Thursday, May 30, 2019

Bob Kalsu and division

Memorial Day brings thoughts of the Americans that died in battle and the Forgotten Superstars series looks at the only active professional athlete to be killed in the Vietnam War.

Bob Kalsu played just one season for the Buffalo Bills before going to Vietnam and losing his life.
Kalsu had been an All-America guard at Oklahoma and in the waning days of the American Football League, Kalsu was the backup to future Hall of Famer Billy Shaw and was thought to be moving into Shaw's position upon his retirement (Shaw's final season was Kalsu's rookie year and it's easy to assume that would have happened without Kalsu's military commitment)

I'm not going to get into Kalsu's story too much here.
Sports Illustrated and the defunct Grantland did that in the linked articles and very well at that.
However, what it does make me think of is patriotism in the country then and now and how our country is as divided now as it was then, but for differing reasons.
Back then, the dividing line was the Vietnam War and I could respect someone's view on the issue, no matter the opinion.
War is a moral decision and one person's justified encounter can be another's invasion without cause and it is one that can be seen either way.

The Vietnam War divided a nation and yet here we are again with another divided country and the divisive party this time is not as much about a political party as much as it is about one man and his party relentless rolling over to his behavior.
Not that the opposition has done anything to make themselves a viable option other than say "we dislike....." and I think that's the problem in opposition.
Stand for something.
One side stands for keeping power no matter the cost, the other simply in taking that person away without plans for doing so and there is your divide over nothing.
Stand for something.

Bob Kalsu stood for something and left a potentially lucrative career to serve, much as Pat Tillman would do later, but I wonder what Kalsu would say today about the division in our nation.
Would he be as fast to serve again if needed today?
Would he be OK with a country grinding its gears against each other?
I wonder how far we have come in the interim since the Vietnam War and how as a country we haven't seemed to learn about unifying as a nation.
We can have differences in policy, opinions and how we see things, but as a nation, we have never seemed to recover from the cleaving of the nation over the Vietnam War,

That being the case, There are few people alive (and those numbers dwindle every day) that lived during a time that truly was Country first.
Not partisan ideas, Not political parties and certainly not over the political leaders that have been chosen to represent their parties over the last decades.
No matter your side, I'm not sure I'll ever see the days of a united country again unless it's a short term coming together after tragedy.
It's too bad and after a day of remembering lost lives for a country and way of life that the world used to envy, that my thoughts went to division, not unification.
Bob Kalsu and so many others like him., deserve better.



Sunday, May 26, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Haney steals the show, Herring upsets Ito

Despite a world title changing hands, there could only be one star of the night and it was clearly Devin Haney, who dominated a normally solid Antonio Moran for six rounds and hammered home a looping right hand in the seventh for a memorable one punch knockout on DAZN.

It was Haney's DAZN/Matchroom debut and he was dazzling in his performance as Moran, who lost a close decision to Jose Pedraza last June, was overmatched against Haney.
I scored Haney as the winner of every round before the memorable ending and the fight's only question by the fourth round was whether Haney would be able to stop Moran, who had never been stopped in his previous losses.
Haney will have to take another step up when he challenges for a world title, but I wouldn't be surprised a bit if, by 2021, the fight fans are talking about as the "fight that must be made" would match Devin Haney with Teofimo Lopez.

On ESPN, the WBO junior lightweight title was the centerpiece of a pro wrestling like storyline as former Marine and Olympian Jamel Herring pulled an upset of champion Masayuki Ito in Kissimmee, Florida via a unanimous decision.
Herring was just too slick for Ito, who was noted for never having an amateur fight before turning pro and it showed against the skilled, but never noted for being outstanding Herring.
In hindsight, Ito was made to order for a fighter of Herring's style and I should have seen that coming.
Herring avoided the wild lunges of Ito well and was able to control the fight from the outside as Ito seemed confused by Herring's left-handed stance and was rarely able to land.
I scored Herring a 116-112 (8-4) winner which agreed with one judge, with the other two scoring a too wide 118-110.
Herring dedicated the win to his late daughter, who passed away from SIDS as an infant and would have turned ten on the day of Herring's title win.
It's a compelling story, but one that isn't likely to end in a long championship book as Herring may fight WBC champion Miguel Berchelt in a unification fight in which Herring will again be a sizable underdog.

In the co-main event, Jose Pedraza returned from his loss to Vasyl Lomachenko to stop Antonio Lozada in the ninth round of their ten round event.
Lozada showed lots of heart and aggression and gave Pedraza little quarter, but the difference between a top ten fighter and a top twenty fighter can be vast and despite the effort, Pedraza wore Lozada down before being knocked down and finished in the ninth round.
Pedraza may be blocked in the lightweight division for now and might have to move to 140 pounds for another title shot.
Pedraza is unlikely to receive a Lomachenko rematch for two (and likely three after his match with Luke Campbell) belts and the remaining champion Richard Commey (IBF) is defending against Ray Beltran next,a victory should see Commey cash in against Lomachenko for all the lightweight gold and Pedraza is surprisingly unranked by the IBF.

Over with the PBC on FS1 from Biloxi Mississippi, the Hamburglar peeped his head outside the arches as former Olympian Terrell Gausha appeared to have clearly outpointed former champion Austin Trout in a fight that could be called boring and well, I'm calling it boring, but Gausha didn't receive the deserved nod as the judges called the fight a draw with three divergent and inaccurate card.
I had Gausha winning originally 96-94, but a rewatch (hey, I was at work and I was bored!) saw me give Gausha a 97-93 decision.
The Gausha judge scored it 99-91, which was ridiculous, but the 95-95 wasn't good (I thought my original 96-94 Gausha was generous to Trout), but the 96-94 Trout card was terrible.
It wasn't that Gausha was exciting or terrific in triumph, mind you, but Trout looked slow and just didn't move his hands enough.
Trout called for a rematch, saying he hadn't fought enough of late and while that may be true (and just whose fault is that again?), I don't think anyone really wants to see this again and what would it prove even if they did.
PBC could stick either of these two against Julian Williams or the Tony Harrison/Jermell Charlo winner anyway, so a rematch seems pointless.

I would like to add one point- Austin Trout seems to be the first fighter to succumb to the matchmaking style of PBC, where you fight once a year and maybe face a top-notch boxer every other year.
Inactivity dulls the skills and inactivity hurts an older fighter more than a younger one as far as sharpness goes, but the younger fighter is hurt by not fighting enough by not learning what you need to learn as an older fighter to dig deep, win a fight that you shouldn't or discover the tricks of the trade to give you a chance to win in a fight you might not be the favorite to win.
The system that PBC pushes for their fighters is that you'll get good pay for fewer fights and take less damage and that makes sense- in theory.
However, what that seems to be doing as well is limiting their fighters prime (in earning years as well as performance), affecting their long term performance and keeping them from the careers that their fighters are capable of.
Austin Trout might be the first test case of my theory, but over the next few years, I'm willing to bet that he won't be the last.

The other fight in the challenge from China has not taken place yet (Later this morning), so I will edit this post with the result and update to the boxing challenge after it is over.

In the boxing challenge as of this writing, I have added three points to Ramon Malpica's two with the Devin Haney fight being the difference in points.
Both of us picked Jose Pedraza's win for one point, both of us picked Masayuki Ito in his loss and the Trout-Gausha draw gives no points.

Editor's Note; Carlos Canizales defeated Sho Kimura via unanimous decision.
Ramon added two points for that win and took four points to my three for the weekend.
Ramon cuts my lead in the challenge to 135-120.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Boxing Challenge

Not a huge boxing weekend, but in what has been par for the course of late, cards from all three major boxing sources and at close to the same time.

ESPN will post two of the four challenge fights with the only world title on the line Saturday among the three with the WBO junior lightweight title of Masayuki Ito being defended against former Olympian Jamel Herring in Kissimmee Florida.
Herring has a great story, former Olympian, Marine with combat experience and as a parent that lost a child from SIDS, Herring challenging for the world title on Memorial Day weekend makes Herring the sentimental favorite against Ito, who will be fighting for only the second time in the United States, but returns to Kissimmee, where he upset then-undefeated Christopher Diaz to win his title.
The winner appears to be slotted for a unification tilt against WBC champion Miguel Berchelt, who is also Top Rank promoted.

The co-feature from Florida will see former IBF junior lightweight and WBO lightweight champion Jose Pedraza returning from his loss to Vasyl Lomachenko against Antonio Lozada.
Pedraza didn't fight badly despite losing a lopsided nod to Lomachenko, so he's favored here and Lozada, who stopped Felix Verdejo in the tenth round in an upset in his last fight in March 2018, but has been inactive since.

FS1 has a crossroads junior middleweight fight in Biloxi, Mississippi, as their main event with former champion Austin Trout fighting former Olympian Terrell Gausha.
Trout's been off for just shy of a year since his majority decision loss to then WBC junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo, but he fought well in spots against Charlo and should be favored against Gausha, who fought mildly in his title challenge against then WBA kingpin Erislandy Lara in October 2017 and has fought just once since.
The winner of this might have a shot at a champion since PBC controls most of this division, but will likely take a year or more off before doing so in the usual PBC promotional pattern.

DAZN and Matchroom are in Oxon Hill, Maryland with highly touted lightweight Devin Haney in his bow with Eddie Hearn's group.
Haney was a huge catch for Hearn as the 20-year-old looks to have everything that it takes to win a title, if not becoming a star.
Opponent Antonio Moran fought respectably in losing a close decision last June to Jose Pedraza, but if Haney is as good as I think that he is, Haney should see a small test, but not have too many problems.

The WBA is my least favorite sanctioning body with their too many titles and ridiculous ratings, but I'll thank them for streaming the junior flyweight minor title fight between undefeated Carlos Canizales and Sho Kimura from China.
You may remember Kimura for his majority decision loss to Kosei Tanaka last year in which he lost his WBO title in the TRS fight of the year, although I had Kimura winning a fight that could have been given to either fighter.
Canizales appears to be a big puncher, but his only blemish on his record is a draw with Ryo Taguchi against the only notable fighter on his resume', so let's see how he matches up with Kimura.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 132-116

WBO Jr.Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Masayuki Ito vs Jamel Herring
Both: Ito Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 10 Rds
Jose Pedraza vs Antonio Lozada
Both: Pedraza Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights 10 Rds
Austin Trout vs Terrell Gausha
Both: Trout Unanimous Decision

Lightweights 12 Rds
Devin Haney vs Antonio Moran'
R.L: Haney Unanimous Decision
TRS: Haney KO 8

Junior Flyweights.12 Rds
Carlos Canizales vs Sho Kimura
R.L: Canizales Unanimous Decision
TRS: Kimura Unanimous Decision

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Case for and against Deontay Wilder

After Deontay Wilder's one round demolition last Saturday night of Dominic Breazeale, suddenly some of the American media (boxing and otherwise) began to seriously discuss Deontay Wilder as the best heavyweight in the world, despite Anthony Joshua holding three of the four recognized heavyweight titles and Tyson Fury holding the lineal title.
As impressive as Wilder was in brushing aside the challenge of Breazeale and it was impressive- was it enough to really consider him as the best heavyweight in the world?

Here is the case for why Wilder is that man in the division and then I'll make the case for why he still  has much to prove.

The Case For:
                       Deontay Wilder is the biggest puncher in the division and with the arguable exception of Naoya Inoue, is the biggest puncher in the game.
Anthony Joshua is a huge hitter as well, but Wilder is the harder puncher of the two.
Tyson Fury isn't a top puncher,so while Wilder-Joshua for punching power is worth arguing, Fury doesn't even enter the picture.
The one punch power that Wilder possesses saved his title against Tyson Fury with a 12th round knockdown and anyone Wilder hits, he has the potential to take out.

                      Deontay Wilder has perhaps the biggest win of any of the three with his win over Luis Ortiz.
Yes, if we are looking at career resume's Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury each holding victories over Wladimir Klitschko are far bigger wins, but Luis Ortiz was closer to his peak than Klitschko was.
Klitschko vs Fury was one of the duller heavyweight title fights in history, while Klitchko floored Joshua and hurt him badly in their match.
Fury's win came first, but Klitschko was clearly sharper and better prepared in his challenge of Joshua.
Still, Luis Ortiz was the "best heavyweight that no one will fight" and Deontay Wilder showed courage and a better chin than I expected in beating Ortiz.

                    Deontay Wilder has made more title defenses than either Joshua or Fury.
Granted, many of those defenses were against C-level fighters, but Wilder still has more experience at the champioship level.
Almost all of those with the exception of Ortiz and Fury, weren't exactly even middle level contenders (you can make an argument that Dominic Breazeale might have been the best of the Wilder challengers outside of those two,although the first fight vs Bermane Stiverne would have a case as well), but still a title defense is a title defense.

The Case Against:
                              Deontay Wilder hasn't beaten anyone other than Luis Ortiz.
Remember that Tyson Fury drew with Wilder and it took two knockdowns to salvage that draw, so that's not a win, so you basically have Wilder with a resume that has a very good win over Ortiz, a draw against the lineal champion and a huge dropoff to Bermane Stiverne and Dominic Breazeale with another sizable dip for Wilder's other opponents.
Wilder is still relatively untested against top opponents and will have never faced a puncher on the order of Anthony Joshua.

                             Deontay Wilder still has a very questionable chin and he's just waiting to be exposed.
Wilder has never faced a puncher like Joshua, Ortiz is a good not great banger and Fury has never been noted as a knockout artist, despite his size.
Still, Wilder was in deep waters against Ortiz and full credit for surviving Ortiz in the fifth round, but the fight that I cannot get out of my mind is his early fight against journeyman Harold Sconiers.
Sconiers, who finished his career with a 18-27-2 mark, dropped Wilder in the second round of their fight and had Wilder in all kinds of trouble in Wilder's thirteenth pro fight.
Points for Wilder for getting up and winning, but the Harold Sconiers' of the world shouldn't be hurting fighters of the level of Deontay Wilder, no matter the point in the career that they fight.

                      Deontay Wilder is not at the technical level of the best heavyweight in the world.
Wilder is wild, wide open and undisciplined in his attack and that leaves Wilder vulnerable.
Wilder did try to fight off the jab and in a more orthodox manner once- in his title winning fight against Bermane Stiverne and that resulted in the dullest fight of his career, which made me question Wilder's ferociousness entering his fight with Luis Ortiz.
It could be that for Wilder to be technically stronger, that it takes away from what makes him the puncher that he is.
If Wilder fights straight up against Anthony Joshua, it might be a tedious fight and might leave him very vulnerable to Joshua's right hand, but charging in recklessly could result in an early KO loss.

I wouldn't rate Deontay Wilder as the top heavyweight in the world.
I would rate him as the hardest puncher in the division, if we look at pure power, but I'd rank him second overall behind Anthony Joshua and ahead of Tyson Fury despite Fury winning more rounds in their draw.
Fury's biggest win was a plodding and boring win over Wladimir Klitschko and even though Fury might be the superior fighter, I'd rank Wilder ahead of Fury for now.

Happy Anniversary

I actually forgot about the TRS anniversary a few months, but I was never going to forget this one.

I won't be spending very much of my 32nd anniversary with the lovely Cherie, thanks to part one of a scintillating three-day training for work brought to you by the state of Maryland (the celebration was earlier this week) and my time today is limited to this early morning note (unless I'm lucky enough to have time around lunch), so I wanted to type a few words about these 32 years.

As those of you that know me personally have discovered, I'm not an easy person to know and even in many cases like.
Cherie, besides being the most patient and tolerant soul that I know, brings a calmness to my life that I'm usually in desperate need of.
She deals with me with love and the passion that she has for her family and faith is at a level that I'm fortunate enough to be around.

32 years ago, it was a blazing hot day that the law deemed us husband and wife and we deliberately kept the wedding small, but even then many of the observers that day have moved on.
Some have passed away, another few drifted away as people do in life and yet others have walked away, but the consistency in my life has always come from the person here, that I write of here usually as "the lovely Cherie".

I don't have to make grand social media proclamations about having the best this or the best that, when you have good things, it's the folks that show through actions, not words that are best able to reveal what they have.
That's why you don't read/see me talking about the best wife or the best kids or bragging about an accomplishment, it's not about that.
It's about appreciating what I have personally with Cherie and the wonderful children that we have together that is the important thing.
Besides, so many others have good things as well, who am I to judge what others have?
Is there a power ranking for family life? Are we attempting to achieve a top-four ranking to reach the equivalent of the college football playoff?
When you put it that way, doesn't it seem sort of silly?
It's all about what works for them and therefore us.

Happy Anniversary, dear- Thanks for tolerating me and all of the dents and pings that come with me,
Let's keep the ball rolling for many many more of these!
Sorry that my time for this is short- blame Maryland!


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Things I'd change in sports

We all complain about sports and things that drive us nuts, but if you had the power to change one thing about an individual sport, what would it be?

I'm sure I could come up with quite a few, but I'm going to try to keep it to one in order to preserve some items for a possible future version on this topic.

Baseball;
               It's not even close-Interleague play.
Hate it.
The other major sports would kill for the tradition of the separate leagues and here baseball is diluting that.
I'd eliminate that tomorrow or for those of you in the major markets that just have to have that Mets-Yankees series each year, each team is assigned one 'rival' for a four-game series every year for a two-game home and home.

There are things I'd change about baseball, but most are scheduling, statistical or administrative.
I don't mind most of the proposed in-game changes such as the pitch clock, limited mound visits or even a rule that would eliminate the pitching specialist that forces a pitcher to pitch to three batters, so for an opinionated traditionalist, I don't think I'm THAT bad!

Pro Football:
                      I'll go with a game change and revert to their original overtime period of fifteen minutes.
I know their change to ten minutes was supposedly in the vein of "player safety" (Like the NFL cares about that with Thursday night games every week),  but since ten minute periods are barely enough for both teams to have one possession at times, let alone multiple possessions.
I know there were just two ties last season, but there were a few near-misses and the system seems set up more to encourage ties rather than break them.
I'd almost rather just keep ties after regulations than have them at the end of overtime.

College Football:
                             Again, it's overtime, but in a different manner.
I've never liked the college overtime because I think it eliminates the special teams' aspect from the game and it artificially inflates statistics, but when we move into these six and seven overtime periods, overkill is a word that only mildly describes those exhausting games.
The NCAA is trying to tweak this with a change that alternates two-point conversions after the fourth overtime rather than a entire possession. but while that may help in safety in keeping exhausted players off the field, my change would be this- start each possession at the 50 rather than the current 25 yard line.
This would have the effect of more space to make mistakes and I think that would lessen the likelihood of those endurance marches disguised as overtime games.

College Basketball:
                                The easy answer is adding the baseball rule to basketball, which would allow high school players to jump to the NBA, but once they step onto a college campus, they aren't eligible to leave until after their junior year.
This would allow players to make money quickly and not have to go through the sham of attending classes for essentially one semester, NBA teams to have the option of taking the raw player and developing those players themselves and still getting better-prepared players from the college ranks.
The colleges win as well with coaches and supporters having players in their programs for at least three years as they can plan for the future without worrying about an NBA departure and fans can embrace players as long-term parts of their programs.

Pro Basketball:
                         The college basketball change affects the NBA too, so I'll select something small for the pro game.
I really hate their no-trade rule on the clock during their drafts.
It's ridiculous that players like Dirk Nowitzki that spent their entire career with a team (Mavericks) cannot technically say they have been with the organization forever because they were drafted by someone else, in Nowitzki's case the Bucks.
In addition, it takes away the moment of the player being drafted with all the pictures, etc and ruins it for everyone when the players meet the commissioner, take photos, etc with the hat and logo of a team that they spent ten minutes with.
It's a minor change, but an easy one to make.

Hockey:
              Another easy change- the far too soft terms that expansion teams are now entering the league are simply unfair.
I know that every time that the expansion entry fees leap through the roof that the argument is- "well since they are paying so much, they deserve competitive teams".
I couldn't disagree more.
I know that so many thought Las Vegas advancing to the Stanley Cup was a cute story and many fans were rooting for them, but here are my points- yes, I get that it takes time to build and that time taken can seem interminable, however, here is my argument- If you pay no price (I.E. live through the losing times) because your local team is an instant winner, what will happen when that team eventually drops in the standings?
That is why I question the expansion teams being too good too quickly as the honeymoon can peak too soon.
Look at Columbus and their fans this season, you only have one first time (which is why to a certain age group the Miracle of Richfield Cavaliers are more fondly remembered than even the championship Cavaliers), do you want to use that too soon and have the casual fan base think that things come this easy always?
Las Vegas will be the first test case, but the next expansion in Seattle will be a further test of this theory.

Boxing:
             I'd love to return to 15 round fights, but even more than that would be a change to weighing in on the morning of the fight.
I know that is not a perfect solution as fights could come in weakened from weight loss (although an early morning weigh-in would help immensely), but I'd rather the fighter that cannot make weight be penalized more than the fighter had fewer problems hitting the mark fighting a blown up fighter.
In addition, the fighter struggling at the scales would have an extra 12 hours or so to enable him to make the weight.
I know there are people that think that day of weigh-ins aren't good for the fighters, but is it any better to have inflated boxers with 36 hours before a fight to jump up sometimes two divisions by bell time?
Daniel Jacobs has twice in marquee events pulled stunts designed to have a massive weight advantage in those fights against Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez and I think a day of the fight weigh-in would take some of that edge away from those that use that tactic.
Again, this has its own problems, but I think it solves more problems than it causes.

I'll likely be returning to this in future posts as some sports there were just too many things to change!




Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Forgotten Superstars: Toby Harrah

I've written before about my favorite player growing up with the occasional note that I found online and I've even written about his trade to the Indians that changed my baseball allegiance forever, but I've never devoted a Forgotten Superstars segment to Toby Harrah.

Harrah was my favorite player for no particular reason really.
My dad had been a Washington Senators and stayed with the team when they moved to Texas to become the Rangers and even though he would eventually shift to the Orioles as he grew tired of waiting for a baseball return to the District (Ironically, he's never warmed up to the Nationals). when I was picking baseball teams, I selected the teams that he rooted for (Which didn't happen after that except for the Maryland Terrapins)  in the Rangers and Pirates.

Harrah was originally drafted by the Phillies. but was drafted away by the Washington Senators in the minor league draft, similar to the rule five draft today after his first season.
Harrah made his major league debut with the Senators late in the 1969 season, used mostly as a pinch-runner with only one plate appearance before winning the starting shortstop position for Washington in their final season in 1971.
Harrah would be the final active player to have played for the Washington Senators when he retired after the 1986 season, but his rookie season as a Senator was nothing to indicate stardom as Harrah hit just .230 with only one homer in 127 games with 23 errors defensively.
The 1972 move to Texas didn't improve Harrah's numbers appreciably, but a strong first half and the MLB rule to have one player from each team allowed Harrah to make his first of four All-Star teams. For the 1972 season, Harrah's average rose somewhat to .259 and doubled his power numbers to two homers, but in 1973, Harrah's career showed his first signs of being more than an average player as he hit ten homers along with keeping his average in the same area (.260) for the 57 win Rangers in the only season that Whitey Herzog managed in Texas.

It was 1974 that saw Harrah's breakout season as the surprising Rangers under Billy Martin improved their record by thirty games from the previous season (54 to 84 victories) and Harrah was a key player in the upturn as he again finished with a .260 batting average, but hit twenty homers with 74 RBI.
Harrah's time playing under Martin helped him develop as a player, but Harrah also was established as a favorite of Martin's, and seemingly every off-season was filled with rumors and various attempts by Martin's next team in New York trying to acquire Harrah to play shortstop for the Yankees.
It's funny, had the Yankees obtained Harrah, they would have never received the famous 1978 playoff homer from Bucky Dent or if there is a parallel universe somewhere that has Red Sox fans cursing the name Toby Bleeping Harrah!

Harrah continued to improve his game in 1975 with a career-high in RBI (93) and jumping in batting average to. 293 in making his second All-Star team and would be voted to his only starting All-Star spot in 1976 despite a small slide in statistics to .260 with 15 homers.
Yes, for those of you scoring at home, Toby Harrah's batting average was exactly .260 for three out of four seasons!

In 1977, the Rangers moved Harrah from shortstop to third base and Harrah responded with his career-high in homers with 27 and led the league in walks with 109.
Harrah's eye at the plate was underrated, but from 1975 to 1985, Toby never struck out more often than he walked and he was an underrated base stealer as well as he swiped 27 bases in the second of his three 20/20 seasons (also 75 and 79) in 1977.
Harrah didn't make the All-Star team despite the improved numbers due to the competition at third base in the AL at the time, but despite hitting. 263, this was likely his best overall season as a Ranger with his top Texas OPS number as well at .872.

The 1978 Rangers were favored in some quarters to win the AL West as owner Brad Corbett traded for Al Oliver, Bobby Bonds, and Jon Matlack as well as signing free agent Richie Zisk, but even with 87 wins, the Rangers never seemed to jell and finished five games behind Kansas City as crusty veteran manager Billy Hunter battled with his team all season with Hunter being fired on the season's next to last day.
Toby must have struggled with Hunter as he delivered his career-worst season as well (.222, 12 and 59 with only a career-high 31 stolen bases standing out on the stat sheet), although I've never read particular problem between the two, only the general problems with Hunter and the team.
I've always wondered how Hunter sat his starting third baseman for both games of a 1978 doubleheader, yet he was healthy enough to pinch-run for his only appearance on my tenth birthday which my present was tickets to see the Rangers in Baltimore.

The disappointing season for the Rangers meant another shakeup was in store and the Rangers made several moves that included moving Bobby Bonds after one season and the two most popular Rangers- Mike Hargrove and Toby Harrah.
The three were moved in three different trades, but by June 1979, all three were with the Indians (Hargrove was traded to the Padres over the winter before a June trade to Cleveland).
I've written before about the trade that unofficially sent then ten-year-old Shawn to the Indians as well with the Rangers adding Buddy Bell in the one for one trade.
There has been a small myth that the Rangers "won" the trade, but I'd argue that the trade was pretty even.
Bell was the better fielder and the better hitter for average, Harrah was the superior power hitter (Bell finished with only six more career homers, despite playing two more seasons) and was more of a threat to steal a base.
If Texas had an edge, it was that they had Bell for eight years (.293, 87, 499 RBI and .782 OPS)  to Harrah's tenure in Cleveland lasting five ( .281, 70, 324 RBI and  .799 OPS), but via average, it's very even.

The Indians in the '70s and 80s were always a team looking for an identity.
One year they would build around power, another speed and in others, pitching.
The Wahoo's would also zig-zag between veteran teams and youth so after the Indians had tried to work with youth for the past few years entering 1979, they were attempting to bring in some veterans to lift the team to respectability and despite finishing sixth in the best division in baseball, they were respectable at 81-80 as had they been in the western division, they would have finished fifth, but a half-game (due to a rainout that was not replayed) out of fourth and only a game in a half behind third-place Texas.
Harrah helped those 1979 Indians, an average team long forgotten by all but the most diehard Cleveland fans, to that record with the final of his 20/20 seasons, hitting homers and steal right on the nose with 20 in each column.
Harrah's numbers dropped in 1980 (.267 and 11 homers) and his average improved in the strike season of 1981(.291 and 5 longballs), but his career season was on tap as in 1982, Harrah made his fourth and final All-Star team as he hit above .300 (.304) for the only time in his career, smacked 25 homers (second highest in his career), knocked in 78 runs from the second spot in the batting order, stole 17 bases, finished with a career-high of .888 and played all 162 games- all at the age of 33.
That was his last big season as in 1983, Toby's stats took a fall (.266 and nine homers) and missed a month of the season, so the time was right for the Indians to move him and finally, after all those years, the Yankees got their man as Harrah was sent to Gotham for reliever George Frazier, outfielder Otis "My Man!" Nixon and minor leaguer Guy Elson.

The Yankees would be disappointed as Harrah hit just .217 and one home run in only 88 games as it seemed Harrah didn't care for playing in New York and at the age of 36, looked to be through as the Yankees returned Harrah to Texas for outfielder Billy Sample.
Harrah was moved to second base and played pretty well in 1985 (.270, 9, and an OPS of .820) in 126 games, but he would retire after a weak 1986 season at the age of 37 hitting only .218 with seven homers in 95 games.
Harrah would be elected to the Rangers Hall of Fame in  2009.

Harrah would later manage the Rangers for 76 games in the 1992 season to a record of 32-44, which was disappointing considering he replaced Bobby Valentine, who was canned after a 45-41 start.
Harrah would never manage in the big leagues again, but he would manage in the minors and coach with a few teams in majors including the Indians with former teammate Mike Hargrove managing and the Rockies with the player that his name is most attached to as the bench boss- Buddy Bell.

Toby Harrah isn't often thought about as a Hall of Fame level player,  but by some sabremetricians, Harrah's career is more highly thought of as Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the 25th best third baseman ever ahead of some Hall of Famers and rated near the top of Wins Above Replacement Players or WAR) five times in his career.
Toby Harrah had a pretty solid career, was my favorite player and the latest addition to our Forgotten Superstars Universe.





Sunday, May 19, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Inoue annihilates Rodriguez, Taylor, Saunders win titles.

The European version of the boxing weekend saw the World Boxing Super Series fill their final matchups in the division and saw another title change hands at another location for three championships to have new owners at the end of the day.

The star of the day had to be Naoya Inoue, who knocked down Emmanuel Rodriguez three times in the second round, twice with body shots, to win the IBF bantamweight title and advance to the finals of the WBSS, where Inoye will attempt to unify his title with WBA champion Nonito Donaire.
Donaire has been more than fortunate in making the finals with his win over Ryan Burnett coming when Burnett had to surrender with a back injury and Zolani Tete having to pull out of the tournament late in the week to be replaced by Stephon Young and I'm afraid this one could end up with a very sad ending.
I had written that Rodriguez was going to give Inoue some problems and he did for one round.
Rodriguez showed no fear of Inoue and the first round was pretty even and could have been scored for either fighter.
Round two was a different story once Inoue landed the left hook that essentially ended the fight, although Rodriguez showed tons of courage in getting up from that and then again from another hook to the body that dropped him to the mat.
It was only a matter of time and Inoue ended it with another body shot that floored Rodriguez.
For Inoue, another destruction in victory and I can't find anyone that gives the aging Donaire any type of chance in the WBSS finals.
Assuming that's the case and assuming Inoye won't be worried about unifying the division (winning over Donaire would give him two of the four titles and had Zolaini Tete not been injured before the Donaire fight, the winner of the final would have three of the four) against WBO champion Zolani Tete or WBC champion Nordine Ouabaali, I suppose Inoue could either wait for one of the best junior bantams to move up in Juan Francisco Estrada or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, but he might try to rise in weight himself to junior featherweight where an Inoue vs the winner of fall's expected three title unification fight between Danny Roman and Rey Vargas would have some appeal.

In the other WBSS tussle from Glasgow, Josh Taylor won a unanimous decision to take away Ivan Baranchyk's IBF junior welterweight title and set up a WBSS final that will not only pit the top two seeds against each other but create a 50/50 fight as well.
Taylor knocked Baranchyk down twice in the sixth round and looked to be on the verge of finishing the champion, who showed grit in surviving the round and was actually fighting better down the stretch than earlier in the fight.
Baranchyk was landing his share in the final two rounds and even though Taylor wasn't seriously hurt, Baranchyk never stopped trying to pull a victory out of the blue.
I scored Taylor a 116-110 winner (8-4 plus a 10-7 sixth round) and that was in the range of the judge's cards which had Taylor winning by eight (a little too much) and twice by four (a little too close)
Taylor will unify his newly won championship with that of WBA champion Regis Prograis and this one is one that I am anxiously awaiting.
I lean slightly to Prograis in the finals, but Taylor is more than capable of winning the tournament.
The fight may very well come down to where the fight is held with a crowd playing a part in the result.

The final part of the weekend in England saw the return of Billy Joe Saunders, who won the WBO super middleweight crown vacated by Gilberto Ramirez in the usual sleep-inducing fashion by a unanimous decision over outmatched Shefat Isufi.
Saunders never hurt Isufi, nor seemed to even try to turn up the heat as he won almost every round on my card 119-109 (11-1), but showed nothing to change anyone's mind about fighting a slick boxing southpaw that isn't going to bring you a big payday or be willing to stand in front and fight.
In other words, Saunders is more trouble to potential opponents than what he's worth.

Heavyweight Joe Joyce knocked out Alexander Ustinov in the third round.
I'm not sure what the future will hold for the former Olympic silver medalist, who hits with power, but is painfully slow.
If Joyce can take a good punch, he could be Ray Mercer, good enough to fight a long time and win enough to stay relevant, but never an elite heavyweight.
If Joyce's chin proves to be less than world class, he's going to lose a lot because he's going to outbox no one.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica picked up twelve points to my eleven on the weekend.
I picked five of the six winners and results correctly, but Ramon nailed all six winners and results to gain a point.
My lead now stands at 132-116.


Boxing Challenge:Wilder obliterates Breazeale

Early in the afternoon as the thunder rolled through town and rain was falling around my town, it looked like the performance of the boxing day was clearly going to be that of Naoya Inoue in the World Boxing Super Series.
Inoue's performance will be discussed in the next post.but his knockout buzz lasted less than ten hours after Deontay Wilder's single hand ended the grudge match for the WBC heavyweight title with Dominic Breazeale in the first round, retaining his championship, sending people that normally don't post about Twitter to do just that and emphasize the difference between the top three heavyweights ( and maybe the top five with Luis Ortiz and maybe Dillian Whyte) and everyone else in the division.

There's not more than I can say about Wilder's win than it was devastating, despite Breazeale's top rating in the WBC, which I've questioned from day one, he's still a top 10/12 heavyweight and this was impressive, if Deontay Wilder hits you, he hurts you and the stage is now set for Anthony Joshua in two weeks against Andy Ruiz to impress the public and have the casuals demand Joshua-Wilder.
Breazeale didn't roll over for Wilder as he was throwing punches back including one stretch where he reminded me of Wilder's vulnerability when a wild Wilder right was countered by Breazeale in the corner.
However, when you can punch like Wilder, you can get away with a lot and the pulverizing right ended this one shortly thereafter.
Now with his WBC mandatory out of the way for a while, the chant for Joshua-Wilder will pick up and even more drumbeating, should Joshua win impressively against Andy Ruiz.
Wilder's post-fight comments about good things come to those who wait can cause eye-rolling among fans who aren't interested in Dominic Breazeale and Andy Ruiz, let alone the tomato can that is being rolled over to America for Tyson Fury and makes me wonder if this fight might be "Marinated" too much before it actually comes off.
Remember how badly Luis Ortiz hurt Wilder and I've questioned his chin for someone that swings for the fences with every shot, so if an Ortiz rematch is next (I'm fine with an Ortiz rematch, not so thrilled with an Adam Kownacki challenge, Kownacki is the other fighter rumored for Wilder) Wilder and PBC are really risking a massive payday to face the best heavyweight without a claim to the title.
Still, any Deontay Wilder fight against a solid opponent brings a highwire act that will always entertain, I'd just like to see him against Joshua or a Fury rematch to finally see who is the best.

The Halley's Comet of professional boxing made its annual appearance as Gary Russell stopped overmatched Kiko Martinez on cuts in the fifth round.
The result in this one was pretty much decided on the day the fight was signed as the veteran Martinez has lost against every top fighter that he has faced in his career and the big question was would Martinez hold up against Russell's punches and if he took them well, would his skin stay in place to last the distance?
The answer was pretty much this-Martinez took a lot of punches, took them fairly well, but the skin didn't hold up.
Moving on, Russell's post-fight was also a yearly tradition, where he talks about bigger challenges and then after the post-fight high, begins to decide that he likes fighting once a year (his words, not mine).
Russell mentioned Leo Santa Cruz, who holds the WBA title which would rank the two top fighters in the division and since both fight for PBC would be very easy to sign, but considering the track record of Russell (and for that matter LSC, name one real challenge that he has ever taken other than Carl Frampton?) on these matters, I'll believe when they announce it and that is being generous on my part.
Russell also was asked about a move to 130 pounds and what would be a massive fight in the DMV against WBA junior lightweight titleholder Gervonta Davis with Russell living in a Washington suburb and Davis residing in Baltimore.
Instead, Russell answered with Miguel Berchelt because "we both hold the WBC titles") rather than Davis, which sounds like a dodge as Berchelt has a co-promotional deal with Top Rank making a fight very difficult to sign, but Davis being with PBC would be very easy to make, one would think.
Still, nothing with Gary Russell or Gervonta Davis for that matter comes easy and that is too bad-because either or both have a lot to offer boxing and their own bank account.

Back later with the boxing weekend from across the Atlantic as three new world champions are crowned.



Saturday, May 18, 2019

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge features six matchups this weekend that all have solid favorites, but all are interesting enough that are worth keeping an eye on and some even have a live underdog available to try for a possible upset.

The biggest fight of the weekend takes place in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where the WBC heavyweight title is the prize, but there is far more than only the championship at stake with an amount of animosity between the two that if that level is reached between two combatants of equal stature would be the talk of the sports world.
Wilder is the deserved heavy favorite and even if I think Breazeale is a questionable mandatory contender (with only three wins over undistinguished opposition since his knockout loss to Anthony Joshua), Breazeale has enough quality to be one of Wilder's better challengers.
Considering both fighters feelings and that Wilder generally only fights one way, this could be a wild contest and with Deontay Wilder's defense and chin, any fight against a top ten contender has its dangers.

Gary Russell makes his yearly visit to the ring with another defense of his WBC featherweight title against Kiko Martinez.
Russell, who is the most talented featherweight in boxing, but seems to prefer to play businessman, could be a dominant champion for years and make excellent fights, but would rather face fighters such as Martinez, who has failed against every top fighter he has faced.
Russell will look great and leave us wanting more-As usual.
The pair of WBC title events can be watched on Showtime.

The World Boxing Super Series returns in Glasgow, Scotland with semi-finals in the junior welterweights and bantamweight division brought to you from DAZN.
The tournament has been dealing with financial problems that might be caused with too much growth too soon ( moving from two tournaments to three after the first year) causing the WBSS to be a bit behind in holding their semi-finals but will be offering two excellent fights in their brackets today.

Naoya Inoue is considered one of the best fighters in the world, yet he only holds a minor title entering the bantamweight semi.
Inoue is favored to change that against IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, who is brushed aside by most as a mere obstacle for the "Monster"'s final appearance against Nonito Donaire.
I'm not, as I think Rodriguez not only is the most difficult opponent yet for Inoue, but he'll even have some success against him.
I think Inoue will be too strong, but I've believed all along that if anyone defeats Inoue in this division, it's Emmanuel Rodriguez.
As noted, the winner will face WBA champion Nonito Donaire in the tournament championship for the Muhammad Ali trophy.

The junior welterweight semi is similar to the bantams where the champion is a heavy underdog to the defending champion, where the hometown hero Josh Taylor will attempt to take away Ivan Baranchyk's IBF title.
Baranchyk's straight ahead attacking style should mesh very well with Taylor's and not only is this the closest fight of the weekend, but it is also likely to be the best.
The winner of the fight will not only move to the finals, but they will also have WBA champion Regis Prograis waiting for a unification bout.

ESPN + will televise two bouts from England this afternoon with the most important fight filling the WBO super middleweight title that Gilberto Martinez vacated earlier the week.
Former WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders will battle Shefat Isufi for that title with Saunders being favored to add the second WBO title to his trophy case.
Isufi has never fought anyone of Saunders caliber and seems to be overmatched.

Heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce will take another step to heavyweight contention against Alexander Ustinov.
Joyce knocked out a faded\ Bermane Stiverne in his last fight, while Ustinov has lost his last two fights against fighters (Michael Hunter and Manuel Charr) that have nowhere near the power of Joyce.
This one looks to end early..

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 121-104.

WBC Heavyweight Title.12 Rds
Deontay Wilder vs Dominic Breazeale
R.L; Wilder KO 3
TRS: Wilder KO 5

WBC Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Gary Russell vs Kiko Martinez
R.L: Russell KO 9
TRS: Russell Unanimous Decision

IBF Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Emmanuel Rodriguez vs Naoya Inoue
R.L: Inoue KO 5
TRS: Inoue KO 8

IBF Junior Welterweight Title. 12 Rds
Ivan Baranchyk vs Josh Taylor
Both: Taylor Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBO Super Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Billy Joe Saunders vs Shefat Isufi
Both: Saunders Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Joe Joyce vs Alexander Ustinov
R.L: Joyce KO 4
TRS: Joyce KO 2



TRS Boxing Ratings- Part Two

Time for the second half of the TRS boxing ratings after yesterday's part one with one note.
Mikey Garcia vacated the WBC lightweight title to move to welterweight but will be rated as a lightweight for this rating period.
Garcia will be moved to welterweight for the next ratings.

Lightweights
1) Vasyl Lomachenko WBA/WBO champion 15 Pts
2) Mikey Garcia 12 Pts
3) Richard Commey IBF Champion 5 Pts (Up Two)
4) Teofimo Lopez 4 Pts (Unranked)
     Jose Pedraza (Down One)
Also Received Votes; Robert Easter, Luke Campbell

Junior Lightweights
1) Miguel Berchelt WBC Champion 14 Pts
2) Gervonta Davis WBA Champion 13 Pts (Down One)
3) Masayuki Ito WBO Champion 7 Pts (Up One)
    Tevin Farmer IBF Champion
5) Andrew Cancio 2 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Alberto Machado

Featherweights
1) Leo Santa Cruz WBA Champion 15 Pts
2) Gary Russell WBC Champion 10 Pts
3) Oscar Valdez WBO Champion 9 Pts (Up One)
4) Josh Warrington IBF Champion 8 Pts (Down One)
5) Carl Frampton  2 Pts
Also Received Votes: Kid Galahad

Junior Featherweights
1) Guillermo Rigondeaux 13 Pts (Up One)
2) Emanuel Navarrete WBO Champion 11 Pts (Up One)
3) Daniel Roman WBA/IBF Champion 9 Pts (Up One)
     Rey Vargas WBC Champion (Down Two)
5) Isaac Dogboe 1 Pt
    T.J Doheny (Unranked)
    Brandon Figueroa (Unranked)

Bantamweights
1) Naoya Inoue 15 Pts
2) Luis Nery 11 Pts
3) Emanuel Rodriguez IBF Champion 9 Pts (Up One)
4) Nonito Donaire WBA Champion 6 Pts (Up One)
5) Zolani Tete WBO Champion 4 Pts (Down Two)
Also Received Votes: Nordine Ouabaali WBC Champion

Junior Bantamweights
1) Juan Francisco Estrada WBC Champion 15 Pts (Up One)
2) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 12 Pts (Down One)
3) Kal Yafai WBA Champion 8 Pts
4) Jerwin Ancajas IBF Champion 7 Pts
5) Roman Gonzalez 3 Pts

Flyweights
1) Kosei Tanaka WBO Champion 14 Pts
2) Artem Dalakian WBA Champion 13 Pts
3) Charlie Edwards WBC Champion 8 Pts
4) Sho Kimura 5 Pts
5) Moruti Mthalane IBF Champion 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Vincent LeGrand

Junior Flyweights and Under
1) Ken Shiro 14 Pts
2) Kiroto Kyoguchi 11 Pts
3) Angel Acosta 7 Pts
4) Felix Alvarado 6 Pts
5) C.P. Freshmart 5 Pts
Also Received Votes: Wanghenhg Menyothin,

Pound for Pound
1) Vasyl Lomachenko 30 Pts
2) Terence Crawford 26 Pts
3) Errol Spence 25 Pts
4) Naoya Inoue 21 Pts
5) Canelo Alvarez 13 Pts (Up One)
    Oleksandr Usyk (Up Two)
7) Gennady Golovkin 9 Pts (Up One)
    Anthony Joshua (Unranked)
9) Luis Nery 6 Pts (Unranked)
10) Juan Francisco Estrada 4 Pts (Unranked)
      Mikey Garcia (Down Five)
Also Received Votes; Dmitry Bivol, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Regis Prograis

Friday, May 17, 2019

TRS Boxing Ratings: Part One

Time for the first half of the TRS boxing ratings.
As always part one will cover the heavyweights through the junior welterweights with the lighter divisions in the second post.
At cruiserweight for these ratings, we will still rate Oleksandr Usyk as the cruiserweight champion, even though he has officially vacated only the WBA title (he is expected to vacate the other three soon), which was given to Denis Lebedev.
Until he vacates the other titles and those titles are filled, Usyk will still be the cruiserweight champion.

In other notes: Gilberto Ramirez has fought at light heavyweight but vacated his WBO super middleweight title.
For these ratings, Ramirez will be eligible for both divisions, Light heavyweight after.

Murat Gassiev has stated his move to heavyweight, but until then he'll be rated at cruiserweight.

Billy Joe Saunders will be fighting for the title vacated by Ramirez Saturday, but this wasn't announced until a few days ago.
For these ratings, Saunders will be at middleweight, super middle hereafter.

Heavyweights
1) Anthony Joshua WBA/IBF/WBO Champion 15 Pts
2) Deontay Wilder WBC Champion 11 Pts
3) Tyson Fury 10 Pts
4) Luis Ortiz 4 Pts
5) Dillian Whyte 3 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Oscar Rivas

Cruiserweights
World Champion: Oleksandr Usyk
1) Murat Gassiev 9 Pts
2) Krzysztof Glowacki 8 Pts (Up Two)
3) Mairis Breidis  7 Pts (Down Two)
4) Yunier Dorticos 5 Pts (Down One)
5) Andrew Tabiti 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Denis Lebedev WBA Champion

Light Heavyweights
1) Oleksandr Gvozdyk WBC Champion 14 Pts
2) Dmitri Bivol WBA Champion 11 Pts
3) Sergey Kovalev WBO Champion 10 Pts
4) Artur Beterbiev IBF Champion 7 Pts
5) Eleider Alvarez 2 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes; Gilberto Ramirez

Super Middleweights
1) Callum Smith WBA Champion 13 Pts (Up One)
2) David Benavidez 11 Pts (Up One)
3) Caleb Plant IBF Champion 8 Pts (Up One)
4) Gilberto Ramirez 5 Pts (Down Three)
5) Anthony Dirrell WBC Champion 4 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Chris Eubank Jr. Jose Uzcategui, Avni Yildirim

Middleweights
1) Canelo Alvarez WBA/WBC/IBF Champion 15 Pts
2) Gennady Golovkin 12 Pts
3) Jermall Charlo 6 Pts (Up Two)
4) Billy Joe Saunders 5 Pts
5) Demetrius Andrade WBO Champion 4 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Daniel Jacobs

Junior Middleweights
1) Julian Williams WBA/IBF Champion 13 Pts (Unranked)
2) Jarrett Hurd 10 Pts (Down One)
3) Jaime Munguia WBO Champion 9 Pts (Down One)
4) Jermell Charlo 6 Pts
5) Tony Harrison WBC Champion 5 Pts (Down One)
Also Received Votes; Erislandy Lara

Welterweights
1) Errol Spence IBF Champion 14 Pts
2) Terence Crawford WBO Champion 13 Pts
3) Keith Thurman WBA Champion 8 Pts
4) Manny Pacquiao 7 Pts (Up One)
5) Shawn Porter WBC Champion 3 Pts (Down One)

Junior Welterweights
1) Regis Prograis WBA Champion 14 Pts (Up One)
2) Jose Ramirez WBC Champion 13 Pts (Down One)
3) Maurice Hooker WBO Champion 7 Pts
4) Josh Taylor 6 Pts (Down One)
5) Ivan Baranchyk IBF Champion 4 Pts
Also Received Votes: Viktor Postol




Thursday, May 16, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports Passings

The passings page now catches up to those in the sports world, which are, as always, too many and too soon.

Goodbye to Harold Lederman at the age of 79 after a long bout with cancer.
Steve Kim in the above link goes into far more detail than I on just loved Lederman was in the boxing community as a judge and as the network judge for HBO's telecasts for many years.
Lederman, who was a pharmacist in his day job, worked for HBO from 1986 until the network's last telecast last fall was universally loved by boxing fans.
It's not often that one can say that in an industry that has so many polarizing personalities, but I'm pretty confident that Harold was one of those people that no one had a bad word to say about.
Lederman also was rare in boxing, that his scores were usually consistent as were his opinions.
Very little flip-flopping with Lederman, who served for a time with the WBO as a championship official and you always seemed to feel that Harold was always looking out for what was best for the game.
Most fans, even casual ones, remember Lederman for his wrapup line to Jim Lampley after delivering his thoughts on an in-progress bout with the concluding exclamation "JIM!", but I'll remember just as fondly his effusive segments during his time with Larry Merchant on the broadcast and after a minute or so of Harold's enthusiasm with how he was scoring a fight, you could almost count to five and then Merchant would come in with a monotone "I have it 5-3".
One night, Ryan who would watch boxing with me on occasion as a child, turned to me and asked: "why the second guy has to get his score in, even though no one asked him?"
I didn't have an answer, but from that time forward, I always thought of those interactions more than his more famous line.


Goodbye to John Havlicek at the age of 79.
"Hondo" spent his entire sixteen season NBA career with the Boston Celtics and was part of eight championship teams with Boston.
Havlicek also played for the 1960 Ohio State national title team with Jerry Lucas and a quiet backup by the name of Bob Knight with being the first alternate on that year's Olympic team.
Havlicek had his number retired by both the Buckeyes and Celtics and still remains the all-time leading scorer for the Celtics, over forty years after his retirement.
The 13-time All-Star also tried out for the Cleveland Browns in 1962 as a wide receiver before his release late in camp saw Havlicek's decision to be safer on the basketball court.
My personal Havlicek memories were of him as the cagey veteran with the Celtics squeezing out a seven-game win over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Milwaukee Bucks in the last finals for the Bucks to this day and the classic six-game win over the Phoenix Suns in 1976.
It was Havlicek's running jumper that looked to have won the famous game five in the second overtime that saw fans running onto the court, but with still one second to remaining, the stage was set for Phoenix forward Garfield Heard to hit his own off-balance shot to move the game to the third overtime in which an obscure player named Glenn McDonald, who had fresh legs (since he had barely played) to play his best five minutes as a pro and allow Boston to grab the win.
Note on Glenn McDonald, he would play five minutes in the series-clinching sixth game and would never play for the Celtics again.
McDonald would play nine games with Milwaukee in the following season and would never play in the league again- finished at just 24.
Most people are familiar with the "Havlicek steals the ball!" clip from the 1965 Eastern Final where Havlicek's steal with five seconds to go in game seven against Wilt Chamberlain's 76ers clinched the victory and I've always looked at that moment and Johnny Most's call as being basketball's equivalent to the Russ Hodges "The Giants win the pennant" as few outside the home area heard that call, yet the play and the call are merged together forever.
Havlicek is remembered by most for that play, but his career was far more than only that play and you might be able to make an excellent case for John Havlicek being the most underrated superstar in NBA history.


Goodbye to Johnny Neumann at the age of 68.
Neumann, who was nicknamed "Johnny Reb" during his one season (1970-71) at Ole Miss, where he averaged 40 points a game before signing with the ABA's Memphis Pros.
Neumann was often compared to Pete Maravich with the obvious parallels between the two players, but Neumann never seemed to understand the team concept and his teams often tired of his lack of passing, which resulted in his being traded several times during his career.
In Terry Pluto's oral history of the ABA- Loose Balls, there is an entire chapter devoted to Neumann's career and time in the ABA.


Goodbye to Bert Cooper at the age of 53.
Cooper had the potential to be one of the best cruiserweights ever as he showed explosive power in the division, but his inability to have a cruiserweight champion defend their title against him saw him jump between the cruiserweights and the heavyweights in order to receive fights.
Cooper fought about every heavyweight that you can name in the late 80s and 90s except for Mike Tyson and even though he usually lost, you often had the feeling that had Cooper been able to fight at least some of those contenders without giving away so much size, he would have won against at least some of them.
Cooper is best remembered for his title challenge of Evander Holyfield in which on short notice for the injured Francesco Damiani, Cooper dropped Holyfield for the first time in the champion's career in the third round before Holyfield would eventually stop Cooper in the seventh round.
As good as the Holyfield fight was, the best Cooper fight ever was his war with Michael Moorer for the vacant WBO title (remember that it took almost thirty years before I finally began to recognize the WBO as a legitimate championship) which was one of the fights of the year in 1992 and saw both fighters knocked down twice before Moorer stopped Cooper in the fifth.
The frustration with Cooper was this- at times he could fight with courage and honor as against Holyfield and Moorer, but could also frustrate with a lack of effort as when he meekly quit in the corner after just two rounds against George Foreman or sleepwalking through a loss to washed up former champion Mike Weaver just nine months after the Moorer battle.
Cooper passed away from a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Goodbye to MacArthur Lane at the age of 77.
Lane rushed for over 4,600 yards in an eleven-year career with the Cardinals, Packers, and Chiefs.
Lane's best year was in 1970 with the Cardinals as he rushed for 977 yards and eleven touchdowns in the then fourteen game season, but he might be better remembered for his backfield pairing with John Brockington in 1972 with the Dan Devine coached Packers that won the Central Division title for the only Packer playoff appearance of the 70s.


Goodbye to Reggie Cobb at the age of 50.
Cobb rushed for over 1,100 yards in 1992 for the Buccaneers and would later play for three other teams in his seven-year career, but to me will always be remembered as part of Cobb/Webb, which was a talented backfield for the Tennessee Volunteers with Chuck Webb for a short period of time before Cobb was kicked off the team in 1989.
Cobb dealt with drug issues at Tennessee, but never had any problems thereafter and worked as a scout with three NFL teams including the 49ers at the time of his death,
BTW- If you have never seen Chuck Webb run, you really missed what could have been one of the great backs ever.
Webb ranks with the better known Marcus Dupree as the backs of the time that if you saw them run, one always remembers them as just how good they could have been.








Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Cavaliers get little help from Ping Pong balls-Pick 5th in draft

The NBA placed new guidelines for their draft lottery that they hoped would avoid having teams "tank" seasons in order to have a better chance in the lottery.
If that was their hope, then their plan succeeded wildly.
If their hope was to get Zion Williamson, the consensus top player in the draft, to New York or Los Angeles, then their plan failed miserably as despite a Laker leap from the bottom of the lottery to 4th overall, the Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns, the three teams with the best chance of grabbing the top pick, didn't wind up with that pick and in a draft that is considered to have a huge dropoff after Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett, only the Knicks will have the chance to pick one of them and they won't have their pick of the three in the third slot.

The big winners were New Orleans (first), Memphis (second) and the Lakers (fourth) with the Knicks (third), Cavaliers (fifth) and Suns (sixth) as the losers from the draw each dropped two (Knicks) or three (Cavaliers and Suns) spots from their positions entering the lottery.
Depending on your personal team preference might decide your opinion on the new lottery setup. but the league likely has mixed feelings.
The new lottery did exactly what the league had hoped and penalized the worst teams, which in theory would work as a deterrent from attempting to accumulate losses in order to pick higher, but even though the league would never admit this, they have to be quietly disappointed with Zion Williamson not playing in New York or even Chicago instead of New Orleans, one of the leagues smallest markets.

The effect on the Cavaliers appears simple to explain.
In a draft that appears to look as follows- Zion Williamson of Duke, drop to Ja Morant of Murray State, drop to Duke's R.J. Barrett and steep drop to everyone, the Cavaliers look at adding a good player at 5, not a franchise-changing one had the team been able to stay in the top three.

Those three off the board and one player was taken by the Lakers at four, the Cavaliers will have their choice of players that are either most talented available, best fit for the John Beilein system or even most experienced/NBA ready.
If I had my choice of the "field", I'd rate my choice in this manner.
If the Cavaliers want the steadiest and player that with the highest floor, I'd take Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech.
Culver can play small forward and shooting guard and I've really liked his ability to create his own shot, which is the most important skill for a young player in the league to have.

If the Cavaliers want to gamble on upside and roll the dice on the player that could burst out into stardom, I'd think the most talented player in Cam Reddish of Duke, a player with the talent to be among the top three that hasn't always come to play every night.
Reddish is an enigma, but should a team be able to get the best out of Reddish, the Cavaliers have a player capable of being an elite level player.

Should Cleveland decide to take a player outside the tier of expected players that would fit with John Beilein's system, I wouldn't be surprised if the Cavaliers gave some consideration to Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke, who is the type of multi-dimensional player with defenses skills, that might fit very well with Beilein.
Clarke might be a bit of a reach at five and the Cavaliers might be better suited for a trade, should Clarke be their choice, but Cleveland might have a lack of suitors for this pick.

Cavaliers fans have to be disappointed in falling out of the top three, but they still should wind up with a productive piece for their rebuild, if not an elite one.
It'll be interesting over the next few years to see, if the NBA continues with the lottery as designed or tweak it as has been done through the years, but for now, it's definitely been a success in one area-
it has fans talking.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Cavaliers hire John Beilein

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been reported to have been traveling to various cities around the country to interview assistants from playoff teams to become the next head coach of the Cavaliers.
Dan Gilbert decided to make a splash on the night before the draft lottery with Duke forward Zion Williamson as the biggest prize and dropped the proverbial bombshell with the hiring of Michigan head coach John Beilein to the same position in Cleveland.

The 66-year-old Beilein will be the oldest coach in NBA history to make his debut as a full-time coach  (there have been a few older coaches that have filled in as an interim head coach) and has never served with an NBA team in any capacity.
Beilein has won 754 games in six stops including successful runs at Richmond, West Virginia, and Michigan where he took Michigan to the national title game twice and West Virginia to the elite eight and an NIT championship.

It's an interesting hire, but not a surprising one when you consider anyone that has worked in basketball for any school or franchise that is in the state of Michigan always seems to get consideration for jobs with the Cavaliers because of Dan Gilbert.
Gilbert is an alum of Michigan State, not Michigan and it's been Tom Izzo that has been rumored for years to be the apple of Gilbert's eye, not Beilein.
However, if you look at things closely, it could be Beilein that might be better suited for the pro game of the two coaches and Beilein's coaching style that could deal better with the players.
The NBA game that has evolved as of now has been to a three-point shooting game and Beilein's system should play very well with that as his teams aren't afraid to fire the three ball, yet it's one built around the passing game and it's not one that builds around one star either.
Beilein's system will be different for Cleveland fans used to years of watching clearout basketball to open the floor for Kyrie Irving or LeBron James as it will be more team-oriented revolving around finding the open man for the open shot or a cutter to the basket.

I know many of you would be surprised to read that I've always been a Beilein fan and was very disappointed when the Wolverines were able to hire him twelve years ago.
Check this out from the seventh post here EVER when I mention my thoughts on Beilein's going north and for a bonus, read some thoughts on Greg Oden vs Kevin Durant too, in which I turned out to be pretty clairvoyant in saying why I would take the bigger Oden vs Durant, except for one reason that turned out to be what happened.
I think that surrounding him with a staff that knows the league will be important and I think Beilein is smart enough to understand that and has an ego small enough that wouldn't reject such a plan.
College coaches have had mixed success when they have moved to the pros, so it's not a guarantee that Beilein will succeed, but he has the type of temperament that makes me think that he has a better than average chance of turning things around in Cleveland, if the Cavaliers have the patience to allow the process to flow along.

I was surprised to see John Beilein as the choice, but not disappointed by it.
Beilein isn't a me first coach, relates to players well and will install a value system that has never seen a team of his investigated by the NCAA or commit recruiting violations, so despite his age, I think this has a chance to work.
Beilein signed a five-year contract and a lot will have to go right for the Cavaliers to be championship contenders by then, but it could be the hire that overhauls the Cavaliers from being the franchise that LeBron built and creates a San Antonio Spurs type culture that players buy into and want to play for, even if when the Cavaliers finally reach that destination it could be under the successor to John Beilein.



Cleaning out the Inbox-Passings

Lots of passings since our last version and once again there are enough of them to split into a non-sports version as well as a post that covers the sports world.

Goodbye to Peggy Lipton at the age of 72.
Cancer took the life of the former Mod Squad (Which I watched as a little kid) and Twin Peaks (which I have never seen an episode) star, for whom a case can be made for her being the most beautiful television star of her time.
Lipton was also a singer during the run of the Mod Squad with a few songs that made the top 100 in other countries and concentrated for over a decade on raising a family (including Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones) and with the exception of a Mod Squad TV movie, did not act.
Twin Peaks brought her return to the spotlight, but to my family (other than myself), Lipton might be best remembered for her appearance on the NBC comedy Wings where she portrayed Ms. Jenkins the teacher that both Hackett brothers had crushes on in high school.


Goodbye to Larry "Flash" Jenkins at the age of 63 from a heart attack
Jenkins, who spent most of the last thirty years as a jack of all trades in the film/television industry as a director, producer and screenwriter as well as an actor, will be remembered by most as one of the two valets that take Cameron's dad's car for the joyride in Ferris Bueller's Day off and as "Gummy", a police information in Fletch.
I'll remember him best as wise-cracking Wardell Stone in the final (and unreleased on DVD grr...) season of the White Shadow, which was a show that I rarely missed in its three-season run on CBS.


Goodbye to Jim Fowler at the age of 89.
Fowler, who was a zoologist, was best known for his position as co-host and host for Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom from 1963 to 1988.
Fowler was the co-host with Marlin Perkins for the first 22 years of the program and then the host for the final three years after Perkins' retirement (and death one year later).
Fowler was best remembered for being the person that actually was in the field with the animals with danger around him (he was attacked on more than a few occasions), while Perkins dispassionately spoke on the air.
Fowler has said that much of that appeared different than it actually happened and that Perkins was usually right there when the animals were involved with the voice-over sound work coming far later in the studio.


And with a late note as this was already finished-
Goodbye to Doris Day at the age of 97.
Day was the wholesome star of so many films from the late 40s through the '60s as well as being a recording star during the same era.
So many of those films were staples of the late night movies that were shown after hours in the three network/five channel days of my youth and of course, I've seen a lot of them from that time.

Day also starred in the Doris Day Show, which I remember from being a really little kid that ran from 1968-1973.
The show is best remembered for some of the most bizarre changes in format in television history as Day shifted from being a single mother with two children living on a farm with her father in law in seasons one, continued to live on the farm, but commuted to San Francisco to work as a secretary in season two, moved her and her children into the city for season three and suddenly becomes a swinging woman of the times for the final two seasons as a reporter with the kids nowhere to be found and never mentioned again!
Day never wanted to do the show but was signed for it by her husband Martin Melcher without her knowledge because behind the scenes, Melcher and the family attorney had driven Day into near bankruptcy (again without her knowledge) and they needed the money from a television series to replenish the coffers.
Day discovers not only is she near bankruptcy, but she also finds this out after Melcher dies of a heart attack!
So, for those of you scoring at home, Day loses her husband, finds out she has almost no money and is committed to starring in a television series all at once!
Another Day note is that after the Doris Day show had ended and two resulting specials after the end of the series (that had also been signed for without her knowledge), she would never act again, although she did make a few appearances as herself on occasion.
Day was the original choice for the brilliant Albert Brooks film "Mother" (If you have never seen this you need to) but decided not to return from retirement with the role being played by Debbie Reynolds, who was terrific in the role.


Look for the sports passing post later this week.




Sunday, May 12, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Second verse, Same as the first

Top Rank and ESPN offered two championship rematches and despite the results from the first fights ending in the same manner as the return fights, the card still was more than intriguing to watch on Saturday night.

Big-hitting Miguel Berchelt retained his WBC junior lightweight title when the corner representing former champion Francisco Vargas refused to allow the bout to continue following the sixth round.
Berchelt didn't escape from this one unscathed as Vargas landed his share over an entertaining six rounds, but the bigger puncher was landing more and those shots were busting up the face of the valiant but outgunned former champion and I think the decision by Vargas trainer Joel Diaz was the correct one, even if Vargas was still landing against Berchelt.
While Vargas can still be part of some entertaining fights if matched properly (think of the length of the career of Jesus Soto-Karass or Humberto Soto as two examples) matched properly are the keywords as he has to have an opponent that he won't have to chase and preferably one that isn't a younger opponent that can bang a bit, it's Berchelt with the brighter future.
Berchelt has called out Vasyl Lomachenko and that would be an easy fight to make, but he also challenged the winner of May 25th's WBO title fight in the division between Masayuki Ito and Jamel Herring, which can also be easily made to add a second title, but the best fight in the division would be more difficult to put together with Berchelt battling WBA champion Gervonta Davis.
Berchelt would have the height and reach advantage, but Davis would have a vast edge in hand speed and I'd rate Berchelt with slightly more power.
That fight is the best fight in the division to be made and while I'm more than fine with Berchelt vs Ito/Herring and I'd be OK with the much-hyped, but no real progress on the social media oriented Davis unification fight with IBF champion Tevin Farmer to unify as well, but Berchelt and Davis shouldn't have problems with either and makes Berchelt vs Davis the unquestioned decider in settling the question of who is the best in the division.

Emanuel Navarrete repeated his victory over Isaac Dogboe to make his first defense of the WBO junior featherweight title a successful one when Dogboe's cornerman (his father) threw in the towel in the twelfth and final round.
Dogboe was knocked down in the sixth but was in serious trouble several times throughout the fight and despite fighting better in the rematch than in their first encounter, the far shorter Dogboe was unable to dodge the longer Navarrete's punches from long range, especially the jab which seemed to be magnetized to his  and was outworked by the champion, which taken by itself was a bad sign for Dogboe, who usually is able to mark his will on his opponent simply by overwhelming them with a large mass of punches, but has now twice been unable to do that to Navarrete.
Dogboe's effort may have been better in the second fight, but his face told the tale and a real argument could be made (and the ESPN crew of Tessitore, Ward, and Bradley made that argument) that the fight went on far too long with the beating that Dogboe was taking perhaps being a career-long impediment.
Dogboe announced after the loss that making 122 pounds has been difficult and he'll be moving to featherweight.
If the beatings that he has taken against Navarrete hasn't taken away any of his skills and was just a bad style match for him, Dogboe could face WBO champion Oscar Valdez, Carl Frampton or IBF champion Josh Warrington in entertaining events, but I'd be surprised if Dogboe fights on without any negative effects.
As for Navarrete, he'll likely face some lesser contenders for a while as the other division champions Danny Roman (WBA and IBF) and Rey Vargas (WBC) not only appear to be on a collision course for each other, both fight on DAZN and although the Eddie Hearn half of DAZN (Roman) has worked with Top Rank, Golden Boy (Vargas) has been more reticent to do so.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each added three points from the Top Rank slate, two from Berchelt and one from Navarette.
The score stands in my favor at 121-104.


Boxing Challenge: Williams upsets Hurd

The stage looked to be set perfectly for the PBC and their WBA and IBF junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd.
A home area crowd at George Mason University, the Washington Redskins band to accompany Hurd to the ring and a national television audience allowed everything to be in place for Hurd to move on to another title unification in the fall against the winner of June's rematch between Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo.

Julian Williams disagreed, but despite Williams's talent, he had failed in his only test against elite competition when Jermall Charlo had bullied him and knocked him out in five rounds and even though Williams hadn't lost since he hadn't excited anyone in his victories.
Williams changed the narrative and ruined the blueprint for PBC as Williams won a close, but unanimous decision to lift the two titles from Hurd, disappointing the crowd and observers that thought that Hurd might be the special fighter to burst through the dam to lead a junior middleweight division that had plenty of champions, but no dominant forces.
After this one, which will deserve consideration for the fight of the year, the division still lacks the dominant force and despite the excellent performance by Williams, he'll have to defend his titles a few times to begin the process of being thought of as such.

Williams was expected to start fast and attempt to hold on to the lead against Hurd, who has been noted to take a few rounds to fire on all cylinders and did so, but the surprise was just how fast as he dropped Hurd in the second round although Hurd rose and was not seriously hurt.
Williams allowed Hurd to rally in the middle rounds and I thought that Williams was able to do just enough to not allow Hurd into a smooth rhythm and make a run where he grabbed a few rounds in a row.
Every time that I started to think "this is where Hurd makes his move", Williams would change the momentum and fight the naturally larger Hurd off enough to keep him at less than optimum power.
I had Williams winning 115-112 (7-5 with a knockdown) and I could see a draw at 6-6 in rounds, but even then the knockdown would have made a difference.
I mention this as ESPN scored Hurd a one-point winner, which I fail to see as accurate, but I think I see the reason why that score was their score.
ESPN's Dan Rafael lives in the area (the DMV for us locals), was in the arena and might have been swayed by the atmosphere.
That can happen to any of us, no judgment from me, just a possible reason for why ESPN scored Hurd the victor.

This fight was good enough that it should bring a rematch (it was far better than Harrison-Charlo, which is an immediate rematch) soon, but it brings to mind two thoughts.
The first of these covers "Marinating" a term usually used in cooking, but one that has become often used in boxing after Bob Arum used it for building interest in an eventual featherweight fight between rising young stars Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez as a reason to wait to make the fight.
The plan backfired when Lopez was knocked out by Orlando Salido and was never the same fighter again and the big match between Gamboa and Lopez never happened, resulting in the derisive term "Marinating" for a fight that needed to be made and for various reasons wasn't.
The PBC almost revels in the fact that the majority of their stars fight only once or twice a year and often use one or both fights in borderline squash matches as their fighters often prefer the dollars guaranteed for those lesser fights rather than the higher risk fights that could bring higher rewards.
That strategy which often builds for a long-overdue fight, yet often, isn't one that fight fans cannot wait for, backfired in the case of Jermell Charlo-Jarrett Hurd.
Now to be fair, last night's upset was a mandatory defense for Hurd, but Charlo's upset loss to Tony Harrison was another case of continuing to have a fighter defend against a series of lesser contenders rather than fighting the best.
PBC has done this far too often since their opening as a promotion, most notably with WBA champion Keith Thurman, who tends to fight two lesser contenders before an event that is far more hyped than it truly deserves such as Thurman's fight with Danny Garcia, but their recent losses in the junior middleweight division, where they control three of the four titles (WBO champion Jaime Munguia is with DAZN/Golden Boy) shows the dangers of marinating.
After all, any meat will go bad in the marinating process, should you allow it to sit too long.

The other thought is this- could it be that the PBC has a group of fighters in the division that doesn't stand out above each other, can make interesting fights no matter the combination and the winners come down to the individual matchups and styles?
Look at it this way- Jarrett Hurd bullies and hammers out Tony Harrison, Jermall Charlo (Now at 160 pounds) knocks out Julian Williams, Jermell Charlo dusts Erickson Lubin (who has the punch to beat any of these guys and the chin to lose to any as well), Harrison defeats Jermell Charlo, Williams outworks Hurd.
I had hopes that Hurd was special and might emerge as the best of this bunch and I thought that Williams might have been before his loss to Jermall Charlo (I picked him to win), but I'm beginning to believe that the PBC controlled division simply has a handful of good fighters that have different skills that will enable them to defeat some and be vulnerable to others.
That recipe can make good fights such as last night's Williams-Hurd match, but it'll mean that no one or two fighters will stand out among the pack and that means that the title fights in the division will never be able to be built as a true super fight.
Since these guys are all equal, the promotion might be better suited to encourage these guys (and the veteran Erislandy Lara) to be more active and hopefully one or two will emerge as the best.
Otherwise, the titles will continue to be swapped around without a superstar and lesser tv ratings.

In the other fights on the card, junior welterweight Mario Barrios impressively snuffed out Juan Jose Velasco with a right to the body in the second round.
Barrios appears to be the young contender representing PBC in the suddenly red hot 140-pound division and could be a mandatory contender for one of the champions shortly.

Matt Korobov appeared to have won a majority decision over Immanuel Aleem as that result was announced in the ring.
Aleem rallied late in the ten rounder to make things interesting, but my score of 97-93 for Korobov seemed in line for the most part.
About ten minutes later, the announcement was made that the announcement was incorrect and the result was actually a majority draw, which was a borderline Hamburglar appearance.
I thought Korobov was the clear victor.

In the boxing challenge, I gained two points from the Mario Barrios KO to Ramon Malpica's one to move the challenge to 118-101.

This post ran longer than I planned, so I'll be writing a separate post later on the ESPN card from Tucson, Arizona.