Sunday, October 20, 2019

Hughes scores first goal in 1-0 win!

The New Jersey Devils received one goal from their future franchise player and perhaps their goaltender of the future made that one goal held up as the Devils began that thing known as a winning streak with a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks at the Rock.

Jack Hughes (1 power play) took a Taylor Hall pass in the first period and zipped it by Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko for the only goal of the game and more importantly the first of Hughes's career.
Mackenzie Blackwood finished with 25 saves in earning the shutout for the Devils.
The Devils now have six days off before their next game at home against the Arizona Coyotes.

Hell Raisers

1) You had to feel good for Jack Hughes to score his first career goal with lots of family and friends in attendance and his brother Quinn, who happens to play for the Canucks.
Hughes had a few near-misses on the season, but expectations are always high for top overall picks and you can't blame Hughes for pressing a bit.
Still, you can see just how good Hughes can be and how the Devils can build on his shoulders.

2) Ordinarily, the biggest news of the day would have been the Devils signing of their other top overall pick of recent years to a long-term contract, if not for the win and its circumstances.
The Devils signed Nico Hischier, the first overall pick in 2017, to a seven-year contract worth over fifty million.
Hischier would have become a restricted free agent at the end of this season, but the signing not only locked Hischier up for more than just his restricted years and at what could prove to be a reasonable cost.
Hischier is currently out of the lineup with bruised ribs that are not thought to be serious.

3) Mackenzie Blackwood was very good in net with several saves that saved the Devils bacon.
I'm not sure why Blackwood has been criticized so much for a young goalie that doesn't have a great defense in front of him, but I suppose that's part of a losing fan base.

4) Andy Greene returned from injury to the lineup.
Greene played over 21 minutes in his return, 3rd among the six defensemen.

5) I really liked the fire from Mirco Mueller, who jumped in and exchanged a few swings with the Canucks Brandon Sutter.
It wasn't much of a fight, but both players were given five for fighting.
It was the Devils' first fighting major of the season and it doesn't seem like the pace will pick up soon, but kudos for Mueller for jumping in and helping a teammate.

6) The NHL schedule makes zero sense.
The Devils played four games in a week, take six days off before playing Arizona and then take another five days off.
After that, the team plays seven games in ten days.
Who makes this stuff up????

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Beterbiev hammers the Nail

I had high hopes for the light heavyweight unification matchup between WBC king Oleksandr Gvozdyk and IBF standard-bearer Artur Betebiev and even though it wasn't a war similar to the Golovkin-Dereyvanchenko fight, it had plenty of exchanges and more than its share of action.

In the end, it was the overwhelming strength and thudding power of Beterbiev that ground down "the Nail" and stopped him in the tenth round as referee Gary Rosato waved the fight off after the final of three knockdowns in the round.
The fight was still close on the scorecards as two of the judges had Gvozdyk ahead, one by three points and the other by a point, with the other scoring Beterbiev ahead by one point.
I had Beterbiev ahead by three points (6-3 in rounds), but almost every round except the ninth could have been given to either fighter and I wouldn't take issue with any scorecard.

Beterbiev rocked Gvozdyk several times throughout the fight, but Gvozdyk had his share of moments as well, as Gvozdyk had excellent rounds in the sixth and eighth.
The eighth was Gvozdyk's final push as he seemed to be giving ground to the persistent pressure of Beterbiev and near the end of the ninth, Beterbiev landed a big right that seemed to puncture whatever remained of Gvozdyk's will and as Gvozdyk came out of his corner, he resembled a fighter that knew he didn't have enough to hold off Beterbiev.
Gvozdyk gamely tried, but his legs were gone and three knockdowns caused by several crushing right hands ended the fight.

For Beterbiev, the next time out isn't one that will be thrilling any fans as he fights his IBF mandatory against undefeated and unknown Meng Fanglong of China.
Fanglong won an eliminator against Germany's Adam Deines via unanimous decision to earn the title shot, but Deines hadn't defeated anyone of note either and Deines knocked Fanglong down in their fight, so it's unlikely that the former Olympian would be able to handle the power of Beterbiev.
Bob Arum said that fight would likely be held in China in January to move that obligation out of the way for what is hoped to be another unification fight with WBA champion Dmitry Bivol to give the winner three of the four titles in the spring or summer.
Bivol is a promotional free agent, so if Bivol wants that fight, he'll be able to make it.
The WBO title will be the hardest title to win as champion Sergey Kovalev is required to fight a rematch with Canelo Alvarez, should he defeat him in their fight in two weeks and should Canelo win that fight, he would be extremely (You can even capitalize if you like) unlikely to face Beterbiev.

I've been on the Beterbiev bandwagon for five years after a blazing start to his career, but he was hampered by promotional issues ( mainly that his promoter Yvon Michel, who was associated with PBC, and Al Haymon didn't want their guy Adonis Stevenson to have to defend his title against Beterbiev, so they put Beterbiev on ice) until finally getting clear to move to Top Rank.
Beterbiev might be the biggest puncher in the game, only Deontay Wilder gives him a run for the money for that title, and his punishing, grinding style demands that you make a choice- stand and fight and take your chances with his power, try to box and pray you are durable enough to last twelve rounds of pain as you are pursued.

For Gvozdyk, his career isn't over after one loss and there are plenty of top fighters in the division with Top Rank for Gvozdyk to return to the top as he could fight Gilberto Ramirez, Eleider Alvarez, Jesse Hart, or even Sergei Kovalev, depending on the result of Kovalev's fight with Canelo Alvarez.
The biggest question will be can Gvozdyk recover from a loss that saw him beaten, time will tell if it has broken him.

The co-feature saw Kudratillo Abdukakhorov win a unanimous decision over Luis Collazo after the fight was stopped with under a minute remaining in the tenth round after heads collided and caused a huge cut over the left eye of Collazo, who was seriously dazed by the impact.
It wasn't a great bout, but I had Abdukakhorov the clear winner 98-92 in what will officially be a technical decision.
Abdukakhorov entered the bout as the mandatory contender for WBC/IBF champion Errol Spence for the IBF and risked that status in fighting the veteran Collazo, which he should be applauded for gambling the title fight so they can stay sharp and give himself the best chance to win that fight.
Not enough fighters do that and when they finally have the opportunity to fight for the championship, they haven't given themselves the best chance to win it.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica five to two, with the difference earning three points from the Artur Beterbiev victory to push my lead to 249-215.

Ohio State continues to roll- Crushes Northwestern 52-3

The Ohio State train kept rolling in Evanston, Illinois as the Buckeyes crushed Northwestern 52-3 as the Buckeyes scored 24 points in the second period to cruise to a win.

Justin Fields threw four touchdowns, two of those to Chris Olave and J.K Dobbins ran for 121 yards including a 68-yard score.
Master Teague added a 73 yard run for a touchdown in garbage time for Ohio State, who moved to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten with the victory.

Ohio State should finally receive a test next week against fellow unbeaten Wisconsin, who also has crushed all opposition without response.
Next week's game in the Horseshoe should be a good one.

Olentangy Offerings

1) Northwestern had often given the Buckeyes all they wanted through the years under Pat Fitzgerald, but it was clear from the first possession that this Wildcat team wasn't doing that.
Ohio State marched down the field and scored a touchdown to start the game and after the teams exchanged punts, Northwestern made their only sustained drive of the night and moved to the Buckeye fifteen-yard line.
On fourth down and three, Northwestern had a choice and took the three points.
It would be their only points of the game, but it essentially ended the game- If you want to beat this Buckeye team, you better be ready to throw caution to the wind and gamble on every scoring situation.
Touchdowns and lots of them are going to be the way of beating them because there won't be defensive struggles.

2) My high point was the 55-yard thump by Blake Haubeil at the end of the first half to place an exclamation point on a 24 point second quarter.
It made little impact on the result, but the fact that if the Buckeyes ever need a long field goal, Haubeil has established that at least he has the leg for it.

3) J.K. Dobbins continues to pass players on the all-time rushing list with his 121 yards against Northwestern moving him two rungs up the ladder.
Dobbins passed Braxton Miller and Beanie Wells and enters the top five runners at Ohio State.
Dobbins needs 151 yards to pass Tim Spencer for 4th and 365 yards to move by Eddie George for 3rd.
I would imagine that 151 yards against the tough Badger defense next week would be a tough go, but with Rutgers and Maryland after the Badgers, I would be surprised if Dobbins isn't sitting in third before the final two games against Penn State and Michigan.

4) That Wisconsin game might have Heisman ramifications as three candidates are playing in the game.
Ohio State's Dobbins and Justin Fields combined with Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor are the Big Ten's top hopes and even though all three will have a rough time winning the Heisman, a huge game could vault one into contention.
In any event, whoever has the better game between Taylor and Dobbins is likely to be the favorite for the Doak Walker award for the nation's top running back.

5) Is it just me or is Ryan Field little more than a larger high school field?
Between the long grass and the setting, the place really comes across as a facility not befitting the Big Ten and has to be the worst in the conference.
I suppose this is coming to mind because of the ridiculous idea of Major League Baseball to revamp the minor leagues, which I'll write about on another day, but still not a great place to visit.

6) The Ohio State defense held Northwestern to under 200 yards in offense and kept their string of keeping offenses under 300 yards intact at seven or every game that they have.
Wisconsin will likely break that string and if they don't, then the Buckeyes have had a terrific game against the Badgers.

7) The play of the game was Justin Fields dodging Wildcat pass rushers, stumbling around the field, but managing to keep himself upright before finding K.J. Hill for a first down on a third and fifteen.
Fields may not have the speed of a Braxton Miller, but Fields is the type of athlete that combines size and speed that Ohio State hasn't seen at quarterback since Terrelle Pryor and I like Fields arm better than Pryor.

8) With the victory, Ohio State officially avoids the upset road loss to a Western division team that bit them the last two seasons.
Northwestern is the final road game against the West and even though Wisconsin visits the Buckeyes, I would not call that an upset and if so only a mild one since the game is in Columbus.

Finishing a little early on this one as I need to work on the Beterbiev-Gvozdyk unification tilt, which was as good as I had hoped for!

Editor's Note: What the hell was with Northwestern's uniforms?
They don't have gold in their colors at all, so I'm guessing this was an attempted psych out attempt since black and gold are the colors of both Purdue and Iowa for their past upsets.
Looked really bad to me.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge is short and sweet this week with only two fights on Friday night and on ESPN, but what a fight it should be!

In Philadelphia, two pieces of the four title light heavyweight puzzle will become one in as even a fight as one could sign in boxing today as WBC light heavyweight king  Oleksandr Gvozdyk will face the IBF champion in the division in Artur Beterbiev.

Gvozdyk is facing his first test after knocking out long-time champion Adonis Stevenson out of boxing to win his title, although he did make his first defense in a squash match against Doudou Ngumbu, winning by a fifth-round knockout.
Beterbiev might be the biggest puncher in the division and has made two defenses of his title, the last one being a fifth-round KO of Radijove Kalajdzic in May.
Gvozdyk is the better boxer and better all-around fighter, but Beterbiev has such a huge punch and he simply walks fighters down and punishes them.
There are a few variables in this fight as well.
Both are undefeated and they met in the amateurs with Beterbiev winning by knockout, so who knows if that will come into play in Gvozdyk's psyche'.
And could the severe injuries that Gvozdyk inflicted on Adonis Stevenson affect his ability to finish an opponent, should he have the opportunity to do so?
I can see this going to either man as Gvozdyk can outbox Beterbiev and Beterbiev has been knocked a few times, so a knockout is very possible.
However, I can also see Beterbiev landing his clubbing and destructive shots that slow Gvozdyk and stop him in the middle to late rounds.
No matter your choice, this one is a fight that I am very excited about and hopefully, Ohio State will have Northwestern safely tucked away in one of those cash-grab Friday games in the Big Ten so that I can enjoy the fight.

The co-feature will see veteran welterweight Luis Collazo returning against undefeated Kudratillo Abdukakhorov.
The 38-year-old Collazo has won three in a row since his 2015 loss to Keith Thurman, where he had to retire after badly hurting Thurman, while Abdukakhorov is undefeated, but Collazo will be a huge leap in quality for Abdukakhorov, so it'll be interesting to see how he deals with that.
The winner could be line for WBO champion Terence Crawford next year unless Top Rank can find the big fight that Crawford has been looking for.

Unification WBC-IBF Light Heavyweight Titles 12 Rds
Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs Artur Beterbiev
R.L: Gvozdyk Unanimous Decision
TRS: Beterbiev KO 10

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Luis Collazo vs Kudratillo Abdukakhorov
Both: Abdukakhorov Unanimous Decision


The PPM is back with the full slate of football predictions and with Ohio State stuck on Friday in the Big Ten give us the check game of the week, the PPM arrives a bit early!

Last Week: 10-3
Overall: 63-24

Ohio State over Northwestern 45-13
Boise State over BYU 31-21
Houston over Connecticut 35-16
Texas Tech over Iowa State 30-27
LSU over Mississippi State 42-20
Washington over Oregon 27-26
N.C. State over Boston College 20-16
Central Michigan over Bowling Green 32-24
Middle Tennessee State over North Texas 28-25
Georgia Southern over Coastal Carolina 45-35

Games of the Week
Utah over Arizona State 23-17
Penn State over Michigan 24-14

Saints over Bears 21-17

Game of the Week
Seahawks over Ravens 34-24

Devils finally breakthrough, defeat Rangers 5-2

The New Jersey Devils finally broke through as the final team in the National Hockey League to taste victory as they defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 at the Rock.

Devils goals to Blake Coleman (3),
Nikita Gusev (3), Kyle Palmieri, (3 power play), Miles Wood (1), and P.K. Subban (1 empty net).
Mackenzie Blackwood finished with 29 saves in net for the Devils in victory.
The Devils will host Vancouver on Saturday afternoon at one o'clock.

Hell Raisers

1) It's a miracle!
The Devils scored on the power play when Kyle Palmieri popped in a second-period goal after a faceoff win.
The power play had been punchless all season and even though Palmieri's goal was the only score in seven attempts, it's still nice to be off the goose-egg for the season.

2) Jack Hughes didn't score his first goal, but he did score his first point when his attempted redirection of a Matt Tennyson shot smacked off the rump of Miles Wood and into the net past Alexandar Georgiev.
Hughes is going to have his struggles, but I have a feeling that once he gets rolling, the points will come in bunches.

3) Nikita Gusev is a defensive liability and it seems that every time I wonder about those problems, Gusev pulls something out on the offensive end that makes me think he's worth it.
In the third period and in the Rangers zone, Gusev stripped the buck from the Rangers big free-agent addition Artemi Panarin and looked to be setting up for a pass.
The Rangers thought so as well and attempted to take away the pass, but in one motion without stopping, Gusev swiped the puck between the legs of Alexandar Georgiev,
As the old TV show Facts of Life once sang- sometimes you take the good with the bad.

4) I hadn't noted it as it occurred after the loss to Florida, but the Devils sent assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald down to the bench to assist John Hynes.
Fitzgerald (I would assume) will work with the special teams and as noted above, New Jersey scored their first power play goal of the season, but the Devils also shut down the Rangers power play, keeping them off the board in six chances.
That's all well and good, but I still have a suspicion that Fitzgerald is also evaluating the coaching staff to be prepared if a change will be in order sometime during the season.
Fitzgerald might even be a dark horse to become the full-time coach if the team would make that change.

5) Taylor Hall didn't appear on the scoresheet except for six minutes (two were given for a lost challenge) in penalties, but his hit on Adam Fox not only sent Hall to the box but Fox to the locker room.
Hall didn't seem to make especially hard contact with Fox's head, but he did hit him high and left his feet to do so and that's a call that officials will make almost every time.

6) You won't see the name Matt Tennyson often on scoresheets, but Tennyson finished the game with two assists despite not really doing much offensively to earn them.
Tennyson did intercept a Ranger pass to earn the secondary assist on Blake Coleman's goal and it was his shot that wound up bouncing off Miles Wood and into the net.
It's always pretty nice when guys that rarely score or are journeymen reach the points sheet.

7) I thought Mackenzie Blackwood played well in net.
Blackwood may not have been spectacular, but he stopped what he needed to (in other words, no soft goals) and was as good as he had to be.
In my opinion, one of the top storylines of the Devils season is this- Can Mackenzie Blackwood show enough to be considered the Devils goaltender of the future?
Cory Schneider still has two years remaining on his contract, so it's not an emergency to replace Schneider now, but a line of succession would be a good idea.

8) Pavel Zacha played well without a point, but he almost had one with Alexandar Georgiev needing to make a nice save against him.
Zacha is developing into a solid two-way player and if he can get his offensive game going, Zacha will be a dangerous player.
It's funny that entering the 2015 draft, Zacha's defense was what was questioned most and in the NHL the opposite has proven to be the case.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

I tell ya' Herbie

I tell ya' Herbie is back with some weekly thoughts on the college football world.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          Officiating is often blamed for losses at every level of football, but at times blame is more than warranted.
Take last week's game between Texas Tech and Baylor at the home of the Bears in Waco.
The visiting underdog Red Raiders have battled the Bears to overtime with Baylor getting the ball first.

Baylor's center snaps the ball off his own rump and the ball falls to the turf, which Texas Tech recovers,
This would have given Tech a huge advantage as they would only have to kick a field goal to win the game, but instead, the referee ruled the play dead with an illegal snap penalty on Baylor.
This is a mistake as if the snap is continuous, it cannot be a dead ball.
Baylor would win the game 33-30 in double overtime.
Who knows what Tech would have done with their possession, but they had a lot going for them if the referee would have made the correct call.
But, Texas Tech did receive one of those apologies from the league, so I guess that makes it OK...

I tell ya' Herbie:
                         There were a few games of importance that were high scoring and exciting last Saturday with LSU's win over Florida and Oklahoma topping Texas, but those games were seen on national television for anyone to watch that chose to do so, but the game of the day was exiled to the new ACC Network that many fans don't have.
Wake Forest entered the game undefeated and ranked and hosted 3-2 Louisville.
In a game that saw each team move up and down the field and seemingly scoring with every possession, Louisville dropped the Demon Deacons 62-59 and the really interesting part?
It ended in regulation.
Usually, college football's overtime ends in an inflated crazy score (one of the reasons that I prefer the NFL version that uses the entire field), but a score like that in regulation?
It was a rare time that I felt like I missed out on an ACC game worth watching!

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          Another interesting note was from the television aspect as CBS, which has first call on SEC games, chose top-ranked Alabama's game vs 24th ranked Texas A&M over the battle between 5th ranked LSU and 7th rated Florida.
The Tigers and Gators game was given to ESPN with the second choice of SEC games and the Worldwide Leader was rewarded with their highest-rated game of the last two seasons.
Even though the Aggies were ranked, they were a sizable underdog and the LSU-Florida game was one that fans were excited about seeing, so the CBS decision had to be about the Saban factor or maybe even the Texas market, but even before the ratings were in, it seemed that CBS had chosen the wrong game.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                           South Carolina's upset of Georgia between the hedges could have a major impact on the four team playoff when that time comes, but the Gamecocks aren't finished with having a say on the bigger bowls and it's not only for their season-ending game against Clemson.
South Carolina hosts Appalachian State on November 9th and with the Mountaineers now ranked at 24th, Appalachian State's visit to Columbia stands as the largest roadblock for an undefeated season.
Appalachian State defeated Louisiana-Lafayette last week in a rematch of last year's Sun Belt title game and looks to be too much for the remainder of their schedule, barring a slip-up until visiting South Carolina or their Sun Belt title game opponent.
Here is where that could get interesting. If Boise State loses one game, would the title committee in deciding who gets the group of five bid, take an undefeated Appalachian State over a one loss Broncos or a one loss American champion?
It's interesting to think about as if Applachian State defeats South Carolina, they would have two Power Five victories over South Carolina and North Carolina, which would be more than Boise State or any potential American champion except Temple, who holds wins over Maryland and Georgia Tech.
Would that be enough to put a Sun Belt team in?

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          We wrap with another note on Friday football from the Big Ten or as we call it- Cash Grab Friday.
Despite being unpopular with the schools as well as their fan base, the Big Ten is still collecting dollars from their television partners and this Friday, they gave FS1, who televises their games, one of their bigger fish in the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Between a national fan base, their number four ranking and the talented Justin Fields, FS1 had to be salivating for the Ohio State appearance, but as so often happens when you do things only for money, things go awry.
The Wednesday rainout of game four of the ALCS, shoved games four and five to Thursday and Friday, which was originally planned to be a travel day now had a scheduled game.
With Fox starting a relationship with the WWE and it's Smackdown program, Fox didn't want to bump the McMahon gang, so they reluctantly needed to place the ALCS on FS1 and bump the Ohio State-Northwestern to the Fox-affiliated, but lesser carried Big Ten network.
I'd feel bad for these parties, if they weren't so greedy to start with.

2019 Hagerstown Suns- The Pitchers

I've already written that I was less than underwhelmed by the position players for the 2019 Hagerstown Suns, but the pitchers do have some players with promise and I think that at least two of them are headed for big things soon.

2018 second rounder Tim Cate was tremendously polished in his 13 Hagerstown starts with a 4-5 record and an ERA of 2.82.
Cate did come from the college ranks (Connecticut) but didn't turn 22 until the season was completed, so for a college player was a little younger for the level.
Cate struck out 73 in 70 innings and only walked 13 before a promotion to High A Potomac where he posted similar numbers (7-4 3.31 ERA 66 SO and 13 BB) in the same thirteen starts.
I love that Cate doesn't walk many and the only caveat is that college pitchers that throw strikes (Especially lefties) can really thrive in low and high A, so Cate will have to prove himself to be more than an advanced college pitcher ahead of young hitters, but I think he's capable of doing well as he progresses.
Cate should start next season at AA Harrisburg.

The Nationals top draft pick in 2019 arrived in August and in six starts (27 innings) Jackson Rutledge struck 31 and allowed only 14 hits and an excellent stint in the Hub City.
Rutledge, a hard-throwing right-hander from San Jacinto junior college, overmatched SAL hitters with four pitches that made me think of the time that Lucas Giolito spent in Hagerstown,
The 6'8 Rutledge turns 21 just before Opening Day and it wouldn't stun me, under the right circumstances, to see him make an appearance on the big club's roster in September.
It would take the perfect draw to have that happen, but even considering it shows how highly I thought of Rutledge.
Rutledge will more than likely start with High A Potomac/Fredericksburg, but if they wanted to challenge Rutledge right away, he could start at AA Harrisburg.

Francys Peguero pitched well, although it didn't show up in his record (2-8), but Peguero finished with a 2.95 ERA and walked only 19 in 91 innings before a promotion to Potomac where he would split time between the rotation and bullpen.
Peguero was a bit old for the SAL (turned 24 in October) and didn't strike out a lot (80) of batters.
The number one stat that I rank highest for a low A pitcher is strikeouts per inning as if pitchers aren't striking out batters there, those numbers generally don't rise as the competition improves.

Joan Adon didn't pitch as well as Peguero by the numbers (3.86 ERA 90 K, 44 BB in 105 innings) other than in the win-loss column (11-3). but he's more of a prospect in my eyes.
Adon spent the entire year with the Suns, starting 21 of his 22 appearances in his first full-season campaign.
Adon only pitched in seven games at short-season Auburn in 2018, all in relief.
Adon didn't turn 21 until late in the season and he has a whip-like arm motion that you see pitchers have lots of success with, but not a lot of long term durability.
Adon didn't strike out as many as you would think a pitcher with his stuff should, but with some refinement and polish, Adon might be the rare pitcher where things click into place at higher levels and suddenly dominates.
I wouldn't bet on this happening, but if you are looking for a dark horse prospect, keep Adon in mind as he starts next season at High A Potomac/Fredericksburg.

Reid Schaller arrived in mid-season to make 12 starts after Tim Cate was promoted and the 2018 third-round selection from Vanderbilt performed reasonably well.
Schaller finished 4-3 with a 3.29 ERA, struck out 47 and walked 22 in 52 innings, but batters hit only.205 against him.
I would have liked to have Schaller strike out more, but he's not a finesse pitcher and Schaller did miss the early portion of the season with an injury, so the reason could have been getting into shape as his strikeouts picked up over his final five starts in which he allowed only four earned runs.
Schaller will turn 23 in April and like Jackson Rutledge will likely start with Potomac/Fredericksburg with a slim chance of beginning with AA Harrisburg,

Jake Irvin was the Nationals 4th round selection in 2018 from Oklahoma (Insert full Keith Jackson voice here) and although you couldn't tell from his won-loss record (4-4 in each half), it was a tale of two seasons for the former Sooner.
Irvin's ERA was over five in the first half and under three in the second with batters hitting forty-five points less against him in the second half as well.
Irvin struck out 113 in 128 innings, which is decent, but not outstanding, but at 6'6 and 220 pounds, Irvin has a chance to fill out a bit which could help the fastball a bit.
Irvin will start in High A Potomac/Fredericksburg in 2020.

Tomas Alastre had his second disappointing season in the Hagerstown rotation finishing with a season almost exactly as 2018 as only his strikeouts improved (37 higher in only four more innings pitched) with another ERA over five in twenty-plus starts.
Alastre still turns only 22 in June, so he's not out of time yet and should return to Hagerstown for a third try at the SAL, but they could start him at High A if they are aggressive with moving others to Harrisburg.

Jackson Stoeckinger was the only other Sun to make ten starts as the Suns' swingman with Stoeckinger making nineteen appearances in relief and leading the team in saves with five.
The 2017 twelfth rounder did improve his statistics from his 2018 campaign in Hagerstown but would have to take a major leap in 2020 to be considered a prospect.

The relievers portion of the post will only discuss players that pitched in at least ten games for the Suns.

Aaron Fletcher established himself as a prospect with a future as a left-handed reliever in a season that saw Fletcher pitch for three teams in the Nationals system before being traded to Seattle.
Fletcher struck out 28 in 28 innings with the Suns with an ERA of 1.61.
Hitters only hit .149 against the former Houston Cougar in his 15 appearances before a promotion to Potomac where his numbers were even better in twelve appearances there.
Fletcher made five appearances for AA Harrisburg before the trade to the Mariners, who assigned him to AA Arkansas.
Fletcher turns 24 over the winter but seems to have a chance to make it in someone's bullpen by 2021.
Fletcher will likely start back at AA Arkansas, although he might have a chance to move to AAA Tacoma with an impressive spring.

As well as Fletcher performed, Matt Cronin was even better after arriving in Hagerstown in July.
Cronin allowed only two earned runs in his twenty-two innings for an ERA of under one and an impressive forty-one strikeouts.
The fourth-rounder from Arkansas did what you would hope a college pitcher would do in the SAL and then some, but even with that consideration, Cronin's numbers were impressive.
Cronin's time reminded me of 2015 when Koda Glover stomped all over the league in his draft year and was pitching for the parent club in the next season.
I wouldn't be stunned if that happened again.

Christian Vann was dominant as well as he finished with an ERA of 1.57 and 28 strikeouts in 28 innings.
Vann did walk 16 and control for a reliever is a mild concern, but the 2018 25th round draft pick was surprising after struggling in the GCL after being drafted.
Vann will start at Potomac/Fredericksburg and could wind up being the closer with the Nationals.

Angel Guillen's ERA wasn't as strong as the players mentioned above, but 3.38 is still pretty good and I loved the K's (73 in 62 innings),
Guillen continued his fine year with seven good games in Potomac.
Guillen should start at High A next season but could be an early callup to AA Harrisburg with a good start.

Ryan Tapani was another swingman for the Suns, pitching 14 games in relief and starting five games/
The son of former big leaguer Kevin, Tapani struck out 73 in 65 innings which is a plus, but he is slight of frame (listed at six foot, but I'd say 5'10), was hit hard in nine games at Potomac after being promoted and turns 26 in June,.
Tapani will likely return to Potomac, where he seems to be organizational soldier material more than a prospect for now.

Jhonatan German pitched well at three places (Hagerstown, Potomac, and Harrisburg) and might have placed his name into relief consideration for the future if he can repeat the numbers again in 2020.
Hitters hit just. 209 against German, but he'll have to pick the strikeouts per inning up at AA Harrisburg in order to reach prospect status.
German turns 25 over the winter, so we'll see.

Chandler Day was a player that I thought would run through the SAL after being drafted from Vanderbilt in the eighth round in 2018.
Instead, Day spent the entire season in Hagerstown, finished with an ERA over four and hitters hit .279 against him and he averaged less than a strikeout per inning.
Day will move to Potomac/Fredericksburg, where he'll have to improve over his Hagerstown term.

2017 tenth rounder Trey Turner's ERA was a bit high at near four, but Turner struck out 35 in 21 innings and hitters only hit. 215 against him.
Turner's issue is control, walking 14 and keeping the ball up in the zone.
The arm is intriguing and I'd like to see Turner given a shot at High A next season.

Two 2016 college draftees were old for the level but pitched well.
Jacob Howell had the lower ERA (2.67 to 3.84), but Ryan Williamson struck out 61 in 61 innings.
Howell was hit hard in a late-season stint with Potomac, while Williamson spent the entire year at the Muni with the Suns.
Both will be 25 next season, so they'll have to perform well for High A Potomac/Fredericksburg to stick around the organization.

Former Michigan State Spartan Alex Troop returned after an injury-shortened 2018 and in eleven games finished with a 2.18 ERA and struck out 34 in 33 innings after making the transition to the bullpen.
Hitters batted under .200 against Troop, so it'll be interesting to keep tabs on him next season.
Troop will turn 24 during the 2020 season, so he'll need to move quickly.

Jared Brasher, a 2017 8th rounder from Samford, pitched well in 18 games (1-1 2.77 ERA) in his second year in Hagerstown but was released in July.
I'm not sure why that happened as his numbers were better than others on the staff and while he was a bit old for the level (24), I didn't see why the release had to happen when it did.

The rest of the pitchers pitched less than ten games, but one worth mentioning was Carson Teel, who pitched three games from the Hagerstown bullpen before a promotion to Potomac.
Teel doesn't miss a ton of bats and his test will come at AA Harrisburg, where he started a playoff game for the Senators. taking the loss in a 12-5 loss to Bowie.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Browns dump Austin Corbett

The worst pick of the John Dorsey era is finally in the books and off the roster as the Cleveland Browns have realized that where you were drafted only gives you exalted status for so long before you actually have to prove that you can play on the field.

After giving Austin Corbett a chance to play tackle, guard, center and maybe even replacing Swagger as the dog that runs out on the field (Swagger actually is being replaced by another dog at the next home game, no word on whether being a dog of a draft pick qualified Corbett for that position), John Dorsey finally realized that if Austin Corbett couldn't make the active roster each week for an offensive line that won't remind anyone of the 1975 Cardinals, continuing to carry him because he was a high draft pick was no longer feasible.
The surprising part was finding someone willing to give anything for him and Dorsey found someone in the Los Angeles Rams, who sent the Browns their fifth-round pick in 2021 for Corbett.

I realize a fifth-round pick two years now isn't much for a player that was the first pick in the second round only a year ago, but considering what Austin Corbett delivered on the field, a fifth-rounder that isn't a conditional pick is more than I expected to bring back for Corbett.
Of course, they did trade with the Los Angeles Rams, who apparently are being run by the ghost of George Allen considering how they are sending draft picks all over the league. so that could have been a factor in getting a Corbett trade finalized.

Austin Corbett was drafted to be a tackle on either side, the Browns virtually handed him the right guard job after trading Kevin Zeitler and he couldn't come close to winning it, which forced the Browns to go with journeyman Eric Kush and trade for Wyatt Teller from Buffalo and finally made him the backup center and hope he could perhaps replace J.C. Tretter, if the Browns can't sign Tretter, who has been the best lineman this season for them, at center.
Corbett couldn't do that either and as bad as both tackles (Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard) have been, the neon light is flashing when the Browns are bringing in every lineman that is looking for a job down to Torso Bob to attempt to shore up the offensive line and yet the name Austin Corbett was never mentioned as a possible solution.

Players don't always live up to expectations and general managers miss on draft picks.
But this was a big miss and had Dorsey not connected on a home run with Nick Chubb a few picks later in the second round, the misstep with Corbett would have loomed larger and been an even larger topic of conversation with the fans and Cleveland media.
Meanwhile, the 2018 draft that we were dazzled by just a year ago, doesn't look nearly as strong,
Baker Mayfield has been generally bad at quarterback and Denzel Ward continues to be hampered by injuries on one corner.
Corbett has been traded and even though Nick Chubb has been great at running back, Chad Thomas is playing this year but has been nothing special, Antonio Callaway had a drug suspension with the now-infamous dropped TD at San Francisco and Genard Avery looked to be a day three steal last season, but he hasn't been active once this season and appears to be a bad fit for the Steve Wilks defensive system.
What appeared to be a draft to remember for years to come, has changed to one filled with questions other than Nick Chubb in six games.
Those questions can be answered easily for some (Denzel Ward getting healthy), possibly for others (Baker Mayfield dealing with the " book" defenses have on him, Antonio Callaway improving on and off the field) and with more difficulty for others (Chad Thomas breaking out of the defensive line rotation and Genard Avery getting on the field at all), but they can be answered.
The answer on Austin Corbett though is clear- he was a huge bust.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

2019 Hagerstown Suns-The Hitters

The 2019 Hagerstown Suns once again were a non-factor in each of the South Atlantic League's two halves, but the low A affiliate of the Washington Nationals did provide a few interesting prospects to follow as they rise through the system.
The problem is that all most of those were on the mound and very few at the plate, so this is not going to be the most upbeat post for the Nationals and Suns fan to read.
However, hang in there, because in the second part of the series when I write about the pitchers there are many more that perhaps could hold a chance at prospect status over the next few seasons.

K.J. Harrison was obtained from Milwaukee late in the 2018 season in a trade and as a college player (Oregon State) and a 3rd round pick in 2017, Harrison being assigned to low A for the second year was a surprise to many.
Harrison's sixteen games in Hagerstown showed that he was far above the level as he hit over .400 with two homers before a deserved promotion to High A Potomac.
Harrison didn't hit as well there with 11 homers to go with a .244 average.
Harrison struck out 98 times, but I did like the 51 walks.
I'd think Harrison would start at AA Harrisburg, but a return to Potomac/Fredericksburg is possible with a hoped-for fast start to move him quickly to AA.

My favorite prospect with the bat was 6'5 third baseman Drew Mendoza, who was the Nationals third-rounder this season from Florida State.
Mendoza hit .264 with four homers in 201 at-bats after skipping short-season Auburn and being assigned straight to the Suns.
Mendoza played a little at first and might wind up at first in the long term, but his average would have been higher, if not for a two-week slump in August.
Mendoza does have to work on contact as he struck out in 57 of his 201 at-bats, but I think he'll hit for power and looks the part of a possible breakout performer next season.
Mendoza is likely to start next season at High A.

Gilbert Lara was the other half of the 2018 trade to arrive from the Brewers with K.J.Harrison and like Harrison, I was surprised to see him in Hagerstown.
Lara didn't hit for average (.249) in his 81 games at Hagerstown before receiving the call to High A Potomac but did hit nine homers to show some pop and he hit four more in his 50 games or so with the P-Nats.
Lara played mostly shortstop for the Suns, but played some third as well and is now listed as a third baseman on his MILB webpage.
Lara still will be only 22 to start next season, but I have a feeling next year will be a pivotal season for him and it should start back at High A Potomac/Fredericksburg.

Nineteen-year-old catcher Israel Pineda was the highest-rated young prospect entering the season with the Suns, but he missed a chunk of time and in his 101 games, he struggled to a .217 average with over 100 strikeouts.
The good news for the Venezuelan was his seven homers, but the Nationals likely expected more after an excellent 2018 with Auburn.
I would return him to Hagerstown, considering his age, but he may go to High A by default unless the Nationals acquire a journeyman to catch there.

The final player that I found interesting was 2019 sixth-round shortstop Jackson Cluff from Brigham Young, who like Drew Mendoza, skipped Auburn to go straight to Hagerstown.
Cluff's average wasn't great at .229, but the interesting part was the power with eighteen extra-base hits with five homers and five triples.
Cluff could return to the Suns or possibly start in High A, where at 23 he's a better fit for the Nationals.

Outfielder Jacob Rhinesmith made the SAL all-star team (as did Gilbert Lara) but never received a callup to High A.
Rhinesmith's season was a tale of two halves as he hit over .300 in the first but with only one homer.
The power improved in the second as he hit nine longballs, but his average dipped to a mere .229.
Rhinesmith finished at .264 and his ten homers, 64 RBI all led the team (he was also second in steals with 18), but he'll turn 24 in May and I'm not sure if he rises above AA unless he shows more next season when he starts in High A.

That's about all as far as even moderate prospects to watch.
I'm keeping the players in the next tier to those that played more than 20 games in Hagerstown which only eliminates Gage Canning, who was promoted to Potomac after ten games.

Outfielder Justin Connell played the second-most games in Hagerstown but hit only .249 and three homers in 120 games.
Connell played the season at 20 years old, so he's not without hope to develop.

Third baseman Cole Daily hit a punchless .251 with just nine extra-base hits (all doubles) in 71 games.

Utilityman Phil Caulfield hit four homers in 35 games and might be one of those players that the Nationals can use as a fill-in player at any level of the system.
Caufield will be 25 to start next season, so he'd have to surprise in 2020 to reach prospect status.

Kyle Marinconz fits the same profile as Caulfield except he's a year younger and played over 100 games for the Suns.
Marinconz finished with an average of .247 with five homers on the year.

Omar Meregildo missed most of April and was promoted to Potomac after 29 games.
I mentioned Meregildo last season as someone to watch after a somewhat interesting 2018, but his combined numbers of .230 and eight homers have cooled my interest a bit.
Meregildo's still only 22 and I wouldn't write him off yet, but he'll have to pick up the pace next season where he could return to High A or even possibly try AA in Harrisburg if the Nationals feel racy.

Cody Wilson hit only .215 with five homers in 77 games and struck out roughly a third of the time.
Wilson did lead the team in steals, so he might have a chance to stick around as a journeyman minor leaguer.

The same could be said of Armond Upshaw, who hit the same .215 in 62 games and stole 18 bases in his second tour of Hagerstown duty.

Infielder Trey Vickers hit .204 in 83 games with three homers.

Two more young Venezuelan players struggled in small sample sizes.
Nineteen-year-old outfielder Ricardo Mendez struggled to a .194 average in 23 games without a homer.

Infielder Jose Sanchez hit a paltry .181 with only two doubles in 37 games before an injury.
Sanchez was returned to Auburn after he recovered.

Catchers Nic Perkins and Tyler Cropley in 100 combined games, didn't hit a homer between them and hit around the Mendoza Line (Perkins .209 Cropley .187).
Both will play next season at 24 and are organizational soldier types.

First baseman Jamori Blash began the season as the starter but hit only .190 with two homers in 21 games before being assigned to the team's Florida base and wasn't heard from after that.

Juan Pascal hit .181 in 23 games with all of his hits (13) singles.
Pascal can play second or third but has now had 2 short stints with the Suns, not hitting well in either.

I'll work on the pitchers later this week and there are some players that are worth keeping tabs on.

Another lead choked away-Devils clawed by Panthers

The New Jersey Devils started stronger than in any game this season other than their blazing start and collapse in their opener at home against Winnipeg in a day game against the Florida Panthers with four consecutive goals after Florida scored sixteen seconds into the game.
And then the Winnipeg parallels continued as the Devils allowed five goals in a row to Florida and allowed the Panthers to leave town with a 6-4 win.
Four Devils scored their first goals of the season in the defeat-  Jesper Bratt, Will Butcher, Taylor Hall, and Pavel Zacha.
The still winless Devils will return Thursday night against the New York Rangers at home.

Hell Raisers

1) The worst news from the loss wasn't the loss as Nico Hischier left the game in the first period and did not return.
No word on the injury or how serious the injury is at this time, but any missed time would be a huge shot to an already reeling team.

2) The powerplay struggles continued for the Devils as, despite their four goals, the Devils didn't score in any of their three chances with the extra man.
Not sure what the answer to that problem is, but one idea could be placing Taylor Hall, Jack Hughes, and Nikita Gusev on the same unit and see if all that firepower can make anything happen.
I'm not saying that works any better than anything else, but at this point, I'd try anything.

3) Matt Tennyson made his NHL debut after being called up from Binghamton to replace Andy Greene after Greene was placed on the IR
Congrats to him, although I didn't see very much from Tennyson to think of him as any more than what he is- a replacement call-up type.
In other words, walk, don't run for your Matt Tennyson Devils jersey.

4) Pavel Zacha finished with a goal and two assists, so that's a good game on the offensive side for Zacha.
Zacha was also seeing some top-six line time as well, so I guess Zacha's OK with John Hynes for a game or two.

5)  I just don't have much more in me.
Not the watching, the loss in such spectacular fashion and this wasn't to Winnipeg, a solid team, it was the Florida Panthers, a team that has struggled in recent seasons.
To lose like this again, where everything just went up in flames (not the Atlanta or Calgary kind), I just feel numb and you shouldn't feel that way less than two weeks into a season.
I haven't seen a team go up in flames like that since Jim Cornette set fire to Ronnie Garvin's face and just have nothing else to say.
See you guys, Thursday against the Rangers.

Monday, October 14, 2019

It takes a village-Browns lose to Seattle 32-28

As much as fans like to blame one play, player, or call for losing a game, the truth is that it takes many things or as Hillary Clinton once wrote- It takes a village.

And that village took several awful factors, tossed them into a bowl, stirred strongly, and the result was a 32-28 loss for the Cleveland Browns against the visiting Seattle Seahawks in Cleveland.

Nick Chubb rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns while Baker Mayfield threw for 249 yards and a touchdown along with a rushing touchdown, but threw three interceptions on the afternoon.
The Browns will take a 2-4 record into the off week before traveling to Foxboro and the New England Patriots.

Brownie Bits

1) Let us start with the obvious- the officiating was awful.
Missing several calls that could have made a huge difference in the game, they were milk that had been left out in the sun for a week bad.
Jarvis Landry's touchdown run that was called a fumble was bad.
Yes, Landry fumbled forward, but watch the replay- the football is in Landry's hand against a Seattle defenders hip and where is that hip?
Standing on the goal line!
The Browns would not score on that drive, so you take six points away in a game lost by four.

2) An even worse call was Jarvis Landry being called for a blindside block on a play that
A) he never hit the player from the blindside and
B) Landry was bracing himself for the hit from the Seattle player.
That call didn't impact the game, but a brutally terrible call.

3) The final call was borderline, but still inept.
Morgan Burnett charged into the backfield against a scrambling Russell Wilson, who threw the ball away, but Burnett's reach and takedown were ruled to be a horsecollar tackle.
The standard for a horsecollar tackle had been extended in the offseason from the neck roll to the nameplate and even though I didn't think that Burnett actually grasped and ripped Wilson down by the nameplate, I could see the call, it was close.
What I take issue with is the time taken to decide the call as the teams were in their huddle when the flag was thrown- if you aren't sure for that amount of time, then the flag shouldn't have been thrown.

4) All of that said, there were plenty of reasons for the Browns can blame no one but themselves for the loss and let's start with Freddie Kitchens himself.
The glaring mistake- with the clock running down and the ball ready to be snapped, an instant before the play ran (at full speed), Kitchens threw the challenge flag on the above Landry play.
As noted above the mistake by the officials in not ruling that Landry broke the plane aside, Nick Chubb cruised through the Seattle defense into the end zone, only to see the play invalidated.
The referees botched the call and Kitchens decided to go for the seven points again.
I didn't have a problem with that and had the Browns kicked a field goal instead, it would not have impacted the final result.
Now, I know the Chubb play worked well, but the Seahawks saw it and was waiting for it to be run again.
Kitchens obliged and the Seahawks stopped Chubb short of the goal line (They grabbed his facemask without a call as well) and took possession of the ball, leaving the Browns with nothing.

5) Another Freddie Kitchens mistake came at the end of the half when the Browns could have taken their time, scored a touchdown,  drained time from the clock so Seattle had little time left and led either 28-12 or at least 23-12.
Instead, Kitchens pushed the offense (later Kitchens was quoted as saying he wanted to score quickly, so they could stop Seattle and score again ) to score quickly and Baker Mayfield was then intercepted.
The interception allowed the Seahawks to march down the field and score (the Browns stopped the two-point conversion) to cut the lead to 20-18 at the half.

6) And let's chat about one Baker Mayfield, who threw three interceptions and is now the league's 34th ranked passer in a league that employs 32 starting quarterbacks.
Mayfield's eleven interceptions in six games are the most for a Browns quarterback since the immortal Paul McDonald in 1983 and despite the occasional reasons for those interceptions, the numbers do not lie.

7) Mayfield does deserve some credit though for gritting the game out through an injured hip that sent him briefly to the locker room without missing a play and you could see that the hip was hindering him to the point that I'm not sure he could make a 25-yard throw.
I can criticize his play, but not his toughness.

8) Having given those points, Mayfield defenders will say that those interceptions should have been caught and maybe in one case that's correct in the final interception off the hands of Dontrell Hilliard, but the other two?
All on Mayfield as the first one was a pass that was closer to the defender than Odell Beckham, the second in the end zone to Jarvis Landry was way too high, Landry did a great job with two players also leaping for the ball to even get a finger on it and the third did bounce off the hands of Dontrell Hilliard, but was behind the running back and even though it should have been caught, the pass wasn't a good one.
Jason Lloyd in the Athletic put it best- "Baker Mayfield can still have a wonderful NFL career and still be lousy right now" and lousy he has been except in the win over Baltimore.

9) Special teams hadn't hurt the Browns this season for the most part, but Austin Seibert missed an extra point and Jamie Gillen had a punt blocked.
Siebert had an excuse with the windy conditions, and punts being blocked usually are on the men blocking more than on the punter, but still, issues are issues.

10) Nick Chubb finished with over 100 yards and two touchdowns on twenty rushes against Seattle, but it wasn't all good news as Chubb fumbled after catching a swing pass and there was the fourth-down stop at the goal , but still it's pretty plain to see right now that the Browns are a much better teams with the offense running through Nick Chubb right now rather than through Baker Mayfield's passing woes.

11) Odell Beckham finished with six catches for over 100 yards and the Browns made getting the football to Beckham a major part of the game plan.
While it was nice to see Beckham play well, there still seems to be some hitches in the Mayfield to Beckman connection as those six catches were made of eleven targets.
I'd like to see the percentage of completions be much higher.

12) The offensive line has gotten plenty of criticism, for the most part, this season, but they played pretty well in this game.
Baker Mayfield wasn't sacked and the game by Nick Chubb speaks for itself, but they didn't get much of a push when Nick Chubb was stopped and that play meant the game.

13) 2-4 at the off week isn't great and going to New England makes 2-5 likely.
The season isn't over and I think the best is yet to come, but even against weaker competition, a nine-game winning streak isn't something that you can bank on.

I didn't even write much about the defense, but time is short.
Back later with the Devils afternoon matinee' against the Florida Panthers/

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Usyk wins heavyweight debut

The boxing challenge weekend was predictable and the winners were impressive enough in various degrees to think about future endeavors more than the victories on Saturday.

In Chicago, in front of a raucous crowd, former world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk won all seven rounds in his first fight at heavyweight and dominated the final few rounds on his way to defeating late substitute Chazz Witherspoon, when Witherspoon didn't answer the bell to start the eighth round.
Usyk took the first few rounds without any real harm, but it wasn't until the fourth round when Usyk began to step up the pace and landing more punches against the overmatched Witherspoon.
Usyk used his boxing ability to land punches from the angles that he dominated the cruiserweight division with and was taking the energy out of Witherspoon with each round and seemed to be on his way to knocking out the last-minute replacement, but the corner was smart enough to see that their fighter was out of gas and chose an honorable surrender.
Usyk looked good in his initial heavyweight bout, but even though Usyk is the mandatory challenger in the WBO for the winner of the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua rematch, he might be better suited to fight another fight against better competition before challenging for the championship.
Former WBO champion Joseph Parker is with Matchroom and would be an excellent gauge for how Usyk would perform against a top ten level fighter with another name being mentioned is England's Dereck Chisora, who is also with Matchroom.
Chisora is a strong fighter, who would physically test Usyk and has been a gatekeeper in the division.
If you are a legitimate contender, you defeat Chisora and often soundly, if you are of the second level, Chisora generally beats you.
Either would make plenty of sense for Usyk's next outing.

The co-main event saw Dmitry Bivol retain his WBA light heavyweight title with a lopsided unanimous decision over Lenin Castillo.
Bivol knocked Castillo down in round six, but didn't press his advantage and settled for winning every round on my card for a 120-107 total.
Dmitry Bivol is certainly capable of defeating any of the other top light heavyweights but has moved from being an exciting power puncher to an effective, but not always entertaining champion that dominates his challengers but doesn't leave the crowd raving as they depart.
Bivol is now a promotional free agent, so he could choose to move to Top Rank for a shot at the winner of next week's unification fight between WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk and IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev, but it's unknown whether he will decide to do so.

Earlier in the day from Leeds, England, Josh Warrington retained his IBF featherweight title with a second-round knockout of Sofiane Takoucht.
Warrington, who is not known as a heavy puncher, knocked down Takoucht twice in the second round before the final knockdown that finished the show.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored five points on the weekend.
My lead is now 244-213.

Devils blanked in Boston 3-0

The New Jersey Devils winless streak continued by the Charles River as the Boston Bruins scored two goals in the first and never looked back in a 3-0 decision.
Cory Schneider finished with 29 saves in a good effort in defeat for the Devils, who lost for the fifth time in five games.
New Jersey will take another shot at their initial win of the season Monday afternoon at the Rock against the Florida Panthers on a Columbus Day matinee'.

Hell Raisers

1) Cory Schneider played well in defeat and even though his defense in front of him still allowed far too shots at point-blank range, he was good enough to win on most nights.
I've never been a fan or hater of Schneider, but he has played well enough to have a win or two this season.

2) Schneider made a tremendous save in the first period against a Bruin that I cannot recall off a shorthanded rush that made me think later of how this game could have been without the strong game from Schneider.
My guess is at least 6-0, if not more.

3) John Hynes is doing something that makes me think that he is feeling some heat.
It's not what some think it is, but the tipoff to me is the look at the scratched players.
Look at Jesper Boqvist sitting and Kevin Rooney playing.
It made me think of the times that Peter DeBoer refused to play any of the younger players, most notably Adam Larsson and play veteran journeymen like Peter Harrold all the time because even though they were lesser talents, they were less likely to make the big error than a younger player.
Now, they also contributed next to nothing, but by crackies, they didn't make that mistake that God and everybody saw, so they kept playing.
When you see coaches starting to play those guys over superior young players, they are in win-now mode and feeling the pressure- I'd bet that's John Hynes.

4) All About the Jersey made a great point about Hynes's refusal to try anything original like swapping lines up and creating new ones in a game where not only are you behind, but you aren't even threatening to score.
I didn't consider that until I read it, but their point is correct.
The Devils didn't even try to shake things up and take chances-That goes on the coaching staff.

5) The clock starts on when the power play will put a puck into the net.
As of this writing, the Devils are 0 for 15 on the power play on the season.
With the type of firepower that this team possesses, that is simply unacceptable.
I'm not sure how to fix it other than trying some varied combinations and seeing what might click but doing nothing but wishing it will get better is a pretty crappy option.

6) The Devils come home for three games and let me throw something at the wall- IF and I don't think this will happen, but IF the Devils lose all three games of those games, John Hynes may not be on the next road trip.
That would be eight games to start the season without a win and how big of a hole will be allowed to be dug before something is changed?
I do think it'll take losses in all three games, but under that scenario, change could be a coming.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Boxing Challenge

It's not an overly heavy week in the boxing challenge with three fights with two world titles at stake against less than firm opposition and the heavyweight debut of arguably the greatest cruiserweight ever.

However, sad news to report as WBC and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence is in intensive care with multiple injuries from a single-car accident this morning in Dallas.
Spence is reported to have been ejected from the vehicle and the car flipped several times.
Spence is also reported not to be in "life-threatening" condition but does have serious injuries that have yet to reported, so no idea how this will affect his boxing career.

The Errol Spence situation is the exact situation where these "interim" titles that these organizations give out like free samples at Sam's Club are actually of use.
Should Errol Spence state that his injuries are severe and he will need a substantial time away from the game, this is where an interim title makes a lot of sense.
If Spence and his doctors would say that he would need a year to eighteen months away, the organization could quickly sanction an interim title fight within 30 days (no more than 60) between the top two contenders to take the fight as if you don't do this quickly, it doesn't do a lot of good and state as follows- the winner of this fight is the interim champion for (amount of time Spence would be away), and upon Spence's return (he'll be allowed one tuneup fight), the interim champion will have to fight Spence within 90 days of Spence's tuneup.
The winner will become the full champion and the interim title is disposed of.
Should Errol Spence not be able to return within the detailed amount of time, the interim champion will be elevated to full champion, although should Spence return to the ring, the same stipulations apply for fighting him.
Situations dealing with a long-term injury is the only time that interim championships should be in use.

Former world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk makes his heavyweight debut in Chicago on DAZN in what is expected to be an enhancement match against late replacement Chazz Witherspoon.
Usyk was expected to debut earlier this year against a solid opponent in top 15 heavyweight Carlos Takam before an injury to Usyk foiled that fight.
Usyk, who is the mandatory challenger in the WBO, wasn't going to fight someone too tough and when Takam changed promoters and also wanted to change terms of compensation for the rescheduled bout, Takam was scrubbed.
Enter Tyrone Sprong, a fighter so obscure that I had to look him up and once I did, I discovered that I had never heard of any of his opposition either!
Yet Spong conveniently popped up as the WBO's number six contender in a stunning development that one would never expect from a boxing sanctioning body, which at least someone could claim him as qualified
Spong then fails a PED test and a desperate Eddie Hearn has to take almost anyone on a few days' notice and it's Chazz Witherspoon.
Witherspoon, the nephew of former WBA and WBC champion Tim Witherspoon, hasn't lost in his last eight fights, but those eight wins were against opponents that Tyrone Spong would sign up for and in his last fight against anyone you have heard of, Witherspoon was stopped by Seth Mitchell over seven years ago,
In other words, it's a mismatch, but one no worse than Tyrone Spong might have been and the circumstances do make it somewhat understandable, but I'll be surprised if this turns out to be anything more than a squash match.

Also on this card, Dmitry Bivol defends his WBA light heavyweight title against fringe contender Lenin Castillo.
Bivol is having problems finding opponents, which is why he is defending against Castillo, who is 20-2 but lost his only fight against top ten opposition against Marcus Browne, although Castillo did last the ten round distance against Browne, who is a solid banger, so Castillo could stick around for a while.

ESPN Plus will be showing Josh Warrington defending his IBF featherweight title in a stay busy fight against Sofiane Takoucht of France.
Not much to say about this one other than it should go 12 rounds.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 239-208

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Oleksandr Usyk vs Chazz Witherspoon
R.L: Usyk KO 7
TRS: Usyk KO 6

WBA Light Heavyweight Title,12 Rds
Dmitry Bivol vs Lenin Castillo
R.L: Bivol KO 6
TRS: Bivol Unanimous Decision

IBF Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Josh Warrington vs Sofiane Takoucht
Both: Warrington Unanimous Decision

Friday, October 11, 2019


The PPM returns with a strong weekend of football with several impact games, especially on the college side.

Last Week: 6-6
Overall: 53-21

Boise State over Hawaii 38-21
Cincinnati over Houston 28-19
LSU over Florida 30-17
N.C. State over Syracuse 24-21
Baylor over Texas Tech 43-31
Florida Atlantic over Middle Tennessee State 27-20
Toledo over Bowling Green 35-10
Washington over Arizona 21-16

Games of the Week
Oklahoma over Texas 33-27
Iowa over Penn State 23-16

Seahawks over Browns 24-21
Saints over Jaguars 31-20

Game of the Week
Rams over 49ers 28-24

Devils drilled in shootout by Oilers

The New Jersey Devils needed to pick up their game in the second half of a back to back set at home against the Edmonton Oilers and they were able to do that, but it wasn't enough to hold off Connor McDavid and a few judicious uses of the whistles as Edmonton took a 4-3 overtime win at the Rock.
The Devil's goals were scored by Kyle Palmieri (2). Nikita Gusev (2) and Damon Severson (1) as the Devils gained their second point of the season, but will still be attempting to find their first win with their next chance being Saturday night against the Bruins.

Hell Raisers

1) Let's deal with those judicious whistles or non-whistles first.
The Devils are holding on with a 3-2 lead, but the general rule of thumb in officiating in a one-goal game is this- Unless a penalty is very egregious, you try to let the players decide the game.
Fine, but as Taylor Hall was hauled down by Oskar Klefbom, that looked to be the type of play that couldn't be overlooked.
No whistle, but OK they are going to let them play.
Edmonton pulls goalie Mikko Koskinen with a little over a minute to go for a 6 on 5 advantage in an attempt to tie and Connor McDavid has the puck and Blake Coleman would prefer to have it for himself.
Coleman swipes at the puck and lightly brushes the leg of McDavid, who is arguably the talented player in the league.
Apparently, McDavid is a thespian in his spare time as he hits the ice acting like he's been run over by the Zamboni and the arm goes up for a penalty.
So much for as another famous athlete turned actor named Bob Watson once uttered- "Let them Play".

2) And of course, it cost the Devils as now with Edmonton with six skaters to the Devils four,
Edmonton sets up and fires the puck at Mackenzie Blackwood, who makes the save, but can't quite control the puck.
Still, you clearly hear a whistle blowing which usually means the puck is dead and play has stopped.
Apparently, those rules don't apply to the aforementioned McDavid, who slams the puck into the net.
It appears to be a matter of frustration until the officials rule that the goal counts.
Now, how that happens when an official blew his whistle, play and players stopped and yet, it's still a good goal is beyond me, but that's what happened and cost the Devils a point and eventually the game.
Edmonton still may have scored as they still had over another minute of 6 on 4 play, but this was a terrible call.
Pro sports often gives superstars a break, but two of these large breaks at this stage of the game is ridiculous and awful officiating.

3) The overtime was fun though with both teams taking chances and having breakaway opportunities that neither could take advantage,
Taylor Hall had two by himself and didn't score, although one shot crashed off the post.
The NHL has such a great and exciting thing going with 3 on 3 overtime, it's the best thing that they have and I still wish they would extend the overtime to hopefully decide games before they would reach the shootout.

4) Andy Greene missed the game with an upper-body injury.
Greene doesn't miss a lot of time and the soon to be 37-year-old captain is at the stage of his career where aches and pains that you could once play through are suddenly a burden.
I wonder if Greene is going to be playing after this season and if so, will it be in New Jersey?
I doubt it, Greene is a free agent at the end of the year, his five million dollars can be used elsewhere and rarely do aging players take big pay cuts for non-championship contenders.

5) The penalty killers allowed two of the three goals, but I can forgive the McDavid goal.
It's the other goal by James Neal that gets to me as Neal redirected a shot by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins past Mackenzie Blackwood in the second period.
Neither forward killing penalties was anywhere near Neal and the defensemen did their ice cream softee performance in clearing the crease (as noted yesterday).
On the evening, the Oilers scored on two of their three power-play chances.

6) The shootout only saw one goal scored in the initial three rounds as Edmonton's third shooter Leon Draisaitl beat Mackenzie Blackwood to end the game.
Draisaitl scored the Oilers' first goal of the game, the only one that Edmonton scored at even strength.
Draisaitl logged the most ice time of any Oiler (more than the most heralded McDavid) and the 23 year old German scored 50 goals with more than 100 points last season and scored more goals than McDavid and only nine fewer points.
This is a player that is only going to get better and there is a chance that Draisaitl and McDavid could be the next Crosby and Malkin.

7) Mackenzie Blackwood was solid in net in the loss.
He can't be faulted for the Neal and McDavid goals, made several big saves in overtime and only allowed one goal in the shootout.
Blackwood was clearly better than in his previous start against Buffalo and deserved a little better than a loss.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

I tell ya' Herbie

Time for another edition of I tell ya' Herbie where I sift through a few grains of sand through the hourglass that is college football.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          What the hell got into Iowa's Kirk Ferentz last weekend in Ann Arbor?
The 10-3 loss to the Wolverines was befuddling mainly because of Ferentz and his Hawkeyes' refusal to do what they do best- run the football and take advantage of what the other team gives them- an inability to stop the run.
Iowa threw 40 times and only ran 28 and yes, Michigan did better than expected in stopping the run.
However, Iowa threw away the biggest advantage that they had- using their big strong offensive line to wear down Michigan and repeat what Wisconsin did so successfully.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                           I'm not sure what to think of Miami, who fell far back against Virginia Tech, who we noted last week had was coming off a 35 point loss to Duke, rallied from 21 points down midway through the fourth quarter to tie with three minutes to go before allowing the Hokies to march down the field for the winning score.
It seems like Miami has tried about every style of coaching background that you can think of and seemingly none has been able to do the job returning the once-powerful Hurricanes to prominence.
The problem could be this- the work that was accomplished by Howard Schellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, and Butch Davis at a private school with barely more male undergrad students than Duke, might be the best run of its type for a school in its size ever and that's what might make returning to that level daunting, if not almost impossible.
After all, when similar-sized Duke even makes a bowl, it's treated as a big deal, yet Miami supporters believe anything short of national title contention is a wasted year.
I understand with their type of tradition from that tremendous two-decade run (I'm adding the first few years of the Larry Coker years with Butch Davis recruits) that they expect more, but it may not be feasible, particularly when you consider that several schools in Florida that now play division one football that did not during the Miami heyday.
It's possible that Miami may have seen its best days and will be elite only to an aging fanbase that remembers when.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          Is there a bigger avatar for a miserable fan base than in this article about Kansas football?
It's a picture of a student sitting all by herself knitting in the stands and not seeming to remotely care (turns out she truly didn't, read the article) about the game at all.
Les Miles has maybe the toughest job in college football right now between little talent, weak facilities in the Big 12, and no tradition to excite an apathetic fan base that looks at Kansas football as barely a diversion before basketball season.
The Jayhawks likely won't win another game this season, but the fan base certainly looks fired up by the looks of this fan!

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          The feel-good story of the season so far might be the SMU Mustangs, who at 5-0 are one of two undefeated teams remaining in the American conference.
Sonny Dykes has patched together several transfers to add to a better than expected holdover group from former coach Chad Morris and the Mustangs are ranked for the first time since 1986.
SMU's comeback from down 21 in the 4th quarter with touchdowns on the final three possessions of regulation to force overtime against Tulsa, where SMU would win in three overtimes.
Assuming SMU can win their next two games, which aren't gimmes (Temple at home and at Houston) and Memphis can do the same (they have three games before SMU).
The Mustangs and Tigers could hook up in a battle of undefeated teams for the game of the year in the American West.

I tell ya' Herbie:
                          The game of the year in the American East may have already been played as last week's Cincinnati-Central Florida game will more than likely decide the East champion after the Bearcats 27-24 win.
The Knights had won 19 conference games in a row before the defeat and Cincinnati's door to the title looks open with lesser teams ahead until the final two games of the season against Temple and Memphis.
Cincinnati was thought to be a contender for the Group of Five bid before the season, but a crushing 42-0 loss to Ohio State looks far better now than right after the game and defeating the defending champion Knights puts them in the drivers seat for the division title and maybe that G-5 bid isn't out of the question after all.

I tell ya' Herbie,
                          I generally don't have a favorite team in the SEC, it's the conference (along with the Pac 12) that I generally move around through the years depending on who's coaching a team and don't have staying power.
I've rooted for Georgia, Tennessee, and LSU in the conference at various times and now back to LSU with the Tigers starting Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow at quarterback.
I'm a Joe Burrow fan, not because he is a former Buckeye, but because of how he became a former Buckeye.
Burrow competed with Dwayne Haskins for the starting job in the spring of 2018 and when he came out on the losing end by a narrow margin, Burrow decided to transfer to a place when he could play.
That's completely understandable, but Burrow left with his head held high and filled the air with compliments towards Ohio State, which is quite a contrast to how so many players leave schools in this day and age.
The 5th ranked Tigers host number seven Florida this Saturday night and it is a Gator team that is coming off a win over Auburn, who entered that game also in the top ten, so this is a huge game at the conference level as well as nationally.

Finishing Up Strong- with our top five in the Power Five and the Group of Five.
This is a combination of how you are playing and who have you beaten, so keep that in mind before screaming at me about being a homer.

Power Five        Group of Five
1: LSU                1: Boise State
2: Ohio State      2: Cincinnati
3: Alabama         3: SMU
4: Georgia           4: Memphis
5: Clemson          5: Appalachian State

Devils whitewashed in Philly 4-0

The New Jersey Devils continued their punchless offense by not scoring at all as the Philadelphia Flyers blanked the Devils 4-0 in Philadelphia.
The Devils squandered several opportunities including a five on three near the end of the second period with Carter Hart robbing Taylor Hall during that stretch with the play of the night.
New Jersey only trailed 1-0 at the end of the second period, but two Flyer goals in the first minute of the third would essentially end the contest right there.
The Devils are still looking for their first victory of the season and will return home to the Prudential Center to host the Edmonton Oilers, who have won all three of their games this season.

Hell Raisers

1) I know that Cory Schneider gave up four goals, but other than the power-play goal by Kevin Hayes, which wasn't that bad, none of the other goals could be remotely considered his fault.
Kyle Palmieri losing an edge to hand Travis Konecny a point-blank dunk of a shot can't be on him and the other two goals (which I'll discuss below) were a product of the defense far more than Schneider,

2) And that defense, which allowed the Flyers to park in front of the net all game and consistently win puck battles.
Look at the first goal by Ivan Provorov, tell me how Schneider sees the puck with Oskar Lindblom's rear in his face?!
The defensemen aren't clearing opponents out of the area and that comes down to aggressiveness from the players.

3) I know it's only three games, but what alarms me most is the lack of intensity.
Intensity can affect play in many different manners, but this team has played very softly since the start of the third period against Winnipeg.
I didn't watch the loss in Buffalo closely (I scanned it the next morning), but what I saw there carried over to Philadelphia- they aren't lacking physicality, they are lacking mental toughness as well.
Now that can be overcome with time and confidence, but for now, it's not there.

4) Here's an example, In the second period, Jack Hughes is sent flying.
Now, the hit wasn't illegal or even vicious (no penalty called), but this is where you would think that this is an example of the Devils beginning to show that they aren't going to allow their future franchise player to be roughed up.
I'm not saying that they have to drop the gloves, but still, some pushing and shoving to at least make the opponents think that they can't take liberties with Hughes (or Nikita Gusev) and bang them around.
Wayne Simmonds was always willing to do such work as a Flyer, but tonight other than Miles Wood in the first period (Wood took a dumb penalty, but he was taking up for a teammate, so despite the mistake, his heart was in the right place) I saw nothing resembling any kind of fight at all.

5) Speaking of Simmonds, I despise the Flyers, I know they are the secondary rival to most Devils fans, but to me, they are clearly number one but give their organization and fans a hand for honoring Simmonds before the game.
Very classy move to honor a player that played his guts out for that town and franchise.

6) The play that deflated the Devils came on that five on three when Taylor Hall fired a one-timer that seemed to be a certain goal that would have tied the game, but an amazing save by Carter Hart (who notched his first NHL shutout in the win) foiled the Devils and you could feel the emotions dip for the rest of the game.
These things will come with young teams, but some of the older players need to show some leadership and not allow one play to decide a game with over a period left to play in a one-goal game.

7) John Hynes didn't have his team ready to play and I'm puzzled by why Jesper Boqvist and Pavel Zacha are scratched in favor of John Hayden and Kevin Rooney?
That makes zero sense to me, one of those decisions I could question, but both are just ridiculous decisions and makes me wonder if Hynes is beginning to feel the pressure about his job status?
Playing low ceiling veterans over more talented, but less experienced younger players is often a hint that a coach is feeling some pressure.
I wonder just how long of a leash John Hynes may have this season.