Monday, October 23, 2017

Browns booted by Titans,12-9 in Overtime

Photo Courtesy:Joshua Gunter Cleveland Plain Dealer
Zane Gonzalez nailed three field goals including a 54 yarder to tie the game with less than a minute in the fourth quarter and Gregg Williams defense finally showed what it could be against the Tennessee Titans.

The problem was the Browns did little under two quarterbacks when a touchdown would have won the game before Ryan Succop won the game 12-9 for Tennessee in overtime.
The now 0-7 Browns travel to London next Sunday to face the Vikings in a game that I'm sure the fans in the United Kingdom cannot wait for.

Brownie Bits

1) Just an awful football game, but there were a few good things to take away from the game, but first
what a battle of two awful uniforms.
The Browns, who looked like a bag of Reese's Pieces with too many brown's and not enough orange's and the Titans with their two-toned light blue and white featuring the worst of the 90's-bleech.

2) The one thing that the Browns have improved in another bad campaign is stopping the run.
The Titans are a run-based team with strong backs like DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and Cleveland shut the pair down to 72 yards on 31 carries, particularly Henry, who finished with 13 yards on 13 handoffs.
Want one bright spot to hang your hat on for this season? Stopping the run.

3) This was the best we've seen from Gregg Williams this year and they did it without two starters in the secondary as Jason McCourty and Jabrill Peppers each missed the game with injuries.
Granted, Tennessee's passing game is almost as bad as the Browns and aren't often confused with a powerhouse with the football, but it was a quality outing that honestly deserved a victory.

4) And they held Tennessee on four shots at the goal from the one yard line in the third quarter.
It's the occasional plays such as those that give me fleeting glimmers of hope.
I've really seen Danny Shelton mature as the type of run stopper that the Browns drafted him for and perhaps become the Haloti Ngata type player that teams place for years as bulwarks of their line.

5) One final piece of good news was the three field goal outing for rookie Zane Gonzalez, who had his struggles earlier this year.
The game-tying boot from 54 yards out fluttered more than a Phil Niekro knuckler at the same location (remember Niekro's 11 wins for the 86 Indians at 47 years of age?), but accuracy in situations such as that one is huge for a bad team that needs every point they can get.

6) The worst news comes from the triceps injury to Joe Thomas that will likely end the season of the All-Pro left tackle.
Thomas has been the best in the game for so long and an injury like this at 33 could end a career.
Biceps and triceps injuries inhibit the ability to extend your arms and has ended the career of many pro wrestlers and offensive linemen, which need this range of motion to play their positions.
I don't always feel bad for athletes, but I do for Joe Thomas to play at such a high level for so long with such awful teams...

7) Hue Jackson just head-shakingly dumb in benching DeShone Kizer.
Look. I know Kizer threw two bad interceptions (one in each half) and has shown that he is prone to the big error, but in the last three games, Kizer has been pulled twice and benched once.
If Hue Jackson didn't want to play DeShone Kizer, he should have never returned him to the starting lineup.
I don't see how Jackson can start Kizer again, he might have ruined any chance Kizer has of having success in Cleveland as Kizer will now be looking over his shoulder to the sideline for Jackson.

8) DeShone Kizer hasn't made it hard for Jackson to pull him though as these interceptions were hardly excusable.
Add to that the fact that Kizer's attitude doesn't seem to be the most mature in handling adversity and even though I disagree with Jackson's decision, Kizer has not shown many signs of being "The Guy" that Browns fans had hoped for.

9) One more quarterback note as the move to replace Kizer with Cody Kessler smacks of a panic move by Hue Jackson.
Jackson has to know that his job is in trouble and he's desperate for wins no matter who takes the snaps- Kizer, Kessler, Kevin Hogan or the guy with the Pumpkinhead in the stands (I really like him best of all the Browns SuperFans) and he wants to do what it takes to win.
Which I am fine with, but what changed in seven weeks to think Cody Kessler is suddenly the best choice?
Didn't we go through weeks of training camp to help sift out who the starter was going to be?
What changed other than the desperate grasping for victories from Hue Jackson?

10) Hue Jackson has other problems with players apparently not following his rules as injured Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman were sent home early from the Houston game for missing curfew.
Britt continued his Dwayne Bowe impersonation with two catches for seven yards and dropping a long Cody Kessler pass in overtime that would have put the Browns into field goal range for a potential win-Woof.

11) The lack of a running game still kills this team.
The lack of any type of consistency under center (and Hue Jackson's comment at his press conference where he said he could move QB's in and out all season didn't anyone any good at all) means the Browns, if they truly wanted to try to win, should move into time control and running the ball.
35 yards from Isaiah Crowell isn't going to win games in that capacity.

12) I'm not usually tossing around compliments towards Michigan Wolverines-past or present, but Taylor Lewan's coming onto the field to offer condolences towards Joe Thomas was very classy.
Nice touch from a talented player.

Hope to hear from any of you tonight on FightHeads!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Boxing Challenge:Machado upsets Corrales

The boxing challenge for the weekend starts in Verona, New York with two bouts from HBO that had varying intensities.

In the main event, Alberto Machado won the WBA junior lightweight title from Jezreel Corrales (TRS #3) when Machado landed a left hand while eating one from Corrales, dropping
Corrales and surviving himself.
The eighth round knockout allowed Machado to win a title that Corrales could not retain after missing weight by multiple pounds at the weigh-in.
WBA rules stated that after an agreement to keep the fight going that if Machado won, he would become champion and the title would become vacant with a Corrales win.
Machado had won just one round on my card (the sixth, where he should have been given a 10-8 round for a knockdown that was not called) before the abrupt victory.
The lean Machado will be an interesting addition to the 130 pound title picture with WBC champ Miguel Berchelt as a possible opponent should he defeat the gritty veteran Orlando Salido in December or the IBF champion (decided on the same card in December as Tevin Farmer faces Kenichi Ogawa for the title that Gervonta Davis sacrificed on the scale in August) for the slot of best in the division other than WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko.

The co-feature saw the return of Demetrius Andrade (TRS #3 at junior middle) moving up to middleweight against undefeated and untested Alantez Fox.
In a bout that rivaled any Guillermo Rigondeaux or Erislandy Lara fight for boredom, Andrade won every round on my card, but the seventh and took a unanimous decision.
Fox scored a knockdown in the seventh that really was a tangled foot issue.
I scored Andrade a 118-109 winner and I hope we see him against better challengers next time out.

HBO showed a good bantamweight bout on tape delay from Belfast, Northern Ireland as Ryan Burnett unified his IBF title with the WBA belt with a unanimous decision over Zhanat Zhakiyanov (TRS #3).
I scored Burnett a 117-111 winner after the fight was even after six rounds, but saw Burnett dominate the second half of the fight.
I'm sure we will see Burnett debut in the next edition of the TRS ratings.

In the final quarter-final of the World Boxing Super Series, Murat Gassiev (TRS #2) retained his IBF cruiserweight title in Newark, New Jersey with a body shot in round three that dropped Krzysztof Wlodarczyk for the count.
Gassiev pushed Wlodarczyk around the ring and from the opening bell, the verdict was clear that Gassiev could pick his round of victory,
Gassiev moves to the semi-finals against Yunier Dorticos in what should be a thrilling battle early in 2018 and might be establishing the early leader for 2018 fight of the year.
Next Saturday will have the final quarter-final in the super middleweights between Jurgen Brahmer and Rob Brant and following that, I'll have a look and some thoughts about the initial round of the WBSS.

From Tokyo for a minor title, Ryota Murata avenged one of the worst decisions in 2017 when Hassan N'Dam could not answer the bell for round eight in their middleweight fight.
I had Murata ahead on the cards and dominated the fight seen live on ESPN2 at 7;30 AM.
My issue is why the WBA made this for their "regular" title, when the organization that claims they want to reduce their titles, could have swallowed this one when Gennady Golovkin defeated Daniel Jacobs in March?
There is a manner to force a fight between the champion and a top challenger- it's called being the number one contender and that doesn't mean they are a champion too.

In an untelevised bout in the challenge, Daigo Higa (TRS #3) retained his WBC flyweight title with a seventh round knockout of Thomas Massson on the Murata-N'Dam undercard.
Higa has won by KO in all 14 of his pro bouts.

In the Boxing Challenge-

I earned three points for the Murat Gassiev win (a bonus point for getting the round correct), two points for the Daigo Higa KO win, one point for the wins by Ryan Burnett , Demetrius Andrade, and Ryota Murata and I missed on Alberto Machado's victory.

Ramon added two points for Gassiev's win and one each for the Andrade and Higa wins while missing on Machado,Murat and Burnett's wins.

The Challenge now stands at 154-137.
Don't forget to listen to Fightheads Monday at 8 EST for talk about these and other boxing issues!!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge steams forward with six bouts with four titles on the line and a minor middleweight title as well.

We start at the Rock, which we usually cover New Jersey Devils hockey from and the World Boxing Super Series finishing the quarter-finals in the cruiserweight division with IBF champion Murat Gassiev (TRS #2) against former champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk.
Gassiev was my pick to win the tournament and comes off a title-winning effort over Denis Lebedev, which netted him the IBF title from Lebedev, but due to a mind-numbing decision by the WBA, not their title.
Wlodarczyk is undefeated since losing his title three years ago but against very light competition.
The winner will face Yunier Dorticos in the semi-finals early next year.

HBO has a two live fight card from Verona New York and an important one on tape delay.
The tape-delayed fight comes out of Belfast Northern Ireland with a bantamweight unification as hometown fighter Ryan Burnett puts his IBF belt up against WBA champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov (TRS #3).
Zhakiyanov upset American Rau'shee Warren for the WBA title on a PBC show in his last fight.
This one should be a good one

The live card has WBA junior lightweight champion Jezreel Corrales (TRS #3) defending against undefeated Alberto Machado.
Corrales barely squeaked by Robinson Castellanos in his last defense getting knocked down twice in a fight stopped seconds into the tenth round when a clash of heads resulted in a stoppage and Corrales earning a close and debatable majority decision.
I would have rather seen a rematch, but at 5'10 (Very tall for a 130 pounder) the untested Machado will have some advantages.

The other bout sees the return of a TRS favorite as the super talented and just as poorly managed Demetrius Andrade (TRS #3 at junior middleweight) moves up to middleweight after vacating his minor belt at 154 rather than wait for a mandated (and likely tedious) shot at Erislandy Lara against undefeated and yet again untested Alantez Fox.
Fox has fought one fighter that you've ever heard of in fringe contender Frank Galarza in his eighth pro fight and drew with him, so not sure what we are getting in Fox.
Andrade has bounced from HBO to Showtime and now back to HBO.
If I had my choice, we would see either Charlo brother against Andrade at either 154 or 160 in what would be a very intriguing fight to see that could go either way...

Then we move to Japan on ESPN2 early Sunday morning as the ESPN/Top Rank contract bears fruit as the network shows the minor WBA title, which should have been left vacant, but that's beside the point as Hassan N'Dam faces Ryota Murata in a rematch that saw Murata dominate (he won 118-110 on my card) and knock N'Dam down in their first fight, yet lose a stunning split decision.
This decision was arguably the worst of the year in boxing and was so bad that the WBA apologized for the judging with the order for an immediate rematch.

Power hitting WBC flyweight champ Daigo Higa (TRS #3) defends on the undercard (No U.S television, I think) against Tomas Masson.
The undefeated Higa has stopped all thirteen of his opponents and will be making his first title defense.

I lead the challenge over Ramon Malpica 146-133

IBF Cruiserweight Title/World Boxing Super Series QuarterFinal. 12 rds
Murat Gassiev vs Krzysztof Wlodarczyk.
R.L; Gassiev KO 8
TRS: Gassiev KO 3

WBA-IBF Bantamweight Title Unification. 12 rds
Zhanat Zhakiyanov vs Ryan Burnett
R.L: Zhakiyanov Unanimous Decision
TRS: Burnett Split Decision

WBA Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Jezreel Corrales vs Alberto Machado
Both: Corrales Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 12 rds
Demetrius Andrade vs Alantez Fox
R.L: Andrade KO 7
TRS; Andrade KO 10

Middleweights 12 Rds
Hassan N'Dam vs Ryota Murata
R.L; N'Dam Unanimous Decision
TRS: Murata Unanimous Decision

WBC Flyweight Title. 12 rds
Daigo Higa vs Tomas Masson
R.L: Higa Unanimous Decision
TRS: Higa KO 5


The PPM is back after another off week.
I need to get it together!!

Last Week:7-6

The first two college games are Thursday and Friday games so the results will be known.

Houston over Memphis 30-27
Marshall over Middle Tennessee State 34-24
Texas Tech over Iowa State 44-39
Northern Illinois over Bowling Green 28-17
Boise State over Wyoming 36-32

Games of the Week
Penn State over Michigan 21-13
USC over Notre Dame 36-31

Titans over Browns 30-17
Saints over Packers 26-23

Games of the Week
Patriots over Falcons 38-35
Steelers over Bengals 21-20

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cleaning out the inbox

Another inbox cleaning and we'll start with this tremendous article from Scientific American on the 40th anniversary of the Voyager project.
The recent film "The Farthest" from PBS on Voyager was so good and I plan on a future post just discussing the film.

One of the "Moon Trees" were recently destroyed in Florida by Hurricane Irma.
One of the experiments on Apollo 14 was taking several different tree seeds into space and then planting them upon return to see if the trip affected the seeds ability to germinate.
Unfortunately, the seed packs burst when going through decontamination and were mixed together.
No one knew if they would be able to germinate at all, but after they did, many places around the country were given one of the trees including the White House.
Irma's roll through Florida took out the NASA visitor's center tree (a Sycamore).
No word on if a replacement could be developed from another tree via a cutting as of now.
The Moon Tree link has a list of the location of every Moon Tree in the country..,

More Irma destruction as the New York Times writes of many of the nests of Sea Turtles being devastated by Irma.
This is quite a shot as Sea Turtles take 25 to 30 years to get to the reproductive age, so that takes a lot of surviving to get to that point.
Not to mention that a turtle clutch of 100 eggs will see just one hatchling make it to adulthood and you can see how hard of a hit that this destruction of nests might be...

The Guardian writes of the catch of a translucent lobster in Maine.
A translucent lobster is clear, although in this case, the lobster organs cannot be seen, so it's more of an off-white.
The Maine Coast Fisherman's Association believes that the lobster is considered "leucistic", which means it has lost some of its pigment, but not all of it.
I first heard this term when I had reptiles, so it wasn't unfamiliar to me, but I was surprised to hear it used with a lobster!

I've been a fan of Tervis Tumblers for quite a few years now.
I have almost all of the teams that I root for and you read about here (Don't have a Xavier yet) and I love the product.
There are Tervis stores around the country (although none that I've ever seen) and now Tervis starting to give each store a machine that people can make their own Tervis as written in the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
The "Fun Fuser" only takes a few seconds to take the inside cup and weld to the outside cup, but buyers can design their own wrap or logo for inside the cup to personalize it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports version

Cleaning out the inbox from the sports world this time and we have plenty to offer.

Starting with a suspected arson in Detroit where the famous Kronk Gym burned down.
Home of the Kronk Boxing team which was so dominant in the 80's and 90's, the original building which was built in the 1920's was where numerous world champions were developed by trainer Emanuel Steward, including the three in the poster to the left in Thomas Hearns, Milton McCrory and Jimmy Paul.

John Lepak writes a tremendous article on UCN about Kronk, the building, the fighters and what it was like to train there.
It is one of my favorite articles that I have read this year-Great work by Lepak.

The San Antonio Current writes an oral history of the USFL's San Antonio Gunslingers.
Lots of good USFL stories about shyster owner Clinton Manges, the team's money problems and how the team shoved the required amount of seats into old Alamo stadium that needed more to meet a league rule...

Battlin' Bob listed this Deadspin article on Facebook of the story of pro wrestler Nobuhiko Takada and his attempts at real fighting in MMA.
Takada was a wrestler that wasn't talented at either shoot wrestling or martial arts or anything in between, but he managed to fool people into thinking he was the toughest man in the world (If you lived in Japan maybe).
That lasted until the first time he faced any competition and was easy pickings for Rickson Gracie, who was regarded as the best of the famous Gracie family of fighters.
The story is quite interesting, even if you are only a fan of either wrestling or MMA from the early days of the MMA phenomenon in the early to mid 1990's...

Eric Williams writes for ESPN about the "Los Angeles" Chargers needing to catch up to the Rams in the battle for Los Angeles and believes changing full time to the much-loved powder blue uniforms would be a great idea.
I agree as the uniforms are terrific to see and might make Los Angeles buy in as the Chargers change their look to the past (not an awful future like the Browns did) and at the same time the market feels like the Chargers being in town truly becomes their team...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Taking on Doug Lesmerises

Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote a very thought-provoking article today that used the premise of the "next front office" will succeed because of the actions and deeds of the current Sashi Brown regime and that Brown and his front office will not get the credit for it.

It is well written and as I said will make you think and though I disagree with much of his opinions, it is still worth the read.
However, I disagreed so much with so many of these opinions that I decided to comment here.

I'm not going to quote each statement as I've linked above and will be paraphrasing a Lesmerises statement and adding why I occasionally agree and more often disagree.

The first is that should Sashi Brown and company's "Grand Brief Experiment" ends and "it shouldn't, oh it shouldn't" the foundation is built.
I beg to differ.
Other than the best player in the draft being taken in Myles Garrett, I don't see a lot of players that I would consider "foundation players".
I see a few that could be above average players (trading for Jamie Collins), but other than Garrett and perhaps Emanuel Ogbah (who I think could flourish opposite Garrett, but not as the main pass rusher) David Njoku, I don't see a lot of foundation players that have been acquired by the current regime.

If anything, the lack of foundation players among all of these picks is the biggest indictment that I just don't trust this bunch to deal with the 2 first rounders and 3 second rounders next year.
Credit them with accumulating these picks, but let's also keep in mind the talent that they passed to have that capital.

Let's look at the talent that Lesmerises claims that is wonderful that has been brought in and I will quote from the article for this purpose.
" (Emmanuel)Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Shon Coleman, Joe Schobert, Derrick Kindred, Seth DeValve, Garrett, Peppers, Njoku, Kizer, Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley are out there playing from their first two drafts."

I like Ogbah, Carl Nassib had a great start in 2016 but has done little since, Shon Coleman starts mainly because they have no one better and struggles weekly.
Joe Schobert has played fairly well this season, but linebackers like him aren't difficult to find. Derrick Kindred is a similar case in being an average starter on a bad team.
Seth DeValve has potential as a pass-catching tight end, Myles Garrett is going to be a franchise-level pass rusher, Jabrill Peppers may not be used to his strengths currently, but I wasn't a fan, to begin with, and has been a disappointment to date, David Njoku is a player that I really like and I do give this group credit for moving up to get him, Kizer is a talented project that is being pushed way before his time, Larry Ogunjobi has shown some strong flashes of potential, but is backing up Trevon Coley (credit for finding him as a free agent) and Caleb Brantley hasn't played a lot as of now.
My point is these aren't foundation guys and most are in baseball parlance "Replacement Level Players", which means most could be replaced by average players and not miss a beat.

When Lesmerises reaches the wide receivers, he is fair in looking at Corey Coleman's issues in staying healthy, the massive disappointment in Kenny Britt and blames "us" for being disappointed in failed middle round wideouts like Ricardo Louis (a four-tool WR missing the fifth tool-catching the football), Rashard Higgins (who I still think can help, but as a 3rd or 4th guy, not as a starter) and released players like Jordan Payton with the line of middle round picks aren't sure things.
They aren't- but it's a matter of judgment to have that group of receivers and add just a Kenny Britt and wonder why things haven't gotten better.

Lesmerises then says they haven't solved QB, but give them one more chance and "you can't really think they will trade down again to avoid picking a QB".
Maybe not avoiding altogether, but the best one available? Sure I can and here's how- if someone- anyone in their bunch thinks Josh Rosen is equal to Sam Darnold or Josh Allen is equal to either, Can these guys not talk themselves out of taking the best player?
Not take an A player when they could get picks and a B+? I'm not convinced these guys would be able to do that.

Lesmerises next offers some featured players that the Browns could take in the draft and maybe they would, but I wouldn't trust them to do so and compares this rebuild to the one Sam Hinkle did with the 76ers in scrapping everything and going with a plan.
My issue with the Hinkle comparison is that no matter what you think of Hinkle and his plan, the Sixers drafted reasonably well, the Browns haven't drafted remotely as well in their sport and Hinkle knew talent,- I'm not convinced this bunch really does.

The finishing paragraph mentions that the fans may not be strong enough to finish the plan, but the rewards will be reaped anyway-even if the architects aren't around to see it.

My problem isn't the blueprints, it's the guys buying the materials and the best blueprint can turn into a lousy building with the wrong materials.
I just don't trust the people doing the shopping to continue the plan...

Thanks for reading.
Back tonight with the Devils hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Cleaning out the inbox-All Baseball Version!

I have several baseball notes, so I decided to do an all baseball version.
It isn't often that I fill up the box with so much on one topic, but it works this time.

Sorry to hear of the passing of well-traveled outfielder Jim Landis at the age of 83.
Landis won five Gold Gloves patrolling centerfield for the White Sox and was considered the best fielding outfielder of his day.
Landis had his career year with the bat for the White Sox in 1961 with career highs in all three major categories at .283/22/85.
The SABR biography of Landis can be found here.

Two articles from Bruce Markusen's Card Corner with the topics both being outfielders from my youth in long time favorite Al Oliver and Bobby Tolan.
I remember Bobby Tolan more as an ace pinch hitter more than a star, but he was on the verge of becoming a headline player with excellent 1969 and 1970 seasons with the Reds.
I knew Tolan (article here) had missed the entire 1971 season with a torn Achilles tendon, but what I didn't know was how it happened.
Back in the days where players weren't making a ton of money, in the off-season, players used to make money, free meals etc when it was offered, there were a lot more use of promoting themselves and their teams as well and one manner of doing so that doesn't happen anymore is barnstorming winter basketball teams.
Usually, a few players get together (with a couple of ringers, if not enough players are on the team) travel around and play a game against some locals, sign some autographs and pick up a few bucks.
The problem with this is when you take in the chance of injury and the Reds banned the winter basketball team from playing even though manager Sparky Anderson gave permission.
And of course, that meant something had to happen and it was Tolan's Achilles that went.
Tolan would return with a strong 1972, but that was the last above average season for Tolan's career before leaving Cincinnati.
I thought I might have a chance of meeting Tolan when his son Robbie played for the Suns in late 2007, but he didn't return for 2008 due to injury and then a tragic shooting incident in Dec.2008.

Almost ten years to the day, the second Forgotten Superstar in the series was long time TRS favorite Al Oliver.
Markusen writes of the career of the almost Hall of Famer and what Oliver is doing today.
I found one interesting note that Texas had a trade set for Oliver to go to the Yankees for Oscar Gamble, Bob Watson and Mike Morgan that was scuttled when Gamble used his no-trade clause to block the trade.
If Oliver and his lefty swing would have gone to New York with the short right field wall-Oliver would have made the Hall-Bank on it...

SABR's Baseball Card Blog writes about card #28 in the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set and the "Williams Shift".
The shift was created to deal with Williams and was the forerunner of the shifts (far too overdone for my tastes) in today's game.
I used to have a few cards in that set and despite considering myself a Williams fan, it's never been a set that I found all that visually appealing.

It's becoming more and more of a trend in minor league baseball for major league teams to buy minor league teams in order to ensure that their teams cannot be moved out of a particular league or keep them in a geographical footprint that is desirable.
Three teams changed hands of late as the Milwaukee Brewers are the new owners of the Carolina League's (High A) Carolina Mudcats, the New York Mets bought the International League (AAA) Syracuse Chiefs and the Texas Rangers purchased the South Atlantic League's (Low A) Hickory Crawdads.
The Brewers and Rangers were buying teams in towns that their farm clubs were already playing in, but the Mets bought Syracuse, despite the Mets having one year to go on their contract with Las Vegas so the Mets will own a team for one year that the Washington Nationals will provide the players for-unless the two teams can come to an agreement to switch now, which I am sure the Mets would jump at, but I doubt that Washington would be thrilled to do.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Only Misery for Browns deep in the Heart of Texas

Looking at the final score in the Cleveland Browns loss to the Houston Texans, the Browns defeat looks like just another one of many.
33-17 doesn't appear to be that awful as the Browns have been beaten worse by lesser teams than the Texans.
That would be wrong, as it took a pick-six by Jason McCourty and late garbage time score on a Kevin Hogan to Seth DeValve to salvage any type of decency in the deficit.

Considering the circumstances involved, fans of the team may look back at this as being the day that some or even all of the Sashi Brown, Hue Jackson, Paul DePodesta new wave thinking group were overcome by a wave of their own making.
More about this below, but for next week the now 0-6 Browns go back home against Jimmy Haslam's "real" favorite team- the Tennessee Titans.

Brownie Bits

1) I'll start with this- I was as down yesterday as I've ever been with football.
It wasn't that I was tired after work or my fantasy team sinking to all-time lows or even a Browns loss.
It was just depressing to think that this team is ruining pro football for me.
I pay for Sunday Ticket to watch the Browns, which makes me either a sucker or an idiot, but I digress, and I usually pick a 4;00 late game to watch.
Usually, this is some combination of the Rams, Chargers or Raiders because I like watching the games that few are watching, but not on this day.
I turned the channel and didn't look back.
I watched John Oliver on HBO (HBO is free here for a while), then I watched some CNN, my buddy Mike Oravec called as we talked baseball cards as I put cards away and watched some YouTube videos as some guy went looking for old coins with a metal detector in a creek somewhere.
And it was wonderful.
I had a GOOD time with the lovely Cherie, not a sickening one.
Could this be the beginning of the end with sports?
I doubt it, I love the analysis too much, but on this day- Cherie and Posey (Rachel was mostly upstairs) took a bad sports day off my mind and it was occupying enough to ride the wave to bed.

2) The Kevin Hogan experiment should be over after a one touchdown, three-interception performance that inept didn't define enough.
Hogan overthrew receivers and looked downright Seneca Wallaceesque as he hummed numerous (at least four, maybe more) footballs deep into the heart of the sideline.
His pick six to Jonathan Joseph was so bad that it would have been picked off by a high school player and Joseph laid the trap in wait that on TV, you had enough time to say "NO!!!'
I like Hogan, but he was overmatched on this day with this bunch.

3) That's not to place ALL of this on Hogan.
He was sacked four times and harassed all day.
The supposed line that was going to be one of the best in the game hasn't been anywhere near that.
Now, I'm not going to lay that at the feet of the talent evaluators.
Kevin Zeigler and J.T. Tretter were wanted by all teams and both have disappointed, especially Tretter up the middle.
I won't even dig deep for Shon Coleman, who gets worse by the week...

4) On to the opposing quarterback as DeShaun Watson did whatever he wanted other than the interception by Jason McCourty.
Watson showed just what the Browns were missing when they traded down with the Texans and allowed them to take Watson.
Full disclosure- I was not in favor of taking DeShaun Watson with the first pick in the draft, but I would have been more than fine with the Browns taking him at 12 and not trading down.
Watson's been great so far, but I'm willing to say that with the receivers in Cleveland, Watson would not be looking nearly as good.

5) Oh, those Browns receivers.
Kasen Williams led the team with four catches for a whopping 41 yards and no one else seemed to be open very often.
Playmakers? This just doesn't have them other than maybe Duke Johnson, who would be a situational running back on another team.

6) Speaking of the Duke, Johnson carried five times for forty yards and caught three passes for less than one yard.
If Johnson is the only playmaker on this team- eight touches simply are not enough for the Browns to be competitive.

7) Cleveland does look like they have such a playmaker on defense in top overall pick Myles Garrett.
Garrett had one sack of DeShaun Watson and his hit on Watson was the cause of the interception that Watson threw to Jason McCourty.
Garrett's three sacks in parts of just two games currently leads the Browns in sacks.

8) Myles Garrett is a quarterback attacking nightmare and along with the aging, Joe Thomas are the two elite talents on this team that can play on any team.
Garrett also is the only player that the Sashi bunch stayed in place to select.
Funny how that works out, isn't it?

9) And it's time for our weekly Jabrill Peppers bad angle and pursuit for a touchdown as Peppers missed his responsibility and was left in the dust by Will Fuller for a Texans score.
Six games is a small size on a player good or bad but off that sample- I was right on Peppers.

10) Kevin Hogan played badly, but Hue Jackson's lack of adjusting his offensive play calls to take the best advantage of Hogan's skills had its share of blame too.
I know Jackson loves those downfield throws, but that offense does not allow this offensive group to play to their strengths- isn't that part of coaching??

11) Finally, rumors are flying that the Browns are looking into someone to run personnel either with the current group or instead of.
All in favor- say aye  AYE!!!!!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Boxing Challenge-PBC Junior Middleweight's and a Waste Of Time

Five title fights and an important minor title topped off the weekend in boxing and the gamut was covered from all ends with an explosive knockout, a knockout from a body blow, an exciting fight with give and take, a bloodbath, a squash match, and a predictable snoozer.

Let's start in Brooklyn, where Showtime and PBC had three of the four Junior Middleweight titles (Miguel Cotto holds the WBO title for now)
The star of the night was a fighter that I've often criticized in WBC champ Jermell Charlo (TRS #2), who destroyed Erickson Lubin (TRS #5) with one right hand in the first round.
Time will tell whether Lubin was overhyped or not, but regardless of that future evaluation- Jermell Charlo took on a top contender in what was thought to be a pick'em fight (I picked Lubin to win) and blew through him in one round.
Full credit to Charlo and I'm looking forward to seeing him progress against better competition (and Lubin was a step up from his past opponents).
I may not care for his (and his brother's ) post-fight behavior (I've never seen guys so angry after fights they have just won), but you cannot deny results and both Charlo's are learning how to make more fun to watch fights after some early career snoozers.

Charlo was calling out IBF champ Jarrett Hurd (TRS #4) for a unification fight after his knockout and Hurd retained his title in the Showtime opener in a good fight against former champion Austin Trout.
Trout built an early lead on the cards, but Hurd was the harder puncher and wobbled Trout in the middle rounds.
Trout battled back and cut Hurd in the seventh, but Hurd had pulled even on my card after the eighth and seemed to have Trout finished with an almost shut right eye in a tenth round that ended with Trout out of his feet.
The Trout corner showed concern for their fighter by ending the fight thereafter by not allowing Trout out of his corner for the eleventh round.
I had Hurd ahead 96-94 after ten rounds and it looked to me like Hurd would have likely stopped Trout in the eleventh.
The fight was terrific and Hurd becomes the first fighter to stop Trout something that three top fighters that defeated Trout could not do (Canelo Alvarez, Erislandy Lara, and Jermall Charlo) and Trout is a bigger name than anyone on either Charlo's record.
Charlo vs Hurd would be a very strong fight and should happen next, if not for the PBC's normal inclination (more later on this) to put together one of those "wonderful" prep fight cards (usually squash matches, again more later) so we will see when and if this will happen.

In the main event that saw the crowd leaving the arena like water swirling around a drain, WBA champ Erislandy Lara (TRS #1) win every round over former Olympian Terrell Gausha in a fight that was the typical boring, yet dominant win for the Cuban.
Lara did drop Gausha in the fourth but was more interested in flexing for the crowd than finishing Gausha, so the rest of the fight continued on its general dull path.
Lara said after the fight that he was willing to fight Charlo, but there is plenty of doubt to me that fight will ever take place as the two train together in Houston, share the same trainer in Ronnie Shields and have shown little inclination to fight each other in the past.

And then, we move to just what you would expect from PBC with a national television audience on Fox available was wasted when instead of putting Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares against each other with possible decent audiences to view, their answer was to put together a waste of time of tremendous proportions.

Leo Santa Cruz (TRS #1) defended his WBA featherweight title with a seven round stoppage over overmatched Chris Avalos in a squash match that should define main event squash matches.
Santa Cruz won every round and generally swatted the tough Avalos around the ring as a cat would bat an almost dead mouse around a floor.
This bout proved nothing other than perhaps chip a little rust off Santa Cruz and other than that minor note was a waste of time.

Abner Mares (TRS #5), who should have been fighting Santa Cruz, wasted his time against another durable but outgunned opponent in Andres Gutierrez with a unanimous technical decision after ten rounds when the fight was stopped after Gutierrez couldn't continue with a bad cut from a headbutt.
I had Mares ahead 99-91 and was never seriously threatened in yet another fight that was unneeded for any reason other than to knock the rust off Mares-rust that wouldn't be there, to begin with, if  PBC was more active for their fighters.

In the World Boxing Super Series in the Super Middleweight bracket, George Groves (TRS #4) stopped Jamie Cox in the fourth round to retain his WBA title with a vicious body shot in London.
Groves, who was seeded first in the tournament, received a better than expected fight from Cox, who came forward and threw plenty of punches before the sudden ending.
The victory for Groves moved him to the semi-finals against fellow Briton Chris Eubank Jr in what will be a huge fight in Great Britain.
I like Groves and I've never been completely sold on Eubank, but something tells me that Groves might be made for Chris Eubank..

In the boxing challenge, I earned nine points to Ramon Malpica's seven to boost my lead to 146-133.

I earned two points to Ramon's one for the Leo Santa Cruz win and two to his one for George Groves victory as well.
We both earned two points for the victories by Mares and Lara.
We both added one point for the win by Jarrett Hurd and neither scored in the Charlo-Rubin fight as we both selected Lubin to win.

Ohio State crushes Nebraska 56-14

Eight touchdowns in eight possessions will usually put opponents away and the Ohio State Buckeyes ripped the husk right off Nebraska in Lincoln 56-14.
J.T.Barrett passed for five touchdowns and ran for two more to go with 320 yards passing.
J.K.Dobbins ran for 106 yards and a score, while the receiving leader was K.J. Hill who caught seven passes with two going for scores.
Ohio State improves to 6-1 on the season and 4-0 inside the Big 10.
The Buckeyes are off next week before their revenge game in Columbus against Penn State...

Olentangy Offerings

1) No doubt about it, the Buckeye offense was rolling with 633 yards of total offense and crushed the Huskers.
However, before we get too excited, let's remember that the Buckeyes haven't put up these types of numbers against anything resembling a good foe.

2) J.T. Barrett continued his posting tremendous numbers against weak teams, but I do think that Barrett has turned a corner.
Kevin Wilson has become more comfortable with what Barrett can do and the offense seems to be a little more tailored to his strengths.

3) Penn State will have to deal with this year what the Buckeyes did last year before their game.
Before the PSU game last year, Ohio State had to play at Wisconsin before traveling to PSU where the waiting Nittany Lions were coming off a bye.
This year it's Penn State with a tough game (although at home) against Michigan with the Buckeyes getting a week off before the game.
I wish the schedulers would put a little more thought into these things...

4) Parris Campbell was wiped out of the game early on a hard hit by a Cornhusker and was replaced by K.J. Hill, who grabbed two touchdown passes in reserve.
No word on Campbell's status for Penn State.

5) 41 first downs for the Buckeyes-an all-time record for an opponent against once-proud Nebraska

6) The win was the Buckeyes 500th win in the Big 10 conference, they hit the mark on the same day that Michigan did, but Ohio State did it in six fewer seasons, having joined the league after Michigan.

7) The biggest concern was the Buckeyes secondary as they allowed 349 yards passing and 200 of those went to Husker wideout JD Spielman.
I still think the secondary will be tested by future opponents and even though Nebraska was in a position of having to throw every play, those stats against a bad team will make you wonder.

8) The win also moved Ohio State into a tie for third in all time wins.
They moved into a tie with- Nebraska.

9) Urban Meyer kept the starters in far longer than I would have thought that he would have, but to me, it had to be either showing Penn State some things or keeping the starters sharp.

10) The rollover season is now over and Ohio State has reached the point where the rubber hits the road.
Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan all await and should the Buckeyes run the table, the likely undefeated Wisconsin will stand between Ohio State and the playoff, so the competition gets tougher and should Ohio State win against all of those, they will be a deserving entrant.

I have boxing coverage and Browns, so we will see if they are posted Sunday or Monday time permitting...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Boxing Challenge

Photo Credit: Danny Moloshok
A big weekend in the boxing challenge with matches on Fox, Showtime and another quarterfinal in the World Boxing Super Series.

Fox shows two featherweight fights as Leo Santa Cruz
(TRS #1)defends his WBA title in a squash match vs Chris Avalos and Abner Mares (TRS #5) faces Andres Gutierrez.
The WBA mandated a Santa Cruz-Mares fight in a rematch of their 2015 fight, but in typical PBC fashion instead of giving people what they want- take nine months off and give them something that they don't want.
Santa Cruz against Avalos is a mismatch with Avalos losing more than he wins of late and while Mares-Gutierrez looks good on paper and Gutierrez has just one loss (a decision loss to Cristian Mijares) but to the only name fighter on his record.
In other words-it's a card that never needed to happen.
Undefeated junior welterweight Eddie Ramirez will open the show against former lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco in Ramirez's first real test.
DeMarco holds a knockout win over Jorge Linares but has looked a bit shopworn of late.

PBC has a far more interesting card on Showtime Saturday night with three of the four junior middleweight titles on the line in Brooklyn.
The most anticipated of the triad has WBC champion Jermell Charlo (TRS #2) defending against highly regarded prospect Erickson Lubin (TRS #5).
Both Charlo and Lubin are thought to have a lot of promise, but in this fight, both champion and challenger have faced not even good competition with this fight being the first test for both.
I think this could go either way and could even end via knockout because we just don't know very much about either guy when the going gets tough.

WBA champion Erislandy Lara (TRS #1) is the only solid favorite on the evening as the Cuban ex-patriot will defend against former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha.
Lara is known for his smooth boxing ability that rarely excites against good opponents, so even in defeat, we will find out much about the undefeated Gausha, who hasn't fought anyone of note.
Lara, who likes to call out big names and then shrink behind the big coat of manager Al Haymon, might have a vulnerable chin if someone can land a big shot, so Gausha does have hope.

The opening bout has IBF titlist, Jarrett Hurd (TRS #4), putting his belt up vs veteran Austin Trout.
Trout, who has a win over Miguel Cotto in 2012, has fought only once in the last two years in a loss to Jermall Charlo and hasn't beaten recognizable competition since the Cotto fight still might be a small favorite over Hurd, who is extremely talented, but owns just one win over a top 20 opponent (Tony Harrison, in his winning of the vacant belt).
Are we noticing a trend with PBC's younger fighters?
Four of them on this card (Lara and Trout are veterans in their 30's) are still looking for fights against good opposition-let alone championship level challengers.
This only hurts their fighters, but that's their way of doing business.

From London, we have George Groves (TRS #4) defending his WBA super middleweight title against Jamie Cox as the top seed in the World Boxing Super Series in perhaps the weakest bout in both brackets of the WBSS.
Groves, who fought plenty of top opponents in his career with wins over James DeGale, Martin Murray and his title win last out vs Fedor Chudinov, is still vulnerable as he has lost his share as well with defeats against Badou Jack and two losses to Carl Froch takes on Cox, who is undefeated against unknown opponents.
The winner will fight Chris Eubank Jr. coming off his impressive quarter-final KO of Avni Yildirim in the semi-finals.

I lead the challenge over Ramon Malpica 137-126..

WBA Featherweight Title. 12 rds
Leo Santa Cruz vs Chris Avalos
R.L:Santa Cruz Unanimous Decision
TRS: Santa Cruz KO 6

Featherweights. 12 rds
Abner Mares vs Andres Gutierrez
Both: Mares Unanimous Decision

WBA Junior Middleweight Title.12 rds
Erislandy Lara vs Terrell Gausha
Both:Lara Unanimous Decision

WBC Junior Middleweight Title.12 rds
Jermell Charlo vs Erickson Lubin
Both:Lubin Unanimous Decision

IBF Junior Middleweight Title. 12 rds
Jarrett Hurd vs Austin Trout
R.L: Hurd Unanimous Decision
TRS: Hurd Split Decision

WBA Super Middleweight Title/World Boxing Super Series Quarter-Final. 12 rds
George Groves vs Jamie Cox
R.L: Groves Unanimous Decision
TRS: Groves KO 9

Cavaliers trade Richard Jefferson,Kay Felder...

Photo Courtesy: David Liam Kyle/NBAE/GettyImages
The Cleveland Cavaliers needed to do something to make the 15 man limit with the season starting next week and they tried several different ways to make it to the limit before finally being able to make a deal.

Cleveland moved salary and lost money on another player as they shipped veteran Richard Jefferson and second-year man Kay Felder to the Atlanta Hawks for the rights to two Euro players that I don't know much about and two trade exceptions.
The Cavaliers also included two future second-round draft picks and three million dollars to cover the salaries of Jefferson and Felder.
Atlanta is expected to release both players, which mildly surprises me as I would think the Hawks, who are starting a rebuilding process, wouldn't at least take a look at Felder.

The 37 year old Jefferson averaged just under six points a game last season for the Cavaliers after arriving before the 2005-06 season as a free agent from Dallas.
Jefferson was used as the defensive stopper off the bench and was the main defender against Kevin Durant in the 2017 NBA Finals.
Jefferson's days were likely numbered when Dwyane Wade was signed as Wade is a better offensive player at a similar position and Wade is younger as well.
The question that I have is will Jefferson even play anymore as he considered retiring after the Cavaliers championship so he may decide to retire or at least take some time and wait to see if you catch on with a contender later in the season.

Felder was a second-round pick from Oakland that the Cavaliers acquired before last season, paying 2.4 million to the Hawks ironically and averaged four points in 42 games in a season that saw Felder spend time with both Cleveland and Canton of the "D League".
Felder was the player that the Cavaliers appealed to the league to be allowed to sign one of the new "two-way" contracts between the NBA and D League, but the league turned it down since Felder was already signed.
Cleveland wanted to keep Felder but after that decision Felder was going to be caught up in a numbers game after bringing in Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, and Jose Calderon all during the last off-season, the Cavaliers simply couldn't carry four guards at the point, if they didn't have the ability to move Felder up and down from Canton, where he was ready if needed, but could have used the everyday playing time for his game.
Felder averaged 29.9 (That's not a typo!) points per game for the Charge in eleven games in Canton.

This is what I know about the two European players that the Cavaliers received the rights to.
Dimitrios Agravanis is a 22 year old,6'10 Greek center that averaged four points and three rebounds for his Greek league/Euroleague teams last season.
Sergiy Gladyr is a 28 year old, 6'5 shooting guard from the Ukraine that played in the French league last season and averaged nine points per game.
I wouldn't bet very much (about a penny maybe) that either of these two ever spend a minute in Cleveland.


Back to the PPM for this weekend's game.

Last Week:10-3

Ohio State over Nebraska 36-16
West Virginia over Texas Tech 45-37
Ohio over Bowling Green 30-16
Houston over Tulsa 40-19
Middle Tennessee State over UAB 27-24
San Diego State over Boise State 38-34
Washington over Arizona State 35-14
Games of the Week
Oklahoma over Texas 39-31
Stanford over Oregon 27-17

Texans over Browns 31-13
Saints over Lions 33-30

Games of the Week
Packers over Vikings 28-17
Chiefs over Steelers 30-23

Devils drop 1st game.

Ed Mulholland | USA TODAY Sports
The New Jersey Devils couldn't win them all as the visiting Washington Capitals took advantage of a Devils team that seemed to be a step slower than their opponents in a 5-2 defeat in Newark.
Devils goals to Taylor Hall (1 power play) and Kyle Palmieri (1).
The Devils return tomorrow night against the Rangers at the Garden.
No coverage here as we have Ohio State and boxing.

Hell Raisers

1) Play that swung the game?
Pavel Zacha's third period high stick that drew blood from Karl Eller and that led to a four-minute man advantage for Washington, who responded with two goals and turned a close game into one that was conclusively decided.

2) Both Devils goals were goals that made New Jersey fans happy in defeat.
Nice to see Kyle Palmieri back in the lineup and his goal on a breakaway started by Damon Severson was a pretty one.
I wondered how much time Palmieri would miss after the injury in the season opener and it was good to see him perform well in his return with a goal and an assist on Taylor Hall's goal.

3) And what about Taylor Hall, who scored his first goal of the year off a nice pass from Kyle Palmieri.
The Devils are counting on a big year from Hall, so it's good to see him score number one before things spiral too far out of control.

4) Blake Coleman beat the crap out of Andrei Burakovsky after Burakovsky instigated a fight, which was after Coleman was called for boarding a Capital.
As Craig Laughlin breathlessly screamed that Burakovsky had never fought before, Coleman pounded him.
Coleman paid later in the period when Washington's thumper Tom Wilson whipped Coleman handily.
I miss the days of big bombing fighters like Wilson.
They are a liability today, but I still miss them.

5) The Devils will be starting Keith Kinkaid tomorrow against the Rangers.
John Hynes has said he wants to do more of splitting the goalies up on nights with back to back games.
Good to see Hynes living up to his word.
It'll keep Cory Schneider fresher and it will also be good for Keith Kinkaid as well.

6) Annual whine about the awful Washington announcers led by the world's worst color man in Craig Laughlin.
Joe Beninati isn't exactly Doc Emrick, but Laughlin brings the worst of Beninati.
With the exception of any game done by Gus Johnson, getting stuck with these two for Devils games vs Washington are my least favorites in sports.

You'll see a few posts over the next 24 hrs with the PPM, boxing challenge picks, Ohio State vs Nebraska, more boxing with the results from the weekend and the Cavaliers trade of Richard Jefferson, if I can squeeze that in.
Busy, Busy!!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cleaning out the inbox-More Non-Sports

Photo Courtesy: Eliza Relman Business Insider
I still have enough in the inbox for three inbox cleanings (2 non-sports and a sports version), so I wanted to get started before it gets too full.
This will be more of a political and media cleaning since I had enough to do a theme version.

We start with an article from Business Insider on Fox and Friends anchor Ainsley Earhardt.
The South Carolina native was always a TRS favorite in the days before she got the "big gig" because she seemed so real-which isn't always the case for people in the media.
Ainsley sent me a signed photo for the collection years ago and enclosed a note thanking me for asking.
Earhardt wears her religion and beliefs on her sleeve, yet it doesn't come off as overbearing and I'm fine with that because it seems authentic.
I don't agree with her on everything and I do think she is far too soft on Donald Trump, but as long as you are honest and that's who you are it's all good.
It's pretty difficult to watch their show or read this article and dislike Ainsley Earhardt.
Full disclosure-I don't watch Fox and Friends mainly because I cannot stand the two "gentlemen" anchors with her.
Now THEY are overbearing!!

We all have various levels of concern in our dealings with North Korea and I find it interesting to look at the way of life there with the propaganda from the regime as a constant presence in daily life.
Two articles from the inbox on this topic as Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times writes about the country, its people and political solutions to this situation.
Evan Osnos of the New Yorker pens a similar article that deals with the political side a bit more.
Both articles are interesting in getting to know a possible future adversary and how they think.

Salena Zito of the New York Post writes about Youngstown, Ohio and the day that sowed the seeds for Donald Trump.
The day in question was September 19,1977 and 5,000 workers lost their jobs at Youngstown Sheet and Tube and the slide was on with U.S Steel and numerous others closed factories that would send that area into a canyon that they have yet to recover from even today.
It is more about Black Monday and the people of Youngstown than Trump, but it relates as the beginning of Democrats leaving the party and turning to the GOP and that would eventually lead to the would-be millionaire populist....

A goodbye to Stanislav Petrov at the age of 77.
Who was Stanislav Petrov?
Only the guy that might have saved the world in 1983.
Petrov was the Soviet military officer that received a false alarm that the United State had launched five nuclear missiles that were on their way to Moscow and chose not to retaliate with Soviet missiles that would have just about destroyed everything known to man.
Sometimes the biggest heroes are the people you don't know...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's over- Cleveland's Soul Crushing Game Five loss

A tremendous season came to a crushing end as Didi Gregorius hit two homers off Cleveland starter Corey Kluber in the first three innings and the New York Yankees won game five of the ALDS 5-2 in Cleveland, taking the series with them to Houston to play the Astros.
The Indians would cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth on consecutive RBI singles by Roberto Perez and Giovanni Urshela but would threaten no more against the Yankee bullpen.
Back with more soon from the Hot Stove.

Smoke Signals

1) Not a lot of excuses, but there were some reasons for this loss.
It really did come down to two balls hit in game three.
The Yankees Greg Bird's hit left the ballpark and stayed out.
Francisco Lindor's left the park, but Aaron Judge brought it back in.
Difference between moving on and moving out.

2) Now, I cannot explain how Corey Kluber pitched so well all season and then came up very short in his two playoff starts.
Kluber just didn't have it when they needed him and I'm not sure why.
I can give Kluber a mild pass for game two on somewhat short rest, but Kluber had no such excuse on this day.

3) The Indians did score twice and had the tying run on second with just one out in the fifth.
Francisco Lindor then banged into a double play and that essentially ended the Cleveland offense/

4) Cleveland just wasn't patient at the plate as they swung way too early in the count and allowed Joe Girardi to stick with just David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen.
Yankee pitchers threw 130 to Indian pitchers 177 and the difference was most glaring in the Yankee ninth when Brett Gardner wore Cody Allen down before singling home one run with the final run scoring on the same play on an error on an overthrow.

5) Top three hitters in the Indians lineup for the series-Francisco Lindor .111, Jason Kipnis .182 and Jose Ramirez .100.
Tough time of the year to have the top of your lineup get that cold and other than Lindor's homer in game two, the Indians received next to nothing from those players.

6) It didn't have an effect on the game, but what in the world when you are down to your final five outs and the season is on the line, why is lefty hitter Jason Kipnis being allowed to face the fearsome lefty Aroldis Chapman?
Chapman predictably dispatched Kipnis easily.
Not on Kipnis, being placed in that situation is on Terry Francona.

7) So many are now wondering about the record-setting winning streak contributing to the loss and I'd hesitate to blame that completely, but I would say this, sometimes it is possible for a team to use things up.
Not like karma or anything like that, but players are streaky and in an unusual run such as that, several Indians played great and all players have their good runs and bad runs.
Sometimes it's as simple as you are due.

8) And sometimes, there are no explanations other than the other team was better.
Maybe it's just that simple this time- The Yankees were the better team over five games.

9) And this is sour grapes of course, but this is one of the reasons that I hate the Wild Card among many.
I hate the Wild Card, to begin with, but baseball makes it far too easy for the Wild Card to overcome any obstacles.
I was talking about how to fix things after baseball inevitably moves to 32 teams with Fred Landucci and I think the best way is 4 four-team divisions in each league and punt the wild card.

10) I might be doing a pre-Hot Stove series for the Indians, Giants and Pirates, but for now- here are the Indians free agents. We'll see who stays and who goes.
Hitters: Jay Bruce, Carlos Santana, Austin Jackson, Michael Brantley
Pitchers: Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Craig Breslow, Boone Logan
Brantley and Logan are team options.
Logan is unlikely at seven million, if picked up with a one million buyout.
Brantley is a maybe at eleven million and it might depend on who they can keep of Bruce and/or Santana.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Connie Hawkins

Sad news from the basketball world as former NBA and ABA star Connie Hawkins passed away at the age of 75.
Hawkins had been in bad health recently and was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007.

Connie Hawkins was the bridge to how the game was played from era to era.
It was Hawk that connected to Julius Erving that led to Michael Jordan with the showmanship (as shown in the picture to the right) and the high-wire attack through the air that only Elgin Baylor had a game similar of that to Hawkins at the time.
Sadly, we never saw the true best of Connie Hawkins, who was banned from his commitment to Iowa and the NBA for having his name mentioned in a point-shaving scandal in 1961 despite there being no proof of participation or Hawkins even playing in any of the mentioned games.

Banned from the only pro league at the time, Hawkins played for the Harlem Globetrotters before spending time in the short-lived ABL winning the only league championship with the Pittsburgh Rens.
Hawkins would then be the dominant player in the first three seasons of the ABA with the Pittsburgh/Minnesota Pipers, winning the league title and the MVP in the league's first season.
During this time, Hawkins (and others including Roger Brown, who took the settlement, but chose to stay with the ABA ) sued the NBA for their unfair ban and before the case could get to trial, the NBA settled with Hawkins, paying him 1.3 million dollars and assigned him to the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns had won just 16 games before Hawkins in their inaugural season, but with Hawkins in the lineup won 39 games, made the playoffs and pushed the Lakers of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain to a surprising seven-game series before losing.
Hawkins battled knee injuries thereafter and even though he was able to maintain his numbers for the most part in Phoenix, they played a part in Hawkins being traded to the Lakers, where his skills declined before ending his career in 1976 in Atlanta with the Hawks.

I have three personal stories relating to Connie Hawkins.
In the early 70's, Hawkins and author David Wolf, who would later become a boxing manager and agent for Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini worked on his autobiography "FOUL", that ended with some of Hawkins years with the Suns making the book.
I found a used copy of this at a book sale and it was a regular part of my sports book rotation that went to school a lot and tended to satisfy teachers that I was reading (like that was tough to get me to do) much more than magazines did.
I haven't read FOUL in years, but it's in the attic somewhere, battered and beaten, but well loved in its day.

Another Hawkins story was his cameo appearance on early Saturday Night Live, where he "lost" a one on one game to the diminutive singer Paul Simon at a New York schoolyard in a skit for the show.
I must have been seven or eight and hanging out with my dad late night and just was amazed that an NBA player that I watched on tv lost to the little guy that sung "Kodachrome"?
I remember just babbling about this great upset before after a while, Dad explained to me that it wasn't "real" and Hawkins "let" Simon win for the laughs!

A televised one on one game is my final memory of Hawk.
In 1972-73, the NBA's television contract was in its final year with ABC and with ABC being the "third network" in ratings at the time (their time was just a few years away), the NBA often was given prime or at least preferred time games.
At halftime of their games, ABC held a one on one tournament that was taped well before the season and shown during halftime of their games.
I remember faintly seeing Hawkins taking on younger star Spencer Haywood at my old house shortly after moving back here.
As in, I watched it at my old house, they didn't come over play there!
I have never seen that tournament since that day long ago and it's not even on Youtube, which is really amazing to me since about everything is on Youtube it seems!
I don't even remember the winner, I just remember my dad letting me stay up on a school night to watch before trudging up the stairs for bed.

Back tomorrow with Indians-Yankees game five!

Fielding Failures plague Wahoo's in Game 4 Loss.

Photo Courtesy Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Cleveland Indians were the American League's best fielding team, but on Monday night, they sure didn't show with four errors and six unearned runs in game four of the ALDS against the New York Yankees.
Those results went a long way towards Cleveland's 7-3 loss and a tied series with the game five that will decide the series Wednesday night in Cleveland.
The pitchers will be a rematch of game two with Corey Kluber for Cleveland and CC Sabathia for New York.
Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer and Roberto Perez smacked a solo shot to account for all of Cleveland's runs.

Smoke Signals

1) On the surface, Trevor Bauer would appear to have pitched in bad luck in his less than two-inning start.
All four of Bauer's runs allowed were unearned, but some of the damage was of his own making.
With one on and one run scored, Bauer still had two out and just needed to retire Aaron Hicks.
Bauer couldn't and after the Hicks single both Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge smacked base hits and the game was 4-0.

2) The crowd in Yankee Stadium was loud and I was surprised about how it was so loud on the television.
I only watched a little bit with sound (I was doing Fightheads at the time, so the TV was on mute), but the stadium was very loud-Cleveland can hopefully match that environment on Wednesday.

3) The game started in a hard rain that died off as the game moved on, but I was surprised that the game started under those conditions.
I know there are other things involved in these decisions, but I thought that a short delay might have been a good idea...

4) Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have got to get their bats started and hopefully on Wednesday.
Lindor did hit the huge homer in game two, but even figuring that in, Lindor is hitting .091 for the series and Ramirez is flailing away with little plate patience with his .118 average.
It'll be fingers crossed that those key players pick it up back in Cleveland.

5) Giovanni Urshela's value is for his defense and his two errors make you wonder, if on Wednesday for game five, the Indians might consider Jason Kipnis at second, Jose Ramirez at third and maybe Austin Jackson in center or maybe a real gamble with rookie Greg Allen.

6) How will the Indians react for game five?
I do know how the star-crossed Indians fans are looking at things.
Worrying about did the long winning streak mean that the Indians peaked too soon?
Closing windows, etc and more-almost anything other than a one-game series.
I have some feelings about the wild card to begin with, let's hope that a win Wednesday will not lead to a whiny post from me after the game about hating the wild card!
Go Tribe.

Devils bulldoze Buffalo 6-2

Jesper Blatt scored twice (2 shorthanded and 3) and added an assist and Marcus Johansson scored his first two goals (1 and 2) for the Devils to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 6-2 slashing of the Buffalo Sabres.
Stefan Noesen (1) and Brian Gibbons (1) also scored for the Devils in the rout.
The Devils travel to Toronto Wednesday to meet the waiting Maple Leafs.
Coverage unlikely as Game 5 of the Indians-Yankees is the same time.
There is a small chance that I may try to watch one on the tube and one on the PC, but unlikely.

Hell Raisers

1) Jesper Blatt?
The 19 year old Swede is making it very difficult to return him to his OHL junior team with three goals and three assists in two games.
Blatt is not afraid of contact, drives to the net and isn't afraid to shoot now rather than wait for the perfect shot.
It's just two games, but I like him- A Lot!

2) Nico Hischier had his first pro point when he powered behind the net and made a sharp pass to veteran Brian Gibbons, who flipped the puck over Chad Johnson.
Hischier is a natural playmaker that will show some real flashes of brilliance as he really learns the game at this level.

3) Marcus Johansson was a name that I didn't think of much in the win over Colorado.but he played quite well in Buffalo.
To acquire a player of his caliber for the price that was paid, Devils could only dream of grabbing more players from teams in salary cap hell.

4) The first goal was scored on a deflection-one off the facemask of Stefan Noesen off the pass from Brian Gibbons.
Gibbons was a surprise to me in making the team, but for one game, Gibbons was an offensive force with a goal and assist.

5) And there was the passing game with two nice passes that resulted in goals.
Adam Henrique hit Jesper Bratt on a two on one breakaway and Taylor Hall abused Buffalo's Nathan Beaulieu with a strip and a Harlem Globetrotteresque backhanded pass to Marcus Johansson for the goal.
This is an exciting and fun team to watch offensively that will have its share of creative goals..

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bird blast saves Yankees in 1-0 Game 3 win

Photo Courtesy:Cleveland Plain Dealer
Greg Bird's blast in the seventh inning off the usually unhittable Andrew Miller provided the only run of the game and allowed the New York Yankees to survive in the ALDS with a 1-0 game three win.
Miller was the losing pitcher and the loss wasted five and two-thirds shutout innings from starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
Game four is tonight in New York with the Indians returning game one starter Trevor Bauer to the hill with the Yankees countering with Luis Severino, who pitched less than an inning in his wild card start vs Minnesota.

Smoke Signals

1) Why not a picture of the only run scored of the game?
I wasn't able to find one of Greg Bird swinging!
Consider the odds of the most terrifying lefthanded pitcher in the game against a lefty swinger and then hitting a homer?
Long odds!
That said, Miller put a ball over the plate that was perfect to pull and Bird was able to thump it into the second deck.
Unlikely, but much of the game is taking advantage of another's mistake...

2) Cleveland almost won the game and series in the sixth inning when Francisco Lindor hit a ball that seemed destined to leave the park and lift the Indians to a 2-0 lead.
It did leave the park, but the problem was that the one player tall enough to pull that in was playing right field in 6'7 Aaron Judge, who made a great play keeping the ball in the stadium and saving the lead, game, and series all with one play.
If Cleveland loses this series, remember that play.

3) Cannot complain about Carlos Carrasco, who missed last years playoff run due to injury.
Carrasco struck out seven and allowed just three hits in five and two-thirds innings before loading the bases in the sixth and leaving the game.
Carrasco pitched very well and gave signs that should the Indians move on in the playoffs, Carrasco might be the bully of the rotation.

4) Andrew Miller did take allow the homer and take the loss, but remember that it was Miller that got the Indians to that point with his sixth inning pop-up against Starlin Castro with the bases loaded.
Miller isn't going to lose often, but anyone can be beaten on one pitch.

5) Masahiro Tanaka was downright nasty in his seven innings with a split finger fastball that was on the money.
Tanaka was only really threatened by Lindor's shot to right field and gave an effort that exceeded that of Carlos Carrasco as he made it through seven.

6) Onto game four and Trevor Bauer on short rest.
The Indians feel Bauer on short rest is better than Corey Kluber on short rest and the statistics bear that out, but I do wonder why the Tribe didn't consider one of the three starters that are playoff relievers in Josh Tomlin, Danny Salazar or Mike Clevenger.
The bright side to the Bauer decision is that if he gets knocked out early, the Indians have three guys capable of picking up the slack for multiple innings.

I'm going to be back later with the Devils Columbus Day matinee in Buffalo and later-game four!

Leaving on a Jets Plane:Browns lose 17-14

Photo Courtesy:Cleveland Plain Dealer
The home game against the New York Jets was there to be won for the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns outgained the Jets and generally outplayed them, but when opportunity called, the Browns were often unable to take advantage and in the end, it was the Jets leaving Cleveland with the 17-14 duke.

Kevin Hogan came off the bench to throw touchdown passes in the second half to David Njoku and Duke Johnson in relief of DeShone Kizer in the loss, while Myles Garrett made his long-awaited pro debut and sacked Jets quarterback Josh McCown twice.
The now 0-5 Browns travel to Houston next week for the waiting Texans and a motivated gentleman named DeShaun Watson.

Brownie Bits

1) Just an opinion, but I wouldn't have benched DeShone Kizer for the second half in favor of Kevin Hogan.
Not that Kizer played well (he didn't) and not that he deserved to play after some dumb mistakes (he didn't), but the main reason the Browns are suffering through a rookie quarterback's errors is the developmental process in order to see if he is "the guy".
Playing Kevin Hogan doesn't help that very much and what I fear is completing this season and not having those answers...

2) All of that said, DeShone Kizer's first-half play was much of the reason that the Browns lost this game.
Kizer's ill-advised audible to pitch to Isaiah Crowell resulted in a fumble and turnover and his interception to the Jets Marcus Maye at the Jets two was a poor choice to throw to Seth DeValve.
This wasn't a veteran player baiting Kizer either as Maye is also a rookie.
It was the type of play that you expect rookies to make because rookie quarterbacks make rookie mistakes and if you think they have a future-you suffer through them.

3) As for Kevin Hogan, he played well enough that under normal circumstances, I would have no issues with him starting next week in Houston.
Hogan has the "moxie" that some players lack-he scrambles around and just finds a way to make plays.
You know who Kevin Hogan reminds me of a little?
Doug Flutie, another smaller passer that just made plays, won games, and spent time in a lot of places and never really getting a full chance.
I'm not saying Hogan should be the quarterback now, I still think DeShone Kizer needs to play as part of the Browns vaunted "process", but Kevin Hogan might give the Browns their best chance to win a game.

4) Then there was rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez, who missed two field goals in a game lost by three.
I can excuse the first miss from 52 yards, but kickers are paid to drill field goals from 39 yards.
Miss too many of those and kickers get replaced-quickly.

5) And there's Hue Jackson, with more daffy decisions that make you wonder how he was an offensive coordinator, let alone a head coach.
Jackson uses timeouts like expendable energy and with a team like this in a close game, those used timeouts always are missed.
This week's questionable call comes early in the fourth quarter with a fourth and two at the Jets four with Jackson sending Zane Gonzalez on the field to tie the game.
Jackson calls timeout and then changes his mind to go for the first down.
Jackson then calls a mundane run up the middle with Isaiah Crowell, who fell short of the down marker, turning the ball over to the Jets.

6) A defense that played well most of the day then allowed Josh McCown and the Jets to go 98 yards down the field and score what proved to be the game-winning score on a McCown touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.

7) Myles Garrett made his Cleveland debut with two first-half sacks.
Garrett was playing a limited amount of snaps but was visibly hobbled in the second half when he was forced to play when Carl Nassib was injured.
High ankle sprains take time to truly heal, so my hope is that Garrett isn't slowed by the aggravation of the injury for next weeks game in his native Texas.

8) Duke Johnson needs the ball more.
Johnson is the one dynamic player on this offense as he showed in the touchdown catch and run that gave the Browns a chance late in the game.
The 41 yard score saw Johnson break tackles and made other Jets miss and made Ramon Malpica wonder in our postgame show (Take a listen-it's on the Fightheads site) how the one playmaker on offense finishes the game with nine touches,
If Johnson is the one player that can make plays, it's time to allow the offense to flow through him.

9) David Njoku's one-handed grab for a score of a Kevin Hogan continued to show why the Browns may have a winner at the tight end position.
Njoku is starting to look like he's learning the position and doing some things that might make him a standout.

10) I just don't have any answers.
I wrote earlier about the QB dilemma (Hogan better now, Kizer had questions that need to be answered), but I'm just as puzzled about other questions.
At 1-20, can you afford to not think about Hue Jackson's status should this string of losses continue?
With five picks in the first two rounds, do you continue to feel good about Sashi Brown and his bunch making them?
Photo Courtesy:Cleveland Plain Dealer
Continuity is always something that has been lacking with this franchise and it is needed, but do you feel these are the right guys and do you waste more time and wasting assets?
I just don't know.
I've never been a supporter of Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta etc because I didn't think their strengths are in player development and they haven't exceeded my expectations.
I did like the Hue Jackson hire, but watching him on 21 Sundays makes me wonder about that decision.
I just don't know, but I have 12 weeks  (11 games and the bye) to figure things out...

If I have time,I'll have coverage of the Indians 1-0 game three loss in New York.
If I don't,I'll likely have a combined post covering games three and four...