Saturday, June 27, 2009

Devils grab Josefson,Pirates whip Royals.

The New Jersey Devils and Lou Lamoriello did what they do best yesterday in the first round of the NHL Draft-find a player that is falling far further than he should have and then find a way to put him in Red and Black.
That is how a player rated in the top 15 prospects and as the third best skater among Europeans in the draft slipped to 20th and Lamoriello leaped into action shipping the Devils third round pick to Calgary to move up three spots to land Swedish centerman,Jacob Josefson that looks to be the steal of the first night.
Josefson played in the Swedish Elite League at just 17 last season,which is Sweden's top league and finished with 16 points in fifty games.
Those numbers don't seem eye popping,but remember he was in the top league at 17,quite an accomplishment.
Josefson also was a member of the Swedish entries in both the World under 18 tournament and the World Junior tournament.
EliteProspects loves Josefson and the Swedish site seems to think Josefson has quite the future.
Josefson needs some work on his shot,but looks to be a decent two way center at worst.
Josefson said he will play one more season in the SEL as will 2008 top pick Mattias Tedenby before attempting to make the Devils for the 2010-11 season,where he will likely start that season in Lowell.
I do not claim to be a draft expert,but I see little not to like about this pick and it looks like the Devils took advantage of the number one rule of drafting-take advantage of other teams mistakes.
For more on Josefson,check out our friends at In Lou We Trust...

Virgil Vasquez (1-0) was good enough in his Pirate debut allowing just four hits over six innings in the Pirates 5-3 win over the Royals.
The Pirates received three homers from players that usually aren't power sources in the win with Jason Jaramillo (3),Jack Wilson (3) and Nyjer Morgan (2) all going long for the Bucs. Matt Capps pitched the ninth for save number 17.
The middle game is tonight with Paul Maholm for Pittsburgh against Kansas City's Bruce Chen.
Chen was called up from Omaha yesterday to pitch today for the Royals.

Pirate Hooks

1) Virgil Vasquez struck out seven in the win for his first big league win.
The total was a surprise considering that some observer's knock on the former Tiger was his lack of strong stuff.

2) Kansas City can not be too thrilled losing a game by two when the crew that showed power were the difference in the game.

3) Both teams wore Negro League uniforms for the game and I liked the Pirates "Homestead Grays" togs far more than their throwbacks that they wore against the Tigers..

4) Trade rumors involving Nyjer Morgan and its with Washington?
Lastings Milledge has issues with the Nationals management this season and has spent most of the season rehabbing an injured finger and supposedly was offered for Morgan straight up.
The Pirates were reported to have bounced back with an offer of Milledge and pitcher Craig Stammen,which Washington refused.
I have seen Craig Stammen pitch live a few times,I would not let him get in the way of a deal,but Pittsburgh may be just trying to get a second player for Morgan.

5) Pittsburgh needs to do this deal.
The Pirates are selling high on Nyjer Morgan,who's value can only go down and add a player that was one of the games top prospects just two years ago and put together a decent rookie year last year and would be grabbing him at low value.
Can you imagine this offer in 2007?
One would think Washington was off their rocker!

Bullpen Notes

I have seen some Pirate boards that are griping about the trade and losing Nyjer Morgan because of his friendship with Andrew McCutchen.
Great idea,let's keep a below average player that is at his peak value because of who his friend is..
That is the kind of move I would expect from Dave Littlefield.

Nah,Littlefield would turn down Milledge and ask for someone from the Syracuse (Washington AAA) bullpen,although I would take Milledge and this intriguing arm from the Syracuse bullpen in a second....

Any catch Real Time with Bill Maher last night?
Nice song at the end from Billy Bob Thornton's band,the Boxmasters.
I haven't been able to get the tune out of my head all day to my surprise and shock.
The CD version is a bit smoother than the live version below,but Billy Bob is far better than I dreamed and is far from a publicity stunt in my opinion..
Very good stuff and I might be interested in trying out some more stuff from the Boxmasters.

Photo Credits
Josefson:Bruce Bennett-Getty Images
Vasquez:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson

I am not sure whether to feel sorry for Farrah Fawcett or to be happy for her family to avoid the media attention that I would have thought was sure to come towards her loved ones.

In many ways, an icon of the seventies had one final spotlight to herself only to have it snatched away by perhaps the icon of the eighties just a few hours later.
Fawcett went from being The story yesterday to an afterthought after the death of Michael Jackson.

I was one of the millions of pre-teens in the 1970s that had the famous smiling poster on my wall and a pillow of the same pic on my bed.
I think the pillow should be somewhere in my mom's attic and no, Shane-you can't have it!

I haven't thought about that in years, yet yesterday morning watching the news it was almost the first thing that I thought of.
One must remember in 1976, the coolest TV stars were Farrah Fawcett and her husband Lee Majors.
Boys across the country got their first fan crush on Fawcett, yet the coolest guy they knew-The Six Million Dollar Man was her husband.

Even at 8 years old, I was smart enough to realize that Lee Majors was one lucky guy.
Her poster was a 70s pop culture hit that always defines the 1970s as any retrospective that looks at the decade.
Yet in many ways, Farrah didn't have long-term legs to my generation.
She left Charlie's Angels after a season, and her movie career didn't really take off, although I always kinda liked Logan's Run and the camp classic Cannonball Run.
She wanted to be taken seriously as an actress and was successful in doing so to an extent, but she never broke through to huge stardom ever again.

Michael Jackson too was a shining star to members of my generation, but at different times.
In the early seventies, the Jackson Five were pumping out hits like crazy and I must admit some of their songs still make me smile when I hear them.
Jackson also was a kid star with the Jackson Five cartoon in the early 70s on Saturday Mornings on ABC, albeit with voice parts for all the Jacksons being used by other actors.
Remember when Saturday morning cartoons were such a big deal?

I usually like the multiple channels that we all have today, but I must admit there was something special about waiting for that one day a week, I look back at the old NBC Saturday afternoon Baseball Game of the Week with the same fondness.
Jackson went solo in the late seventies with the album Off the Wall and of course dominated the 80's with the Thriller album, which is the best-selling album of all time, but began to be known more for his bizarre antics and for his issues with young children.
I prefer to remember Michael Jackson as the young man when I was a pre-schooler and his Jackson Five Days than the literal circus act that has been his life for the last 20 years or so.

But as important as Michael Jackson was to his many fans and this can arguably be compared to the losses of Elvis Presley and John Lennon as far as media impact goes, is it larger than the wars that continue?
Is it larger than the possible political revolution in Iran, which seems to be relying so heavily on getting every possible word on to the Western world's news networks, is it more important than that?
I don't think so.
CNN, Fox, and MSNBC used this guy as a hacky sack for years and now they are using him one last time.
Michael Jackson's passing is important and newsworthy but let's not forget the other news and the others that pass every day...

Bullpen Notes

Ian Snell was demoted to Indianapolis at his request.
Virgil Vasquez takes Snell's spot on the roster and starts tonight against the Royals.
Snell was pitching poorly, but he still is better than Vasquez, I hope to see Snell bounce back in Hoosierville and build any possible value in trade that he has left because from his words-it doesn't look bright for his Pittsburgh future.

Pirate coverage resumes tomorrow as they begin a three-game series against Kansas City to clean up their interleague slate.
Vasquez takes the hill against the Royals Gil Meche.

The New Jersey Devils attempt to add to the future in tonight's NHL draft.
Will try to get some info here on their top selection tomorrow...

Joe Jurevicius is suing everyone in sight-the Browns, the Cleveland Clinic,doctors-you name it for the staph infection that he claims may have ended his career.
The Browns have been dealing with this issue for years and now it really could hit the fan.
Looking at the problems that the Browns have had it doesn't look good for them to win the case, look for a settlement, but more importantly watch for this to be a major problem in bringing free agents to Cleveland in the future.

Thanks to all of you that read us as yesterday was our second-largest hit total for one day in our existence!
Thanks again for reading!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can Shaq make the Wine and Gold more than Fool's Gold?

I was going to make a general look back at the successes (66 wins) and the failure (loss to Orlando in the conference finals) of the Cleveland Cavaliers and offer a few thoughts,but those will have to wait for a bit as the Cavaliers and GM Danny Ferry have made a move that had it been made at the trading deadline as rumored could have gotten Cleveland by not only Orlando but perhaps even Los Angeles in the finals.

Shaquille O'Neal is reportedly coming to Cleveland and the cost is next to nothing.
The Phoenix Suns are looking to unload the substantial salary of O'Neal after a non-playoff season and the Cavaliers are looking for the down low presence that O'Neal provides.
Cleveland is shipping Ben Wallace,whos value is due to the fact that his contract expires at the end of next season and could have even more financial savings to the Suns if he retires now,as he has hinted and Sasha Pavlovic along with a second rounder in tonight's draft and a cash payment of 500,000.
O'Neal will have a salary of (gulp) 20 million for the season,but the deal expires at the end of the season so Cleveland will then have a large sum of dough to play with in looking for a long term running mate for LeBron James,
As long as O'Neal is able to stay healthy and that is a huge IF,I see no downside to this.
It isn't like Ben Wallace was going to do any better.
The risk is small and the upside is huge.

Summing it up,Cleveland has just picked up the best center of his generation that despite his age (37) played 75 games and averaged a nick under 18 points a night and 8 and a half boards a night in exchange for a rebounder that might retire,a guy that has averaged 6 points a game,a second round pick and cash.
Take it and run!
O'Neal is not the player he once was clearly,but he is still a paint presence with the ball and on defense as well and will likely be used as the Cleveland answer to Orlando's Dwight Howard,who basically did as he wished against the woefully inadequate Cavalier frontcourt in the playoff loss.

What this also does is move Zydrunas Ilgauskas off the bench,where his finesse' game will be more of an asset against the opponents second team and gives the Cavaliers some leverage against free agent forward Anderson Varejao.
I think the man with the wild hair could really come into his own with O'Neal in the middle,but this is the second time that Varejao has been a free agent and the word is that he wants a massive raise and if indeed that is the case,perhaps the money could be better spent.
I wouldn't be against Joe Smith returning if he was cost-efficient as I can see Smith well with O'Neal's game and Smith is the wily veteran that still has value working with last year top pick JJ Hickson.
It also makes Mo Williams what he should be on a good team-the third option on offense.
Williams is the kind of player that puts up huge numbers on bad teams,but is not the type of player that takes the pressure of LeBron James in crunch time against top teams.
Now with Williams being the third player in the offense,he could truly flourish instead of disappoint as he was out of his realm against Orlando.
Cleveland still needs shooters as was made evident in the playoffs when Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson were unable to give the expected offensive jolt when they came off the bench.
I have always liked Wally,but his game is shot and Gibson is a streak shooter that cannot be your top option off the pine.
The Cavaliers also need a mid sized defender type that can guard shooting guards and small forwards.
One rumored player is Matt Barnes,who the Suns are allowing to explore free agency in their battle to cut costs.

Cleveland is also rumored to have interest in using cash to move up in the first round if an enticing player is available.
In the NBA,teams can purchase draft picks,a practice which is frowned upon in the other three sports leagues.
The draft is said to be weak,but strong in point guards and the Cavaliers could use a young player to groom at that position.
The playoffs were quite disappointing for Cavalier fans and most expected Danny Ferry to make some moves aimed at not only winning the long sought championship,but to prove to LeBron James that the Cavaliers are committed to winning,which would go a long way towards keeping James in wine and gold for sometime to come.
Shaquille O'Neal was a huge first move now lets see what act two brings to Cleveland.

Talkin bout the Hagerstown Suns-Part II

Time for part two of our look at the 2009 Hagerstown Suns and this time we go off the field and look at the aspects from the fans view of things or least my view of things.
Two years since this post have passed and I thought it would be a good time to take look at things that have and haven't changed.
Remember we shoot from the hip and as I have told members of the Suns management team,I write nothing that I wouldn't tell you face to face.

The Good

The Suns continue to not charge for parking.
That is always a good thing when you consider the trend of teams beginning to charge to park your car.

The team shop has begun to bring in opposing team sets to sell and help collectors that want to work on the visiting teams for autographs.
This has been something that I had been hoping for years would happen and the Suns have finally taken steps to bring those into the shop.
It is a low cost,low risk opportunity to bring those sets in and the extra effort is appreciated by the collectors.
Sometimes it is the little things that make your opinion improve.

I asked GM Bob Flannery at the meet the team night about rescinding the silly Will Smith/Drew Hankinson policy on the suite area ban for the autograph collectors.
Bob did just that on the first night and it has been a big hit.
Being able to spread your stuff out and not be compacted in the cattle chute by the clubhouses is a huge plus and the organization doesn't look so small to hassle people over a minor issue.

The Suns Hall of Fame was a great idea and the statues that were given were quality items.
Credit for the idea and for not going cheap on the giveway.
Great job.

Adding grilled chicken,grilled hot dogs and hamburgers to feed your face nights are a good touch.
Especially the grilled dogs when compared to the regular dogs,those are (never mind,more on those in the bad section).
The chicken is actually quite good.

I really like giving a cup to season ticket holders to have soda for a buck.
I had been critical of this in the past when you compare it to the beer promotions,but the Suns have corrected this to be fair to all.

And a plus to Bob Flannery himself.
Bob tries to talk when he can about things and always has time to least say hello,how are you.
I got maybe two hellos from Will Smith in two years.
Maybe he didn't like me??Nah,couldn't be.
Anyway,I like the way Flannery works and his willingness to please the fanbase.
I wouldn't wager that Flannery will be in the Hub City long term,he will be moving up the Mandalay ladder and it will be sooner than later.

The Bad

Here goes-The guy on the PA is the worst announcer that I have ever heard.
Bar none.
From the screaming into the microphone to the hanging onto syllables for a hour "Sttteeevvveeee Lombarrrrrdooooooooooozzzzzzzzzziiiiii" to the high pitch of his voice,he has to be the worst around.
To me,it sounds like a very bad YouTube parody of the Chicago Bulls announcer from the Michael Jordan days.
I could do a better job than that walking in the door cold.
I'll take that challenge tomorrow,but then again I would bet most people could.
How about a smidgen of professionalism?
This guy is so loud that you cant even speak to the person next to you until he shuts the hell up.
My lord,if I could do one thing that would have an immediate impact at the Muni,that would be the one.
Sharpen the axe on him-Please!!!

The PA system is loud in spots and soft in others (although the PA guy doesn't seem to have any issues with it unfortunately).
That is a city of Hagerstown issue as is the continuing deterioration of the crappy restrooms.
The city could help a little bit by tossing some money in to work on these things.

The Sunsations are still a tired and half assed act although two things have improved over the last two years.
One,the shirts that the ladies wear are a bit more professional than in years past.
Whether the ladies or the Suns realize this or not,the Sunsations are a role model to young girls that attend these games and this is a far more positive image for them.
The other is that they actually have one member that tries to look like they are having fun doing their job.
With the exception of this young woman,it is the old uninspired routine of the same songs with "dancers" that really don't want to be there and give less than glowing effort.
Perhaps an idea might be in future job fairs could be have this put in the job description-"You must like to dance and be able to at least look like you are enjoying this'!
You don't have to be good,just try hard!

The games/on field "entertainment" still leaves much to be desired,but to be fair, that is rarely going to be my idea of a good time and I am not the demographic that the Suns are going after anyway on this,but one stands above all for awful.
The PA guy blares some song about "Smelly Feet" while kids battle among themselves to find their shoes and put them back on to win a race.
I would bet that there is a good chance that the person that thought this one up doesn't have children!

The regular hot dogs still have the awful red stripe from what could be a Starfleet replicator and the taste is worse this season.
Well,nachos are no longer on the FYF menu and the nacho cheese and jalapeno peppers went a long day into turning a awful dog into a below average one.
Nachos would be welcomed back to the FYF menu for 2010.

This is not a Hagerstown problem,it is a South Atlantic League rule,but still-The gates open one hour before the game.
Other leagues either have entrance times that are before that or they ignore the rule.
I cannot believe that the Suns wouldn't profit on some evenings by opening the gates earlier instead of having people in line.
Again not their fault,but I wish the rule would be modified.

Ideas that don't belong in the good or bad column

Please change the team colors to the Nationals red,white and blue!
Red hats,white jerseys with red or blue lettering and keep the current alternate jerseys in place except for a trim around the back numbers to make the number stand out more.
I understand there are people that like to pretend the Suns are still with the Orioles,but time to face reality.

Just an idea for the 2010 Suns team set.
How about putting the players in the Road Gray jerseys that say Hagerstown on the front?
Just for something different and a new look.

And finally,a final word for the Suns to think about.
Think about doing a tribute of some type for Nick Adenhart in 2010.
I am not sure the management understands what Nick meant to the Washington County area and even though he never was a Hagerstown Sun,he played games at the Muni and meant a lot to the people of the area.
It could be a statue giveaway,maybe a limited edition art print by a local artist showing Nick with Williamsport High and the Angels or Nick Adenhart night where his family is brought out to throw the first pitch etc.
The Suns could even retire number 34 as the ultimate tribute to Nick and the area fans.
Trust me,the fans would love such a tribute and the Suns would look just fine in their eyes for honoring his memory in such a classy manner.

Things have improved over the last two years except for the PA guy!
Here is hoping that in two more years that things are even better.

Photo Credits
Hot Dog:Ryan Heimberger

Devil dealings

The New Jersey Devils are apparently going to go into the NHL draft without hiring a head coach.
No new word on frontrunners,although you know where we stand.
Not sure if that would be generally be a good idea,but in the Devils organization the head coach has very little to do with the draft for the most part anyway as David Conte runs the show with some input from Lou Lamoriello,so as far as that goes,it is a non factor.

The Devils ,as always seems to be the case, are selecting late in the first round at the 23rd spot.
Such is part of being a competitive team every season as one only picks high when you either traded with a sorry franchise or you had an awful season.
The Devils have their selections in every round and in addition own the third rounder of Minnesota as part of a draft day deal last season that Minnesota to move up in the first round.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to prospects for the NHL draft like I try to be for the MLB,NFL and even to a lesser degree the NBA draft,but I do try to read as much as possible on the players that could be on the Devils radar screen for draft day and form a limited opinion based on what I have read.
The one thing that you can always count on with a Lou Lamoriello/David Conte draft is this-they will take the best player on the board and usually the pair pays little attention to current need.
The Devils rarely make the mistake of looking at the current need on the parent roster and many times will overlook the glaring need of the farm system in order to take the best player.
Now sometimes,you can quibble with their board( although usually not),but that is the general philosophy.
Looking at this chart from our friends at In Lou We Trust,the Devils follow a pattern since David Conte began his reign as head of the Devils scouting department in 1994 with their first round selections.
No one is hits 100 percent,but the Devils have done well considering draft position and only swung and missed when taking goalies.
I wouldn't complain even there,especially on Ari Ahonen.
Ahonen likely saw no future behind Marty and after seasons in Albany,he figured he could get paid more to play at home in Finland.
When you trim it down further to the last decade,the record looks better ranging from impact player (Zach Parise) to solid above average player (Travis Zajac) and three prospects that all look to contributors soon (Mattias Tedenby,Nicklas Bergfors and Matt Corrente).
In addition,David Hale is still in the league,although Hale was a disappointment in New Jersey.
Only Adrian Foster could be rated as a bust and honestly,he was a home run or whiff type from the day he was picked.

The Devils do have some system needs and they aren't that dissimilar from the parent needs.
Continued help at forward to put the puck in the net isn't a glaring need,but you take as many as you can get,defensemen are a need even with some interesting prospects on the horizon ( Corrente,Tyler Eckford and Brandon Burlon) and sooner or later a new goalie will be needed.
Jeff Frazee bounced back into prospect status last season,but I wouldn't want to put all the eggs into one basket.

I don't have a projection for the Devils on Friday night other than this-they will likely walk away with someone that you wouldn't think they would before the draft.
The Devils take advantage of other teams mistakes and that is why they continue to be among the top teams in the league year after year.

On to Brent Sutter becoming the new coach in Calgary.
This bugs me,but it doesn't really bother me a lot.
This was possible,if not likely from the day that he left.
His brother is the GM for the team that is closest to his home,after all.
At the same time,it does seem a bit disingenuous on Sutter's part to claim it was all about getting home.
I think Sutter was telling the truth about being homesick,but that wasn't the whole story either.
I don't really blame Brent Sutter,but I do believe he has damaged his credibility and has hurt his future in the coaching game.
So,a word of advice to Brent Sutter-better win in Calgary because after this stunt,I am not sure many other teams are going to be willing to take a chance on you.....

Finally,a interesting history piece from the Devils themselves on the teams draft in their days in Kansas City and Colorado.
The Devils rarely make a big deal about their past outside of New Jersey,so it is interesting reading.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Catching up and saying goodbyes

A few thoughts on some issues that have gotten by over the last week.

I thought that I had posted my pick on the Wladimir Klitschko-Ruslan Chagaev bout from Germany,but as I looked for a link,I couldn't find one.
In any event,I picked Klitschko by decision and he actually won by TKO when Chagaev didn't answer the bell for round ten.
Klitschko scored the bouts only knockdown in round two and used the long left jab along with the straight right to completely control the former WBA champ and add the Ring magazine belt to his collection of the IBF and smaller organization straps.

However,the fight of the weekend was in Montreal for the WBC Light Heavyweight crown when not only a world belt was on the line,but the city championship as well with Jean Pascal lifting the titles from Adrian Diaconu in an exciting crowd pleaser via unanimous decision.Pascal dropped Diaconu in round five for the only knockdown of the fight.
We scored the bout for Pascal 116-111 and a rematch certainly would not be argued against from this corner.

Give some credit to Versus for picking up the fight and allowing American fans to be able to watch.
Versus keeps improving slowly,but to take the jump to the next level,they really need to make a push to get on cable/satellite basic coverage instead of being on the additional channels.
Only then can they truly gain more commercial acceptance...

Time to say some goodbyes

to former Buffalo Brave and Cleveland Cavalier Randy Smith.
Smith passed away at age 60 of a heart attack while working out on a treadmill.
Smith was once the holder of the consecutive games played record in the NBA and was the shining star on two of the awful Cavalier teams of the early 80's.
Smith was the All-Star MVP in 1978 and was a stalwart of the solid mid-1970's Buffalo Brave teams with Bob McAdoo and Jim McMillan.
Love those Buffalo Braves uniforms as well!
For more on Randy Smith,click here and for more on what looks to be an interesting book on the Buffalo Braves with a stiff price tag,click here.

To former Indian shortstop Woodie Held.
The power hitting shortstop (in an edge where that was very rare) passed away at the age of 77 after a struggle with brain cancer.
Held never hit fewer than 16 homers for the Wahoos from 1959-1964 and smacked a career high 29 in the Tribe's second place finish in 1959.
Terry Pluto looks back at Woodie Held here in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

To former New York Giant pinch hitter extraordinaire Dusty Rhodes.
Rhodes died in Las Vegas at the age of 82.
Rhodes was most famous for his off the bench heroics in the Giants 1954 World Series win over Cleveland (4 for 6).
The lefty slugger mastered the art of the "Chinese home run"at the Giants home at the Polo Grounds which was only 239 feet down the right field line.

Will be back later/tomorrow with Part two of our look at the Hagerstown Suns,some Devils talk on Brent Sutter and the draft Friday night and perhaps (time permitting) at look at the Cleveland Cavaliers...

Photo Credits
Smith and Held:Topps

Bucco talk

The Pirates lost all three games since our last post,losing the final two games in Denver that finished a Rockie sweep of the series and a loss at home last night to the Indians.
I didn't watch the game.
Well,it is well established that I hate interleague play,but there is more to it than that.
Although we cover the Pirates here much more than the Indians,there is truly one reason that that happens-I like the NL game so much more than the AL and therefore I watch the Pirates more.
That's it,I have the same passion and same love for both teams.
If the internet would have been mainstream 15 to 20 years ago,the odds are that we would have been far more Indian based.
In those days of watching one or two nationally televised games a week and the local team,which in my case was an American League team were all that you really were able to see.
I was in much more of an American League frame of mind then and that would been the likely result.

That leads me to why I am not watching this series.
I compare it to not wanting to watch your kids participate against each other in competition on opposing teams/sides.
Someone that you care about has to lose and that takes quite a bit of edge off the rooting for you.
In other words,it isn't fun and sports is supposed to be about fun.

We will pick up on Pirate game coverage with Friday's series against the Royals,which has not only picked up the massive fan interest (Facetiously) but also ends interleague play for another season.

Pirate Hooks

1) What a mound meltdown in Colorado!
Saturday nights late inning nightmare might have been the worst all season with John Grabow and Jesse Chavez each giving up multi run homers in the eighth and ninth to turn a three run lead into a two run loss in just two Colorado at bats.

2) I listened to that game via the bird and the Rockie radio guys were just going nuts.
The radio voice of the Rockies is former Cleveland area standout Jack Corrigan,who was solid if unspectacular.
I would much rather listen to a Corrigan type on the radio than the "aren't I witty"types like Texas Ranger voice Josh Lewin or the goofy types like Greg Brown.

3) Back to the bullpen,I suppose one bad night can be excused.
I mean really when you look at the names on the roster,things could have been far worse from the relievers,but things really only improved when you do not have Tyler Yates to walk three batters in the late innings every night.
That is going to improve things right there.

4) Only 19,000 for the first Cleveland visit to PNC this season.
With any luck,that might help dampen the hopes by the Pirates to make the Indians their AL rival.
I need that like the Pirates need Tyler Yates back in the bullpen.

5) Seriously,I know that Pittsburgh and Cleveland have a rivalry and I like both cities,but assuming that the baseball rivalry will develop because of the Browns-Steelers feud makes little sense.
Besides the NFL,name me one thing that the two cities have a rivalry in.
Cleveland has an NBA team,Pittsburgh doesn't.
Pittsburgh has an NHL team,Cleveland doesn't.
The Pirates would be better suited putting their energy into a move to the NL East from the Central,where fans could see the hated Phillies three times a year instead of one and building a issue with the reasonably nearby Nationals,where they can bicker over which one gets to pick higher in the draft each season.

6) The Pirates began to move players in the minors around for the second half and some prospects will be challenged at the next level.
Brad Lincoln was moved to AAA Indianapolis after a dominant first half at Altoona that had great numbers except for Won/Lost,while Pedro Alvarez was promoted to AA Altoona along with Michael Dubee and Miles Durham.
Chase D'Arnaud will become a Lynchburg Hillcat after a promotion from West Virginia.

7) Now that Alvarez is a member of the Curve,we can really take a look at his numbers.
The Pirates and bloggers (Including me) had thought that the stats at Lynchburg for Pedro were a result of High A pitchers pitching around him.

8) Nice to see Mike Dubee get a shot at AA after bouncing around the Carolina League.
His numbers were dynamite in Lynchburg,but the true test comes in the second half.
A solid performance could put him on the map as a true prospect and a future possibility as a member of the Pittsburgh bullpen.

9) Another less than glittering Ian Snell outing last night against the Indians.
Rumor is that he could be demoted to Indianapolis (he has one option left).
Watch this closely,if he is sent to Indy,then the Pirates still have hopes for him,if he is moved to the bullpen or stays in the rotation then it could be to keep any marketability that Snell still has remaining.

Look for more catchup posts over the course of the next two day.
It seems like I get a lot up on off days and maybe the first day or two of the work week and then dwindles as the week progresses.
That will not be the case in Altoona.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Goodbye Lazy Ass,Hello Pearce

The Pirates dropped the opener in Denver to the suddenly sizzling Rockies and new manager Jim Tracy (?) 7-3 in a game that really wasn't that close.
Two ninth innings runs made the score respectable after only Jack Wilson's solo homer (2) in the seventh had previously dented the Rockies for runs.
The world's smartest pitcher Ross Ohlendorf took the loss in dipping to 6-6 on the season.
The series continues in Denver tonight at 8 with Charlie Morton attempting to make his second start long than his first against the Rockies Jason Hammel....

Pirate Hooks

1) The big news is that Steve Pearce is finally back for likely his last chance to establish himself in Pittsburgh and the spot that was created for Pearce was that of non-hustling Craig Monroe.
No matter what the Pirates say about this,there is no doubt that the jog to first in Minnesota a few nights back was the final straw.
When you are trying to go young,the last thing that young players need around is non hustling,non productive veterans....

2) The other nail in the coffin for Monroe? 0 for 14 as a pinch hitter and seven of the outs were whiffs.
If you can't rely on a veteran to be a decent pinch hitter,it is tough to keep him around.
This move is very similar to the Bucs letting Jason Michaels go in the off season as Michaels struggled in that role as well....

3) Pearce smacked five homers in the last ten games for Indianapolis and should be the backup to Adam LaRoche at first and play a little in right.
Pearce should be the likely beneficiary on the long rumored Adam LaRoche deal.
Pearce had better take advantage of this one,it could be his last...

4) Andrew McCutchen hit a double and triple to move his average over .330.
McCutchen continues to swing a hot bat.

5) Will someone please tell Nyjer Morgan to quit crying every time a strike is called and he is called out on a close play at first??
It gets old just watching it and if the word gets around on this,it wont help Morgan any in the future either....

Back later with a brief post that will say goodbye to a few players that passed on recently.

Photo Credits:David Zalubowski-AP Photo

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pirates fall to Twins

The Pirate offense was again ineffective in a 5-1 loss to Minnesota yesterday as the Bucs completed the road section of interleague play.
Zach Duke fell to 7-5 and only a Adam LaRoche ninth inning single avoided the shutout.
The Pirates are in Denver tonight to kick off a three game set against the Rockies with Ross Ohlendorf hooking up against Jason Marquis.

Pirate Hooks

1) No television from either the Pirate or Twin network,so not much I can add from personal viewing.
I will be following tonight's game via the XM from work,likely miss tomorrows game and will see the Sunday finale'.

2) Zach Duke pitched well enough in allowing three runs off six hits,but Nick Blackburn was better in firing a complete game.
Other than the meaningless ninth inning run,Blackburn was flawless..

3) Tony Sanchez was assigned to State College and will play with the Spikes for a week before moving on with an assignment to West Virginia.

4) The Pirates indeed inked second rounder Brooks Pounders to a contract yesterday and the bonus of 670,000 was the exact slot recommendation of MLB>
What a surprise.

5) Nyjer Morgan's fifth inning error was the first by the Pirate outfield all season.
That just goes to show you that short of absolutely botching a flyball,outfielders are rarely charged with errors.

Photo Credit
Duke:Jim Mone-AP Photo
Pounders:Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Talkin bout the Hagerstown Suns

Since the first half is about to end for the Hagerstown Suns,it is time to look back at the Suns both on and off the field.
This usually is one of our most controversial efforts,but we call it like we see it.
This post will be for the actual players,while a later post sometime over the next few days will deal with the Suns off the diamond and will deal with what one would call the "gameday experience" with the Hagerstown Suns.

The Suns are a less than .500 squad (29-32 6th place),but the one thing that one must give the Suns is this-Matt LeCroy made the statement on day one that the team would be a hustling one and that is exactly the case.
The Suns are not a loafing ball club,they have their issues but lack of effort is certainly not one of them.

Prospect wise,one player has stood out far beyond the rest.
Catcher Derek Norris looks to have big league potential as a power hitting catcher and I have little reason to doubt Norris and his bat.
Derek leads the team in every offensive category hitting over 300,13 homers,46 RBI and most impressively an OPS of .968.
Norris throws well too,but does need to work on his receiving skills,especially keeping the ball in front of him,which has been his defensive Achilles heel thus far.
It would not surprise me in the least to see Norris in Potomac sometime soon.

I wish I felt as strongly about any other Hagerstown prospects.
Tyler Moore joined the team in May,raked the ball all over the place and made me start thinking of Moore's similarity to Bill Rhinehart last season,but has been in a huge funk this month hitting under .200 for the month.
Moore is still hitting .289 so that should show you how outstanding his May was....
Steve Lombardozzi looks pretty similar to his father (former Twin),slap hitter with little power (1 wind aided HR all season) and solid enough defensively.
Lombardozzi does lack the type of speed that one would hope for from a second baseman.
Steven Souza stumbled off to a slow start in April,recovered for a pretty good May and then a bad June.Souza has also made 14 errors at third base and seems to be a lesser version of former Sun Stephen King.
All is not lost for Souza as he has one believer in his prospect status.
I love the way scrappy centerfielder Chris Curran plays the game,but his bat just isn't going to play at higher levels.

On the mound,the most highly touted prospect has been a disappointment as Jack McGeary has an ERA over six.
I haven't seen Jack pitch in a few weeks,but on the three occasions that I did,he was having real problems bouncing his breaking ball in the dirt.
McGeary has struck out only four more batters than he has walked in 53 innings and that is a concern.
Perhaps this is just a matter of rust as McGeary had an unusual program since being drafted in being allowed to attend Stanford and yet not play for the Cardinal.
This is Jack's first complete season of pro baseball,so I am willing to give him a pass when you consider that factor.
The surprise has been SAL All-Star Marcos Frias.
Frias has a 4-1 record with an ERA well below three and has an excellent K/BB ratio (50 to 13).
Frias doesn't throw overwhelmingly hard,but isn't a soft tosser either and has been very consistent all season.
Look for Frias to at least have a August cameo in Potomac.
I don't see any other real prospects on the mound staff other than recent 10th overall pick
Drew Storen,who is on the roster,but has yet to see game action.

Coming soon will be our look at the Suns off the field.

Photo Credit

Buccos muscle up in 8-2 win!

The less than powerful Pittsburgh Pirates showed some rare home run pop as Andrew McCutchen hit his first big league longball to combine with homers from both LaRoche brothers Adam (9) and Andy (3) to lead the Bucs to an 8-2 win over the Twins.
Ian Snell allowed both Minnesota runs over six innings as Snell bettered his record to 2-7 on the season.
The series concludes tomorrow afternoon at 1:05 with what looks to be a solid pitching matchup as Zach Duke takes the ball for the Buccos while Nick Blackburn climbs the hill for the identicals....

Pirate Hooks

1) Ian Snell picked up the win and may have helped his marketabilty somewhat,but he still showcased his two most maddening tendencies.
His refusal to work inside the plate in favor of painting the outside is frustrating to watch,mainly because he has the kind of stuff that could really back hitters off a bit.

2) The other is his absolutely glacial pace when runners are on base.
Anyone that has done any youth coaching at all knows that the faster that the pitchers works the more alert and prepared his defense will be.
A slower worker will have his defense on their heels more than the balls of their feet and that makes quite a difference in reaction time when the ball is struck.

3) Trivia note for the night-the LaRoche brothers homers were the first that brothers hit homers in the same game for the Pirates since 1938.
Hall of Famers Paul and Lloyd Waner turned the trick way back when..

4) Ticket sales for next weeks visit to PNC by the Cleveland Indians aren't exactly jumping to the surprise of Frank Coonelly and company.
Coonelly has been trying to grab the Tribe as the Pirates AL "rival" and play them every year in interleague play,but that would mean stopping the all Ohio series between the Wahoos and the Cincinnati Reds.
If that is what it takes to have my two favorite teams only play every three years against each other than they can play before no one for all I care.
Look for a post on my feelings on Pirate-Indian games next week before the three game set.

5) Looks like the Pirates are going to have second rounder Brooks Pounders signed soon.
Pounders is in Pittsburgh and is expected to sign today,while the Pirates seem to be in on several of the "hard sign" arms from day two as well.
The strategy is interesting,but I still wish that they had used the top pick more wisely.

Bullpen Notes

How about our guy Erik Arnesen?
Erik has continued to build on his solid start at High A Potomac with a 3-2 record with an ERA of just over three in six starts at AA Harrisburg.
Always great to see nice guys that work hard begin to get some breaks.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats spotted the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a 19 point lead before a second half made the score respectable in a 32-22 loss.
The Ti-Cats finish the pre-season slate next week at Ivor Wynne Stadium against the visiting Toronto Argonauts.

Photo Credit
McCutchen:Jim Mone-AP Photo

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mitusharu Misawa

When people that have known me for years bring up pro wrestling to me and ask if I still watch it or not, I usually say that I follow it but rarely watch it.
Usually that brings a puzzled look and a change of the topic and I can hear them thinking-"what the hell does that mean"?

I do get the Wrestling Observer when motivated, usually by someone passing or a history feature, but I rarely watch pro wrestling on television.
The "sport" that I grew up with a passion for no longer exists here and other than watching old tapes and stuff on Youtube from over twenty years ago, I have no real knowledge of the product other than what I read.

But there was one company that interested me and two wrestlers that kept my interest alive.

All Japan Pro Wrestling was the company (later my interest moved to Pro Wrestling NOAH, due to the fact that all the wrestlers that I liked except for one moved to the freshly minted company) and Mitsuharu Misawa along with Kenta Kobashi were the wrestlers.

All Japan/NOAH wasn't quite like 80's American wrestling, there were very few interviews hyping future events and even fewer "angles" to inspire fans to watch a grudge match.
Instead, it was sport with a long storyline that developed through matches that basically presented their company as the best against the best in what they called "kings road" style.

Sure, the ending was predetermined, but for the most part-IF the top six or seven wrestlers were going against each other, they might have known who was going to win, but you sure as hell didn't.

Watching those matches today, they hold up just as strongly as when I saw them.

I actually started getting AJPW every week when I became friends with my good friend Brandon Siefken, who began taping AJPW and later NOAH every week for me.
When I saw that package in the mail every so often, I knew that I was going to have some fun watching for a while.

Misawa, Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, and Akira Taue (and later Jun Akiyama) would have tremendous matches no matter the combination and it didn't take understanding Japanese (I don't comprehend a word) to figure out the intensity of the crowd and the quality of the match.

The interesting thing when you watch the company was how simple things were.

Each guy had a base color trunk type and that sold merchandise because if you bought a green Misawa shirt, it would be just as topical three years from the day you bought it, unlike the WWE which changes things constantly to move product.
Misawa was green, Kobashi orange, Kawada black, Taue red, and Akiyama blue, easy to identify and easy to identify with.

Misawa the stoic iceman, Kobashi the fire to Misawa's ice, Kawada the little man that was the most aggressive of the bunch, Taue the seemingly lumbering, but most powerful, and the up-and-coming Akiyama, who the young fans screamed for to assume "their" place in the pantheon that he was groomed for as a true amateur star in Japan.

Those five in addition to the top two Americans Stan Hansen and Steve Williams gave the fans state-of-the-art matches that were incredible to watch but also broke their bodies down.

You always had the feeling that the Triple Crown (the top AJPW title) and the GHC (top NOAH belt) title really meant something and were fiercely battled for, which is not something to be said for American wrestling for well over a decade.

The punishment that was taken (and given) in these matches was not to be sneezed at.
You didn't have the craziness of metal chairs and garbage cans smashed over heads or leaping off cages and ladders (AJPW and NOAH didn't believe in "gimmick matches"), but the elbows, suplexes, and slams were downright vicious and one could see these gentlemen aging before your eyes.

Misawa was the president of NOAH having led the exodus of talent from All Japan and brought a very similar style to the new company and took AJPW television spot with it and for a while, NOAH was a smashing success.

But things had taken a recent downturn, Misawa was reduced to less than a shell of himself, Kobashi suffering from cancer that caused a long hiatus, Taue reduced to a slowed hulk, and Akiyama for all of his brilliance at times, never seeming to quite be the star that was expected of him as the "ace" of the company.
That resulted in a loss of their network television spot and relegating them to cable.

In the US, wrestling is a cable program, but in Japan, network TV is everything(in a country that still has 20-30 % without cable), even if your time slot has become part of the late night/early morning hours.
So the tragedy could not have come at a worse time for the company and the quest for leadership could be the difference in whether or not NOAH is able to be successful over the long term.

Misawa was less than five days from his 47th birthday and one could make an excellent case that he should have no longer been in the ring or at least have transitioned into the opening "comedy" matches that so many of the stars the past finished their careers in including Misawa's mentor Giant Baba.

Instead in he was continuing to be among the top stars of the company even at his reduced abilities, but even then Misawa was on occasion able to dial things up for a glimpse of his past glory.
However, Ryu Nakada the managing director of NOAH is quoted as saying that Misawa had told him as recently as a few days before the incident that he had less than a year in the ring because he wanted to devote more time to other business opportunities.

Japanese culture is very mysterious when it comes to death and no one has officially commented on the cause of death, but it is beginning to leak out that it was spinal cord related and not a heart issue as was originally thought.
This may not bode well for the long-term health of the stars of "kings road", as these grapplers have taken many of the hardest bumps in the business for a very long time.

Misawa owns many awards from the most prestigious awards of those given out by the Wrestling Observer.
Misawa owns the most five-star match awards of any wrestler ever, six times involved in the match of the year, three times the wrestler of the year, and three times being part of the tag team of the year.

Mitsuharu Misawa is (in my opinion) one of the top five wrestlers of all time and a case can be made that he is the best ever.

I think one can make an argument for any of my top five (Misawa, Kobashi, Jumbo Tsuruta, Ric Flair, and Bret Hart), but by the numbers, only Ric Flair has a similar argument and honestly, I have seen them both and Misawa was better on the best day of each.

Flair had many matches vs Tsuruta but never wrestled Misawa or Kobashi, while Bret Hart did wrestle Misawa once when Misawa was still wearing the mask as Tiger Mask II in a surprisingly average match considering the two participants.

The death of Mitsuharu Misawa truly ends a golden age in Japanese wrestling.
Between the growth of mixed martial arts and the smaller television presence, pro wrestling will never be what it once was, but Misawa was one of the wrestlers to cross over into commercials and become a presence to those that were not wrestling fans.
That will be difficult for anyone to truly replace.....

Photo Credit-Rachel Heimberger

Pirates pounded at the Metrodump

Paul Maholm usually devours left handed hitting,but the Minnesota Twins had little problems with the Mississippi southpaw in drilling Maholm for 14 hits in five innings in a ridiculously easy 8-2 defeat in Minneapolis.
Maholm slides to 4-3 with the loss,while Nyjer Morgan (really) smacked his first homer of the season in the defeat.
Ian Snell faces off against Francisco Liriano tonight at 8:05 in the middle game of the series..

Pirate Hooks

1) I watched the game on the Twins network,mainly because I like Bert Blyleven,but the other members of the crew were pretty solid as well.
Play by play man Dick Bremer was very good and showed a sense of humor as well.
James Denton (I hope that's right) of Desperate Housewives was at the game and doing the obligatory "Celeb comes to any town other than New York or Los Angeles interview" with Marney Gellner and before it wrapped up. Bremer jumps in with a "tell Teri Hatcher that Dick says Hi".
Bremer then played a minute or two with faux sincerity on their "friendship".
Good stuff.
Gellner always did a decent job doing similar work with the Minnesota Wild and former Twin Ron Coomer was in/near the dugout with occasional tidbits that weren't silly or overbearing and didn't seem to be constantly trying to get on air....

2) Wish I could say the same for the Metrodome.
My goodness,that place is dull even for a domed stadium.
Andrew McCutchen and Delwyn Young watched a flyball fall right between them as the ball was lost in the all white roof that would hand the Twins a run on a routine pop fly.
The citizens of Minnesota deserve congratulations for getting a new stadium and condolences for suffering through that place for almost 30 years....

3) Can the Pirates please realize that not only does Craig Monroe play badly,but he shows an amazing lack of hustle for a guy that should be playing AAA ball anyway.
Tonight's half-ass Monroe moment goes in the eighth went like this- he strikes out against R A Dickey and then loafs his ass to first in a run/jog/shuffle that brought back memories of Randall Simon.
It takes Joe Mauer's first error of the season for Monroe to be safe and even when Monroe sees that Mauer's toss to Justin Morneau was going to be hard to handle-he still didn't pick up the pace!

4) Have to give Nyjer Morgan some credit,his first homer since 2007 was not a cheapo.
Morgan's shot off Glen Perkins was just that-a shot.
Honestly,I didn't think he had it in him!

5) For more house spinning,John Russell attempts to compare the Twins drafting Joe Mauer at the top of the 2001 draft over consensus top pick Mark Prior to the Pirates overdraft of Tony Sanchez at 4 in this years draft.
It is true that Prior was considered the far and away top pick in that draft,but the big difference between the two cases is this-Mauer was considered one of the top five players in the draft,while Sanchez was considered a borderline first rounder albeit the best catcher in a weak year for catchers.
Apples and Oranges,John,but thanks for playing anyway....

Bonus Round

The Pirates signed a few draft picks,five players ranging from the 23rd rounder to their 42nd.
Highly touted righty Quinton Miller was assigned to State College to start with the Spikes.
The Spikes start their New York/Penn league season on Friday night against the Williamsport Crosscutters.

Bullpen Notes

The Hagerstown Suns have Matt Chico on the team on a rehab assignment.
Chico tossed a few innings in Sundays game against the Delmarva Shorebirds.
Chico is still listed on the Suns roster,so maybe he will make one more start for Hagerstown.

The CFL pre-season starts tonight as the lowly Hamilton Tiger-Cats visits Winnipeg for a scrimmage against the Blue Bombers.
The Cats website seems to have two different rosters,so it is hard tell who is who,but the Cats have been down for a long time and here is hoping for a revival in Canada's Steeltown!

I forgot to make my pick for last Saturday's exciting welterweight fight between Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey,but the fight was a good one with Cotto winning a split decision.
I have no problem with Cotto or Clottey winning by a point,it was that close,but I do have problems with the two judges that voted for Cotto by three and five points respectively.
That wasn't the bout that I watched as I scored the fight 114-113 for Cotto,6-6 in rounds,but Cotto getting the edge for a flash knockdown of Clottey in the opening round.
I will say this for the courageous Cotto,he tries hard and gives all he has,but the fighting machine that he was may have been ruined by his knockout loss to Antonio Margarito that now looks so questionable.
Cotto was wincing and moving with every Clottey blow and Clottey is not known for being a huge banger.
Unfortunate for Cotto and his fans that he may have had a career changed by unscrupulous dealings....

Watch over the next few days for a look at the Hagerstown Suns both on the field and thoughts on how things are going off the field as well..

Photo Credits
Bouncing ball:Jim Mone-AP Photo

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ted Nolan for Devils Head Coach

Brent Sutter has left the building and with so many candidates available,it is hard to say just who will be the new skipper of the SS Devils for next season.

Before I mention the candidates that seem to be the hottest on the rumor mill and before I discuss my personal selection(Ted Nolan) for the job,I would like to pound out a few words about Brent Sutter.
Brent Sutter did quite a few positive things for the Devils franchise and at the top of the list was changing the style of play.
Oh,I know-many never bothered to notice that and just hung onto the stereotype of the "trappin Devils",but the Devils fans that watched over the two years of the Sutter reign know the truth.
The Devils became a much more offensive minded squad under Sutter and whether or not this was due to a system that Sutter preferred or that Sutter saw through the weaknesses of the Devils defensive corps (that was so painfully visible against Carolina) and knew that things needed to be changed is open to question.
But the point is the Devils were able to change systems and still be successful and I attribute a large part of that to Brent Sutter.
I also loved his intensity and willingness to tell the truth to the media even if it wasn't popular in his locker room and I think that he would have only grown more in the job as time went by.
However,I hated his questionable line shuffling (to be fair,that reduced last season from the first year),his refusal to try Petr Vrana early in the season and disliked that certain players received chance after chance (Mike Mottau and Dainius Zubrus) while others were buried (Vrana,Jay Pandolfo and Andy Greene) on the bench or scratched list.

I have trouble getting too fired up about Sutter quitting to be closer to his family in Calgary,although his decision that his family and his junior team in Red Deer is more important than the Devils might rule him out from any team considering him down the road with the exception of Calgary or Edmonton.
I wish him well and hope that his decision is what he wants and works out for the best for him and his family.

The three names that have come to the forefront for the Devils head coaching job are former Devils and Wild boss Jacques Lemaire,current Devils assistant John MacLean and former Islanders and Hurricanes boss Peter Laviolette.
Other names that have been mentioned have been former Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau,former Colorado and Atlanta coach Bob Hartley and former Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish.
Many Devils bloggers/fans are very negative on a possible return of Lemaire,siting the defensive nature of his teams and that this team is not suited for a return to defensive based hockey.
I would not have Lemaire at the top of my list,but I would not have a huge problem with a return.
He would not be able to play that type of hockey at this time,as it would not take long for him to figure out that this Devils squad is missing the blueline talent that he had when he left.
I am not sure if MacLean is the right fit either although he could be the perfect mix of the traditional Devil system with the puck possession style of Sutter.
Carbonneau would be Ok,especially if he brings assistant and former Devil captain Kirk Muller along with him to groom.
I want no part of Laviolette at all,the same with Hartley and no opinion really on MacTavish,I see the Oilers so rarely that I am not really sure about him.

But one name that only comes up in passing may not be in consideration,but he should be is this man-Ted Nolan.
Ted Nolan is a winner and has the respect of his players without being a tyrant.
Both Buffalo and the Islanders were winners under Nolan,who led the Islanders to the playoffs with little talent and has watched them struggle ever since his firing by the less than stellar Islander management.
From the outside looking in,Nolan appears to be an awkward fit with Lou Lamoriello,but critics said the same things about Pat Burns,who only brought the Devils a championship.
Nolan was known to have power struggles with general managers at both of his previous NHL stops,but that wouldn't happen in New Jersey.
There would be no doubt on who has the final say-in New Jersey it has always been Lou Lamoriello and that would be known from day one and that would set the tone for Nolan doing what he does best-coach.

Therefore,we give our highest endorsement to the potential hiring of Ted Nolan as the next head coach of the New Jersey Devils...

Photo Credit
Nolan:Ted Nolan Foundation

Pirates take two and why I like Bob Walk

The Pittsburgh Pirates managed to take both weekend games from the Detroit Tigers and actually won a series!
A 9-3 Saturday win behind another solid effort from Zach Duke (7-4) was followed by a 6-3 Sunday matinee win over the Tigers.
The Buccos actually showed some pop in the Saturday win as they smacked two homers,the big bomb being a Freddy Sanchez grand slam (5) in the fifth.
Adam LaRoche hit his eighth in the win.
Ross Ohlendorf moved to 6-5 on Sunday in allowed just a run on two hits over six innings.
Matt Capps finished the game for his 16th save.
The Pirates now hit the bricks for six games,3 in Minneapolis against the Twins followed by three in Denver against the Rockies.....

Pirate Hooks

1) The Sunday game featured uniforms from the 1909 World Series between the Pirates and the Tigers.
The Tigers looked pretty neat,but the Pirates were bland.
Throwback days are always so much fun to watch.

2) Has there ever been a pitcher since maybe Steve Blass (Cringe here,Pirate fans) that seems to have lost "it" so fast than Dontrelle Willis?
Willis walked eight batters in less than four innings and could have walked many more if the Pirates had any semblance of plate discipline...

3) I like Bob Walk a lot,he might be the only Pirate announcer that has any kind of credibilty and personality,but I almost thought I was in the booth for Sunday's win.
Walk complained several times about the Pirates swinging against Dontrelle Willis when it was apparent that he had no idea where the ball was going.
The Pirates loaded the bases with no one out in the third and two of the runners reached on walks.
Robinzon Diaz then swings at the first pitch,misses and then pops out on the next pitch.
Jack Wilson takes ball one and then pops out on the second.
Walk:"How long has Jack been playing this game,eight years"?
Ross Ohlendorf then grounded to short to end an inning with nothing that could have been a big inning.
Walk groused about all inning and then the next until Willis was relieved.
It is refreshing to have the home announcers tell the truth instead of being a mouthpiece for the team.
That is Greg Brown's job after all.

4) More Walk
Tim Neverett (who grows on me everyday,although I think it is because he isn't Greg Brown) was wondering why Minnesota didnt use a retractable roof like the other "nice new" stadiums like Miller Park in Milwaukee,which is the one new park that I just hate (except for bringing Bernie Brewer along from MCS).
Walk:I must take issue with one part of your statement,Nice like Miller Park?
I hate Miller isnt very nice at all.

5) Even More Bob
Neverett talking about the upcoming road trip followed by the three game visit from the Indians (boo!).
"And that's it for interleague already">
Walk: "darn,too bad".
I wish I could type that as sarcastic and as unenthusiastic as he said.
Right on,Bob!!!

Bonus Hooks

Rumors are flying about Ian Snell being shipped to Colorado.
Not sure what Snell would command right now,but he did not pitch poorly in his last two starts and the arm is sound enough.
Snell shouldn't be a Pirate much longer,Charlie Morton wasn't part of the Nate McLouth deal for nothing....

The Pirates could be looking for a second baseman or shortstop prospect for Snell and Colorado seems to be a good fit.
Colorado has Troy Tulowitzki entrenched at short and Ian Stewart likely to be the second sacker once Garrett Atkins ends his slump at third and that leaves a few interesting prospects blocked from the big club.
Former number one pick Chris Nelson was the player the Pirates really wanted in the draft that saw them tab Neil Walker.
Nelson has been slower to develop,but could play either second or short.
Hector Gomez missed all of 2008,but hits decently and has a dynamic glove at shortstop.
Corey Wimberly is a slap hitting speedball that the Rockies moved from second to center to alleviate the congestion in the system at second,but could easily move back to the keystone position and Daniel Mayora was someone that I thought the Pirate should have taken a look at in the Rule 5 draft last winter.

Photo Credits
Celebration:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Two great pitching performances,Misawa dies in ring.

The Pirates split the last two games both by the same score of 3-1 as they defeated Atlanta on a getaway afternoon contest before losing to Detroit in the interleague starter yesterday.
Steven Jackson was the winner against Atlanta (2-1) with Matt Capps picking up save 15.
Delwyn Young hit his first Pirate homer in the win.
Ian Snell pitched well,but not well enough in the loss to the Tigers and fell to 1-7.
The series is continuing with the first pitch shortly....

Pirate Hooks

1) The Pirates ran into two dominant pitchers in the two games.
Javier Vasquez had the type of stuff that I was thinking in inning one that could be a no hitter type afternoon.
Vasquez didn't pull that off,but allowed only two hits and fanned 12 Pirates in getting the no decision.
Other than the Delwyn Young homer,Vasquez was flawless and looked in top notch form...

2) Rick Porcello was not quite as good as Vasquez,but more than good enough in allowing just one run over seven innings.
This was the first time that I had seen the touted twenty year old and was very impressed with his toolbox.
Porcello came out of the 07 draft with large salary demands that teams like the Pirates didn't want to deal with and fell to the bottom of the first round where the Tigers pounced on the righty.

3) Porcello's situation is why MLB needs to push for a slotting scale for the draft in the next CBA negotiations.
Only then can teams truly select the best player regardless of money and only then can we truly take the players college commitments seriously...

4) The Pirates signed top pick Tony Sanchez and had him in Steeltown for the day yesterday.
Sanchez is headed to Florida for the next 10 days or so before being assigned to Low A West Virginia,so at least their plan is being followed.
Whether it works or not remains to be seen..

5) The Pirates made a nice pickup in signing former Cardinal top pick Tyler Herron.
Herron is just 22 and was surprisingly released by the Cards.
His numbers were not glowing at AA Springfield,but not awful either.
These are the type of low risk high reward signings that the Bucs need to continue to attempt to make.
Herron was assigned to AA Altoona.

I plan on working on the Devils coaching situation soon and look for that in the off days as well as a post on the tragic death of a few hours ago of one of the best wrestlers that the sport has ever known in Mitsuharu Misawa.
Misawa was reported to have taken a routine suplex in a match,suffered a heart attack and died in the ring.
Misawa holds the record for the most five star matches (24) by the Wrestling Observer of all time,which says more than I can type about the greatness of Misawa.
We will have quite a bit on Misawa as soon as time warrants.,but here is a Youtube tribute for now.