Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seamhead stitchings

I missed the end of the Pirate game yesterday to take in a few innings of the wind bowl at the Muni,but saw the majority of the win.
Andrew McCutchen smacked two homers,but Octavio Dotel continued his struggles in blowing another save.
I was pleased with D.J. Carrasco's scoreless three innings in vulturing the victory.
This is the type of inning eating outing that Carrasco is capable of in strengthening the long to middle relief positions...

Looks like I will miss games until Sunday with the Pirates in Los Angeles and the Indians are not a fall back option tonight,although they will be tomorrow against the Twins.

The work game of the night since the Pirates finished in Milwaukee early was the Giants hosting the Phillies.
Tim Lincecum against Cole Hamels was the game of the day and Lincecum was just two bullpen outs away for the W after 8 dominant one run innings.
Lincecum allowed just three hits and a Ryan Howard homer and was as fun to watch as always with Comcast Bay Area showing some shots in super slow motion that broke down his delivery better than I have ever seen.
Lincecum was tabbed with a no decision after the Phillies rallied for the tying runs off Brian Wilson.
The Phillies took the 7-6 win in eleven innings.

Was able to see Giants number one pick Zach Wheeler last night for Augusta against the Hagerstown Suns.
Wheeler allowed one run in just under five innings,but I was impressed with his loose and easy delivery with little effort.
One sees so many pitchers at the lower levels that have great stuff,but put so much strain on their arms that often they leave the best of the abilities in the lower minors.
Wheeler has a long way to go,but I really liked what I saw.

Next homestand for the Suns features the Asheville Tourists and their top pick from last season in Tyler Matzek.
It will be interesting to compare Matzek to Wheeler and I'll try to do it here...

More changes to the All Star game with expanding rosters,full time DH's and pitchers that pitch on the Sunday before the game will be replaced on the roster.
All of them make sense,but the All Star game just isn't the same as it used to be.
Interleague play ruined that and nothing short of dumping that is going to bring it back to prominence...

Finally,a new arrival to the links page as my good friend Corey has started Logical Sports talk.
Corey will cover several things,but it appears that his focus will be on the Red Sox and Oakland Raiders.
Check him out in the links page.

Photo Credit
McCutchen:Darren Hauck-AP Photo

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A rally from the Pirates?

Going into the ninth inning,it looked like a questionable decision and a unreliable bullpen was going to hand the Pirates a loss after a surprisingly effective start from Jeff Karstens.
But,the Pirates smacked future hall of famer Trevor Hoffman for five runs in the stanza and walked away with a 7-3 win over the Brewers and snapped a seven game losing streak.
Ryan Doumit's grand slam (2) put the game away after Ronny Cedeno led the inning off with a game tying homer (2).Jeff Clement also homered (3) for Pittsburgh.
Brendan Donnelley moved to 2-0 with the win.
The series concludes this afternoon with Paul Maholm against Chris Narveson.

Pirate Hooks

1) Jeff Karstens pitched very well and was in for a win before a game tying homer from George Kotteras in the seventh.
It is easy to say that Karstens was kept in too long after the fact,but sometimes manager try to stretch the elastic a bit with weaker pitchers that are pitching well.
I understand the bullpen is tired and ineffective,but Karstens only has so much to give....

2) The Pirates designated John Raynor for assignment before the game to make room for Karstens.
Raynor will have to pass through waivers and if he does,he will then have to be offered to the Marlins for 25,000 dollars.
Neal Huntington will likely attempt to make a trade to keep Raynor such as he did with Tampa to keep Evan Meek in 2008.
If Raynor stays in the organization,he will likely be headed to Indianapolis...

3) The eighth inning homer from Prince Fielder off Jorge Lopez was tattooed to dead center and if there would not have been the structure that gives the hitters the solid background to see the ball against,I would have no idea how far it could have went.
The sound that it made hitting it was thundering.

4) Four more hits from Andy LaRoche as he continues his tear.
LaRoche is now up to .400 on the year,albeit with little power and run production (1 HR and 3 RBI).
LaRoche even looks different at the plate as he seems to be much more akin to taking the ball the other way and using the entire field more than in past spots.

5) An underrated part of the victory was a great catch by Lasting Milledge in the eighth to keep the Brewers off the board with more runs.
The rap on Milledge was weak defense and he still might not the best defender,but it hasn't been due to lack of effort...

6) The win snapped the 22 game losing streak in Milwaukee for the Pirates after being outscored 53-4 in their first four games against the Brewers this season-now that is Ugly!!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

At least the field goal was good

The Pittsburgh Pirates didn't look to be a lock at Miller Park,where they haven't won since the Bull Moose party was running in presidential elections,but with one of their better two hurlers on the mound in Zach Duke had a better chance than most nights recently.
That still didn't work out as Duke was pounded for eight runs over just four innings in another brutal beating at the hands of the Brewers 17-3.
Duke drops to 2-2 on the season with the defeat.
The series continues tonight at eight with Jeff Karstens making his season debut against Randy Wolf..

Pirate Hooks

1) As bad as Duke was,the duo of Octavio Dotel and Brendan Donnelly were worse,allowing nine runs between them in the eighth inning alone!
These are your veteran late inning guys?

2) Stat of the day-aging and light hitting catcher Gregg Zahn finishing the day with four hits and five RBI.

3) Jeff Karstens?
Not that there is any better alternative,but with Karstens back in town the beatings should continue...

4) Andy LaRoche seems to be the only Pirate hitting the ball well as he is 8 for his last 13 and is the only Pirate hitting above.300.
LaRoche is trying to make a case for staying at third despite Pedro Alvarez and his imminent arrival....

5) Andrew McCutchen was moved into the leadoff spot with Akinori Iwamura dropped in the lineup.
This is a move that I do like as McCutchen works best in the one spot with either Andy LaRoche or Iwamura in the second spot in the order..

Photo Credit-Unknown

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jacques Lemaire resigns

I was planning on a Devils season in review,but that will have to wait as Jacques Lemaire has resigned as head coach of the New Jersey Devils after one season and has announced his retirement from coaching.
Lemaire's statement was that although he still loves to coach,he feels that he lacks the energy to coach with the intensity for an entire season at the age of 65.
I think that Lemaire did a good job,but at times you could clearly see the intensity was down and this seems to be the right move at the right time.Jamie Langenbrunner clearly had issues over the late season with Lemaire and despite a division winning season,the disappointing end might have been what showed Lemaire that he didn't want to go through the grind for another long campaign.
Lemaire will be staying with the organization in an advisory capacity.Now the search is on for the third coach in three years and I will stick with hoping for the same choice as last year in Ted Nolan.
Ted Nolan is just the man for the job,but his chances look slim.
The front runners appear to be Devils greats John MacLean and Scott Stevens.
MacLean took Lowell to their first playoff series in many years and looks to be the front runner after being passed over three times for the job for Claude Julien,Brent Sutter and then Lemaire last year.
Stevens was an assistant last season,but looks to be light on experience,although his status as a Devil legend and charismatic presence could help his cause...

Hopefully,the Devils will hire someone with some offensive creativity that will help the Devils in re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk,will help in taking advantage of Zach Parise and hopefully be able to be instrumental in developing the Devils of the future.

Photo Credit:Tim Farrell-Newark Star-Ledger

Is Charlie Morton bad or what?

I have been super tired the last two days with work and haven't felt like writing anything.
This is conflicting because I actually have plenty to write about.
Hopefully,I can make time to hammer some extra posts over the next day or two on the NFL Draft,the disappointing Devils and On the signing front....

But for now,the Pirates have lost six games in a row with four of the six being huge train wreck losses and now travel to Milwaukee,who not only hammered the Pirates in Pittsburgh by a combined score of 36-1 over three games,but have beaten Pittsburgh 21 straight games at Miller Park.

Charlie Morton has been awful in his starts.
How bad?
Well,he allowed five runs in four innings in the Pirates 10-3 loss to Houston and his ERA actually went DOWN.
That's right-Morton's ERA is 16.20 and actually went down after a bad outing.
A friend of mine that is an Atlanta fan told me that he'll take Morton back anytime.
Be careful for what you wish for....

Nice to see ESPN updates things so quickly as nearly a year after Morton became a Pirate,he still is pictured with a Braves cap on his player page.

Speaking of that deal,doesn't seem like either team can be too thrilled.
Morton's painful outings combined with Gorkys Hernandez and his .203 start for Altoona and Jeff Locke having to repeat the season at High A cannot make the Bucs feel too good about themselves.
Atlanta isn't on top of the world either with Nate McLouth hitting just .146.
It looks to me like Neal Huntington had the right idea in selling McLouth high,but his projected returns haven't panned out...

Morton has been bad,but 5th starter Daniel McCutchen was almost as bad in his three starts before being assigned to Indianapolis with an ERA over 13.
McCutchen looks to me to be a Jeff Karstens type,which not only isn't very good,but thanks to the Pirates getting next to nothing from starters not named Duke or Maholm,could result in the actual Jeff Karstens getting a start later next week..

Houston stole six bases on Ryan Doumit and the pitchers yesterday.
Wish I could blame it on one or the other,but I haven't seen enough games yet to form an opinion on which one is at fault...

Yesterday's game was the first that I had seen of the Houston series and the roof was open in Houston.
The humidity there is so bad that the roof is rarely opened other than for fireworks nights...

Hope to be back later for more,but may be earlier as rain is falling and is forecast for all day,putting tonight's Suns-Shorebirds game in jeopardy...

Photo Credit-Unknown

Friday, April 23, 2010

Draft Day!

I'll try to cover things in more detail as time permits, but on a day that saw the New Jersey Devils end a short and disappointing playoff run, the Pirates lose 20-0,(No, that is not a misprint), the biggest and best news of the day was the NFL Draft.

We will have a detailed review of both Cleveland and Seattle next week after all the picks are in, but I like what both teams did yesterday.

The Browns and I wanted Eric Berry, but Kansas City took Berry two spots ahead for Cleveland.
A side note to people that root so hard for meaningless wins late in the season-those wins usually come at a high cost, which is the difference between impact players and very good players...
The Browns had a chance to take Texas safety Earl Thomas, who would have been a very nice consolation prize and fill the Browns huge void at safety.
Instead, the Browns selected the top overall corner in the draft in Florida's Joe Haden.
The same Joe Haden that most observers thought the Browns would take if Berry was unavailable-TWO MONTHS AGO before a poor combine showing.
Haden ran faster at Florida's pro day and that must have cinched the deal for the Browns.
The Browns now have three legitimate cover corners with Haden, Sheldon Brown, and Eric Wright, or the Browns could even shift Brown to safety and save some wear and tear.
In any event, Joe Haden was not a sexy pick, but a solid one, although I would have given Earl Thomas a slight edge, I cannot find fault here.

The Seahawks had two picks at 6 and 14 and slammed both of those picks into the excellent section.
I think Seattle did more to help themselves yesterday than any other team and if they hadn't foolishly shipped their third-rounder to San Diego for Charlie Whitehurst, I would be feeling really good about now.
Seattle nabbed the best tackle in the draft in Oklahoma State's Russell Okung at six even though Washington took Trent Williams, a tackle from Oklahoma ahead of Okung,I think Okung is the better player.
The Seahawks then grabbed Earl Thomas at 14 to be their play-making safety.
Seattle stayed where they were and addressed its two biggest needs and upgraded them significantly.

Both the Browns and Seahawks have their second-round picks tonight, although Seattle is at 60 instead of 40 overall as they flipped second-rounders with the Chargers, but Cleveland has three picks in round three, while Seattle does not have a third-rounder.
Cleveland is supposedly after Colt McCoy in Round 2 and I would be OK with that, but a pick that I would love to see for either Seattle in Round 2 or Cleveland with one of their thirds would be Stanford running back/fullback Toby Gerhart, who I think fits with either team.
Another personal favorite for Cleveland in the third would be Texas slot receiver Jordan Shipley, who you have to think would be a possibility if the Browns do pick McCoy.
Shipley in the third might be a slight overdraft, but remember no 4th rounder for Cleveland...

Did anyone catch the loud chants during Pittsburgh's selection of "She said NO!"?
Or "Tebow Sucks" when Denver overreached for Sarah Palin's favorite player?

Hang in there for promised posts, we are a bit behind, but the draft will be over soon and a Devil elimination means plenty of time for catching up...

Photo Credits
Haden: Unknown
Thomas: Bob Rosato: SI

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Seattle Seahawks Draft Preview

This is a very short preview for the Hawks as I must get to bed,but I did want to get something done for them.
Seattle owns two first round picks at 6 and 14,so they have plenty of options available....

1) Tackle
Future Hall of Famer Walter Jones is on the roster,but he will either be retiring soon or the team isn't relying on his return like they have the last two years.
Other than Jones,only Sean Locklear is the only tackle on the roster,although they have guards that can move in a pinch.
Seattle will have to take a tackle with one of the first rounders or no later than the second.

2) Safety
Jordan Babineaux and the aging Lawyer Milloy head the safeties and this needs some youth soon.
Eric Berry or Earl Thomas could happen or Pete Carroll might hope Taylor Mays falls to the second round...

3) Running Back
Julius Jones has been nothing special and Justin Forsett is the Seattle version of the Browns Jerome Harrison-productive in short tryouts,but size makes durability a huge question mark.
Some mock drafts have C.J.Spiller here,but I like Fresno's Ryan Matthews as well and he might be the better full time back.
Spiller does seem to be more of a Pete Carroll type back though...

4) Quarterback
Matt Hasselbeck cannot be relied on for full time duty anymore and Seattle has attempted to cover that scenario by overpaying the Chargers with a third round pick for Charlie Whitehurst.
Whitehurst is not the long term answer,I don't think and Seattle needs a young passer for the future just in case....

5) Linebacker
Aaron Curry will continue to mature and Lofa Tatupu is excellent as well,but the legal problems that plague Leroy Hill make linebacker a need for Seattle as the backups are more special team types....

Photo Credit-University of Florida

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hit the Music

The New Jersey Devils were thoroughly outplayed in the second and third periods and as a result,dropped a 4-1 decision and fell behind in the series three games to one.
The Devils must now sweep the final three games (2 of those 3 would be home games) in order to advance.
One misstep and the season is over.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the Devils only goal and the games first on the power play.

Hell Raisers

1) It looks to me that Jamie Langenbrunner has mailed his game in since the end of the regular season.
I expect more than that from the team captain.

2) Many Devils bloggers are bagging on Ilya Kovalchuk for not being a fit for the Devils and that the team should not make an effort to re-sign him.
I disagree although I do see the awkward fit that Kovalchuk has had at times meshing with the Devils.
That can easily be overcome by a training camp together working on the type of cohesiveness that only repetition can bring.

3) Martin Brodeur allowed one soft goal,but the other were not bad.
Marty will get blame for this series as well,but it is not justified.
A solid Game 3 from his teammates and Brodeur would have stolen that one and 2-2 looks loads better than down 3-1..

4) The Devils power play has been its usual lackluster self,but the main difference in this series has been the Devils surprising troubles in even strength situations..
In the two losses in Philadelphia,the Devils did not score an even strength goal.
That will not get it done...

5) I picked the Devils to win this series and although I did forecast some concern about the Flyers superior talent down the middle,the series has been even more dominant than I expected in those spots.
I am so tired of Rob Niedermayer that I could scream.

6) Coming soon,changes for the New Jersey Devils?
Is it a column here or will Lou Lamoriello make some wholesale changes for the first time in what seems like years???

I have been called into work tonight,so no promises on posts,but I should have the Browns draft preview ready for tomorrow.
The Seahawks preview isn't looking good for being done though.
I will try to get the On the Signing Front up over the next few days that features our trip to Harrisburg and our first chance at Stephen Strasburg.

Photo Credit-Jim McIssac-Getty Images

Cleveland Browns Draft Preview

Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert enter their first draft in Cleveland armed with extra draft picks and some interesting choices ahead.
The Browns own ten overall picks with three in both the third and fifth rounds,although the Browns are missing a fourth rounder with the trade with the Eagles that hopefully brought two starters to the defense in corner Sheldon Brown and linebacker Chris Gocong.

The Browns have plenty of needs,so as long the Browns take the best player available on the board (with the exception of left tackle),I could be reasonably happy.
The Browns top needs are as follows.

1) Safety
I know some of you might say,"it is just because Shawn wants Eric Berry for the secondary" and that is true,but Abram Elam was disappointing to me last season,Brodney Pool is not returning and Mike Adams is more a nickel back than a full time starter.
Eric Berry or the second rated safety in Texas' Earl Thomas each would give the Browns the type of impact safety that they have lacked since at least the early 90's when the late Eric Turner was in Cleveland and one could argue that Turner was not even of that caliber.
If Berry is there at 7,I am hoping the Browns take him,if he is off the board and the Browns think that they can trade down and still nab Thomas,then I am fine with that as well.
In either case (or even Thomas being the pick at 7,IF Berry is gone) of all the Cleveland needs-this is the most glaring...

2) Defensive End
The Browns simply lack pass rushers and the Browns took a hit there when linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was traded to Oakland and with the uncertain future of Shaun Rogers at defensive tackle,the pass rush could be even worse.
I would like to see a DE be in the plans for round 2 or 3,but I am nervous about the rumors of interest in Penn State defensive end/tackle Jared Odrick and Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan.
Odrick seems to me to be a tweener that will not give the Browns what they need and Morgan seems better suited to the 4-3 defense than the Browns current 3-4.
I would rather see the Browns draft a few linemen over the course of the draft than one early...

3) Wide Reciever
I know Eric Mangini used two second rounders last season on Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi,but looking at the depth chart shows just three other pass catchers behind them in Mangini favorite,but less than productive Chansi Stuckey,late season waiver pickup Jake Allen and periennal training camp roster filler Syndric Steptoe,along with Josh Cribbs,who is best suited as a all around player and not limited to the wideout.
Even if both Robiskie and Massaquoi live up to expectations,depth is still needed.
A veteran could be added after the draft (Torry Holt?),but bet on at least one reciever picked in the draft...

4) Cornerback
The Browns look to be stronger at the corner than they have been for a while with Sheldon Brown and Eric Wright,but keep in mind Brown's age (31) and some youth is needed.
Finally,the Browns have the luxury of breaking a young corner in slowly,lets see if they give this a chance.

5) Running Back
If you arent convinced that Jerome Harrison is the long term answer then a back is needed.
I have spent the last three years boosting Harrison as the feature back and he deserves the chance,but if he fails,the Browns have no fall back position unless you like Peyton Hillis,who strikes me as more of a running back/fullback hybrid.
It may not be early,but the Browns will take a flyer on someone in this draft....

Best of the rest
The Browns will take a quarterback sometime in this draft,Mike Holmgren's track record shows that he takes one a year to develop and check out and I like that philosophy.
One can never have too many passers and if eventually you have extra,you can always move them for draft picks.
Guard could be upgraded on the right side,but the Browns might stick with Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack there for another year.
Linebacker improves with D'qwell Jackson returning,the waiver steal of Matt Roth,trading for Chris Gogong and signing Scott Fujita from the Saints,but when you run the 3-4 linebacker depth might be the position that needs to be the deepest...

The Cleveland Browns have a chance to accelerate the rebuilding process with this draft.
Can they do so?
I hope.
If the Browns cannot pick Eric Berry,I am hoping they can trade down and maybe add another pick or two in the second and/or third rounds,but teams might not value the pick making the Browns unable to deal it.
In any event,for Browns fans-there is hope for at least a little while anyway.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Indians in the system

After receiving some positive words on the Pirates in the system piece,I decided to work on an Indians post as well when I had the extra time.
If you are interested and are really nice to me (Insert laugh here),perhaps a Giants system glance could appear here in the future...

The Indians top farm club,the AAA Columbus Clippers have some interesting names,but none bigger than the Tribe's top prospect in catcher Carlos Santana.
Santana is off to a .375 and 4 homer start in his first eleven games and looks to be ready for Cleveland with the bat now.
The Indians are reported to want Santana to continue to work on his game calling and his English skills before a call up,although it is more likely that they want to delay his arbitration eligibility.
The remaining names of interest in Columbus are players that have dropped a bit for various reasons on the prospect radar.
Outfielder Michael Brantley made the opening day roster in Cleveland,but was sent down after swinging a not so hot bat.
Wes Hodges has been shifted from third to first base and seems to have trouble staying healthy and Jason Donald plays his first full season with the Indians since arriving in the Cliff Lee trade.
Former first round pick Trevor Crowe seems to have slowly faded from the Indians future and Jordan Brown hits everything in sight,but cannot seem to catch a break with the Wahoos.
Brown could be the next Brandon Phillips or Jeremy Guthrie as far as players that the Indians fumbled and became successful with new organizations.
Carlos Carrasco and Hector Rondon are the top starting pitchers for the Clippers and both are likely to see time in Cleveland before the end of the 2010 season.
The more experienced Carrasco is likely to get the first call if the Tribe needs a starter...
Keep an eye on former Cardinal Jess Todd and Steven Wright as both could be in the Indian bullpen before the season concludes...

The Akron Aeros won the Eastern League title in 2009 and return some of their stalwarts.
This usually does not occur as players move up the ladder after a title year,but between being blocked in some cases and needing more time in others,it is happening...
Former top pick Beau Mills returns at first base after a solid,but unspectacular year last season.
Mills is still just 23,although it seems that he should be older,but doesn't seem to be projecting as the impact bat that the Indians thought that they drafting in 2007.
The remainder of the infield all are prospects at various levels.
Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall dominated at High A Kinston in his first full season as a pro and ranks as the Indians top prospect not named Santana.
Toolsy shortstop Carlos Rivero returns after an average 09 and needs a top year to cement prospect status.Rivero seems to be a player with the ability to be a big leaguer,but never seems to put everything together.
Cord Phelps is exactly the type of infielder that Cleveland loves,college guy with intangibles,but his numbers at Kinston were nothing to get excited about and he'll have to show me more with the stick.
Jared Goedert and Josh Rodriguez were once touted prospects that have slipped down the scale a bit and are fighting for their future.
Nick Weglarz is back in Akron after a year that saw him hit just .227,but with 16 homers in an injury plagued year.
The Canadian looks to be a possible star,if he can raise his batting average a bit as everything else seems to be there with power and patience (75 walks last season).
A good six to eight weeks could have Weglarz in Columbus by Memorial Day.
Matt McBride works on a move to the outfield from catcher after a 2009 that saw him play at two levels and make the Arizona Fall League all-prospect team.
Zach Putnam and Eric Berger are the top homegrown talents pitching for the Aeros.
Both spent most of last season in Kinston,with the lefty Berger having the better numbers.
Putnam is the harder thrower with Berger having more of a feel for pitching.
Cleveland has accumulated arms in trades and some of them are in Akron.
Lefty Scott Barnes (Giants) and righties Connor Graham (Rockies) and Bryan Price (Red Sox) came to the Indians in trades and are on the radar.
Barnes looks to be a control pitcher with nice potential,while the hulking Graham (who looks like the late Gene Brabender) could eventually be moved to the bullpen,where Price has already been shifted to.

The High A Kinston Indians feature some high end arms,but are a little weak as far as position players go.
The three players that standout are outfielder Abner Abreu,second baseman Jason Kipnis and third baseman Kyle Bellows.
Bellows shows power potential and is skipping low A with his start at Kinston.Kipnis is converting to second from the outfield and also is skipping Lake County.
Kipnis fits the Indian college mold for sure.
Abreu was playing very well at Lake County before a mid season shoulder injury.
Every time that I saw Abreu last year,I thought that he might be the highest ceiling player in the Cleveland system.
The Kinston arms are much more intriguing.
Kelvin De La Cruz returns from a left elbow injury and is reported to be back to the form that made him a top prospect entering 2009.
Last year's top draft pick Alex White debuts with the K-Tribe and is in the rotation,although some project him as a MLB reliever.
Power armed Nick Hagadone was brought over from Boston in the Victor Martinez deal and has the largest high end of any players acquired last season.
The Indians are limiting his innings after Tommy John surgery in 2008.
T.J.House had a terrific ERA at Lake County,despite a 6-13 record and Alexander Perez showed promise as well.

Low A Lake County looks a lot like Kinston,lacking in bats,but some interesting arms.
The only two bats that seem interesting are both outfielders in Bo Greenwell and Delvi Cid,both of whom spent time with the Captains last season.
Cid is more of a speed player with 33 steals last season,while Greenwell projects as more of a versatile 4th outfield type.
Trey Haley returns after struggling as a Captain last season.The second rounder in 2008 walked more than he fanned last season and needs to work on control.
Clayton Cook and Marty Popham were strong for Mahoning Valley last season and Rob Bryson attempts come back from injury after being acquired from Milwaukee in 2008 in the CC Sabathia trade.

The Indians system is highly thought of by many with the better bats being at the higher levels and arms at the lower levels.
With a young major league roster,some of these players could be counted on Indian country very soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cleaning out the Inbox

We start the inbox with a sad note from the world of boxing as WBC Lightweight champion
Edwin Valero committed suicide in his jail cell in Venezuela a few days after being arrested for allegedly killing his wife.
Valero hung himself in his cell using the sweatpants that he was wearing.
The power punching Valero had several legal issues including drug use in his past,but was reported to have been giving loose rein due to his friendship with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Valero was 29-0 with 29 knockouts and was coming off his biggest win in a 9th round knockout of Antonio DeMarco on Showtime.
Our condolences to his children and family in what must be a horrific time for them..

Good to see that HBO has the intelligence to see a disaster when they own one as they axed
Joe Buck Live after just three episodes.
What a train wreck and not the so bad that it is worth watching kind either.
Now,if HBO could transfer some similar common sense to ESPN for their horrible shows such as Sportsnation and the god awful Winners Bracket that replaced Wide World of Sports on ABC...

Sorry to see Kelly Pavlik lose his middleweight title to Sergio Martinez via unanimous decision in Atlantic City.
Martinez controlled the first few rounds and Pavlik evened the fight by winning the middle rounds and dropping Martinez to the floor once.
Martinez was able to cut Pavlik in the ninth round and won the the remaining rounds.
We scored the bout 115-112 for Martinez.

Interestingly in the rough financial times,it seems that the casual dining eateries have been hit the hardest of all restaurants.
Here is the top ten list of declining restaurant chains.
Hagerstown has two of the ten here in number six Western Sizzlin and number seven Fazoli's.
I have ate at three of the others,number one Black Steer (I could see why they are declining),number three Country Kitchen and number four Damon's,which I thought was very good....
Western Sizzlin has very good steaks,but a way overpriced buffet,which is pedestrian to be kind.
I have never eaten at Fazoli's.

With any luck,some more bonus posts soon since both the Pirates and Devils are off..

Photo Credit-Unknown

Pirates scare Reds

Well,it might not have been our best pun ever,but the Pirates did complete a three game sweep of the Reds yesterday.
I did get to see the Saturday and Sunday games,so a few thoughts follow.
Pittsburgh takes today off before a three game series at PNC vs the Brewers starts on Tuesday.

Pirate Hooks

1) Paul Maholm was strong yesterday in moving to 1-1 with a two run,four hit effort over seven innings.
Maholm seems to have success against the freer swinging teams like the Reds or Astros (seven all time wins vs Houston).
I think that it is mainly due to those teams allowing Maholm to work the corners instead of having to throw down the middle strikes,which is a hindrance to the lefty with his less than top notch stuff...

2) Delwyn Young is hitting .316,but has shown that his best position might be pinch hitting for a contender.
Young attempted to play third on Saturday and botched the first routine grounder hit his way (which was absurdly ruled a hit) and his misadventures last season continued yesterday with his being pulled off the bag on a force play,which would have never happened had he used his other foot to stay on the base.
Playing Young anywhere,but pinch hitter or an American League DH is a disaster waiting to happen...

3) Jeff Clement has struggled so much with the bat thus far that the Pirates have benched him for a few days after Clement is hitting just .107 .
Clement clearly is having issues,but he needs more than two weeks to give up on him yet.

4) That said,the Pirates best lineup for the time being is with Ryan Church in right field with Garrett Jones moving to first for Clement.
The more value Church gains makes for a better trade deadline prospect for him and Church is killing the ball right now.

5) Daniel McCutchen was dreadful on Saturday.
The box score is not awful as he pitched,allowing three runs in four innings,but the three walks are worrisome along with 35 balls over 75 pitches.
For a supposed strike thrower,walking batters and getting behind in the count as the warning flags up....

6) The season is long,but the bullpen has surprised me so far.
The standout has been Evan Meek,who has allowed just 1 run and six hits over six appearances.
Meek has closer type stuff and could be the Pirates future closer if he continues to mature...

7) Ross Ohlendorf was placed on the DL.Brian Burres will stay as the mop up man and the Pirates will either start Burres or call someone up from Indianapolis for the next game for the Ohlendorf rotation spot...

8) Prospect Quinton Miller left his last start for Low A West Virginia after just an inning with "tendonitis in his right bicep"

9) Whether you agree or not that bullpens need to be adjusted by the year and cannot be counted on by past performance,one thing is for certain-If you are paying big money for a closer on a less than good team,that closer had better be reliable.
I think the Pirates have the right idea for their bullpen for this season,cheap and with arms with something to prove.
That doesn't mean they are the long term answer though.
The Reds are paying Francisco Cordero 12 million this year and his three walk ninth inning that allowed the Pirates pull the victory in the ninth was painful to watch even as a Pirate fan.
I can live with closers getting beat,but not by walks....

Will be back later with a cleaning of the inbox and with time this week,I am hoping for Browns and Seahawks draft previews,this seasons first On the Signing Front and I still have a Indians in the system planned...

Photo Credit
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Devils drop OT decision

The New Jersey Devils lost Game 3 in overtime 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers and now trail in the series two games to one.
Brian Rolston scored both of the Devils goals in defeat.
Game four is in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Hell Raisers

1) This was a game that as I watched it,I never seemed to be comfortable with the Devils winning.
Occasionally it happens that way and even sometimes it turns out fine,but not on this night.

2) In any case,one cannot blame Martin Brodeur for the loss.
The end was nothing that he could prevent and his outstanding play in the third period was about the only reason that the Devils even saw overtime...

3) Back to the officiating.
I thought it was fair for both teams (except for the final one,more on that in a bit) but extremely overdone.
Nine Flyer penalties and six for New Jersey was well more than should have been called.
Will someone please tell these guys that no one other than their families come to see them officiate??

4) The game winner by Daniel Carcillo will not go into the box score as a power play goal,but it really was,David Clarkson was barely out of the box and the Flyers kept the puck in the Devil zone due to the chincey penalty call.
It was the type of call that you make in the game,but not when the call could be the difference in the contest.

5) The Devils almost pulled out a win that they really didn't deserve,too many errors and the Flyers controlled play for more of the game that I care to admit.
Lack of offense?Check
Too many Flyer chances inside the zone?Check
You name it,except for in goal and the Flyers get the nod.

6) 19 shots on goal?
You want to see a stat that screams loss-try 19 shots in a game that saw overtime.
No one other than Brian Rolston over three and just two combined for Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk ,both from Parise.

7) Jacques Lemaire scratched Martin Skoula for Mark Fraser and one can argue that move more than anything cost the Devils the win.
Fraser's complete bungle of the puck behind Brodeur handed the Flyers the puck and quickly became their second goal as Mike Richards scored.
I would bet that you wont see Fraser for quite a while,if at all in the playoffs....

8) This puts the Devils back into must win territory Tuesday night.
If they are down 3-1,this is going to be a tough series to win.
However,considering that they didn't play all that well tonight and went to overtime,I am somewhat encouraged.
I have a feeling the Devils are taking Game four.....

I did see the Pirates win over the Reds yesterday and will be taking a tape of tonight's game to work,so look for a Pirate weekend post sometime tomorrow...

Photo Credit-Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Devils knot series 5-3

Game two was a must win for the New Jersey Devils and they managed to just that with a 5-3 win at the Rock over Philadelphia.
Devils goals to Zach Parise (shorthanded),Andy Greene (power play),Colin White,Dainius Zubrus and Ilya Kovalchuk (empty net).
Game 3 in Philly on Sunday at six.

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils came out strong in the beginning and didn't fall apart when the Flyers took a 2-1 lead.
A simple point,but the Devils have allowed games to get away from them in the past-not tonight.

2) Zach Parise's shorthanded goal set the stage for the game and he was flying all over the ice all game.To me,Parise was the heart and soul of the team in this game...

3) Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal and two assists and continued to show tons of intensity,but that was to the teams detriment as well as Kovalchuk committed three penalties on the night.
I have been so pleasantly surprised by Kovalchuk's passion,but allowing players that play 5 to 10 minutes to send you to the sin bin isn't helping the team any.

4) Nine penalties on the evening for the Red and Black with three of them being interference.
Colin White seemed a bit out of control on both penalties of his and needs to take it down just a notch.
Credit to the Devils for the penalty killers for eating seven of nine,but committing that many penalties will kill you sooner or later..

5) Matt Corrente was activated and Rod Pelley scratched for this one.
Surprising,but Corrente played well in his limited ice time...

6) Talk of the series is the officiating and it did seem that some of the Devils penalties were borderline,but you cannot get too caught up in that,although Mike Richards cheap shot on Zach Parise (uncalled) was too blatant to be missed.

Photo Credit-Andy Marlin-Getty Images

Friday, April 16, 2010

Plans for space,Gene Kinski passes away

As a booster of our space program,I must say that despite a mild upgrade in funding,the decision of the Obama administration to scrap the planned Ares rocket seems to me to be a less than smart one.
I liked most of what Obama had to say about space plans,but I liked George Bush's moon return as well.
Why is it that the United States is slowly setting the stage for falling behind to other countries in space issues?
Well,how about each of the last three Presidents having different agendas and ripping up the others plans for a start.
Space missions take tons of lead time and using technologies that are in their infancy now to be ready to use years down the road.
Like it or not and this will not affect anyone living now,but we need to begin the process of moving away and being able to leave the planet when needed.
It could be millions of years away,but those that think that there is better ways to spend government money than on NASA are simply mistaken.
NASA needs to continue preparations for the day that a asteroid that could end human existence needs to be moved off course and the valuable missions to the other planets and eventual leaving of the solar system.
This country has made so many mistakes and could be so much farther along in where we have been and what we could know about things beyond Earth that it is saddening to think about how badly the ball has been dropped.
Humans landed on the moon with computers that didn't have the power of what I am typing on currently,imagine the advances that could have been made.
I have not even touched the jobs that could be created with another space push.
Seems like we have delayed a huge opportunity to learn so much....

Former NWA world heavyweight champion Gene Kiniski has passed at the age of 81.
Kiniski won the title from Lou Thesz in 1966 and dropped the belt to Dory Funk Jr in 1969.
Kiniski was the referee of the first Starrcade main event between Ric Flair and Harley Race.
"Canada's Greatest Athlete"is survived by his sons and former grapplers Kelly and Nick.

The Cleveland Browns are rumored to be trying to trade up to the number one pick for Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford.
I like Bradford,but it depends on the price that the Rams want to be paid.

The New Jersey Devils host Philadelphia in a must win Game 2 of their series.
Coverage here tomorrow.

Terry Pluto has a great article on the Rocky Colavito trade fifty years later in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer.

With the Suns and Keys on the road most of next week,I am hoping to get around to some features that I have put to the side,the draft previews for the Browns and maybe the Seahawks and another non-sports post.

Back tomorrow with Devils-Flyers,some boxing talk and more.

Photo Credits

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Morton mashed again in loss

Charlie Morton was smashed for the second start in a row yesterday as the Pirates dropped their last game of the road trip to the Giants 6-0.
Morton falls to (no surprise after watching his starts) 0-2 on the season.
Today is a travel day for the Buccos and they return home with a weekend series against the Reds...

Pirate Hooks

1) Forgive the lack of photos lately as more and more websites are going to the photo gallery style and making it harder to get them.
Keep in mind that pictures may not always be from the game that I am writing about....

2) Morton has just been head shaking in these two starts.
He has such good stuff and yet seems to range from power armed corner painter to average armer that tosses fat fastballs down the middle.
From what I have seen this year and last year,Morton appears to not know just how good his stuff truly is and lacks confidence in it.

3) Yes,the box score is not a misprint-Aubrey Huff hit an inside the park homer off Morton.
Huff 's homer occurred exactly how it needed to for slow runners-a shot to the opposite field that takes a huge bounce away from a slower corner outfielder and nowhere near the centerfielder.

4) Worst part of the day for Morton?
The three run homer to notoriously light hitting catcher Eli Whiteside.

5) Ross Ohlendorf looks to be headed for the DL.
No word yet on a replacement,although Brian Buress could get the nod simply because he is already on the roster...

6) Jonathan Sanchez fanned 11 and allowed just three hits over eight innings.
Sanchez looked devastating and if he continues his development,the Giants could have the best rotation in the game by next season with Tim Lincecum,Matt Cain,Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner on the horizon...

Photo Credit-Michael Maloney-SF Chronicle

Devils drop Game One 2-1

The Philadelphia Flyers outdeviled the Devils last night with a 2-1 win at the Rock in Game one of the Eastern Quarterfinals.
The Devils only goal was scored in the third by Travis Zajac.
Game two is Friday at the Rock in what is now a must win for the Devils...

Hell Raisers

1) The Flyers played Devils Hockey better than the Devils did as they shut them down defensively,didn't allow the Devils to get to the net and most of all allowed no rebounds against Brian Boucher.
I don't think the Devils played poorly,but the Flyers played better.

2) An example of this was the first goal when Brian Rolston was unable to even budge Chris Pronger in the crease.
Now one could fairly say that Rolston cannot be expected to clear Pronger in that situation,but why was it Rolston and not a stronger defenseman?

3) The eventual game winner by Mike Richards was on a bad call.
Richards goal should have been negated as there were six Flyers on the ice.
Philly deserved the win,but it still sucks to lose by a goal that should not have counted.

4) The Devils power play was inept in going 0 for 5 and tossing six minutes of PP time away including four of those on a double minor.
Too much looking for the perfect pass and not enough shooting and crashing the net.
This has been a criticism of mine for years and it raises its head again at the worst time....

5) Ilya Kovalchuk didn't score a point and misfired a shot that seemed to have frozen Boucher.
Kovalchuk angrily smacked the glass as he left the ice,but that is what I hoped to see from Kovalchuk-Intensity.
Despite his lack of production,I was pleased to see his effort in the defeat.

6) Key play?Braden Coburn knocking the net off when it seemed the Devils were about to score in the third period.
Coburn was called for a penalty,but the Devils could not take advantage.
Big swing there....

7) The Flyer fans seemed especially loud tonight with the constant "Booosh" for Brian Boucher.
I often root for visiting teams when I attend,so that doesn't bother me.
Root for who you want,but it does bug me that the Flyer and Ranger fan are so loud at the Rock.

Will try to be back later with a look at the Pirates 6-0 loss to the Giants.

Photo Credit-Andy Marlin:Getty Images

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Devils vs Flyers

The New Jersey Devils start the Stanley Cup playoff tonight against a familiar
nent in the Philadelphia Flyers.
The hated Philadelphia Flyers.
To me,the Flyers are the most hated of the Devils rivals and the team that I simply cannot stand.
The Rangers likely rank over Philly to most Devil fans,but I'll rank the Flyers first.
In any event,as painful as a potential playoff loss would be,it is a throwback to older times when the Patrick Division playoffs meant three brutal series between hated rivals.
Playoff like they should be and like they will never be again....

Even though Philadelphia lumbered down the stretch and barely squeaked into the post season,I am not willing to say that this is a walkover for the Devils.
The Flyers controlled the Devils in the season series as they won five of six and any team that has Chris Pronger on defense and a deep core of centers as the Flyers do cannot be taken lightly.

The big edge for Philadelphia has been the special teams as they have only allowed five power play goals to the Devils on 32 chances.
New Jersey has an advantage in net with Martin Brodeur against Brian Boucher.
Boucher is the third goalie for the Flyers this season and journeyman is a term that suits Boucher well.
Please remember though,that hockey is a game of ebbs and flows and a average goalie getting hot at the right time can send a favored team home early.
Long time Devils fans should remember the top seeded Devils of the 97-98 season being tossed by Ottawa and Damian Rhodes.
I have seen it-it can happen.

The Devils called up Matt Corrente from Lowell as a forward with both Andrew Peters and Vladimir Zharkov dealing with injuries.
Corrente will likely be among the healthy scratches for tonight's game.

An interesting side note is the performance of Ilya Kovalchuk,who makes just his second playoff appearance and is looking for his first playoff victory as Atlanta was swept in their only trip to the post season.
Will the pressure get to the Russian sniper?

Look for David Clarkson to have a big post season after rounding into shape from his leg injury.
Clarkson's game is tailor made for the grit and grind of the playoffs....

Our prediction-Devils in six.
The Flyers have the weapons and experience to win this series,but a lackluster season and Boucher in goal led us to believe that the season series will be the aberration.
But,I wouldn't bet on anything in the NHL playoffs!!!

Pirates cleanup

Time for some notes on the Buccos to clear the deck a bit...

I have not seen a Pirate game on this road trip,but it is possible that I could see today's finale' against the Giants.
Things should be back to normal with the weekend return to PNC Park against the Reds.
However,keep in mind that the Devils begin their postseason tonight against the Flyers,so playoff hockey could knock the Pirates off the deck on those nights.

A win today would give the Pirates a split of the six game road swing.
Charlie Morton goes for the Pirates against Jonathan Sanchez for the Giants.
Morton enters the game after a bad outing in Arizona.

Hayden Penn was designated for assignment after his rough start.
Penn is expected to clear waivers and be assigned to Indianapolis.

Ross Ohlendorf missed his Monday start against the Giants with back spasms which caused Brian Burres to get the emergency start up from Indianapolis.
Burres allowed six runs over four innings.
Ohlendorf is scheduled to throw on the side today,but if he is unable to throw,he is likely to be placed on the DL..

Big start for Pedro Alvarez in Indy as far as power goes with three early homers.
Jose Tabata is 8 for 24,while Brad Lincoln was rocked in his first start allowing seven runs in just over three innings of work.

Nice start for one of our favorites in Altoona as Mike Crotta is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his first two starts of the season.
Crotta has compiled a microscopic 0.23 WHIP over his first 13 innings of the season.

Wilbur Miller offers an interesting perspective on what the Pirates have done right and wrong in their quest for impact talent.
Wilbur's insights always bring something worth thinking about to the table.

I will make my best effort to see today's game,no promises between playoff hockey and trying to work on the Lakewood Blue Claws.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Devils clinch Atlantic Title

It was unexpected by many,but the New Jersey Devils won the Atlantic Division with their 7-1 splattering over the Islanders combined with the Penguins losing in Atlanta.
The Devils host Buffalo today in a game that will determine the second seed in the East,winner takes the spot.
Devils goals to Ilya Kovalchuk (41),Zach Parise (38),Brian Rolston (20,power play),Patrik Elias (18 power play and 19),Dainius Zubrus (10) and Dean McAmmond (8).

Hell Raisers

1) I wonder if today's game against Buffalo is important enough to Jacques Lemaire to start Martin Brodeur.
Home ice for an extra round of playoffs seems worth it to me and an potential extra home game helps the teams cash as well....

2) Travis Zajac finished with three assists on the night and all were quality.
Zajac played on different lines as Lemaire tinkers with things entering the playoffs.

3) Goal of the night was Zach Parise's swat from his knees.
A real beauty!

4) The Lowell Devils won over Portland and clinched a playoff spot.
The AHL Devils have not appeared there since the 99-00 season in Albany as the River Rats...

5) The Devils could play any of these three teams in the playoffs-Boston,Montreal or Philadelphia.
Philadelphia plays the Rangers in a one game winner is in,loser out in Philly today,but the Devils cannot play the Rangers no matter how the numbers work out....

Sorry so short,have to get a little sleep before the Suns this afternoon,but look for posts tomorrow on the Pirates in AZ and more talk about the Suns...

Photo Credit-Jim McIssac-Getty

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Watching the Wahoos

Before I begin,thanks to everyone that made yesterday our second highest day in hits ever and the highest day ever for referrals to the blog.
Thanks again!

With the Pirates in Arizona (take off your rainbow shades) and me at work,we went with a day with the Cleveland Indians,who traveled to Detroit for the Tigers home opener.
The Indians looked strong early with a Travis Hafner homer and a really nice performance from David Huff until the fifth when what looked like a routine inning ending grounder to Johnny Peralta turned into a three run throwing error that cost the Indians the game 5-2.
Huff was the hard luck loser with three of the four runs he allowed being unearned.

War Chants

1) I prefer the NL game,but it is nice to take in the Tribe when I can.
I love both the Wahoos and the Bucs,but the differences in the game is why the Pirates get more attention here..

2) With Cleveland in cost cutting mode,why have they not moved Johnny Peralta?
Perhaps the Tribe was hoping he would bounce back a bit from a bad 2009 and not deal him at low tide,but his defensive deficiencies at two positions continue to hinder the team.

3) I did like what I saw from David Huff though.
Huff was attacking the Tiger batters and not backing down by nibbling at the plate.
Sometimes,pitchers with less than elite stuff get themselves into trouble by trying the the perfect pitch,get behind in the count and then make themselves vulnerable.
Huff didn't do that yesterday and showed plenty of maturity doing it.

4) I saw Huff's first game in pro ball when he started the only time that I have ever visited Mahoning Valley.
Huff started and pitched the first inning as the Indians wanted to limit him after a year of college pitching.

5) Grady Sizemore looked back in form though after an injury riddled 2009.
Sizemore showed speed on the bases and no ill effects from his injury.
A healthy Sizemore is one of the games most exciting players and maybe even one of its best...

Bullpen Notes

The Pirates were pounded in Arizona 9-1.
Charlie Morton fanned five of the first six batters that he faced and then allowed eight runs in three and a third.

The Devils return home for a weekend finish to the season with the Islanders tonight and Sabres tomorrow.
The Devils are tied with the Penguins for first in the division,but win all tie breakers with Pittsburgh.
The Penguins are at Atlanta tonight and are in Long Island against the Islanders tomorrow....

Fight of the evening on HBO with Andre Berto defending his WBC Welterweight belt against Carlos Quintana.
Quintana holds the only win over Paul Williams.
Could be a good one.

Photo Credit-Duane Burleson-AP Photo

Friday, April 9, 2010

Suns disappoint,Pirates and Devils bow

Normally,we would go directly to the Pirates or Devils losses yesterday.
If they interest you,the Pirates loss can be found here and the Devils here.

Last night's home opener for the Hagerstown Suns was frankly the most disappointing night that I have ever spent at a baseball stadium.
For the first time in my life,I felt like a sucker for handing over my money to attend a game.
I have tried to be as fair as possible to the Suns over the last year or two and attempted to be as positive as possible to the team management,but the time for telling the truth has arrived.

The Suns meet the team party was a nice start,but it seems that the team has made several blunders over the off season.
First,the fiasco that was the opening of the gates can be laid at the feet of several people.
After a large rainstorm that caused the game to be delayed a half hour,astonishingly the Suns refused to open the gates at the scheduled 6;05 since the game was being delayed.
What this accomplished was making two sets of customers angry.
The hard core baseball fan and the thirsty Thursday fan that was coming for the cheap beer.
Potential sales waved goodbye as the patrons were forced to wait unnecessarily for the gates.
Even better was the fact that there was no official announcement about the switch,leaving fans to wonder what the hell was going on.
Nothing from anyone from the Suns front office or anything over the public address system.
The only acknowledgement from anyone associated with the team was Woolie B waving its arms (?) around.
Poor judgment on the Suns part and simply put-bad business.

Once entering the stadium,I realized the next poor decision-Hagerstown general admission had always been any seat other than the box seats and I had been told that the team was going to charge extra to set under the roofed grandstand,but the impression was given that only the center area was the higher charge.
Instead,the team had taken the entire grandstand and added an extra dollar for the right to sit under the roof instead of the rickety open aired versions.
In addition all seats are assigned there and I would guess there would be some difficulties in sitting where you wish,although I cannot say that is definite.
So now for General Admission (and what SHOULD be General Admission),the Hagerstown Suns are charging more and for the bad seats equal than the Frederick Keys for a higher class of baseball and a far nicer stadium.
Give me a break.

The ticket servers were still slow,but that is easily excusable as employees still aren't smooth with a new system,which often comes with issues,but the lack of a line for entering the Muni caused what appeared to be the equivalent of a dam breaking and water rushing through as the Suns had no organization,two turnstiles (the other was for the special season ticket holder entrance) open and not much else.
Had this crowd been either really angry or in a hurry,someone could have easily been injured...

The Hagerstown Suns are a passion of mine,I enjoy the games and the friends that both go with me and that I meet there,but from what I saw last night,I have extreme doubts about how things are going for the team.
It seems to me that this has become a quick buck organization that has not thought things through before implementing ideas and I would offer one small bit of advice to the Suns-It is never too late to correct a bad decision.

I feel that the Suns look at fans like me as a junkie and have taken me for granted.
Well,this junkie felt abused last night,but there is one positive thing-I could have renewed my season tickets......

Check Battlin' Bob's thoughts on the evening here.
The Battler is far more profane than I,but he sure isn't wrong...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pirates win in 10,Suns team party

The Pittsburgh Pirates choked a 3-0 lead,but then rallied on a Ronny Cedeno single in the tenth inning to lift the Pirates to a 4-3 win over the Dodgers.
Garrett Jones slammed a three run homer in the first inning (3) for the Pirates remaining runs.
Brendan Donnelly picked up the win (1-0) with a scoreless tenth.
The Pirates conclude their series with the Dodgers today at 12:35 before leaving for a weekend series in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.
Paul Maholm takes the ball for the Bucs in an attempt for the sweep while Los Angeles sends Chad Billingsley to the hill.

Pirate Hooks

1) It is way early,but Garrett Jones looks to be entrenching himself in the outfield.
After an impressive opposite field shot in the opener,he impresses again with a homer off lefty Clayton Kershaw.
That really gives me hope after watching Jones struggle against southpaws in 2009.

2) Despite not allowing the lead run in the ninth,Octavio Dotel's control issues worried me.
Dotel walked one,tosses a wild pitch that moved a runner to third and another askew pitch could have resulted in a play at the plate as it was bad enough that the runner could have went.
Keep an eye on this issue.....

3) The Pirates have to be preaching plate patience,which would be a great idea,as the team worked the Dodgers for nine walks on the evening,six of them from Clayton Kershaw.
Three of the nine were gathered by Andy LaRoche.

4) However,that doesn't apply to Delwyn Young,who pinch hit for Ross Ohlendorf in the fifth.
With the bases loaded,two away and Kershaw having walked two of the last three batters,it would appear that patience is in order.
Young's response?Swing at the first pitch,which looked to be a ball to me and popped up to the shortstop.
If Delwyn Young cannot be a productive pinch hitter,he shouldn't last long with the Bucs...

5) My lord,this was a long game for a ten inning outing.
Four hours on the dot.
Had I had to work,I would have been long gone before its ending.
Baseball has issues on game length that need to be addressed and the sooner the better...

I missed the first inning of the game to attend the Meet the Suns team party over at the Muni and with one small exception,along with one piece of bad news,everything was very well done.
The team charged two dollars to get in,all the players (except two on the roster) were available for autographs and you could then watch a team workout.

The Suns staff set things up down the third base line with players being three to a table and the tables being spread out a bit.
The alignment was very similar to their autograph day last season for signing the 2009 team set.
This was a super job of planning by the Suns as this enabled you to move from table to table to see players that you had things for and skip players that you had nothing for.
I always feel bad skipping guys,but not much one can do when you don't have cards for them.
All of the players were very personable and I talked a bit with a few that had been Suns in the past.
Only two of the roster players were not there as second baseman Jeff Kobernus was sick and pitcher Kyle Morrison was missing,but I didn't hear a reason for his absence.
Great job by the team in planning things out and refining the idea from last season.

The Suns now have automated tickets and as when any system is new there are always bugs to be worked out.
It was a bit slow getting tickets,so if you are planning to attend any of the Suns first handful of games,you might want to keep this in mind....

The bad news that the gates will open at 6:00 all season.
That is 35 minutes before games in April and May and an hour over the final three months of the season.
Previously,the gates opened an hour before all games.
I think that this is a mistake as I would think that I would rather be selling a water,hot dog etc to my customers than watching them stand in line outside the stadium,but that's just my opinion.
The main issue for myself is that that really reduces the time for signatures,making things a bit tougher.
Here is hoping that after a period of time that the Suns will reconsider their policy...

Back tomorrow with a two fisted combination of the Pirates finale' against the Dodgers and the Devils last regular season road game against the Florida Panthers...

Photo Credit-Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pirates in the system

With the minor league season about to kick off tomorrow,here is a quick look at the Pirates farm system and where players of interest will be starting.
This is not to be confused with our top 15 series that will start soon....

The AAA Indianapolis Indians look interesting for the first time in a while as they have some prospects for a change.
Often times,AAA teams are sprinkled with prospects on a roster filled with 4A players or players that are ready to be the 25th man on the parent roster in case of injury.
However,the I-Tribe has the Pirates top two hitting prospects in third baseman Pedro Alvarez and outfielder Jose Tabata along with their closest to major league ready pitching prospect in Brad Lincoln.
Alvarez and Lincoln could be Pirates as soon as late June,while the Pirates would prefer to see Tabata put more time in at Indianapolis before a possible September (or earlier) callup.
Indianapolis also has Donald Veal in their rotation after a dominating season in the Arizona Fall League and Craig Hansen is in the bullpen in an attempt to save his career from Parsonage-Turner Syndrome,a rare nerve disorder.
Other Indians of note include Argenis Diaz,who will be the starting shortstop in his first full year in the organization,while Brandon Moss,Steve Pearce and Neil Walker get what seems to be their last chance to show that they have a future with the Pirates.

The double A Altoona Curve looks to be the team that might be the weakest team as far as prospects go,most certainly as far as position players go.
The two that stand out are shortstop Chase D'Arnaud and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez,who was acquired in the Nate McLouth deal last year and didn't exactly set the Eastern League ablaze.
D'Arnaud had a solid year last season splitting time between low A West Virginia and high A Lynchburg and moved ahead of fellow draftee Jordy Mercer in the shortstop prospect pecking order.Mercer will be the third baseman for the Curve this season.
The Curve website has D'Arnaud at 2nd,Mercer at short and Josh Harrison,a mid season pickup from the Cubs at third,but I wouldn't think that it is how it will play out.
The website also has Shelby Ford returning to the team as a backup outfielder.
Two pitchers stand out in Tim Alderson and Rudy Owens.
Alderson was obtained from the Giants for Freddy Sanchez and despite solid numbers,some have soured on him after a drop in velocity.
Alderson thinks that some mechanical changes forced upon him by the Giants caused the drop and a return to his mechanics will enable his return to form.
Altoona was an aggressive move for Owens,who was dominant in West Virginia,but had only a few starts in High A and will be interesting to watch.
Other pitchers to watch are Justin Wilson,who finished the season strong at Lynchburg and Daniel Moskos,who is being sent to the bullpen in an attempt to salvage his career.

The Bradenton Marauders are the new home for the High A Pirates (Sniffle),but they do feature a cool hat that I am likely to buy.
Bradenton's top position prospect is first round catcher Tony Sanchez,who exceeded my expectations last season at West Virginia after signing.
Look for Sanchez to be in Altoona by mid season as long he hits reasonably well.
The infield looks a little weaker as far as prospects go although shortstop Brock Holt will be skipping West Virginia after a season at State College,so keep an eye on him.
The outfield is a different story with prospects around the grass ranging from very good to good to keep an eye on in Starling Marte,Robbie Grossman and Quincy Latimore.
Marte played very well in 50+ games in West Virginia and could be this season's breakout star.
Marte has five tool potential,although the power is projected for him.
Grossman struck out a lot in the SAL,but draws a lot of walks and shows speed as well.
With better contact,Grossman could move up the prospect lists quickly.
Latimore is a toolsy athlete that shows a ton of raw ability,his numbers were decent enough at West Virginia,but I would not have complained about a return there.
The Marauder staff is filled with arms from the various trades that Neil Huntington has made.Bryan Morris returns after a less than stellar season at the level,but was reported to have had a new attitude in spring training and his performance was improved as well.
The Pirates would love to see a strong six to eight weeks from Morris and move him to Altoona.
Jeff Locke was acquired from the Braves in the McLouth trade and continued his High A struggles.
The power armed lefty could see AA with a strong start in Florida,but might need more time in the FSL.
Former Mariner pitchers Nathan Adcock and Aaron Pribanic are both in Bradenton with the other pitcher in the Jack Wilson trade scheduled to be assigned there after he is off the DL (Brett Lorin)and are worth looking in on.

The West Virginia Power round out the full season teams with quite a few interesting players to watch.
The top player is shortstop Jarek Cunningham,who killed the ball in the GCL in 2008 following his draft day,but tore an ACL and missed all of the 2009 season.
Cunningham was reported to be headed to Bradenton,but a last minute decision apparently flipped Cunningham with Brock Holt.
If the Pirates were even thinking about that type of move with a player that never played in Low A and missed a season,that shows how highly Cunningham is thought of by the Pirate brass.
The Power comes to Hagerstown in mid May,Cunningham may not be there with them,if he hits well early.
Third baseman Jesus Brito arrived from Cleveland after being traded for Brian Bixler.
Some Indians fans were quite upset about losing Brito,whos numbers in the Arizona and NY/Penn leagues were excellent.
The outfielders are intriguing with 2008 draftee Wesley Freeman,who was signed for well over his slot,2009 third rounder Evan Chambers and Rogelios Noris,who seems to be a little behind in his development from Mexico,but looks to have good power.
Chambers and Freeman were looked at as center field prospects,but one will have to move,Wilbur Miller says it will be Freeman going to right.
Quinton Miller returns among the arms,after an encouraging two months with the Power last season.Miller made two starts at State College and moved to West Virginia and I thought looked strong in his start here in Hagerstown.
2009 draftee Jeff Inman was paid over slot to leave Stanford and has just four State College innings to his pro stats.
Inman was thought to be a first rounder before a struggle in his final season in college,but Wilbur reports that he was throwing in the mid-90's in spring training,so he looks to be fine physically.
Other than 2009 5th round lefty Nate Baker from Ole Miss and Hunter Strickland,who returns to low A after arriving in the Adam LaRoche deal, nothing else really excites me here.

The system continues to grow and improve and looking at this group is enough to give Pirates fans some hesitant hope for the future,even if that future is down the road a stretch.