than the occasional pain in the graph,the few fans leave the hardcores as the attendees,so usually you can kick back and talk about whatever you like (other than cranky guy last number),the low number of employees keep the on field microphone foolishness to a minimum (so does the lack of people wanting to participate) and basically have an old school baseball experience.

In other words,I highly recommend hitting the Muni and going back in time.
But,not too many of you,you just might ruin it.....


Friday, May 16, 2014

They listened? Browns sign Miles Austin

I'm sure the Cleveland Browns didn't read Wideout Wipeout that we wrote a few days ago,but the result ended in the same way as the Browns signed Miles Austin to a contract and with Josh Gordon more than likely on his way to suspension,instantly becomes the teams number one receiver for 2014..

Now just because I promoted this signing and the Browns signed Miles Austin does not mean this is guaranteed to work out.
Austin does turn 30 before the start of the season and he has posted disappointing numbers in two of the last three years.
Austin also has missed his share of playing time over that term,so this could be a high priced item that brings a name to Cleveland,but faded skills.

On the other hand,Austin did catch 10 balls in the Dallas opener and before his hamstring injuries,looked to be the same player that just missed 1,000 yards in 2012.
Austin still has his deep speed to step into the Gordon position and if (huge IF),he can leave the injuries behind and has some motivation to prove some people wrong-the Browns could have themselves a steal.

Cleveland also signed 27 year old Earl Bennett from the Chicago Bears in another attempt to build depth at wide receiver.
Bennett,as I noted in Wideout Wipeout,has never done much for me in his Chicago tenure,but there is a reason for that-Bennett is inconsistent.
I mean his numbers have decreased in each of the last four years,although that could be because the Bears continue to add talented pass catchers to their team each year (Brandon Marshall,Alshon Jeffery) and he just got caught up in the shuffle.
If you look even closer at Bennett's career,it seems like he explodes once or twice a season and then disappoints thereafter.
Bennett can play some outside,but is most likely to see time behind Andrew Hawkins in the slot.
I don't mind taking a flyer on Bennett under the circumstances,but I would hesitate to count much on him either.

So assuming the Josh Gordon end game is a season long suspension,the Browns still are average at best at wideout,but Gordon wins his appeal? Well,this could be a pretty good bunch.
Assuming that he is not,it's an average group,but better than it looked a few days ago.....



On the Signing Front

The signing front
returns with the first few teams of the 2014 tour,but first I want to get the non-baseball additions out of the way

Football
Former Redskins wide receiver Gary Clark-Thanks to Derreck and Mikayla Chupak for getting the former All-Pro at one of Mikayla's school functions..
Former Browns linebacker Bob Babich-Mail
Former Oklahoma quarterback J.C.Watts-mail

Hockey
Junior hockey star and likely eventual top pick in the NHL draft-Connor McDavid-Thanks to Bruce Begole,who went to a game and got him for me!

Baseball-Mail
Former Orioles and Blue Jays shortstop Tim Nordbrook

Non-Sports
Actress Carrie Fisher-who signed a Blue Brothers and Star Wars Card-Mail
Actress Erin Gray of Buck Rogers fame-Mail


The first team to arrive at beautiful Municipal Stadium was the Rome Braves in their only visit to Hagerstown this season.
Rome was not loaded with the usual Braves roster ,but there were a few interesting players.
A pair of catchers both signed their Danville cards and Panini Elite in defensive oriented Bryan De La Rosa and offensive prospect Victor Caratini,while I liked the skills of shortstop Johan Carmargo,he has struggled with the bat.
Other nice additions were hard throwing Carlos Salazar and Andry Ubeira along with Reed Harper.
I also was given a Bowman signed by Nationals minor leaguer Travis Ott by Bill Cover during this series.

Next up was a chilly afternoon game in Altoona with Kendall Morris for the Erie Seawolves.
I never seem to have a ton of Erie cards as the Tigers affiliate never is on the local circuit until the players reach the AA level in Erie.
The main reason for the trip was former All-Star catcher Lance Parrish,a long time favorite and the new manager at Erie.
Parrish is very nice and signed everything.Seemed like a really nice guy.
The top prospect on the team was second baseman Devon Travis,who signed his Midwest League prospect card along with his Panini Elite.
Travis was injured shortly after this game and has yet to return to the field.
Other nice additions were Eugenio Suarez,who signed his Florida State League prospect card and a Prism given to me by Kendall And Aaron Westlake,who signed four cards,including a Midwest League prospect card.
I really like the Prism set,but like Rize,it's kinda expensive for the set and other than once at Target,the packs were hard to find.

Next into Hagerstown were the Delmarva Shorebirds,who I had pretty much cleaned up on last season.
I needed a few stragglers though and they were good ones.
Orioles first rounder Hunter Harvey has been excellent this season and Harvey was very nice in signing his Bowman and Rize cards.
Two other Orioles high picks in the 2013 draft were added as well in catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Josh Hart.
Drew Dosch signed his Panini Elite and added "Go Penguins" to the card.
I like to get players that went to schools that I like to add that to cards and Youngstown State fits that bill.
I also got pitching coach Alan Mills on few of his cards with the Yankees,Orioles and Columbus Clippers on the long missed Line Drive card from 1991....

The first team into Frederick this season was the Carolina Mudcats and the Cleveland Indians affiliate was a one bereft of prospects,at least one that I hadn't gotten.
The best catches were Bowman refractors of Jeremy Lucas and Josh Martin and pitching coach Steve Karsay,who spent time with the Indians among other MLB teams.
Karsay was nice and chatted a bit as well.
The game was neat as starting pitcher Dylan Baker tossed six perfect innings after I had missed him in cards.
Fortunately for me,Kendall needed to get more Steve Karsays finished and he was able to get Baker on his Panini Elite and Lake County cards.
Baker would injure his ankle before his next start,finishing him for the year and giving him a unique line for 2014..

A morning trip with Derreck and Brad Adams for the Altoona Curve in Harrisburg turned out to be very productive,albeit chilly.
The biggest pickup was shortstop prospect Alen Hanson,who signed one before the game and one after in being less than personable about signing.
However,something beats nothing as Hanson signed a green Bowman refractor and a Florida State League prospect card.
Other nice additions were former pitcher and current power hitter Stetson Allie,toolsy outfielder Willy Garcia and Adrian Sampson,who has jumped on some prospect lists after a strong April.
Manager Carlos Garcia has been a less than friendly signer in the past,but on this day was smiling,happy and for the first time signed two cards.
In the past,the former Pirate infielder signed either one or none and was usually grumpy about it...

Meet the team day for the Frederick Keys saw the opportunity for the Keys and the Lynchburg Hillcats.
I needed very few of the Keys,but was able to fill in some stuff that arrived in the winter,such as Parker Bridwell's heritage,both of Jason Esposito's team set cards from 2013 and Trent Mummy.
Mummy was a player that seemed to always be hurt and I never had much luck getting him.
I got him on two cards,but the next day,Mummy was released...

Lynchburg featured top prospect Lucas Sims,who had been a great signer in Hagerstown as a Rome Brave and Sims signed both cards that I had as did Jose Peraza in signing two Bowmans and Mauricio Cabrera signed his Topps heritage and Bowman.
The other interesting pickup was Kevin Ahrens,who at one time had been a top prospect in the Blue Jays system.Ahrens signed two older Tri-Stars for me.
It's funny,no matter the player,when you can get older cards out of the box and signed,it's always great because you think those cards are never getting out!

We wrap up with the Lakewood Blue Claws in Hagerstown.
I didn't have much for Lakewood as many of them I had gotten last season in State College with the Williamsport Crosscutters.
Top pick J.P.Crawford signed a Bowman refractor,Zach Green signed three different USA cards before he was demoted due to a slow start and Carlos Tocci on a Bowman,.
The star of this stop was a Sun as Washington Nationals outfielder Denard Span appeared on a rehab assignment.
Span was the best person that has shown up in Hagerstown and was a terrific person.
Span chatted with everyone,took pictures and asked "did I get everyone? Is everyone OK?".
Exactly the type of guy that you want to root for and someone that gets what a big deal that it is for a big leaguer to show up in your town.

WHEW! That wraps up for today,but barely starts the season off!
I'll be back sometime soon with more from the front!



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cavaliers fire Mike Brown-Now who?

The expected (if you had any basketball IQ at all) end of the second term with Mike Brown as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers ended yesterday after one losing season as Cleveland decided to retain interim general manager David Griffin,who then made the call to fire Mike Brown.

I didn't renew the NBA league pass package this year-mainly because of the hiring of Mike Brown.
Nothing against Brown personally,I could just see what was going to happen-boring basketball,unhappy young players and lots of losses.

Brown,who was brought in to shore the Cavalier defense,did manage to do that,however his deficiencies as an offensive coach came to haunt him once again and this time he did not have a Lebron James or Kobe Bryant to bail him out somewhat.
The NBA has become an offensive league and the dull,one dimensional offense that Browns used in Cleveland and Los Angeles just isn't going to cut it in today's game.
I like defense and it wins games,but players will play defense to win games,but not at the expense of a stale offensive system and to deny that NBA players are stifled in a time that creativity is prized more than anything else that a coach can do in this era usually dooms you to failure.
Mike Brown,who almost certainly will never get another NBA head coaching job,has now run the same system three times in two cities and discouraged three stars in doing so-Lebron James,Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving.
Mike Brown will be a solid assistant coach with some NBA team and I have a feeling that he might be a good college coach in the situation (although I think recruiting will be a chore for him),but he is not suited for the professionals as a head coach.

The Cavaliers now have to hire another coach and to me there a few acceptable choices ranging from veteran to less experienced.
Mark Jackson was loved by his players in Golden State,won 51 games in taking the Clippers to seven games in the first round and then was fired.
George Karl wants to get back into the game and it would be full circle for Karl,who started his career in Cleveland,30 years ago and Karl might be a strong choice.
USA Today says that Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin is high on the list and there is always the big names that the Cleveland media and Dan Gilbert likes to toss around in John Calipari and Tom Izzo.
However,the two names that make the most sense to me are Alvin Gentry and Vinny Del Negro.
Both worked with David Griffin in his time with the Suns,both will play the up tempo offense that David Griffin prefers and will building his team for and both don't have the high ego of needing the spotlight .
Either Gentry or Del Negro seem to be a good fit for the Cavaliers,although I wouldn't mind seeing Mark Jackson get a chance or longtime favorite of mine Larry Brown get a call either.

If I had to put together a top three list (minus Larry Brown of course),it would read (in order of preference) Jackson,Gentry,Del Negro.
Perhaps even I could consider a league pass renewal for next season....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wideout Wipeout?

The Cleveland Browns already were hearing from some quarters about not drafting Clemson's Sammy Watkins to plug in at wide receiver even before the rumors of an impending suspension for Josh Gordon,so it made sense for the Browns to add a pass catcher on day 2.
They passed in favor of guard Joel Bitonio and running back Terrence West.
Ok,fair enough,but certainly they would use their round four pick on someone to bolster the corps,right?
Nope and even though I had four WR's on my board entering the 4th round that I thought would have helped,only Wisconsin's Jared Abberderis was available by the Cleveland selection,so really on my charts,he was the only one passed up.
After that,even if the Browns had their 5th and 6th (and later trading their 7th) picks,the chances of finding an immediate contributor had diminished,so I would not even complain about that.

Much of the Browns fan base is howling about the situation and I cannot blame them in SOME cases.
I wanted Sammy Watkins in the worst way,but Justin Gilbert and a future 1 and 4 was acceptable to me and yes,I really wanted Marquis Lee or Jordan Matthews in the 2nd along with thinking Abberderis could have helped in the fourth.
However,all of that could have been overlooked had the Gordon affair not hit the public-that is where the problems began.

Is there an issue?
Yes,as of now there is-assuming that Josh Gordon is finished for 2014,the Browns look to have injury prone Nate Burleson,drop-happy Greg Little and Andrew Hawkins as their top three receivers with Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper coming off injuries behind them as depth.
Doesn't exactly bring the greatest show on turf to mind does it?
The Browns signed a few undrafted free agent players at the position,which are roughly the same as a seventh rounder.
I mean,really,the difference is slight,so perhaps one of those will make the team,although the odds are long of one being an immediate contributor.

So we move to the list of available veterans,that all come with caveats,but could help the Browns if all bounces right.
I'm not a fan of former Buckeye Santonio Holmes,I'm not convinced he has a ton of tread left on the tires,he has had off the field issues that this team does not need and has been noted as a clubhouse lawyer as well.
Austin Collie is a slot receiver,so with the cash spent on Andrew Hawkins doesn't appear to be a fit. Robert Meachem has been effective as a one note fly pattern runner with the Saints,but his attempt to do more than just that ended in disaster in San Diego and Earl Bennett never did much for me in his term as a Bear.
Josh Morgan was a player that Tom Heckert wanted in his last free agency run,but signed with Washington and the results were mediocre.
Josh Cribbs is available for a return,but he never was any great shakes as a pass catcher and I doubt he could discover nuance at his age and I don't know anyone that would want to bring back Davone Bess for another term.

However,there are two names that intrigue me and despite the questions that exist,I would consider bringing to Cleveland that could help upgrade this spot.
Miles Austin has had chronic hamstring issues in two of the last three years and chronic is a definition for a reason,but the middle year was decent enough grabbing 66 passes for 943 yards in 2012.
Austin has deep speed,turns 30 before the season and could work well with Johnny Manziel.
The downside is that he had those hamstring problems and rarely do those go away and the colder climate in Cleveland would likely make those worse,not better,but still if the price was right-Austin fits the mold of number one wide receiver more than anyone on the current roster.

The other player might not be even healthy enough to sign in Danario Alexander.
Alexander's knees (plural) are awful,he missed all of last year and might not be ready for the season.
However,anyone that has seen Alexander play ,even on two bad knees, can clearly see the comet like ability that the former Charger possesses.
The Chargers brought him in during the 2012 season,expecting him to be depth-in less than a month he was posting 100+ yard games as he finished the year with 37 catches for well over 600 yards and seven TD's in just 10 games in which he started just six of those.
Alexander has elite level talent,but the injury history and plain bad luck has kept him from fulfilling his potential,but with the right contract (incentive based) and some good luck-Danario Alexander could take away some of the sting from the possible loss of Josh Gordon and if the miracle happens and Gordon plays in 2014,this would be one dynamite bunch.
That is how good Danario Alexander can be.

Let's not hit the panic button,give the Browns a little time and see who the team brings in before we holler to the heavens....

Cleveland Browns Draft- Day 3-the Pierre Desir story

The Cleveland Browns entered day three of the NFL draft with just two draft picks-the Colts 4th rounder from a 2013 draft day trade and their own 7th rounder.

They ended it with a small school superstar in round four and peddling the seventh rounder to Baltimore for the Ravens sixth rounder in the 2015 draft.
I spent the 4th round waiting for the Browns to grab a receiver in the round and entering the day,I had four pass catchers that I thought the Browns might be able to find a contributor,if they were around.

Had the Browns kept their own pick in the round,rather than the Colts,all four of them would have been available to Cleveland,but instead three of them went off the board before the Browns stepped up.
I was hoping that the Browns would take the final one that was left in Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis,but instead opted for Lindenwood corner Pierre Desir.
I was disappointed that the Browns passed on Abbrederis,but Desir looks like the real deal and adds depth to one of the most important positions in the Mike Pettine defense.
Desir is big (6'1) and speedy,but will need to work on his technique and coming from a Division II school will be taking a huge leap in competition,so Desir will have a learning curve.

The Browns have managed to bolster a position of weakness at the corner and with the selections of Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir to add to Joe Haden and Buster Skrine and turned it into a strength.
Cleveland may still have weaknesses at wide receiver that weren't addressed,but otherwise have added help at every other position of need in the draft and might have added four starters and a valuable player in multiple defensive back formations.

I think Justin Gilbert will start at corner,Joel Bitonio will start at either tackle or guard,Christian Kirksey has a good chance to start at inside linebacker and Johnny Manziel will be the long term answer (I hope) at quarterback.
Not a bad haul.
I will take a longer look at the draft one day next week....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cleveland Browns Day Two

The Cleveland Browns fans were on top of the world after round one.
That lasted 24 hours as word began to spread of a possible one year suspension of star wide receiver Josh Gordon for smoking marijuana.

Before I get to the day two selections of the Browns,I might as well address the big dog in the room-Josh Gordon.
If this is true and his agent says it is not ( we all know agents never lie,right?),the Browns will be going into the season with their outside starters being the oft-injured Nate Burleson and the drop-prone Greg Little-more on why that is in a bit.
Frankly,I don't care if the passer is Brian Hoyer,Johnny Manziel or anyone else you can name,if they have those guys catching the football,it's going to be tough to move the chains.
I'll be writing the goods and bads next week in the draft review,but I feel pretty safe in saying that the Cleveland Browns are in trouble for 2014,if the Gordon suspension rumors turn out to be true and Gordon would lose a possible appeal.

Now,I'll never understand why a joint is worth tossing away millions of dollars for and I sure don't get why it is worth losing the ability to make money playing a game,but I'll say this-Marijuana is slowly becoming legal in our country in some states and the NFL is going to face the question sooner or later (and it may be on this case) on suspending players for something that is some times legal.
I'm for legalizing marijuana (and taxing heavily) and I hope the Browns keep Josh Gordon for this season,but the facts remain-its the NFL's league and whether or not,you agree with the rules,they are theirs to make and Josh Gordon may have violated them.
Tough to argue any other result.

On the real point of this show-football and the Cleveland Browns on day two.
I really liked day one and I'm not as pleased with the second day.

Don't get me wrong,I think the Browns addressed a huge need in Nevada guard/tackle Joel Bitonio,who will step right in and either start a right guard or push Mitchell Schwartz there.
The Browns have had right offensive line side issues for years and Bitonio will help there,but I thought wide receiver was a bigger issue anyway before this Josh Gordon affair and the Browns could have landed either Marquis Lee (Jacksonville) or Jordan Matthews (Philadelphia).
Bitonio was the fastest rising offensive lineman just before the draft and I think he will help,but considering the overall picture-I would have went wideout here.
Like the player,just not as much as another position...

The Browns hopefully filled another need at inside linebacker in round three in Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey.
Kirksey can play either outside or inside linebacker,but in Cleveland,he almost certainly will be used inside.
I've seen a lot of Kirksey at Iowa and he is a high effort player that doesn't take plays off.
Kirksey might wind up in the best case scenario to be a three down linebacker and those are always in high demand.
I didn't like Kirskey as much as Wisconsin's Chris Borland,who went to the 49ers later in the third round,but I like this pick too.

The Browns then leaped back into the third round as they made a trade with San Francisco to land Towson running back Terrence West.
I have never seen West play,but Ourlads reports him to be a hard nosed power back that looks to be a good compliment to Ben Tate.
You gotta like the highlights below (if not the music) from West and I don't mind the 1-AA tag either,but I do have a few problems.
One-AGAIN no wideout?
Two-the cost of the team fourth and sixth round picks seem to be an excessive cost,but I'm open to that.
The Browns entered this draft with loads of picks and on the final day of the draft,Cleveland has the Indianapolis Colts 4th rounder and their own seventh rounder and that's it.
I know later rounders aren't slam dunks,but quantity increases your chances for finding a diamond.
The day was disappointing to me not for what was selected as much as what was not.
I'll be back later with a look at the Browns 4th rounder and time permitting their seventh rounder...




Friday, May 9, 2014

It's Johnny Cleveland!

The Cleveland Browns moved up from 26 to 22 at the cost of a third round pick to deal with the Philadelphia Eagles and take the most polarizing player in the draft in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The Browns sent the third rounder that they obtained from Pittsburgh during last years draft to flip flop from 26 to 22,so they still have picks in the second and third rounds on Friday night.

I like the pick and the cost,but I have no qualms about making this statement-this could be the pick that returns the Cleveland Browns to prominence.
It could also be the pick that could be looked in the rear view mirror as one that set the Browns back years in their attempt to return to the top.

Johnny Manziel has a huge upside and he also could be a huge bust.
I know you could say anything about any of these players picked in the draft,but looking at the entire package,Johnny Manziel comes to Cleveland with a tag of boom or bust that has not been seen in the NFL in many years.
Honestly,I cannot think off hand (Long day and I'm tired) of a player that exceeds Manziel in carrying that tag and I'm trying hard to come up with one!

I'll be reviewing the draft more as it moves on and time permitting,I might be doing another post on Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel later today,but for now.I'm pretty happy....

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Browns trade down,take Justin Gilbert

The Cleveland Browns had their chance to take my guy in the draft in Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
In a stunner,they didn't as they shipped the 4th pick to Buffalo for the 9th pick and the Bills 1st and 4th rounders next season.
Cleveland then tossed Minnesota a fifth rounder to move from 9th to 8th and then selected the best corner in the draft in Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State.
The six foot Gilbert is the best cover guy in the draft and has a career of making interceptions as a Cowboy.
I have been pointing for years as corner as a huge need and I am happy to see Gilbert stay in orange.
I still wish Sammy Watkins would have been the choice at four and I think that the Browns didn't get enough help for 2014 by making the deal to drop five spots.
I'll be back later with more on my take on Justin Gilbert....

Sleepers of interest

With the draft hours away,I thought I would add a few sleepers to keep an eye on over the weekend as we see where players wind up in new locations.

I'll offer a player at each position that I like that may not be selected in tonight's first round,but could go in either of the following two days..

At quarterback,I like Georgia's Aaron Murray.
Murray might have been a first rounder had he not injured his knee.
Murray has a stronger arm than you think for a six footer and is very accurate in the pocket.
Murray might fit either the Browns or the Saints on day two or early on the day three.

At running back,I like a late rounder better than many that will go ahead of him in Florida State's James Wilder.Jr.
Wilder is a punishing,hard nosed runner that has had off the field issues,but at minimum will be an awesome short yardage back.
Some hold against Wilder that he was part of a three back rotation at FSU,I don't-I think it lessened the wear on a talented back and will leave more for the NFL.

The wide receiver that I like should go on day two as I love Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews.
Matthews can break tackles,yet has the speed to go by corners.
Matthews set the SEC record for catches and yards in a career playing for a team where he always drew the top corner..

The tight end sleeper in my opinion may not even be drafted.
Alex Bayer of Bowling Green is a strong blocker and catches the ball well too.
Bayer isn't a deep threat,but could be a nice possession chaining mover as a pass catcher.
Bayer also can deep snap and that might help him get drafted on day three.

I liked what I saw at the East-West Shrine of Bloomsburg tackle Matt Feiler.
Feiler played guard and tackle at Bloomsburg and with the level of competition there,Feiler may be a project,but I liked what I saw out of a player that isn't well known...

On the defensive line,I am very high on Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.
The son of former Cowboy Jim Jeffcoat is a bit angular,but with some help in the weight room,could be a starter for a long time in the league..

At linebacker-it's easy-Wisconsin's Chris Borland.
Borland isn't the strongest or fastest,but he reminds me of a Zach Thomas as in he just finds the ballcarrier and takes him down.
Plug Borland in and watch him roll up tackles for years.
I would love to see Borland as a Brown in rounds 3 or 4.

Cornerback is deep and I really liked what saw of Rice's Phillip Gaines.
In the East/West game,Gaines played back with the no press coverage rule,but he is fast and he hits.
Really think someone with foresight can nap a talented player in Gaines.

At Safety,I'm a big fan of Dontae Johnson of N.C. State.
Johnson is big (6'2 200 lbs),carries a wallop (played some linebacker with the Wolfpack) and at worst will be a nice special teamer.

Other players that I am keeping an eye for non-football reasons are DE/TE Larry Webster of Bloomsburg (formerly of Hagerstown) and Ashland DT Jamie Meder.

I'll be back with a look at the Brown picks tonight and likely the Saints as well....

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cleveland Browns-Persons of Interest

The Cleveland Browns rarely take the player I like most.
OK,since I have started doing this post-they have never taken the player that I've liked most,but they have taken players that I liked a lot.
This is a year that there are several players that I like a lot and yet there is one that I like above all-Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Sammy Watkins has the type tools that number one receivers needs and teams lust for and for all of the hullabaloo that the Browns need a quarterback (and they do),I am a believer that you take the best weapons and make what you have under center better.
I'm not anti-QB at 4,26 or at a tradeup in between,but I would be very tremendously disappointed,if Sammy Watkins was passed up.
I believe that he is that good.

However,there are several players that I would have little issues with at the 4th pick.
At quarterback,I love the tools of Central Florida's Blake Bortles and even though Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has his issues with size and could be the biggest risk in the draft,I like his game,but not this early..
Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina has all the tools that one sees in an impact defensive end and Buffalo's Khalil Mack reminds some (some) of Lawrence Taylor at outside linebacker.
I like Mack a lot,but one could make the argument that the Browns are already paying lots of money at that position.

I would rather not take a tackle with the 4th pick,but there are two that are worthy of the pick as far as talent wise.
I really like Texas A&M's Jake Matthews as an all around tackle that is agile and excellent in pass protection.
Auburn's Greg Robinson has better tools than Matthews and is more of a run blocking masher.
I prefer Matthews of the two and still think the team has bigger needs with excellent players available elsewhere.

If the Browns took any of those players,I would say the team landed an excellent player.

At 26,the Browns could decide to go quarterback.
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater was discussed as a top pick all year until an awful pro day and might be a steal,if he falls here.
I like Fresno State's Derek Carr more than some,who hold him accountable for his older brother's failure behind an expansion offensive line.

There was also other quality wideouts available too at 26.
Texas A&M's Mike Evans will be off the board,but the rest might be there.
USC's Marquis Lee was ranked above all before an injury plagued 2013 and LSU's Odell Beckham is highly thought of as well.
Brandon Cooks of Oregon State has moved up the charts,while Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin has great size at 6'5 240 pounds.
If the Browns want to wait until round two,I love Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt and Allen Robinson of Penn State has ideal size and tools.

If you asked me the Browns biggest position of need at the non-flashy positions,I would say it ranks between guard,inside linebacker and cornerback.
The problem is that the guard and inside linebacker slots are not as deep as they have been in the past.

The best guard is Notre Dame's Zack Martin and he is the only consensus first round guard available.
If Martin is gone,some like UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo as a later first,early second rounder.

The inside linebackers are led by Alabama standout C.J. Mosley.
Mosley might fall here,but I doubt it as he is the only high ranked player at this position in a weak class.
I love Wisconsin's Chris Borland,but think he might be a great fit in rounds three or four.

The corners are deep and if the Browns want to go in that direction,there should be a nice corner available at 26 or early in round two.
The opinions vary on who's the best,but there could be as many as five that have first round chances.
My pick as the best would be Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert,but I also like hard nosed Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State.
TCU's Jason Verrett is a disciplined corner that has great ball skills,but is only 5'9.
Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech is tough in run support and Ohio State's Bradley Roby has everything that you want in a corner,but will have to be coached to play within the system.
I saw all of Roby's tenure in Columbus and the sum of the parts was never more than the pieces..

I have things to do today,but I hope to be back later with some draft sleepers for the mid to late rounds...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cleveland Browns defensive needs

We move to the defensive side of the football for the Cleveland Browns needs and these have their share of upgrading as well...

Along the defensive line,the Browns look pretty solid. Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor are strong up the middle with a hopefully healthy Desmond Bryant to give three solid starters.
I have always liked Billy Wynn and second year man Armonty Bryant had flashes of strong play last year.
I don't see the Browns taking a player here unless it's a late round "best player on the board" scenario.

Wish I could say the same at linebacker where inside backer is a glaring need.
Karlos Dansby is a standout from free agency,but Craig Robertson is better suited for special teams after being just terrible in pass coverage.
The Browns must upgrade the inside spot either in this draft or late in free agency.
Cleveland is spending a lot of money on outside linebackers to be dominant to be just average.
Paul Kruger is getting big bucks to be average, Jabaal Sheard was OK in his first year as an OLB,but I still think he is better suited to be an 4-3 defensive end.
2013 first rounder Barkevious Mingo was occasionally dominant coming off the ball,but beyond the initial rush,Mingo was pushed off the line once there was film on him.
Mingo gets a small pass from me after missing much of camp with a bruised lung,but has to be a question mark.
Unless the Browns love someone (Khalil Mack,anyone?),I think there is already too much money in the returning outside players to spend more on this position..

Joe Haden is one of the better corners in the game,but I've said for quite a while that Buster Skrine is better suited to cover the slot receiver than a second cornerback slot.
Leon McFadden was a disappointment after being picked in the third round and free agent signee Isaiah Trufant is more a special team type that might play dime formations at best.
I would love to see this addressed early on day two.
Donte Whitner will replace T.J. Ward with ease and Tashaun Gipson should improve with Whitner's increased range beside him.
I wouldn't mind a later rounder or free agent player signed to battle Jordan Poyer,who I liked in limited action,and 2013 draftee Jamoris Slaughter for depth.

The punting competition is wide open,but I wouldn't go after a punter in the draft.
Too easy to find....

Top Defensive needs in order

1:Inside linebacker
2:Cornerback
3:Safety

Cleveland Browns offensive needs

We begin a three part (and maybe four) part look at the Cleveland Browns and the NFL Draft that starts Thursday night.
I plan on a series that looks at offensive needs,defensive needs and players that I would like to see in Cleveland.
Time permitting,there could be a quick look at the New Orleans Saints and/or a mock draft of my own,since I'm so tired of others doing them!

The Cleveland Browns have some talent on their offense,they also have numerous holes that begin at the quarterback position.
We all hope Brian Hoyer's three games under center were a sign of a maturing player that finally got a chance to play,but the injury to Hoyer robbed the Browns of the chance to truly know if that is the case.
The Browns need a young quarterback and I wouldn't be against two with one early and a late rounders as well.
Whether you believe in Hoyer or not,Cleveland needs to add a young passer.

Ben Tate signing with the Browns as a free agent alleviates a need at running back and I liked what I saw out of Edwin Baker late in the season enough to think he could be a complementary back and take some of the pressure off Tate.
I might take a mid to late round back for depth and running the Shanahan system,running backs tend to flourish there.

Josh Gordon is an elite level player at wide receiver and the team addressed the need in free agency with Andrew Hawkins to play the slot and Nate Burleson as well.
However,Burleson is often injured and the Browns could use a young player opposite Gordon.
If they land the right player,Cleveland could have one of the better receiving corps in the league.
Jordan Cameron mans tight end and the Browns have a bunch of blocking tight ends,so unless they love a pass catching type,tight end is not an need at this time.

The line is solid on the left side with All-Pro Joe Thomas at tackle,John Greco at guard and All-Pro Alex Mack staying in Cleveland at center.
Mitchell Schwartz stumbled early at right tackle,but played better in the second half and right guard
has been a problem area for years.
The Browns need a guard badly and should take one in the first three rounds...

Billy Cundiff was steady enough in replacing Phil Dawson and shouldn't be pushed by a draftee as a challenger at kicker...

Top offensive needs in order

1)  Wide Receiver
2)  Guard
3)  Quarterback

I hope to be back later today or tomorrow with a look at the defensive needs....

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mayweather escapes Maidana/Boxing challenge update

Floyd Mayweather unified the WBA and WBC Welterweight titles with a majority decision over Marcos Maidana.
I missed the fight,but our pal R.L.Malpica scored the affair 115-113 for Maidana.

At the end of the night,Thoughts of RS had regained the Boxing Challenge lead from R/L.with a two point net gain day and a one point lead at 30-29.

Each of us earned one point for Mayweather's win,but both of us saw Floyd as a unanimous winner,not majority and both of us earned a point for Adrien Broner's decision win over Carlos Molina,although we each thought Broner would win by stoppage.

The key bouts in TRS taking the lead were Amir Khan's decision win over Luis Collazo,where I added a point by picking Khan,while R.L.took Collazo and each of us picked Arthur Abraham to defend his minor 168 pound belt over Nikola Sjekloca.
However,I added an extra point for Abraham winning by unanimous decision,while R.L.predicted Abraham by a split nod.

I am off work for a while,so I hoping to get an On the Signing Front up for April soon!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge rolls on with the Pay Per View card in Las Vegas and a belt on the line in Germany

WBA/WBC Welterweight title unification 12 rds.
Marcos Maidana vs Floyd Mayweather/

R.L.:Mayweather unanimous decision
TRS:Mayweather unanimous winner

Welterweights 12 rds
Amir Khan vs Luis Collazo

R.L: Collazo KO 9
TRS: Khan split decision

Junior Welterweights 10 rds
Adrien Broner vs Carlos Medina

R.L: Broner KO 10
TRS: Broner KO 7

WBO Super Middleweight title,12 rds
Arthur Abraham vs Nikola Sjekloca

R.L.Abraham split decision
TRS:Abraham unanimous decision

Friday, May 2, 2014

1974-the Steelers rise,the Browns fall

The story of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their 1974 draft has been told often and it should be,it created an NFL power that has pretty much continued until this day,but there's another story-that of how the Cleveland Browns downturn started around the same time and with the exception of the 1980's has continued to the current time.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes about this here,but look at the record (Via the PD)  The Browns were 35-13 against the Steelers before it, and are 22-50 ever since. 

The Cleveland Browns had generally dominated the Steelers and even during the Steelers 1972 division title winning season that generally is credited for turning the tide between the two teams,the Browns were still a playoff team and almost ended the 1972 Dolphins perfect run in the first round in a 20-14 loss.
However,the team that had won championships and reaching the conference finals was beginning to show its age and the attempts to get younger such as the Paul Warfield trade that obtained Mike Phipps as the quarterback of the future had not worked out.
The "future is now" approach by George Allen in Washington was the rage in the league.
Youth meant inexperience and dumb mistakes and Art Modell bought into this thinking-big time.
The first and 1975 second rounders went to San Diego for an average linebacker named Bob Babich,the third to Denver for a quarterback that couldn't threaten Phipps,let alone anyone else in Don Horn and the fourth went to Oakland for faded wideout Gloster Richardson.
Babich hung around for a few years as a unspectacular starter,while Horn and Richardson were in and out of Cleveland to barely make it through the change of seasons,let alone multiple football seasons.

The Browns went straight in the river in 1974 going 4-10 and picked a second rounder that went straight to Canada right before the Steelers took a guy named Lambert from their backyard in Kent State and would have one winning season in the next five.
Pittsburgh would would win four Super Bowls in the next six seasons and build a dynasty while Cleveland would become the kid on the beach getting sand kicked in their face.

I find this interesting not because of the teams involved,but the philosophy involved.
Draft picks today are treated like gold bars and only teams that are near the edge make major deals involving high picks for veteran players.
And to this day,those trades backfire more than not.
An example is the Tampa Bay trade just last year in swapping a number one for Darrelle Revis and then going 4-12.
Revis is an excellent player,but Tampa Bay wasn't one player away,yet they deceived themselves into thinking they were at a high cost.
The Browns even did this as recently as a few years trading draft picks for guys like Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers after their 10-6 season,thinking these guys would lift them up.
Instead those deals,poor picks with what picks that they did have and the flop of Brady Quinn costing them a first rounder sent them with what was essentially fools gold.

The draft is the best way to build as you get players cheaper and for a longer period of time,but picking the wrong players like the Browns usually seem to do is a concern,then I can see trading picks for proven products.
The problem with that is that you are patching holes with bubble gum and then wondering why the boat won't be usable in a year.
The 1974 draft is the pivotal point in time that the Steelers and Browns organization switched spots in the hierarchy,here is hoping that this draft marks the beginning of the swing back to Cleveland.
At least there is hope.For now.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Grading on the Curve

I've seen the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in Altoona a few times and I have a few thoughts on the Curve.


To start with,this team has way and I mean WAY too many repeat players for the level,so any time that you see that usually means a lack of prospects.
That rule again comes true as Altoona has just two of note.

Shortstop Alen Hanson was one of the two breakout stars of 2012 in the Pirates system (Gregory Polanco was the other) and took another step forward,albeit not as impressive a step, last year at High A Bradenton before finishing in Altoona.
Hanson struggled throughout the month of April and then I saw him in Harrisburg and Altoona,he was behind every pitch and struggled to make contact at all,let alone pull anything.
Hanson has the tools to be an above average defender,but made seven errors in the month,which projects to 35 over the season-a number that is not what you expect from a prospect defensively.
Alen Hanson still may turn out to salvage the season,but he seems to have hit the AA wall.

Stetson Allie hits Altoona after moving to first base and a strong season split between West Virginia and Bradenton.
Allie makes one think of Mark Reynolds with his abundant power and just as abundant amount of strikeouts.
Allie hit six homers in April (a third of his total hits) and hit a better than expected .257,but whiffed 20 times.
Allie will always have contact questions,but he did a decent enough job in April to think that maybe he will scale the AA wall.

Willy Garcia is a toolsy outfielder that also suffers from swing and miss disease.
This affliction has struck Garcia 28 times in 20 games.
Garcia does have power,but strikes me as a player that will be doomed at higher levels because he just won't make enough contact.

The Curve pitchers also have two interesting arms.

Nick Kingham is the better known of the two to Pirate fans.but Adrian Sampson has progressed up the system's chart as well.
Sampson posted an interesting April with an ERA below 2 and looked sharp when I saw him in a six inning stint against Harrisburg.
Sampson has a very nice curve,but I do wonder if he can be the type of finesse' pitcher that succeeds in the big leagues.
Sampson finished high A with an ERA over five last season,so color me as a seller on Sampson until I can see more than a month.

Kingham is performing decent,not great in Altoona by the numbers.
However,looking beyond those,the ERA of 3.46 is inflated by one bad start against the Erie Seawolves.
Kingham works best off the fastball,but needs to come up with an improvement in some sort of an off speed pitch.
Kingham is the best of a motley crew of pitchers that is filled with journeyman,AA lifers and faded one time prospects that doesn't fill the observer with confidence.