Tuesday, December 31, 2019

John Dorsey out with Browns

The Cleveland Browns ridiculous reality show that could be known as "That's SO Haslam" continued on a Tuesday afternoon that saw general manager John Dorsey relieved of his duties after being told of a re-designed organization structure that would limit Dorsey's influence to the personnel department.

I just cannot believe that the Browns are dumping John Dorsey, who I believe was far from perfect in all of his decisions- most notably his decision to select Freddie Kitchens as the head coach after the 2018 season and another call that some are better with than I in drafting Baker Mayfield first overall in the 2018 draft.
However, Dorsey's decisions have been better than his predecessors under the reign of terror led by the pair of Jimmy and Dee Haslam, and then even the most devout admirer of analytics would have to admit the roster that Dorsey will be leaving to his successor is far superior to that left to him by the Sashi Brown/Paul DePodesta/Andrew Berry regime.

Dorsey apparently has lost a power struggle for the ear of Jimmy Haslam to Paul DePodesta and if Dorsey is not going to be the person making the decision on the next coach, I can somewhat understand the choice to let Dorsey walk away.
The general manager and coach are going to need to work hand and glove with each other and if Dorsey isn't on board with a hire, the parting of the ways is for the best.

Here's the problem.
The Haslams are rumored to want Andrew Berry to return from the Eagles as the GM and who knows what coach the DePodesta/Berry partnership would want.
Canton native and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is reported to be the latest shiny toy for the Haslams, but it didn't seem that McDaniels and Dorsey would be a fit and McDaniels would likely want someone from the Bill Belichick tree to work with him on personnel.
Currently, there are two dueling schools of thought being reported from two veterans of Cleveland media.
The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot is reporting that the Browns are all in on landing McDaniels and whomever he wants in personnel, while Tony Grossi is stating that McDaniels is unlikely to take the job because he doesn't want to work with DePodesta, who doesn't live in Cleveland and works out of his California home base.
Who knows who to believe at this particular point?

Another rumor has the Browns retaining Eliot Wolf and promoting Wolf to GM and hiring former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy as pairing the former Green Bay duo.
McCarthy would have the cache' of being a former Super Bowl-winning coach and claims he has revitalized himself in his one year away from the game by embracing several segments that he ignored in the past.
McCarthy's brand of West Coast offense seemed to be getting stale in his latter years with the Pack, so if he is the choice the Browns have to hope those new innovations are involved with McCarthy as there is no Aaron Rodgers in Cleveland waiting for him.

The Browns are going to also have to find a coach that is going to be a believer in Baker Mayfield as any new coach will likely have Mayfield for the next season or two to help him regain his rookie form.
Mayfield spent much of this season behaving immaturely both on and off the field, watched his performance slump badly and was constantly having his ego massaged by both John Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens, so whoever takes the job will have no choice other than working with Mayfield to teach him to be a professional in all aspects of the game and perhaps ride him as he has never been ridden before.
If a coach doesn't believe in Mayfield and he has been a polarizing figure since the evaluations for the draft, that coach may not want to take this job.

John Dorsey wasn't perfect and the 2018 draft looks a lot worse now than it did a year ago.
First rounders Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward each were disappointments,
second-rounder Austin Corbett and fifth-rounder Genard Avery were both traded in the middle of the season, third-rounder Chad Thomas has only been average as a rotational lineman and fourth-rounder Antonio Callaway was released after several issues.
Only the selection of Nick Chubb in the second round with a pick that was essentially bought by Sashi Brown for absorbing the one year of Brock Osweiler's contract stands out as a great 2018 Dorsey pick at this time.

Dorsey traded first and third-rounders in the 2019 draft to land Odell Beckham, who was disappointing, but still played through injury and below-average quarterback play to reach 1,000 yards, but second-rounder Greedy Williams showed promise through an erratic rookie season and fifth-rounder Mack Wilson might be on his way to being a star, so that's not bad for not having two of your first three picks.
Dorsey also has added picks for the next two drafts with extra picks in the third, sixth and seventh rounds in 2020 and traded for picks in the fourth, fifth, and seventh rounds in the 2021 draft as well.
John Dorsey made his mistakes and some were large ones but deserved more time.

For now, I think that this is a poor move, but if the Browns can hire a quality coach and if it would turn out to be that the new coach and Dorsey wasn't a good fit, I'd be willing to change my mind.

The possible Lazarus-like rise of DePodesta after his involvement with the Sashi Brown/Andrew Berry 2016 and 2017 drafts that have added one impact player in Myles Garrett, two starters on defense in Joe Schobert and Larry Ogunjobi, disappointing tight end David Njoku (after trading into the first round to draft him) and Rashard Higgins, who apparently did something really bad to Freddie Kitchens, who refused to play him, out of 24 players picked, concerns me.
The lack of draft production, the release of Joe Haden, who was overpaid, but on a team with loads of cap space, and decisions such as trading a pick that could have been DeShaun Watson and in a draft that saw them draft Myles Garrett first ( I was and still am on board there) with Watson and Patrick Mahomes in it, saw their preferred choice as Mitch Trubisky, all adds up to me wanting nothing to do with these guys, let alone hitch the wagon to them again.

And the final problem of all- Jimmy and Dee Haslam.
I'm sure you have noticed that the Browns have never landed even a hot coordinator type since the Tennessee twosome have owned the Browns and Cleveland usually settles for the second and third-tier candidates mainly because the top available coaches have options and when you have options, why would you pick working for the Haslams?
The Browns didn't have to outbid anyone for Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine, or Freddie Kitchens because no one else was interested in them.
There were a few interested in Hue Jackson, but the main opposition for Jackson was his employer at the time in Cincinnati, who wanted to keep Jackson as the coach in waiting.
If you had choices, why would you work for the Haslams?
Jimmy Haslam agrees with everyone that he speaks with, backs the last person that he talks to before he is forced to make a decision, has zero patience, and changes his mind at the drop of a hat.
As for Dee Haslam, she thought the current uniforms (that will hopefully return to the classic look after serving the minimum amount of time, for 2020) were a great idea and looked sharp. so unless you can tell me something else that she has contributed, that's about all that I have.

Why on Earth would anyone want to work with this bunch?
Jimmy Haslam owned a small part of the Steelers, the most patient organization in the game, and you would have thought that he would have learned something and instead, the Cleveland Browns are the Bizzaro World Steelers opposite in every way- especially in the win column.
The Haslams have run through six coaches, including inherited Pat Shurmur and 2018 interim coach Gregg Williams and six front office heads- inherited Tom Heckert, Joe Banner/Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer, Sashi Brown, and now John Dorsey.
The one qualified person that they have hired has been shown the door after only two seasons, why would anyone want to work for these people?
Until either someone qualified is willing to take their money and is then fortunate enough to turn things around fast enough to keep Pilot Jimmy and Flying Dee's fingers off the red button, we may never know just what it will take to make these people winners.

I'll wrap up with one thought- Ron Rivera would rather work for Daniel Snyder than work for the Haslams.
Think about that.



Monday, December 30, 2019

Browns hit rock bottom-lose to Bengals 33-23

The Cleveland Browns officially hit rock bottom in Cincinnati in the final game of the season as the Browns visit to the Queen City ended in a 33-23 loss to a Bengals team that had won only one game previously all season.

Baker Mayfield was harassed all day by the Cincinnati pass rush as he was sacked six times to go with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mayfield completed only 12 passes on the afternoon but finished with 279 yards and all three touchdowns were longer throws of 20, 46, and 56 yards.
The Browns finish at an extremely disappointing 6-10 and finish third in the AFC North.

Brownie Bits

1)  As I was writing the entry blurb, the Browns announced that they have fired Freddie Kitchens.
Kitchens was a risky pick and even though I wasn't entirely sold, I wasn't totally against it either.
The only proven head coach that was available last season was Bruce Arians, who I think wanted the Browns job, but the Browns/Haslam's weren't interested, so if you didn't want Arians anyone was going to be a risk.
I'll be writing more on this tomorrow, but this had to be done.

2) The Bengals pass rush was the difference in this game as they just didn't allow Baker Mayfield to have time to throw.
On the rare occasions that Mayfield had time, he was successful but those attempts were few and far between and even when he got the ball away it rarely was without being hurried.

3) My "favorite" rush from the Bengals came when Carl Lawson moved around Chris Hubbard without even being touched.
Do you realize how few times in the NFL that a front seven rusher ( a blitzing DB can do this on occasion) does this to a tackle?
Not beating him with a speed rush, or being deflected, just plain moving around the tackle for the sack without the tackle even touching him.
Pathetic.

4) The Browns run defense was pretty crummy as well as Joe Mixon ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns for an average of 6.2 yards a carry.
Mixon is a very good back but in no way should he be averaging six yards a carry and he ran for well over 100 yards in their first meeting in Cleveland.

5) Baker Mayfield was erratic again, but his scoring throw to Jarvis Landry was an excellent pass and the longball to Damion Ratley was on the money as well.
Mayfield has wasted a season, but I'm not ready to give up on him completely.
It could be as simple as an excellent quarterback coach working on some flaws to turn things around, but I'm just not sure what they still have with Mayfield.

6) But oh, those interceptions.
None of the three were excusable other than the pass rush from the Bengals made Mayfield hurry his throws a bit.
The fallacy of Baker Mayfield entering the league was as an accurate passer, one that didn't throw interceptions, and as a locker room leader.
From what has occurred in the 2019 season, I would think that questions exist in all three of those areas.

7) Odell Beckham's fourth-quarter touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone while being
covered by two defenders and still getting his feet down inbounds was the type of play that the Browns expected to see far more often after trading for him.
Beckham's score was the fourth of the year and about a third of what was hoped for and even though Beckham crossed 1,000 yards for the season in the loss, it was a disappointing year all around.
Give Beckham credit for playing all season with a sports hernia, but fingers crossed that he gets into town for all the off-season camps, workouts, etc. and starts to develop some chemistry with Baker Mayfield because that was severely lacking this season.

8) Nick Chubb only received thirteen carries for forty-one yards and when Derrick Henry exploded for Tennessee as the Titans played against several of the Houston Texans second-stringers, Henry passed Chubb and won the league rushing championship.
Chubb missed the 1.500-yard mark by six yards and when you consider how Chubb was used (not always well) by Freddie Kitchens it would not be unfair to blame Kitchens for the main reason that Chubb missed winning that title.

9) Austin Siebert missed an extra point for the second week in a row and the rookie kicker from Oklahoma finished the season with more missed extra points (five) than missed field goals (four).
A good rookie season, but the missed extra points need to be cut substantially next season.

10) Jarvis Landry's touchdown catch has to go on the Browns season in review film as he grabbed the ball in between two Bengals defensive backs and then almost strolled into the end zone as the Bengals wiped each other out trying to take down Landry.

11) The Browns gained three spots in the draft after the loss to the Bengals.
Three teams that entered the day at 6-9 with the same record as the Browns (Atlanta, Denver, and New York Jets) all won their final game and moved the Browns up into the draft.
Jacksonville won their final game to finish 6-10, the same as the Browns, but Jacksonville will pick ahead of Cleveland.
The Browns will select tenth in the first round.

12) So now what?
The Browns start with another coach amid rumors that Paul DePodesta is attempting to gain more power in the organization and may have some capital with the Haslams as he was against Freddie Kitchens getting the job, preferring Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski and was overruled when Hue Jackson was hired over current Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott.
How does that affect John Dorsey's pull in the organization?
Would it only affect Dorsey as far as picking a coach goes? Or does DePodesta want to return to personnel with his vaunted "analytics" after that was essentially a failure for Sashi Brown and DePodesta in their first time around?
I'm hearing a lot of names, some that I prefer to others and I'll be writing about those along with the failings of Freddie Kitchens over the next few days, but I cannot imagine a top candidate coming to work for the Haslam family considering their history.
The Browns are always going to land a lesser candidate than everyone else because coaches are hesitant for work for the Haslams.
Someone is going to have to take a huge leap of faith before that changes...



Sunday, December 29, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Davis Stops Gamboa in 12th

The three-fight Showtime card from Atlanta turned out to be fun, interesting and disappointing as the broadcast moved forward.

In the main event, Gervonta Davis picked up a minor title in his lightweight debut as he stopped veteran Yuriorkis Gamboa, but didn't look as impressive as most expected him to against an opponent in his late 30's and had been dropped in double figures over his career.

Gamboa was reported to have fought through a torn Achilles tendon that he suffered in the second round and if that is true, that is a tremendous show of courage from the Cuban.
Still, Davis knocked Gamboa down in the second, where Gamboa is thought to have injured his Achilles, eighth, and again in the final round, when referee Jack Reiss ended the fight with Gamboa on the floor.
Davis dominated Gamboa ( I had Davis winning 109-97 after eleven rounds), but all things considered including taking two attempts to make the weight limit, the evening had to be somewhat disappointing for Davis and his team on the overall.
Davis has drawn strong crowds for his three fights this season (over 36,000 at three venues) against less than sturdy competition, so he has shown a fanbase, but with a resume' so soft that his second-best career win might be this one over the faded Gamboa, Davis is talented, but remains unproven and combined with a lack of dedication to training/making weight, I still wonder about the viability of Davis against the elite of the division such as Vasyl Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez, and Devin Haney.
Davis shouldn't have to worry about those three as they aren't affiliated with PBC and PBC is planning on taking Davis to pay per view next time against WBA junior lightweight champion and fellow protectee Leo Santa Cruz in a fight that should see the larger Davis as a prohibitive favorite in a pairing that few want to see.

The co-main was the fun fight of the evening as veteran light heavyweights Jean Pascal and Badou Jack slugged it out for twelve rounds for Pascal's minor title in what was a tale of two fights.
The early rounds were controlled by Pascal, who scored a knockdown in the fourth round, while the late rounds were dominated by Jack, who notched a knockdown of his own in the twelfth round, just missing finishing off the tiring Pascal, who gamely held onto the final bell and retained his minor belt via split decision.
I thought Jack's late rally slightly outweighed the early work of Pascal as I scored it 114-112 for Jack, but it certainly was close enough to go either way.
A rematch would be a good idea considering the ages of the fighters (Pascal 37 Jack 36), the quality of this fight and the lack of other light heavyweight contenders other than Marcus Browne (Pascal defeated Browne and Jack lost to Browne this year) who are connected with PBC makes a rematch very likely.

Journeyman Lionell Thompson made his move down in weight from light heavyweight to super middleweight a surprising success as the underdog upset former IBF champ Jose Uzcategui via unanimous decision.
Thompson scored a flash knockdown late in the first but was deducted a point for holding in the fourth to even the playing field.
Thompson managed to land enough jabs to keep Uzcategui at bay and pull off the victory, 95-93 on my scorecard.
Uzcategui continued against Thompson what he started in his title losing effort against Caleb Plant by giving away points via flash knockdowns and not throwing enough punches until late in the fight.

In the boxing challenge, I scored four points to Ramon Malpica's two on the card (the difference being the Pascal win) to boost my lead to 323-287.







No Celebrating in Fiesta- Ohio State season concludes

There were bad calls, there were worse calls, and there were wasted opportunities, but when you take all of these factors and add them up, the end result is a bitter defeat for the Ohio State Buckeyes in a 29-23 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

There is plenty of controversy and one play, in particular, has already cemented itself in Buckeye infamy, but there will be far more than one play that cost Ohio State this game
even when the scoreboard says differently.

Ohio State was led in defeat by J.K Dobbins, who rushed for 174 yards and a touchdown, despite playing the second half with an injured ankle and Justin Fields, who threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions including one in the end zone at the end of the game as the Buckeyes attempted to pull the game out.
Ohio State finishes the season at 13-1 and a Big Ten championship.
Next up for the Buckeyes will be in September as they start a new season against Bowling Green.

Olentangy Offerings

1) It wouldn't be fair to blame the poor officiating as the entire reason for the defeat of Ohio State.
There were many factors, but here is the top reason and above all- Three trips inside the Clemson eleven yard line and in each case, Ohio State settled for Blake Haubeil field goals.
J.K. Dobbins, for all of his courage and brilliance on this night, was a key party to these problems with one dropped pass in the end zone that was initially called a touchdown and was rightfully overturned and another that would have likely seen Dobbins score easily.
Score touchdowns on two of those possessions and some of the bad calls are irrelevant.
Score a touchdown on even one of those and the late drive that saw miscommunication between Justin Fields and Chris Olave end with a Clemson interception in the end zone could have been a conservative drive at that point as a Blake Haubeil field goal could have won the game.
For all that could be complained about with the officiating, the three red-zone failures are the number one reason for this loss.

2) Another play overlooked came in the first half when J.K. Dobbins broke into the open for the second of his long first-half runs.
Dobbins scored on the first, but on the second long jaunt, Dobbins was brought down at the eight-yard line.
Instead of Ohio State putting seven points up, they would settle for three.

3) J.K. Dobbins was the star of this game and another underrated reason for the defeat could be a late first-half ankle injury.
Dobbins passed Eddie George in this game to set the one season rushing record at Ohio State, so some history was made.
I give Dobbins so much credit for playing through the pain when it is very likely that he will declare for the NFL Draft shortly.
It would have been easy and some could say prudent for Dobbins to pack it in for the evening, but Dobbins gutted it out and played well despite the pain.
Still, the breakaway speed for Dobbins was understandably lacking in the second half and that was missing for the Buckeye offense.

4) Chase Young managed some hurries on Clemson passer Trevor Lawrence but didn't sack him.
Young finished his final three games (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Clemson) without a sack and he was battling double teams throughout each game, but could it be that the two-game suspension late in the season cost him sharpness and that he never returned to true elite form?
It's interesting to consider.

5) The game-ending interception was a mistake on Chris Olave's part and give Olave credit for taking the blame in the locker room.
Olave thought Justin Fields was scrambling around to make a play and Olave cut his route off to help Fields.
The problem was that Fields was not scrambling and he threw to where Olave was supposed to be and hit Clemson's Nolan Turner for the play that ended the season.

6) Now to the two calls that affected the game most and we will start with the second quarter targeting call on a blitzing Shaun Wade that cost the Buckeyes their second-best defensive back for the rest of the game and gave Clemson a first down rather than force another Tiger punt.
That was huge as that meant a 16-0 lead and the football with only a few minutes remaining in the half.
At worst, Clemson might have had one possession and let's say they score a touchdown there for a 16-7 lead.
Instead, Ohio State loses Wade, Clemson scores a touchdown on the drive rather than punt, and after a stop by Clemson, they score again for a 16-14 OSU lead at the break.
All of that as a result of a call that was not initially made on the field and one that the on-field officials did not ask to be reviewed- Yes, there was helmet contact, but let's look at physics here.
Trevor Lawrence is 6'6. Shaun Wade is 6'0.
Lawrence feels the rush and sees Wade coming in, but he doesn't have a receiver to dump the ball off to and he braces himself for the oncoming hit with a small dip as he prepares to absorb the shot.
As Wade prepares for the hit that was intended to hit Lawrence across the chest as he is supposed to, Lawrence, as noted above, dips down and the helmets do hit each other.
By the strictest (and I mean strictest) interpretation, it could be called targeting, but the referees don't call it.
Lawrence remains on the field briefly and while Lawrence is down, the officials are buzzed to say the play is being looked at and then the resulting penalty is called.
Lawrence misses one play, returns and shortly leads Clemson to their first score.
The hit was legit, but the officials see Clemson's star prone on the field and lead to a conclusion.
The game immediately swings.

7) Score when Shaun Wade leaves: 16-0 Ohio State and about to have the ball back.
Points scored after Shaun Wade leaves: 29-7.
It's a huge change in momentum of course, but it also changes what Ohio State could do with its defense without Wade.
It was without Wade that saw the few struggles that the defense had this season when he was injured and suddenly against the best team that they played on a very marginal call, Wade was gone.

8) I wrote about the targeting rule a few years ago, when it cost Joey Bosa his final game and even though the rule has been improved since then, it still needs more fine-tuning.
I still think intent needs to be added into the rule and I also still think that the player that is taking the hit and his movements needs to be considered as well.
The hit on Trevor Lawrence wasn't much different than the types that running backs take on every carry.
Want to keep the 15-yard penalty? Fine, but change the rules to two infractions before an ejection if the intent was not to make helmet to helmet contact.
If you are concerned that players won't take avoiding it seriously, change the rules to a ejection if a player has committed a certain amount of targeting penalties over a stated period of games.
It still needs work.

9) And the touchdown taken off the scoreboard was simply an awful call.
Justin Ross clearly catches the football, takes either three or four steps before Jeffrey Okudah strips the ball away and Jordan Fuller grabs the bouncing football and winds his way through traffic for a 29-yard touchdown and what would have given the Buckeyes the lead back at that time as well as made the difference in the final score.
This ridiculous "not a football move" is an ill-defined regulation that both the NCAA and NFL use needs to go away from the rulebook.
If you are shown to have possession of the football for two steps or more, that is a catch and therefore eligible to be a fumble.
How many games are being decided by these additions to rulebooks that aren't needed?
Ohio State certainly caused its own demise with the notes listed above, but they certainly deserved the luxury of a fair game being called.
I'm not buying the "ESPN" conspiracy theory that the network wanted "their" teams (ESPN owns pieces of both the ACC and SEC networks) to play each other, but it's certainly reasonable to look at the penalties and say the mistakes and importance called against Ohio State far outnumbered those of Clemson.


10)  One thing that did affect both teams was slippery grass and both teams ripped off big yardage on plays created by players slipping on the grass.
Wasn't the reason behind domed stadiums to create the fair playing conditions for the athletes and not allow the condition of the field to affect the result?
There is no reason for an indoor surface to have those problems and to have that enter into play for the most important game of the season needs to be addressed in the future.
If you want to have a game of this importance, the players deserve better.

11)  This didn't play into the result, but just as players need to play in big games to get used to playing in them, coaches need to gain experience as well.
Ryan Day made two decisions that I wonder about in the 4th quarter.
Up one after their fourth-quarter score with eleven minutes to go, Day kicks the extra point rather than try for two and if successful, go up by three points.
I get that by kicking the XP if you allow a Clemson score and two-pointer (which they did), a touchdown wins it and if you try for two and fail, a touchdown only ties it.
But you really let the critics in, if you would have lost on a field goal.

12) The other was with just over three minutes to go, Ohio State has a 4th and 4 on the Clemson 36 and Day decides to punt.
Drue Christman's punt is what Ohio State was looking for and is downed at the six, but what if Day goes for it?
Yes, a field goal beats you and you are giving them solid field position, but if you get it, at minimum, you are looking at a 49-yard field goal (assuming you don't lose yardage) and likely force Clemson to use timeouts.
I'm not saying that they should have gone for it, as I see a case for both sides, but it is something to consider.

13) However, if you are going to hit Ryan Day for not going for it on the next to last drive, you have to give credit for the 4th and one play call that saw Justin Fields throw to Chris Olave and take the lead.
That call took some courage and credit to Day for making it.

14) It's a disappointing loss because the game was there to be won.
The blown fumble is infuriating, but not the only reason for the loss.
Ohio State could have done one of many things that had nothing to do with officiating and won this game.
That's why it hurts, but Ohio State erased the 31-0 loss that happened the last time they played and proved that the best of the Big Ten can play with the Clemson Tigers and re-established themselves as one of the three-five best programs in the country.
I'm not huge on moral wins, but there was something proved- the National Championship was within reach and that is far more than many thought entering the season with a first-time head coach and picked to finish behind Michigan in the conference.
I thought they'd win the division and maybe the conference, but I thought that they would lose one game as they adjusted to Ryan Day and maybe even two with a bounce the wrong way, so they exceeded my expectations for the season.

15) There will be some top-notch players lost to the NFL and although players like Chase Young, J.K. Dobbins, Jeffrey Okudah, and Shaun Wade could return, I'd be shocked if they decided to stay.
Still, Ohio State will have one of the two pre-season Heisman favorites (Justin Fields and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence) and could have the best wide receiver corps in team history on offense.
The defense will lose some key members, especially in the secondary, but they should be more than fine, but Jeff Hatley's departure to take the head coaching job at Boston College means his replacement as the co-defensive coordinator with Greg Mattison will be a key hire for Ryan Day.
I'd suspect Ohio State will be in the top three in the pre-season rankings, maybe even first depending on losses on teams such as Clemson, Alabama, etc. so this isn't an aberration- it's more of the norm.
As disappointing as this loss is, I'm not disappointed in the season.
Perhaps a loss in this game next year, I could be.

Back later with the Browns finale, Showtime's boxing card from Atlanta and I'm still catching up on the inbox.
Look for all of those in the next day or two.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The final Boxing Challenge for 2019 will conclude the year with a three-fight card on Showtime.

The Showtime-televised card from Atlanta ( Every time that I think of Atlanta for an indoor event, I keep hearing Gordon Solie talking about the long-demolished Omni) will showcase one of the young stars that just needs a big fight to prove it as Gervonta Davis will take on veteran Yuriorkis Gamboa for one of those wonderful minor WBA titles.
Davis debuts as a lightweight against Gamboa, who has never been noted for an outstanding chin.
Gamboa might have a moment or two, but this shapes up as a bout that will show the best of Davis, who for all of his talent and ability has only defeated one top ten fighter (Jose Pedraza).
Davis is going to look spectacular, but I'm not sure what the win is going to prove or if we find out anything new about Davis.

Another minor WBA title to be ignored is on the card, but if the title is to be tossed aside the fight shouldn't be as it's an interesting light heavyweight battle between veteran former champions Jean Pascal and Badou Jack.
Pascal was thought by most to be a spent battery as he entered his upset win over undefeated Marcus Browne that cost Browne a shot at the true WBA champ Dmitri Bivol, while Jack hasn't fought since January when he lost a decision to that same Marcus Browne as Jack fought through one of the ugliest cuts that you'll see in any fight.
Boxing isn't one of those sports that you can safely say that Pascal beat Browne, who beat Jack, so therefore Pascal should beat Jack.
It doesn't work that way and this is a 50-50 fight.
Was Pascal's surprising win his final stand at 37? What does Jack have left at 36 ( Jack doesn't seem to be that old, but he turned pro late) and did the Browne fight find a weakness with Jack's skin at this stage?
Jack has a five-inch advantage in height, but only one inch in reach, but the key here might be Pascal charging in and clashing heads with the taller Jack.
When heads collide, the taller fighter is the fighter that usually cuts worse and I have a feeling that this might be a close, ugly, and sloppy battle.

The curtain-jerker will see the continuing comeback of former IBF super-middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui against Lionell Thompson in a ten rounder.
Uzcategui was upset by Caleb Plant in January and scored a first-round KO in Mexico in his only bout since.
Thompson has spent most of his career at light heavyweight and lost his biggest fights there to Sergey Kovalev and Edwin Rodriguez, but the variable is the drop to super middleweight.
Could Thompson be stronger at 168 pounds and if so, will he be able to up his game against a fighter in Uzcategui that seems to be a class above him in skill.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 319-285

Lightweights. 12 Rds
Gervonta Davis vs Yuriorkis Gamboa
R.L: Davis KO 5
TRS: Davis KO 6

Light Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Jean Pascal vs Badou Jack
R.L: Jack Split Winner
TRS: Pascal Split Winner

Super Middleweights 10 Rds
Jose Uzcategui vs Lionell Thompson
Both: Uzcategui Unanimous Decision






PPM

The PPM is back with the final week of the NFL season and more from the slate of college bowl games!

Last Week: 11-11
Overall: 152-65

College Bowls

Peach Bowl
LSU 36 Oklahoma 20

Fiesta Bowl
Ohio State 35 Clemson 34

Camping World Bowl
Iowa State 35 Notre Dame 27

Cotton Bowl
Penn State 29 Memphis 21

First Responder Bowl
Western Michigan 36 Western Kentucky 33

Music City Bowl
Louisville 28 Mississippi State 21

RedBox Bowl
California 35 Illinois 22

Orange Bowl
Florida 30 Virginia 21

Belk Bowl
Virginia Tech 40 Kentucky 24

Sun Bowl
Arizona State 24 Florida State 14

Liberty Bowl
Navy 36 Kansas State 32

Arizona Bowl
Wyoming 40 Georgia State 30

Alamo Bowl
Utah 28 Texas 26

Citrus Bowl
Alabama 34 Michigan 17

Outback Bowl
Auburn 36 Minnesota 22

Rose Bowl
Wisconsin 24 Oregon 21

Sugar Bowl
Baylor 38 Georgia 28

Birmingham Bowl
Cincinnati 35 Boston College 21

Gator Bowl
Indiana 26 Tennessee 24

Idaho Potato Bowl
Ohio 28 Nevada 20

NFL
Browns 17 Bengals 13
Saints 34 Panthers 20

Games of the Week
Seahawks over 49ers 28-26
Titans over Texans 30-27




Friday, December 27, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox: Passings-Football Edition

I have so many passings and inbox notes to sift through to catch up with, so the sad result is that there have been so many from the football world on its own that a post devoted to only football passings is needed.

Goodbye to Vaughn Johnson at the age of 57.
Johnson was one of the inside linebackers of the New Orleans Saints "Dome Patrol" defense that brought the Jim Mora Saints teams to prominence after years of being the worst team in the NFL.
Johnson was named to four Pro Bowls from 1989-92 with the Saints before finishing his career with the Eagles in 1994.
The odd part about the career of Johnson is that arguably his best season in 1993, his Pro Bowl streak ended even though Johnson notched his second-highest total in tackles with career-highs in sacks and forced fumbles.
I also remember Johnson from his days with the Jacksonville Bulls of the USFL and the Saints used their first pick in the 1984 USFL Supplemental Draft on Johnson (15th overall) to control the rights to Johnson after the league ceased to play in 1985.
Johnson would play four games for the Eagles in 1994 and his career was over.
Between a short career peak and playing as part of a linebacking group with one Hall of Famer (Rickey Jackson), another that has an excellent case for Canton (Sam Mills) and a third that was one of the top pass rushers in the game at the time (Pat Swilling), Vaughn Johnson has been overshadowed to a degree- he shouldn't have been.


Goodbye to Hayden Fry at the age of 90.
Fry was the head coach at North Texas, SMU, and most famously at Iowa from 1962-1998.
Fry's eleven-year time period at SMU saw him finish seventeen games under .500, although he did lead the Mustangs to the Cotton Bowl in 1966 as the SWC champions and which was the only title for SMU in the 33 years between 1948 and 1981.
Fry moved the then-named North Texas State Mean Green into Division I with winning seasons in all four of their seasons in D-I before moving to Iowa in 1979 for the final twenty seasons of his career.
The Hawkeyes were a Big Ten bottom-dweller that had not finished with a winning record in eighteen years, but in the third year of the Fry era, Iowa won a share of the Big Ten title and represented the conference in the Rose Bowl for the first of three trips to Pasadena under Fry.
Iowa would play bowl games in 14 of Fry's 20 years  (14 of his final 18) and established Iowa football as a perennial conference contender.
Fry is also credited with the idea of the famous pink visitors' locker room at Kinnick Stadium to relax the opposing team and was the inspiration for Craig T. Nelson's character name of "Hayden Fox" on the TV series "Coach".
Series creator Barry Kemp graduated from Iowa and named the character to honor Fry.
A final note on Fry- When he began his coaching career at Odessa High ( Texas), he taught (although did not coach) a young man in history class named Roy Orbison.
Mercy.


Goodbye to Fred Cox at the age of 80.
Cox, the straight-ahead kicker for the Minnesota Vikings from 1963-1977 and was Minnesota's placekicker for all four of the Vikings NFC Championship teams (or Super Bowl losers, if you so prefer).
Cox was an All-Pro in 1969 and when he left football, he was second only to Lou Groza in scoring in league history.
Cox might be more notable for a football note that didn't include his kicking career from 1972.
In that year, Cox was looking for a soft football for kids to kick and with a local partner, took a mold of a full-sized football and filled it with a foam-like material.
The pair then sold the idea to Parker Brothers and a little thing called the Nerf Football was born.


Goodbye to Pat Sullivan at the age of 69.
Sullivan won the 1971 Heisman Trophy as the quarterback for the Auburn Tigers as the first of Auburn's three winners (Bo Jackson and Cam Newton are the others) and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Sullivan spent four years with the Falcons, mostly as a backup after Atlanta selected him in the second round of the 1972 draft.
Sullivan was later the head coach at TCU for six seasons and brought them to two bowls before Sullivan's recruiting suffered after agreeing to accept the head job at LSU in 1994.
However, LSU refused to pay Sullivan's buyout and Sullivan would not pay it either with the result being LSU hiring Gerry DiNardo and Sullivan returning to TCU, where recruiting would take a hit as recruits believed that Sullivan was looking for a way out of Fort Worth.
Sullivan would later coach at UAB as an offensive coordinator and would lead 1-AA Samford for eight years.


Goodbye to George Atkinson III at the age of 27.
The son of the outstanding Raiders defensive back of the 60s and 70s, Atkinson played his college football at Notre Dame before playing in 2014 for the Raiders and the Browns in 2016.
Atkinson mostly returned kickoffs for Cleveland but in the season finale in Pittsburgh, Atkinson carried the ball seven times for 34 yards and a score and did so with such energy that I wondered why on Earth did Hue Jackson not use him as a runner before?
Atkinson was released by the Browns in the spring and would never play in the league again after failing in training camp attempts with the Raiders, Chiefs, and Jets.


Goodbye to Rusty Hilger at the age of 57.
Hilger was drafted by the then Los Angeles Raiders in the sixth round of the 1985 draft from Oklahoma State and would make 14 starts in the league, five with the Raiders in 1987 and nine more with the Lions in 1988.
Known for a strong arm, Hilger was interception-prone, finishing his career with 19 interceptions and only 11 touchdowns.
At Oklahoma State, Hilger led Oklahoma State to two bowl victories and in 1985, Hilger quarterbacked the Cowboys to the first ten-win season in Oklahoma State history on a team with running back Thurman Thomas.


Goodbye to Elbert Dubenion at the age of 86.
Dubenion was the final member of the original AFL Buffalo Bills to leave the team, having played for the Bills for the first nine of the AFL's ten seasons.
Dubenion played for the Bills 1964 and 1965 AFL champions as their deep threat at wide receiver, finishing 1965 with over eleven hundred yards in receiving yardage.
Dubenion caught 295 passes for Buffalo, 35 for touchdowns, averaged eighteen yards a catch for his career and holds the record for the longest reception in league playoff history when he caught a 93-yard touchdown from Daryle Lamonica in the AFL Eastern Division Final against the then Boston Patriots.



Thursday, December 26, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox

As I still attempt to clean things up after being so far behind, it's time to clean out most of the inbox!

We start with The Athletic and a lengthy oral history article on the 50th anniversary of the St.Bonaventure Bonnies and their run to the 1970 Final Four.
St. Bonaventure lost only one game in the 1969-70 season and won the East Regional, but lost their star center Bob Lanier in the regional final against Villanova to a torn knee ligament.
The injury to Lanier cost viewers a Lanier vs Artis Gilmore showdown at the Final Four as Gilmore's Jacksonville Dolphins would defeat the Bonnies on their way to a title game loss to UCLA.
Lanier would be the first selection of the 1970 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons and would eventually be inducted into the basketball hall of fame.
The article covers all four seasons of Lanier's time with St.Bonaventure and is very extensive in talking to all the key players of the time.

The Athletic returns with an article written by former major leaguer Lars Anderson on his attempt to use Adderall as a PED when he was playing in Japan.
Adderall is a drug used by baseball players legally only with a valid medical prescription and should you use it without one, a player would be eligible to be suspended.
Anderson, who writes an occasional article for The Athletic, writes about the MLB testing policies, the pros and cons of Adderall, and why it can help players, but not in a physical sense.
It's an interesting article from the players' point of view, which isn't often heard from other than when players deny the use of various outlawed drugs or in talks between baseball and the union.

Many times when writers from larger cities or even national media write about minor league baseball, they miss so many of the details because they already have decided the angle of their feature or they simply don't bother to dig into the facts and as a result miss so much of the actual picture.
I cannot say that about Washington radio station WTOP's website in their article about the campaign of MLB against minor league baseball.
The writer visited both Hagerstown and Frederick, talked to members of the front office of both the Suns and Keys, discussed the issues with fans, organizers of efforts to keep the two teams, and politicians that want to help teams stop the MLB barrage to eliminate 42 teams.
It's very well written and researched and is the type of article on the topic that you don't read very often.

The Athletic is back again with an article on Chris Petersen, who recently resigned from Washington after their Las Vegas Bowl win over Petersen's former school in Boise State.
The Stewart Mandel penned article talks about Petersen's rebuilding work with Washington, his role in building Boise State into its role as one of the group of five powerhouses, his work outside the game, and the grind of being a major college coach in the game today.
Petersen has been overlooked a bit as one of the better coaches in college football over the last decade and as I read more about Peterson the person, I'm not sure that we'll see him on the sidelines again.

The Detroit Free Press writes of the plight of former NHL star Joe Murphy, who lives on the streets of Kenora, Ontario, Canada after an NHL career that ended with what some believe will eventually be diagnosed as CTE.
CTE cannot be diagnosed until after death, so it is suspected and not confirmed in the case of Murphy, but the personality change, drug use, and a lack of life structure certainly point in that direction, especially when you discover that Murphy suffered from concussions many times during his NHL career.
Even if CTE isn't the eventual reason for Murphy's problems, there does seem to be some sort of mental illness issue with Murphy, who like so many in the homeless community, sees "angels and ghosts" and talks to people that aren't there.
Author Jeff Seidel traveled to Kenora and followed Murphy around to see what an average day is like and got a feeling for Murphy's routine or lack thereof.
Murphy was the first overall selection in the 1986 NHL draft by the Red Wings and played for seven teams, scoring 233 goals with his best seasons spent with the Blackhawks.

That cleans out the regular articles from the inbox, although sadly there are plenty of passings still to note.




Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to those of you that read this and I sincerely wish Happy Holidays for those of you that observe other traditions at this time of year as well.

I am in the middle of the process of dealing with the loss of my mother, but until the "life celebration" event that is in the planning is complete, I don't think that the gravity of this will sink in.

I've never lost a parent before, but when I talk to people that have (or have lost a spouse), what I consistently hear is this- the toughest time isn't immediately after, it's the time when the work is complete, the people bringing condolences are gone and that is when the hurt hits home.

Christmas has evolved for me through the years.
It's been something that I've enjoyed some times more than others and the most recent few years have been some of the best holiday seasons that I've ever had, but things have changed now.
December will now be marked with loss and although I can separate the good times from the bad, they will still be attached from this point forward.
I'm positive that there will eventually be a post where I write about my mom and who she was, but I'm not sure when that will be finished.
I've started a few drafts and worked on it a bit, but I haven't been able to get through it.
Trust me, I have feelings and emotions that extend beyond my own, so it has been difficult for me to write how I feel and yet do so honestly and fairly in a way that might not hurt or offend anyone else.
I hope when it is finalized, that it will show how I loved and cared about my mother, but will not idealize as well.

Enough about me, even though this is my space-Ha Ha!
Thank you to my family, my wonderful wife Cherie and my children Ryan and Rachel.
Your kindness and love help me get through every day and my dog Posey too.
I'm blessed in marriage as I realize that I have done far better than I deserve with someone like Cherie.
I'm not a person that gushes in "print" about the best this and the best that, but I know what I have in my family.
So many times you read people on Facebook bragging about their wonderful person in their life and two weeks later, calling them out for being a complete jerk that they can't stand.
I'd rather keep it on an even keel, but trust me, I see and I have seen.

Dogs are so terrific because of their unconditional love and their innate knowledge of their human to know just when they are needed the most.
All of our dogs (Posey is our fourth) have been different in their own way, but Posey's unique manner of showing her love for our family has been a very special addition.

I'm also thinking of all my friends and family as well.
It's self-serving to say there are too many to mention because doesn't that sound pretentious that I have SO many friends?.
Between the people that I have met from the minor league baseball/autographing world, the boxing people that I have met from Twitter and podcast appearances, and the people that care about the teams that I root for that I interact with on social media, I do have a decent amount of people that I enjoy talking with, even if it can be often centered on a common topic or interest.
Social media gets such a bad rap, but like any tool, it is only valuable when used properly.
I've met so many great people and so few trolls (Ironically, the trolls that I have on social media are almost always from people that know me from outside social media!) on Twitter that I don't think people look at the good side that it can have.

Finally, a few special thanks to the friends that are there when I need something to take my mind off things day to day and yet take the time to interact in various ways.
Thanks to my nephew Jeff, who always asks the questions of me that I love to answer and spin-off into interesting conversations.
Jeff's the only nephew that I really know well and through the years, we've become pretty close as more than uncle/nephew, but as friends.
It wouldn't be normal without noting Battlin' Bob, who it seems like I see once or twice a year with work schedules, but I "talk" on Facebook every day and who always makes me laugh!
Denise Nicarry is the "big sister" I've never had and no matter whether I am up or down, she's always making sure that I'm doing OK or not getting too self-important!
And it wouldn't be a normal day to not hear from Fred Landucci.
Fred is the type of friend that every person needs to have at least one in their lifetime and I'm not sure that I have been around a person that is as selfless in friendship as Fred has been to me.
It's also a pretty rare day that I don't hear from Mike Oravec either.
Mike always lets me know that I can call him anytime when I need to talk or deal with various things and I often do.
It can be comforting to have people that care about your well being with nothing to gain for themselves other than just knowing that I am OK.
I also don't want to miss the other person that I "talk" to almost every day.
I speak with Ian McArdle all the time about the Buckeyes, politics, and lord knows what else.
There is always something new to talk about and with Ian, it is high-level conversation that makes me think about a point of view and often times see a point that I might not have seen previously.

I'm sure I've missed more than a few people, it's early and I'm more than a bit hazy, so I truly apologize if I have missed anyone.
Trust me, I appreciate you all more than you know.
Now to one of my two (the list isn't long) Christmas standards- the Beach Boys "Little Saint Nick".




Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Giants Hot Stove

With all that has been going on of late, I have been lacking the time to catch up on the San Francisco Giants actions at the Winter Meetings.
I still have plenty from the inbox and still other things that I wish to write about soon, but before I fell too far behind, I wanted to finish this.

The San Francisco Giants biggest loss occurred after the Winter Meetings when Madison Bumgarner signed with fellow NL West member Arizona.
Bumgarner signed a five-year contract in Arizona worth 85 million choosing it over a four-year agreement to stay with the Giants that was competitive in dollars, but lacked the extra year that the Diamondbacks were willing to offer.

The Giants signed two pitchers to one-year contracts in an attempt to strike gold with pitchers that have disappointed in their chances in the majors.

Soon to be 30 year old Tyler Anderson started five games for the Rockies last season and didn't pitch well in his twenty innings as he finished with a record of 0-3 and an ERA of 11.76.
Anderson did strike out 23 in those innings if you are looking for a silver lining, but there isn't a lot of silver in those numbers.
After those five starts, Anderson was demoted to AAA Albuquerque, but his season was over, due to continuing knee problems.
Anderson was taken by Colorado 20th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft and Anderson has a career record of 18-24 with an ERA of 4.69.
Anderson will receive 1.75 million in base salary with a chance to take home another 850,000 dollars in bonuses.

Kevin Gausman will turn 29 before the season starts and the former 2012 first-rounder by Baltimore is the more interesting pitcher of the two signees.
Gausman split last season between Atlanta and Cincinnati, combining for a record of 3-9 between the two teams with an ERA of 5.72.
Gausman made 17 starts with all but one for the Braves, but also made 14 relief appearances for the Reds after he was claimed from the waiver wire.
Gausman was a disappointment for Baltimore, who took him fourth overall in 2012 from LSU, but still won 11 games in 2017 for the Orioles and combined for another ten wins between Baltimore and Atlanta in 2018.
Gausman's career numbers are 47-63 with an ERA of 4.30 and still throws in the mid-90s and if you are looking for the type of candidate for revitalization in a pitchers ballpark such as Oracle Park, Kevin Gausman could have the type of arm that might be a good fit.
Gausman is far more expensive than Anderson at nine million with a few performance bonuses, but Gausman is durable and doesn't miss starts, so I'm more comfortable at the cost for the former LSU Tiger.

There aren't many deals that are made to save "cap space" in baseball, since there isn't a true cap, just a "luxury tax", but give the Giants credit for making a trade that gained them a solid prospect for taking on salary.
The Anaheim Angels needed to save some cash for their signing of third baseman Anthony Rendon from the Nationals and considering that Rendon would be replacing Zack Cosart as the regular third baseman and Cozart was going to be making 12.6 million to sit behind Rendon, it only made sense for the Angels to try to find a place for Cozart.
The Giants became that place as they took Cozart and that 12.6 million commitment for 2020 in a trade to help the Angels out a bit.

It was not out of the goodness of their heart though as the Angels added their 2019 first-round pick in shortstop Will Wilson to the deal.
Wilson was the 15th overall pick from N.C. State, where Wilson hit .339 and 15 homers along with being named the ACC defender of the year.
Wilson was paid a signing bonus of 3.5 million by the Angels, so the Giants essentially added a first-round player for paying the final season of Cozart's overpaid contract.
The righthanded hitting Wilson hit  .275 with five homers in 46 games for Orem of the Pioneer League and considering his college experience, my guess is that he'll be assigned to High A San Jose, although he could go to Low A Augusta to start the 2020 season.


As for Zack Cozart, the Angels signed him to a three year, thirty-eight million dollar contract after the 2017 season.
Cozart had his best season in 2017 for the Cincinnati Reds, hitting .297 with 24 homers, but in two seasons in Anaheim Cozart hit only .190 with five homers in 96 games and last season Cozart played only 38 games without hitting a homer with a tiny average of  .124.
Cozart injured his left shoulder in 2018 and reaggravated it in 2019, undergoing surgery on the shoulder in both years.
At 34 and with injury problems, the Giants likely will either use him as a backup or could also decide that Wilson is more than enough of a return and release Cozart.

The Giants sent right-handed pitcher Garrett Williams to the Angels as the "return".
The 25-year-old Williams appeared in 29 games with 20 starts for AA Richmond last year finishing with a 7-8 record and an ERA of  3.60 in his second season with the Flying Squirrels.

Moving to the Giants in the Rule 5 Draft, the Giants took one player in the major league portion and another in the AAA portion.

In the major draft, San Francisco tabbed righthander Dany Jimenez from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jimenez is a 26-year-old righthander that split last season between the Blue Jays High A affiliate at Dunedin and then was promoted to AA New Hampshire.
Jimenez blossomed after the promotion with tremendous numbers of  2-2 with a 1.87 ERA with six saves and striking out 46 in 33 innings.
Jimenez sits in the mid to high 90's and has an excellent slider, but there are concerns about his command.
The selection of Jimenez is the second rule five pitcher in two years that San Francisco took from Toronto after picking Travis Bergen from the Blue Jays last year.
Bergen appeared in 21 games for the Giants before they offered him back to Toronto for $50,000, which the Blue Jays paid for his return.
Jimenez will have to stay on the Giants roster all season or the Blue Jays will have the chance to return him to Toronto for that fifty thousand dollar sum.


In the AAA half, the Giants picked catcher Bryan Torres from the Brewers organization.
The 22-year-old backstop hit .283 last season for the Rocky Mountain Vibes of the Pioneer League without a homer in 67 games.
The Caguas, Puerto Rico product stole a surprising twenty-one bases for the Vibes, which is a huge number for a catcher period, let alone in 67 games.
Could the Giants be considering a position change for Torres?
It's not often that a catcher has this type of speed and staying behind the plate is a good way to lose some of that speed fairly quickly.
I would imagine that Torres would be assigned to Low A Augusta, but should the Giants decide to change his position, Torres could be left behind in extended spring training to start the 2020 season.

Still so much more to catch up on, so stay tuned and enjoy the Holiday festivities,





Boxing Challenge: Rising Sun Edition

The Monday morning card from Yokohama, Japan didn't bring forth any surprises,  but it did bring some strong performances from the four favorites in their victories.

In the main event, minor middleweight beltholder Ryota Murata delivered a highlight film knockout of Steven Butler in the fifth round.
Give Butler credit-for an unproven fighter that had somehow risen to the top spot in the WBO rankings (Butler passed up a title shot against Demetrius Andrade to fight Murata), he tried hard, engaged, and won the first two rounds on my scorecard.
However, Murata was too big and strong for the Canadian and his superior power soon had Butler retreating and it seemed that the question was how does Murata win the fight rather than if he wins.
One crunching right sent Butler falling to the floor with the referee ending the fight without a count.
I'd like to see Murata against better fighters in 2020, but it appears as it'll be a contractually obligated third fight with Rob Brant and possibly Brazil's Esquiva Falcao, whom Murata defeated to win his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
Neither of those excites me very much, but that's the state of boxing today.

Moruti Mthalane defended his IBF Flyweight title with a ninth-round knockout of Akira Yaegashi.
Yaegashi, a former champion in three divisions, fought gamely but was to be outgunned by Mthalane, who turned up the heat in the seventh and eighth rounds before the stoppage late in the ninth when a battered Yaegashi wobbled to the ropes followed by the referee stepping in to end the fight.
The 37-year-old Mthalane doesn't appear to be your usual fighter of his age and even though I'm not sure where the money would come from for this, a mini-tournament between the four flyweight champions (Mthalane, Artem Dalakian WBA, Julio Cesar Martinez WBC, and Kosei Tanaka WBO) might be as much action as boxing could offer in three fights.

Ken Shiro kept his WBC junior flyweight title after knocking late substitute Randy Petalcorin out in the fourth round.
Petalcorin won the first two rounds off his back foot, but Shiro found the weak spot of Petalcorin in the third when three body shots produced three knockdowns.
The fight likely should have ended in the corner, but the fight continued into the fourth for a short time- which was the first time that Shiro again landed to the body and that ended the fight.
Petalcorin was a replacement for IBF champion Felix Alvarado, which lost the division a unification fight.
Shiro-Alvarado would be a good fight, but the biggest fight would be another unification fight against WBA champ Hiroto Kyoguchi in an all-Japanese unification event.

The comeback for former multi-divisional champion and a top pound for pound contender Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez began with an eight-round fight against Diomel Diocos.
Gonzalez had fought only once since his stunning KO loss to Srisket Sor Rungvisai in 2017, so this was a chance to get some work against Diocos, a journeyman that had only been stopped once in his career against the then-undefeated bomber Daigo Higa.
Gonzalez wouldn't work for many rounds as he finished Diocos in two, which was an impressive result, considering the solid chin of the opponent and the time spent away from the ring by Gonzalez.
Gonzalez still might need another fight to be ready for a potential title challenge, but he doesn't look to be outmatched by any of the champions at 115 pounds.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored seven points on the evening to move the overall numbers to 319-285.








Cavaliers trade Jordan Clarkson to Utah, Dante Exum to Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz for Dante Exum and two future second-round selections Monday night.

The 6'4 Clarkson is averaging 14.6 points off the bench for Cleveland in a sixth-man role and recently scored 33 points against Memphis on Friday night, so this could have been a sell-high situation on the 27-year-old former Missouri Tiger.
Clarkson will be a free agent at the end of the season, so Cleveland did well in getting something for him before an injury could have occurred that would have reduced his value.
Clarkson is shooting thirty-seven percent from the field and with Utah missing Mike Conley from their lineup due to hamstring issues, Clarkson should enter the lineup and receive starter-level minutes for the Jazz.

Cleveland's second-round picks obtained will be arriving from San Antonio (2022) and Golden State (2023) as the Cavaliers continue to add second-round draft picks, which rarely result in players but are often shuffled around in trades or used to take European players that will seldom play in the league but can still have value in having their rights moved around in trades.
The Cavaliers also traded four future second-rounders in the draft-day trade that allowed them to select Kevin Porter, so this allows them to recoup two of them immediately.

Dante Exum is an interesting player that was very highly thought of at one time but has seen his star dim.
Exum is averaging just two points a game in eleven games and at just 24 would appear to be a bust.
The Jazz selected Exum with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft and Exum has spent the last five years with Utah after being drafted from Australia.
Exum has suffered many injuries since turning pro, which includes a torn ACL that cost him the 2015-16 season and a shoulder injury along with a patella tendon injury that would limit Exum to only 56 games over the two seasons before this one.

Exum. the son of former North Carolina big man Cecil Exum was compared by some (Ok only Chad Ford)  to Kobe Bryant entering the year he was drafted, has been anything but as his shooting has been far from special and his many injuries listed above.
One thing that Exum that could excel with is his defensive game as he has a long wingspan for his size and is dedicated at that end of the floor, so at worst he's going to help as a rotational defensive player.
Exum is under contract for the remainder of this season and for the 2020-21 campaign, so he will have time to prove himself with the Cavaliers.

On the whole, I'm kinda "meh" with this trade.
Dante Exum is a candidate for a fresh environment and he would not be the first player that picked up his game after being a disappointment in his first pro stop.
I understand the second-rounders as a need after trading the four in the Kevin Porter trade, but I'm never excited with round two picks moving around in trades.
It always feels like you are moving around junk bonds to me.
I'm not sure that Jordan Clarkson could have fetched more than this from another team, but it feels a bit light to me for now.

Back later with yesterday's fights from Yokohama, Japan.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Indians sign Cesar Hernandez

The Cleveland Indians continued their running in place for the 2020 season as the Wahoos signed second baseman Cesar Hernandez to a one year contract to supplant long-time starter, Jason Kipnis, who was allowed to depart via free agency.

Hernandez agreed to the 6.5 million deal and should be a one year bridge for the Indians as they expect prospect Nolan Jones to settle in as the third baseman by 2021 with current starter Jose Ramirez shifting to second to accommodate Jones.
Hernandez batted .279 with 14 homers, 71 RBI and nine steals for the Philadelphia Phillies last season as their regular second baseman.
Hernandez hit 31 doubles, which along with the 71 RBI, were career highs, but it appears that the 29 years old ( Hernandez will turn 30 in May) has lost a step as his stolen base total tumbled from 19 to 9 and since he led the league in triples in 2016, those totals have dropped as well.
Hernandez is a switch-hitter (Kipnis is a lefthanded swinger) but hits righties best with 13 of his 14 home runs against righthanders.

Hernandez committed twelve errors last season in 157 games and had some notable early-season problems, but Hernandez isn't awful with the glove although he won't remind anyone of an elite defender.
Hernandez does have superior range to the slowing Kipnis and even though on the overall, Hernandez has a little less power than Kipnis, he'll at least equal his offensive numbers.

Cesar Hernandez wouldn't be my idea of a long-term stalwart at second but under these conditions where the Indians have a long term direction and require a one year bridge, Hernandez would fit the Indians needs of a decent second baseman without a long-term contract and semi-reasonable in cost.
In other words- about the best that you could hope for from a stopgap player.


Bullied by Baltimore, Browns bounced 31-15

The Cleveland Browns played 28 excellent minutes in the first half and suddenly bad clock management, inaccurate passing and a shocking inability to cover Mark Andrews allowed the Baltimore Ravens to score two touchdowns in the final two minutes without any timeouts to turn a 6-0 lead into a 14-6 deficit.
Baltimore dominated from there and took a 31-15 win to clinch home field in the playoffs for Baltimore and another losing season for Cleveland.
Baker Mayfield threw both of the Browns touchdowns but finished with under 200 yards passing for the afternoon.
The now 6-9 Browns will finish their disappointing season next Sunday in Cincinnati against the one victory Bengals.

Brownie Bits

1)  The key to this game was those two minutes when the Browns allowed Baltimore to score two touchdowns in the final two minutes without any timeouts remaining.
Both drives covered lots of yardage, weren't caused by a fluky turnover and were essentially caused by an inability to cover Baker Mayfield's best friend in the tight end, Mark Andrews.

2) On both touchdowns, Andrews was so wide open that the problem had to be either a blown coverage or a miscue by Damarious Randall.
The first saw no Browns even remotely around Andrews and I'm not sure I couldn't have run into the end zone.
The second saw Browns players around Andrews, but Randall watched the ball fly over his head without even a jump and Mack Wilson was behind Andrews like he was attempting to protect the Dawg Pound.

3) Why did Baltimore have time for the second touchdown?
Because Freddie Kitchens called three pass plays (all incomplete) and allowed a team with no timeouts to conserve clock.
I'm understanding of the first two passes, but a simple draw on third down would have taken the clock down to nil and Baltimore would have likely kneeled.
Inept.

4) And then the setup for the first touchdown.
With the Browns having a 3rd and 1, Kareem Hunt is hit for a loss of eight yards.
Kitchens said the plan was to try for a big play and then go for it on fourth and one.
Ok, I might buy the big play portion, but why Hunt throwing the ball rather than Baker Mayfield?
Hunt may be a more accurate passer. but he is still a running back and to make that play work, he has fake the run and be able to stop behind the line and then throw.
The play is set up for a big play, but the pure schematics of the play make sizable losses possible.
If you were counting on a 4th and one, why a play that could result in a loss?

5) I'm trying hard to not mention more inaccurate passing from Baker Mayfield.
So, I'll just leave these two numbers here- 5.8 yards per pass attempt and a season passer rating of 79.7.
That rating places him a solid 31st of 32 passers ahead of only the quarterback that the Browns will face next week- Andy Dalton.

6) The other passers in the first round of the Mayfield draft and their ratings?
Lamar Jackson (3rd), Josh Allen (22nd), Sam Darnold (23rd) and Josh Rosen ( hasn't thrown enough passes to qualify), so the numbers are mixed.
Even putting Jackson aside, Allen is taking his team to the postseason and Darnold has gone .500 since returning from illness with a team that has Robby Anderson as its top weapon with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Baker Mayfield? 19 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with a team with Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt as receivers and Nick Chubb running the ball.
I'm not giving up hope, but Mayfield's performance this year is what I expected when the Browns selected him with last season being the surprise.

7) I still cannot explain the decision to try for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
The Browns have cut the lead to 24-15 on Baker Mayfield's pass to Odell Beckham (a well-thrown ball, by the way) and an Austin Seibert extra point cuts the lead to eight.
That's a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game with eight minutes remaining, but still one possession.
Instead, the Browns go for the two, fail and are down nine points with two possessions needed to lead.
It was irrelevant as Baltimore would kick a field goal in their next drive, but it's just bad coaching at that point in the game and I've yet to see any reason that you would try for two when you know with a failure that you will need two possessions.
I know Austin Seibert missed an extra point earlier, so it was not guaranteed, but you have to cut that to one score in that situation.

8) The Ravens did a nice job in controlling Nick Chubb as he finished with only 45 yards on 15 attempts, but once again the Browns had large periods where they didn't involve Chubb in the offense.
Seven carries in the first half that saw them leading 6-0 for most of the half?
Not enough.

9) Baker Mayfield wasn't sacked, so that's a positive for the offensive line, but he was still pressured plenty of times off the edge and Greg Robinson had a very bad day at left tackle.
The Browns should use their first-rounder on a tackle, get the best veteran tackle that they can add through free agency and draft another tackle early on the third day of the draft.
That's the number need for this team.

10) The Browns were eliminated from playoff contention.
The Browns needed three things to happen (as well as a win over Baltimore) to stay alive.
The needs were Titans and Steelers losses and a Colts win and just as last week, all the other teams lost and the Browns could have stepped up with a win.
Just as last week in Arizona, everything happened but a Browns win.

11) The Browns 6-9 record is the same as three other teams (Atlanta, Denver, New York Jets).
There are five teams with seven wins currently (Oakland, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay), so a win could drop the Browns even farther down the line.
Currently, the Browns would pick between 10th and 13th depending on tie-breakers, but a win could see the Browns picking as high as 18th with a 7-9 record.
Of the 6-9 teams, Atlanta will play at Tampa Bay, Denver will host Oakland, and the Jets will visit Buffalo.
Should the Browns lose to Cincinnati, they could fall into the area of the tenth pick.




Sunday, December 22, 2019

Boxing Challenge

A special boxing challenge from Yokohama Japan from ESPN+ takes place at 4 AM with three of the top Japanese boxers in two title fights and a former pound for pound favorite returning to the ring.

The main event pairs middleweight Ryota Murata defending his minor title against Steven Butler of Canada.
Murata looked great in July in avenging his surprising loss to Rob Brant with a two-round pummelling of the Minnesota native.
Murata means big crowds in Japan and a victory could perhaps see some top middleweights ( even though all four champions at the weight aren't affiliated with Top Rank) interested in a large purse to fight Murata in Japan.
Canada's Butler is taking a major bounce up the competition ladder against Murata, who is the best opponent that he has fought, gave up the WBO's mandatory position for their champion Demetrius
Andrade to take on Murata.

WBC light flyweight champion Ken Shiro defends his title against Randy Petalcorin of the Philippines.
The exciting Shiro is the latest at 16-0 from Japan to dominate the light flyweight division.
Petalcorin lost in his last fight to IBF champion Felix Alvarado in seven, but steps in as a replacement for Alvarado in the fight that was initially planned to be a title unification fight.

Moruti Mthalane will put his IBF flyweight championship up and against Akira Yaegashi.
Yaegashi has held the minimum, light flyweight, and flyweight titles in the past, but has fought only twice in the two and a half years since losing in one round to Milan Melindo.
Mthalane of South Africa will be facing the best fighter of his career in the third defense of his title.

Eight rounders usually don't make the boxing challenge, but when you have a fighter that once held a top-five position in the pound for pound rankings, you notice and make exceptions.
Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez returns after a 15-month layoff following a fifth-round KO of Moises Fuentes.
The Fuentes fight is the only fight for Gonzalez since his stunning knockout loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in August 2017, so Gonzalez has fought just once in twenty-eight months.
Opponent Diomel Diocos is a journeyman at 14-5-3 but has only been stopped once by Daigo Higa, who once was one of the most exciting stars in the lower weight divisions.


Middleweights. 12 Rds
Ryota Murata vs Stephen Butler
R.L:  Murata KO 9
TRS: Murata KO 6

WBC Jr.Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Ken Shiro vs Randy Petalcorin
R.L: Shiro Unanimous Decision
TRS: Shiro KO 8

IBF Flyweight Title. 12 Rds
Moruti Mthalane vs Akira Yaegashi
Both: Mthalane Unanimous Decision

Junior Bantamweights. 8 Rds
Roman Gonzalez vs Dionel Diocos
R.L: Gonzalez KO 6
TRS: Gonzalez Unanimous Decision

Boxing Challenge: Charlo rallies past Harrison

The rematch between Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo appeared to be the opposite of their first fight.
Charlo seemed to have won their first battle and the judges saw it differently-scoring for Harrison.
In the rematch, other than a second-round flash knockdown, it was Harrison appearing to be winning and yet the judges had Charlo leading on the scorecards.

However, this time the fighter that didn't deserve to be ahead made sure that his hand was raised as Jermall Charlo dropped Tony Harrison twice in the eleventh round, survived California Athletic Commission members entering the ring after the second knockdown and win back the WBC junior middleweight title that he lost one year ago.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Charlo fight without a small dab of controversy somewhere and this one was more than the CAA entry, it arrived from referee Jack Reiss, who gave every chance for Harrison to survive the two knockdowns when it could have been arguably easy to end the fight and instead ended it just as Harrison seemed to be regaining his senses a bit.
I didn't think it was an awful stoppage by Reiss, but it seemed like he tried to allow Harrison the opportunity to fight through adversity as a champion should and just as he was turning the tide, the hassock was placed in his way to trip over.

I had Harrison up by two points entering the eleven and had he avoided the second-round knockdown in a round that he was winning (giving Charlo a 10-8 round in a round that was going to be scored 10-9 for Harrison), could have had the fight well in hand on my scorecard with two rounds to go.
That takes nothing away from Charlo, who took advantage of Harrison moving less than in their initial faceoff and caught him to take away much of the controversy that was looming from the judges, but while I would think a third fight is eventually in order, I would think that a three belt unification is next for Charlo with WBA/IBF champion Julian Williams, while it wouldn't be a bad thing for Harrison to pair with another former champion Jarrett Hurd and attempt to avenge Hurd's past win over Harrison.
Those two fights together would give the Charlo-Williams winner a natural opponent for their first defense and one capable of winning the three titles.
PBC is deep at 154, but I'm not sure there is a standout among Charlo, Williams, Hurd, Harrison, Erislandy Lara, and Erickson Lubin.
However, it's a unique situation as it seems that almost any of these fighters are capable of beating the others, can make interesting fights with almost any combination, and the victorious champion may come down to the style that suits a particular fighter, not that any of this group is above the others overall.

However, the Charlo brothers don't make themselves easy to root for and this win wasn't an exception as Charlo commented that he "dominated" (he didn't) and that he was off to bigger and better things (which is reasonable but could have been far more gracious in victory).
The Charlo brothers have so much to prove ( between them they have only Jermall's win over Julian Williams over a top guy) still, but when you only want to fight once or twice a year and only one is against a Harrison type (lower end of the top ten ), the chances of becoming a true star dim.
It's tough to claim "Lions Only" when the best opponents are usually a notch or two lower on the food chain.

The PBC delivered a fun night of boxing on Fox with the other challenge bout as heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba knocked out trialhorse Iago Kiladze in a surprisingly captivating scrap in five rounds.
The power-punching former Nigerian Olympian dropped Kiladze in the second and appeared to be on his way to be knocking Kiladze out for the fourth time in his last five fights in the third round as Kiladze was rolling around the ring as if he was wearing roller skates.
Ajagba backed off as if he was expecting either Kiladze to drop to the floor or the referee to move in and end the fight.
Neither of those happened and as Ajagba moved forward to finish what seemed to be a foe on his last legs, Kiladze launched a right hand that sent Ajagba crashing down to the canvas!
Ajagba didn't appear seriously hurt, but it was enough to allow Kiladze to survive the round and the following fourth.
Ajagba knocked Kiladze down again in the fifth round with a right that sent Kiladze crumpling to the mat that could have seen the end of the fight, but Kiladze continued and still attempted to fire those counter rights to keep Ajagba honest, but as he was trapped along the ropes it was the corner of Kiladze that jumped to the apron and allow their man to end the fight honorably and on his feet.
Give Kiladze credit for making such a strong attempt at winning and Ajagba continues his learning curve as a prospect.
Ajagba has plenty of power, but he is still very raw and after being knocked down by a blown-up cruiserweight, it's not an unreasonable concern to wonder about the eventual quality of his chin when he starts taking shots from contenders rather than journeymen.

The other fight on the entertaining PBC evening wasn't a boxing challenge event, but it allowed me to watch one of my most enjoyable things in boxing- An unknown fighter brought in as an enhancement talent to lose to a hot prospect doesn't and pulls an upset that not only is fun to watch but dismays the promotion as well.
Former U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas was stopped in six rounds by Mexico's Rene Tellez Giron in a fight that was notable for several reasons other than the obvious upset.
The fight was often spent toe to toe that saw both fighters score well, but Balderas seemed to be the stronger and bigger boxer for the first two and three-quarters rounds.
Near the end of the third, Giron's left hook dropped onto the jaw of Balderas and sent him flying to the ring surface in what seemed to be a spectacular KO.
Surprisingly, Balderas was able to get up, but he was clearly buzzed and the fight should have been called as referee Joe Corona asked Balderas to walk to him (he couldn't), Balderas stumbled backward.
Corona instead allowed the fight to continue and the bell shortly clanged saving Balderas, who gained even more time when he drilled Giron extremely low early in the next round.

Here's my problem with the non-stoppage- it can be argued that Corona heard the thump sound on the mat to indicate there were ten seconds or less in the round and that allowing Balderas to continue and give him the minute between rounds to recover was appropriate.
That would be a fair argument and even a good one- If that standard was usually followed by referees that far more often stop fights in that situation than allow the fight to continue.
However, it usually isn't used properly and fights are ended and in all honesty, if the situations were reversed and it was Giron in that spot and not the heavily PBC invested Balderas, do you really believe that Giron would have been allowed the chance to continue?
I doubt it.

Balderas (with the aid of the low blow) did manage to recover and exchange pretty evenly for the next few rounds of the eight-rounder with Giron.
I still had Giron well ahead on the cards and, with this being boxing, I was already wondering just Giron was going to be screwed on the scorecards against the better-connected fighter when yet another left hook smacked against Balderas and sent him to the floor again.
This time, Corona decided to end the fight and the upset was complete.
The other fun part about watching these types of upsets?
If you watch enough boxing, you have to be familiar with the "face of PBC" Sam Walton ( no, not THAT Sam Walton), who appears in someone's corner for every PBC fight and for PBC fighters in their rare inter-promotional fights, as a one-man support squad,
At first, when Al Haymon appeared on the scene with Floyd Mayweather at HBO and began to accumulate power in the sport, I thought Walton WAS Al Haymon!
That is how often you see the face of Sam Walton when you view PBC events and when you have the chance to see Sam's head down and face frowning, it's a sight to see!

From London, heavyweight prospect Daniel DuBois knocked out Kyotaro Fujimoto in the second round of their scheduled ten rounder.
DuBois knocked Fujimoto down with a jab in the second and after Fujimoto managed to get up, DuBois ended the fight quickly with a piledriving right hand that was over before Fujimoto hit the floor.
DuBois didn't prove much in this squash match other than that he might be ready to see an increase in resistance from his opponents.
There are plenty of questions that DuBois needs to answer as he rises up the rankings, but the power isn't one of those.

In a WBO eliminator, middleweight Liam Williams impressively disposed of Alantez Fox in five rounds in what might put him eventually in the path of WBO beltholder Demetrius Andrade.
Williams won every round against the 6'4 Fox, cutting him early, knocking him down in the fourth, before badly hurting Fox in the fifth.
The desperate Fox was penalized a point for holding but was soon sent wobbling into the ropes and the fight was stopped thereafter.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored five points on the day to change the season numbers to 312-276.