Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Road Trip: Lynchburg

After being overwhelmed with draft stuff, I didn't get around to writing the post on our first trip of the year, so I wanted to try to do our second trip quickly even though there still are plenty of topics to write.

This trip saw Fred Landucci, Mike Oravec and myself travel south to Lynchburg and Salem Virginia for a weekend that saw a visit to a memorial, some good food, a return to one of the ballparks that started it all and something that I've never experienced-Ever!

I was tired when we were starting this trip because I decided to stick it out and work the night before, so I only needed to take one night of work off rather than two in order to do this trip.
Two hours down the road, the original choice for breakfast, a selection of Mike's named Jess' lunch was still closed at 10;30 (despite their website saying they opened at ten!), so we started at TRS favorite Cookout.
To the best of my knowledge, the Harrisonburg VA Cookout is the most northern store of the southern-based chain and was where I selected for my birthday meal last year (I'm not hard to please am I?) and after a delicious and cheap "brunch", we were on our way to Bedford VA, home of the National D-Day Memorial.

Here's where the story gets hazy for a bit and goes around a few curves-literally.
I had fallen asleep in the backseat in order to get a few winks before the rest of the day and suddenly I was jolted awake.
Now, how we got here is still a mystery to me, but I suddenly had a stiff neck and very sick to my stomach!
I've never been carsick in my life and my family has always marveled at my ability to read etc in the car without any problems at all, but I awoke to Fred Landucci swerving from curve to bend in the Virginia mountains and my stomach suddenly became very upset.
Not to the point of needing the car to pull over, but definitely in discomfort!

Finally, we reached the memorial and entered the visitors center to pay for admission to the facility.
We walked around for a bit, touring the small exhibits and while Mike stood in line, I went and purged.
After fifty years- I was in the Carsick Club!
I could see that Fred and Mike were wondering how I was going to feel the rest of the day, but what they didn't know about me is what Cherie has been amazed at for years- When I need to be "sick", I almost instantly feel fine and as we watched a video about D-Day, I could feel everything becoming fine and I was great for the rest of the trip.

The memorial was strikingly beautiful and as we walked around the facility, I wondered why I hadn't heard of this before Mike mentioned it.
It deserves much attention than it seems to have and if you are in the area, I highly recommend spending an hour or so wandering around.
I snapped a few photos and before we left, I took my first one ever of my "Buddy" Colby.
Colby has been in the backpack all year, but I often forget to take the picture with him in his travels.
Cherie picked him up from my hometown "Grandpa's Cheese Barn" for Christmas and his gimmick is that Grandpa's puts photos on their Facebook page with Colby in his various travels.
Look for more Colby in the future- When I remember that is!

We then got our tickets for the game and ate at a place that Ryan recommended- the world famous Stadium Inn.
The world-famous Inn served a good sandwich, but was roughly as big as my living room and the dining room!
Filled with locals, the Inn has a huge bar in the middle and enough room for two tables around the various game machines and cramped is putting it mildly.
Still, if you like a local joint- the Stadium Inn was worth a stop, but not if you were offended easily!

I hadn't been to Lynchburg since 2007 with the trip that started my excursions to various minor league parks with Ryan and Battlin' Bob.
The names have changed with my companions on these trips, but the fun hasn't and the trip to Calvin Falwell Field felt pretty similar to my last stop twelve years ago.
With the exception of a "party deck" in left field, I didn't really feel that the home of the Hillcats had changed all that much.
Just a solid older ballpark that had been renovated a time or two and kept maintained well enough to be a nice place to play.

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City Royals) are filled with prospects and might have the most on one team that I'll see all season.
Here's the problem, how teams sign generally starts at the top- if the manager (if someone that is asked to sign as a former major leaguer) or the best prospect/team leader likes to sign then their team generally follows and the reverse is true as well- if that person (or persons) isn't friendly about it, the team will walk in place.
Last year, the worst team that I dealt with was the then-Buies Creek Astros and that trailed back to their manager Morgan Ensberg.
I found out in the off-season why Ensberg has issues and I now empathize, but his dislike led to his team doing the same.
Scott Thorman (last year Lexington SAL and now Wilmington) seems to be this year's version of a "Poisoner" as with a few exceptions (I'm not naming them, would hate to have someone say something about their GOOD behavior) Wilmington isn't a good team at all.
Thorman was quite unpleasant in visits to Hagerstown as the pilot of the Lexington Legends and he seems to have passed that on to his new team.
Still, with a lot of time, far more than really should have been needed, I was able to nab the needed players for the new Top 100 in Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar and a few others.

Contrast that with Nolan Jones, an Indians prospect that is in the same Top 100 set.
Jones limits his signing to two at a time, which is more than fine, but he interacts, talks and seems like he enjoys dealing with fans that come to the games.
Nolan came over to me (I had three of my own and two for Brett Shaw of Altoona) and I didn't ask for more than two, just had them if needed.
Nolan looked at the Top 100 and was asking what this was, I explained the concept of the set, the rarity of it, etc and said he had yet to see one.
It was pretty cool seeing how excited some players get when they see certain items for the first time and I had an extra of the 100, so I offered Nolan a deal, sign the other few cards I had and he could have the 100, which he happily agreed to!
I never mind players that limit how much they sign, just be nice about it and Nolan Jones definitely follows through.
I also finally was able to nab the elusive Juan Hillman, who I had seen pitch with Mahoning Valley and Lake County on multiple occasions and Hillman started every game!
Since I don't bother the starters, for the most part, I seemed to have about 80 Hillman cards!
Hillman was super gracious in signing all of Mike and I's cards and I'd like to see the former 3rd round draft pick make it with the Tribe.
As Hillman signed, Royals first rounder Brady Singer slid by.
I needed that 100, but I had so many Hillman's and as an Indian fan, I really wanted to have those finished before he came to Frederick, where all those graphers likely had the same amount of Hillman cards to be signed, so I was more than fine with that

As we waited outside the stadium after the game, with just us (and Kendall Morris, who showed up late in the game to meet us after his trip to Charleston earlier in the day), we finally added the 100' s from Wilmington that I noted earlier in Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer.
Kowar signed my 100 without too much problem, but later Brady Singer didn't seem thrilled to sign at all.
Mike did the asking this time and asked "if he would mind signing one card", Singer seemed to reluctantly stop and signed for Mike, Kendall and a baseball for Fred.
When I handed him the 100, he looked and asked what this was.
When I explained, he seemed to be wondering more if it was a card that was a licensed card than happy about the 100 ranking.
I don't know that, but it seemed that way and I asked if he wanted one, hoping I could get the only other card I had for him (Brett's card) finished, but he replied "Nah, they'll send some to me" and walked away.

We then ate dinner at a Little Caesars across from the hotel (Loved the hotel BTW) that was OK considering its Little Caesars, but when you visit Lynchburg one needs to remember- Lynchburg isn't your typical college town, it rolls up the streets early!

I had only had a small nap in the car for about 30+ hours, so it didn't take me long to fall asleep to end the day after preparing for the following day's trip.
Not sure when I'll have time for the next post, but I'll try to write about the trip to Salem and a very nice player as soon as I can!



Monday, April 29, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Prograis and Donaire score WBSS KO wins

Plenty of catching up to do here after my weekend trip to Virginia and I'll be writing about those stops along with catching up with the remainder of the Cleveland Browns draft picks, including one that I am very excited about.

However, first, we start with the weekend in boxing and after a tremendous card from Matchroom and DAZN on Friday night, the Saturday portion had a high bar to leap to match that card and although some performances were excellent, that bar didn't come close to being reached.

The financially troubled World Boxing Super Series finally returned with two semi-finals and they were pretty predictable from Lafayette, Louisiana.
Regis Prograis won the WBA junior welterweight title from Kiryl Relikh when Relikh's corner stopped the fight with Prograis in full control in round six.
Prograis knocked Relikh down in the first round and never was threatened after that, cutting Relikh's nose, which bled most of the fight and simply didn't allow the champion to sustain any sort of offense.
Prograis will fight the winner of the Ivan Baranchyk-Josh Taylor fight which will also be for Baranchyk's IBF title in the finals of the tournament in a unification fight.
It's strange how boxing works as just 18 months after Terence Crawford vacated all four titles in a division that seemingly was cleaned out, the division has four exciting young champions (WBA Prograis, IBF Baranchyk, WBC Jose Ramirez and WBO Maurice Hooker) has another in Josh Taylor, who would be right there with a win over Baranchyk and looks like it could be on the verge of some compelling battles.
Meanwhile, Crawford, who moved up because of a lack of remaining challenges, looks to be filled with struggles with a lack of options at welterweight due to a top-heavy division that has most of those fighters promoted by someone else.
Only in boxing.

Also, in Lafayette, Nonito Donaire retained his WBA bantamweight belt with a highlight reel knockout in the sixth round over late replacement Stephon Young.
Young, who was on the undercard in a fight made for this exact situation, replaced WBO champion Zolani Tete, who pulled out on fight week due to a shoulder injury.
I like that the WBSS thinks ahead for these concerns, but Young wasn't on the same level as Donaire or for a world-class level tournament and it showed as Donaire won every round on his way to the one punch knockout.
Donaire will move on to the finals against the winner of the Naoya Inoue-Emmanuel Rodriguez tilt for Rodriguez's IBF championship.

I'm usually quite complimentary towards Showtime's boxing program.
Their production is top notch, Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggi are the best color commentators in the game and even though Mauro Ranallo isn't my choice of blow by blow men that man the mike, he's not like Gus Johnson and ruins things for me.
Still, even with all of that, the three-bout card from PBC, Saturday night was to put it nicely- a snoozer and should I prefer to go negative- the worst card from a major boxing provider perhaps ever.

The main event was for one of those minor trinkets that the WBA likes to hand out in return for sanctioning fees as former IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter drew with former IBF junior lightweight and lightweight champion Rances Barthelemy in one of the worst fights that you'll see.
A draw was the fairest verdict in a fight that saw NEITHER fighter land 55 punches over 12 rounds.
Just awful in the ring and awful that Showtime accepted this as the main event, to begin with.
I scored it 114-114, but hell, score it as you wish, I'm just lucky I stayed awake during it.
Let us all simply hope that the WBA, Showtime, Al Haymon, or anyone else does not decide to make this one happen again because this was arguably the worst main event that a major boxing network has televised in years.

The semi-main looked bad from the day that it was announced and it was just as bad in the ring as former WBC junior welterweight champion Viktor Postol won every boring round on my card (100-90) over Mohammed Mimoune.
Mimoune fell behind early against the taller Postol and with Mimoune's two career KO's. he wasn't coming from behind for a knockout.
Postol will become the mandatory contender for WBC champion Jose Ramirez, which will hopefully be more entertaining than this one was.

Heavyweight punisher Efe Ajajba blew out Michael Wallisch in two rounds of a squash match that was as competitive as expected.
Ajajba will hurt whom he hits but needs time to develop and I'd bet he's another year away from fighting someone that will really test him.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica eleven to eight for the Saturday totals to move my lead to 108-95.
The difference was maybe my best night for bonuses ever for me as I added points for calling the rounds for KO's by Prograis, Donaire, and Ajajba.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Estrada gains revenge over Rungvisai

On a Friday night at the formerly Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, California, Matchroom Boxing on DAZN put on an interesting card that drew a mildly disappointing crowd of under six thousand fans.

The main event saw a rematch of one of 2018's best fights of the year as Juan Francisco Estrada reversed the narrative of the first fight by building a lead and holding off the rally of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to win a unanimous decision to take Rungvisai's WBC junior bantamweight title.
In the first fight, Rungvisai banked several rounds and managed to survive the late surge of Estrada to retain his championship via majority decision, but in the rematch, it was Estrada with the fast start and held a healthy 7-1 lead at the end of the eighth round.
Estrada commanded the fight with his jab and a seemingly confused Rungvisai seemed to be resigned to his eventual title loss being beaten to the punch at almost every turn.
Suddenly, the fight turned to start the ninth as Rungvisai shifted to the lefthanded stance, began to rally back to drill Estrada with his straight left and even appeared to sting Estrada a bit in the 11th.
On my card, Estrada had the fight in the bag, but if one or two rounds were closer, who knows about the cards and Estrada had to feel the same way.
Estrada ran with that and won the twelve round to win on my card 116-112, but more importantly, on the official cards where had Rungvisai won the final round, he would have saved his title with a majority draw.
My score seemed to be in the middle as many of Twitter watchers and the DAZN commentators had Estrada up by as many as ten points (10-2 in rounds) with yet others such as Steve Kim of ESPN giving the fight to Estrada by two official cards of 115-113.
Estrada seemed amenable to a third fight if he couldn't sign a unification fight against one of the other three champions.
The WBO title is currently vacant and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas is with Top Rank, making that bout difficult, but WBA beltholder Kal Yafai is also with Matchroom/DAZN and that should be easy enough to make.
I'd be fine with a rubber match as this fight wasn't quite as good as their first, but it was strong enough in the entertainment factor and Rungvisai's late round swing as a southpaw gives one a reason to think that Rungvisai could win the third bout.

The fight of the night was the co-main as Daniel Roman kept his WBA 122 pound belt and added the IBF title of T.J. Doheny via a majority decision in a great action fight.
Roman dropped Doheny in the second round with a hook, but Doheny wasn't seriously hurt and was close on the cards when Doheny badly hurt Roman with a left that had Roman backing up in the seventh and was looking to survive by the end of the round.
That was the pinnacle for Doheny however as Roman began to rip the Irishman fighting out of Australia to the body and bust his face up to boot as he re-established control.
Roman's bodywork continued to badly hurt Doheny, who began to drop his hands to better protect the body and that cost him as a Roman left dropped him to a knee in the eleventh for the final nail on the scorecards.
Doheny gamely rose and gritted his way to the final bell, but clearly was the loser on the scorecards, if not with the fans after an exciting give and take battle.
I had Roman a 116-110 winner (8-4 with two Roman knockdowns) which matched the two cards for Roman.
Roman looks ahead for another unification soon against WBC champion Rey Vargas, who fights for Golden Boy Promotions, but their deal with DAZN makes fights with Matchroom fighters relatively easy to make.
Should Vargas win his mandated bout against WBC top contender and former champion Julio Ceja, a Roman-Vargas fight for three of the four titles seems to be in the works.

The opener was another fight filled with exchanges as former WBA junior welterweight and WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas stopped another former two-division champion (WBC in both junior lightweight and lightweight) Humberto Soto in the sixth round of a junior middleweight matchup.
Soto started strong and battled evenly for the first five rounds against the naturally larger Vargas. but you could feel that Soto didn't think that he could sustain that pace for ten rounds and was trying for an early win.
Soto looked worn out entering the sixth and Vargas took advantage, pounding him until Soto fell from a right hand.
Soto rose but was overwhelmed by an intense series of shots that forced referee Thomas Taylor to step in and maybe even a bit too late.
Vargas is looking for a third title against WBO (and DAZN) junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia, who has looked very vulnerable in his last two outings.
Vargas had better get Munguia, should he want a title in the division as the other belts (WBA/IBF Jarrett Hurd and WBC Tony Harrison) reside with the PBC for the time being.
As for Soto, who knocked out Brandon Rios in his last fight, he needs to be matched carefully and not against any big punchers.
This loss was the first actual stoppage of Soto's career (He had lost some fights through other measures that didn't reach the distance, but wasn't knocked out) and despite his efforts and courage, Soto doesn't have ten or twelve rounds in him against world-class competition anymore.

In the boxing challenge, I earned three points to Ramon Malpica's two to increase my challenge lead to 97-87.
I added one point apiece for the three winners in the challenge, while Ramon scored one point with the wins by Roman and Vargas, but picked Rungvisai for the point difference.



Browns select Sione Takitaki in 3rd round

The Cleveland Browns need help at the linebacker positions and I thought that they could pick multiple players at the position in the draft.

I was hoping for Alabama's Mack Wilson and Wilson was available for the Browns at pick 80 overall in round three.
I must have liked Wilson better than the league as he will still be eligible for selection on Saturday's final day of the draft, but John Dorsey still picked a linebacker in Brigham Young's Sione Takitaki.

The 6'1 238 pound Takitaki led the Cougars in tackles last season and was a team captain in 2018.
That final note has to have helped Takitaki, who had several off the field incidents that included a one-year suspension, but the Browns noted that his marriage had settled Takitaki away from the game and that his problems were in the past.
I've seen a fair amount of BYU games and my report on Takitaki settles somewhere in the middle of Scott Dryden, who liked him a lot and Dane Brugler, who had a sixth-round grade on him in the Athletic.

Takitaki has a high motor and doesn't take plays off, but Brugler states that while he makes some big plays, he tends to overrun some as well.
Takitaki started his career as an edge rusher, which the Browns liked as the team announced that he could play all three linebacker positions as well as pass rush.
Players with the high energy traits of Takitaki are usually successful on special teams and at a minimum, he should be able to help there next season.

I'm Ok with this pick, but there were players I preferred, so I'm just middle of the road on this one.


Friday, April 26, 2019

Browns get Greedy! Trade lands CB in 2nd Round

The Cleveland Browns continue to show how employing football people to run a football personnel department as John Dorsey watched the run on defensive backs in the second round and with the Browns at 49 and the clock at 46, Dorsey wasn't waiting any longer as he tossed a fifth rounder to the Indianapolis Colts to move three slots higher to select my top cornerback in the draft- Greedy Williams of LSU.

Williams intercepted eight passes in his two seasons in Baton Rouge with the Tigers and was regarded as the best cover cornerback in the country by many college football observers.
Williams was thought to be a certain first rounder at the end of the college season, but some reports on attitude and others that questioned his willingness to tackle, saw him slide down some draft boards and as I wrote in my draft preview made him the most polarizing player in the draft.
Some people loved him and had him rated as their top corner and others had several players ahead of him with a second-round grade.
I loved Williams, never thought he would be available in the second round and this morning I didn't think he would fall beyond the earliest handful of picks in the round.

When other corners were selected and Williams continued to fall, John Dorsey wasn't going to hesitate or let a day three draft choice get in his way so the Browns swapped with the Colts to finalize the deal.
Williams is a blanket in coverage and despite his knock for less than physical play, Williams makes plays and shuts down wideouts.
At 6'2, Williams can match well with tall receivers and his athletic ability allows him to stick with smaller ones.

The knocks on Williams were his tackling and an attitude that saw some question his effort in the second half of LSU's season.
Not defending Williams, but like it or not, these types of things will happen more and more as players decide to turn pro and play it safe to try to avoid injury before entering the draft.
I'm a big fan of this pick and the Browns have hit a homer in basically trading a 1,2 and 5 to land Odell Beckham and Greedy Williams- That is a tremendous haul.

I'll be back later with the Browns pick in the third round.


I'm still Greedy

The Cleveland Browns didn't move up in the first round of the NFL draft and will select in the second (49) and third (80) tonight on the draft's second day.

My favorite player at corner is still available in LSU's Greedy Williams.
I'm doubtful that Williams is going to fall another 16 spots to be available for the Browns, so if the Browns are interested in Williams, John Dorsey could be working the phones as I write in order to do so.
If Williams is off the board, the Browns still have almost every other highly rated cornerback available as only the Giants selection of Deandre Baker took a corner off the board.
Washington's Byron Murphy was also thought to be a possible first rounder and is my second rated corner, but like Williams is unlikely to fall to the Browns.
Temple's Rock Ya-Sin, Michigan State's Justin Layne and Central Michigan's Sean Bunting all may be available at 49 and any would be a good choice.

My favorite safeties are still on the board as both Delaware's Nasir Adderly and Washington's Taylor Rapp were not selected as only one safety was picked in round one with Oakland's pick of Johnathan Abram of Mississippi State.
Either would be excellent additions should they drop to 49.

Linebacker is a must have and I really like Alabama's Mack Wilson in the second round.
Should there be a run on the secondary prospects and Wilson is available, I'd love to see Wilson as a possible Brown,
There are other linebackers that I like, but they are more along the lines of third-round consideration than in the second round.

One of my two favorite tackle targets for the Browns in the persons of interest is still available in Ole Miss tackle Greg Little, but Atlanta selected Kaleb McGary of Washington late in round one.
Little may be there for the Browns in the second and unless an unexpected player falls, Little could be the best player available at 49.

Outside of Little or maybe a receiver that Dorsey would really like such as Parris Campbell of Ohio State, who would inject some speed from the slot position, Terry McLaurin, who would help on special teams and red zone target Hakeem Butler of Iowa State, I would think that the Browns are going to look at defense with at least one of these picks and perhaps even both of them.
The secondary position seems to be loaded with value and the Browns could have the option of trading up for a particular player such as Greedy Williams or Byron Murphy or having someone from the second tier fall to them at no cost.

I'll be back with posts on the Browns second and third rounders as well as any trades that would be made as well.

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge starts early this week on a Friday on DAZN with a rematch of one of 2018's best fights and a unification match on the undercard.

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai defends his WBC junior bantamweight title in Los Angeles against former flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada in a rematch of their exciting fight that Rungvisai won by a close majority decision.
I thought their first fight was a draw, so I'm excited to see the rematch Friday night on DAZN.
The two styles match up well, should produce another action fight and could go either way.
The top fight on the undercard will unify two titles in the junior featherweight division as WBA champion Daniel Roman will face IBF standard-bearer T.J. Doheny.
Roman's the hometown fighter so the cards could slant his way.
Also on the card is a junior middleweight fight that should be action packed between two past champions in Jessie Vargas and Humberto Soto.
Soto defeated Brandon Rios in his last fight to keep his career alive, while Vargas has drawn in back to back fights against Adrien Broner and Thomas Dulorme.

DAZN will be televising two semi-finals of the suddenly financially struggling World Boxing Super Series from Lafayette, Louisiana.
The junior welterweight semi-final will see Kiril Relikh defend his WBA title against hard-hitting and Louisiana native Regis Prograis.
This should be an interesting fight as Relikh likes to aggressively walk forward which should mix well against Prograis.
The winner will move to the finals against the winner of the Ivan Barancyk-Josh Taylor bout coming soon.
The other bout is a disappointment as WBA bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire will place his title on the line against late replacement Stephon Young.
Young steps in for WBO champion Zolani Tete, who pulled out earlier in the week due to shoulder problems, but isn't nearly of the caliber of Zete.
I'm happy the tournament has stand-by fighters available in these situations, but losing Donaire-Zete isn't exactly what the tournament hoped to avoid.
The winner will battle the winner of Naoya Inoue-Emmanuel Rodriguez in the bantamweight finals.

Showtime also has a card Saturday night as former IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter faces former junior lightweight Rances Barthelemy in what could be a dull fight with two fighters that like to fight at long range.
The winner gains a minor trinket and stays in lightweight contention.
Former junior welterweight champion Viktor Postol fights Mohamed Mimoune in a WBC eliminator at that weight.
This one doesn't seem to be the most inspiring bout either as Postol looked very faded in his loss to Josh Taylor last year and Mimoune has only two KO's in 21 wins.
The opener will see the power of heavyweight Efe Ajagba against Germany's Michael Wallisch in what appears to be another squash to build up Ajagba.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 94-85

WBC Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs Juan Francisco Estrada
R.L: Rungvisai Unanimous Decision
TRS: Estrada Split Decision

Unification WBA-IBF Junior Featherweight Titles, 12 Rds
Danny Roman vs T.J. Doheny
Both: Roman Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights. 10 Rds
Jessie Vargas vs Humberto Soto
Both: Vargas Unanimous Decision

WBA Junior Welterweight Title. 12 Rds
Kiryl Relikh vs Regis Prograis
R.L: Prograis KO 8
TRS: Prograis KO 6

WBA Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Nonito Donaire vs Stephon Young
R.L; Donaire KO 3
TRS: Donaire KO 6

Lightweights, 12 Rds
Robert Easter vs Rances Barthelemy
Both: Easter Unanimous Decision

Junior Welterweights 12 Rds
Viktor Postol vs Mohammed Mimoune
Both; Postol Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights 10 Rds
Efe Ajagba vs Michael Wallisch
R.L: Ajajba KO 5
TRS: Ajajba KO 2


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Cleveland Browns-Persons of Interest- Defense

The Browns defensive needs have been noted earlier on the blog and before the trade with the Giants that landed Odell Beckham, but cost the team their first round draft pick, I would have been hoping the Browns would somehow wind up with the disruptive defensive tackle from Houston, Ed Oliver.

Without that pick, those hopes were erased and I'm not sure that even my top hope now in LSU cornerback Greedy Williams is likely to be available.
Williams is one of the most polarizing players in this draft as some evaluators have Williams as a top fifteen player and the top corner in the draft, while others have Williams as a second rounder.
The knock on Williams is that he is more of a pure cover corner and not a strong tackler.
I don't think that the Browns have much of a chance of landing Williams, even if he falls to round two with their pick and it would require a trade up to get him, but if the cost is reasonable, I'd consider that trade.
Assuming Williams isn't available, my favorite corner would be Georgia's DeAndre Baker, but there are several corners all in the same second to early third round range that would all be acceptable selections including Temple's Rock Ya-Sin, Michigan State's Justin Layne and the fastest rising player of the bunch Sean Bunting of Central Michigan.
Jamel Dean of Auburn was a former Ohio State Buckeye with tons of speed but has suffered two knee injuries and after the Browns never received a snap from Howard Wilson after picking him, the Browns could be looking for a player that's a safer pick.
Ohio State's Kendall Sheffield has all the tools to be a starting corner and has elite level speed.
However, Sheffield was one of the more enigmatic Buckeyes that I have watched in Columbus and would be a project for the Browns.

The Browns could also use a safety and the best at the position are Nasir Adderly of Delaware and Taylor Rapp of Washington.
Adderly should be off the board, but Rapp ran a slower than expected time at the combine and it's not out of the question that Rapp could fall to the Browns.
Can the Browns live with the slow 40 time for a player that was very productive in his three-year career with the Huskies?
I'd gamble on a high character player that could be a starter for years rather than listen to a slow 40-yard dash.
If the Browns decide to take a safety on the final day, I think Marquis Blair of Utah and Mike Bell of Fresno State could help on special teams at first and perhaps develop into eventual contributors in the secondary.

The Browns might go linebacker with one of their two picks on day two.
Joe Schobert's rookie contract is finished at the end of the season and John Dorsey could decide that Christian Kirksey's contract is too rich for his salary hit at the same time.
The Browns might have a shot at the latest Alabama linebacker standout in the second round with Mack Wilson, but they will have to take him there.
If they prefer someone in the next round or two, Minnesota's Blair Cashman or Jermaine Pratt of N.C. State may be viable options with Cashman having the ability to be a special teams ace right off the starting block.
Day three possibilities could be Wisconsin's T.J.Edwards, Houston's Emeke Egbule, and West Virginia's David Long.

The defensive line is the strongest corps on the defense and yet it is the deepest group in the draft.
Unless Dorsey's decision is to take the best player on the board and that could happen, the Browns might wait to add a lineman,
Before the Beckham trade, I was hoping Houston's Ed Oliver would be available for Cleveland in the first round.
Oliver had been dropping with teams wondering if he was a defensive tackle or linebacker, but a tremendous pro day returned him to the status that he deserved entering the draft.
Rumors are flying of Dorsey's fondness for Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, who would have never been a remote possibility, if not for an ACL tear that will cost him all of 2019 and a checkered off the field history.
Still, even with all of that, the Browns will have to trade up for Simmons.
Cleveland has also been attached to Ohio State's Dre'Mont Jones, who could be available in the second round, but is unlikely to be on the board in the third.
The Browns will likely take someone on day three, after the disappointing season from 2018 third rounder Chad Thomas, but who knows who that would be.
A player capable of returning punts would be a nice addition so something to look for would be an addition of a player with speed and that has kick returning experience.

It'll be interesting to see the newest Browns and what John Dorsey does over the next few days.
It is very nice for a change to be able to relax during the draft!











Cleveland Browns- Persons of Interest- Offense

The Cleveland Browns won't be picking tonight in round one unless John Dorsey decides that someone is worth trading up for.
The Browns have shuffled their surplus picks away with the exception of two extra fifth rounders so the Browns might be able to use those for a move up in the third or fourth rounds if a player there strikes Dorsey's fancy.
For the purposes of the Persons of Interests posts, I'm looking at players that I like in the draft that aren't of first-round projection and focus on the Browns second-round pick and maybe a sleeper or two.

The Browns biggest offensive need is along the line and since they drafted Austin Corbett for a guard spot, the Browns could be looking at right tackle for an eventual upgrade over Chris Hubbard, who was average in his first season since being signed from Pittsburgh.
Should the Browns decide to go tackle in round two, the two players that could be there that I like are Greg Little of Ole Miss or Kaleb McGary of Washington.
McGary is more of a traditional mauling tackle that is closer to NFL ready, while Little is the more athletic finesse tackle that might take a bit longer to develop, but has a higher upside and the time spent working with Little could have him ready to go as Hubbard's contract expires.
Should the Browns decide to groom the center to be the successor to JC Tretter, Elston Jenkins of Mississippi State would be a good day pick on day two, but should the Browns decide to wait until the final day, Lamont Gaillard of Georgia might be a solid starter down the road.

The Browns would be looking for depth at running back or wide receiver but might be looking for a tight end that could eventually be more than just depth.
In a running back group that isn't as strong as past years, my favorite back was Miles Sanders of Penn State, but he'll likely go in the 3rd or 4th round and I can't see the Browns taking a back that early.
If they want to use a day three pick on a back, they could do worse than Mike Weber of Ohio State or Benny Snell of Kentucky.
Neither player might be a dynamic back like Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt, but either could be solid backs in a rotation.

At wide receiver, my favorites are Hakeem Butler of Iowa State and Terry McLaurin of Ohio State.
Butler might have to be the Browns second rounder if they want to land the rangy 6'5 Cyclone.
Butler could turn out to be a possession receiver with a huge red zone presence, while McLaurin just improved every year with the Buckeyes, could help with special teams and might available early in day three.
I also like Riley Ridley of Georgia, who isn't as fast as his brother Calvin of the Falcons but might have better hands, but the Browns will have to use a day two pick for him.

The two tight ends from Iowa will be long gone for the Browns in round two, but the player that intrigues me could be available in the later rounds is Donald Parham of Stetson, who is a big target at 6'8, athletic (Parham is faster than top rated TE T.J. Hockenson of Iowa and is from a football background with his dad and four uncles each playing college football.
Parham is toolsy in baseball parlance and he has only played five years of football so he will be a project, but he caught 85 passes for Stetson last season alone and might be one of those former basketball players that come out of nowhere.

I think the Browns will take a quarterback on the third day, likely with one of those three fifth rounders, should they not trade any of those picks to move up on day two.
The quarterback I'm most familiar with is Boise State's Brett Rypien and I'd be fine with Rypien, but the player that Rypien beat out to start with the Broncos is considered the better pro prospect in Ryan Finley of N.C.State.
John Dorsey may have to use a higher pick such as their fourth and possibly even a third to grab Finley and I think that's more than Cleveland will be willing to pay.
David Blough of Purdue has the type of NFL arm that might be worth a flier late in the draft as that developmental quarterback that the Browns might be interested in.

Those are a few interesting names on the offensive side, but what about the defensive side?
I'll do my best to have those players listed here before the draft starts.



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Cleveland Browns Defensive Needs

The Cleveland Browns under John Dorsey have worked on the defense in the offseason, but the defense has a few more needs than on the offensive side, so it'll be interesting to see how Dorsey attacks the needed areas of concern.

The defensive line, which had areas of strength with Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi, still could have been bulked up in spots as well with Emmanuel Ogbah continuing to disappoint, yet show the occasional brilliance that made it viable to keep him around and Ogunjobi needing some help beside him at defensive tackle.
Dorsey's moves to add Olivier Vernon from the Giants to start at the end opposite Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson from the Vikings to slot at defensive tackle immediately impacted the Browns and made them as good as anyone's line on paper.
Ogbah was traded to the Chiefs and the Browns now have strong depth in 2018 free agent signee Chris Smith, Trevon Coley, both of who had nice seasons and a group of veterans claimed off waivers last year that includes Anthony Zettel, Devaroe Lawrence, and Carl Davis along with 2018 third rounder Chad Thomas, who played in only three games last season despite being healthy all season.
This draft class seems very deep in defensive linemen, so I still think John Dorsey may not be able to resist a falling top prospect to trade back into round one or one day two with a second or third rounder.

The linebackers have questions that will need to be answered.
Joe Schobert returns after missing some time last season, Christian Kirksey is back after a season-ending hamstring injury and second-year man Gerard Avery will be given a chance to replace the released Jamie Collins after a rookie season that saw him make some big plays.
Considering that the two veterans had injury problems and the other starter will be starting for the first time, the Browns could go after a young linebacker high in the draft and maybe another one or even two from the undrafted free agents.
As of right now, the Browns only have newcomer Adarius Taylor, who was signed from the Buccaneers in the off-season and journeyman Ray-Ray Armstrong as the top reserves, so I don't think John Dorsey is finished with this position.

The secondary could also be addressed with the earlier picks.
Denzel Ward was terrific at one corner last season, but he struggled with the same injury problems as at Ohio State and Terrence Mitchell played well last season at the other before an injury of his own.
The reserves at cornerback are nothing to get excited about, so I'd like to see the Browns draft at least one corner or even two, but they will at least be signing an undrafted free agent or two.
Damarious Randall is back at one safety after a breakout season after being acquired from Green Bay.
Jabrill Peppers was traded to the Giants in the Beckham trade, but Cleveland signed veteran Morgan Burnett to take his place from Pittsburgh after one disappointing season there.
Burnett was among the best safeties in the game as a Packer but was often injured, so we'll see if Burnett can return to his previous form.
TJ Carrie is back as the nickel back and Eric Murray will play some after being added from Kansas City in the Emmanuel Ogbah trade.
Still, I'm a bit nervous with the starting corners coming off injuries that hampered them at times in 2018 and a veteran safety that has a history of dings and pings.
A safety could help a great deal whether the addition is a rookie or a veteran release around June.

Britton Colquitt is pretty safe at punter and the Browns could attempt to take a flyer on someone with punt return abilities in order to save Antonio Callaway from having to do so.

Positions of need in order of importance
1) Linebacker
2) Cornerback
3) Offensive line- Pick your position
4) Safety
5) Kicker

Who could be some of these players to fill these positions of need?
I don't try to rate who the Browns may take, I usually add a few players that I like in the draft and see what happens.
That piece (or two) will likely be posted sometime on the overnight or tomorrow afternoon before the draft begins.



Cleveland Browns Offensive Needs

The hyperbole coming from Cleveland and Browns fans for the 2019 season is deafening.
Going from a winless season to seven wins that should have been nine with average officiating and with a quarterback that set rookie records will do that to fans-especially when the team adds a player like Odell Beckham, but there are still holes to fill and John Dorsey will attempt to cement a few in the draft.

On the offensive side of the football, the Browns have made great strides from this time a year ago in improving their talent, but there are still some needs to be addressed, but mainly from a depth perspective.

Baker Mayfield is entrenched as the quarterback for hopefully a long time to come, but the Browns could use a young QB to groom as a reserve.
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf (Wolf's son Elliot works in the Cleveland front office) always attempted to take a quarterback in every draft, using the thinking that having a young quarterback around every year increases competition, improves depth and when they mature a little and are ready to start, you can trade them for a draft selection or two.
I'm in total agreement with that philosophy.
Considering the Mayfield backups are veteran Drew Stanton and AAF standout Garrett Gilbert, the Browns could very well take a quarterback on day three of the draft.

The running backs depth chart looks similar to last season with Nick Chubb as the starter and Duke Johnson as the pass catcher/change of pace back.
That was until the Browns signed Kareem Hunt, who was leading the league in rushing before a release by the Chiefs following an assault charge.
Hunt will be suspended for the first eight games and Johnson wants to be traded, thinking that there isn't room in the offense for enough touches for three backs.
If Johnson is traded during the draft, only backup Dontrelle Hilliard remains and considering the knee injury background of Chubb, there would be a lack of depth until Hunt returns and under that scenario, the Browns are going to need a back.
If Johnson is moved, Dorsey would likely draft a back and sign another after the draft as a priority free agent.

The wide receivers look strong after the acquisition of Odell Beckham and are looking good with a Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and Antonio Callaway foursome.
Young receivers Damion Ratley and Derrick Willes each had a few moments last season, although Willies will be attempting to return from a collarbone injury that cost him much of the season.
Jaelen Strong was signed as a veteran free agent in the off-season.
I doubt the Browns will look for a wide receiver unless it is a situation of best players available on day three.
Cleveland could select a tight end though, as David Njoku is still more projection than production, although his physical skills make you want to live with the developmental process.
Veteran Demetrius Harris was signed from Kansas City to replace Darren Fells as the blocking tight end, but Seth DeValve could see his roster spot in jeopardy as he occasionally makes the spectacular catch, but gets dinged up easily and still struggles to block.

The offensive line might see an addition or two.
2018 second rounder Austin Corbett joins an otherwise intact line and veterans Eric Kush and Kendall Lamm were signed as free agents to back up the line and second-year man Desmond Harrison is back in the hopes of continuing to catch up his physical dimensions with his play.
Still, the line could use younger depth and an offensive lineman would make sense with center lacking a lineman that could replace center JC Tretter either now in the event of injury or later, push Chris Hubbard at right tackle or even an insurance policy at guard in case Corbett disappoints.

Kicker Greg Joseph was erratic after replacing Zane Gonzalez and could see a challenger either from late in day three or from the undrafted free agent cattle call.

I'll be back later today or tonight with the defensive needs and some players that I'm looking at and hoping the Browns consider.




Ten Things I Think

Ten things that I think returns from hiatus and although it is usually sports related, I try to sprinkle a thing or two outside sports as well.

1)  Thanks to the Browns Scout Podcast for the shoutout to the blog here!
When I did the podcast, Scott Dryden was a regular guest and Scott and Brad Ward do a great job with their podcast.
Now, Scott would have done another draft guide, as his book is truly missed.
Look them up on your podcast host of choice or on Twitter.

2) Should the Browns try to move back into round one Thursday night?
I lean towards no unless someone is there that absolutely should not be available late in the first.
I'm hoping to do some Browns related posts over the next two evenings.

3) On the Browns podcast, Scott and Brad mentioned two non-football notes that I'll opine on.
Tiger Woods winning the Masters?
I'll pass.
As an avowed Non-Tiger fan (Much like our President, my dislike comes from his behavior and attitude on the course, his well-publicized off-course problems had nothing to do with the dislike)
I give him plenty of credit for the return from back problems- back problems rank right up at the top of injuries that either end of change careers in any sport and to recover from those and win a major?
Tons of kudos for that, but as Scott said on his show, he didn't suddenly become a great guy because he won -only the media makes that stretch because it's a good story.

4) The other topic was the NBA future of Duke forward Zion Williamson, who is expected to be the top pick in the NBA draft in June.
Scott really liked him, while Brad compared him to the Lakers Julius Randle.
My comparison goes back a few decades to Shawn Kemp.
The "Rain Man" was explosive on the block and yet could shoot as well, but Kemp's game went south quickly when he wanted out of Seattle and gained a lot of weight very quickly.

5) The last time I wrote on these, I jotted a few words about the only TV station in town-WDVM might be better off going away if they were only going to offer re-runs and local news.
Since then, WDVM, which isn't on Directv for starters, has been off Antietam Broadband, the top cable provider for over four months.
Perhaps the time has come to decide what they are and is it worth the cost of doing business anymore?

6) I've made it clear that I dislike the Washington Capitals, but I'm making an exception and rooting for them in Wednesday's game seven against the Carolina Hurricanes.
I always liked the old Hartford Whalers, but the Hurricanes dropped quickly upon their move to Raleigh and after the punk move made by Carolina's owner Tom Dundon with his folding the AAF without finishing the season, they have fallen to the absolute bottom.
Until Tom Dundon sells the Carolina Hurricanes, I hope they are a bad, boring hockey team with lousy lottery luck and I'll be rooting for the Capitals tonight.

7) Has anyone tried a "Pickle Pop"?
I saw these on the shelves yesterday shopping and wondered about them.
As a dill pickle (You can keep your sweet or bread and butter, thank you) fan and as one that prefers frozen items such as lemonades and Italian ices to ice cream, I'm intrigued, but frozen pickles???

8) I didn't even know that a channel named Viceland existed, but their program on stories of pro wrestling- "Dark Side of the Ring" has been very good thus far.
If you are a fan of wrestling from days gone by, I highly recommend it.

9) Unless you have a team involved, there can be little doubt that the NHL playoffs are superior to the NBA version being played at the same time.
The NBA is filled with chalk winners and far more blowout games, while the NHL gives a higher amount of dramatic games and with often surprising results.
Both top seeds in the NHL were swept and an underdog can often roll deep into the playoffs- tell me the last time one saw that on the court.

10) The best fight in boxing is Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence.
We may never see it, but it is the best the sport has to offer.
Who do I like in that one?
I do have a choice, but it's very close- Perhaps another time

I'm going to attempt to do Browns pieces over the next two days on needs and players of interest.
Until then.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Crawford cans Khan

Terence Crawford had little problems retaining his WBO welterweight title via corner stoppage in the sixth round over former junior welterweight champion Amir Khan, but the problem that Crawford may not be able to climb so easily are still to come with the inter-promotional problems that threaten to choke boxing and its fans like the plague.

I thought Khan's speed could trouble Crawford and on the occasional time, it did, but those occasions appeared far too seldom for the Englishman and the real surprise came in the first round when Crawford, not known for getting out of the blocks quickly, dropped Khan with a left that was preceded by a right that appeared to do most of the damage.
Crawford nearly finished the fight there, but Khan avoided another knockdown with a well-placed grab and made it to the bell before being hurt and surviving again in the second.
Khan had a few good moments in the third and especially the fourth, but the fifth round saw Crawford landing hard punches that had Khan wincing and shaking his head and usually that means the end is near.
And it was, but in a less meaningful way than most had hoped as Crawford cracked Khan with what was either a low blow or a shot to the inner thigh (and depending on your angle, it could have been either) that saw Khan taking some of the allowed recovery period before trainer Virgil Hunter decided to intercede and surrender for his fighter from the corner.
Hunter's decision saved Khan from additional punishment but cost Crawford and fans a conclusive ending, not that is his job to worry about those things, but still an unsatisfying ending, if not an inevitable one.
Khan simply doesn't have the chin to compete with world-class welterweights and maybe not even those a notch below as his knockdown against trialhorse Samuel Vargas showed in his previous fight.
Yet, Khan would be unlikely to make 140 pounds again in a return to junior welterweight and may be caught in limbo, where his best option might be to make the fight that U.K. fans have always wanted against Kell Brook.
A Khan-Brook fight would put dollars into both men's coffers, even if the fight is too late to determine which was truly the better fighter in their prime and I'm hoping that Terence Crawford and Errol Spence don't look back in a few years and wonder about themselves as well.
Crawford-Spence is the best fight that boxing can make and Spence's claims that in-house options to unify his IBF title with are preferable (WBA champ Keith Thurman and WBC kingpin Shawn Porter) to a Crawford unification and I understand those are easy fights to make.
I would even be OK with Spence and Crawford hooking up in a year- IF you would make me this deal- Spence's next two fights are against those two PBC comrades while Crawford fights whoever he can match up with and those guys aren't going to be as interesting as Spence's competition certainly would be.
I'd be willing to wait under those conditions, no others.

On the Crawford-Khan undercard, Teofimo Lopez dominated Edis Tatli for four rounds and then stopped the former world title challenger with a right to the body that sent Tatli to one knee for the ten count.
Lopez claims he wants a fight with Vasyl Lomachenko in the next year before he leaves the lightweight division, but Lomachenko's claim is only if he holds a title will that fight take place.
A Mikey Garcia bout for the WBC title is unlikely, but should Garcia vacate the title, which is possible, Lopez could be in line for a fight that fills that vacancy, but an IBF title fight vs Richard Commey would be easier to make.
Commey would likely make more money for Lomachenko and a unification event so Top Rank will have to pay up for Commey to fight Lopez instead.

Shakur Stevenson cruised to a unanimous decision over Christopher Diaz.
I haven't watched this fight yet, but Stevenson is reported to have dominated Diaz in winning by eight, nine, and ten points on the scorecards.
I'm not sure Stevenson doesn't need more seasoning before fighting a champion at featherweight, a division that possesses four strong champions, but he seems to be on a fast track for a title fight within the next year or so.

Felix Verdejo's star may have dimmed since his days as a top prospect, but he at least added a little shine with a unanimous decision over Bryan Vasquez.
Verdejo never hurt Vasquez, but his jab was impressive and his combinations at least brought back memories of what Verdejo was thought to be before various problems caused inactivity and his first loss.
It will be interesting to see if Verdejo is challenged with another step up in competition or if he fights another boxer on the level of Vasquez, who is solid, but not quite top ten class.
I scored Verdejo a 97-93 winner on my card.

Meanwhile, Mr. Al Haymon, whose name was mentioned as much on social media during the Top Rank card due to the Crawford-Spence talk, and his PBC were outside on Fox and FS1 from Carson California.
The PBC main event saw former WBC welterweight champion, Danny Garcia return to the ring for the first time since a September loss to Shawn Porter for the vacant title and looked very strong in taking out durable Adrian Granados in the seventh round.
Granados won round one with his trademark aggression, but Garcia knocked down Granados twice in the second round with overhand rights that it seemed that everyone could see coming but Granados.
It was all Garcia from there as he never was threatened despite Granados' efforts otherwise.
Garcia sent Granados to the mat in the fifth and finished him off in the seventh as Garcia battered Granados along the ropes forcing referee Thomas Taylor to end the bout.
For Garcia, it was an impressive return, albeit against a fighter made to order for Garcia, who generally scores knockouts against fighters a step below the elite, but rarely stops an elite one.
Garcia would be well suited to fight again soon, but similar to many in the PBC, he simply doesn't fight often enough to stay in the minds of fans.
Garcia has been on both sides of close decisions in his career and has never been outmatched in any of his fights, but putting Garcia against any of the four champions have that been there done that feeling, which is logical considering that he has already fought two of them (Thurman and Porter) already.
Granados is simply physically overmatched at welterweight and if he can make the weight, would be competitive against anyone at 140 pounds.

Former heavyweight title challenger Andy Ruiz made his PBC debut a successful one in winning every round against Alexander Dimitrenko before Dimitrenko's corner stopped the bout at the end of the fifth round.
Don't give Ruiz too much credit though, as Dimitrenko seemed so dispassionate in his performance as any heavyweight in the top 100 could have dominated him on this night.
Dimitrenko's effort was a surprising one, considering his brave battle against Bryant Jennings in his previous bout, but if this is all that he will offer in the future, he should consider retirement.
As for Ruiz, who has just one loss to Joseph Parker, he has always shown ability, but a lack of activity along with a tendency to stay in shape has been a constant companion to him.
Should those things change for Ruiz, he could still be a viable contender and on the PBC side, I'd be very interested in a Ruiz-Adam Kownacki pairing.

Brandon Figueroa won a minor junior featherweight jewelry piece when Yonfrez Parejo was unable to continue after the eighth round.
The bout was filled with good exchanges in the first three rounds, but the bigger punching Figueroa began to grind Parejo down thereafter and avoided the counters that Parejo landed earlier in the fight.
I had Figueroa ahead after eight rounds 78-74 and I had the feeling that this fight might have ended before the final bell anyway, so the point may have been moot.
The undefeated Figueroa won his third fight in a row against veteran competition (Parejo, Moises Flores, and Oscar Escandon) and would be a very interesting challenger to the victor of next Friday's
WBA-IBF unification between Daniel Roman and T.J. Doheny.

Another minor belt was handed out on this card with an untelevised fight (Why that was is beyond me since it seemed like they were showing every fight down to ten years in the L.A. area) in the bantamweight division as former IBF flyweight champion John Riel Casimero knocked out Ricardo Espinoza in the twelfth round to win this title, which basically puts him into bantamweight contention.
As noted, I haven't seen this-Casimero knocked Espinoza down in the fifth and again in the final round before the fight was stopped.
Entering the final round the fight was on the line as each fighter was ahead by two points on one judge's card and the third judge had the fight even.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica 15-14 to increase my lead to 94-85.
My points: three points from Brandon Figueroa (bonus point for calling the round)
                   two points from Terence Crawford, Shakur Stevenson, Teofimo Lopez, Felix Verdejo, and Andy Ruiz.
                   one point from John Riel Casimero and Danny Garcia

Ramon's points; three points from Teofimo Lopez
                           two points from Crawford, Figueroa, Verdejo, and Ruiz
                           one point from Stevenson, Casimero, and Garcia





Saturday, April 20, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox-Non-Sports Version

The inbox still needed a little more sifting through in order to consider it cleaned for a while and after the last cleaning, I was able to set things up to make this one a non-sports version.

We start with two passings from outside the sports world with the word of the death of Charles Van Doren at the age of 93.
Van Doren, the Columbia professor, who famously received the answers to the questions that would be asked on the 1950's quiz show "Twenty One" beforehand and was subsequently disgraced passed from natural causes in Connecticut.
The scandal would be developed into the film "Quiz Show" that focused mainly on Van Doren, the opponent that he defeated, Herb Stempel and congressional investigator Richard Goodwin and the status of television during the fifties.
Before the Robert Redford produced film, PBS did an "American Experience" documentary, which I thought was even better than the film, which as most films are, was embellished for the purposes of the film.
Van Doren lost his job as a TODAY show correspondent and would spend the remainder of his career working at the Encyclopedia Brittanica writing and editing books often using a pseudonym as well as a return to teaching later in life.
Van Doren rarely discussed the scandal but finally commented in a large reminiscence in the New Yorker in 2008.


Goodbye to Scott Walker at the age of 76.
Walker, who first gained prominence with the Walker Brothers (none of the brothers were actually related) in the late '60s with various hits such as "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' being the highest on the U.S. charts, would move away from not only pop music, but even contemporary music. preferring to make more experimental and progressive cuts instead.
Walker's takes on some classic tunes range from interesting in a good way to wondering why someone would even think of releasing this, but Ryan has always been a huge fan and I've recently been listening to some of his non-pop work, some of which I've enjoyed a great deal and others... well not so much!
Walker would have his own television series in Great Britain and is unusual for the small amount of footage that is available.
Even then, music programs would often be archived for future use, which is why we have so many terrific performances from the various ages of television and I'm surprised that the Walker series is bereft of material.
The title of the link above from Billboard may have said it best- Scott Walker changed the face of pop music by turning his back on it.


The Guardian brings word of Ken Lawson of Australia, who as an amateur photographer and astronomer nails the perfect shot of the International Space Station crossing the face of the Moon.
It appears that Lawson just got lucky with the photo on March 14 with his telescope and camera, but alas it took plenty of planning, patience and practice as Lawson says that he had attempted to get it right for over eight years before he finally snapped the picture on a rare pass near his home that he says occurs about as often as a solar eclipse.

Joe Plum sent me this link to the website Yupitexists.com offered up this fastball on Pestalotiopsis Microspora.
Just what is that?
Well, it's a mushroom that can eat plastic!
I would imagine this won't be on a large scale in my time, but imagine the possibilities of removing plastic from the environment and generating an edible product?
In controlled conditions of testing, the mycelium breaks down the plastic and in a few weeks, the plastic is gone and in its place?
A mushroom brought to you by your friends in nature.

And we wrap up with 13th Dimension and their ratings of the top 13 Batman action figures ever made.
One would think we could not pass that up and we didn't!
How many do we own? Two.
How many would we like to? Far More
How many are on the list to buy? Three.

With that, the inbox is now scrubbed clean for a while.
Coming soon, last weekend's road trip to Lexington, tonight's Crawford-Khan bout and early next week, some thoughts on the draft for the Browns and a rare draft day without a first rounder.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Boxing Challenge

It's a big weekend in the boxing challenge as the first of three big fight weekends in a row begins with eight fights in the challenge.

The biggest fight of the weekend is with ESPN on Pay Per View as Top Rank presents arguably the top fighter in the world today defending his championship.
It depends on who you ask on the topic of the best fighter for their answer, but there would be some that would give the answer of WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who defends that title against former junior welterweight champion Amir Khan.
I'm not as down on this fight as many are. Khan has skills, he hits with some pop, he's an underrated boxer and he'll take chances and fight anyone put in front of him (except countryman Kell Brook for some reason).
Khan has one problem- an unreliable chin that has seen him on the floor more often than you can count off-hand and has been knocked out three times.
I doubt Khan's chin holds up in this one either as I think he'll win a few rounds and be in the fight for the first half before Crawford turns up the heat and finishes Khan in the second half.

The top three undercard bouts all are part of the challenge with two of Top Rank's top prospects in action and a fighter that was once thought to be a future star but fizzled out in orbit.
Featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson faces a strong test in former world title challenger Christopher Diaz, while the electrifying lightweight Teofimo Lopez battles another former title challenger Edis Tatli.
Stevenson seems to have the tougher test of the two, but I expect both to emerge victorious in their matchups.
Felix Verdejo was once a rising star on the same level as Lopez and Diaz before out of the ring problems and injuries forced him out of the ring for far too long, followed by being knocked out in his return by Antonio Lozada in the final round, when he only had to survive to win a close decision.
Verdejo has won one squash since, but he's matched well against veteran Bryan Vasquez, who has fought many top opponents but beaten few of them.
It'll be interesting to see how Verdejo looks in this one.

While to see the above fights will cost you eighty dollars on PPV, the PBC counter-programs with a free slate on Fox.
The main event is an interesting pairing between former welterweight champion Danny Garcia and rugged Adrian Granados.
Garcia lost a decision for the vacant WBC title to Shawn Porter last year for the same title that Garcia lost to Keith Thurman, who had vacated that title during one of Thurman's eight-year layoffs.
Granados lost to the same Porter in his last major fight and has fallen short against his best opponents, although his loss to Adrien Broner could have gone to either fighter.

Heavyweight Andy Ruiz returns against Alexander Dimitrenko in a crossroads bout.
Ruiz has had problems with weight and staying in shape, but has fast hands when at his best, while Dimitrenko fought well before being stopped in the ninth by Bryant Jennings in his last fight.

Two minor titles are on the line with talented banger Brandon Figueroa facing Yonfrez Parejo in a junior featherweight bout in one while former flyweight champion Johnriel Casimero will fight Ricardo Espinoza in the other for a bantamweight trinket.
Figueroa should be favored over the veteran Parejo and a stoppage would be impressive as Parejo took former bantamweight champions Ryan Burnett and Zhanat Zhakiyanov the full distance in losses.
Casimero holds knockout wins over current WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards and knocked out Amnat Ruenroeng to win the IBF flyweight strap, but is untested at 118 pounds. while Espinoza has 20 KO's in his 23 wins, but in facing Casimero is taking a jump in class.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 79-71.

WBO Welterweight Title. 12 Rds
Terence Crawford vs Amir Khan
R.L: Crawford KO 10
TRS: Crawford KO 8

Featherweights. 10 Rds
Shakur Stevenson vs Christopher Diaz
R.L: Stevenson KO 7
TRS: Stevenson Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Teofimo Lopez vs Edis Tatli
R.L: Lopez KO 5
TRS: Lopez KO 3

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Felix Verdejo vs Bryan Vasquez
Both: Verdejo Unanimous Decision

Welterweights 12 Rds
Danny Garcia vs Adrian Granados
Both: Garcia Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Andy Ruiz vs Alexander Dimitrenko
R.L: Ruiz KO 6
TRS: Ruiz KO 9

Junior Featherweights, 12 Rds
Brandon Figueroa vs Yonfrez Parejo
R.L: Figueroa KO 4
TRS: Figueroa KO 8

Bantamweights 12 Rds
John Riel Casimero vs Ricardo Espinoza
Both: Casimero Unanimous Decision






Cleaning out the inbox

The inbox purge continues with more notes of interest as the sports world brings the links for this cleaning.

We start with the Athletic and their Buffalo branch with an article on Jim Kelly and his time with the USFL's Houston Gamblers.
Matthew Fairborn talks to all the players in the gambit that brought Kelly, who was seconds away from signing with the Bills in their offices, to Houston with the Run and Shoot offense that set all sorts of passing records.
I also learned something that I didn't know about Kelly and backup Todd Dillon.
I knew the Gamblers signed Dillon as a fellow rookie, but what I didn't know is that the team was having problems with Kelly buying into the offense, signed Dillon specifically to challenge Kelly's competitive spirit and if Dillon beat Kelly out- so be it, which led to a Kelly outburst in the office of team owner Jerry Argovitz.
This might be the most comprehensive article that I've ever read about this period of Kelly's career and if you are a USFL or a Mouse Davis. June Jones or Run and Shoot offense fan, this is a must read!


The New York Times writes of the massive, encompassing and increasingly obsolete boxing on VHS collection of the late Bela Szilagyi, who compiled over 55,000 fights on over 8,000 tapes.
The collection is still being updated by his widow and she's looking to sell, but the aging format is working against it in the digital age.
The collection was once used by fighters and trainers to prepare for bouts, networks that needed footage for broadcast or even boxing junkies such as yours truly to just step back in time before the days of YouTube.
Szilagyi was a concert pianist and you don't usually think of concert piano and boxing having crossover fans, but this article is more than boxing.
It's just as much as about a man's love for the sport and a wife's love for her husband that she doesn't want to let go.
It's a piece that hits home for those of us that know the feeling of unconditional love from one's spouse.

Photo Credit; Brian Boesch
Battlin' Bob sends this article from Deadspin on the final season of baseball at fading Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia, where the Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League are wrapping up their tenure there before a move to Fredericksburg next season.
Bob said of the "Pfitz" that he never knew how much it looked like Hagerstown's Muni and there are similarities despite Hagerstown Municipal being already 54 years old when Pfitzner was built.
Getting from Hagerstown to Woodbridge can be quite a grind, but reading this makes me want to make one trip to Potomac to say goodbye.
I've been there a few times, but not enough to develop a real connection with the place.
Perhaps there is room for just one rundown, badly kept stadium in my life! Ha Ha!
It's another good story of a long time fan saying goodbye, even if it is goodbye to a place that is long past its prime.
I suppose one day, I could be writing a similar article about the Muni- Let's hope that in that case,
their new home is in the area, not far away.

Yahoo writes of the rising career of Top Rank's Crystina Poncher, who has developed her skills in boxing broadcasting to move up to commentating in both the play by play and color roles on ESPN+ undercards and as a reporter on the featured events.
Poncher is the first woman to perform in the play by play role in boxing and is quite good, although she's still learning that role.
I've always liked her work and it'll be interesting to see how she continues to improve in calling boxing along with her hosting and interviewing work.

We finish with the Athletic again with an article on NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who was recently hired as the head coach at Vanderbilt, despite never coaching at all in college.
Stackhouse apparently still laces the sneakers up and practices with his teams as he did this season as an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Stackhouse apparently emphasizes defense and slows the game down, which surprised me considering Stackhouse's skills in the open floor as a player.
Stackhouse seems to be highly thought of by the players and coaches that have worked with him, but players that try college jobs with only NBA coaching experience have failed more than succeeded, Clyde Drexler at Houston, Sidney Lowe at N.C, State and most recently Chris Mullin at St.John's come to mind off the top of my head.










Thursday, April 18, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox- Passings-Football

The inbox is bulging at the seams and there have been enough recent passings from the football world to give the gridiron losses their own post.

Goodbye to Forrest Gregg at the age of 85 from Parkinson's Disease.
Gregg, who was once described by Vince Lombardi as "the finest football player I ever coached" entered the Hall of Fame in 1977 after a sixteen-year career at tackle for Green Bay and Dallas and winning six championships over his career, five of those with the Packers.
Gregg dominated at tackle but was versatile enough to play guard as well and even center in a severe pinch.
In so many of those wonderful pictures from the 60s that show the power sweep with Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor running around the end, it is usually Gregg or Jerry Kramer (or both) clearing the way for the famous play of the time.
Gregg's playing days were over by my day, but I saw Gregg coach the Browns and Packers (unsuccessfully), and the Bengals (took them to their first super bowl) along with two CFL stints in Toronto and Shreveport (Shreveport in the CFL still makes one wonder about that idea) before leaving the Packers ( I doubt that they were trying too hard to keep him after seasons of 4-12 and 5-9-1) to rebuild his alma mater SMU after the Mustangs were hit with the only "Death Penalty" in division one football.
Gregg had suffered in recent years from Parkinson's and his family has donated his brain to see how much football's blows had contributed to his Parkinson's.issues.

Goodbye to Clem Daniels at the age of 81.
Daniels, a hard running fullback that played for three teams, but spent the bulk of his career with the Oakland Raiders, before finishing his career with one season with San Francisco after the merger was agreed to.
Daniels was a four-time AFL all-star, the 1963 AFL MVP and finished his career as the all-time leading rusher in the American Football League with over 5,000 yards on the ground.
Daniels was also a key member in the AFL player boycott in 1965 of their All-Star game and forced the move from New Orleans to Houston after racial mistreatment of players in Louisiana.

Goodbye to Johnny "Lam" Jones at the age of 60 from cancer.
Jones was the second overall pick of the 1980 NFL Draft by the Jets, but only lasted five less than distinguished seasons in the league.
Jones was a standout at Texas though as a standout at running back and wide receiver with world-class speed.
The term "world-class speed" is often overused as a generic term for a fast player in football, but Lam Jones truly possessed world-class speed as he was part of the four-man gold medal-winning team in the 100-meter relay in the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
Jones also was in the finals in the individual 100 meters in Montreal but finished sixth to the winner, Hasley Crawford of Trinidad and Tobago.

Goodbye to Cedrick Hardman at the age of 70.
Hardman played ten years for the San Francisco 49ers after the defensive end was their first-round selection in 1970.
Hardman holds the 49ers record for sacks with 107, although the NFL didn't officially recognize the sack as an official statistic until 1982 and also is the team record holder for sacks in a season with 18 in 1971.
Hardman was part of the 49ers "Gold Rush" in 1976, which harassed quarterbacks relentlessly including this game against the Rams that saw the 49ers sack Rams quarterback James Harris ten times against a Rams offensive line that included hall of famer Tom Mack and future Pro Bowlers Rich Saul, Doug France, and Dennis Harrah.
Hardman would play two seasons for the Raiders and was part of their 1980 Super Bowl champions before retiring for one year before a one year return with the USFL Oakland Invaders as a player/coach.

Goodbye to Joe Bellino at the age of 81.
Bellino won the 1960 Heisman Trophy as a running back that also punted and scored touchdowns as a runner, receiver, and passer for Navy.
Due to Bellino's five year military commitment, Bellino would not debut as a professional until 1965 when he would join the then-Boston Patriots for three seasons that he spent mostly as a kick returner.
Bellino would score only one professional touchdown and would total only 213 yards combined in those three seasons as a rusher and receiver.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Minor League Fantasy Draft- Round Six Elehuris Montero

With my final pick, I was thinking about taking another lower level player to develop and hope for an impact player.
However, one player stood out as in "Why is this guy still on the board"?

I mean really, it seemed like he had been taken, but I scanned the results and nope, still available.
I was surprised, but I also was hoping for a younger, albeit riskier, player, but in the end class and performance won out as I finished the draft with the selection of Elehuris Montero, a third baseman from the St.Louis Cardinal system.

The 20-year-old Montero hit .322 with 15 homers and 69 RBI in 103 for Low A Peoria in 103 games before a promotion to High A Palm Beach for the final 24 games where he hit .298 with a homer.
Montero is one of three excellent young third base prospects with the Cardinals along with 2018 first rounder Nolan Gorman and international signee Malcolm Nunez, so it's not out of the question that Montero could be a trade piece near the deadline, should the Cardinals be in playoff contention.

Montero is from the Dominican Republic and was noted by Baseball America to have "Plus raw power" "bat speed to overcome swing holes" and could be an eventual "25 to 30 homer with a steady average player".
Montero's defensive position is less certain as some scouts think he could stay at third as an average defender with work, while others think he will wind up at first base or even possibly left field.
Montero won the Midwest League MVP last season and was expected to be assigned back at High A Palm Beach where he finished last season, but was challenged with advancement to AA Springfield to start 2019.

It'll be interesting to see if Montero zooms up the prospect charts if he plays well at 20 (turns 21 in August) in the Texas League, but should he do there what he did in Peoria, Elehuris Montero will be a name that you hear often not only around the trade deadline but in the 2021 Hot Stove League as well.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Minor League Fantasy Draft- Round Five Miguel Vargas

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Johnson/Ogden Raptors
The fantasy draft was nearing its end and fewer teams still had selections remaining, so there were only a handful of players taken between my fourth-round pick, Luis Patino and my looming pick in the fifth round.

With two rounds to go, I usually like to take players that are lower in team systems with very high upside.
When you are taking a chance on a prospect of that type, it's preferable to do so later in the draft, so if the player struggles, you are more likely to cut bait faster and not keep him around.

I had a handful of players on my post-it with this type of background and level to choose from and almost all of them were still on the board- only one had been taken.
I looked over them closely and decided to take the one that had the highest upside, but having the least experience, was carrying the highest risk.
In the fifth round, I didn't look at it as extremely risky with a lower rounder when I selected 19 year third baseman Miguel Vargas of the Dodgers.
Vargas played 22 games with Rookie-level Ogden of the Pioneer League, where Vargas raked to a .394 2 homers 22 RBI tune and an OPS over a thousand before moving to Low A Great Lakes.
With the Loons, Vargas didn't hit as well in hitting only. 216 without a homer and struck out in 20 of his 75 at-bats.

Vargas is the son of one of Cuba's greatest baseball legends, Lazaro Vargas, who played 22 seasons for the Cuban national team and won two Olympic gold's with that national team.
The 6'3 Vargas signed for $300,000 and is expected to may have to eventually shift to first, but is thought to have plus power and line drive potential once he fills into his still growing body.
Vargas needs work on pulling the ball for power and if he is going to stay at third base reports say he'll have to keep from gaining weight as he is said to have "Slow Twitch" reflexes, although good hands defensively.

Miguel Vargas has the pedigree and background for success but comes with some questions as most younger Cuban prospects have about the competition level that they have faced along with the adjustment of moving to the USA.
Still, his bat looks like it has the chance to be special and was worth taking a chance on at this time of the draft.
I'll finish the draft series sometime on a slow day and I'll try to keep updates through the season on how the system is doing.