Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Panda Returns

It goes to show how disappointing the 2017 season has been for the San Francisco Giants after a season that most (including me) expected to see a solid championship contender and instead received a team that is so bad that they have a chance to have the first pick in next years draft (currently they would pick second) that the most exciting thing of late (other than the return of Madison Bumgarner) was the signing of a player that hit .212 this season and was basically paid to go away.

The return of Pablo Sandoval is surprising when you consider the noise that he made when he left for a five year and nearly one hundred million dollar contract with New York Lite err.Boston Red Sox.
Sandoval left on less than great terms after turning down the Giants offer after the team won the 2014 World Series and made several disparaging comments about the team and its players after arriving in Boston.
Sandoval made sure that he apologized to the Giants and their fans after he signed a minor league contract.which was smart in order to take that off the table and allow him to concentrate on a comeback that seems unlikely to end well,if his numbers in Boston indicate what Sandoval's value is at this time.

The Giants are in a position to see what a once valuable player can give since of the remaining two and a half years on the contract that Sandoval signed with Boston,only the veterans minimum would have to be paid by San Francisco,if Sandoval is ever able to make the parent club again.
The minor league contract will see Sandoval play third base for the next six weeks or so in AAA for Sacramento and gauge his progress from there.

Sandoval was clearly out of his element in Boston when his first season (2015) was the highlight of his tenure with pedestrian numbers of .245,10 homers and 47 runs batted in,followed it up with just three games in 2016 (0 for 6) and  his struggles in just 32 games this season continued at .212,4 homers with 12 RBI.
I thought that Sandoval was the type of player that could lose his skills quickly (I wrote it here) because of his size and weight issues and I've seen it happen before (George "Boomer" Scott anyone?),but I was still surprised that it began to happen almost immediately after leaving the Giants.

Sometimes players are made for certain teams,leagues and even ballparks and Pablo Sandoval might be one of these players.
It's hard to believe,but Pablo Sandoval is still just 30 years old.although he turns 31 in August.
It seems like he should be closer to 35,but in theory,if Sandoval is a "horse for a course" for San Francisco,he could have time left as a contributor at an extremely low price tag.
I'm all for giving it a try,but I'm not counting on that happening.
Still,it is something for Giants followers to keep tabs on for a while in a season that ranks among the most disappointing in franchise history....

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Kyrie Irving asks to leave

Kyrie Irving has reportedly asked the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him as he is tired of playing with LeBron James and wants to be the "focal point of a team".

Well,as long time readers might recall,Mr.Irving was the focal point of a team-the Cleveland Cavaliers at one time and they were at no point of that tenure,even a playoff team-let alone a championship contender.
Kyrie Irving has provided a list of teams that he wants to be traded to,none of which Cleveland is under any obligation to send him to or even at all since Irving's contract does not include a no-trade clause.
The fact that San Antonio is on the list is hilarious to me as the always gruff Gregg Popovich and the team concept that he has built there seems like an awful fit for a guy that would rather be "THE guy" than contend for championships,but if the Spurs would be interested in shipping Kawhi Leonard (no chance at all) than by all means,give the guy what he wants....

For Irving to not want to play with LeBron James is mind boggling.
I don't recall players wanting to leave Michael Jordan,Magic Johnson or Larry Bird and just a cursory look at the oft-maligned Kevin Durant in Golden State to see the importance of keeping a team together.
Irving had a run as the foundation of a team and it didn't go well,although Irving was a young player at the time and players do need to ripen on a vine a bit to lead a losing team.
In addition,the stats show that even now-the Cavaliers were outscored on the season during times that Irving played and LeBron James was on the bench-a number that might not bode well for a player that wants "his own team".
I've always thought of Irving as more of a 2 guard that moves with the ball more than a true point guard and those guys tend to put up big numbers on teams that range from bad to a marginal playoff team.
LeBron is a player that makes the other players on the floor better,I'm not sure that Irving is that type of player.

I just don't understand it unless it comes down to Irving's ego and immaturity or an outside influence (Irving's father has been reported to have a LaVar Ball type of influence) pushing him to be more of a solo star,because other than that-it simply makes zero amount of sense.
LeBron James isn't blameless on the overall though.
He says he's committed to Cleveland (I think and hope he is),but it seems like every year or two,we play this LBJ hits free agency soon game and as a result,the franchise doesn't know what to expect and Cleveland is a destination for elite players only as long as they host James,so players are naturally reluctant to commit to Cleveland without the same commitment from James.

The Cavaliers won't have a small number of suitors for the services of Irving,but I would assume they would prefer to send him to the Western Conference,although a possible deal might link Irving to the Knicks (near his hometown in New Jersey) for some combination that would involve Carmelo Anthony.
I would want some draft picks involved as the Knicks should be delivering some high picks even with Irving in that type of deal.
I'd prefer that Irving be sent to the West and would really rather him be traded to a bottom dweller out there where he can score thirty points a night,be the star and go 30-52 every season.
Phoenix or Sacramento would fit that description nicely!
Had Irving made this demand a month ago,the Cavaliers might have been able to make a much better deal.
I would think Indiana would have preferred Irving to the Paul George deal they made with the Oklahoma City Thunder and I would especially think that the Clippers would have rather had Irving than what they acquired from Houston for Chris Paul.

Even though every Cavalier fan is broiling Irving right now,I won't-Not yet.
Remember when Kobe Bryant did a similar trade demand in the media and yet he spent his entire career as a Laker?
These things don't always result in trades and I wouldn't say that we have for sure seen the last of Kyrie Irving as a Cavalier quite yet.

I don't approve of what Kyrie Irving is doing,but I'll still have some problems ripping him too much.
That championship went a long way with me and even though this is shaping up to be an ugly divorce,I'll try my best to remember one jump shot in Oakland rather than the guy that wants to jump ship...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to rebuild in just a few short months

The Chicago Cubs may be the more popular team in Chicago and they are the defending world champions along with being set up to be a contender for a long time to come.

All of that might be true,but if all works out,the Cubs might not wind be being the best team in Chicago,if the amazing amount of talent that has been brought to the less popular team on the South Side in the White Sox pans out.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has moved assets for a bounty of prospects that are the envy of the league and took advantage of teams from contenders that frankly surprised many observers.
These deals have revitalized a franchise that has had four losing seasons in a row (about to have their fifth) and their fan base by trading good players to desperate contenders.

Let's go back to December and the first deal with the Red Sox.
Chris Sale is a legitimate top of the rotation starter,but seemed like a luxury item on a below average team.
Combine that with occasional clubhouse issues like this one and it made sense to shop Sale as the player that could bring back the highest return (more on that later).
The Red Sox won their division last year after missing the playoff two years straight,but being swept in the first round left a rabid fan base wanting to see their team make a move to improve a good team into a serious championship contender.
Sale was sent to Boston and the prospect return was quite good as the top prospect in the game in second baseman Yoan Moncada (last night ,Moncada made his big league debut) was the headliner.
Getting Moncada was a good start,but add power armed Michael Kopech (several times clocked at over 100 MPH),who in each level of his career is averaging double digits strikeouts per nine innings with a ceiling of a 1 or 2 starter and a floor of a hard throwing reliever,an interesting arm in Victor Diaz (Diaz has struggled in high A this season with Winston-Salem) and toolsy outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe (Basabe is striking out once every four at bats with Winston-Salem) and the White Sox looked to be quite happy with their return.
This deal might come down to how Michael Kopech develops.
Moncada looks to be about as sure of a bet as you can have for a prospect and Kopech might be the difference in a good deal and a very good deal as both Diaz and Basabe were high ceiling lottery tickets that the White Sox have to be hoping that they get anything out of just one of them to make this a successful trade.

One day later,Hahn struck again with a team desperate to make postseason progress in the Washington Nationals,who have made flopping in the post-season a habit over the last few seasons.
Even considering desperation,it was more than a surprise that the ChiSox were able to turn outfielder Adam Eaton into three high level pitching prospects.
Eaton was injured after 23 games in Washington,so the jury is still out on this trade,but Washington felt the need to win now as their window might only have a few years left and Eaton was under a very friendly contract,so he would not be considered a rental.
The cost was three of the Nationals top four pitching prospects and left the Nationals dependent on the development of Erick Fedde if they are to get any help at all from the farm system for the immediate future as far as pitching wise.
Lucas Giolito was thought of as one of the best pitching prospects in the game,but had struggled in a brief cameo with the parent club in 2016,Reynaldo Lopez looked very good at AA Harrisburg last year,but was unimpressive in Washington in his short stint there and the Nationals first round draft pick Dane Dunning was included in the deal as well.
The results so far are mixed,but promising for the White Sox.
Giolito has been pounded for AAA Charlotte,but has occasionally shown signs of brilliance (a seven inning no-hitter and seven innings allowing just two hits two starts ago).
I wondered about Giolito (the link is here somewhere) and the lack of movement on his fastball as far back as his time with the Hagerstown Suns,but the talent is there.
I liked Lopez as the better of the two even back then and Lopez has begun to be mentioned as the next potential callup from the Charlotte Knights.
Lopez has allowed more than three runs only once since the end of May and more than two just twice in the same period.
Dunning has been excellent all season at two stops (Low A Kannapolis and High A Winston-Salem).
In my opinion,the White Sox had to do this trade even if none of them turn out at the big league level.
The potential to plug in three arms into a future rotation for a good,but not impact outfielder is one that a rebuilding team has to make every time....

The season moved on and the White Sox used Jose Quintana,a good not great starter that will eat innings and slot into the middle of most teams rotation anywhere from 2 to 3 depending on the team.
Combine that with another reasonable contract and Quintana was yet another valuable trade chip for Hahn .
Hahn managed to turn the dependable arm of Quintana into the huge upside of outfield powerhitter Eloy Jimenez as the main piece of another four player return.
Jimenez (Remember him?) missed the early part of the season,but his eight homers in 155 at bats was enough to make the Carolina League All-Star game and his forty doubles last season at low A South Bend is the type of stat that impresses observers.
Power bats like the 6'4 Jimenez don't come around every day and at 20,Jimenez looks like a future star.
Add another top prospect arm in Dylan Cease (thought of as a top 100 level prospect) at low A South Bend (batters in two seasons have hit below .200 against him) and two other high A minor prospects in first baseman Matt Rose (14 homers with Myrtle Beach this season) and middle infielder Bryant Flete (hitting over .300 in a breakout season for the same Pelicans) and you have the potential for a huge return.
Jimenez could be a franchise cornerstone,Cease has the upside of a solid starter and if Rose or Flete give the major league anything,this deal would rate as a huge win for the White Sox.

Hahn still wasn't finished as he used the interest of Boston in Todd Frazier to help with their failing third base situation to parlay that into a deal with the Yankees that included help for the New York bullpen in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
This deal carried a little more financial wiggling as Robertson is owed 18 million for 2018 and the pro-rated version of that for the rest of this season and Frazier earns five million over the final few months of the year.
Chicago had to decide to move them and eat some money,perhaps improving the haul or make the money the problem of the buyer and as a result,the prospects might not be of the level of the players returned earlier.
This time,Hahn chose the lesser return in order to save the dollars and gained one nice prospect and others with questions.
Outfielder Blake Rutherford is the blue chip return of this bunch as he was the Yankee first round draft selection in 2016.
Rutherford was hitting .281 for Low A Charleston with only two homers,but his twenty doubles gives me hope that he'll grow into his power.
Righthanded pitcher Ian Clarkin has good numbers in two years at High A Tampa,but has been plagued by injury and has never pitched 100 innings in his nearing five year career.
Outfielder Tito Polo is hitting .307 in 2017 between High A Tampa and a recent promotion to AA Trenton after being acquired from Pittsburgh at last years trade deadline.
Polo has speed to kill (stolen base numbers of 46,37 and 27 over the last three years),but doesn't seem to have the pop in the bat to be more than a 4th outfielder.
The White Sox also took on veteran reliever Tyler Clippard for the rest of 2017 to offset some of the Yankees expenses of the new players.
This deal is the riskiest for Hahn,yet he managed to turn a player he acquired in a minor deal (Kahnle) and two high priced players into somewhat of a decent return.
There is no sure thing in this trade and only the recent fourteen games of Polo have been at the AA level,so all three players have reasons to be looked at skeptically.

The Chicago White Sox have accumulated what seems to be a strong amount of talent by moving players that didn't help them to even be average.
None of these players are guaranteed to be contributors,although the odds are that at least a few will be,but the commitment to blow it up and do it quickly is a sound one.
I like what's being done in Chicago and if even some of these players fulfill their potential,there could be two powerhouse teams by Lake Michigan....

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I'm not Catholic,but...

This was such a great idea that I had to have it for myself.
What was it?
My go to Buckeye Football site is the terrific Eleven Warriors and being a member of their site,I was scanning their daily articles and stumbled upon their yearly feature "Confessionals",
where their writers "confess" to various "sins" against Ohio State athletics.
It is a funny column and it also breaks the myth of fans being a 100 % homer,so after I was finished-I was stealing that for myself and spinning it.
I plan on a sports feature and a non-sports version to come "clean" on a few things.
Let me know what you think...

1: I really don't like the Ohio State gimmick uniforms being worn even though I like how some of them have looked.
I liked the black helmets with red buckeyes and the chrome helmets were sharp,which would be OK with the current uniforms,but I like the regular uniforms and hate them being messed with.
OSU colors are scarlet and gray and I don't recall black being either scarlet or gray.

2: I like Chief Wahoo on the Indians hats,but if the team is to going to continue to shrink his size,just move on already!
I hate the Block C caps and wish that the team would compromise and go to the 70's Crooked C.

3: I know this seems bad,but the Giants have caught the Pirates.
Not because of anything that changed my mind,but I just see so many more Giants games (even though they are surprisingly just brutally bad this season) and I like both teams pretty much the same.

4: I don't buy Cleveland Browns items very often-not because they stink,but because I can't stand their uniforms and I figure they will change back as soon as they can in a few years.
Actually,if it isn't a throwback item with Brownie the Elf,I stick to buying older stuff of the Browns.

5: I'm not saying I'd never go to a Cavaliers game (Never have been to one in Cleveland),but the noise from the surrounding from the team just seems so over the top.
Watching all that on TV makes me think I'd be less than tolerant.

6: I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers,but I still root for the Ohio State players that play there.
I root for all of our players,no matter what NFL team they have moved onto.
My feeling on that is this-Players pick the college that they play for,they have no choice in what NFL team picks them...

7:I've never been a Texas Longhorn football fan,but I must confess that I'm rooting for them a little now that Tom Herman is the head coach there.
I'm a big Herman fan and I cannot help but to root for his teams...

8: I hate to admit it,but Tom Brady's resume' gives him the nod as the greatest QB of all-time.
But I still pick John Elway as my QB,if you need to win one game to save the earth.

9: I'm as unenthused for my fantasy football season as I've ever been.
I think this is because my NFL interest is dropping.
I usually watch the Browns and a 4 PM Sunday (usually Rams,Chargers or Raiders) game not on the national network and last year I rarely watched the Thursday,Sunday or Monday night games.
I still have huge interest in the NFL draft though and I think that is because A) I love draft talk and B)
I can watch college football from the noon kickoff throughout the late games from the West Coast.

10: I know that so many fans,writers etc gush over downtown stadiums,but give me a suburban one with easy highway access any day of the week.
What most call "Buzz and Excitement",I call "Noise and lack of personal space".,.

Hope you enjoy some confessions.I'll have a non-sports version soon!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Road Trip:Danville

We drove the hour plus from Winston-Salem to Danville,Virginia as quickly as possible in order to try to add the few cards that we had for the Appalachian League teams finished.
That's a lot of the problem when you graph the Appalachian and New York/Penn league teams-there just aren't that many players with cards until the team sets get released.

I had been to Danville ten years ago for a team set pickup on our way to Lynchburg then,this time Danville was the destination to move it from the "been to,but not for a game" list to the game list.
Legion (formerly known as Dan Daniel) Field is placed on a city facility that when you drive in you pass softball and soccer fields for youth and recreation leagues.
We arrived in the sixth inning for the Braves and the Burlington Royals (ironically,the same two teams that Fred Landucci and I will be seeing in Burlington next month) and after Mike bought a game used Danville Braves jersey at the team stand,we moved under the small grandstand.

We were both surprised by the energy in the crowd as they were stomping and cheering throughout the last few innings.
It was dollar dog and drink night at Danville and the drink came in a Danville Braves souvenir cup.
Quite a deal and one that I wish the Hagerstown Suns would consider,but that would mean they would have to purchase ice,lids,straws and cups (BTW,that's not me being sarcastic,I was given that as the reason that the Suns don't offer discounted sodas on Thirsty Thursday with their beer discounts)...

The best part of the game came with the game tied and Danville outfielder Izzy Wilson hit an inside the park home run that was the eventual winning run.
The excitement generated when the third base coach started pumping his arm and giving Wilson the chance for the rarity was almost more than I can describe!
And the pop from the crowd when Wilson slid into home and narrowly beat the tag from the Burlington catcher,well,you wouldn't have thought you would have been in Danville,Virginia hearing it!

The graphing is one that might take a few trips before getting it down.
There is a small tunnel (more like a doorway) that leads the players from dugout to clubhouse before a short walk there behind a fence.
I only had a few cards,Kyle Muller signed a few Bowman's of Mike's and mine.Leudys Baez noticed my calling him and came back out to sign his 2015 Danville card and the hero of the day,Izzy Wilson (who was promoted to Rome shortly after this game) got by me,but I figured it was him talking to a writer outside after the game and he signed his 2016 Danville card.
Mike got us the two Burlington players that we needed on the other side,so with one card being excepted,we had the small amount finished before the drive home.

Danville's field really is a well maintained high school/small college field with some nice backed seating and a small grandstand,but don't take that as a negative-it's a fun place to go with some knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans!
Check Danville out (along with the other Appy League parks),it's a throwback to the old days of minor league baseball and a part of the game that needs to remain just that.

Great trip and thanks to Mike for driving and allowing me to share everything with him and as before thanks to the Parrish family for allowing me to stay with them as well!

Well now,caught up on everything,so we have a Forgotten Superstars that has been sitting on deck for tomorrow news permitting and I have some thoughts on the recent Cubs-White Sox trade coming soon as well....

Monday, July 17, 2017

Road Trip:Winston-Salem

The final day of our trip would see Mike Oravec and I hit two more stadiums,stop by to see two more and able to graph four more teams as we worked our way home.

The start of the day came early as Mike and I sat around and spent the early morning talking with the Parrish family.
It was so enjoyable that I almost didn't want to leave,but all things must come to an end.
Thanks to the Parrishes for allowing me to come into their home and treating me so well...

Mike and I decided to start our trip with a stop in Burlington NC and a stop at Burlington Athletic Park,home of the Burlington Royals of the Appalachian League.
Mike wanted to check on jerseys for sale,while I liked adding a ballpark to the " been there,but not for a game list",but more importantly scout the place out for my visit to Burlington for a game in August.

Mike bought a game used jersey for both himself and a friend of his that lives elsewhere.
Me? I passed.I await the day that I can squeeze into a jersey like that again,but we aren't there yet.
I took some pictures in Burlington,but I'll save them for the trip review next month,but I do have a idea of just what park BAP reminds me of and I'll wager that you'll never guess in a middle years just what park came to mind!
We left BAP with a specific eatery in mind as the Parrish's highly recommended Hursey's BBQ in Wilmington.
Mike is a big BBQ fan and particularly of the Carolina style as he attended college in North Carolina.
I ordered the 4 piece white meal of their "Broasted Chicken" which brags of "95% less grease" than the standard fried chicken because it is prepared inside a pressure cooker.
It came with 2 breasts and the option to replace the two wings with two legs.
I did so and then gave them to Mike along with the breaded hush puppies instead for his cole slaw.
Swapping food like baseball cards is always fun and satisfying to both when you move items that aren't your bag for ones more to your liking.
Alas the slaw was more sweet than tart sadly for me,although it was passable.
Cole Slaw varies from place to place and it is very subjective to what's good and what's not.
Anyway,I liked Hursey's and I'll bet the "Rib Man' Fred Landucci will want to give it shot in August!

We left next to drive to Greensboro and the plan was to check out the ACC's Hall of Champions.
Sadly when we arrived,we discovered that it was only open on Thursday,Friday and the weekend.
Too bad for me,I would have really liked to have re-lived my old passion for ACC basketball.
Since they were closed.we drove a few miles to Greensboro's stadium,the home of the SAL's Grasshoppers.
Long time readers might remember that ten years ago in my previous visit,I hadn't been impressed by the Hoppers customer service and lousy autographing stadium on my trip there with Ryan and Battlin' Bob.
I hadn't known that Greensboro had a morning game and had I known,I might have pushed to give Greensboro another chance and Mike had never been there.
Mike wanted to see about some programs and the game was over,so we went to the team shop to see about his programs and the door was locked-despite it being 3;00 and the door noted that the shop was "open until four on gamedays".
We were groaned at as "Brooke" went to look reluctantly and I stepped into the concourse for a picture or two.
I was told they are "cleaning" and "it's been a long day".I did get one picture,but ten years later,Greensboro still ranks low on my list.

There were graphers by the bus as the Lakewood Blue Claws were making their only visit to Greensboro all year and their graphers were out and about.
If you remember reading about my trip to Norfolk in May,you might remember my story about a particular grapher and his boorish behavior toward me and Derreck as well as toward White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada.
Well,as we walked by,this "gentleman" was graphing Lakewood,I gritted my teeth and walked by,all the while grumbling to Mike that if he showed up in Winston-Salem,he was going to hear about it.
Fortunately for him,he didn't go to the game in Winston-Salem.

We drove to Winston-Salem to continue to run out the clock and we stopped by a bakery there named Dewey's to get some treats for Mike's mom (I'm far from a huge sweets eater),a McDonald's to keep hydrated (it was really hot) and we were across the street from the original Krispy Kreme (they are coming to Hagerstown soon,I hear) as part of a few stops,but the stop I really wanted to make was at Ernie Shore Field.
On the trip ten years ago,we stopped by Ernie Shore and the Wake Forest football stadium next door,Groves Stadium to take a look around and snap some pictures.
Back then,the Dash played there and were named the Warthogs,but the time was running out there as the new stadium was being built.
Today.Wake Forest owns Ernie Shore Field for their men's baseball team and the field is named after David Couch,who was the top donor for a renovation.
The outside looked pretty similar,but looking through the gates (we didn't get in unlike ten years ago),it's clear that the school has put major money into the stadium with new turf (My guess is artificial),a new scoreboard and upgraded seating.
It's amazing how colleges get money to improve places with the drop of the hat,yet pro teams (minor league) often have to fight for every nickel.
Next door at Groves,that name is history too as it's now BB&T (along with everything in Winston-Salem) Field.

My picture there last time was of the top of the entry way with the Deacon logo,which also is replaced-this time by the generic WF.
It's too bad that you have to sell history to get things finished,but it is the way of the world.
I've always been a passionate Big 10 football fan,but I have great memories of ACC football from the days when the ACC was more along the lines of the Group of Five in football.
I would love to make an September or October trip some year to Groves (nee BB&T) or Raleigh's Carter-Finley Stadium (or whatever NC State has sold its name to) and see a live game.

After that,it was off to BB&T Ballpark,the home of the Winston-Salem Dash.
We entered the park through the outfield entrance and while you wait,you look up at the imposing scoreboard-I'm not saying that the scoreboard is the largest I've ever seen,but from the angle,it sure seems that way!
When you walk into BB&T Ballpark,you are immediately hit by the design of the place-Very wide concourses,plenty of concessions and room to breathe makes BB&T Ballpark very user friendly and a park that would make the most claustrophobic person happy.

Mike went to graph the home Dash,while I went down to a small tucked away corner to do the visiting Carolina Mudcats.
I got a few for myself from the Carolina League All-Star set and was happy to get some top 100's signed for Kendall Morris,but it came with maybe the worst interaction that I have all year with a player.
I'm not going to name the player because it's possible that he just had a bad day,but he was downright rude and I was the only person that needed him.
These things happen.

Walking down the steps to the field,I saw a familiar face that to my surprise recognized me with a smile and a handshake in CJ Johnson.
CJ was a Suns employee back in the early years of the blog during the Will Smith era,so I must say I was mildly surprised when he welcomed me to Winston-Salem because I wasn't shy about criticizing the team in those years.
I learned something from that-Be careful what you wish for or in this case write.
I was often critical of Will Smith at that time and most of that was fair on reflection (in my opinion anyway),but I learned that the grass isn't always greener elsewhere as we've seen since Mandalay sold the team.
CJ was always one of the good guys back then and didn't beat up on me too badly when I was critical.
It was nice seeing him and I wish I had more time to catch up with him...

We watched a few innings and reluctantly left since if we were going to make it to Danville,there was a time deadline.
Let me say this about BB&T Ballpark-I loved it!
It wasn't an overtly urban park like Akron for example,but it seemed to have enough of a taste of their community that it wasn't more than a cookie cutter park either.
I've been to every park in the Carolina League (Myrtle Beach,I have been inside and looked around,but not for a game) and I would rank Winston-Salem at the top.
Beautiful place and I definitely have Winston-Salem listed as a place that I would love to return to often through the years.

Back tomorrow with the final leg of the trip-the last few hours with the Danville Braves unless something important breaks...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Boxing Challenge Weekend

Photo Credit:Rich Schultz Getty Images
The Boxing Challenge returned with three fights on HBO,two from PBC and two more from the United Kingdom.

Let's begin with the PBC show on Fox,which rated as a disappointment on several levels.
In the main event,former lightweight champion Omar Figueroa returned after a year and a half hiatus and blasted out former multi-division champion Robert Guerrero in three rounds with Guerrero hitting the floor three times in the second round and twice in the third before the bout was stopped.
For the winner,Figueroa couldn't ask for a better opponent than the faded Guerrero,but I wonder about Figueroa's size at 147.
It seems as Figueroa and his camp wonder as well,as Figueroa announced after the win that he planned to drop to junior welterweight for future bouts.
That seems smart to me as Figueroa looks to be a pretty strong challenge for anyone in that division that isn't named Terence Crawford.
As for Guerrero,who dropped to 1-4 in his last five bouts and could have been 0-5 if not for kind judging-he needs to give it up.
Guerrero clearly is not at the world class level anymore and continuing to try to do so will only result in lopsided losses and potential injury.
I earned one point for the Figueroa win with Ramon Malpica not earning any by picking Guerrero...

The other challenge bout on the PBC side saw former Olympian Marcus Browne blow out Seanie Monaghan in two rounds.
Browne dropped Monaghan in round one and pummeled him in the second before the bout was stopped.
Browne called out WBC champion Adonis Stevenson after the fight,although if there was justice,he would offer a rematch from two fights ago with Radivoje Kaladzic,who I thought clearly defeated Browne,but Browne was given the split decision.
Monaghan,who had been mentioned several times as an opponent for a champion or contender was exposed as a clubfighter that had never beaten anyone remotely resembling a top twenty fighter.
I added one point for Browne's win with Ramon picking Monaghan...

We move to HBO and a three fight card that looked great on paper,but didn't really produce in the ring.
Miguel Berchelt retained his WBC junior lightweight belt with a unanimous decision win over mandatory challenger and former champion Takashi Miura.
Berchelt couldn't miss Miura with the jab and on my card,I had Berchelt an 119-109 winner (11-1 in rounds).
Berchelt solidified his claim as the second best fighter at 130 pounds behind Vasyl Lomachenko and said he has no problem fighting Lomachenko,although he would be a huge underdog in that potential bout.
Ramon and I each picked up one point for the Berchelt win..

Berchelt might be better suited to unify with WBA champion Jezreel Corrales,who squeaked by rugged journeyman Robinson Castellanos by majority decision after ten rounds after a Corrales head butt busted open Castellanos and forced a stoppage.
I had the fight even at 94-94 after being mandated to score the tenth round after just 30 seconds of action in one of the dumber rules in boxing.
I scored the 10th round even,but Corrales was ahead in rounds (6-3-1),but Castellanos dropped Corrales twice in the fourth round to pick up points before losing one of those back when Corrales knocked Castellanos off balance and to the floor in the seventh.
Berchelt vs Corrales would be an interesting fight,unification is always a good idea and the winner would clearly stake his right as the second best 130 pounder and might earn himself a Lomachenko bout...
One point to both Ramon and I for the Corrales win.

The miracle run of Joe Smith hit a lull as Smith lost a unanimous decision to the talented Sullivan Barrera.
I only saw the final two rounds as of this writing with Ramon and I each getting no points for selecting Smith.

In the U.K.Chris Eubank Jr punched his ticket to the World Boxing Super Series with a unanimous decision over Arthur Abraham and Lee Selby retained his IBF featherweight title with a unanimous win over Jonathan Barros.
I've yet to watch either fight,so no scoring yet.
Ramon and I each picked two points for each of these wins.

On the day,I added eight points in the boxing challenge to Ramon's six and extended my lead in the boxing challenge to 87-80....

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Road Trip:Kannapolis

The second day of the trip featured my first visit to Kannapolis NC,home of the low A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox and the team that was owned by and named after the late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt as the Intimidators.

The Intimidators (On this very field in full Vince McMahon voice) defeated the Hagerstown Suns four times in two days in June to complete a collapse that saw the Suns first half lead evaporate in the North Carolina heat and give Kannapolis-not Hagerstown the first half championship in the South Atlantic League.

The Parrish's accompanied Mike Oravec and myself to Kannapolis and my expectations weren't high.
I had read reviews of the imaginatively named Intimidators Stadium that weren't glowing,but Bob talked to us before the game and described it in even worse terms.
Bob would later tell us that he likely "undersold" the place without realizing it.

Pulling into Kannapolis,it's clear that this was a suburban stadium that was placed near the highway and hoped that time would fill things in around it.
That didn't happen and that is why Kannapolis is rumored to be considering a new ballpark in their downtown.
I'm not a huge fan of downtown parks,I'll take an easy to get into and easy to get out of suburban park every time.
You walk into the stadium under a small area that resembles a carport more than anything that oversees the field and that's the last shade that you will see in Kannapolis.

There are plenty of steps here as in you walk down (and up) two long levels of steps to get from the top level to the field in an attempt to autograph.
On this day,there was a doubleheader between the Intimidators and (surprise) the Hagerstown Suns because while we were getting a 30 min thunderstorm that cleared out in Augusta on Saturday,these two teams were getting rained out in Kannapolis.
As a result,a meet the team scheduled was first postponed to between games and then pushed to after the doubleheader.
We didn't find that out until after the initial game,so our mistake was graphing the Suns rather than Kannapolis before game one.
Both team enter the field via clubhouses that reside beyond left centerfield and walk across the outfield to their dugout.
Graphing access isn't that bad here,so you can get some things finished.

The stadium's playing surface itself reminded me some of my visit to Lexington,but what the seating portion reminded me of was Charleston,but the seats seem to be a little farther away from the field than in West Virginia.
You could see plenty though and I have no complaints about the sightlines at all.
The food was OK,I had a hot dog,fries and a soda for eight dollars,that's not oppressive for a ball park at all.
Not a lot of choices,but the price was right.
The crowd here rivaled the Muni and for now Kannapolis is the only team that Hagerstown is outdrawing,
although that comes down to one fact-Hagerstown had Tim Tebow hit their town for four games and Kannapolis didn't get them at all.

However,what was oppressive was the heat.
Remember the shade comment above? This is how bad it was.
We sat just a few rows from the field on plastic seats and when you sat down,it felt like your bottom was on top of a working oven.
I'm not exaggerating and it gets worse.
Most times in these situations,you get more comfortable,but that's not the case here!
The slightest move and you were warmed again!
I've never felt anything like this at a ballpark and I can only imagine that if the plastic seats were that hot-what on earth could the metal bleacher seats feel like?
If you go here,consider bringing a stadium seat or at least a blanket!

The best part of the game was sitting around and talking baseball with Mike,Bob,Will and Tucker.
Tucker tells me that his goal is to be a general manager for a major sports team.
He has the knowledge for sure and I loved talking baseball along with a lot of NFL draft talk as well.
It's been a long time since I've been around someone of his age that has this much on the ball.

After game one (another Kannapolis win),we decided to work on our Intimidators team set (I am working on two others for traders) on their side and add the 2017 White Sox first round pick Jake Burger on two baseballs for Fred and Michael Landucci.
I was very glad that I was able to get those finished for them as they do so much for me.
Mike then made a friend as he was accused of stealing a ball left lying around by some kid and verbal hi-jinks ensued!
By now,everyone was hot,tired and hungry,so we were picking up dinner before we went back to the house,but first the boys wanted Icee's from a local store named QT.
They raved about their Icee and they did have a good one in Cherry Limeade.
They didn't have a grape and it wasn't quite Thornton's from my Louisville trip,but it was in the ballpark!

We stopped at Penn Station,which is a sub chain that I've seen plenty of times,but never stopped to try.
Mike graciously paid for all of our dinners (what a guy!) and I ordered a Reuben,which has always been a favorite,as long as I don't have to have it on rye bread!
We watched the Futures game on "tape" and saw what we think proved to be the last game that Eloy Jimenez played as property of the Cubs,as Jimenez was traded to the White Sox as part of a package for veteran pitcher Jose Quintana.
If only I was able to discuss that trade with Tucker on that day!
The Reuben was top notch and I might be willing to try Penn Station on another day/trip.

I forgot to tell you one thing more about the Parrish's-they are a Strat O Matic family!
Yep,I took Tucker on with my 2010 Giants against his Nationals with the old dice.
I mostly play the PC game now due to the speed of the game and not having to keep stats,but there is so much to be said about the dice and card game for sure.
Lots of fun and when the evening wound down,I was exhausted and went to sleep far earlier than the previous night.

Good company,good times and a better than expected ballpark as well.
I found myself liking Kannapolis more than I thought I would and I'd come back-but I'd try to add a few provisions for a return-mainly let's try to go earlier in the year or if in summer season,gotta make it a night game.It's just too much sun....

I'll be back tonight with the boxing challenge with bouts from HBO,Fox and two key fights from the United Kingdom.....


It's a big number.
What it really means is that I'm one digit and year away from the "big" 5-0.

Does that bother me?
Not really.
Age never has bothered me and I've never been someone that ran away from it.
It's silly and own what you are-besides what could does fighting it do?
I have my things to bother me-weight (But down 40 pounds since Feb!),anxiety and my colorful use of language at times all are issues in my personal well being,but age has never been one of those..
I'm just happy to click up another number and celebrate one more with the people that care and take care of me...
However,if you would like to donate birthday gifts or even cash (HA HA),you can talk to my financial director at BR-549.

So before I move on to the "Road to 50" Tour-Please allow me to thank those of you that mean so much.
I couldn't get anywhere without the lovely Cherie,who has given me the happiness that I have.
The older that I get,the more amazed I am that I stumbled upon her at 15.
Am I that smart? More along the lines of that lucky...
Both of my wonderful children,whom I am extremely proud of and I'm so pleased that they have turned out so well-Ryan and Rachel could not have turned out better in each of their different fields of work and I'm quite fortunate to have them.-Even if Rachel likes her mom better (who can blame her,I would too!)

I have quite a few great friends in my life.
My graphing buddies are much more visible currently as far as who I hang out with due to the various work shifts that we all endure,but you all are important to me.
Starting with my oldest friend Greg (Ernie) Church,who's the one friend that knew me at so many stages of my life and has dealt with me through good and bad times.
Greg and I have never had a harsh word,unless it's over the Pittsburgh Steelers,that is!!
Don't forget the other "IFL" guys in no particular order-Joe Plum,who hit 40 recently and we've been friends for close to 30 years now,Battlin' Bob-still the funniest guy that I know and Corey Cunningham,who it's hard to believe is a former player of mine.

My graphing friends are the guys that I spend more time with now and the graphing hobby has brought so much fun and good people into my life.
If I miss any of you,I apologize-
Derreck Chupak is the younger brother that I've missed since my relationship with Shane changed over the years (it's all fine,Shane and I are OK right now,at least I think so!),Mike Oravec is maybe my only friend my own age,Fred Landucci is always there to chat and help me pass time when I just need to stay awake and how could I forget Doug Hopkins?
Doug might be away in Israel for a while,but he is still here in spirit.
All four of these gentlemen are always available when I need them-rarely does the day go by when I don't hear from any of them and that includes the offseason!
Don't forget my other friends in graphing either-Mike Landucci,who does so much work on my top 100's pro bono for me,Bill Cover,who might be the nicest living human,Kendall Morris,the world's fastest traveler and two of the blog's biggest fans that I met through graphing-Big Don Cain and Jason Christensen.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my older "sister" Denise Nicarry,who apparently doesn't always understand how my mind strays at times (Denise wrote me this morning about not waving to her at the Muni last night!),she is yet another person in my life that I didn't realize I missed until she arrived in it.
I also cannot leave without mentioning my cousin in Ohio,Missy Appel.
Missy and I have grown so close over the last few years and our relationship's growth is why I don't have the negative things to say about Facebook that so many do.
Facebook has its positives-you simply have to use it properly.

Finally,there are three people that I have never met in person that have become my friends through the miracle that is the internet.
Those of you might remember Julie Kendall from her written pieces here a few years back and a few appearances on the podcast.
Julie is always stressing the positive side of life and our talks just come through for me,when you consider that I'm not always the most positive thinker.
And then there's Ian McArdle,introduced to me through someone else,there is rarely a day that goes by that Ian and I don't send an IM to each other to talk about Cleveland sports and mainly our other common passion in Ohio State football.
Finally,we have Ramon Malpica,who allows me the outlet to talk boxing on air and off with him.
Fightheads is on a hiatus because Ramon is fighting AT&T like I fought Verizon earlier this year,but I'm grateful to finally have a person that loves the fight game as much as I do,

I would almost bet that I missed someone that should be noted,but in the middle of a work run along with it being the middle of the night,I figure it's going to happen.
49 is middle aged and it's a good thing.
As we age,the bodies break down more,but the memories continue to grow-it's a good life.
The road to 50 starts today and it'll be a fun road to travel...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Boxing Challenge

Big weekend in the boxing challenge as HBO delivers a tripleheader that should feature a ton of action,PBC with three more fights (only two in the challenge) and two more bouts from Europe that include a title bout and what essentially is a qualifier for the World Boxing Series in the Super Middleweight tournament.
I lead the boxing challenge 79-74.

HBO has the best fights of the weekend with two title fights in the 130 pound division as the jockeying begins for who is number two in the division behind Vasyl Lomachenko.
WBC champ Miguel Berchelt defends his title against former champ Takashi Miura in his first defense since ripping apart Francisco Vargas,who dethroned Miura in a terrific bout.
Berchelt looks to be a coming star,but he'll have to prove it against Miura,who will come at Berchelt all night.
This one is going to be a good one.
Meanwhile on the WBA side,Jezreel Corrales defends his title against Robinson Castellanos.
Corrales shocked long time champ Takashi Uchiyama in April 2016 with a second round knockout before winning a split decision in their rematch.
Castellanos makes a living winning fights that he shouldn't despite an ugly (for a world contender) 24-12 record with upset wins over Ronny Rios,Rocky Juarez and most recently a knockout that ended the hopes of Golden Boy to give a big push to Yuriorkis Gamboa.
I hope that there is a way to hook the winners of these two bouts up in their next fight.
The opener on HBO features the light heavyweights with Joe Smith,who essentially ended the careers of veterans Andrezj Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins against Sullivan Barrera,a durable top ten contender.
The light heavyweights have several interesting contenders and this might mean a title fight for the winner.

The backers of PBC are reported to have seen their war chest of dollars dwindle of late and with PBC having a broadcast date on Fox and delivering a less than brilliant card.
The main event has undefeated former WBC lightweight champ Omar Figueroa fighting for the first time in eighteen months against the PBC gatekeeper in faded former champion Robert Guerrero,who is 1-3 in his last four fights and on my card should be 0-4 (I scored Aron Martinez a winner over Guerrero,who won a split decision).
Figueroa was once thought to be a coming star and disappointed despite remaining undefeated.
Guerrero looks like a shot fighter to me,but Figueroa's style will show us just what Guerrero has left.

The other bout in the challenge on this card puts former Olympian Marcus Browne against Seanie Monaghan in what might be a spirited bout.
Browne comes off a knockout of Thomas Williams and a split decision win over Radivoje Kaladzic that was clearly controversial with Browne losing on my card.
Monaghan has neared a title shot with an exciting style and an ability to draw fans in the New York area,despite never beating anyone near a top twenty contender.

Europe has two fights of note with the main one in the super middleweights as Chris Eubank Jr fights Arthur Abraham in what is basically a "play-in" fight for a World Boxing Series slot.
The winner will be seeded third and will fight Avni Yildrim in the first round of the tournament.
Eubank will be fighting his first contender since rising to the 168 pound division,while the two division champion Abraham will be facing his first true test since losing every round and his WBO belt to Gilberto Ramirez in April 2016.

IBF featherweight champ Lee Selby defends his title against Jonathan Barros in a fight delayed twice by athletic commission dealings with the health of Barros.
One never knows if this one will come off either.
Selby is hoping to see if a win can land him a sizable paycheck for a fight in Northern Ireland against Carl Frampton..

WBC Junior Lightweight title.12 rds
Miguel Berchelt vs Takashi Miura
R.L:Berchelt KO 10
TRS; Berchelt KO 9

WBA Junior Lightweight title .12 rds
Jezreel Corrales vs Robinson Castellanos
Both:Corrales Unanimous Decision

Light Heavyweights.12 rds
Joe Smith vs Sullivan Barrera
R.L:Smith Unanimous Decision
TRS:Smith Split Decision

Welterweights.12 rds
Omar Figueroa vs Robert Guerrero
R.L: Guerrero KO 7
TRS:Figueroa Unanimous Decision

Light Heavyweights.10 rds
Marcus Browne vs Seanie Monaghan
R.L: Monaghan Unanimous Decision
TRS:Browne Unanimous Decision

Super Middleweights.12 rds
Arthur Abraham vs Chris Eubank Jr.
Both:Eubank Unanimous Decision

IBF Featherweight title.12 rds
Lee Selby vs Jonathan Barros
Both:Selby Unanimous Decision

Road Trip:Augusta

Yet another TRS road trip recap begins as my friend Mike Oravec and I visited four parks for games and another two to visit without a game.

I'll be recapping those as the week goes along,but we'll be moving along to our first stop and my biggest target of the year-Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta,Georgia and the home of the Augusta Greenjackets.

The Greenjackets are moving across the lake next season to a new stadium in North Augusta South Carolina and I wanted to add Lake Olmstead to the stadium map before the team left Georgia.
I wondered why the Jackets were leaving a stadium that isn't quite 30 years old,but my answer came before we even pulled up to the stadium-the neighborhood.
Every building with a business located in it had metal bars in the windows-never a good sign and when I would ask around later at the park,it was told to me that a day or two before,a players car had been broken into and that fans cars have been broken into as well.
If that is the case and I believe it is,I bet that is why the Jackets don't draw well.
I remember a conversation years ago when Augusta visited Hagerstown and then-pitching coach (now with Richmond) Steve Kline told me that when his wife visited Lake Olmstead he refused to have her drive to the park because she would have to drive home at night.

Lake Olmstead isn't a great visual park when you enter,but it's not awful either.
The grandstand is covered as it should be (in most places,but especially the South),but there are some parks that have zero shade available as you will see later on the trip..
The grandstand reminds me of the Muni though-the OLD Muni as when the grandstand had all metal bleachers without backs.
The Muni grandstand has those and makes it a more comfortable seating experience,but Lake Olmstead did have an addition in each section that Hagerstown does not-Fans above the area that are moved by the wind and at least attempts to keep the air flowing around you.
I know the city of Hagerstown doesn't want to put any more money than they have to into the Muni,but this would help keep the air circulating and maybe help a few more people want to pay the extra cost to sit in the grandstand.

Mike went to the third base side to graph the visiting Asheville Tourists,while I did the home Greenjackets.
Asheville came from down the left field line,while the home team had a dugout tunnel to come out of.
I was sitting along with one of the Augusta superfans as I was the only person graphing Augusta (other than a young group of females with baseballs that were graphing in a different manner!).
Susan King was wearing an Augusta Pirates jersey from "back in the day"and it was fitting since it was supposed to be "Augusta Pirates Weekend,where Augusta was supposed to wear throwback jerseys that would be auctioned off at the series end on Sunday.
I asked Susan if she would mind taking a picture for me so I could use it here and she graciously complied.
As it turned out,Susan (and another season ticket holder) would grumble about the Augusta manager,who they claimed refused to allow the team to wear those in favor of a camo version,which the team must wear a lot for home games.
I really didn't like those because the numbers were hard to read and as a result,I missed some players that I might not have,if they had worn the Pirates throwbacks.

Mike did much better than I and was able to add Riley Pint on his top 100 and SAL prospect as the big Rockies addition along with multiple team set cards.
I didn't do as well as Mike,but I did get Kelvin Beltre on his SAL prospect card among a few others.
Was very difficult as the only grapher and those awful uniforms to see guys and get them stopped.
Mike and I hit the team store where the logo shown above rested next and I bought shirts for the ladies and Ryan.
With Augusta being a Giants farm club,I wanted to get those for them,while Ryan has done so much for us of late and I wanted to pick him something up.
I told him to pick the team of his choice of the four teams we would be seeing and he selected Augusta as well,so my shopping was finished on the first stop with the exception of team sets for others at Kannapolis.

We settled into our seats to watch some of the game and began to work on dividing up our cards.
Suddenly,it began to get very dark and very windy in the second inning and we had a feeling that things were about to get bad!
The Greenjackets rolled the tarp on the field in anticipation of the thunderstorm as that happened Mike and I quickly decided to get out of Dodge!
We figured there would be a lengthy delay and between the delay and what was likely to be VERY humid weather following the storm and that's exactly what happened on this 98 degree day!
We ran to the car and went to eat at Xaxby's for dinner.
By the time that we left there,the weather was oppressively humid,so with a two hour drive to suburban Charlotte ahead,I think the decision was the correct one.

After Xaxby's,we made the drive to friends of Mike's,the Parrish family.
The Parrish's were so gracious to allow me to stay with them after never meeting me before and we stayed up for hours talking with Bob,Laurie and their great children Tucker and Will.
Tucker in particular reminded me of myself at the same age with just tons of sports knowledge.
Tucker can hang with me or anyone on what he knows and it made me smile with the memories of my own experiences as a teenager.
Will is just plain funny and he loved hearing Mike and I's stories from the autographing circuit.
I'll write more about the Parrish's on the next day's post,but what a kind and wonderful family.

I stayed up until 4 am quietly in my room,working on the blog,playing Strat-o-Matic and relaxing as everyone slept before getting a few hours of sleep to end a long but fun day.
In the end,I was happy to put Lake Olmsted Stadium on the list.
It was nothing special,but it gave me my first stadium in the state of Georgia and it added a park that won't be around much longer.
Great day!

Back tomorrow with the day in Kannapolis unless there is breaking news...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cavaliers sign Cedi Osman

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued to attempt to improve the bench for the upcoming season by signing the only player that could bring some youth to the team with the signing of 22 year old Turkish forward Cedi Osman to a three year contract.
The deal will be worth 8.3 million to Osman over the span of the deal.
The Cavaliers will be using some of the their five million salary cap exception to pay the Osman contract and will pay 800,000 dollars to buy out his contract in Turkey.

Osman was a  2015 draft pick of the Cavaliers that was allowed to polish his skills at home in Turkey in effort to prepare him against older players before bringing him to the NBA.
The 6'8 Osman averaged a little over seven points a game and the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports one scout comparing him to Trevor Ariza,which would mean Osman can shoot the three (34 percent in Turkey) and play shooting guard as well as small forward.
Osman is noted as an athletic defender and I would imagine should be a help on defense,but also should be an effective player in transition.

Osman also has been rumored to be a potential piece in any possible trade for Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks as well as any other possible trade.
Osman is just about the only marketable young player (other than the obvious exception of Kyrie Irving) that the Cavaliers have to possibly tempt other teams in trade talks,so there is the value of Osman and I would not rule out the chance that Cedi Osman may never play a game in Cleveland..

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Top Ten Baseball Movies-1-5

My top ten baseball movies finishes today with my top five films.
Keep in mind that these are just what I like and my list may be far different than yours!
Again,please remember that documentaries are not rated..

1) The Natural
You could have taken any of these films and asked on a particular day,which is my favorite and gotten a different answer,but upon careful thought-The Natural wins this.
The film perfectly captures its time period (1939) and the surroundings make one think of the parks of the time like the Polo Grounds and Ebbetts Field.
Robert Redford plays like an actual player and swings like Ted Williams and that gives you first place in my rankings!
Darren McGavin is great in an uncredited role as gambler Gus as one of the villains.
Interesting Note: The film was made at Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium,which hosted minor league baseball teams,but is better known as the home of the two time AFL champion Buffalo Bills from 1960-1972.

2) Major League
Major League was going to be a favorite of mine as soon as the film was written to include the Indians and not only was it funny with so many lines that trail baseball fields to this day,but it had so many younger actors that would become stars in both television and film.
Plus it has all of those shots of 1980's Cleveland,even though the film was made in Milwaukee!
Margaret Whitton (who recently passed away) should have been a much bigger star after her tremendous portrayal of the nasty owner of the Tribe-Rachel Phelps.
Interesting Note:The original ending was to have Rachel Phelps tell Lou Brown that her persona' was a charade to motivate the team and she never intended to move the team to Miami.
Screenings preferred Phelps as the villain and the ending was changed.

3) Field of Dreams
This movie features lots of great performances from Kevin Costner,Ray Liotta,James Earl Jones and Amy Madigan among others and every son has to be touched at one time or the other by the 'catch scene" at the end of the movie.
Like For the Love of the Game,another Costner vehicle,baseball is what ties all the film together.
It may be overly sentimental,but if you ever played baseball with your dad-it gets you every time..
Interesting Note:Ray Liotta played Shoeless Joe Jackson as a righthanded batter,when he actually was a lefty swinger.
The people involved with the film decided to lose a little historical accuracy in order to gain with Liotta looking like a legitimate player batting his natural righthanded stance.

4) Eight Men Out
The only film that is based on a real team,the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
It tells the story reasonably accurately and the baseball holds up as well.
The young stars of the film (Charlie Sheen,John Cusack and D.B.Sweeney) all look like real ballplayers.
The only downside is the bad guy gamblers that set the scandal up are pretty much the stereotypical bad guys without any fleshing out.
Interesting Note: D.B.Sweeney actually played pro baseball briefly with the Kenosha Twins.

5) Mr.Baseball
I'm not the biggest Tom Selleck fan in the world,but he was perfect for this role as a former major league star with faded skills that carries his name to the Chunichi Dragons of the NPB in Japan.
The story is based on former Expo Warren Cromartie's Japanese career and it explains many of the differences between Japanese baseball and American.
It's not drop dead hilarious overall,but if you are a hard core seamhead,this film is worth a look.
Interesting Note:The love interest of Selleck in the film (Aya Takanashi) is reported to have left show business after this film..

Hope you enjoyed this two part series.
I might do another one sometime maybe with other sports films..

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Top Ten Baseball Movies:6-10

I'm back with a post that was going to go up while I was gone,but wifi woes on the final night of my trip waxed that board for me.
I'll be dropping road trip posts later this week on Augusta,Kannapolis,Winston-Salem and Danville along with all the usual stories from the road.
Until then,enjoy this and the final part of the feature that I'll post later today or Wednesday!

Movies,like so many things are subjective.
We all have things that touch us,things that we know may not be great art,but still make us howl with laughter and others that just are entertaining for other reasons.

Considering that,this and a future post with my top five choices for baseball films are subjective.
Documentaries are not included as there may be a future list for sports documentaries.
Your list may not rank with mine and some may make you wonder just what I'm thinking,but lists are usually fun to make,so here goes my favorite baseball movies from 6 through 10!

6) Bull Durham
                          This might be lower than many have it rated,but it's still a fun movie.
Kevin Costner hits well as the aging vagabond "hired gun" that those of us on the minor league scene see all the time-especially in AA baseball and Tim Robbins as the young wild fireballer does inspired work as well,although he does look a little older for the role than I'd like.
I've never been much of a Susan Sarandon fan,so that might have kept this out of the top five.
Interesting note;In some of the game action,you'll see Hagerstown Suns uniforms and players against the Durham Bulls,but they are usually announced as the Peninsula Pilots!

7) A League of Their Own
The story of the short-lived women's baseball league didn't make a lot of mistakes in the surroundings,although I would have preferred that they just used the actual name of P.K.Wrigley instead of the pseudonym "Walter Harvey" for the league founder (and Cubs owner) played by Garry Marshall.
Lots of ladies in this movie went onto major and minor roles in television and films even on the opposing team as Tea' Leoni and Janet Jones (Mrs.Wayne Gretzky) were on the rival Racine team.
Geena Davis was sensational in her role,but Tom Hanks as "Jimmy Dugan" (based on Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx,who actually managed in the league) stole every scene he was in.
Love the little kid dancing around pointing at Dugan and taunting him with "You're gonna lose, you stink" before being drilled by a thrown glove! Got him,indeed!!
Interesting Note:Geena Davis says that the film has baseball,but not baseballs as they used spongy baseballs in order to not hit the cameramen

8) Major League II
This sequel isn't quite as good as the original mainly for two reasons.
One is the Indians home field moved from decrepit "Cleveland Stadium" (the filming was actually in Milwaukee County Stadium) to the unnamed stadium (This was Baltimore's Camden Yards).
Camden was a much better stadium,but it's quality takes away a little from the grit of the original.
The other? The new characters (except one) didn't really make the cut for me,although Omar Epps was good enough replacing Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes.
I did think Jack Parkman (David Keith) was great as the villain of the film,Randy Quaid was hilarious as the angry fan and it still had several great scenes that I love and recite even now.
Interesting note: The movie never acknowledges the new stadium,even though the Indians had moved to Jacobs Field when this film was released.

9) Bad News Bears-1976
Ahead of its time in dealing with the hypocrisy of little league baseball,this film had so many things that were funny,yet offensive and a word for word remake couldn't be made today,which is why the remake despite having Billy Bob Thornton isn't nearly as good.
It's funny with a few flaws.Kelly Leak is said to be 13 or 14 in the movie (which is too old for little league play) and it's not hard to see Jackie Earle Haley isn't hitting the ball and Tatum O'Neal is clearly a boy pitching in a wig for her scenes.
Still,the kids are a riot and Walter Matthau was the perfect casting as the worn out manager...
Interesting Note:Yankee pitcher Joey Turner was played by Brandon Cruz,who a few years earlier had been "Eddie" as the child star in the TV series "Courtship of Eddie's Father". 

10) Bad News Bears-Breaking Training
Even though this movie doesn't quite match the original,I can't help myself to watch it almost every time that MLB network shows it and that's a lot.
It's different because it lacks the social commentary,but it has many scenes that you remember to this day-Who hasn't done the "let them play" chant from the big game at least once in every day life?
Combine that with cheesy current gold shill William Devane coaching in a old army jacket and you have a funny film.
Besides the real star is my beloved Astrodome with shots of the stadium inside and out along with those great 1970's Astros uniforms with the rainbow stripes and Astros of the age!
Name another movie that you get this-"Look guys,it's Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno"!!!
Interesting Note:Brett Marx as third baseman "Jimmie Feldman" is the grandson of "Gummo" Marx.

Tommy Lee Jones is terrific as the older Ty Cobb,but the baseball segments really show his age and take away from the film a bit.
Robert Wuhl has never been a favorite and that might be what kept Cobb out of my top ten.
Still,some great lines and Lou Myers as Willie,who quits as an employee of Cobb's owns his few scenes in the film,
Jones and Myers scenes together alone are enough to watch this film,if you never have watched previously!

Honorable Mention-No particular order.
61-The Mantle/Maris story is told well and the casting are dead ringers for the two.Just missed.

The Sandlot-Some would put this far higher,but it doesn't bring the nostalgia to me that Breaking Training does.

The Rookie-Dennis Quaid is great as Jim Morris,but a little too much time in Texas and not enough in the minors hurt its grade.

For the Love of the Game-More of a love story wrapped around a baseball game,but enough baseball to make it watchable.
Kevin Costner and John C.Reilly are great as aging and grizzled batterymates.

The Scout-Albert Brooks is my pick as the underrated comic genius of my time and he carries Brendan Fraser (who is a little better than normal here) to a pretty decent film with tons of cameos from baseball celebrities.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cavaliers sign Jeff Green

The Cleveland Cavaliers know that they need bench help.
The Cavaliers also know that it's going to be less than a breeze doing so and that they better get started.

The work began with the signing of veteran Jeff Green to a one year contract for 2.3 million.
The 6'9 veteran spent last season with Orlando and struggled to the worst season of his career in averaging just nine points a game and shooting less than forty percent from the field.
This is a double digit sword for the Cavaliers and Green-Is Green a player in decline or was he just stuck in a rut playing for a non-contender?
If Green is right,he brings a player that adds some skills off the dribble and a athletic player on both ends of the floor.
If he is nearing the end of the road at soon to be 31,he will at least still be a defender that can guard either small forwards or power forwards off the bench-in theory,his floor should be what Iman Shumpert brings and his ceiling adds even more offense.
Cleveland needs to create salary cap space and Shumpert (and Channing Frye maybe) looks to be the most likely casualty,if the Cavaliers can find someone willing to take one of both.

Green signing for the veteran minimum brought to mind the reported Cleveland interest in Jamal Crawford,but apparently the Cavaliers made a decision for now that Jeff Green and possibly the forward from Turkey Cedi Osman are a better fit for the roster instead of Crawford.
Crawford does bring the three point shooting ability,but Green is younger and more athletic as a defender,while Osman is just about the only young asset that the Cavaliers have to bring in with their dearth of draft picks,although Osman is being mentioned as a potential part of any trade with the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony.
I see their point,but Jamal Crawford (who signed with Minnesota) would have been a huge addition offensively.

I think this is low risk and high reward with the addition of Jeff Green and I think if the Cavaliers can sign Cedi Osman,he'll bring even more defense at the two and the three.
I'm not saying that I'm totally convinced that Jeff Green has not emptied the tank,but I do think that he has some left to give on a championship contender.

Graphing hits and misses-Pamela Hensley and Eloy Jimenez

Former actress Pamela Hensley (now Hensley-Vincent) and Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez may seem to have little in common-and they don't.
However,they did both come together on the same day of graphing,so for me-at least for a while,there will be a connection and when it comes to the online world,someone out in cyberspace will eventually connect Hensley and Jimenez.

I,like most pre-teen males from 1979-81,watched a decent amount of Buck Rogers on NBC for its two season run on the network
Upon watching again so many years later,the show doesn't hold up and not because of the 'special effects' as those will always look dated,because,well they are.but that show was pretty popular,especially for the first season (season two tried to make the show more serious,take on more "issues" like Star Trek did and one other loss sent the series to cancellation).
The ladies watched for Gil Gerard,the really young children watched for the Mel Blanc voiced robot "Twiki" and the teenagers watched for Erin Gray,the beautiful female co-star.
The series did have a villain and was even more beautiful than Gray (to this 11 year old at least).
Princess Ardala didn't wear a lot of clothes,but Pamela Hensley was able to play "campy" better than most could have in the same role...

Not only beautiful,Hensley showed some acting ability that would have likely played better had she been born earlier and would been better off in the film contract age.
Hensley cemented herself as a TRS favorite in her next role as C.J.Parsons on a show that I watched on ABC in "Matt Houston",a formula detective show starring Lee Horsley,in what really was a warmed up Magnum P.I. at a time when every network were hiring every guy with a mustache and sticking him in a action/adventure show and trying to find another Tom Selleck.
It wasn't the best show in the world,but Hensley was more than enough to hold this 14 years old attention and then Matt Houston went away and so did Pamela Hensley-gone from acting for good.

What happened to her? Well,she married Duke Vincent (successful television producer and producer of Matt Houston) and has lived a quiet life since.
I still had Buck Rogers cards of mine as a kid (I had gotten Erin Gray to sign a few of hers as well and when I saw a recent success on an autographing site,I dropped a few cards in the mail to (now) Hensley-Vincent among other cards.
One week later,they returned signed and it made me think about her and drop a few lines....

Later in the day,I went to Frederick with Bill Cover to attempt to add Eloy Jimenez in a one night performance.
Jimenez,the massive Cubs outfield prospect, was most noted for his Roy Hobbesque blasting out a stadium light at the Carolina League All-Star game and his much sought signature.
Being that Jimenez has about 10,000 cards,he's in high demand in general and I needed him most on the top 100.
Jimenez was only going to be in Frederick for one night since he is playing in Sunday's Futures Game,so we had one bullet to shoot to get him to sign.
I didn't need many cards otherwise for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans,since Derreck Chupak had gotten many when he went to Kinston last weekend for their version of the Jimenez show.
I was able to get most of what I had finished,but I didn't move around as much usual because I wanted to be in position for Jimenez,who is already earning a reputation as an enigmatic signer.
To his credit,Jimenez came out and signed one for everyone,,including my top 100!
So,with a rare Friday night off and an early morning call waiting for the next day,you would think I'd be on my way.

You would be wrong.
With several more Jimenez cards,Bill and I decided to watch the game and take our chances on another card.
It was a failure-postgame fireworks sent me repelling in pain (my right ear has never been fully able to handle loud noises since my 2015 concussion) and Jimenez took his time leaving the field.
This isn't always a bad thing,but this was on this occasion as Jimenez walked by everyone without even a head turn.
We decided to try again outside,although I didn't feel confident and I understood why-Jimenez would likely be carrying his post game food and drink and all of his equipment that he needed for his trip to Miami.
Considering all of that,I even understood if he didn't sign.
What I didn't expect was how he acted in saying "no" as he sneered to two children "Not tonight,Kid" after being asked respectfully by them.
I would have been understanding had Jimenez politely said "I'm really in a hurry and my hands are full".
It didn't put a damper on the evening because I wasn't expecting anything and I did get the top 100 cards finished,but it was somewhat disappointing to see rudeness towards children-especially those that were polite,something that isn't always the case with younger graphers.

Still,a pretty good day at the mailbox and at the ballpark and one cannot argue with that!
And forever,I'll be unifying the day I added someone from my past and perhaps a future baseball superstar as Pamela Hensley connects with Eloy Jimenez.

I might have one of those special features coming up from the finished folder later tonight or tomorrow...

Friday, July 7, 2017

World Boxing Series-Good and Bad

 The field was announced for Richard Schafer's Ringstar Promotions and their eight man tournaments in the cruiserweight and super middleweight division in association with Europe's Sauerland Promotions and the news is good and bad..

Tournaments in boxing usually sound great and fail in the end-usually due to fighters dropping out (or threatening to) when they don't get everything their own way or injuries that result in the tourney being far too drawn out as in Showtime's Super Six,which lasted too long and was most noted for Andre Ward's breakout tournament win that saw Ward never leave his hometown until the finals and have every break given to him.

I was wondering despite the tremendous purses being offered with the "Muhammad Ali trophy",just how many fighters from different promoters would be involved.
In boxing,something innovative like this usually doesn't involve a wide net of promoters,but this time,the answer was both yes and no.
Yes,as the European fighters/promoters seemed to get past the promotional issues and take their best shot,but the Americans didn't as out of the 16 entrants between the two divisions,just one is American in super middleweight Rob Brant.
The participants were announced today,although the actual brackets will be announced on Saturday.
I like that the top four seeds will be allowed to pick their first round opponents and adds some strategy to the Saturday selection show...

The good news is that the cruiserweight tournament is loaded as three of the four world champions (and the missing WBA champ Denis Lebedev is replaced by their minor title holder in Yunier Dorticos) are in the tourney with title defenses and if all goes well,the tournament winner will hold three of the four titles.
Between Oleksander Usyk (WBO),Marius Breidis (WBC) and Murat Gassiev (IBF) with two former champs (Krzystof Wlodarczyk and Marco Huck),the mentioned Dorticos (WBA minor), undefeated bomber Dmitry Kudryashov this tournament is loaded.
Only the omission of former WBO champ Krzyszyof Glowacki (conqueror of Huck and lost a decision to Usyk) who was not selected in favor of faded former heavyweight Mike Perez brings any questions at all about competition.
You could select any of these except Perez and maybe Huck to win the tournament and it's tough to argue with that selection.
I'm back and forth already on my pick to win the tournament,so I'll wait until I see the bracket before making my official pick.
This division has the potential for some tremendous fights and could wind up being the most exciting tournament ever with some luck...

I wish I could share the same excitement for the super middleweight tourney,which has some good fighters,but only attracted one of the four world champions in WBA kingpin George Groves.
Promotional considerations appear to be the issue with WBO champ Gilberto Martinez (Top Rank),IBF champ James DeGale (PBC and taking time off from surgery) and the vacant WBC title match between Callum Smith and Andre Dirrell was scratched after PBC's antics in agreeing to a bout on one date in Los Angeles and attempting to change the date and venue to Dirrell's hometown of Flint Michigan after a purse bid had been won and a contract agreed to.
Smith then decided he had had enough of Dirrell and the PBC and decided to pass on that title to enter the tournament and the undefeated Briton could win this.
The winner of the July 15th Chris Eubank Jr-Arthur Abraham fight will enter as well and either brings a talented one loss fighter (Eubank) or a former two division champion (Abraham) into the fold.
Former minor WBA champ Jurgen Braehmer drops from light heavyweight to give this a try,but the lower four boxers will have to pull some surprises to win this as none of Turkey's Avni Yildirim England's Jamie Cox,Sweden's Eric Skogland and the United States Rob Brant have anything close to a world class resume'.
It wouldn't surprise me to see one of the four pull an upset or two though,because none of what one would expect to be one of the top four seeds has the type of record that strikes fear into anyone's heart,not even Groves,who has been stopped in two of his three losses.
Still,this tournament doesn't excite me and the talent is somewhat disappointing,especially when you compare it to the cruisers.
I wish that they had decided to do the light heavys instead as even with promotional issues,there could have been fun fights-imagine a tourney with Sergey Kovalev,Artur Beterbiev,Dmitri Bivol,Joe Smith,Oleksander Gvozdyk,Sullivan Barrera,Nathan Cleverly and the final spot could go to Badou Jack or even (it's a dream right) the winner of Adonis Stevenson-Eleider Alvarez.
That tourney would have been so stacked and fun to watch that no one would even miss Andre Ward's absence!

I'm looking forward to the World Boxing Series to see the action and to see if the plans are able to go smoothly or go off the rails as typically happens in boxing..