Thursday, March 23, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox

  The inbox is well overdue for a cleaning that doesn't involve tributes to recent passings, so here are some recent notes from the inbox.

The Athletic writes of the "ghost" of Jim Valvano that hangs over the Wolfpack basketball program thirty years after his passing and forty years after the NCAA championship won by Valvano's "Cardiac Pack".

The article digs deep into the N.C. State tradition, Valvano's successes and failures, the issues with each of his successors with the Wolfpack, and shows how hard it is for a once-proud program to rebound once you hit the depths of a conference.

N.C. State did reach the tournament this season under Kevin Keates, losing by nine points to Creighton in the first round.

SABR is reviewing the career of the late Nate Colbert, who recently passed away and they do it by looking through his various Topps baseball cards.

Colbert's rookie card is in the 1969 set and pictures him without a cap as so many in the 1969 set are shown.

Marvin Miller and the players union told the players in 1968 to not allow Topps photographers to take their pictures until the company would renegotiate their contract with the players for appearing on their cards.

This forced Topps to dig into their archives for pictures without hats of many players that had changed teams since the union-suggested refusal to pose for photographs.

This stance affected the 1969 set as most of the photos back then were taken during the previous season's spring training.

The Louisville Courier-Journal visits the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner, Silver Charm who won the Derby in 1997 and is now twenty-nine years old of age.

Silver Charm also won the Preakness and appeared to be on the verge of winning the Triple Crown but was overtaken deep in the stretch by Touch Gold, losing by three-quarters of a length.

Silver Charm would win the Dubai World Cup in 1998 and currently resides at Old Friends Farm in Kentucky, where he can be visited by the public.

The Athletic scores with an article on the Grimsby Town team that resides in English "soccer"'s league Two but surprised everyone with a run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, one of England's two yearly tournaments.

Grimsby Town's wins included a stunning victory over Southampton, who resides in the Premier League before losing to the Premier League's Brighton Albion & Hove in the quarter-finals.

If you watched the series "Welcome to Wrexham", you may remember that it was Grimsby Town that upset Wrexham and kept the series stars in the National League with Grimsby Town winning promotion to League Two.

We wrap with Smithsonian Magazine's article on Corned Beef and just how much of a connection that really exists with the Irish.

The article discusses why the Irish doesn't care for Corned Beef and just how the link between the two occurred to people outside Ireland.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Browns re-sign Anthony Walker

    Before the Cleveland Browns announced their addition of Elijah Moore from a trade with the New York Jets, the story of the day from Berea was the return of veteran linebacker Anthony Walker on a one-year agreement.

No terms disclosed as of now for the third one-year deal for the former Northwestern Wildcat's return to Cleveland as the likely starting middle/MIKE linebacker unless the Browns unexpectedly sign/draft someone that forces Walker to the bench.

Walker missed most of the season in 2022 when he suffered a season-ending torn quad in a week three win over Pittsburgh but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

Walker is beloved in the locker room and by fans for his high motor and character, so this is a popular return to Cleveland for Walker and it's tough to deny that the Browns run defense turned rancid after losing Walker for the year.

The run defense was affected by the loss of Walker as soon as the following week as the Browns were favored to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta and allowed two hundred and two yards to non-entities Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley, which would set the game plan for the remainder of the season for every Cleveland opponent.

In 2021, Walker's first season as a Brown, Walker finished with 69 solo tackles with 44 assisted in thirteen games, so he's steady but honestly, there are so many linebackers that come and go with the Browns that are tackle accumulators that fantasy owners love but they make those tackles downfield and generally lack impact, although it can be said that their impact is felt a bit more when they are missing from the field.

I wish the Browns had a playmaker at linebacker that could change a game at any time and maybe Jeremiah Owosu-Koramoah might be the guy eventually but guys like Walker are generally easy to find on any given free agent period.

I'm not against bringing back Walker, he's a solid player, a good mentor, well-liked, and isn't going to hurt you for the most part but while he will help against the run, he's a linebacker that will need the defensive tackles in front of him to occupy blockers for Walker to maximize his effectiveness as he's not a defender that runs around or sheds blocks.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Browns drafted a linebacker with one of their third or fourth-round picks with Walker's injury history and Jacob Phillips being a disappointment thus far in his Cleveland term, the Browns could be in the market for a young linebacker to get into the pipeline to learn from a veteran such as Anthony Walker and hopefully step in for him as early as 2024. 

Browns trade for Elijah Moore

 I was preparing to write about the Cleveland Browns re-signing of popular linebacker Anthony Walker (I'll try to write about that move later) when the news cut across the media that Andrew Berry had made his move to attempt to address the wide receiver position via trade and it's a very interesting move with plenty of upside with a question mark as well.

Berry traded the Browns second-round draft pick, number 42 overall, to the New York Jets in return for the Jets third-round choice, number 74 overall, and wide receiver Elijah Moore.

The trade takes the Browns out of the second round but gives them two selections in the third round at 74 and 98, which is a compensation pick near the end of the round.

Those two picks could be combined to move up into the late second round for a particular player or even earlier into the third round, although I would think both third-rounders would be more than the Browns would be willing to pay to move up only a few spots as the pick acquired from the Jets is the twelfth in the round.

The Browns now have eight picks in April's draft with two choices in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds along with their own sixth and seventh-round selections.

As for Elijah Moore, he appears to be exactly what the Browns needed most for their receivers- someone with burning speed (Moore ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the combine) that can get deep and has the ability to take a short pass and turn it into big plays.

Moore was the Jets second-round selection in 2021 from Mississippi and was a player that I liked a great deal as a potential Brown but the Browns selected Greg Newsome in the first round and Moore was tabbed by the Jets with the second pick of round two.

Moore's infamous "dog-leg" end zone celebration that caused Ole Miss a penalty and missed the extra point to cost the Rebels their rivalry game against Mississippi State among a few other knocks likely made the difference in Moore slipping out of the first-round, which cost him millions.

Moore missed the final five games of his rookie season with an injured quad muscle but in the five games before his injury, Moore caught 34 passes for 459 yards and five touchdowns for a Jets team that won a mere four games and big things were expected for Moore in 2022 with the drafting of Garrett Wilson to team with Moore as the starting wideouts.

However, Moore wasn't used as much in the offense, battled then-offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, and demanded to be traded in mid-season with the Jets ignoring his requests.

Moore finished last season with thirty-seven catches for 446 yards and one touchdown, all of those numbers fewer than in his rookie year when he played in only eleven games compared to sixteen in 2022.

The Jets current courting of Aaron Rodgers and their attempts to add the players that Rodgers wants along with already signing former Rodgers teammate Allen Lazard and signing another free agent in Mecole Hardman earlier today made Moore expendable.

This seems to be a trade that the Browns badly needed to make and gives DeShaun Watson the deep threat that the team lacked last season at an affordable price.

The Browns management has to know that their jobs are on the line this season and doesn't want to be forced to rely on immediate help from their second-round choice, so this trade makes sense as Elijah Moore has shown the ability to be an impact player, even if not on a consistent basis and for the remaining two seasons on his contract Moore will make under two million dollars per year, a very affordable price to pay for a starting wide receiver.

The addition of Moore will move Donovan Peoples-Jones to the third wide receiver, which is a role that he is better suited for and one in which Peoples-Jones should thrive.

There are risks though with Moore as he hasn't shown consistent play other than the five-game span as a rookie, he has shown immaturity at times, and was a bit of a malcontent last season with the Jets, although considering how crazy last season was for the Jets, I can give him a pass for that!

However, when you look at the big picture, the Browns are getting a player with two seasons of experience but still is only 22 and at an extremely team-friendly contract for two years at the cost of dropping thirty-two spots with their first pick in April's draft.

Approaching a season with so much at stake for so many people in the Browns organization, the Browns were going to have to gamble to a certain point on a wide receiver, no matter whether the risk was on maturity, age, injuries, etc, the Browns were going to take a plunge somehow.

Considering the cost, upside, and talent involved, spinning the wheel on Elijah Moore is as reasonable a risk as any other available receiver and could possibly turn out to be the best of them all.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Browns sign Joshua Dobbs

  The Cleveland Browns added a few players that shouldn't dent the starting lineup unless in case of catastrophe but in one of the cases is thought-provoking.

The team returned Joshua Dobbs to the team after the former Tennessee Volunteer spent time with both the Browns and Tennessee Titans in 2022.

Dobbs was the second-string QB behind Jacoby Brissett until the eleven-game suspension of DeShaun Watson concluded, and he was then released by the team.

Dobbs was signed by Tennessee and was forced into the Titan's starting lineup for the final two games of the season, losing both games to playoff teams Dallas and Jacksonville and throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions in the pair.

Dobbs was originally the fourth-round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 2017 and spent his first five seasons with the Steelers before moving to Cleveland last season.

Here's the thought-provoking portion of the show- Dobbs has been signed as the main backup for DeShaun Watson and I'm not sure how to think about that.

On one hand, I like that Dobbs has some similarities in style to Watson and I've always thought that it is smart when teams attempt to carry a backup passer with some of the characteristics of the starter.

I believe that it makes a smoother transition for the team in avoiding a drastic change in type and it helps the backup quarterback enter the lineup with an offense that has been tailored to the starter's strengths, which would be similar to the backup in this particular setup.

But I also wonder if Dobbs is of the caliber to take over a Browns team for an extended period of time and keep them in the hunt?

That doesn't mean that he can't, it means that he has yet to be asked and only time would tell how well he would do.

The Browns added two veterans that should help bulk up the special teams for new ST coach Bubba Ventrone in linebacker Matthew Adams and cornerback Mike Ford.

Adams arrives from Chicago, where he played last season after the first four seasons of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, while Ford spent last year in Atlanta after his first four years with Detroit and Denver.

Ford signed with the Lions in 2018 as an undrafted free agent from Southeast Missouri State and has started nine games in his five-year career.

Ford is brought in as a special teams standout and would be an additional depth piece in the secondary.

Adams was the Colts' seventh-rounder in 2018 from Houston and I remember him as a Cougar as a strong tackler on the college level as a middle linebacker.

Adams started three games last season for the Bears at linebacker but as in the case of Ford, appears to be counted on as a strong special teams performer in Cleveland.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised (depending on the other Browns additions at linebacker) to see Adams receive at least some snaps at linebacker.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

   The tributes continue this time with stars from outside the major four team sports.

Goodbye to Dick Fosbury at the age of 76.

The 1968 Olympic gold medalist at the Mexico City games in the high jump, Fosbury was far more influential in how he won the gold than he was with just a victory.

The "Fosbury Flop" was a radical departure from the technique that most high jumpers used the "straddle method", which saw the jumper leap facing the ground and then lifting each leg over the bar.

Fosbury couldn't master the straddle in high school and naturally began to use his own method, looking up with his upper body crossing the bar first, and then picking his feet last over the bar.

Fosbury progressed enough to finish second in the Oregon state track meet and attended Oregon State University where he was encouraged to return to the straddle method, which he did with little success before returning to his method, which broke the school record in his first meet as a sophomore.

Fosbury would win the NCAA title along with a victory in the Olympic trials before winning the gold in Mexico City with an Olympic record jump of seven feet, four and a quarter inches.

Fosbury would repeat his NCAA title the following year but Fosbury would not attempt a gold medal repeat in 1972 in Munich as after his college eligibility was completed, he would retire from competition.

The Fosbury Flop is recognized as the biggest advance in high jumping and perhaps in the history of track and field.

Goodbye to John Veitch at the age of 77.

The Hall of Fame horse trainer trained four Eclipse Award winners in his career, including Davona Dale, the champion three-year-old filly of 1978 after winning the Filly Triple Crown of the Kentucky Oaks, Black Eyed Susan, and Coaching Club American Oaks.

Veitch would win the second Breeders Cup Classic with Proud Truth but his greatest horse was Alydar, who is remembered for his second-place finishes to Affirmed in each of the 1978 Triple Crown races by smaller and smaller margins.

Alydar was unstoppable in 1978 other than by Affirmed with spectacular wins in the Whitney Handicap and Arlington Classic before winning the 1978 Travers Stakes over Affirmed but only by disqualification.

Veitch was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007

Goodbye to Jerry Jarrett at the age of 80.

Jarrett, the father of Jeff Jarrett, was the long-time owner and promoter of the Memphis wrestling territory and later the original owner of the TNA promotion which still operates today.

Jarrett's Memphis promotion starred about every big-name wrestler that you could name from the 70s and 80s for short or long-term stays but the biggest of the promotion was "The King" Jerry Lawler, who doubled as the part owner of the promotion with Jarrett.

Jarrett's television show that the promotion taped at the studios in Memphis drew phenomenal ratings on its live Saturday morning airing that couldn't even be approached today.

Goodbye to Afternoon Deelites at the age of 30.

A West Virginia-bred by composer Burt Bacharach, Afternoon Deelites was the early favorite for the 1995 Kentucky Derby after a blazing fast win in the final juvenile stakes of 1994, the Hollywood Futurity at a mile and a sixteenth and setting a stakes record that still stands currently.

Afternoon Deelites suffered his first loss in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in a photo finish and would finish eighth in the Kentucky Derby in his next race.

Afternoon Deelites would transition to sprinting and won one graded stakes (Grade III Commonwealth) before retiring to stud, where he would produce twenty-three graded stakes winners.

However, it was a claiming-level gelding named Popcorn Deelites that would be his most famous offspring as Popcorn Deelites would play the role of Seabiscuit in the portions of the film that needed Seabiscuit to be racing.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Browns sign Jordan Akins

      The Cleveland Browns signed their first offensive free agent for 2023 and I'm mildly surprised as the team signed tight end Jordan Akins from the Houston Texans to a two-year contract that could pay Akins as much as 5.2 million dollars.

The soon to be 31-year-old Akins was selected by the Texans in the third round of the 2018 draft from Central Florida and played four seasons for Houston before leaving in 2022 for the New York Giants.

Akins was released by the Giants before the season and returned to the Texans where he caught thirty-seven passes for 495 yards and five touchdowns (a career high) in fifteen games.

Akins came to football late as he signed with the Texas Rangers as their third-round pick in 2010 out of high school as an outfielder but never rose above low A Hickory in four seasons of baseball.

Akins is familiar with DeShaun Watson from their common time in Houston and it's not hard to see that Watson may have had a little bit of influence in pushing for Akins.

At 6'4 and 240 pounds, Akins will give Watson a big red zone target and will likely replace Harrison Bryant as the second tight end behind David Njoku, which makes me wonder about the future of Bryant with the Browns as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Baseball Passings

   I've been well behind on the various items that fill the inbox and as always there are tributes to some that have recently passed.

In this edition, I'm going to stick to the baseball world.

Goodbye to Joe Pepitone at the age of 82.

Once thought to be the next superstar in the New York Yankee dynasty, Joe Pepitone had a good career but was the face of the crumbling of the Yankees after their 1964 American League pennant.

Pepitone made three All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, and hit over twenty-six homers five times but is remembered more for his antics away from the diamond as the Yankees moved to the second division in the mid and late 60s.

Pepitone is prominently mentioned in Jim Bouton's book "Ball Four" with some of his wild affairs as well as his own memoir "Joe, You could have made us proud" with even more wild stories.

Pepitone would struggle after leaving New York through three seasons spent with the Astros, Cubs, and Braves before a cameo in Japan ended his career in 1973.

Goodbye to Tim McCarver at the age of 81,

Known by most for his long-time career as a commentator, McCarver was a solid catcher for over twenty years for mostly the Cardinals and Phillies.

McCarver made two All-Star teams and was the catcher for the 1964 and 1967 World Champion Cardinals and spent the latter half of the 1970s with his career thought to be close to finish, McCarver found new life in a second stint as a Phillie when former Cardinal teammate Steve Carlton insisted that the team not only keep McCarver as a backup but play when Carlton pitched rather than the normal starter Bob Boone.

McCarver would move into the television booth for both CBS and Fox nationally as well as calling local games for the Yankees and Mets.

Goodbye to Jesus Alou at the age of 80.

The youngest of the three Alou brothers, Jesus wasn't a power hitter in his career, which lasted from 1963-79 for four teams but was an excellent pinch hitter and the perfect fourth outfielder.

Jesus won two World Series rings with the 1973 and 74 Athletics and will always be a part of baseball history in his rookie season with the Giants as the first trio of brothers to bat in the same inning and later in the year, all three brothers playing in the same outfield.

Goodbye to Albie Pearson at the age of 88.

The 1958 American League Rookie of the Year as a Washington Senator, at 5'5 140 pounds, Pearson was the smallest player in baseball during his career.

Pearson won the ROY with Washington but his best seasons were as part of the expansion Los Angeles Angels, where he made his only All-Star team in 1963 when hitting. 303 for his only season batting over .300.

A back injury forced Pearson into retirement in 1966 and after his career, Pearson would become an ordained minister and would remain involved in ministries for the rest of his life.

Goodbye to Dave Nicholson at the age of 83.

Known for his booming home runs and his bushels of strikeouts, Nicholson was brought to the big leagues by the Orioles in 1960 but spent most of his career with the White Sox, who acquired him as part of the trade that sent Luis Aparicio to Baltimore.

Nicholson hit a career-high twenty-two homers in 1963 but struck out a league-leading 175 times as well.

In 1964, Nicholson blasted a ball that was found across the street from Comiskey Park that cleared the grandstand and was measured at 573 feet in a doubleheader against the Kansas City Athletics that would see Nicholson hit three of his thirteen homers for the season on one day.

Nicholson finished his career with Atlanta in 1967.

An excellent look at Nicholson by Mike Kaszuba on the SABR website can be found here.

Goodbye to John Adams at the age of 71.

Adams was the man that pounded the drum at Cleveland Indians games from 1973 through 2019.

It was Adams that would provide the thump that could be heard over many a broadcast from a seven-eighths empty Cleveland Municipal Stadium and continued up to the pandemic season of 2020, where Adams was invited by the team to drum but Adams didn't feel right until other fans could attend.

Health issues would keep Adams from the ballpark in the two seasons following the pandemic.