Friday, January 30, 2009

Roller Coaster Ride

For 42 minutes,the New Jersey Devils had went into Boston and controlled the top team in the Eastern Conference and looked to be on their way to an impressive win.
However,as often happens,complacency set in and after Scott Clemmensen got lazy and his lack of hustle gave Boston their first goal,the roof began to fall in.....

Two more goals and just eleven minutes later,the 2-0 lead had disappeared and the Bruins looked to be set to deal the Devils a devastating loss until Patrik Elias struck back against the rampaging horde with the tying goal (22) with just 1:45 remaining.
At this point,I am figuring that at least they will get a point from the visit and they deserved at least that after their excellent play in the first two stanzas,but the Devils grabbed the win when Jamie Langenbrunner scored his second goal of the night (11 and 12) when he was the third person to touch the puck and put it past Tim Thomas for a 4-3 overtime win!
Zach Parise's second period power play goal (29) in the second period was the other Devil goal.
New Jersey finished off their brutal January tonight in Pittsburgh.

Editors note:The game actually is a home game....

Hell Raisers

1) Great night for the Devils special teams as the first period goal by Langenbrunner was shorthanded and the Parise power play goal as well.
Both goals were the kind of goals that the Devils should specialize in,goals that deflect,rattle and do anything to get into the net.
Parise's goal resembled some of the goals against the Senators such as the bounce of the goalies back and in.

2) Second game in a row with two goals for Jamie Langenbrunner,could he finally be revving his game up as the playoff run looms???

3) The goal that gave the Bruins the lead was on a power play that should have never occurred.
Mike Rupp was called for a very bad holding call that set that up and it would have been unfortunate for that to have decided the game....

4) That said,Scott Clemmensen was simply the victim of his own laziness on the first goal tha started the Boston comeback.
Clemmensen strolled to the back of net and barely grazed the puck before being less than hasty in getting back to the net as Chuck Kobasew shoved the miscue into the twine.
Just goes to show that,it only take one flake to start the snowball rolling.

5) More kudos to the Parise/Zajac/Langenbrunner line.
They were easily the Devil line on the evening and arguably the best period,although the Bruin line of Phil Kessel/Marc Savard/Milan Lucic might argue....

Bonus Rounds

Watched the game on NESN off the Bruins feed and came away quite impressed with their coverage.
Andy Brickley is terrific as a color analyst,Mike Milbury is far from the inept fool in the studio that he was as the Islanders GM and I have stated in the past about how much I like
Kathryn Tappen,but please find a new play by play man!
ESPN reject Jack Edwards almost ruined the game by himself and the NESN broadcasts would be close to perfect with a new voice of the Bruins!

Another solid night for Bryce Salvador and the veteran even banged out a fight early against Shawn Thornton that I thought established the Devils as being loaded for bear (pun intended) on this night!

Fourth game in a row that Jay Pandolfo has been scratched,all since the arrival of Brendan Shanahan.
Could Pando be the player that gets moved at the trading deadline????

Bullpen Notes

The Pirates did ink Eric Hinske to a one year deal today for 1.5 million and the deal also has bonuses that could earn Hinske another million if he hit all of his incentives.
Hinske hit 20 homers in Tampa last year,which makes him a huge power source on this team!
Good move,not that I think Hinske is great,but is a bargain at the price and even more so,if he beats out Nyjer Morgan in left field...

Ohio State needed a quarterback for the recruiting class of 2009 after Tajh Boyd chose Clemson over OSU and after jumping in late on homegrown product Austin Boucher and being turned down by him (And good for Boucher for sticking with his original commitment),the Bucks suddenly wound up with Houston Texas QB Ken Guiton.
Still working on finding more on Guiton,but Ohio State needed to sign a quarterback for this class badly!!!

Until tomorrow!

Photo Credits
Langenbrunner:AP Photo

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My new Super Bowl tradition and Maholm locked up for 3 years!

The Pittsburgh Pirates gambled on last years version of Paul Maholm being the performer that they can expect every year as they avoided their scheduled arbitration by signing the lefty to a three year contract with a team option for a fourth year.
No word on the financial terms until Maholm passes the nominal physical,so I will reserve my thoughts until the terms,but I can understand buying up the arbitration years even if Maholm flattens out a bit from his 2008.

A team like the Pirates needs to take chances and lock players up when warranted,so they don't have to go through the process of arbitration.
Many times,younger players will take the guaranteed money and sign what usually turns out to be a below market value deal by the time those years come to pass..
More on this when more details come in.

I know everyone has their own little traditions for Super Bowl Sunday and since I find Bill Bidwill and the Cardinals distasteful (Ok,just Bidwill and Kurt Warner) and the Steelers are worse,I have to find something to make the day more palatable.
So,yesterday,I dug through the massive video archives to come up with the Heimberger families new Super Sunday tradition,I will be watching the last Cleveland Brown
playoff victory from 1994 from the old Cleveland Stadium over the New England Patriots.
That will be the game that I watch every Super Sunday until the Browns can give me another playoff win to replace that one.
I figure maybe in another ten years or so,I have a chance!!!!

New record for unemployment this week as 4.78 million Americans are out of work.
I hope there is some job creation clauses in some of the stimulus packages that are being worked on!

The New Jersey Devils travel to Boston tonight to face the Bruins and Milan Luuuuuuuuuuuusiccc!
Coverage here tomorrow.

Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random Ramblings

Just a few Random Ramblings to clean things out of the in box and catch up on a few issues....

Battlin Bob sends us this note on athlete brain trauma.
Of course most of the brain injuries occur to football players,boxers and coming soon MMA fighters,but research can go a long way in seeing where the largest vulnerabilities are and perhaps then more energy can be placed in improving equipment to help football players in avoiding brain injuries.
Boxers and MMA athletes are kinda of on their own,but that is the nature of the beast.

As much as I am rooting for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday,there is not a more undeserving owner (since Art Modell no longer owns the Ravens) in the NFL than Bill Bidwill to have the honor of holding the Lombardi Trophy.....

The Frederick Keys announced their coaching staff as Richie Hebner returns as their field boss.
This is mildly surprising to me,since it seemed like Hebner was a stop gap last year,but he must have done something to impress the Orioles.
Cannot say that I am disappointed,maybe I can finally get his bobblehead signed!
JJ Cannon returns as field coach and Kennie Steenstra moves up from Delmarva to become the new pitching coach as he swapped spots with former Keys coach Blaine Beatty....

Here is hoping that the Keys do another meet the team at the Greene Turtle this season and hopefully top Oriole pick Brian Matusz will be there.
I could have saved myself lots of hassle waiting for Matt Wieters,if I would have attended last years version and I can hope that maybe the Hagerstown Suns can do something similar somewhere this April as well....

The Suns announced their first four members of the Suns Hall of Fame and each inductee will have a statuette giveaway night as well.
Matt Cain,Grady Little,Mike Mussina and Vernon Wells are the first class and the giveaway sounds great too.
Obviously Cain and Wells will be unavailable,but what a great touch it would be to have Little and Mussina in house on their night to throw out the first pitch and sign autographs.......

The Suns also announced new providers for their Hamburgers,Steak and Sausages for this season.
Now if they can upgrade the dreck that is served from the food stands underneath the grandstand,the food might finally be looking up at the Muni!

The Pirates added journeyman pitcher Virgil Vasquez to the 40 man roster after claiming him off waivers.
Vasquez was 12-12 with an ERA of just under 5 in Toledo last year and has been claimed by three teams over the winter as Boston took him from the Tigers,San Diego from the Sox and then to Pittsburgh.
Not sure what the rage is over this guy,unless a lot of AAA teams need inning eaters anymore.

And finally two new additions from the signing front as Ebay brings the Lightweight champion of the world Juan Manuel Marquez and Devils prospect Nicklas Bergfors signed through the mail.

Until next time!

Langebrunner lassos Ottawa 4-1

Jamie Langenbrunner's back to back goals in the second and third periods broke a 1-1 stalemate and lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa.
The victory kept the Devils in the penthouse suite in the Atlantic Division and was their sixth in a row,which is a season long streak.
Patrik Elias scored the Devils first goal (21) and Brendan Shanahan put the final goal into the net (2) in the win.
The Devils conclude their grueling January with two more road stops in Boston tomorrow and Pittsburgh on Friday.....

Hell Raisers

1) Langenbrunner's second period tally shows what happens when net pressure keeps the goalie scrambling.
Brian Elliott was so busy playing rebounds that Langenbrunner was able to bounce the puck off Elliott's shoulder and into the net.

2) The Devils likely crushed any Senator confidence in the third period when a third period penalty to Brendan Shanahan was called a double minor and the Devils clamped the Ottawa offense down to nothing.
As in not a shot on goal........

3) The win gave Scott Clemmensen his 20th win of the season.
Clemmensen entered the season with 8 win in his CAREER!
Clemmensen becomes the 6th Devil ever to win 20 games in a season joining Marty Brodeur,Chris Terreri,Sean Burke,Craig Billington and Alain Chevrier.
I remember all of those guys as a Devil fan except for Chevrier,I don't remember much about him....

4) More on former Devil boss Pat Burns in what appears to be the final fight for Burnsie.
This article from the AP quotes Burns as saying "Right now, I'm just enjoying the time left," he said. "The crying and everything, that's all finished. That's over. I told my family, that's it. We've done all that. Let's just enjoy what we have here."
Best wishes for both Pat and his family......

5) Travis Zajac continued his solid season with two assists in the game.
Zajac has been the most improved Devil and the season most pleasant surprise this season.

Bonus Rounds

How about a little credit for someone that I generally criticize.
I thought Mike Mottau was better than usual,more aggressive and seemed to be where the puck was most of the night.
Nice job,Mike.

The Devils do need to watch their stick work in practice over the next few days as three times they were called for high sticking and once for hooking.

And finally,a nice long battle between Ottawa heavyweight Chris Neil and our own David Clarkson.
You all know how much I love Clarkson's game and potential,but I also like his willingness to go toe to toe with some of the best fighters from a larger division as well.
David did quite well last night against the larger Neil.

Bullpen Notes

Looks like the Pirates are close to a deal with Eric Hinske.The lefty hitter spent last season in Tampa and is apparently in line to take the Mienkiewicz slot as a super sub at 1st,3rd and the corner outfield spots.
Hinske makes more sense to me as the everyday player in left instead of Nyjer Morgan,but they will find that out soon enough....

Don Sutton out and Rob Dibble in for the Washington Nationals in the TV booth.
Sutton asked to be let out of his contract in order to return to doing Braves games.
Dibble has been up and down in his work.
His ESPN stint was very good,but his XM radio and Fox time was not quite as up to par.
Perhaps being with a pro like Bob Carpenter will help rather than having to carry Kevin Kennedy around!

Back later with a Random Ramblings!!!

Photo Credit
Clemmensen:AP Photo

Monday, January 26, 2009

George Kokinis

The Cleveland Browns today hitched their star to George Kokinis with his hiring as General Manager in what was the most widely known secret in sports.

Kokinis was the pro personnel director in Baltimore and apparently was placed into consideration for the job by new coach Eric Mangini.

Now,I can fairly say that this hiring does very little for me.
Perhaps the failures of the last guy that supposedly "built" the Ravens in Cleveland makes me question this decision and maybe the fact that no one else had any interest in Kokinis adds to the questions,but my biggest problem is this-Despite the language in the contract,just who is the true boss?
When the final decisions are made,who is the guy making it?
Eric Mangini or George Kokinis?

If the Browns are successful,I don't care if Charlie Brown is making the calls,but this sure looks like Mangini wanted a pliable guy in the GM position,Kokinis is a pal and therefore easier to work with.
Mangini knows this is his last chance and had problems with the Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum,so it makes sense to Mangini to have as light of a touch as possible in the GM seat.

I had little problem with the hiring of Mangini,he did fairly well in New York and at least was somewhat of a proven coach,but the Kokinis hiring sends us alarms.
If Kokinis was so valuable,why wasn't Baltimore more anxious to even attempt to keep him by offering him their job after Ozzie Newsome retires?
Why,if Kokinis was so coveted,had he never interviewed for another GM job-EVER?
And wasn't the same stuff being said about Phil Savage about the guy that "really" built the Ravens?

The jury is far from out,but on this one-I don't like it.

Bullpen Notes

Two more notes on George Kokinis

One is that now after weeks of speculation,the media finally has a new picture of the guy instead of the mug shot that everyone was using.
Man,that was tired and scary!

The other is that every time I type his name,I think of an old wrestler that used the name Kokina Maximus,who later moved on to become Yokozuna.

Battlin Bob sends us this note on Eric Mangini and the beginning of his control tendencies as apparently the most important thing to fix on this team is to paint over a mural of Browns greats at the team offices and make the wall white.
First,off the tradition is all this team has anymore,second,wasn't it Mangini that crowed about Browns tradition when he was hired and third,the mural was more important than you showing up at the Senior Bowl to scout?????

I was shocked Saturday night when Shane Mosley dominated Antonio Margarito throughout and stopped him in the ninth round to take the WBA Welterweight title in Los Angeles.
This continues the round robin tour in the division where Miguel Cotto beat Mosley,Margarito stopped Cotto and then Mosley stopped Margarito.
Mosley looked as sharp as he has in years in the win,but a word of advice for "Sugar Shane",stay away from Paul Williams.
You struggled with the physical gifts of Vernon Forrest in two losses,Williams has those and more.

Photo Credits
Kokinis:Lisa DeJong:Cleveland Plain Dealer
Boxing:AP Photo

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Forgotten Superstars-Skip Away

We leave the human division of the Forgotten Superstars universe today for the first time as we look at perhaps my favorite racehorse ever- Skip Away.
"Skippy" raced for 4 years from ages 2 to 5 and racked up 4 Eclipse Awards, which are the racing versions of winning MVPs only in specific categories.
Skip Away was the 3-year-old of the year for 1996, won the Eclipse for the top older horse (4 years and up) for 1997 and 1998, and was Horse of the Year (kinda like Best of the Champions) for 1998.
Skip Away also is the third-highest money winner of all time, although one can make a real argument for being the top money earner in North American history ( and Bill Finley does here) as the two horses ahead of him on the earnings list (Curlin and Cigar) both inflated their earnings by winning highly overpriced purses in Dubai to boost their totals and without those wins, neither would have finished ahead of Skip Away...

So why isn't a horse such as Skip Away remembered by the average or casual fan?
Well, I think it comes down to one reason-he hated the track surface at Churchill Downs.
Skippy ran two races at the twin spires and was well beaten in both the Kentucky Derby at three and the Breeders Cup Classic at 5.
Most of the general public believes that racing begins in May at Louisville and ends in June at Belmont, so the poor Derby kept him out of the public eye and the loss in the 1998 Classic was the difference in catching Cigar for the top spot in money earnings, as Curlin would race after both had retired.
Wins in those two races would likely have made Skip Away the most remembered horse in the last twenty years.
When you add his close seconds in the Preakness and Belmont to the equation, his Q score among sports fans just doesn't add up.

Skip Away would charge up late in his three-year-old year with wins in the Ohio Derby, Haskell Invitational, Woodbine Million, and in his only meeting with Cigar, defeated him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Skip Away's win over Cigar cemented him as the better horse(in our opinion) as a great older horse usually has the edge over a great three-year-old.
Look back to 1978 when 4-year-old Seattle Slew beat 3-year-old Affirmed and a year later when the same Affirmed nipped 3-year-old champ Spectacular Bid for just two examples, so when the three-year-old wins, it says it all.
Cigar fans point to the five-pound weight difference as the factor in their horse's loss, but watch the replay, Preakness winner Louis Quatorze presses Skip Away the entire race and gave him anything but an easy lead and that contributes to the greatness of the victory.
Watch this classic below!

At four, Skip Away was not as dominant as the handicap division was as strong as it was in years with powerhouses such as Gentleman, Formal Gold, Will's Way, and Skippy swapping wins and losses with each other.
Skip Away still added wins in the Massachusetts Handicap, Suburban Handicap, a repeat win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and this dominant win in the Breeders Cup Classic to nail down the Eclipse for the top older horse.

At five, Skip Away was just about unbeatable in winning his first seven races of the year, five of which were Grade ones before running into a sloppy track in a third try at the Jockey Club Gold Cup and then his final visit to Churchill Downs.
Wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup in his only race in California in 1998 were in addition to wins in the Donn and Gulfstream Park Handicaps, the Pimlico Special, Mass Cap, Iselin Handicap, and my favorite a win against the best field of the season to date-a dominant win in the Woodward Stakes below.
Skip Away was retired after the loss in Kentucky and currently stands for $10,000 at
Hopewell Farm in Kentucky, where his numbers as a stallion are solid, but not spectacular.

Was Skip Away the horse of the nineties?
Well, we think so, but he certainly deserves the recognition and entry into our universe as a Forgotten Superstar.

Bullpen Notes

The big fight in Los Angeles tonight as Antonio Margarito defends his WBA Welterweight strap against Shane Mosley at the sold-out Staples Center.
This shapes up as a top-action fight and we like Margarito by either a late-round stoppage or unanimous winner.
The fight will be televised live on HBO.

The Cleveland Browns fired Pro Personnel director T.J. McCreight as the George Kokinis train prepares to arrive by the lake.
McCreight had a background of working with Kokinis and was thought to be a strong candidate to stay on in his position, but Kokinis must think that he can do that job himself as he handled those chores in Baltimore...

Until tomorrow!

Photo Credit

New Uniforms,Same Talent

PirateFest started yesterday in Pittsburgh for a three day fan party that features usually little news except for the constant complaining from Pirate fans.

I have few complaints about the lack of Hot Stove action from the team.
They aren't going to compete anyway,so why spend needlessly.
The casual fan that looks at things short term isn't happy with only an addition of Ramon "Cleveland kept me instead of Brandon Phillips?" Vasquez to the less than imposing roster,but I have no problems-as long as the team puts money into the draft in the same fashion as last year.

I bring this up only because the fans that attended yesterdays Q and A with Frank Coonelly,Neal Huntington and John Russell tend to ask the same pissed off questions that are easy to answer (if you are writing a blog) and yet don't tell the entire truth.

The first question dealt with "Why is it that, anytime you get somebody decent like Jason Bay, you have to get rid of him?
Well,the obvious answer is money and state of the system.
The Pirates were not contenders with Bay and moving him (whether you like the return or not) allowed them to attempt to address the latter.
I understand the fans frustration,but it isn't hard to figure the answer out,especially when you know what the generic answer will be.

Another guy told the truth about the poor 2009 projection,but pretty much stated the obvious -"I just don't understand how anyone can say this team will be better than it was last year. The bench is going to be worse. The outfield will be worse. The pitching ... if there's any breakdown at all on this team, it will lose 110 games."

The responses are what tends to get the Coonelly gang in trouble.
"Our plan is to win. We want to win right now" said Coonelly.
Well,I can figure out that you want to win and it isn't hard to decipher that the plan is win eventually,but to pretend that you expect to win can do nothing but disappoint the casual and less knowledgeable fan,who will discover after 95 losses that (in their limited vision ) that nothing has changed.

I think putting money into Latin America and the draft is the way to go,but the average Pirate fan sees contending teams in town and cannot help but look at the Pirates as having little chance with additions such as Vasquez and they are right.
Baseball is different from other sports as unless you are New York or Boston types,you simply don't compete overnight and please don't say that Tampa did that,they were the sports version of the old music adage "It took us seven years to be an overnight success".

Keep in mind that the Pirates are in step two of a very long journey,expect lots of losses and an occasional bright spot,but things are looking up.
If the average fan can realize it.......

The Pirates changed the uniforms for next season and I generally like them.
They look like the old Leyland era jerseys with sleeves with the exception of the Sunday home game jersey-that will remain the pinstripe sleeveless version.
The alternate is a basic black and gold that replaces the V-8 juice jerseys.
Nothing special,but not horrendous like the juicers.

The plan is to be back later with another feature,if time permits.

Photo Credit
Jerseys:Steve Mellon-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Razor Sharp

The New Jersey Devils were razor sharp in their final game before the All-Star break in charging by the visiting Montreal Canadiens 5-2 for their fifth straight win and maintained their Atlantic Division lead.

Paul Martin started the scoring from a pass from a penalty box fleeing Patrik Elias that turned into a breakaway that ended (4) with the puck behind Montreal's Carey Price.
The game was all Devils from there and ended the first part of the year on a high note.
The Devils other tallies went to Zach Parise (28),Patrik Elias (20),Travis Zajac (15) and Johnny Oduya (4).

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils announced during the game that Martin Brodeur will return to the ice to begin skating and is on target to keep a full return to practice on March 1st.

2) This could enable the Devils to deal Scott Clemmensen in a possible deal to bulk the defense corps up a bit and that could be the difference in a long playoff run...

3) Travis Zajac's play continued to improve and his play around the net impresses me more each net.
Zajac scored the second goal on a Zach Parise rebound.

4) Patrik Elias should be going to the All-Star game and the fact that he isn't is a joke.
Especially when you look at the roster spots being wasted by some of the Montreal players.

5) Sorry to hear of another cancer relapse for former Devil boss Pat Burns.
Burns led the Devils to their last Cup and was basically unable to coach due to health reasons.
Burns is still part of the Devil organization as a pro scout and best wishes to Burns in his continued battle....

Look for some different stuff coming up over the next few days with no Devils hockey to cover until after Tuesday's game.
Maybe a Forgotten Superstars or a look back at something else....

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Caravan vs Caravan

Monday,I attended the Pirate caravan at its first stop of the season in Cumberland Maryland with Battlin Bob,Ryan and Rachel and have a few thoughts.

The Pirates caravan added some stops this season,but decreased the time on the road from three weeks to two,which adds hectic days but at the tradeoff of less time on the road.
Cumberland also has the only Pirate radio affiliate and stop on the caravan in Maryland,so it is pretty clear why the Pirates stop here and the Orioles and Nationals generally ignore it.

Cumberland is a town of about 22,000 people and basically is the nucleus of the very isolated counties of Western Maryland.
It is also Pittsburgh country as the Pirates and Steelers rule the roost here by wide margins over the Baltimore and Washington teams.
If you walk through the Country Club Mall where the event was held,you would see very little merchandise from the Ravens or Nationals and only some of the Orioles or Redskins.
The Maryland Terrapins do have a core base here,but West Virginia and Pitt appear to have a similar foothold on the area.

The even was scheduled to be 11-1,but actually didn't get started until closer to 12.
We weren't at the lines front,but were closer to the front than the back,so we wound up getting our time around 12:30.
All the players were nice enough and signed all that we had,but some were better than others.
Manager John Russell seemed kind of out of his element in the format,he spoke when spoken to,but seemed like he was uncomfortable in the situation.
Sean Burnett was nice enough,but Andy LaRoche seemed to be distracted easily and didn't have much to offer.
Ryan Doumit was the star of the players as I spoke to him about Hagerstown at the Muni.
He pointed out to me on the Hickory card that I had him sign that on the card,they were playing the Suns.
I didn't notice it,but he was right,a Hagerstown base runner is clearly visible on the card.
Doumit asked "They still have a team there?Blue Jays? (which is who they were with when Doumit was here)".
I told him they were with Washington now,but the stadium hadn't changed much.
Ryan laughed and said "That's too bad"!
It is not hard to see why Doumit is such a popular player with Pirate fans.
Bob Walk was there as well and signed everything that I had for him.
Walk talked the most of anyone and chatted about his son John,who caught briefly for Hickory before retiring.
John left the game two days after our 2007 road trip and his dad told me about his talk with John after he was drafted.
"I told him to give a try and have fun with it,but I know what it takes to make it in the game and I don't think you have it,but by all means give it a shot,but be ready to move on if it doesn't work out".
Walk talked to just about everyone and was quite the gentleman and ambassador for Pirate baseball.

It was a good couple of hours and was worth adding some guys to the collection that fell through over the years and in the case of Andy LaRoche,a player that had never been to the area....

The Washington Nationals visited Martinsburg WVA today with their caravan and made little sense.
I didn't attend because it appears that only one player was going to be there,pitcher Joel Hanrahan and it doesn't make much sense to send just one player for the day,unless the player was the face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman.
I don't have a problem with the Nationals going to Martinsburg,but at the cost of Hagerstown?
The Nationals have a minor league affiliate here and no stop?
Both towns are close enough to each other that two two hour stops in each town could have been easily done and the Suns could have set up tables at both stops as well.
The Nationals dropped the ball here.

I have seen no word yet on whether the Baltimore Orioles will be making a local appearance.

On the Signing front

Ebay:Boston winger Milan Lucic
Mail:Lowell Devil winger Jon DiSalvatore
Pirate Caravan
John Russell
Sean Burnett
Ryan Doumit
Andy LaRoche
Bob Walk

Back later with the Devil win over Montreal.

Photo Credits
Caravan:Steve Bittner;Cumberland Times-News
Walk:Fleer/Upper Deck

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

3-1 +3-1 = 5-1

Before you criticize my math,the headline means that the final two 3-1 wins over the Islanders and Predators meant that the New Jersey Devils finished the road trip with a 5-1 record and finished last night in first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Devils dominated the Islanders with a three goal first period and basically played the final two periods on cruise control,while the win over Nashville showed the power play off and then the final empty netter to put the game away.

New Jersey goals against the Islanders to Zach Parise (26),Travis Zajac (14) and David Clarkson (9),while the tallies in Nashville went to Parise (27),Clarkson (10) and Brendan Shanahan (1).

The Devils will return to the Rock tomorrow night against Montreal before a five day break that ends in Ottawa next Tuesday.

Hell Raisers

1) Brendan Shanahan looked like he was in shape and ready to contribute as he scored the first Devil goal in Nashville on the power play and narrowly missed another seconds later.
It has taken some players that skipped training camp a while to round into playing shape,so the outing gave me some hope.....

2) Strong road trips for Zach Parise (five goals) and Travis Zajac (four).
Zajac has had quite the bounce back season thus far after a sophomore dip in production.

3) Two goals in two games for David Clarkson.
Deflections and being a crease pest makes the difference between 10 and 20 goals at seasons end.

4) The Devils made a few dumb mistakes against the Predators though.
A Mike Mottau hook and a Bobby Holik trip most notably so.

5) The Devils are guaranteed to be in first place in the Atlantic with a win over Montreal as nothing that other teams could do to overtake them.
Raise your hands if anyone thought that the Devils would be in first place at the All-Star break without Martin Brodeur.

Bonus Round

Bryce Salvador is the type of player that you have to watch a lot to appreciate.
The physical banger impresses with his rough,consistent play and doesn't take a lot of penalties to boot.
Salvador has been playing as the Devils best blueliner....

Bullpen Notes

Sorry about missing a few days.
Sunday was rough as a Fantasy Football league took a lot of time and a trip to Cumberland MD for the Pirates caravan (More on that tomorrow) ate yesterday.
Plus today,I was called into work for a overtime evening tonight.

A new blog is added to the links in From the Shadows.
Shane looks to be mainly discussing pro wrestling and baseball and his thoughts on both should be an interesting read.
Plus he offers kind words to me and I need those once in a while-LOL!
Check his work on on the links list.

One of our favorites,Blair Johnson signed a minor league deal with the Braves.
No word on where he will start,but we wish the best to Blair,who has suffered through an injury-plagued career.
Blair always remembers the Battler and I for the "Sweep Sweep Sweep" night in Hagerstown in 2006 when he was with the Hickory Crawdads and comments on it whenever he sees us.

Editors Note:Blair actually signed with the Orioles.
The website that I saw first reported Atlanta,but it is indeed Baltimore.
Thanks to Mike Treadwell for the correct info!

Until tomorrow.

Photo Credits
Parise and Shanahan-AP Photo

Saturday, January 17, 2009

One hit to the body,one straight to the heart

After two periods in Columbus,the Devils found themselves on the low side of a 1-0 score of a hard hitting defensive game.
But midway through the third,Travis Zajac took a gift of a pass on the Devils first power play of the night from the Blue Jackets R.J. Umberger and whipped the pass between the pads and glove of Steve Mason (13) to tie the game and John Madden shoved the puck into the goal (5) among a pileup a minute later for a Devil lead that would never be allowed back into Ohio hands in a 2-1 Devil win.
The Devils travel to Long Island tonight and will meet the battered Islanders at seven.

Hell Raisers

1) The win guarantees the Devils at least a .500 record on the six game road swing and a win tonight over the Islanders would guarantee a winning trip.

2) The Madden goal had its share of controversy,as the net came off its moorings.
The officials decided that the puck was going into the goal before it became dislodged and therefore the goal counted.
Columbus was unhappy and I can understand why,but after a call among a net scrum went against the Devils in Anaheim,this seemed like karma....

3) The Zajac goal came on the only Devil power play of the evening.
The game was pretty cleanly played as Columbus committed just one penalty and the Devils only three.Three of the games total four were for tripping.

4) Kevin Weekes picked up his second win of the trip and again allowed just one goal in doing it.
Weekes especially made some nice saves in the first period,although the one goal that he did allow to Manny Malholtra was a bit on the soft side.
No word on whether it will be Weekes or Scott Clemmensen tonight against the Gorton Gang.

Editors Note:It will be Clemmensen going for the Red and Black tonight.

5) John Madden has struggled a bit this season and has even been mentioned in trade rumors,so it was nice to see number eleven hit the game winner.
Even when Madden is not playing well,it is never due to lack of effort.

Bonus Rounds

Brendan Shanahan was with the team last night and will be with them tonight,but will not make his first appearance until Monday's game in Nashville.

The Islanders have yet to win a game in 2009,lets hope that trend continues tonight!

Bullpen Notes

Speaking of the Islanders,they will be playing a exhibition game in Kansas City next year and that has added to the speculation of the Islanders being one of the top candidates to move to the new arena there.
The Islanders do have tradition,but they play in a dump,attendance is poor and as large as the New York market is,three teams appears to be overkill....

Please don't get me wrong,I am not advocating a move there,but it would add fire to the league,if the Islanders moved to KC and switched divisions with Washington.
That would return the Capitals to the division and rivals that their fans want most.....

The Post-Gazette is reporting that Pedro Alvarez reported to Pirate mini-camp overweight and with knee tendinitis.
Alvarez also refused interview requests.
The word on Alvarez before the draft was always of a hard working,in shape,team guy and thus far there has been little to support that.
Is playing for the Pirates that much of a buzzkill?

The good news from the camp though has Andrew McCutchen adding ten pounds of muscle (he needed it!) and Brad Lincoln slimming down and looking in shape as well.
Good to see both of those guys taking the off season seriously and making some waves this season.

Until tomorrow with the wrapup of the battle between Kansas City's past and perhaps its future.

Photo Credits
Madden and Weekes-AP Photo
Alvarez-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A few words on following a losing team......

This post was brought about by a recent letter to the Pirates from a fan that was not renewing season tickets for the 2009 season due to some discontent with the team's player moves or lack of them since last season's classic break.
I really don't want to comment on that,really. Seriously,when you make make the amount of money that I make and look at the friends of mine that are out of work or working low paying jobs,this gentleman will get along fine seeing "a few games this year" and I have a hard time sympathizing with his plight.
After all,if I get to PNC Park,once a year-it is a good year.

I would like to concentrate on the woes of following a habitual loser.
When you look at the teams that we follow here,most fit into the losing category.
The Pirates are 200 games under .500 since 2000 (619-837),the Indians are above .500 over that time,but constantly have to retool their roster and lost for over 25 years before boosting themselves out of doormat status in the mid-nineties.
The Browns have been a sad sack since the Marty Schottenheimer years and are 52-92 since 2000.
I am not including the Seahawks since it has been only a few years since I started following them.
The Cavaliers are dominant now since the addition of LeBron James,but they were awful for many of the years that I was a big fan and now I consider myself just a casual follower of the team.
I can tell you how they are doing in the standings and the players on the team,but not the kind of in-depth analysis that I can on the Devils.
Why?Because I don't watch that many games.
The Devils and Ohio State are elite teams,perhaps not of championship caliber every season,but usually at least a upper level team.

So,what are the problems following a losing team?
Well,mainly you get to watch others enjoy games that you don't,you get to suffer and agonize through moronic personnel moves and you get the pain of well,losing all the time.
But there are a few neat things as well.
The fans of perennial losers tend to be the most passionate and knowledgeable fans and you can meet quite a few smart fans that know the game.
For example,I have met many Pirate fans that are some of the best baseball people that I know,but have met many Steeler fans that are among the dumbest.
I use Pittsburgh as the example because the baseball team is awful and the football squad is one of the elite teams every season.
You will find that many fans of teams that are contenders every year to be casual fans that simply want to be aboard with a winner.Yankee,Steeler,Cowboy,Chicago Bull (in the Jordan years).
These people don't want to have to learn anything or suffer through losing,it is so much simpler to root for a winner every year.
I am not saying that every Yankee fan is a front runner,just that it is easy to be a fan of a team that every season has a chance to make the post season and therefore being a fan of one of those teams is easy.
When your team is top notch,one also does not have to learn much about the game.
Just be able to say-Name team,league champions!
Or my personal favorite of dealing with the dumb-We beat your team,even when said know nothing doesn't even know who my team is.

Another fun thing with rooting for a loser is that unless you live in that city,it allows you to stand out as an individual.
Being a Pirate fan is not as original here as most places due to the Western PA folks that have moved down here through the years,but it still is somewhat different.
The only bad part of being a Pirate fan is people assuming that I am then a Steeler fan.
One guy came up to me last year at the Muni and asked me what the Steelers did in their pre-season game.
When I didn't know,he said "I figured you would with the Pirate hat and all".

The teams that I root for that have a chance to be a champion every year weren't selected by me because they were that.
I became a Buckeye fan because I used to live there and they were an easy team to follow.
I started rooting for the Devils in the late 1980's because they signed a whole bunch of players that I liked and had a group of young players that were fun to follow.
The Devils also run their organization in a professional,team oriented manner in which the team comes first in both marketing and on ice play.
In a time that celebrates the me attitude,it is fun to be involved with a team that puts an emphasis on the we and that is the largest reason that I have such a passion for the New Jersey Devils.

Following a loser also means finding hope in things that result in making you more knowledgeable.
Bad team fans tend to know much more about minor league systems and upcoming prospects for drafts than the fan of the winner.
Many fans of good teams don't bother because they don't need to hope for future glory-they have it now!

All and all,following a loser can be frustrating,annoying and painful,but if and when things turn around-there is no satisfaction like being the long time fan that finally strikes gold....

Bullpen Notes

The passing of Ricardo Montalban yesterday at the age of 88 was quite saddening.
Montelban was most known to members of my generation as both "Mr.Rourke" on the late 70's-early 80's Fantasy Island and his appearances in both Star Trek the series and Star Trek II as "Khan".
I was surprised to hear Montalban was 88 though,I figured around 80 was his age.
That would have made Montalban in his early 60's when he did Wrath of Khan and he looks to be in remarkable shape for the film.

Montalban is also noted for lending his voice to a cow in Family Guy,his co-starring role in the first of the Naked Gun films and for his commercials for Chryslers in his Fantasy Island days.

I am a member of the last generation that really grew up with 5 channels of television and Montalban's passing makes one reflect upon those times.
In the 70's as big as film stars as Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were,people like Montalban were bigger stars to me.
Why?Television stars were in your home every week (or in syndication everyday) and therefore made a larger connection.
As a kid in the 70's,Farrah Fawcett and Clint Eastwood were mega stars,but Barbara Eden and William Shatner were far bigger stars in my backwoods world.
Now,TV is better and more varied with more and better options,but I can say this with near certainty-no other future generation will ever look at TV in the same way as mine did....

Credit to the Mountain West and Missouri Valley conferences for hooking up for a challenge series in Basketball next season.
The two arguably are among the top of the Mid-Major conferences and this series should not only be fun to watch,but should help the RPI of each in the future.

Ohio State lost both wide receiver Brian Hartline and corner Donald Washington.
Hartline is projected as a seventh round pick or as an undrafted player and that makes this a questionable move on his part.
Washington was a starter yet I don't think he will be a huge loss.

Brendan Shanahan signed his contract with the Devils today and is expected to be with the team for tomorrow nights game in Columbus.
No word on who,if any,will be replaced by Shanahan on the roster.
The Devils also announced that Petr Vrana broke his leg for the Lowell Devils and will be undergoing surgery soon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Devils sizzle early in zapping Vancouver

The New Jersey Devils slammed three goals home in the first period,chased Jason LaBarbera from the game and held on for the final two periods in a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on the Canadian west coast.
First period goals by Zach Parise (25),Brian Gionta (11) and Brian Rolston (8) gave the Devils a 3-0 lead that they would never relinquish and Travis Zajac's third period goal (12) moved the lead back to three goals at 4-1.
Vancouver scored two late goals to narrow the gap before Dainius Zubrus finished the game with an empty net goal (11).
The Devils are now off until Friday until they travel to Columbus.....

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils played (arguably) their best period of hockey of the season in the first period in Vancouver.
The Devils so dominated the first twenty minutes that the Canuck fans loudly cheered when the PA announcer made the one minute to play call.....

2) I was surprised that there were no scraps on the night.
The Canucks entered the game first in the league in fights,while the Devils rank in a tie for 6th..

3) Scott Clemmensen played very well in the first two periods,but gave up two pretty light goals in the third that allowed the Canucks to get back into the contest.
The latter of the two by Steve Bernier was especially weak...

4) Travis Zajac's third period goal was a product of a nice back and forth with Jamie Langenbrunner and was the most visually pleasing of the night...

5) This win gives the Devils a much improved chance of a winning trip as their next stop is in Columbus with the Blue Jackets missing their star sniper Rick Nash.

Bullpen Notes

Ohio State was able to keep one player that could have been lost as first team All-Big Ten safety Kurt Coleman announced that he will be returning to Columbus for his senior season.
A very nice building block that may not have been available for the Buckeye defense.

Somewhere,Captain Dave Littlefield is floating on air as the Pirates signed outfielder
Craig Monroe to a minor league deal.
Monroe hit .208 with the Twins last season and is noted for being a less than selective swinger.
Low cost,but low reward as well.
Long time readers will recall the Captains lusting for Monroe to the point of not finishing a trade that would have sent Jack Wilson to Detroit in 2007 and would have brought Jair Jurrjens to the Pirates in the trade.
Jurrjens spent last year with the Braves and won 13 games with an ERA well under 4.
The Bucs also signed catcher Miguel Perez as a minor league mitt for spring training as well.

The Cleveland Browns watched as the most sought after general manager candidate in the game accepted the position in Kansas City.
Scott Pioli is the new boss of the Chiefs.
Reportedly,Pioli preferred the Browns until the hiring of Eric Mangini before the GM slot was filled.
Browns fans will be carefully following the rebuilding process in Kansas City and comparing it to that of Cleveland.

Our friends over at Bag of health and politics sends us this note on the Brooklyn Cyclones changing their name for one night on June 23 to the "Baracklyn" Cyclones complete with red,white and blue uniforms and Obama bobblehead giveaway.
I am fine with the unis and giveaway,but "Baracklyn"?
Not very good.

Photo Credit
Parise/Zajac-AP Photo

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On the signing front!

Not really a post,just a quick long delayed update from the signing front.
One of these days,I am going to get around to getting one of those address books and I will then really get into this!!

Card Show-November
Former Bronco Quarterback Craig Morton

Former Eagle Wide Receiver Mike Quick
Pirate reliever Evan Meek
Pirate starter Ian Snell
Pirates Prospect Quincy Latimore
Pirate Prospect Quinton Miller (2)
Pirate Prospect Matt Hague
Pirate Outfielder Brandon Moss
Cardinal Outfielder Brian Barton
Astro Prospect Jacob Priday
Former Jr Welterweight Champ Aaron Pryor
Former Bantamweight Champ Rafael Marquez

Lowell Devils at Hershey
Pascal Rheaume
Jeff Frazee
Matt Corrente
Petr Vrana
Mark Fraser
Rod Pelley
Barry Tallackson
Chad Wiseman
Kurt Kleindienst-Coach

Simeon Varlamov

Through the mail
Former Sabres star Rick Martin
Angels Prospect Nick Adenhart

From a pack
Kyle Drabek-Bowman

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jim Rice gets his due,Questionable call costs Devils in Anaheim

Jim Rice finally got what he deserved today-Enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rice was elected in his final year of eligibility with 412 votes from a possible 539 and a percentage of 76 %.
The 1978 MVP was an eight time All Star and was the dominant American League hitter of his time.
Rice will be joined by the all time leader in stolen bases and the consommate leadoff hitter,the well traveled Rickey Henderson in his induction in August.
Looks like we will have to move onto a new cause candidate on the regular ballot as the Veterans Committee seems to have little chance of inducting anyone that played past 1951......

The New Jersey Devils lost in Anaheim in a choppy and uneven effort 4-3.
The game was tainted with a bit of controversy as a third period goal by Anaheim's Chris Kunitz was declared a goal despite no one actually seeing the puck cross the goal line.
Replays showed the puck was not into the net,but did not show the pucks location and therefore the call of a goal could not be overturned.
Devil goals to Zach Parise (24),David Clarkson (8) and Bobby Holik (2).
The Devils travel to Vancouver tomorrow for a game against the Canucks.

Hell Raisers

1) This game turned in the first period after the Devils took a lead on Holik's redirection of a Mike Mottau shot.
George Parros came out on the ice and started hitting every Devil in sight without retribution.
The Ducks tied the game shortly thereafter and seemed to control the tempo of the game thereafter...

2) That reason is why I believe that the fans of finesse' hockey miss the boat.
Hitting and intimidation is part of the game and Parros did his job for his team.
Take the hitting out of hockey and you have ice dancing with sticks....

3) The Ducks took the lead with seconds to go in the first period when Travis Moen centered a pass to Sami Paulsson that beat Scott Clemmensen shortly after.
My problem was that Moen beat Paul Martin to the puck.
To me,it looked like Martin was counting the seconds to the periods end and was not going all out and paid the price.

4) The Devils had only 21 shots on goal against the Ducks and Jean-Sebastian Giguere,but the save that made the difference was when Giguere stopped Jamie Langenbrunner on a shorthanded breakaway.
I wish Langenbrunner had tried to lift the puck,but he didn't and Giguere was able to come up with the blocker.

5) During intermission,MSG+ had Sherry Ross from the radio booth as their guest and Ross said something that made me think a bit about the Brendan Shanahan signing.
Ross admitted that she thought little about the rumors of an imminent signing of the veteran as she didn't think they were realistic,but afterwards she said that this could be the first domino of deals to come to add the often wished for attack minded defender or another player of note.
Ross knows her stuff and is honest enough to admit when she is wrong as well....

Bonus Rounds
Anaheim's uniforms are just awful......

But the Ducks Bobby Ryan sure isn't.
I was quite impressed with both the rookies abilities and that he seems to have some grit to his game as well.

Bullpen Notes

Now that football season is officially over,we can focus on spring training coming up soon.
33 days to go!

A few words on the retirement on Tony "roll over" Dungy.
One,my dislike for the Colt coach is not personal,he seems like a very nice man.
Two,he leaves the Colts with a World title,but one could argue that Indianapolis could have had one or two more considering their talent laden roster.
Three,Let a year or two go by and Dungy's name will come up for every open job like Bill Cowher's does now.

Until tomorrow when I hope to finally write about some things that I haven't had time to!!

Photo Credits
Rupp:AP Photo

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brendan Shanahan comes home and Devils crush Kings

The New Jersey Devils started the day off strong with bringing back Brendan Shanahan to the fold and then following up with a big win to kick off the six game road swing.
More on the Shanahan signing below.

I didn't get to watch last nights win for the New Jersey Devils 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings,but a recap can be found here.
Three goals on the man advantage and an excellent game for Kevin Weekes paced the way for the win.
Devils goals to Zach Parise (23),Patrik Elias (19),Travis Zajac (11),Jamie Langenbrunner (8) and Brian Rolston (7).
The Devils travel down the road to Anaheim tonight and I will get to watch that game,so the Hell Raisers will be from watching the game...

Hell Raisers

1) Two milestones in the win as Zach Parise scored his 100th career goal and Brian Rolston played in his 1000th NHL game.

2) Kevin Weekes looked to have earned some playing time with his 34 saves against the Kings.
I totally agreed with Brent Sutter with playing Scott Clemmensen so much when he was sizzling hot,but his last few games were less than stellar and I think that the time is right to give Weekes some extra pipe time....

3) Nice to see the punchless power play appear for a change.
The Devils equalled their season high for power play goals in a game with three.

4) Fire and Ice reports that just before the Langenbrunner goal that Zach Parise was crushed by a hard hit by the Kings Matt Greene.
Greene was pummeled by Mike Rupp shortly thereafter continuing Rupp's recent run of tough play.

5) Mike Emrick returned to the booth for the game after missing games due to health issues and the death of his father.
Nice to see the Professor back in the booth......

Devil GM Lou Lamoriello announced the return of a star of the past before the game when the Devils came to an agreement to a contract for the remainder of the season with Brendan Shanahan.
Shanahan spent his first four years with the Devils (I mean Shanahan wore red and GREEN as a Devil!) before signing with St.Louis as a free agent in the days when teams had to be compensated for losing free agents.
The Blues comp offer was for two players that turned out to be pretty decent in Rod Brind'amour and Curtis Joseph.
Lamoriello and the Devils knew that Joseph was not a need with a youngster named Brodeur on the horizon and asked the arbitrator for another Blue instead..
A fellow named Scott Stevens,you may have heard of him and to the horror of the Blues,the arbitrator chose the Devils offer as compensation.
The rest was Devils history.

I realize that Shanahan turns 40 in a few weeks,but he was still solid for the Rangers last season in specialty situations and should help the Devils in those areas at least.
Shanahan is skating with the team but will not sign his contract until he is ready to play due to salary cap issues.
That means someone will be headed to Lowell,bet on it being one of the two defensemen between Sheldon Brookbank and Jay Leach.
Overall, I am fine with the signing.
Low risk and short term makes it worth the risk

Bullpen Note

If Pittsburgh tops San Diego today and they should.
I am finished with football for this season.
There is no more sickening AFC title game than Baltimore vs Pittsburgh.

Photo Credit
Shanahan:Upper Deck
Langenbrunner:AP Photo

Friday, January 9, 2009


Here's Dayton!
Our new addition to our Family!
Dayton is a 9 month old Boxer.
More pics to come over the next few days!

And thanks to Battlin Bob for helping us transport Dayton and his things to his new home!

That was so bad,I thought I was watching the Pirates!

The New Jersey Devils. with the exception of Mike Rupp,simply didn't show up to play and it showed with a loss to the lowly Atlanta Thrashers by a score of 4-0.
Scott Clemmensen allowed three goals in two periods and was yanked in favor of Kevin Weekes,who played the third period.
The Devils are off tonight before spending the weekend in California against the Kings and Ducks.
Let's hope they give a better effort than in this one!.

Hell Raisers

1) Brent Sutter sums it up very succinctly-“I feel bad for anybody who had to come and watch that.”
Not very often that I say that a coach says things that a blogger would write,but then again this is Brent Sutter....

2) More Sutter from Fire and Ice.

"Nothing can happen correctly on the ice unless you are focused off the ice. Mentally you need to be where you need to be, as far as preparing the right way. Looking at the things a hockey team needs to do to be successful, we've gotten away from that the 12 days outside of a one day (a 4-1 win over Montreal on Jan. 2). Some things have crept in. The players know what it is and it will get resolved. They're going to have to really dig in to resolve it.

"It's just what happens when you have success. You forget what we did as a hockey team. You start looking for other ways. You start getting away from the things you need to do as an individual and as a team. Indvidually if you're not doing the right things then the team isn't going to be doing the right things. That's just the way it is. It goes hand in hand."

3) It is so refreshing to have a coach that seems to care enough to show some emotion and even more that he is so honest about things. The performance last night was not about W/L,it was about effort and I did not see a lot of that,with one exception....

4) Mike Rupp was all over the ice hitting Thrashers and kicking Eric Boulton's ass twice in the game.Rupp apparently learned from Sutter's handling of him a few weeks back and has ramped up the effort....

5) This game showed one glaring Devils weakness again,the lack of speed in the Devil defensemen.Colin White returned in the game after missing some time,but the Devils lack speed other than Paul Martin and maybe Johnny Oduya (when he feels like it) and it was there last night...

Bullpen Notes

Congratulations to Zach Parise for being named to his first All-Star game.I thought Patrik Elias could have been named to the team as well,but Parise is very deserving of the honor.Parise leads the team in goals and is tied with Elias for total points on the team

The Lowell Devils also had just one player in the AHL All-Star game as goaltender Jeff Frazee was selected.Frazee was not even supposed to be at Lowell this season,but was promoted after Scott Clemmensen was needed in New Jersey.

Chris Wells announced,to no ones great surprise,that he will be entering the NFL draft in April.Wells was expected to announce shortly.Boom Herron and Brandon Saine look to be the top contenders to take Wells place in the backfield.

Until tomorrow,when we look at the Pirates a bit and catch up on the signing front

Photo Credits

Rupp:AP Photo

Frazee:Lowell Devils

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's Mangini

The Cleveland Browns officially ended perhaps the worst kept secret in the team's long history today by hiring former New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini to direct the fortunes of the Browns for the next four years.

First off, I don't have a problem with hiring Mangini as many do.
Yes,he had a losing overall record in New York (23-25),but that was mainly due to the dreaded sophomore flu,which occurs when a team leaps higher in record against a weaker schedule and pays for that against a tougher schedule the following season.
This flu hit Cleveland this year and New Orleans in 2007 ,while a version of the virus could be headed to Atlanta,Arizona,Baltimore and/or Miami next season.
So,I don't put much stock into that problem.

I also have little trouble not being angered by the Jets late season failings that saw the Jets lose to four of their five opponents (three of which finished with losing records).
Many point to this as reason enough to pass on Mangini.

But there are a few issues that make me not as happy about the hiring as I could be.
The biggest is his apparent obsession with hiring good friend George Kokinis as the general manager.
Since Randy Lerner apparently was obsessed with hiring a coach with previous experience,why would he not be just as interested in tabbing a GM with experience as well???
Well,it seems that Mangini and GM to be named getting along was a major issue to the Browns after it appears (after the fact) that Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage were far from on the same page.
The Browns have committed to an interview with the Eagles Tom Heckert and I would feel much better about all of this if Cleveland enters the off season with a Heckert/Mangini team instead of a Kokinis/Mangini duo.
It is unknown whether the Browns are truly interested in Heckert (scheduled to interview next week) or if it was just a media leak to take the increasingly negative media focus off Kokinis.but one can hope that the Browns are serious in hiring Heckert.
If Heckert turns out to be the choice,the Browns would finally have the type of experienced football man at the helm that both Pittsburgh and Baltimore have had for years and Heckert would step in without a learning curve,which is also a positive in the hiring of Mangini.

Editors Note:Heckert has withdrawn his name from consideration since he would have no say in the hiring of the head coach.
This development pretty much says that George Kokinis will be the GM....

I also wish that the Browns would have talked to more candidates.
I know they made the obligatory trip to Mecca to talk to Bill Cowher and talked to Mel Tucker to satisfy the Rooney Rule,but no interviews with coaches that I would have loved to at least seen given a chance.
Marty Schottenheimer is 65,but would have been very motivated to turn the ship and fast.
Many saw his age as a detriment,I saw it as an advantage-he didn't have time for a long time rebuilding term.
Dan Reeves brought three different teams to the playoffs and two to the Super Bowl and reportedly is looking for one last run.
I really like what Russ Grimm would have brought to the table as he would have been the perfect fit-tough,hard nosed football and would have had the added bonus of a grudge against the Steelers for the way they hosed him in favor of Mike Tomlin.
Jim Schwartz of Tennessee seems to be a star in the making for someone and has a Cleveland background,but the Browns canceled his interview after talking to Mangini.
None of those candidates even got an interview.

I don't have much of an opinion on the new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll,who is moving with Mangini from the Jets where he was the quarterbacks coach,but I do like the hiring of Rob Ryan from the Raiders as the defensive coordinator.
I have been a long time admirer of Buddy Ryan and the defenses that Rob had put together in Oakland were underrated when considering the constraints that Al Davis seems to place on the Raiders organization.
So,I will give Mangini a plus and a undecided on his first two hires.

All and all,I am open minded on this one and despite wishing that there had been more of an open process,I am on board.
However,be ready for next weeks screaming post on the hiring of George Kokinis.......

Bullpen Notes

The New Jersey Devils play their last home game for the next 13 days tonight against Atlanta.
Here is hoping that we get a better effort than has been given lately.

Our friends over at Bag of Health and Politics sends us this sad note on the shooting of former Hagerstown Sun Robby Tolan in his own driveway on New Years Eve.
Tolan was reportedly unarmed and best wishes for things working out well for the outfielder.....

The Attorney General of the state of Utah is launching an investigation into the BCS for Anti-Trust violations..
Now I think the BCS is as rotten as anyone,but can anyone tell me that in this time of multiple troubles in our nation that the top problem in the state of Utah is the Bowl Championship Series???

Tonight's National Championship Prediction-Oklahoma 41 Florida 31

The lovely Cherie sends us this list of verbal miscues by the soon to be former President over the years.
Funny stuff....

A final word to the Republican Party and their supporters.
Think back to about eight years ago to all the terms that were thrown at Al Gore for his appeal of the Florida fiasco such as Sore loser and the type and now look at the same people that are telling Norm Coleman of Minnesota to appeal,arbitrate,sue etc for his loss to Al Franken for the Minnesota Senate seat AFTER a full recount was finished (something that was never allowed in Florida).
Frankly,I think Coleman has the right to take any measures that he wants and have no problems with it.
I mean why run if you didn't want to win and take every possible legal measure to do so,so my problem isn't with Coleman,it is with the GOP members that called Gore and his campaign everything that they could think of for his attempts,but encourage Coleman to do the same thing.
Hypocrisy at its finest....

Photo Credits
Mangini:John Kuntz:Cleveland Plain Dealer
Coleman vs Franken:Terry

Fiesta Bowl thoughts

Yesterday,two days after the Fiesta Bowl, I received a phone call from a friend on how I felt about the last second 24-21 loss to the heavily favored Texas Longhorns.
Honestly,not that bad and I will detail some thoughts about the game below,but the game should quiet the Ohio State bashers for a little while.
Not only did the Buckeyes lose on a last second touchdown pass,they did it as a sizable underdog.
No shame in that.......

Buckeye Leaves

1) When did I know the game was lost?
A few seconds after the Boom Herron TD run that gave the Buckeyes the 21-17 lead.
I never had the feeling that OSU was in good shape even after the run.
The first thing that entered my mind almost as soon as Herron hit the end zone-too much time,we left them too much time...........

2) I felt that it was not destined to be when the Buckeyes stopped Texas on 4th and 3 on the Ohio State 40,but watched an official from the other side of the field run across and give Texas a more favorable spot,allowing them to make the first down.
The original spot from an arbiter right in front of the play looked to have placed the Longhorns short of the marker.
Jim Tressel asked for a replay,but (shock) it was upheld.
Not that I am saying that there was a Texas bias,just that at that point in the game-anything not blatantly obvious was not going to be overturned.....

3) Chris Wells ran for over 100 yards in the first half,but missed much of the second with a concussion.
Want the most plausible reason for the loss?
Without Wells,the Buckeyes went almost the entire third period without a first down,allowing Texas to control the ball and pull ahead....

4) I did like the coaching staff finding a way to use both Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman in the lineup and use different looks.
Where was this in the regular season.most notably against Penn State?
A little bit of original thinking might have won a game that was there for the taking.....

5) Note to the writers that boosted poor Texas for the National title before the game and to the few that continue to-cannot have it both ways.
If Texas really had gotten screwed and the Big Ten is so awful,why did this game come down to the last seconds????
If we had a vote (and we don't) Our top three would be Utah,Florida/Oklahoma winner and then Texas....

6) Should Anderson Russell have made the tackle on the game ending play?
Yeah,probably-he went for the ball not the man and paid for it (Damn,didn't he see
All the Right Moves?),but at least,he was trying to make a play....

7) For those of you wondering just what the hell I am talking about in the above note.
I am referring to coach Craig T.Nelson yelling at cornerback Tom Cruise in the film when Cruise goes for the ball instead of following the man.
"This is a man,this is a football"
Sorry,no YouTube of this.

8) Two roughing the passer penalties on Thaddeus Gibson?
One of them was legit,but the other clearly showed Gibson hitting Colt McCoy on the shoulder pad.Awful call....

9) Terrelle Pryor needs to work on his passing.
I think he will improve as he goes along,but a major problem for Ohio State as the season progressed was a lack of confidence in the frosh being able to run a normal passing game.
It was clear to everyone (even Mack Brown) that when Pryor was in the game that some sort of running play was coming.
That type of predictability needs to stop in 2009..

10) And to do that,perhaps Jim Tressel needs to consider a shakeup on the offensive staff for next season.
With a talent such as Pryor,being predictable is the one thing that you don't want him to be.

Bonus Rounds

I saw Colt McCoy's parents on the broadcast more than I have seen my parents in the last year and I might recognize Mrs.McCoy before my own mother-Enough already!
It was four years ago now,but I haven't seen this type of overkill since Brady Quinn's sister/AJ Hawk's wife slammed us over the head for an entire evening in the OSU Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame!!

The Buckeyes non-conference schedule for 2009?
USC comes to Columbus as does Navy,New Mexico State and the Buckeyes will be in Cleveland for a battle against Toledo.(Yes,We will be attempting to attend that one).....

In Big Ten play,Indiana and Iowa rotate onto the schedule for the next few years,while Michigan State and Northwestern leave for two years....
As good as Iowa can be,this is a gain for OSU.....

Bullpen Notes

Yes,I know that Eric Mangini has been hired as the new coach of the Browns and watch for a post later today on my thoughts on the Browns whole hiring process since the season ended.....

The Pirates lost out on Rocco Baldelli as he signed with Boston.
I wont hammer Boston for their usual spending on this one,Baldelli is a New England native.
Pittsburgh cannot compete with that considering the difference in money as well...

That the Pirates still seem to consider Nyjer Morgan as their starter in left is still mind blowing.
For all the flaws in Steve Pearce,I would still rather see a Brandon Moss/Nate McLouth/Pearce outfield than a Morgan/McClouth/Moss version.......

Still have more on my mind on the fan letter to the Pirates on their lack of improvements to the team over the winter,but with the Mangini hiring and the Devils playing tonight,that will likely be the Saturday post.....