Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Brewer woes continue

Yovani Gallardo matched Ian Snell zero for zero for six and a half innings and then grew weary of pitching so well for nothing,as he slammed a Snell pitch over the fence in the Milwaukee seventh for the only run in a 1-0 Milwaukee win.
Snell was a hard luck loser in falling to 1-3 as the Pirates losing streak to the Brewers to 15 games.
The Pirates are off today as they return home for three games against the Cincinnati Reds.

Pirate Hooks

1) With the exception of the pitch to Gallardo,one can make few quibbles with Ian Snell's outing.
Snell allowed just five hits over seven innings,although he did walk five and that is a concern.

2) At the Post-Gazette Q & A on the Pirates for the week,a few writers commented on Snell's 131 pitch output including the always insightful Wilbur Miller.
As someone that often sits in the stands with a pitch counter,I realize the importance of such data and I also see the downside of throwing so many pitches over a compressed time frame.
However,I am not a slave to the stat and I don't think that it is a true tell all on a pitcher's projection of eventual career length.

3) That said,I didn't have a problem with Snell's outing yesterday,but I did have one last week in Zach Duke pitching more than he had to in a blowout of the Padres.
Those are unnecessary innings in a game that is in the bag.
If your bullpen is so bad that you don't feel comfortable with a huge lead that is another problem entirely....

4) More on pitch counts.
I am a believer in this pitch count axiom-pitchers that are babied in the minors can break down under the workload of a major league career.
Perhaps if the minors used a higher pitch number as they progressed through a game,the pitcher would be better prepared for the larger big league number.
Use this analogy-you buy a car from the old fellow next door,the car is five years old and "Fred" has only putted around town to the store,no highway driving,never above 40 etc.
Your friend buys a car,same year and model,but this car has been driven (not abused) to drive 75 miles on the highway round trip every day.
Which car will last longer making 5 highway trips a week?
The one that is used to it,the lower mileage car has aged without building itself up to tolerate the type of wear and tear that the other car is used to.

5) Bad news from the farm as Jose Tabata strained a hamstring and will miss 4 to 6 weeks.
Tabata was off to an average start,so take that with the injury and assume that Tabata will get an August cameo at best as an Indianapolis Indian...

Bullpen Note

Sorry to hear of the passing of Playboy Buddy Rose at his home in Portland.
Rose was one of stars of Portland wrestling in the regional wrestling days and runs in both the WWF and AWA.
Rose may be most remembered by national fans for either his undercard run with his gimmick being his insistence of being 218 lbs in the WWF (He was about 100 more than that) or for his last big run as AWA tag champs with Doug Somers and their classic feud with the Midnight Rockers with a young Shawn Michaels teaming with Marty Jannetty on matches shown on ESPN.
Those matches can still be seen on ESPN Classic...

Photo Credit
Gallardo:Darren Hauck-AP Photo

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Seattle Seahawks Draft Review

The Seattle Seahawks had an interesting draft.
They traded up on occasion,down on occasion and walked away with Denver's top pick in next seasons draft,giving Seahawk fans with long memories reason to root against their former rivals from Colorado in 2009.
Here is a look at the newest Seahawks.

1st Round:Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest.
The Seahawks get the top player in the draft at number 4?
Sounds crazy,but it happened mainly because Scott Pioli and the Chiefs overrated a defensive end that doesn't rush the passer,but Kansas City's loss is Seattle's gain.
Curry can rush the passer,drop back into coverage and is a three down player,which is becoming rarer in this age of football.
Being successful in any draft at any level means being able to take advantage of other teams mistakes and Seattle jumped on this one with Aaron Curry.

2nd Round:Max Unger C Oregon
Seattle seemed to be out of the second round after sending their second rounder to Denver and taking the Broncos top pick next year instead of the usual Denver second and a lower pick,but Oregon offensive lineman Max Unger was too good to pass up and the Seahawks shipped their third and fourth round picks to Chicago for the right to pick Unger.
Unger was considered on par with Alex Mack (Cleveland's first round pick) as the top centers in the draft.
Unger can play all three positions on the offensive line and could be a starter at center or possibly guard as soon as opening day.

3rd Round:Deon Butler WR Penn State
Seattle moved again to get back into the third round with a deal with the Eagles to land Penn State wideout Deon Butler.
Butler was a productive receiver for the Nittany Lions and has speed to burn,but never seemed to live up to the heights that was expected of him after being a highly coveted recruit.
Butler needs time to develop,but could see time early in the spot vacated by former Seahawk and Penn State pass catcher Bobby Engram.

6th Round:Mike Teel QB Rutgers
Teel was a productive passer at Rutgers and uses an above average arm in leading a Rutgers offense that was clicking well at the end of the season.
Teel looks to be a sleeper at this pick and has the potential to eventually make a run at the QB position.

7th Round:Courtney Greene S Rutgers
Greene slipped to the seventh round after being rated as high as a late second rounder by some mock drafts.
Greene had a better junior season than senior and his athleticism could make him a steal at this point.

7th Round:Nick Reed DE Oregon.
Reed could tun out to be a player that plays beyond his numbers after an excellent career at Oregon that saw him set the Oregon career record for sacks.
Reed could be a situational player as he lacks the size to be a full time end and the speed to drop into coverage.
Reed could make the team as a special teamer or as a pass rush specialist.

7th Round:Cameron Morrah TE California
Morrah left Cal early and likely isnt thrilled with that decision after falling to the low 7th round.
Morrah earns raves for his excellent hands,but rates as a below average blocker.
On a team with John Carlson,a blocking tight end is definitely needed.
Considering the athletic abilities of Morrah,he was worth a look at this spot.

The Seahawks looked at quality over quantity in this draft and came away with two likely immediate starters and some that could help in situational spots.
I would say I am pleased enough with the draft to give it a solid B+.

Photo Credits
Logo:Chris Creamers Sports Logos
Curry:Jason DeCrow-AP Photo

Two more losses in Milwaukee

The Pittsburgh Pirates just cannot seem to get by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Two more losses to the Brewers to extend their losing streak to the Brewers to 14 games.
The losses of 10-5 and 6-5 both can be blamed on an area of the team that will have quite a bit of blame sent its way this season-the bullpen.
Tyler Yates took the loss on Monday (0-1),while Jesse Chavez was the loser last night (0-1).
The series concludes today at 1:05.

Pirate Hooks

1) Didn't get to watch either game,but with last night's Devil disaster,I will be watching more Pirates.
Some may be partial games with my new work situation (starting Monday),but will have more things that I see instead of reading between the box score.....

2) Some shots at the relievers as on Monday,the Pirates had battled back to tie the game at five with two runs in the top of the 8th only to watch Milwaukee score five in the bottom.
Tyler Yates allowed 3 runs in a third of an inning and John Grabow gave Milwaukee two more in his third of an inning.
Jesse Chavez allowed a two run homer to Rickie Weeks that eventually proved to be the game winner.

3) Tyler Yates and John Grabow are supposed to be dependable setup men and I suppose that might be why the Pittsburgh bullpen will prove to be less than reliable over the course of a season.
Yates lack of control really concerns me and I wince anytime he comes into a game with less than a three run lead..

4) Jason Jaramillo continues to swing a hot bat in place of injured Ryan Doumit.
Jaramillo's bat was considered to be average at best and the fast start could be as simple as a rookie not having a "book" on how to pitch to him yet,but a switch hitting catcher that can be passable at the plate while being a strong defensive catcher can have a long career......

5) Brian Bixler has fanned six times in two nights against Brewer pitching.
At that rate,it wont take long for Ramon Vasquez to start appearing in the lineup considering the less than long leash that the Pirates had Bixler on last season.
Remember you only get to be the "next" fill in position here for so long before another "new" player comes along.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Ian Snell (1-2 4.50 ERA) at Milwaukee:Yovani Gallardo (2-1 3.71 ERA) 1:05

Bullpen Notes

Watched the Lake County win over Hagerstown on Monday and was able to take a look at Indians pitching prospect T.J.House in the win.
The 19 year old from Mississippi was excellent in scattering four hits and allowing just one Hagerstown run over six innings in gaining his first professional win.
The power pitching lefty was aggressive and his fastball was a heavy ball as his scouting report indicated,but his breaking ball (reported as a slurve,but I thought it looked like more of a conventional slider) was the surprise to me.
House's breaking pitch (whatever it was) tailed quickly out of the zone and had the Suns hitters helpless.
Keep an eye on T.J. House....

Sorry to hear of the passing of former WBA Heavyweight king Greg Page at just 50.
Page had suffered from brain injuries since a 2001 fight with Dale Crowe.
Page fought far too long for too long money,which is an unfortunate part of the sport that is sadly far too common.
Page was an amateur star in the late seventies and contender in the early 80's,but seemed have two problems that most contenders would shy away from.
A problem staying in top shape and a knack for losing important fights that his skills should have never allowed him to lose.
A loss to Trevor Berbick cost him a title shot.
Page worked his way up to the top contender slot to Larry Holmes and Holmes vacated his title rather than fight Page.
With a chance to secure himself as a viable alternative as the top heavyweight,Page dropped a lackluster decision to Tim Witherspoon for Holmes vacant belt and followed that up with a dull decision loss to David Bey in a bout that was designed to showcase his return to form.
Page won the WBA title in South Africa with a eighth round KO of power punching Gerrie Coetzee in a fight that he didn't deserve,but was the only fighter willing to go to South Africa.
Many thought that Page was finally putting things together,but he lost the title in Buffalo to Tony Tubbs over 15 rounds in one of the dullest title fights ever in his first defense,
Page would never contend again.

Very surprised to hear about Arlen Spector switching parties and moving Democrats closer to a 60 vote filibuster proof majority.
Spector was smart enough to realize that at his age,he had one run left in him and that as a Republican, his chances of getting out of the primary in 2010 were dim as his GOP challenger in 2004-Pat Toomey was revving up for another shot at the moderate Spector.

The surprise big winner as a result of Spector's decision?
Norm Coleman in Minnesota.
Now that an Al Franken win in Minnesota would give Democrats their 60 votes,watch how fast and how much money comes into Minnesota for anything that would give Coleman help in his court fight.
That is the GOP's last sandbag to put up against the political flood that has washed them over....

Photo Credits
Pirates:Chris Creamer's Sports Logos
Page:Ring Magazine

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Meltdown at the Rock

Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals was a well played and exciting game until the final 90 seconds when the two Devil players that have had both bad series and bad games stepped to the forefront by allowing scoring opportunities to the Hurricanes that resulted in goal and a shocking season ending loss for the Devils to Carolina 4-3.
Devils goals to Jamie Langenbrunner,Brian Rolston and Jay Pandolfo.....

Hell Raisers

1) Give tons of credit to Carolina.
No excuses,just poor execution by the Devils.
Carolina made the plays they had to and deserved the win.

2) Rooting for Boston over Carolina and (reluctantly) Pittsburgh over Washington.
I can now watch NESN and root for Milan Lucic to pound Eric Staal around (which the Devils refused to do).
I am not a fan of either Pittsburgh or Washington.
Washington because I hate their front running fans and Pittsburgh seems to think that the game only exists when they have one of the top players in the game.
"Hockeytawn"-my ass.

3) The hustle play of the series was Carolina's Tim Gleason's dive to barely keep the puck in the Devil zone and then begin the succession of play that tied the game.
That was the difference in the series.
Carolina defensemen.

4) On to the Devils.
Please tell me that I will never have to see Mike Mottau or Niclas Havelid in Red and Black again.
Mottau played decently early in the series,but was bad with a capital B over the final two games,while Havelid was putrid throughout the series,let alone his total resume' as a Devil.
Havelid's inability to cover the backside on Jussi Jokinen's tying goal was jaw dropping,but that paled in comparison to Mottau,who allowed Eric Staal free reign on the series winning shot....

5) No one has more respect for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello than I,but the Devils badly need a defensive upgrade in the off season.
The Devils have been built on defense and under Brent Sutter,the offense has gained potency and the Devils are more fun to watch for some fans,but the defense has let the team down two years in a row.
No offensive threats and a lack of bricklayers around the net has left the Devils vulnerable.
Paul Martin is solid enough,but not a true number 1 blueliner and Bryce Salvador is reasonably solid,but the others?
Colin White has changed his game for the worse since injuring his eye,Johnny Oduya has improved,but still makes too many mistakes,I am willing to give Andy Greene another chance,but I am tired of Mike Mottau and really sick of the small dose of Niclas Havelid.
The Devils need at least one defenseman and perhaps two to truly contend in the second season.

6) I would wager the Bobby Holik experiment is over considering his limited playing time in the series.
That was a cheap,short term gamble that just didn't pay off.

7) I would not have a problem with Brendan Shanahan returning though.
Shanahan always left his heart on the ice and with a training camp under his belt,could be quite a valuable player for the 09-10 Devils.

8) Marty Brodeur was solid enough in goal,but with the exception of Game 5 not dominant.
Brodeur was far from the reason for the loss,but could have played better in the series.

In a week or two,I will be back with reflections on the season and some ideas for helping the team improve.

Those of you that love the baseball coverage can now get ready for baseball to take over for a few months.

Back soon with Pirates vs Brewers and some other things as well.....

Photo Credit
Bill Kostroun-AP Photo

Monday, April 27, 2009

Game Seven awaits

So we move on to a Game 7 after a fired up Carolina Hurricane team played their best game of the series and dominated the visiting New Jersey Devils 4-0 to tie the Eastern Quarterfinal series at 3 apiece with the deciding game tomorrow night at the Rock.
Since its tough to describe anything when one does not score,its on to.....

Hell Raisers

1) A combination of a talented and desperate team holding home ice against a less than sharp team usually means a lopsided game and this one was just that.
The first five minutes was tight and looked like another great game,but a penalty on Mike Rupp (deserved) changed things and it was all Carolina from there.

2) I hammer on the southern teams for their lack of fans a lot,but the Carolina crowd made a difference last night.
The crowd was loud,into the game and acted like they weren't given free comp tickets.
Now if they can do that when the playoff aren't on line,I will gain even more respect for the Hurricane fans.

3) I have given compliments to Mike Mottau and Colin White during the series,but they were absolutely awful last night.
The Devils defenders have been less than stellar for the most part and will need to pick up their game tomorrow and especially against either possible opponent in Round 2-Pittsburgh or Washington....

4) Jamie Langenbrunner returned to the ice last night,but Bryce Salvador continued to miss time.
No word on a Salvador return for Game 7.

5) I dislike Eric Staal,but there can be no doubt that he was the dominant player last night.
Staal has the ability to be an elite player,but it seems that he doesn't always come to play every night,at least on the times that I have seen him.....

Bonus Rounds

Where have you gone Patrik Elias?

This would be so much easier to take if this was the Hartford Whalers wouldn't it?
At least hearing Brass Bonanza would have taken a little edge off four goals against...

The Pirates took games from San Diego on Saturday 10-1 and Sunday 8-3.
Zach Duke won Saturday to move to 3-1 with a one run effort over eight and a third innings,while Ross Ohlendorf beat Padre ace Jake Peavy to move to 2-2 on the year.
The Pirates are in Milwaukee tonight to start a three game set against the Brewers.

Pirate Hooks

1) I missed yesterdays game and only listened to Saturday's,but the Pirates are thus far banking some wins against teams that are more on their level,
I still don't see the .500 record that some are talking about,but a reasonable start before the trade deadline yard sale could help them avoid 100 losses...

2) Nate McLouth missed the entire series,but is still on the active roster.
No word on his status for the Brewer set.

3) Jack Wilson was placed on the DL with an injured finger and Brian Bixler was recalled from Indianapolis to take his place.
Here is hoping that Bixler is used as the full time starter in Wilson's absence as he should have been last season during a Wilson hiatus.

4) This could be Bixler's last chance at having a Pirate future and he should know it.
Brian knocked two runs in Sunday's loss
If Bixler can make the basic plays and not be a total rally killer at the plate,the Pirates could feel better about possibly adding Wilson to the trade block later this summer.

5) Two more Adam LaRoche homers?Five in April when his April total from the last five years was 11?
Keep up the hot hitting!

Bonus Round
Craig Hansen was also placed on the disabled list with neck spasms.
Hansen is ineligible to go to Indianapolis full time without clearing waivers,but he could go there on a rehab assignment when healthy.
Evan Meek was recalled from the I-Indians to replace Hansen on the roster.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Jeff Karstens (1-0 3.60 ERA) at Milwaukee:Braden Looper (2-0 2.12 ERA) 8:05

IF work doesn't call,I hope to use Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Thursday afternoon for Browns and Seahawks draft recaps and Pirate prospects series.
It is amazing how working a little extra takes things off the rails a bit.

Photo Credits
Hockey:Jerry Broome-AP Photo
Bixler:Lenny Ignelzi-AP Photo

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Seattle Seahawks Draft Preview

Seattle Fans are not very accustomed to picking this high in the draft and when you look at their roster, it should be just a one-year aberration.
However, this puts the Seahawks into a perfect situation in being able to add a top-five caliber player to a team that should be in contention for a playoff spot.
The question for Seattle GM Tim Ruskell is this-Do you take the best player on the board, take the best player at a position of need, or is this the time that you begin to groom your franchise QB?
For a 4-12 team, there are not many glaring holes although there are spots that could some upgrading.
Seattle owns all of their own picks except for their 5th rounder and in the 5th they have Detroit's which leads off the round.
Seattle has four picks in Round 7, so Seattle can either take a high upside project and/or a specialist and have some room to maneuver.
Here are our opinions of the Seahawks positions that could be addressed.

1) Tackle
Walter Jones is a perennial Pro Bowler, but he is 35 years old, has been somewhat injury-plagued, and was not up to his usual standards last season.
One does not have chances to sign top left tackles in free agency, as Jones has been Seattle's franchise player many times through the years, you have to draft them and develop them yourself.
With three top tackles in this draft, Seattle will have the chance to pick the successor to Jones and hope the pick plays anywhere near the caliber of Jones and his Hall of Fame level career,

2) Safety
The 4th overall pick is way too early to address the need at safety, but I have watched Brian Russell botch his way through both of my teams starting lineup at free safety and I am tired of it.
Deon Grant was decent enough last season, but he is entering the 10th year of his career and the backups of C.J.Wallace and Jamar Adams seem more like special teamers to me.
Jordan Babineaux makes big plays in the nickel and dime defenses but would be very vulnerable as a starter.
I am hopeful that the Hawks will address this no later than Round 3.

3) Guard
The Seahawks look solid enough with Rob Sims and Ray Willis, but the depth is very suspect and neither starter is Pro Bowl-bound anytime soon.
Look for Seattle to do what they did last year, take some offensive linemen in bulk later in the draft, and see if they can strike silver...

Matt Hasselbeck is 34 years old and has back issues.
Seneca Wallace has proven himself to be incapable of playing full-time and Charlie Frye was let go.
Seattle needs to address this in the middle rounds at least or if the Mark Sanchez rumors are true, they could begin to groom the eventual replacement.

5) Linebacker
Lofa Tatupu is still as good as they come on in the middle and Leroy Hill is solid on the one side, but the replacement for Julian Peterson is needed.
D.D Lewis and Will Herring aren't the answer and Seattle will need someone for at least some depth help, if not start outright.

Bonus Rounds

Wide Reciever
Seattle spent a ton of money of T.J. Houshmanzdeh and still have Deion Branch and Nate Burleson, but late-round fliers on Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor haven't worked out and I am not as high on Ben Obomanu as others.
A talented receiver could allow Burleson to do what he does best, return kicks, and run fly patterns.

Marcus Trufant is one of the games best and Josh Wilson is really coming along at the other corner, but there is next to nothing behind them.

Shawn's top wish list for Seattle in Round one, if the Seahawks stay at 4

1) Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry-best player available.
2) Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree-best offensive player available
3) Virginia T Eugene Monroe-Safest tackle among the top three tackles and least likely to be a bust.
4)Ohio State CB Malcolm Jenkins-Combine dropped his stock, but I have seen every game he played in college and he is a player.

The Pirates dropped a 4-3 verdict in 11 innings in San Diego to the Padres as former Pirate Brian Giles singled off closer Matt Capps (0-1) for the win.
The series continues tonight at 10:05 in San Diego

Pirate Hooks

1) Ian Snell singled in the Pirates' first run but had control problems all night with five walks over five innings.
Could it be that Snell is destined to be a Kris Benson type that occasionally shows you just how much potential he has, but more often than not frustrates the hell out of you?

2) Nate McLouth missed the game with a strained oblique muscle.
Nyjer Morgan moved to center, Brandon Moss to left and Eric Hinske played right.
No word on McLouth's status for this evening's game.

3) It would have been interesting to see the game move further in extra innings, just to see the results from Craig Hansen and Donald Veal.
Both have had trouble throwing strikes and Pirate fans remember the early season issues that Evan Meek had in similar situations last season.

4) I don't expect Jack Wilson to be a high average hitter, but I do expect things like being able to lay down a sac bunt, which Wilson failed at last night with a chance to move Nyjer Morgan to second with no one out...

5) Nice outing for Jesse Chavez from the bullpen.
The Padre announcers derided Chavez at first for his delivery but were admitting their mistakes by the time his night was finished.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh: Zach Duke (2-1 2.95 ERA) at San Diego: Shawn Hill (1-0 3.60 ERA) 10:05

Back later with a few words on the newest members of the Browns and Seahawks.

Photo Credit
Seahawks: Chris Creamer's sports logos
Monroe: Unknown
Wilson:Lenny Ignelzi-AP Photo

Friday, April 24, 2009

What a Game!

On a night that both goaltenders were outstanding,the Devils were the team that got a break off a deflection as David Clarkson redirected Andy Greene's shot by Cam Ward in the second period for the only goal of the evening and lifted the Devils to a 1-0 win over Carolina.
What an outstanding game played by both teams and who says low scoring games are boring?
This game sure did not fit that bill at all.
The Devils lead the series 3-2 and can clinch the series with a win in Carolina on Sunday.
Martin Brodeur stopped all 44 Carolina shots in earning the shutout.

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur set the record for career shutouts in the playoff in the game with 22.
Today's goalies have many more games to roll up such numbers,so keep that in perspective.
Brodeur was clearly on his game in this one as he faced more shots than in any playoff game that he has played in.

2) The David Clarkson power play goal was well earned by Clarkson,who was hammered and pounded by the Hurricanes all night.
My personal favorite was as Doc Emrick described it as a "Lacrosse style cross check".
I don't know much about lacrosse,but I do know its a penalty in hockey.

3) The Devils did do one thing that I disagreed with.
Cam Ward deserved being the third star after his great effort last night over Andy Greene,who took the honor for assisting on the Clarkson goal.
Maybe that was some payback for the antics from the Carolina fans after Game 4,but it seems petty to sink to their level.
Ward deserved the star.

4) Other than one penalty,I thought Colin White played very well.
White's game was very important with the loss of Bryce Salvador and he was able to add the physical play that was once a staple of his game.

5) No word on either Salvador or Jamie Langenbrunner's status for Game 6.
Considering the loss of two key players,the victory looks even better...

Bonus Round
Here is the game winner courtesy of David Clarkson!

The Pirates are in San Diego tonight for the start of their three game series with the Padres.

Pitching Matchup
Pittsburgh:Ian Snell (1-2 4.24 ERA) at San Diego:Kevin Correja (0-1 4.09 ERA) 10:05

Slow day,so no bullpen notes.
I hope to be back later with a Seahawks draft preview.

Photo Credits
Hockey:Bill Koustroun-AP Photo

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cleveland Browns Draft Preview

The latest new era of Cleveland Browns football starts on Saturday as the Browns will attempt to build again from the devastation left behind by an inept front office.
Eric Mangini and George Kokinis have only five draft picks after former GM Phil Savage's foolish draft day deals last season that brought the Browns zero production from any of the three players(Beau Bell,Martin Rucker and Paul Hubbard) that Cleveland made trades to select.
Cleveland holds their own 1st,2nd,4th and 6th and the Browns also possess the second round pick of Tampa from the Kellen Winslow deal.
The Browns are involved in lots of rumors from trading down from the 5th pick in Round one,trading any or all of Braylon Edwards,Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn.
One would hope that any deals would help fill in some picks on the drafts second day and help make up for the missing third round selection as well.

The Browns need to hit on this years draft or dig deeper into a already large hole.
Here are our opinions on the positions of need.

1) Linebacker
The Browns desperately need a linebacker that can rush the passer off the corner.
Kamerion Wimbley has proven to be unable to do this and the one linebacker that played well last year in D'Qwell Jackson plays one of the inside spots.
Veteran Eric Barton comes over from the Jets at the other inside spot,but he is a short term solution at best.
Alex Hall was hyped as a potential find last season as a pass rusher,but he didn't see the field often after the Browns stumbled.
I still have hopes for Hall,but he cannot figured as a sure thing quite yet
The remaining backers are either disappointments such as Leon Williams,special team types like Shante Orr or newcomers that are stop gap performers such as David Bowens.
This is the position of need-Count on at least one and maybe two linebackers coming to Cleveland on Day one.

2) Wide Receiver
Braylon Edwards was not only bad last season,he could be Cleveland history as soon as Saturday.
As happy as I will be to see Edwards move on,that drives the position in even further south.
Donte Stallworth was a huge disappointment last season and with his off the field troubles may be gone as well.Joe Jurevcious was released during the off season.
Josh Cribbs may be used more in the offense,but the concern is that increasing his playing time could take away from the excellence that he brings to all facets of special teams.
The Browns starting wideouts as of now,if Edwards is dealt would be Syndric Steptoe and aging free agent signee David Patten.
With that bunch,the question isn't Quinn or Anderson,it's dead or alive.
Cleveland should use a first day pick on a pass catcher.

3) Safety
The Browns need help here too as Sean Jones left Cleveland to sign with the Eagles and Brodney Pool is nothing special on the other side.Backups Mike Adams provides help in extra DB situations and Nick Sorensen is a special teams standout,but neither is a full timer in the making.
Corey Ivy is a free agent addition from Baltimore,but is closer to Adams than a real starter.
The Browns need a safety,but unless additional picks are acquired,they may run out of picks to help every position of need.

4) Defensive End
Cleveland is solid at tackle with Shaun Rogers,but Corey Williams was the biggest disappointment of the season to me after the Browns gave Green Bay their second round choice last year to get him.
Williams doesn't seem to fit the 3-4 defense that Romeo Crennel played and Eric Mangini will play and once you get by him,you have only the often-injured Robaire Smith and a bunch of roster filler types.

5) Running Back
Jamal Lewis is out of gas and the silly contract Phil Savage signed him for makes it a bit of an albatross as well.
Jerome Harrison was productive on the rare times that Crennel used him and should be used in the effective manner that Mangini used Leon Washington on the Jets,but Harrison still isn't a full time back.
Noah Herron and Allen Patrick were productive college backs,but neither are the type of back to take command as a starter.
If Edwards gets moved and extra picks are added,a running back would make a lot of sense

Bonus Round
Cleveland could take a quarterback in the sixth or later if they can make a few deals,especially if it involves Anderson or Quinn,
Richard Bartel is the only other QB on the roster,so this would not surprise me at all.

Shawn's top wish list for Round one,if the Browns stay at 5
1) Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry-The best defender in the draft and at a position of need.
Question is does he fall to 5?

2) Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree-Crabtree has the best hands I have seen from the college ranks in a while.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran two articles in 12 hours that one stated the Browns loved him,the
other said they wanted no part of him.
Which is the truth?
Beats me,but I do know this,if Curry is gone and Crabtree is passed over,the Browns will regret it.

3) If both of those are gone,I am hoping the Browns trade down.
The names that I am hearing don't thrill me.
Texas DE/LB Brian Orakpo seems like Kamerion Wimbley part II,Lineman Andre Smith,Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe aren't at position of immediate need and the rumors of Mark Sanchez are hopefully just that.
A trade down that could land them a solid linebacker later in Round one and pick up a needed third rounder would make a ton of sense,if Curry and Crabtree are off the board.

Photo Credits
Logo:Chris Creelmans Sports Logos
Curry and Crabtree:Unknown

Pirates sweep the Marlins.

Still trying to find time for the promised series,but I planned on knocking some of those out last night,but was called into work.

The Pirates completed a three game sweep of the Marlins behind four hits from Adam LaRoche (really!) with a 7-4 getaway day victory.
Paul Maholm was the winner in moving to 3-0 and Matt Capps grabbed save number five.
The Pirates are off today as the team travels to San Diego for a weekend series.

Shorter post today as I have to get to bed,if I want to watch Game 5 of the Devils-Hurricanes tonight,if time permits,I hope to get either the Browns or Seahawks draft preview pounded on the surf.

Pirate Hooks

1) Paul Maholm was not as sharp as he was in his first three starts,but the Bucco bats picked him up for a change as usually it is the other way around.
The lefty ace of the staff allowed four runs over six innings.

2) Maholm looked good for the first three innings and then appeared to weaken in the 4th and 5th innings before hitting the wall in a two run Marlin sixth.
It could be just a issue of following up on three longer outings in the early season cold weather catching up to him yesterday.

3) The LaRoche brothers both are on the warpath as usually slow starting Adam rapped three hits,while little brother Andy had two RBI and moved his average above .200 for the first time all season.

4) As I watched the game,I commented to Ryan about this series being a surprise with Florida being the hottest team in the league.
He quickly blew that out of the water with this quote "Their record was so good because they have played a home and home already with Washington".
That put that in perspective in a hurry!

5) More funnies from Ryan.
As Freddy Sanchez rounded third in trying to score from second on a Nate McLouth single.
Ryan:"He's out"
One second later
Ryan:"Never mind,I forgot who was catching".
Sanchez safe.(Picture above)
The catcher in question?
Former Pirate Ronny Paulino,who predictably didn't catch the throw and Ryan changed his mind before the ball left Cameron Maybin's hand.

Hopefully back later!

Photo Credit
Sanchez:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Robbery in Raleigh! Doumit to DL!

The Carolina Hurricanes are doing their job,if the referees did theirs,the Devils and Hurricanes might still be playing.
Since they didn't and swallowed their whistles on what proved to be the second Carolina goal of the night that was aided by goaltender interference,Carolina's Jussi Jokinen's deflection beat Marty Brodeur with just two tenths of a second before a potential overtime for a 4-3 Carolina win and tied the series at two games apiece.
Carolina raced to an early 3-0 lead and controlled the contest until a late second period Brian Gionta goal put the Devils on the scoreboard.
Brendan Shanahan and David Clarkson each scored in the third period to tie the game and set up the controversial ending.

Hell Raisers

1) Check out the clip below at 27 seconds for the wipeout on Chad LaRose's goal (which was the worse of the two) and at a bit over the minute mark for the game winner.
Marty's reaction after the game and in the locker room sums it all up.

2) So you think I am a disgruntled Devils fan today?
True,but read this from the actual NHL Rulebook,which is used on occasion from what I have been hearing.

69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words,goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.

Watch the replay,does it look to you that Jokinen was attempting to get out of the way in any way,shape or form?

3) More complaining.
A comment over at In Lou We Trust that I cannot find right now brings up an interesting thought on why it wasn't called.
Could it be that the arbiters saw the play,thought the game was going to overtime and didn't want to handicap either team with a penalty kill to start OT?
Perhaps,but if that is so,the game isn't called that way.
So many officials in different sports get themselves into trouble by trying to anticipate what WILL happen instead of calling what DID happen.

4) As much as the Devil comeback was exciting and I will always feel that the Devils would have won this one as Carolina was stunned and on their heels,they played two lousy periods of hockey.
They should have never had to make such a comeback to begin with.

5) Bryce Salvador left the game in the second period after a Hurricane fell on his knee during a net scrum.
Not a dirty play,just one of those freak things that happen.
Salvador's status for Game 5 is unknown.

Bonus Rounds

Look for Marty Brodeur to be fined for his post game comments about the "terrific"job that the officials did in the contest.
Honesty hurts sometimes,Bettman!

We state this SO often, but Brodeur's defensemen are allowing these tactics around the net.
I don't blame Carolina,I blame the Devils for not stopping them.
With the exception of Bryce Salvador and maybe (Only a maybe) Colin White,none of the other guys attempt to move guys out and do anything about this.

Niclas Havelid has been awful in this series,If I was Brent Sutter,I would consider Andy Greene (Faster skater) or Jay Leach (Far more physical) to dress in Game 5 in place of Havelid.

The Pirate squeaked by the Florida Marlins 3-2 in Pittsburgh behind six solid innings from winner Jeff Karstens (1-0).
The Pirates scored single runs in each of the first three innings.
Freddy Sanchez hit his second homer of the season and Matt Capps shut down the Marlins in the ninth for his 4th save of the season.
The teams finish the series today at 12:35 as the Pirates prepare for a six day road trip that takes them to San Diego and Milwaukee.

Pirate Hooks

The big news of the day was the loss of Ryan Doumit for the next eight to ten weeks to wrist surgery.
Jason Jaramillo will share time with Robinzon Diaz,who was recalled from Indianapolis following Doumit's placement on the DL.
The power loss will be huge for the Pirates,but so will the leadership as Doumit was beginning to grasp the reigns of team leader.

This will be a huge chance for both of the catchers to prove their worth as everyday players.
The Pirates would love nothing more than for one of them to bust out and prove their capabilities of being every day players and become a valuable trading chip.

Not very many Pirate hooks as I missed the game,the downside to my new hours that start on 5/3 is that I will miss the end of some games as I go and will have to finish on the XM bird.
Radio baseball is terrific and is the best game for the audio wave,but you depend on what someone is telling you and it makes it tough to have concrete opinions sometimes on things that you don't see.

Pitching Matchup
Florida:Ricky Nolasco (1-1 6.60 ERA) at Pittsburgh:Paul Maholm (2-0 0.87 ERA) 12:35

Bullpen Notes

Question-Do the Detroit Lions have any clue at all?
Name me any business that sets a all time record for ineptitude,keeps the person in charge in charge for years longer than anyone can figure out why and then when you do fire that person replaces him with the individual that was his assistant in creating the mess.....

And finally,I have always been a huge fan of Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express.
Actually,not sure if I have ever met a bigger fan,but Cornette now has a website (kinda surprising from an avowed PC hater) and his latest post spells out my feelings on why Pro Wrestling (with the exception of NOAH from Japan,thanks Brandon) is unwatchable.
Cornette is on the mark as usual.

Photo Credits
Hockey:Karl DeBlaker-AP Photo
Gload:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Outstanding Ohlendorf

Ross Ohlendorf showed what his possibilities could be for the first time as a Pirate with a tremendous 2 hit winning effort (1-2) over seven innings as the Pirates cruised to a 8-0 win over Florida before a small and rain soaked crowd at PNC Park.
Nate McLouth homered (4) in the sixth for the only Bucco blast.
The series continues tonight at 7:05

Pirate Hooks

1) Ross Ohlendorf was terrific in his best outing as a Pirate.
The Princeton product told the Post-Gazette that he was throwing the slider and changeup more than in his first two starts because he saw the Marlins as a fastball hitting team.
It would be easy to say keep up the system as he pitched so well,but it would be true as well.
Using all the pitches that you have in the toolbox is always a good idea and Ohlendorf was pretty one dimensional in his first two starts.

2) Andrew Miller allowed 4 runs in 4 and two thirds before leaving the game with a pulled oblique muscle and was placed on the disabled list following the game.
Miller seemed to have good stuff,but has real problems holding runners on as he allowed three stolen bases in the game.

3) The homer by Nate McLouth landed in the river on the bounce becoming the 24th player to put a ball in the river by any and all means.
Daryle Ward is still the only player to hit a pitch into the river on the fly.

4) Still no word on the wrist injury to Ryan Doumit after the MRI was inconclusive.
A CT scan is scheduled for today in another attempt to check the seriousness.
Jason Jaramillo caught last night and will start today,but look for him to share time with Robinzon Diaz,if Doumit has to go on the DL.
Despit Jaramillo being currently the next in line,I would think the Pirates look at Jaramillo as better suited to being the backup and Diaz is equally regarded talent wise,so they could platoon,if Diaz get the recall from Indianapolis.

5) Not sure how much of tonight's game that I will catch due to Devils coverage.
I will try to watch what I can.

Pitching Matchup
Florida:Anibal Sanchez (1-0 1.64 ERA) at Pittsburgh:Jeff Karstens (0-0 6.75 ERA) 7:05

Bullpen Notes

The New Jersey Devils attempt to gain a commanding 3-1 lead in their series against Carolina tonight at 7:30.
A win here and the Devils are in great shape,a loss and its anyones bet....

Torry Holt signed with the Jaguars for three years.
I have been a long time Holt fan,but this isn't a great move.
Jacksonville has always been a run oriented team and David Garrard is far from the ideal passer for a receiver attempting to revitalize his career.

Rumors still flying for both the Browns and Seahawks.
Cleveland has had both Braylon Edwards and Brady Quinn mentioned in trade rumors,while Seattle is rumored to have quietly leaked interest in USC passer Mark Sanchez to allow teams that have interest in Sanchez to look into obtaining Seattle's pick.

I hope to use the next two days to work on the draft preview and at least start the Pirates top 15 prospects series..

Photo Credit
Ohlendorf:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Monday, April 20, 2009

Zajac rebound lifts Devils to Game 3 win in OT

Travis Zajac slammed a rebound off his own previous shot past Carolina's Cam Ward five minutes into overtime to give the New Jersey Devils the 3-2 win in Game 3,take back the home ice advantage and regain the lead in the series two games to one.
The regulation Devils goals were scored by (who else?) Zach Parise and Brian Gionta
The series returns to Raleigh for Game 4 tomorrow night.....

Hell Raisers

1) The injury to Jamie Langenbrunner caused him to miss last night's game and tomorrow nights Game 4.
Langenbrunner is expected to rejoin for the return to New Jersey in Game 5.

2) Bobby Holik was returned to the lineup to take the place of Langenbrunner.

3) The Devils fired 35 shots at Cam Ward,which marked the third time in the series that the Devils were able to put 30+ shots on net.

4) The Devils power play swung and missed as they have for most of the series-the Devils are a lowly 1 of 14 on the man advantage...

5) This is obvious,but Zach Parise is showing why he might be the most underrated player in the league.
Three goals in three games,Parise has singlehandedly been the Devils offense over the last two games...

Bullpen Notes

Ryan Doumit apparently injured his wrist in yesterday's game against Atlanta.
Doumit is getting an MRI on the wrist now.
Doumit would have likely sat anyway against Florida lefty Andrew Miller...

Former Indian farmhand Brian Barton was sent to Atlanta for reliever Blaine Boyer.
This seems to be the typical Atlanta low cost pickup for a player that could prove to be very helpful.
The Tribe lost Barton in the Rule 5 draft before the 2008 season.

The Detroit Lions made some mild changes to their logo.
The lion is now "fiercer".
The Lions have now tweaked their logo/uniforms twice in the last few years and as usually happens downgraded each time.

Photo Credit:Gerry Broome-AP Photo

Seamhead edition

The Pirates split two games with the visiting Atlanta Braves,winning Saturday 10-0 and losing yesterday 11-1.
Ian Snell was the Saturday winner (1-2) and Zach Duke was hammered in the loss on Sunday (2-1).
I missed the win (non-televised here) and most of the loss (it was 6-0 when I started watching and I went to bed).

The Pirates are scheduled to play Florida tonight,but the forecast does not look very favorable for the game to be played with the Northeast be blanketed by rain...
But just in case.

Pitching Matchup
Florida:Andrew Miller (0-0 6.43 ERA) at Pittsburgh:Ross Ohlendorf (0-2 4.91 ERA) 7:05

Pirate Hooks

1) Nice to see Ian Snell show his stuff in a positive fashion for a change.
The toolbox is there for Snell the question is does he have the mental capabilities to deal with difficulty.

2) Craig Monroe smacked two homers in the win.
That ought to buy him some extra time as a pinch hitter....

3) Delwyn Young made his Bucco debut as well in the series going hitless in two at bats.
Word is that the Pirates plan on using him occasionally at second and third base.
I don't feel very confident on that working out,but we will see..

4) Craig Hansen took a step back after two nice outings in the Sunday loss.
Just when you think,maybe......

5) Donald Veal pitched in the game as well,walking four and allowing a run.
I didn't see his appearance,but to me,I just don't see the people that are griping about him staying on the team.
His stuff is there,he needs control work and Joe Kerrigan is an excellent teacher.
Keep him around as the mop up man,let him learn and work with Kerrigan and then send him to Indianapolis for next season.
Veal has potential,which is more than I can say for the majority of the pitchers that hold a similar spot on other teams....

Bonus Round
Hopefully rain will not cost us a shot at looking at Andrew Miller in the Marlins series.
Miller was rated as the top pitcher in the draft in which the Pirates took Brad Lincoln and the Pirates bailed on Miller due to cost,Scott Boras or poor evaluating by Dave Littlefield and it would not surprise me if it was all three.
Of course,in hindsight-you take Tim Lincecum over all of them.

On the signing front
Lakewood was a better team than Delmarva,even though I didn't have as much for them.
Travis D'Arnaud signed and was nice enough and Jeremy Hamilton was as well.

Ebay pickup;Duke Snider!

I went to the Frederick Keys season opening series for their game against the Salem Red Sox.
As always the Boston farm teams are not one of the better teams for signing,but I did reasonably as I was able to get the four guys that I wanted the most in Ryan Kalish (pretty cool),Jason Place,Yamaico Navarro and Kyle Weiland (signed,but kinda distant).
Salem has two Taiwanese players and I didn't even mess with them.
They don't understand English (or so they claim) and I saw them displeased with others that asked.
Life is too short to have to deal with that stuff....

I have pretty much been able to pick up the Hagerstown guys so far with two exceptions,they have not been problems,just haven't gotten to them yet.
My clear favorite thus far has been Derek Norris.
Norris combines being an excellent signer with being the Suns top prospect which is a pretty nice combination.

With no Suns or Keys this week,one would think that the blog would be light,but you would be wrong as with the extra time,we will (hopefully) begin the Pirates top prospect series,work on the Browns and Seahawks draft preview and continuing Devils and Pirates coverage....

Back later with the Devils huge overtime win at N.C. State!

Photo Credit
Monroe:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Devils lose in OT,Pirates blank braves

This will be a short post as I will get a brief nap before a afternoon game in Frederick.

The New Jersey Devils lost the home serve last night in losing Game 2 at the Rock to Carolina.
The series is now tied at one with the next two games taking place in Wolfpack Country.

Hell Raisers

1) What has been the one topic that I have been the most critical of this season of the New Jersey Devils?
Likely,it has been the lack of effective aggression by the defensemen in clearing the crease in front of the goaltender.
A Tim Gleason shot in overtime that deflected off the skate of the immobile Nicklas Havelid,who was creating a double screen of Martin Brodeur with Carolina's Eric Staal gave the Hurricanes the 2-1 win and exactly what they wanted in the series-a split of the two games at the Rock.

2) Havelid was not even attempting to jostle Staal out of the crease,he looked more like he shadowed Staal without extremely light contact.
This is exactly what I have been both critical of and worried about all season,the lack of toughness when push comes to shove (so to speak) from the defensive unit with the arguable exception of Bryce Salvador.

3) Jamie Langenbrunner left the game with the dreaded lower body injury and no ward on his status for Game 3.
Langenbrunner's potential loss would be a huge one in forcing a shakeup on the Devil top line.

4) Zach Parise scored the only Devil goal (power play) in period one and has now scored a point in his last five playoff games.
The Prince seems to be all over the ice and could be the difference maker for New Jersey.

5)The Devils did have a goal taken off the board in the first period by Travis Zajac after replays showed it was hit with a high stick.
It was-good call.

Bonus Round
The Devils power play struggles continue as New Jersey was a poor 1 for 6 on the game.
Carolina played tougher and more physically than in Game 1,but they were sloppy at times as well.
This was a winnable game and a disappointing loss.
Game 3 is Sunday at 7;30 at N.C State.

The Pirates used another outstanding seven innings from Paul Maholm (2-0) and a late insurance homer from Nate McLouth (3) off former Pirate lefty Mike Gonzalez to lift the Pirates to a 3-0 win in the curtain raiser against the Braves at PNC Park.
Andy LaRoche's infield ground out was the only run that the Pirates scored off starter Jair Jurrjens and it held up until McLouth stretched the lead with the eighth inning homer.
Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his third save of the year.
The teams hook it up today at 12;35 with Atlanta using emergency callup Jo Jo Reyes as their starter.
No TV likely due to the "Fox rule"

Pitching Matchup
Atlanta:Jo Jo Reyes Season Debut at Pittsburgh:Ian Snell 0-2 7.20 ERA

Due to time constraints,I will try to do either a extra large Pirate Hooks tomorrow or Monday as a look back at the series

Photo Credits
Hockey:Bill Koustroun-AP Photo
McLouth:John Heller-AP Photo

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pirates lose lead,first look at Jack McGeary

The Pirates jumped on Russ Ortiz for three runs in the first two innings,but the offense was punchless thereafter in a 6-3 loss to the Astros.
Sean Burnett allowed a three run shot to Lance Berkman that broke a 3 all tie in picking up the loss.(0-1).
The Pirates host Atlanta tonight at 7:05

Pirate Hooks

1) Want to hear some head shaking numbers from the positive side of the ledger?
3 hits from Nyjer Morgan and 2 from Adam LaRoche!
Unexpected to be sure.

2) Andy LaRoche finally added his first hit of the year in the loss,but just one....

3) Jeff Karstens was handed an early lead and responded by allowing runs in the 2nd,3rd and 4th innings.
The Pirates were fortunate to escape with that little bit of damage.
Houston misfired on two opportunities for bigger innings and Karstens threw 87 pitches in just four innings
On a decent team,Karstens would be the mop-up man or in the AAA rotation.

4) Another nice inning of work for Craig Hansen out of the pen,I still have hopes for Hansen if he can continue to harness his control.

5) Jason Jaramillo made his big league debut and singled for his first big league hit.
Day games are most likely when the former Phillie will see most of his game time.

Pitching Matchup

Atlanta:Jair Jurrjens 2-0 2.45 ERA at Pittsburgh:Paul Maholm 1-0 1.32 ERA 7:05

I am going to tonight's Suns-Blue Claws game to work on autographs,but I am not sure if I am staying or not yet.
I may come home and watch the Devils-Hurricanes Game 2 live.

Last nights Hagerstown-Lakewood game was interesting as it was the first time that I will have a chance to see touted lefthander Jack McGeary.
On a Suns teams that is not loaded with top prospects,McGeary and catcher Derek Norris stand out as the two players to keep a close eye.
McGeary was sharp for the first two innings,but in the third (he also pitched to two batters in the fourth) he began to bounce his curve in front of the plate.
McGeary was looked at by the trainer in the third,but remained in the game.
The New England native finished with an abnormally high six walks in the stint that contributed to his five earned runs on only four hits.
He didn't seem to throwing overwhelmingly hard,but that is not the forte' of McGeary on most scouting reports.
We will have more on McGeary as the season goes along.

Lakewood won 11-9 in 10 innings,I had to leave after seven to go to work.
I did find another Phillie prospect that I liked a lot though after last year being so impressed with Dominic Brown.
First baseman Jeremy Hamilton came into the game struggling,but smacked out 3 hits (on my scorecard) officially two.
I really like Hamilton's swing....

Back tomorrow with more Pirates,Devils and perhaps Suns.

Photo Credit
Berkman:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Devils control Game 1 win,Pirates lose

gMike Mottau scored the only goal of the first period and the New Jersey Devils never looked back in winning the first game of their series against the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.
Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner each finished with a goal and an assist,while the other Devil goal went to Patrik Elias.
The series resumes at the Rock on Friday night.

Hell Raisers

1) The Mottau goal set the tone for how the game would finish as Cam Ward set this up himself as he attempted to sweep the puck down the ice himself instead making the simple brush over to the defenseman.
Mottau was in the right place and the wrist shot seemed to surprise Ward more than beating him.

2) Carolina's goal made me start to wonder about things in the third period when they seemed to gain some spark on Ray Whitney's shot,but the goal by Jamie Langenbrunner just seconds later knocked the wind out of Carolina for the night.

3) Interesting note from Doc Emrick during the game.Carolina has ten players remaining from their Stanley Cup winning team of a few years back,but the Canes have not played a playoff game (before last night) since winning the Cup.
Ten is an awful high number considering their troubles since that night.

4) Martin Brodeur played well in net,but he only faced 19 shots and hopefully that was due to the Devils blueliners holding Carolina in check and not because the Canes were listless.
Either way,the Carolina offense was nowhere to be found and at least some of the credit has to go the Devils way.

5) I wrote in the preview that I was not as big of a Cam Ward fan as others,but even though he allowed four goals in the game last night,the Devils had many excellent opportunities-it could been six or seven goals very easily.

Bonus Round

Nice night for the "grizzled" line of John Madden,Jay Pandolfo and Brendan Shanahan as Brent Sutter seemed to try to match them up as much as he could against Carolina's top line of Eric Staal,Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu.
They held the Canes top line off the scoreboard and the three only put four shots on net all evening.
IF that becomes a trend,this will be a shorter series than expected.

The Pirates hosted the Houston Astros and the seemingly always injured Mike Hampton at PNC Park and was totally inept against the veteran southpaw in a 4-1 loss to Houston.
The Bucs avoided the shutout with Adam LaRoche's solo blast (3) to lead off the ninth.
Houston finishes up their visit today at 12:35 with another seemingly washed up warhorse in Russ Ortiz.

Pitching Matchup
Houston:Russ Ortiz 0-0 6.75 ERA at Pittsburgh:Jeff Karstens Season Debut

Pirate Hooks

1) Remember the last time Russ Ortiz dragged his tattered reputation to the mound against the Pirates?
The Pirates have a wonderful tendency to make pitchers that have either always been crap look great or allow once solid hurlers to re-live their prime days.
Such as ....

2) Mike Hampton.
Hampton shut the Bucs out for six innings and allowed just four hits-all singles.
Eight strikeouts too.

3) Jeff Karstens makes a delayed bow for 2009 after the rainout in Cincinnati caused him to be skipped in the rotation to allow the top four starters to stay on the same amount of rest.

4) Nothing against Jackie Robinson or the sentiment behind all players wearing the number 42,but I can see how anyone that is less than a hardcore fan could be confused as hell....

5) Ross Ohlendorf allowed 4 runs in five innings and just didn't seem to be throwing that hard.
Ohlendorf's reputation is as a power arm and if his velocity is down,he becomes very hittable.

Bonus Round

Adam LaRoche at .267 and three homers?
If LaRoche can keep up that average pace and then do his usual second half rush,the Bucs could pick up a valuable piece or two for the lefty first sacker.

Andy LaRoche: two more at bats and moved his stellar start to 0 for 18.

On the Signing Front

Not a terrific start in the two games that Delmarva played in Hagerstown (Wednesday's game was rained out),but there were extenuating circumstances.
The home opener is always tougher than most because of various ceremonies for the opener.
And Tuesday was so rainy and dreary that Ryan and I were the only collectors there and that can be tough because players can get by you.
After all,when you are by yourself,you cant stop them all!

I was able to add a few Suns,most notably Stephen Englund and Brad Peacock.
Those two were nice additions because it marked the first team set that I have ever purchased that I was able to have every player sign.
That doesn't sound that tough until you consider players going up,going down,traded,released etc.
Delmarva added most of their top prospects.
L.J Hoes signed some but not all,so I will need to finish him up next time.
Xavier Avery,Elvin Polanco and Tyler Kolodny signed as well as Jedidah Stephen,who added a GO BUCKS to his card as well.

Not bad,considering the way things went.
I really don't have very much for the Lakewood Blue Claws,as it seems like many of the players at Williamsport last season (the logical previous step) are not at Lakewood.
I do need to add the Claws two highest rated prospects in catcher Travis D'arnaud (brother of Pirate prospect Chase) and first baseman Jeremy Hamilton.
Lakewood usually has names on the back of the jerseys and we will need them this time as only a few players have numbers listed on the Blue Claws and MiLB sites.....

Saturday will be our first shot at the Salem Red Sox in Frederick.
The Sox have an uneven reputation for signing (as most Boston teams do),but we will just see how it goes.....

Photo Credits
Goal:Bill Koustroun-AP
Hampton:Keith Srakocic-AP

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Which way will the wind blow?

The New Jersey Devils certainly have had a recent look at their playoff opponent as their final regular season game was against the same Carolina Hurricanes and it was the only time in the teams four meetings that the Devils came out on top.

I had concerns about each of the three teams that the Devils entered the final weekend with possibilities of playing.
Pittsburgh has the outstanding talent,Philadelphia has the rivalry,while Carolina is one of those fly under the radar teams that are so scary to play in the first round.
I always had a soft spot for the Hartford Whalers and the way the Hurricanes left the town always bothered me,along with the lack of support that the southern teams always give their teams makes me dislike Carolina far more than I usually would.
In any event,it is Carolina and they enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league,but remember that is not always a barometer of playoff success,remember the Devils of 06-07,who roared out of nowhere to win the division title and resulted in playoff disappointment.
Many times teams that play their best hockey late in the season find the gas tank low when they need it most.

Carolina is paced by 40 goals scorer Eric Staal,team point leader Ray Whitney (who it seems like played with Bobby Orr) and Tuomo Ruutu,who makes the list of the day lower in the post.
The Hurricanes also have an aspect the Devils do not with not just one but two scoring threats from the defensive corps with Anton Babchuk (16 goals) and Joe Corvo (14).
The Devils lack any defender with the scoring capability of either player and that has helped to choke off offensive flow from the Devil power play at times this season.
I am not as big of a fan of Cam Ward as others are,but when Ward gets on a roll-he has the potential to dominate a series.
The Hurricanes also return one of my most hated players in Erik Cole after shipping him to Edmonton in the off season and Cole could play a big part in the series as he has had success in the past against the Devils.

Barring any last minute changes-the Devils will have the following lineup for tonight.

Forwards: Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias-Dainius Zubrus-Brian Gionta; Jay Pandolfo-John Madden-Brendan Shanahan; Mike Rupp-Brian Rolston-David Clarkson.

Defensemen: Johnny Oduya-Paul Martin; Colin White-Mike Mottau; Bryce Salvador-Niclas Havelid.

Goaltender: Martin Brodeur.

Healthy scratches will be Andy Greene,Jay Leach,Pierre LeBlond,Rod Pelley (Up from Lowell) and Bobby Holik.

The Hurricanes are capable of winning this series and considering the way the Devils finished the season,I can see why some observers are picking Carolina to pull the only upset in the first round.But the Devils are more well rounded,better defensively and have an edge in net.

Devils in six.

List of the day

Five forwards that I have always wanted to see the Devils acquire.This list is not always the most talented,just guys that I like the way they play the game and would be a good fit in Red and Black.

1:Milan Lucic-Boston

2:Olli Jokinen-Calgary

3:Tuomo Ruutu-Carolina

4:Richard Park-New York Islanders

5:Vinny Prospal-Tampa Bay

Don't forget to take our new poll!

Photo Credits-Chris Creamers Sports Logo Page

Mark Fidrych and some Pirate talk

The recent passing of Mark "the Bird" Fidrych is in many ways,the final link to a time of innocence.
Oh,please don't get me wrong,1976 was far from innocent,but the world was a much different place.
A world of local sports at 6 and 11,AM radio and the ever present newspaper was your connection to not only sports,but the world.
Cable was in its infancy and stations that all of us take for granted today,existed either in people's heads or were in the smallest planning stages.

SO when a personality comes out of nowhere to take a season by storm in the seventies,one can deduce that it likely was from sheer personality,not a contrived campaign to get attention.
If Mark Fidrych came along today,you would likely (no matter how charming the personality) be tired of him within a month.
ESPN among others would bombard the country with Fidrych within a matter of weeks and soon he would be just another overexposed athlete.

Baseball had its share of colorful players around this time,Pete Rose,Reggie Jackson to name just a few,but the game had seen no player like "the Bird" in the television age.
Quirky and had there been such a thing as Ritalin in mainstream 1976,Mark Fidrych would have made a ton of money as their top pitchman as his natural personality and exuberance stood out among some pretty stodgy players.
Mark Fidrych was a rock and roll player,you would have never seen Fidyrch on Hee Haw like Johnny Bench for sure and the children and teenagers of the time loved him for it.

Fidrych really hit the national scene in June of 1976 when Monday Night Baseball came to Detroit for Fidrych's start against the eventual American League champions Yankees.
Usually only the top teams were on that broadcast,but the fever was beginning to spread about the righthander that was increasing attendance in Detroit for the mediocre Tigers.
Fidrych fired a complete game in the 5-1 Tiger win,television was enthralled and so were baseball fans.
The Bird finished 19-9 and finished with 24 complete games in 29 starts,compare that to the leader in baseball in 2008-Roy Halladay with 9.
Baseball has changed in that respect and one could argue that Fidrych's career was ruined long term by the events of 1976,but I would wager that he would not change very much considering how well a one year wonder was always remembered.

I was eight years old in 1976,playing organized baseball for the first time and Mark Fidrych was not only an influence on me on the field,but many others.
I can only imagine how many little league managers were driven nuts in the late 70's by antics that kids took from Fidrych and added to their pre-teen repertoire.
I remember quite a few games when I pitched where the impersonations likely drove my dad over the top,talking to the ball,jumping on the mound between pitches like I was on an invisible pogo stick etc.

I can see where that could be annoying and looking back,if I managed myself-I think I would have been ready to pull my hair out!
However,the antics were fun and I don't remember any people getting really mad at me or any other practitioners,it was all in fun unlike many of the look at me players and their choreographed stunts of today.
One never had the feeling that Fidrych was planning any of this routine,just a big gawky kid having a good time and if he made a few bucks off this,then that was a bonus.

Rarely,does it seem like a player that is one of the people make it to the top anymore.
Mark Fidrych seemed like a normal guy that played because it was fun,the money was nice and no one turns money down,but he seemed like he was almost childlike in his enjoyment of what he did and maybe that is why he is fondly remembered by a generation that now is in their forties.

Pirate hooks

Isn't great to see Zach Duke off to such a good start?
2-0 and an ERA under 1!
This is far too small of a sample to say Duke has returned to the form of his rookie season,but perhaps it took this long to finally get the Jim Colborn influence out of his game???

The Pirates host Houston tonight at PNC Park and I will be checking in on them during the Devils Game 1 effort against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ross Ohlendorf faces off against Mike Hampton at 7:05 weather permitting.

The Pirates and Neal Huntington have lusted for Dodger outfielder Delwyn Young for a long time and when Los Angeles designated him for assignment on Monday,it didn't take a mind much larger than Dave Littlefield's to figure out that either Young was coming to Pittsburgh or the Pirates were going to make every effort to do so.
It was the former as Young was acquired for two players to be named later.
What I wonder about (beside the two players going to LA) is where Young will play in the outfield.
I find it hard to believe that the Pirates were so excited about getting Young over the winter that now that they have him,that they will sit him.
This could be bad news for either Nyjer Morgan or Brandon Moss of the starters or likely (after finishing a possible rehab assignment) making Craig Monroe's stay in Pittsburgh a short one.
I suppose Luis Cruz could be shipped to the minors to keep Monroe as well.
Stay tuned...

Andy LaRoche does not have a hit and leads the team in errors.
So why do I think he should still be in the lineup?
Because you know what you have in Ramon Vasquez,you aren't sure yet in LaRoche (even though it looks pretty bad).
Keep running him out there for a while,give Neil Walker longer in Indianapolis (Walker is off to a good start thus far) and see where everything stands on June 1st....

Finally,I will be back later today (hopefully) with the Devils playoff preview,and later tonight with coverage of both the Devils and the Pirates.
I hope within a week or so to do our annual analysis of the Pirate farm systems top 15 prospects and talk a bit to Wilbur Miller when we do that.

Photo Credits
Two Birds:Lane Stewart-SI