Sunday, March 29, 2020

Happy Anniversary- TRS is now a Teenager!

Teenager.
Thirteen Years.
That's how long I have been writing here on this humble bus stop on the internet and it's hard to believe it all started with a brief note on the Yankees signing Carl Pavano.

I asked friends on Facebook last week what entertainer came to mind when using the term "teen idol" and there were a few different answers, but the clear winner was David Cassidy, so it's Cassidy's picture for the 13th anniversary.
Thirteen years is a long time.
I have been writing here longer than almost anything that I have ever worked on other than the husband, father and working at my current employer.
I do it because I like doing it, although I get frustrated sometimes with grammatical errors that I never seem to find the time to correct as many as I see!
And there are times that I'm not always motivated, but I push past them more often than not.
I've been having a hard time of late, mainly because over the Covid-19 pandemic almost everything has hit the brakes and I have to try to generate content consistently.
What usually takes me a day has been taking two and I'm frustrated with whatever has been slowing me down.

I never expected to make thirteen years, I would have likely laughed at even the premise of this amount of time when I started TRS.
My life has changed since the start of TRS and so have I.
I'm a little calmer now, although you would have to have known me a while to see this, friends have come and gone with new friends arriving since then, and I've lost some people in my life too.
My mother and grandfather have passed away and four beloved pets have crossed that "rainbow bridge" so many pet owners talk about when our four-legged friends move on.
I've cut some people out too and while that can be painful, decisions aren't always easy and one often has to cut cancer out to heal the body.

I've had a few revitalizations too as my grandmother and I have reconnected in the last few years.
We once were quite close and I've felt like I've "gotten her back" of late.
The worst part of the Covid-19 for me has been staying away from my weekly visits with her.
The happiness that she shows when I walk in the door is something hard to explain and something that I don't deserve but I'll happily take- I'll be very glad when Covid-19 takes its leave from all of our lives.

I'm fortunate enough to have a wonderful bunch of family and friends that care about me and make sure my life is well.
The internet makes this easier than it would have years and years ago and while some of them are readers more than others, they are such an important part of my life.
From all my family and friends and to those that I've met on the internet and to those that read that I've never met- I thank you very much for taking the time to read my work and I hope I've been able to entertain you on an occasion or two.

Thanks again and see you for year 14...

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Curly Neal

The whistles and handclaps drummed through my living room in Ohio in 1970 & 71 on Saturday mornings with the Harlem Globetrotters cartoons on CBS and as I hopped along with the music, the animated Trotters dribbled onto the screen with an animated dog (for some reason, the 70s constantly had talking animals in many of their animated programs).

As I have noted in the past, I was already a sports fan and the Globetrotters cartoon combined the two things I loved most- sports and cartoons.
 My favorite Trotter on the cartoon was the child-friendly shaven-headed Curly Neal, the master dribbler of the team and one that often had the funny wise-crack on the cartoon.
I didn't realize at the time that the voice of Curly wasn't actually Curly's as it was comedian Stu Gilliam that was plugged into the role.
The show ran for two seasons on CBS and for two years following with the same episodes running again before shelving for years until NBC, in a severe cost-cutting mode at the time, began picking up shows that were a decade or so old and using them on Saturday mornings to a fresh audience.

Curly Neal wasn't always a basketball comedian as he was a pretty good player in his time in "legitimate" basketball averaging 23.1 points a game at Johnson C. Smith University from 1959-63.
At that time, almost all college basketball played in the South at the major colleges were still played by all-white teams and some of the best basketball in the nation was being played at the "black" college level with many players from those leagues moving on to NBA stardom such as Earl Monroe.
Averaging 23 points against that competition wasn't shabby, so Neal was far more than just a gimmick player before joining the Globetrotters.
I haven't found any notes about Neal signing with an NBA team or anything about attending a training camp with anyone and Neal's first game with the Globetrotters was in 1963 which syncs with Neal's final season with Johnson C.Smith.

As the 1970s moved forward, the human Globetrotters became a big deal to see as well as they made regular appearances against their perpetual foil, the Washington Generals, on ABC's Wide World of Sports as well as other appearances such as the "Classic" Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island television movie and a short-lived live-action Saturday morning program "The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine".
Those "games" were must-see television and even non-basketball fans got laughs from the Trotters performances.
Everyone associated the bouncy Trotters theme song "Sweet Georgia Brown" with basketball and hi-jinks.
My mom was a decided non-hoops fan and she always got a kick out of their antics, so I'm willing to wager that they had that type of effect on others as well.

Neal was the ballhandling master on for the Trotters replacing the great Marquis Haynes in that role, who was the featured co-star to Meadowlark Lemon through the 70s and was the most visible star after Lemon formed his own team in "Meadowlark Lemon's Bucketeers" until Neal's retirement in 1985.
The Globetrotters were never the same after the Lemon/Neal/Geese Tatum era teams retired or left the organization.
They would declare bankruptcy a time or two and today have multiple traveling teams around the country on various tours, but I'm not sure that I could name one player on any of those teams.
I do know that for a time, former Maryland Terrapins Exree Hipp and Johnny Rhodes played for the Trotters, but I'm unsure that either player still plays with the organization.

I'm not sure people under 45 could understand just how big the Harlem Globetrotters were in the 70s and the first part of the 80s.
After all, the entire experience when you boil it down is basketball crossed with pro wrestling with a few comedy bits added to the package, but they were a bigger deal during that time during the NBA to most people.
If you asked the average person about basketball, I would bet that the Globetrotters were the first team mentioned and a decent chunk would believe that if the Globetrotters played the Celtics, 76ers, or Lakers that it would be the Globetrotters coming out on top.
Imagine it this way, it would be the equivalent of believing in 1983 that Hulk Hogan would beat Larry Holmes in a real fight and that's how big the Harlem Globetrotters were- with Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal the biggest of all.

Curly Neal's passing at the age of 77 is another in a list that gets longer as I age as childhood heroes from sports, television, and music continue to pass away.
Aging is about more than learning to be dealing with your body breaking down, it is just as tough watching others walk away from the scene.
"Whistles the Globetrotters theme song", takes the hand of a three-year-old in Globetrotters pajamas, and walks away stage left.



Friday, March 27, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox- Send it in Jerome Edition

I know this will be a non-sports edition with links from the political world and most of those are notes from The Bulwark, but one of the links by Amanda Carpenter "Mail It In" made me think of what I think of every time I hear the phrase "Send It In"- the 1988 backboard breaking dunk by Pitt's Jerome Lane with color commentator Bill Raftery screaming the phrase that lives on 32 years later.

We'll start with two Bulwark columns from Amanda Carpenter with the first being the aforementioned "Mail It In" with the discussion centered around having voting more accessible by mail for November's election.
Sixteen states currently require a "reason" to vote absentee and even though Maryland is not one of those states, I still think that giving voters more avenues to cast their votes can be a good thing.
I've voted absentee on several occasions and for a country that doesn't have a holiday to allow people to have the day off to vote, it only makes good sense.
While I understand that the chances of fraud do increase with paper/mail ballots, I'm not sure it is any higher than tabulating results via computer and we've seen how that can turn out.
With the almost guaranteed heat and fury that November's election is going to bring from supporters of and against the President, absentee voting might avoid some potential incidents at polling places and that alone might be worth the effort to expand the paper voting into all states for at least this November's election.

Carpenter also writes of conservative commentator Michelle Malkin and her gradual drift downstream from conservatism to radicalism.
Malkin, who once was a regular on cable news networks, has become almost persona non grata for television or even mainstream conservatives and unless you still read her column on a dwindling amount of news outlets, has faded from the scene.
Carpenter gives far more detail than I can in her article, but the article shows that no matter the topic or belief just how quickly one can fade from the scene.

More Bulwark as Richard North Patterson writes the six lessons learned from the Democratic primaries and how they could relate to the November elections.
The analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of various candidates and how they define the party entering the next stage is quite interesting and could say a lot on the eventual message for the showdown with Donald Trump and maybe even 2024.

One final Bulwark note as Gregg Hurwitz tells the reader that "We can wake up now" from the Donald Trump experiment.
Many voting for Trump in 2016 did so because they wanted someone that would "blow things up", "wanted a businessman" or just plain couldn't stand Hillary Clinton.
While I could understand all of those various reasons, I couldn't seriously consider voting for Donald Trump and didn't do so (For the record, I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton either) because I knew the background, the record, and I wasn't remotely convinced that any of the hype was sincere.
I don't hold the Democrats innocent for 2016 for shoving a candidate to the forefront that was so disliked that they lost an election that was handed to them to win and I also hold the left accountable for being so stringent to their beliefs that they didn't bother to show up at the polls.
Hurwitz writes how it happened in 2016, how it led to where we are today, and what it will take to reverse the decision in November.

The Atlantic's Peter Wehner wraps us up with the temperament of the President for dealing with the Covid 19 crisis and why he is so ill-suited to lead in times of stress.
I'm not going to mention why this is so, although even the most fervent supporter of the President knows that these are the actual characteristics as in many cases it's those characteristics that earned their vote.
Covid 19 won't roll over in fear, it could care less about a nasty Tweet, it cannot be affected by changing its name and it will not give the time of day to "as I like to call" mundane nicknames.
Whether you think Covid 19 is a crisis or simply media-hyped flu (and I know plenty of friends and others that believe either side), the tactics of the last four years isn't going to stop it cold.
Finally, the President has to deal with something that will not be intimidated and won't dodge in fear or shame.









Thursday, March 26, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox

The inbox returns with what might be the goofiest mascot that I have ever seen.

Meet Artie the Fighting Artichoke, the mascot of Scottsdale Community College, who looks like not only an artichoke but about five other things that one could think of.
Artie was the choice of the newly created college student board as the mascot in a clearly satirical decision in 1970.
The times were controversial then as now and the board didn't think that sports were important in times of the anti-war movement with student organizations, so they picked Artie the Artichoke as their way of poking the bear of organized sports.
The Artichoke defeated the Rutabaga and the Scoundrel to become the school mascot in the organized election and makes me think of two things.
One- I don't recall eating either an Artichoke or a Rutabaga.
Two- What I remember most about either vegetable was the failed attempt to bring a bowl to Hooterville in Green Acres- the Rutabaga Bowl.
The article also notes that should you decide to deep fry Artie, it would take 200 gallons of oil and 20 pounds of batter to crisp Artie up a bit!

The Athletic has lots of time on their hands with no games to report and very little other than NFL free agency to write about.
They are trying to fill the void with plenty of pieces about stars of the past along with stories of interest that writers ordinarily don't have the time to write during the season.
Two of these stories cover my two favorite Giants since I became a fan as Giants beat writer Andrew Baggerly interviews, Buster Posey, as Posey attempts to improve from his first season that showed significant slippage.
Posey talks about everything baseball that you could want to know and expresses a rare interest in today's game- an intent to retire a Giant with the only team that Posey has ever played for.

Baggerly's other article talks about his favorite Giant as he looks at Tim Lincecum, who is likely the most popular Giant since I became a fan.
Lincecum is probably the "everyman" that fans always are drawn to and between the unabashed joy on the field and the laid back person off the field, Lincecum was the Giant that I was drawn to right away.
Lincecum's unusual delivery was dominating during his fairly short peak, but it also is likely what took so much out of the slight-framed righthander to result in a few years of such brilliance and quickly downhill.
The Lincecum curveball was so devastating and for those few seasons (2008-11), Tim Lincecum made me think for the only time (The Indians have had some excellent hurlers, but no one like 55) that I didn't want to miss a start because you never knew what you would miss.
It must have been what it was like for Dodgers fans when Sandy Koufax was the scheduled starter and I've never had anyone like that pitch for my team before or since.

The final Athletic article is an oral history of the 2006 Final Four run of the George Mason Patriots.
The article talks to Mason's coach Jim Larranaga and several players about the run that started with George Mason getting an at-large bid out of the Colonial Athletic Conference and the CBS studio group that questioned Mason getting such a bid.
The CAA doesn't receive many at-large bids and that alone made the season memorable as George Mason was the first of a few mid-majors to reach the Final Four since 2006 such as Butler, Wichita State, Loyola Chicago, and Virginia Commonwealth.
I'm not a college basketball junkie as I once was, but I always pull for the mid-majors that make the tournament what it is.

Next time, I'll either be giving tributes to the recently passed or finishing the inbox with a few non-sports notes.








Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Browns Bargain Shopping.

The Cleveland Browns may have spent most of their planned free agency dollars on the three players that I wrote about earlier in the week, but that didn't mean that the shopping basket was otherwise empty as the Browns added a few potential starters and some depth pieces on the cheap that Cleveland hopes to get fortunate with.

The signing that I am most interested in seeing is former Raider first-round safety Karl Joseph, who signed a one year contract worth 2.5 million with 500,000 guaranteed on the agreement.
Joseph was the 14th overall pick in 2016 from West Virginia and the then-Oakland Raiders declined to pick up his fifth-year option before last season.
Joseph played in nine games and finished with 39 solo tackles and one interception in 2019 and barring a high draft pick at the position, Joseph will likely slot in as the early leader to start at strong safety.
Just as I go to Ryan for detailed knowledge of former Packers, I go to Corey Cunningham for information on players that played in Oakland (now Las Vegas) and Corey's report wasn't one to get excited about.
Corey's report was that Joseph was a hard-hitter, but never seemed to live up to his draft hype and seemed to fail in secondary coverage often.
His exact finishing quote was this- "I almost want to compare him to (don't cringe) Jabril Peppers".
Oh, Boy.
I kinda like the signing's potential and Joseph will be motivated for a bigger contract, so I'm intrigued but not assured that this will be a success.

Joseph's safety partner will be another former Viking (unless the Browns draft a safety, which is very possible) as Cleveland signed Andrew Sendejo to a one year contract at 2.25 million.
Sendejo is different than Joseph as Joseph brings a high upside and is young enough to turn a career around with Sendejo at 33 being a one-year stopgap to fill the free safety spot.
Sendejo started for Minnesota for parts of four seasons before an injury ended his 2018 season.
Sendejo started last season with the Eagles before being waived and finishing the season back with the Vikings.
Sendejo is a hard hitter to the point of serving suspensions for overly physical play in the past, but he is a placeholder for a younger player in the next season or two.

Another former 2016 first-rounder is on board with cornerback Kevin Johnson signing for 3.5 million on a one year contract.
Johnson was picked 16th overall in 2016. but never lived up to that billing with the Texans, who released him early last season.
Johnson hasn't been a big playmaker with only one interception in his four seasons in the league.
Johnson struggled with injuries in Houston but has been noted to have posted a good season last year after being claimed by Buffalo.
The Bills used him at the outside corner and slot corner, but the Browns are bringing him in to be the slot corner and cover the inside routes.
Johnson, like Karl Joseph, is looking to revitalize his career and with a one year contract in tow, Johnson will be playing for a big contract, so motivation shouldn't be an issue.

The Browns have a linebacker need with the losses of Christian Kirksey to the Browns and Joe Schobert to the Jaguars and Cleveland signed one veteran in B.J. Goodson, formerly of the Packers.
Goodson spent the 2019 season in Green Bay after toiling for the Giants in his first three years in the league after being selected by New York in the fourth round.
Goodson started nine of fifteen games with Green Bay, but his numbers didn't impress with only 23 solo tackles.
So as with Corey on Raiders, Ryan is my go-to person for Packers and his take on Goodson isn't much to be excited about.
"Is more of a 4-3 linebacker, overmatched in the Packers 3-4, fine as a situational linebacker, but zero big-play ability, fine as a depth player but not as a placement for a Kirksey or Schobert".
Well, considering that Goodson (as of this writing) would be a starter, I'm not very encouraged by that scouting report.
Like the rest of these signings, Goodson inked a one year contract.

The defensive line added a depth player in former Bengal defensive tackle Andrew Billings, yet another 2016 draftee in the fourth round from Baylor.
Billings missed the 2016 season and finished last season with one sack, but this is the one signing that I do wonder about as Cincinnati runs a 3-4 and Billings spent most of his time at nose tackle for the Bengals.
I'm not sure that Billings will be more than a depth piece with the Browns, but the price was right for a rotational defensive lineman...

I mentioned in the earlier pieces that the Browns sent a 2021 seventh-rounder to Denver for fullback Andy Janovich and this looks like a player that will be a starter for the Browns.
Kevin Stefanski's offense is very fullback-friendly and with Denver changing their offense a bit, Janovich was a player that was on the outs in Denver.
Janovich is one of the better blocking fullbacks in the league and although Denver didn't use him often in the passing game, Janovich isn't ham-handed as a receiver.
Janovich only played in seven games last season due to an elbow injury but will be full strength for training camp where he will likely be the favorite against former Viking Johnny Stanton for the starting fullback position.

The final signing was JoJo Natson, who is a kick returning specialist that played for the Rams in 2018 and 2019.
Natson averaged 22 yards on kickoffs and just under eight yards returning punts last season for the Rams and is returning to the area after playing for the Akron Zips in college.
Natson isn't a game-breaker, but he's a solid returner as far as punts go and the Browns have lacked that in recent years...

This finishes the Browns series of free-agent additions, although future signings will be addressed.
I've had a lot of problems being motivated in these crazy times to finish posts and this one took far more time than I expected.
I hope to work on the inbox and other posts soon.






Saturday, March 21, 2020

Case Keenum arrives as Browns backup

One of the many problems with the 2019 version of the Cleveland Browns was the lack of accountability for and by Baker Mayfield.
No matter how poorly he played, there was no one available as an alternative to Mayfield on the field and no one around to be a sounding board and mentor off the field to keep him grounded after a good game and give him tips on how to be a professional after a bad one.
Case Keenum could be the playing assistant that Mayfield needs to succeed or he could be the stopgap for the Browns should Mayfield continue to regress and need to be replaced and the three-year contract that Keenum signed for eighteen million could prove to be a bargain in either scenario for the Browns.

At 32 and his travels throughout the league with five teams considered, you would think that Keenum would be a pure veteran backup, but when you consider a few possibilities, it's not out of the question that Keenum could be playing for the Browns at times and under one of these scenarios might be the starter for 2021.
The Browns will be Keenum's fifth team in as many years (Rams, Vikings, Broncos, Redskins, and now Cleveland) and looking at his numbers throughout his career, they have been average- except for one season, Keenum's 2017 season with Minnesota.
Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC championship game, won eleven of fourteen starts, and threw twenty-two touchdowns and against only seven interceptions under Kevin Stefanski as his quarterbacks' coach.
Keenum's reward was to be allowed to leave as Minnesota signed away Kirk Cousins from Washington to be their starter and his stints in Denver and Washington saw Keenum handicapped with some weak teams.

The Browns now have some insurance against Baker Mayfield being a flash in the pan and a quality backup should Mayfield get injured.
Case Keenum doesn't own the best arm and his size isn't a prototype, but his skills and size are similar to Mayfield and should Keenum need to play for whatever reason, the switch won't be a huge difference for the Browns offense.
Keenum is also willing to embrace the role of guidance counselor for Mayfield, is known as a locker room leader, but yet not a player that will sulk because he isn't playing.

I've written before about my skepticism on Baker Mayfield as a franchise quarterback and the Browns mistake last season was allowing Mayfield far more comfort and control than a young quarterback should have.
Case Keenum is the type of quarterback that may not lift a team to a higher level, but Keenum can keep a team going as a bridge in the right situation.
I like this signing as whatever Keenum is to Mayfield as a backup, while I wouldn't be nearly as excited if Keenum was signed to come in as the immediate starter, his experience with Kevin Stefanski and with his mentality of team-first makes this an excellent signing.

I'm going to lump some of the other Browns newcomers in the next post.
I also have the remainder of the minor league fantasy draft, cleaning out the inbox, and some recent passings coming soon.





Friday, March 20, 2020

Jack Conklin inks deal in Cleveland

The 2019 Cleveland Browns had problems on both ends of their offensive line with their tackles.
That's being kind on my part, but the interior line of the line looks strong entering 2020 and if the Browns were serious about improving the line, something had to be accomplished.

The Browns certainly didn't want to start two rookie tackles, so they were thought to be major players for an offensive tackle in free agency and they were as Cleveland signed arguably the best available tackle as Jack Conklin signed a three-year contract for forty-two million dollars.
The twenty-six-year-old Conklin will immediately slot in for the Browns at right tackle and while it's left tackles that usually get paid the type of money that Conklin will receive to play right tackle, the Browns were in desperate need for a veteran tackle and while the Browns may have preferred a veteran at left tackle to protect Baker Mayfield's blind side, quality left tackles are a rare animal in the free-agent market.

Conklin was selected in the first round of the 2016 draft (eighth overall) from Michigan State and other than a few games in 2018 recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the 2017 playoffs, Conklin has been durable for the Tennessee Titans since his debut.
Conklin is noted for being a good blocker in pass protection but is an elite level tackle in the running game and could be the best right tackle in the game as a pure run blocker.
Conklin is more of a mauler at 6'6 than most tackles of his size as often taller tackles are more angular power forward types that use their size and quickness to make their blocks.
That's not the game of Conklin, who is more of an old school physical grinder that occasionally can be vulnerable by more athletic speed rushers.

Conklin will replace Chris Hubbard at right tackle who was awful in his two seasons since Hubbard was signed as a free agent from Pittsburgh and will change the position from strength to weakness along with upgrading the line on the overall.
Conklin, left guard Joel Bitonio, and center J.C. Tretter makes a strong nucleus of an offensive line with the likely high draft pick (either first or second round) replacing Greg Robinson at left tackle joining the unit.
The only position that should be open entering training camp in Berea is left guard as Wyatt Teller, who was acquired from Buffalo late in training camp last season will battle Drew Forbes, who impressed many in camp before a knee injury and former Ohio State Buckeye Malcolm Pridgeon for the spot.

At 26, Jack Conklin should be reaching his peak years and it appears that Tennessee, with their commitment to the power running game, has made a big mistake in not picking up his fifth-year option before last season.
This is my favorite signing of all as it shows that Kevin Stefanski's plans for the Browns are to install a power running game mindset, establish the run, and wear teams down physically which in the AFC North is a must.

Next time, I'll be writing about the Browns signing of Case Keenum as the backup quarterback where Keenum could mentor, backup or maybe push Baker Mayfield in a make or break season for the former Heisman winner.






Thursday, March 19, 2020

Browns sign Austin Hooper

With Covid 19 in full swing, I decided to give each of the new Cleveland Browns additions their own post and write a bit more about the new arrival's past and how they will affect the roster at their position.
After all, there is not exactly a plethora of live sports to write about, is there?

Last night, Cleveland addressed the defense with the signing of two veterans in linebacker B.J. Goodson  (Packers) and safety Karl Joseph (Raiders).
I'll have more on those two newcomers and how they fit in with the defense later in the week.

The signing of Austin Hooper was a mild, but very pleasant surprise by Andrew Berry and the Browns to add to a key weak spot on the Browns offense after a disappointing 2019.
Hooper wasn't signed cheaply as the Browns were forced to make Hooper the highest-paid tight end in football as the former Atlanta Falcon signed a four-year contract worth 42 million dollars with 23 million of that total guaranteed.

The twenty-five-year-old was selected by Atlanta in the third round of the 2016 draft from Stanford and has made the Pro Bowl in both of the two most recent seasons with Hooper combining for 146 catches, 1,347 yards and ten touchdowns which are impressive numbers on a team that featured Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley and makes you think Hooper could have similar, if not improved production with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry surrounding him.
Hooper isn't noted as a great blocker, but he's not a sieve either and is noted as being better as a pass blocker than in the running game.
That makes sense as most of the better receiving tight ends aren't usually among the more physical players, but if Hooper isn't a liability as a blocker, I can't ask for more than that with his pass-catching skills.

Hooper definitely gives the Browns the type of athletic tight end that can gain yardage after the catch that the Browns haven't since Jordan Cameron left for Miami and what Cleveland hasn't received from David Njoku, despite the physical attributes for the position that Njoku brings.
At 6'4, Hooper will also be that leaping red zone threat that it seems that almost every playoff team has at tight end and that the Browns have lacked since Jordan Cameron.
Other than the occasional slice of potential from Njoku or even Ricky Seals-Jones, the Browns have stubbornly stuck with rock-handed players at the position that were used more often as essentially an extra blocker rather than a real threat since the departure of Cameron in 2015.

Some have thought that the signing of Hooper means the end of David Njoku in Cleveland.
I'm not sure of that, although I could see a team trading a day three draft pick for Njoku, should the Browns decide to shop the former first rounder.
However, Kevin Stefanski used two tight ends often during his tenure with the Vikings, Njoku still has tremendous physical potential, and inserting Hooper and Njoku with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry would create many matchup problems for defenses.
Nick Chubb ( or Kareem Hunt) might lose a bit in run blocking in that lineup, but he could also rip off some huge gains with defenses having to pay so much attention to the various threats in the passing game.
The Browns will tip their hand soon with Njoku as they have a decision to make in picking up his option for 2021.
Should the Browns keep Njoku, they will likely allow Ricky Seals-Jones or Stephen Carlson to go elsewhere as the Browns will keep Pharoah Brown as the blocking specialist and while four tight ends might be a luxury that a few teams carry, five is out of the question.

This is a very intriguing signing and one that the Browns should be given credit for.
Cleveland's skill weapons rank with the best in football and the signing of Jack Conklin to pair with returning veterans Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter along with a left tackle that will likely be the Browns first-round pick or no later than their second-rounder will give Baker Mayfield plenty of choices to throw to and time to make those choices.
There won't be anyone for Mayfield or his supporters to blame this season other than himself, should his regression continue.

I'll try to be back later with a post on Jack Conklin, who may prove to be the most important signing in free agency, if not the flashiest, and how his addition upgrades the offensive line.






Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Browns bulk up offense-Free Agency Signings!

The official start of free agency isn't until Wednesday, but teams are allowed to talk to players a few days before that and many players have already committed to new franchises.

The commitment means nothing as players can change their minds and occasionally, a player will change their mind and sign with another team as happened to the Browns in 2015 when they thought they had a commitment from tight end Jordan Cameron to return to the Browns and Cameron would renege to sign with the Miami Dolphins.

The Browns have commitments to add three players, two of which will become immediate starters with the third being a key backup and will hopefully help to push the most important position on the team.
Cleveland signed tight end Austin Hooper from the Falcons, tackle Jack Conklin from the Titans, and quarterback Case Keenum from the Redskins via free agency to bolster those positions, but the Browns made another move tonight as they acquired fullback Andy Janovich from Denver for a 2021 seventh-round pick.

Hooper and Conklin have Pro Bowl histories, Janovich is noted as one of the better blockers in the football and in an offense that uses the fullback often, and Keenum is the type of veteran backup that won't end your season if the starter goes down.
So these are all solid moves for a team that needed them but still needs more.

The Browns now have skill position standouts with Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Austin Hooper with an offensive line that looks greatly improved with Jack Conklin at right tackle joining Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter with a likely first or second-round draft pick at left tackle.
Baker Mayfield will have very few excuses for himself this year if his play does not improve and should Mayfield regress even further, Case Keenum would make a suitable bridge to the next Browns quarterback.

Cleveland still needs lots of help on defense and I'm looking for help on the defense to be added in free agency.
Linebacker will likely bring a player or two to a depleted corp and the Browns need a veteran safety after the recent release of Morgan Burnett and the decision to not bring back Demetrius Randall.
A decision on Olivier Vernon will need to be rendered and should they release Vernon, a replacement will need to be brought in.

I admit to being dubious of the hiring of Andrew Berry and I still have concerns about the Browns drafts under Berry, but credit is deserved here these are three excellent signings at positions of need.

I'm going to do more detailed posts on the new arrivals since Covid 19 has given me fewer things to write about over the next few days and there could be more players added to review as well.



XFL Ends Season One, Is this the end?

Covid 19 grabbed another professional league with its tentacles as the XFL was intertwined with the virus and the infant league ended its first season after the delay that was forced upon the other sports leagues as well.
The big question is this- will the league return for 2021?

The league completed half of the planned schedule, but with the forced pause in mid-season, the league had little choice in concluding the season rather than a postponement of games.
Considering that the XFL uses more college stadiums and soccer fields than they do NFL sized facilities (only Tampa Bay and New York), the option of postponement would have made dates difficult with the five facilities that have MLS soccer teams and Houston sharing with the Houston Cougars in need of their fields during the time that makeup games would be played.

The decision to end the season does make sense for those reasons, but it does raise legitimate doubt on the future of the league.
League owner Vince McMahon stated that all players would be paid their full salaries and continue to have their health care provided and that is a positive note for a potential second season as if their plans were not to come back, it would have been far easier to just not pay the bills as any potential bad PR would not matter without a second season.

I thought the league played a better brand of football than the original and I thought it was pretty comparable to the AAF, maybe even a nick better, but there is always that group that wants to compare it to the NFL.
That's silly, but with rival leagues dating all the way back to the AAFC in the late 40s football fans always want to downplay the new league compared to the NFL.
If that is the goal for new leagues, it's an unrealistic one and I'm not sure why people even bother to start them because it cannot be reached.

The biggest problem for the league (besides attendance and TV ratings) seems to be the same as many football ventures-  the quarterback play.
If there were plenty of good quarterbacks around, every NFL team would have a good one and we all know that's not true!
Other than P.J. Walker of the Houston Roughnecks, I didn't see a quarterback that raised his stock as far as playing in the NFL.
Cardale Jones looked great for two games and then awful thereafter to the point of being benched.
Jordan Ta'amu looks to be too small for the NFL, Josh Johnson might be able to be a veteran emergency type and that's about it as the passers go.

If your quarterbacks aren't great, it's hard for the games to be fun and if they aren't fun, most casual fans will not watch.
If you are looking at this as a AAA league and developmental for the NFL, that's fine.
However, the talent level for the league is going to be guys looking for a chance or someone that had failures in the NFL or players that had issues outside of football.

So what's the solution?
An alliance with the NFL is unlikely as the NFLPA wasn't interested in sending quarterbacks to the AAF and even if they did, how much difference in quality is there between the third-string passer fort the Redskins and Cardale Jones if any?
There isn't a stock of quarterbacks sitting around to pilfer, so if the league really wants to improve their quarterback play (and the other positions as well) they really only have one choice- go after college talent.
That's an expensive alternative, but if the goal is to improve the on-field play they have little choice.
That might not be the avenue that the league will go, but it's a choice that renegade football leagues soon realize after the league begins.
The business plan looks good until you start playing the games, but it's a tough choice as maintaining the status-quo will find a product that may struggle in drawing fans and chokes off revenue or if you sign top talent to improve the league and add fan interest, the bottom line soon can become untenable.
The USFL did the latter of the two choices and went under, but its three-year run is still the longest of the challenger leagues in the last fifty years and I still maintain they had the right idea- sign a few big names and mix with the other players to build a following.
The USFL was on its way under this plan under Donald Trump came along and I think it can succeed, but it's going to lose plenty of money before things turn the corner and it may still never become profitable.

I hope to see the second season of the XFL and I think a return is possible.
However, the long-term health of the league has to be in question and only Vince McMahon and his league shareholders will be able to answer if the XFL will hear the bell for season two.
Time will tell the tale of whether the D.C. Defenders are another team headed for that fabled TRS Graveyard of franchises that I cared about and have only stories and a headstone to remember them by,

This entire problem sweeping our country has taken a bit out of me of late and it took me three days to get through this post.
I hope to be working on the Browns free-agent additions soon and I may drag them out a bit since there is next to nothing else to write about in the sports world.
Thanks for sticking with me.





Saturday, March 14, 2020

Minor League Fantasy Draft-Round Three-Orelvis Martinez

Our minor league fantasy draft moved into the third round and due to an earlier trade, my third-rounder was earlier in the round with my pick, which was the final pick in the third round, going to another team.

The decision was made to go very young with seventeen-year-old shortstop Orelvis Martinez of the Toronto Blue Jays, who spent his season with the complex team for the Blue Jays in the Gulf Coast League.
Martinez didn't turn eighteen until the GCL season had completed and was the choice by Baseball America as the top prospect in the league.

Martinez hit .275 with seven homers in 142 at-bats and five triples.
Martinez is expected to have a chance to stay at shortstop but is likely eventually move to third, which Toronto would hope to avoid with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base for a while.
Martinez is expected to fill out at only 175 pounds and could be a high average player with above-average power as a potential middle of the order hitter.


Taking young players that haven't played in a professional game outside of a complex is always a risky proposition, but it can be rewarding when you hit on the right player.
Something to watch here is my decision to take Martinez over Oakland shortstop Robert Puason.
It was very close for me to determine which young shortstop would be my choice and while I doubted that Puason would last the seventeen spots between my picks, I would have taken him there even with the selection of Martinez.
Alas, Puason was chosen two picks after Martinez, it'll be interesting to see which of the two moves faster and which becomes the better player.

Back later with either my choice in round four or maybe some words about the end of the XFL season.


Friday, March 13, 2020

Minor League Fantasy Draft-Round Two- Edward Cabrera

And minutes after I posted last night's news- we move to part two with the NCAA canceling all winter and spring sports, the NHL suspending their season, and Major and Minor league baseball delaying their season for the first two weeks of the year.

I'll have a post soon on the XFL ending their season, but declaring that they aren't closing up shop and plan on playing the 2021 season.
We'll see about that, but with no sports for the next few weeks at least I'll be writing some special posts on Forgotten Superstars and other subjects that time doesn't always permit with different topics in the news, so if you like those types of posts this will be a time that you may enjoy.

Sunday morning, our annual minor league fantasy draft began and I wasn't likely to select anyone.
That's because I had somehow won my first championship in 2019, so my pick was last in the round.
When my pick rolled on Monday, my "Akron Rubber Ducks" were called upon by Corey Cunningham and his "West Virginia Power" and asked if I was interested in moving my first-rounder.
I had a large number of players that I was interested in, but none that stood out above the rest so I was interested in talking deal.
Corey had used his pick at four and he owned another first-rounder at eleven, but he couldn't decide between two players that he wanted badly.
In the end, I traded the final pick in the first round and a fourth-rounder in the 2021 draft (in our league, you cannot trade picks for the next draft until the draft has started) for the Power's first and second-round picks in the 2021 draft.
I wasn't too unhappy as it now sets me up to have five picks in the first three rounds of next year's draft and possibly completing my draft in three rounds.
Corey made a nice pick with his newly acquired choice in Orioles right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, who was one of the players in my queue but was not the player that I would have selected as I gambled a player from the bunch would tumble to the final pick of the second round.

Four of the dozen had been selected by my pick and it didn't take me long to make my selection with the highest-rated player on the board- Edward Cabrera, a right-handed pitcher in the Miami Marlins system.
Cabrera will turn 22 in a few weeks and was tremendous in his breakout season last year as Cabrera pitched for High A Jupiter and AA Jacksonville in 19 starts.
Cabrera finished with a 2.23 ERA between the two levels, hitters batted only .190 against Cabrera and Cabrera struck out 116 batters in 96 innings.
Cabrera walked only 31, so control isn't a problem for now and he has an excellent curveball to pair with a fastball that can touch 100 mph and sits in the mid-90s.
Cabrera added a changeup to his toolkit last season and when you can change speeds with a player with a fastball such as his, one can imagine the difficulty for hitters against him.


At 6'4 and only 175 pounds, Cabrera has some filling out to do and he's very projectable as a potential front-end starter.
Cabrera made nine starts for AA Jacksonville, so he's likely to start with the Jumbo Shrimp again to start the season, but he might not be there for very long if he performs as well as he did last season.
AAA Wichita should see Cabrera early in the year and the Marlins could bring him to the majors at some time during the second half of the season.

My third-round pick will be earlier than usual as I moved up in round three after an earlier trade.



Thursday, March 12, 2020

Corona

It's hard to summon up a topic to write about at a time when the world is suffering from all the pain and hysteria from the Coronavirus (Covid 19).

Take Wednesday as an example of a day that might be remembered historically under certain conditions and yet could very well be just another ripple on the pond before this can be corralled and controlled.
In one day, the World Health Organization declared Covid to be officially declared a pandemic, the President spoke from the Oval Office with a policy that will heavily restrict travel from other countries for thirty days, arguably the nation's most loved actor and his wife (Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson) announced that they are in quarantine after testing positive for the virus, and the NBA released a statement that their season is being suspended indefinitely after a player has tested positive (reportedly Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz) with the five teams (including the Cavaliers) that Utah has played in the last ten days being placed in self-quarantine.
And I didn't even touch the plans for the NCAA Tournament being planned to play in arenas without fans or the potential issues with Major League Baseball and their opener in just two weeks.

That was only one day.
Who knows what today or next week etc will bring and it's about more than sports, although it's hard to tell just how much damage could be done to various sports.
When anything is gone for a while, people realize that anything can be replaced.
You find other things to occupy your time, other things to collect, and you learn to move on and away from what once brought you joy.

I'm wondering just what the impact will be on the baseball, NBA, and NHL seasons.
The main impact on the NFL will likely be moving the draft to a quiet indoor environment and considering the craziness that hosting the draft brings anymore, I actually like that idea.
Baseball will likely lose much of April at a minimum and this might give Rob Manfred the opening he needs to really rip up the minors in the manner that he chooses.
The results of this pandemic will likely at least reduce the playoffs in the NBA and NHL, if not eliminate them completely and who really can see how boxing, UFC, golf, etc will deal with these issues as each of those have their own interests involved without a league structure for the most part.
Golf has the PGA Tour, but all four major tournaments are held outside the auspices of the PGA and you have to think of the Masters in only three weeks' time.

I'm not going to dig too deep into the political aspect of this other than two things.
One- The President seemed to be either subdued or overwhelmed (depending on whether you support or you do not) and had the look of a man that was facing something that he couldn't dismiss with a proclamation that something was "Fake" or a tweet or a nickname and he had discovered that the unraveling of a persona may have begun.
Two- I'm interested to see how the President and the Democratically-controlled house can work together on this issue.
Who will be helped the most- the people dealing with the illness or the various industries that will be affected by Covid 19?
I'm hoping that both sides can work together and do the right thing for everyone involved.




Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Browns release Christian Kirksey

The Cleveland Browns continue to shed high-priced contracts as the Browns released linebacker Christian Kirksey today and allowed him to shop his talents elsewhere.

The Browns drafted Kirksey in the third round of the 2014 draft from Iowa and Kirksey quickly settled in the linebacker rotation, starting thirteen games in his first two seasons.

Kirksey entered the starting lineup for good in 2016 and finished with 96 solo tackles, eleven for loss and two and a half sacks.
Kirksey would follow up with a similar season in 2017 but missed much of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to injuries as he would play only seven games in 2018 due to a shoulder injury and just two last season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Kirksey was scheduled to make 7.75 million dollars next season and 8.25 million in 2021 and the Browns were reticent to spend that type of money on a solid, but unspectacular player that comes with health concerns.
The Browns attempted to re-do Kirksey's contract, but the principals were unable to come to an agreement.

I see both sides in this situation.
The Browns looked at Kirksey's contract as a bit high for a linebacker that hasn't been able to stay on the field and when he has been, Kirksey isn't any different than many Browns linebackers in recent seasons- Tackle accumulators that make their plays downfield rather than at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Kirksey's side is understandable as well- If I am going to take less money, I would rather play for a winning team than the typical dreck in Haslamville.

I agree with both, but the Browns have shown that they can find tackle accumulators anywhere at a lot less money than seven and eight million per year.
The Browns will certainly be shopping for linebackers in the draft and likely in free agency as only second-year men Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki return.
Wilson showed some excellent signs as a playmaker after surprisingly slipping to the fifth round, while third-rounder Takitaki spent most of his time on special teams.
Wilson should start at one outside linebacker, while Takitaki will battle against a new arrival to replace Joe Schobert in the middle.

Christian Kirksey was well-liked by the fan base and by his teammates, but he will be pretty replaceable and by a cheaper option as well.
I'm signing off on this one, but the Browns will have to bring in some linebackers to replace Kirksey and Joe Schobert and my question is this- can they find equal production at a lower cost?
If they can't, that's a real problem and if they have to pay equal dollars, why not just keep one or both?
Free agency starts on March 18th.



Monday, March 9, 2020

Defenders fend off BattleHawks 15-6

The D.C. Defenders needed a win badly at Audi Field after back to back awful efforts resulted in two road losses and dropped them out of first place in the XFL's Eastern Division.

It might not have been the prettiest victory, but they all count the same and the Defenders 15-6 win over St.Louis came at the right time and against the right team, as the Defenders joined the Battlehawks and New York Guardians at the top of the division at 3-2.

Ty Rausa was the star of the day for the Defenders as Rausa kicked field goals of 40, 50, and 52 yards to make up the entire victory margin.
Tyree Jackson came off the bench to hit Khari Lee with a nine-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter for the only D.C. touchdown.
The Defenders will attempt to win their first road game of the season next Sunday in Dallas against the 2-3 Renegades.

Defensive Deflections

1) Cardale Jones was surprisingly benched in the first quarter after an interception and replaced by Tyree Jackson for the remainder of the game.
I thought the hook was premature, but I understood the reasoning as Jones had struggled of late and D.C. could not afford to fall behind again in such a crucial outing.
The question now is which of Jones and Jackson will start next Sunday in Dallas?

2) Tyree Jackson did what he needed to do to keep the trains running on time, but was unspectacular.
Jackson did complete nine of fourteen passes, but only for thirty-nine yards and his longest completion was the nine-yard touchdown pass to Khari Lee.
But he didn't turn the football over and kept the Defenders in the game, so in a must-win game, Jackson did his job.

3) The D.C defense returned after two weeks away with two huge fourth-down stops on short yardage.
The fourth and one stop on the Defenders five as St.Louis QB Jordan Ta'amu's run attempt fell short.
You could see the St.Louis hopes to pull the game out drop then and there and until...

4) The Battlehawks final drive moved inside Defenders territory with a third and fourteen on the D.C. thirty-eight.
Jordan Ta'amu scrambles away from the rush and runs for thirteen and a half of those fourteen
yards with a little over two minutes to go.
D.C stopped Matt Jones short of that half yard and the game was over after a few offensive plays.
After two awful defensive games, the Defenders bounced back strong, maybe it's the cup snake?

5) Special teams played a part in the win as Jameer Thurman raced into the backfield and blocked Marquise King's punt in the fourth quarter to give the Defenders possession deep in St.Louis territory.
The Defenders have been able to block punts in their victories at Audi Field and I'm not sure why it's been more effective there than on the road.

6) I was critical last week of the Defenders defense and I was even more critical when the Defenders released safety Matt Elam, who finished with ten tackles in the loss to Tampa Bay.
I'm not sure why the former Ravens first-round pick was released, but it couldn't have been Elam's performance.

7) The passing game may not have pulled in a lot of yardage, but the running game sure did with over 200 yards as a team with former AAF and Arizona Hotshots running back Jhurell Pressley leading the way with 107 yards.
If the play of the quarterbacks continues to make air travel questionable, the ground attack is going to have to post similar numbers for the Defenders to hit the postseason.
Pressley is a back that can carry the load as the full-time back and enable Donnell Pumphrey to be a change of pace back in a role that he might be best suited for.

8) It does seem that an excellent group of receivers is being wasted by the Defenders.
Rashad Ross caught both passes thrown to him and Eli Rogers grabbed his only pass, but between them, they gained only thirteen yards.

9) Simmie Cobbs cracked a big play in catching a long score that was called back due to a penalty.
Cobbs is the big receiver that the team has lacked in the red zone and hopefully, someone can see what the former Indiana Hoosier could add to an offense in need of some help through the air.

10) Finally, it's Dallas next week.
The Renegades were picked by many to be the league's best team and they are 2-3 with all three losses at home.
The Defenders are winless on the road, the Renegades haven't won at home- someone's O has got to go!


Sunday, March 8, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Helenius stuns Kownacki, Carroll surprises Quigg

Photo: Michael Owens Getty Images
Two surprising upsets on a boxing Saturday salvaged what didn't look to be an exciting weekend for the sport.

PBC suffered the big loss in their heavyweight main event on Fox as undefeated and heavily favored Adam Kownacki was stopped in the fourth round by Finland's Robert Helenius in a WBA title eliminator.
Kownacki had appeared many times on PBC televised cards and with victories over top twenty level heavyweights such as Charles Martin, Gerald Washington, and Chris Arreola, Kownacki was being built for an eventual in-house challenge of then-WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
Kownacki had been offered the chance to replace Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller last year in the "Andy Ruiz" role as last-minute challenger to Anthony Joshua and turned it down.
Ruiz would accept the call to win Joshua's three titles as well as a massive payday for the rematch,
as Kownacki was reported to be the next optional defense for Wilder after his obligations for rematches against Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury were fulfilled.

Kownacki appeared to have another suitable opponent in Helenius, who fit the bill of Kownacki's last opponent in Chris Arreola- somewhat of a name in the division, as he had been around for a decade, wasn't going to run from Kownacki, would land enough punches to make an entertaining match, but not enough to derail the title train and would be durable enough to last a while, if not the distance.
For three rounds, the fight was going to plan as both fighters landing heavy punches with Kownacki landing more and doing more damage going into the fourth.
Helenius started the fourth round with a right hand that dropped Kownacki to a knee, but referee Robert Fields ruled the knockdown a slip.
It seemed pretty obvious to me that the knockdown was a legitimate one and Helenius, who seemed spent at the end of the third round, sensed that this might be his only opportunity to grab the upset and jumped on it as he landed a big right and following up with a left hook that knocked Kownacki down along the ropes.
A dazed Kownacki got up but in serious trouble as Helenius followed up with a compilation of punches and avoided the desperate counters of Kownacki, which forced Robert Fields to end the fight.

For Kownacki, PBC will likely try to rebuild him against the same level of fighter that he previously faced or perhaps they will decide to select him as the increased opponent level for one of their two undercard victors before Kownacki could lose again and lose even more stature.
For Helenius, suddenly he's first in line for Anthony Joshua only two fights after being knocked out by Gerald Washington.
Helenius was once one of the better prospects in the division after wins over Lamon Brewster, Sam Peter, and Sergei Liahovich- IN 2011!
Helenius' career began to stall after he "won" one of the worst decisions you'll see over Dereck Chisora in December 2011 with promotional problems and fought just five times against lesser opponents until a stunning loss in April 2016 to, future Deontay Wilder enhancement talent, Johann Duhaupas sent him out of contention with his only name opponents, before the Kownacki win, both defeating Helenius in Dillian Whyte and Gerald Washington.
Give Helenius plenty of credit for his upset win, considering his track record, it's ridiculous to have him in line for a mandatory shot and this fight should not have been an eliminator or at least it should have been an eliminator to reach a final eliminator.
That title shot will be well over a year away though as Kubrat Pulev will be next with either the fight to unify all titles with Tyson Fury or WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk following, so Helenius is either three or four fights away from that shot.
One would think that Helenius would like to stay busy during that time, but more than likely he'll take few chances on losing the title shot and payday.

The other two fights ended as expected with Efe Ajagba and Frank Sanchez continuing their undefeated streak with victories.
Ajagba stopped Razvan Cojanu in nine rounds in a fight that saw Conaju occasionally land right hands but was outgunned by the power jab and right hand of the undefeated Ajagba.
Ajagba knocked Cojanu down in the eighth round and might have finished him with more time in the round.
The die was cast and when Cojanu took a knee in the ninth after taking punishment, the fight was stopped.
I like Ajagba's offensive skills, especially the jab and I think he could be a quality heavyweight in time, but he's been vulnerable to getting hit with right hands in his last two fights and I wonder about his resistance to punches when he fights the next level of heavyweights.

As for Frank Sanchez, he won every round against trialhorse Joey Dawejko in winning a unanimous decision.
Despite the dominance of Sanchez, he never stepped up the pace against Dawejko, was content to box from the outside, and didn't seem interested in taking any chances against the durable, but slow Dawejko.
Sanchez is going to be a heavyweight that few are going to want to fight and even fewer are going to want to watch him fight in lopsided bouts until he faces better competition as he progresses to contender status.

The Helenius upset of Adam Kownacki might have been a bigger deal in boxing's big picture, but another upset occurred Saturday in the UK as Jono Carroll stopped former WBA junior featherweight champion, Scott Quigg in the eleventh round in Manchester.
Carroll consistently beat Quigg to the punch, walked down Quigg with harder punches to lead 99-91 on my card as he entered the eleventh round when Carroll hurt Quigg with combinations that had a badly hurt Quigg trapped along the ropes when Quigg's trainer Joe Gallagher threw in the towel to stop the fight.
The win was the biggest of the Irishman's career and combined with his very competitive defeat to then-IBF champion Tevin Farmer, Carroll should move up in the IBF ratings in which he was rated ninth entering this fight.
As for Quigg, he should consider this the right time to retire as he showed very little in his first try at junior lightweight after being out of the ring for sixteen months and since Quigg cannot make the featherweight limit, his chances for future success seem bleak.

In the Boxing Challenge, I scored four points to Ramon Malpica's three to stretch my lead to 45-40.
The difference was the Frank Sanchez unanimous decision rather than a knockout.


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Boxing Challenge

Willie Soke said in Bad Santa that "They all can't be winners can they?" and in March, boxing has just enough to keep us going even through some uninspiring shows.

Normally, I would not include all three fights on the PBC-Fox cards because they aren't really important, but since it's a slow week, I will.
The all-heavyweight card isn't really impressive in importance, so I suppose we will have to hope for the show being impressive in action with the main event pitting Adam Kownacki against Robert Helenius in a WBA eliminator that might see the winner eventually fight one of that organization's 300 beltholders.
Kownacki had been built for an eventual title shot against Deontay Wilder with a recent win streak over the standard PBC heavyweights such as Chris Arreola, Gerald Washington, and Charles Martin.
Wilder's loss to Tyson Fury scuttled that hope (unless Wilder wins their third fight) and Kownacki appears stuck in neutral with PBC having no other top contenders to fight.
Hence the entrance from stage left of Helenius, who lost to Gerald Washington in his last fight.
PBC makes little sense sometimes as they gave us an awful co-feature on the Fury-Wilder II undercard in Charles Martin-Gerald Washington, left Kownacki off the card after he had beaten both of the pair, and Helenius gets the fight on network television coming off a loss to the loser of the lousy PPV co-main event.
This could be a fun fight to watch as Kownacki's fights usually are and Helenius is likely to slug with Kownacki, but that doesn't mean that it deserves to be the top fight on network prime time television.

The undercard fights aren't thrilling either as two PBC undefeated heavyweights take a small step up in competition without being overmatched too soon.
Efe Ajagba faces Razvan Cojanu and Frank Sanchez is matched with Joey Dawejko.
Ajagba didn't look quite as strong in his last win against a similar level of fighter in Iago Kiladze in stopping Kiladze in five rounds, but Conaju has lasted only two rounds in each of his toughest tests against Luis Ortiz and undefeated Daniel Dubois, so this looks to be tailor-made for Ajagba to look strong.
However, Kiladze landed a lot of right hands against Ajagba and knocked him down in the third round, so there is a small bit of intrigue in this one.

Undefeated Cuban prospect Frank Sanchez takes the larger leap forward against journeyman Joey Dawejko.
Sanchez hasn't been remotely tested yet and while Dawejko is a trialhorse, he's willing to swap punches and when placed at his level, Dawejko will last rounds as he has only been stopped once- by Charles Martin in 2013.
If Sanchez can stop Dawejko, Sanchez would stamp himself as someone to keep an eye on.

The other fight is an afternoon fight from Great Britain from Matchroom/DAZN as former WBA junior featherweight champion Scott Quigg moves to junior lightweight against former title challenge Jono Carroll.
Quigg hasn't fought in seventeen months and that fight was the only one since his loss to Oscar Valdez in a challenge for the WBO featherweight title.
In that attempt, Quigg missed weight badly, fought anyway and broke the jaw of Valdez in the defeat.
Carroll lost a unanimous decision to then-champion Tevin Farmer last year as he challenged for Farmer's IBF junior lightweight title.
I thought the fight was far closer than it was scored by the official judges and had Carroll ahead until Farmer's late rally won him the decision.
Carroll's the bigger fighter, so this could be interesting, but this bout comes down to Scott Quigg.
What does Quigg have left in desire and how well does he punch at 130 pounds?
The answer to those questions will decide the winner.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 41-37.

Heavyweights.12 Rds
Adam Kownacki vs Robert Helenius
R.L: Kownacki KO 7
TRS: Kownacki KO 9

Heavyweights 10 Rds
Efe Ajagba vs Razvan Cojanu
R.L: Ajagba KO 3
TRS: Ajagba KO 2

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Frank Sanchez vs Joey Dawejko
R.L: Sanchez KO 8
TRS: Sanchez Unanimous Decision

Junior Lightweights. 12 Rds
Scott Quigg vs Jono Carroll
R.L: Quigg KO 8
TRS: Quigg Unanimous Decision


PPM

The XFL season hits its halfway point as the 2020 PPM  continues to march on!

Last Week: 2-2
Overall: 186-85

Houston over Seattle 25-13
Dallas over New York 18-9
D.C. over St.Louis 20-18
Los Angeles over Tampa Bay 16-13

Friday, March 6, 2020

Running Uphill

I've been battling a bit of a cold/illness this week and even though I've been working through it, I haven't felt overly motivated to write.

There hasn't been a lot of news other than the damn Coronavirus, and certainly, nothing to carry its own post, so just to keep my writing chops semi-sharp- Here we go with a few thoughts.

The Cleveland Browns are apparently not going to re-sign Joe Schobert and will allow him to leave via free agency.
Schobert's representatives met with the Browns and couldn't come to an agreement with Schobert's wish to be paid around ten million per year more than the Andrew Berry-led front office was willing to pay.
I understand the Browns not wanting to pay that kind of money for Schobert, who is a good, not great linebacker, but if the Browns decide to keep the oft-injured Christian Kirksey at nine million per
year ( and at that price, I hope they release him as well), I would question this move far more than moving on from both players.
The Browns will be opening a hole at linebacker and I can argue that creating a space for a cheaper and lesser player will not help the Browns. but I can see why they could be moving away at the money that he is asking for.

The "Coronavirus" hasn't been around locally and hopefully, it will not find its way here, but it could have an impact on me even if it never shows up.
MLB has sent memos to all of their teams recommending that players refrain from signing autographs and contact with fans, due to the virus.
I understand the nervousness with their investments (although most people don't have the luxury of not being around people at their job.) but being around young players as minor league baseball is populated with, I think I know them a little bit and I'll say this- There will be players refusing to sign/interact long after the hysteria has passed.
It'll be a reason to avoid people that may be legitimate now, but won't be for the entire season.

Another thought on this.
Spring Training is in full swing, and teams in Florida and Arizona have already implemented this policy.
I would imagine that a major chunk of the people that go south for pre-season is going for the interaction with the players.
These visitors are not always autograph seekers, people that want to talk with the players, get a picture, etc. in an atmosphere that even the biggest stars are more relaxed and willing to engage with the ticket-buyers.
Those people that buy tickets, stay in hotels and eat in local restaurants could be less likely to return next season as they could be afraid that there could be another health scare that takes away the fun from the trip and the expense with airfare, hotel, food, etc.
It'll be interesting to see how exhibition attendance declines over the final few weeks of the spring (I don't think it'll be major as these trips are most already paid for), but I'll be really intrigued to watch next season's attendance.

A really interesting show that I watched the first two episodes is "Dispatches from Elsewhere" on AMC.
I've never even watched one episode of AMC's huge hits such as "Breaking Bad", "Mad Men", "The Walking Dead" or "Better Call Saul", but I was watching a movie on AMC, saw a promo for the show and I decided to give the first two episodes a chance.
Jason Segel, of Freaks and Geeks fame, is one of the two actors that I knew along with Sally Field and it's an interesting concept that's hard to explain with only two episodes to figure out the "rules" of the show.
Jump on board and give it a chance to see what you think.

Wrapping up with the new Topps Heritage Baseball card set.
Heritage is the only major league set that I buy each year and this year is the one that I have been waiting for as finally, it is the time for the set to emulate my beloved 1971 set!
If you've been here for a while, you may remember that I finally finished the 1971 set a few years back and it is cemented as a star of my collection.
In other words, short of the type of emergency that would be financially crippling, that set isn't going anywhere for a long time.
This year's Heritage set looks great, although Topps continues its habit of placing too many stars in their "Short Print" portion of the set.
I understand the argument that lesser players as the SP cards might make it less collectible, but there could be a better mix involved.
I usually buy a "base" set of 400 cards and only buy the SP's of the Indians, Giants, and Pirates players, but this year, I'm going to try to collect all the SP's- not just for the value, but because I like them so much!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox- Passings

We return to pay our respects to people (and others) that have recently passed on and give tribute to their achievements.

Goodbye to Tony Fernandez at the age of 57.
Fernandez won four Gold Gloves and made five All-Stars in a career spent mostly with Toronto before bouncing around the league in the later stages of his career, but in Cleveland will always be remembered for his one season with the 1997 Indians where the then-35-year-old Fernandez would hit the highest of peak and the bottomless pit of the low in the Indians postseason.
Fernandez sent the underdog Indians to the World Series when his home run in the top of the eleventh broke a tie in Baltimore in game six of the 1997 ALCS.
The 1997 Indians gave the Orioles some payback for the previous season when the heavily favored Tribe lost in the ALDS to the Orioles, so the upset gave each team a win in the back to back postseason series with the better team losing both times.
Fernandez would hit the depths in the World Series against the then-Florida Marlins when his error in the bottom of the eleventh in game seven contributed to the Marlins winning the game along with the series.


Goodbye to Jimmy Thunder at the age of 54.
The Samoan from New Zealand, Thunder never challenged for the heavyweight title but is well remembered for his many appearances in the U.S. in the mid to late 90s, often on the USA Network's Tuesday Night Fights.
Thunder defeated two former champions in Trevor Berbick and Tony Tubbs and lost to three others-Tim Witherspoon, Chris Byrd, and John Ruiz, but will be best remembered for his Tuesday Night Fights first-round knockout of Crawford Grimsley in which Thunder knocked Grimsley cold with the first punch that he threw.
The entire fight from bell to finish was thirteen seconds and that included the count!
I always thought Thunder resembled "Piston Honda" one of the various competitors in the video game "Mike Tyson's Punch Out".


Goodbye to A.P. Indy at the age of 31 with Joe Plum sending me the word.
The winner of the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders Cup Classic in 1992 as a three-year-old, A.P. Indy was named Horse of the Year and was retired to stud at the end of his three-year-old season.
The son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy's time in the 1992 Belmont tied Easy Goer for the second-fastest Belmont ever behind only Secretariat as he ran down My Memoirs and Pine Bluff in the long stretch at Belmont Park to earn the victory.
Arguably the most successful stallion in America during his time, A.P. Indy sired 88 Graded Stakes Winners and 12 champions including 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, 2006 Preakness winner Bernadini and 2007 Belmont winner Rags to Riches.
For more on A.P. Indy along with some beautiful pictures of the champion late in his life, the Blood-Horse wrote this wonderful article last year.


Goodbye to Nesby Glasgow at the age of 62.
Glasgow played for the Washington Huskies Rose Bowl champions in 1977 and intercepted a pass in the waning seconds of the 1978 Rose Bowl that clinched Washington's 27-20 win over Michigan.
Glasgow was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1979 and would play for the Colts in Baltimore and Indianapolis through 1987.
Glasgow was waived by the Colts and was claimed by the Seahawks, where Glasgow would play the final five seasons of his career until his retirement following the 1992 season.

Goodbye to Johnny Antonelli at the age of 89.
Antonelli was the final "Bonus Baby" signed by the Boston Braves to have major league success, but he found his most successful seasons at the Polo Grounds with the lamented (by me anyway) New York Giants.
Antonelli spent time in Boston, but rarely pitched in Beantown and joined the Braves in Milwaukee after a two-year stint in the military, finishing with a 12-12 record but with an ERA of 3.12 that finished fifth in the National League.
This caught the eye of Leo Durocher and the Giants, who were returning Willie Mays to their lineup after his military term, and traded Bobby Thomson as in "Shot heard round the world' fame to Milwaukee as part of a six-player trade to land Antonelli.
Antonelli paid immediate dividends as he won twenty-one games, made his first All-Star team, led the National League in ERA and shutouts and was the top starter for the eventual World Champions.
Antonelli would make the All-Star team every season from 1956-59, which bridged the move to San Francisco from New York and in his final year with the Giants Antonelli would transition to "fireman" which is what teams called their closer in those days and finished with eleven saves.
Antonelli's arm was going bad though and was traded to Cleveland after the 1960 season with Willie Kirkland for Harvey Kuenn, who had been acquired the previous year for Rocky Colavito.
Antonelli was so bad in Cleveland that he was traded to the Braves after only eleven games and after nine more bad appearances in Milwaukee, Antonelli decided to retire.






Monday, March 2, 2020

Poisoned! Vipers Shutout Defenders 25-0

After losing their first game to a winless team, the D.C. Defenders looked to reverse course against the only remaining team without a victory, the Tampa Bay Vipers.

Instead, the road to redemption was blocked as the winless Vipers closed that exit in a 25-0 Tampa Bay win.
The Defenders finished with a pitiful 107 yards of total offense in falling to 2-2 on the season.
D.C dropped out of first after a win by St.Louis and with a win by New York earlier in the weekend, the Defenders are now in a tie for second.
The Defenders' chances for a division title could be on the line next Sunday at Audi Field as the Defenders host the first-place Nighthawks.

Defensive Deflections

1) I know the fifth game seems to be early to proclaim that a game is a "must-win", but if the Defenders want to win a division title, it could be.
D.C hosts first place St.Louis and are currently behind the Nighthawks by one game.
Win next week and move into a tie for first, lose it and fall two behind with five to go.
Not insurmountable, but behind the eight ball for sure.

2) I'm not sure what happened to this team in two weeks.
They looked like (along with undefeated Houston) to be the best team in the league and just crushed in back to back games to winless teams?
Befuddled.

3) Pep Hamilton wasn't a coach that I was excited about in picking my team, but the cameras and microphones don't him any favors.
Hamilton gives off the vibe that "Michael Scott" vibe that seems oblivious to the chaos around him and has no idea what to do about it.
Hamilton's calm and while I'm not saying he has to go crazy, a little outward emotion may help.

4) Here's Hamilton at his worst.
Midway in the second quarter, Cardale Jones throws a deep ball to Malachi Dupre on a third down.
Dupre is ruled out of bounds on the catch, which was a good call, but it was worth a review.
The officials look at it and rule that Dupre was out of bounds and kicker Ty Rausa enters for a field goal attempt.
Rausa lines up and just as he kicks the ball, Pep Hamilton has used one of his two timeouts to "review the play".
We know this because the cameras catch all this, Hamilton asks for a review that has been completed, so back comes Rausa for another try.
Kick Blocked.

5) Someone trying to stop the run might be a nice idea as well.
Tampa Bay's starting running backs DeVone Smith and Jacques Patrick each rushed over 100 yards on the evening as the Vipers finished with 266 yards rushing.
D.C. had no clue for the Viper running game, which wasn't overwhelming anyone in their previous three games.

6) Not that they were any better against the pass as Tampa Bay's backup Taylor Cornelius completed 24 of his 31 throws for over 200 yards and a touchdown.
The pass rush didn't register a sack and allowed Cornelius to have as much time as he needed in the pocket.
Other than a nifty interception by Rakim Moore,  I can't come up with anything nice to say about the defense.

7) Cardale Jones continued to struggle as he completed only nine of twenty-two passes for 72 yards and an interception.
The offensive line hasn't given him a lot of time to throw and the communication issues continued in the loss, but some of the inaccuracy has to go to Jones, who overthrew Rashad Ross in the second quarter on what would have easily been a long touchdown and could have shaken some of the mildew off the offense.

8) This was a painful game to watch and for a team with this much talent (for the level) to be demolished like this two weeks in a row is very concerning.
It does seem that (other than Houston) home field is immensely important in the XFL and the Defenders will bounce back next Sunday at home.
If they don't- the playoffs may not be out of hand, but the division title could be.