Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Logo,Cavaliers fall in lottery

Two quick notes before I forget .

I am sure that you have seen the new logo upon arrival.
It might go through a size change and refinement,but the credit goes to my talented daughter,Rachel.
Rachel did all the design work along with the photoshop detail as well.
Thanks to her for all her help!

The Cleveland Cavaliers lost a spot in the NBA draft lottery as the New Orleans Hornets won the lottery and jumped from fourth to first.
The Cavaliers would have had the third pick based on their record last season.
The irony is that the Cavaliers won a coin flip with the Hornets for the third slot.
Had they lost that flip,they might have won the lottery for the second year in a row.

The Cavaliers likely are looking at three players with the pick in Florida guard Bradley Beal,Connecticut center Andre Drummond or North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes,if they miss on the player that they likely really want in Kentucky forward (and former Kyrie Irving high school teammate) Michael Kidd-Gilchrest.

Devils drop Game One in overtime

The New Jersey Devils had their chances to win game one of the Stanley Cup finals,but missed out on the opportunities and lost on a breakway goal by Anze Kopitar as the Los Angeles Kings captured the first game 2-1 in overtime.
Anton Volchenkov was credited with the only goal for New Jersey as it bounced off a King and into the net in the second period.
Game two is Saturday night at the Rock.....

Hell Raisers

1) I hold no blame towards anyone on the game winner.
Any goalie is going to have problems one on one and the Justin Williams pass was perfect,handcuffing the Devils defenders (one was Bryce Salvador,think the other was Marek Zidlicky,at the road office).
Could it have been handled better? Sure,someone could have tighter coverage on Williams,but for the most part as I look at the big picture,I cannot be too upset....

2) Two huge chances for the Devils to win this game with Mark Fayne missing a wide open net late in the third period and Ilya Kovalchuk missed a harder shot in the overtime period.
The Fayne shot could be the play that Devils fans remember if this series is lost by a game..
Tough to find fault with a defensive minded defenseman missing that shot,but still....

3) It is too bad that Fayne's game might be remembered for that as I thought he played very well as did the Devils defense in general.
The Devils managed to do well with the backcheck for the most part and allowed them to stay into the game...

4) New Jersey will need to step up on the forecheck and make Jonathan Quick scramble a bit.
17 shots on goal is not going to get it done against this Kings team and if the Devils cannot put more shots than this against the Kings,then things are going to look bleak....

5) The Zach Parise goal that was taken off the board was a good call,as Parise pushed in it with his glove,but the chance just before that was another lost opportunity as Quick stopped Parise as he attempting to shove it through the body mass...

6) Although the game winner against Martin Brodeur is certainly not one to scream about,the first goal might have been a goal that Brodeur would like back.
It reminded me of a move that I would use in table hockey,where the puck would almost be shoved more the shot past the goalie.
It was a shot in this case,but the speed of it brought that to my mind..

7) Honestly,I never felt that comfortable as the game was played.
Even with the game tied,I always felt like the Kings were getting the better of it and it was a matter of time.
The Devils have pulled a few games out that they really didn't deserve to win in the playoffs.
Sooner or later,luck can run out....

Back later with a short post on a thing or two....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

McDonald eats up Reds

James McDonald continues his breakout season as he shut the Cincinnati Reds out for eight innings in moving to 4-2 on the season as the Pirates moved back to the .500 mark with a 4-1 Memorial Day victory.
Pittsburgh won their fourth game in a row with the victory.
Joel Hanrahan notched the final out of the game for his 12th save of the season.
Pittsburgh will attempt to move over .500 tonight with Charlie Morton against the Reds Homer Bailey.

Pirate Hooks

1)  James McDonald seems to be maturing before our eyes as a potential top notch starter.
You know what I liked even more than the eight shutout innings?
McDonald worked his way out of several jams in the early innings,didn't allow a run and was downright terrific in the final three innings of his game...

2) Pedro Alvarez hit two doubles and moved his hitting streak to six games.
Sunday's game was the first multi-hit game of the streak,so it still is not like Alvarez is ripping the cover off the ball,but signs are encouraging after a Saturday homer.

3) The Pirates are starting to think about a promotion for Jordy Mercer from Indianapolis,The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Yamaico Navarro might the leading candidate to be demoted.
I would like to see Mercer get a shot,but only if he will get regular at bats,not to be the backup to the ice cold Clint Barmes...

4) Cutting this a little short,it's late and my head is killing me.
Sorry again,but I did not feel that well today and I need to pick up before today's trip to Harrisburg...

Photo Credit:Gene Puskar_AP Photo

Monday, May 28, 2012

A few explainations....

Been busy again as of late,so have not had as much time as I would have liked to stay updated here.
I also was unable to flag down a signal last night at work,so that contributed to no post then.
As you know,I am at the mercy of the free signal at the road office,so these things will happen from time to time.

I have not gotten to watch as many MLB games as I would like,mainly because of the Devils playoff run,but also because I have been going to more minor games as well.
The Devils have never made this type of playoff dent since I have been writing the blog,so I underestimated the conflicts between them and the Pirates.
Don't get me wrong-I am not complaining,just stating the cause of things...

I might even miss today's game against the Reds as I have to go to my parents to look through some things in their attic from childhood.
I am looking at this with some trepidation even though it might have its fun times as well.

I hope to take a brief look at the Pirates and Indians draft prospects in the upcoming days.
I know I never posted the Indians series,but I'll try to get at least the list up for future reference.
I also will be looking at Wednesday's NBA draft lottery and how it will affect the Cavaliers...

I did want to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day.
Let's take a second to remember the heroes that have done so much in defending our country on this long weekend....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Devils win the East! Rangers fall in Overtime!!

Adam Henrique slammed in a puck that saw bodies flying around and looking for it less than two minutes into overtime to send the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals as the Eastern Conference Champions with a 3-2 win in game six of their series with the New York Rangers.
As it usually is with the Devils-it didn't come easy as the Devils raced to a 2-0 lead and then seemed to settle into a lull as they allowed the Rangers to tie the game with two second period goals.

Adam Henrique slammed in a puck that saw bodies flying around and looking for it less than two minutes into overtime to send the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals as the Eastern Conference Champions with a 3-2 win in game six of their series with the New York Rangers.

As it usually is with the Devils-it didn't come easy as the Devils raced to a 2-0 lead and then seemed to settle into a lull as they allowed the Rangers to tie the game with two second period goals and then used some great netminding by Martin "The Emperor" Brodeur in the third period to force the overtime that would send the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals and the Rangers to golfing vacations.
The first period Devils goals were scored by Ryan Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Game one against the Los Angeles Kings will take place at the Rock at eight o'clock on Wednesday night with game two next Friday.

Hell Raisers

1) This should finally shut the media and the Rangers fans up about 1994.
Yes,that was a great series,BUT the Devils have WON three titles since then and made another finals appearance in that time,this series win,as great as it is,did not "exorcise the ghost" of 1994.
There has been an entire generation that has been born since that series and those fans have grown up with the Devils as the superior franchise.
The Devils can never be the Rangers,but they can be the better franchise and frankly over the last 18 years-they have been.

2) Martin Brodeur was tremendous in the third period.Without the play of Brodeur-the Devils do not win this game.
For all the talk about Henrik Lundqvist and rightfully so as Lundqvist had the best season of any goalie this campaign,Brodeur at minimum played Lundqvist to a standoff and at times outplayed him.
Considering the age of Brodeur,Marty continues to build his case as the greatest goalie ever...

3) The passing on the Ilya Kovalchuk power play looked like a piece of film that Hollywood would use in a movie.
Wow,what a beautiful stretch of puck movement and skill,Somewhere tonight,some is putting that to music on YouTube.
I just hope it isn't rap or hip hop....

4) Listening to Ed Olyczk and Pierre McGuire whine about the "hockey karma" getting back at Steve Bernier for receiving a high sticking penalty that did not actually make contact.
I don't blame the Rangers for being upset about the penalty,but I think the replays shows Bernier moving his head in order to avoid the stick,not draw a penalty.
Of course,you would move your head to miss the stick!!

5) There were similarities to several of the Devils wins-One great period,one where they were pummeled around the rink and another that was reasonably close.
When you consider the inconsistency of the Devils play you can look at it two ways.
Either the team has been fortunate to escape with wins without playing a complete game or the best just might be yet to come....

6) Three big kills for the penalty killers and the biggest came on the kill of Ryan Carter's interference call midway through the third.
I had to go to work and stayed around until that kill was made.
I had a bad feeling about that one coming back to haunt the Devils,but a great job by the PK kept the Rangers off the board...

7) Adam Henrique's goal was his 11th point of the playoffs and set a Devils rookie record for playoff points.
Whose record did Henrique break?
Scott Gomez,who was a very popular Devil before leaving the team to sign with....the Rangers....

8) It took four whacks at the puck before the game winner finally went home.
Two attempts by Ilya Kovalchuk and one by Alexei Ponikarovsky banged against Henrik Lundqvist before the Henrique score,which once again shows the golden rule-put as many shots on net until the whistle blows-sooner or later even the best goalies get beaten...

9) The Devils have now vanquished their two top rivals with eliminations of the Flyers and Rangers.
As fun as knocking both of those teams out have been and the season would still be a success to me,this team still has one team to play in the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings steamrolled the top three seeds in the Western bracket after underachieving in the regular season and finishing eighth in their conference.
Los Angeles will be a very tough matchup,but this is again a winnable series...

10) I suspect that most will pick the Kings to win and I can see their points with as well as the Kings have been playing,but look back at most of the pre-season picks,the Kings were the chic' pick to win the West.
The Devils? Many thought that they were a franchise in flux after missing the playoffs last season and on the way down the ladder.

11) The hockey media has traditionally downplayed the Devils and there was always a reason the Devils could be excused from getting their deserved credit.
Boring hockey,the trap,the Meadowlands,the third team in the market etc have all added up as various reasons that the Devils organization has been criticized for despite their undeniable success.
All of those reasons are history now as the Devils play in a terrific arena,have a solid fan base and have played a much more offensive brand of hockey than ever before and certainly more offensively oriented than the Rangers and Panthers and maybe even the Flyers.
Win or lose against the Kings,the criticisms are in the past to any objective observers...

Photo Credits
The Goal:AP Photo
Celebration:Bruce Bennett-Getty Images.....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chipping from the bunker

A quick word of thanks to those of that offered anniversary wishes to Cherie and I through Facebook,email etc.
It has been a good 25 years and pretty fast as well,I hope to make to number 50 to double the total..

I have not had a ton of snippets in the inbox,which tends to ebb and flow,so I thought I would use this for a few thoughts on things that did not make it to the inbox.

This weekend features the Salem Red Sox in Frederick against Dylan Bundy in his Carolina League debut for the Keys.
Big question for me is how many tickets are available with Bundy along with an appearance from "Milkshake".
Who or what is Milkshake? Well,they have been described to me as a "Kids rock band".
The concert will be before the game,so this could be the type of deal where the Keys sell lots of tickets to fans of Milkshake,those people leave the stadium,the seats are sold so people wanting to see the game might not be able to get tickets and the stadium is half empty by game time.
My all time favorite of this was the (corporate name here) bowl in Fresno California where the stadium was sold out for the game so kids could see Destiny's Child at halftime.
By the time that the second half kicked off,you could have shot deer in the stands and not hit anyone....

Yes,I am excited about the possibility that the Devils could win the Eastern Conference tonight against the rival Rangers,but I am not convinced that the series is over by any means.
I would even go as far to say that the sixth game in Newark is the must win.
I just think defeating the Rangers three times at Madison Square Garden in a series is a tough road to travel and a loss tonight will put the Devils in just that scenario. 

This weekend also showcases one of the two non-major golf tournaments that I always try to see.
I always love to watch the four majors,but I would not say that I always see every tournament each week.
However,I always try to watch Jack Nicklaus' tournament-the Memorial (which will take place next week in Columbus,Ohio) and the other is this weeks Colonial Invitational in Fort Worth Texas.
The Memorial always draws a world class field,while the Colonial has some stars and others take the week off,but from the Ben Hogan statue to the Wall of Champions,the Colonial creates an atmosphere that the mid-level tournament will usually struggle to match...

I might be doing a little freelance work for my friend Brandon Siefken's new website on Japanese Baseball.
Not sure what I will be writing about,but I am sure that it will likely focus on American players crossing the ocean.
I will be adding them to the links page,when the site is officially up and running.
Adding that to the occasional work for another friend at Luke Erickson's Nationals Prospects should keep me typing...

Conococheague Elementary turned 50 years old this year and despite the love for the school from its community,it looks like it will be consolidated in a few years.
Conococheague was special to me as a young basketball player as one of the two places where the best players in the area played.
I played against the best the area had to offer including the all time leading scorer at N.C.State in Rodney Monroe.
Only one problem,I was not one of the best players in the area....

Photo Credit:David Cannon:Getty Images

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One down to One up!

Sorry that I have not been around much.
Since today is the 25th anniversary of me marrying up with the lovely Cherie and both of us work on the actual anniversary,I have been very busy with my parents taking us out to eat,Cherie and I going out,working on the Greensboro Grasshoppers at the Muni etc has kept me busy and away from the keyboard.

However,if the absence means Devils victories then I will take it as the Devils went from being down two games to one to up three games to two with two wins in the interim.
The Devils played very well in winning game four 4-1 at the Rock and not very well,but stole a game that they usually would lose at MSG 5-3 in snipering (a word?) game five from the Rangers.
The Devils will attempt to close the show Friday night in Newark in the sixth game of the set.

Hell Raisers

1) Game four featured the Devils dominating the game and frustrating the Rangers to the point of taking cheap shots and dumb penalties.
I did not think the Mike Rupp punch to Marty Brodeur was that big of a deal other than to show just how out of control the Rangers were.

2) The key to both wins?
Getting to Henrik Lundqvist and making him have to look through traffic.
The Devils have succeeded in making Lundqvist struggle to make the routine saves and some of those are finding the net.

3) Another key? The Devils are finding ways to reach open men in front of the net while the Ranger defenders are chasing the puck.
The Devils scored goals in game five in this manner twice with the game winner by Ryan Carter occurring in just this manner.
Being able to get the puck out of the corners with skaters cutting to the net make Lundqvist much more vulnerable than usual and turns him into a goalie that has to be almost perfect.

4) I know I have a bias.
I admit it,we write about the Devils because they are my favorite team,but even if I was not a fan,I think that I could not stand John Tortorella.
His verbal back and forth with Pete DeBoer added fire to the heated rivalry between these teams and I enjoy that part of it,but some of the routine of the Ranger coach grows thin,which is why he tends to move around.

5) Martin Brodeur was brilliant in game four and less than stellar in game five.
Brodeur's puckhandling miscues led to two of the three Rangers goals and a bad bounce by Brodeur wound up in the net for the other goal.
The Devils were VERY fortunate to escape with a victory in a game that Brodeur made so many mistakes....

6) The Devils put just 16 shots against Lundqvist in game five.
Four of them went in and that shows the Rangers have been rattled,even if just for now.
Not that things will stay that way,but the frustration of being outplayed in game four and then losing despite outplaying the Devils in game five,the blueshirts have be wondering just how they are going to win two games in a row....

7) Who would have thought that the New Jersey Devils would be winning Eastern Conference Finals  games with huge contributions from a player that was claimed off waivers (Ryan Carter) and a player that spent almost the entire season with Albany?
Not me,but Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta along with Steve Bernier were the Devils best line in the win at MSG.
When you can get those types of performances from the fourth line,you are going to win your share of games...

8) The referees have not covered themselves in glory in any of the games in the series,but this was the worst by far.
I think the calls have gone against both teams,but the kicked in second goal was the worst.
Why even bother with video review if that type of goal is allowed to stand?

9) The Devils will need to pick up the pace in game six because I do not believe the Rangers are going to roll over and die.
They will go down fighting and I do not see the Devils getting lucky twice in a row.

10) So we move to game six and we are about where we should be.
The Rangers took game one as the fortunate winner and the Devils took the fifth game that they really did not deserve,so things have been about right thus far.
Can the Devils win Friday night? They had better because it would be very unlikely that the Devils are going to win three of four games at MSG.
No predictions here,but I will say this-I like the Devils in six far more than the Devils chances in seven...

Photo Credit:Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Imagine No McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen blasted a pair of two run homers (6 and 7) to account for all of the Pittsburgh runs as the Pirates bounced back from the anemic offensive performance against Justin Verlander with a 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers in Detroit.
A.J. Burnett evened his record at 2-2 with six innings that saw allow two of the three Tigers runs.
Joel Hanrahan picked up his ninth save with a scoreless ninth inning.
The series concludes Sunday with Kevin Correia for Pittsburgh against the Tigers Max Scherzer...

Pirate Hooks

1) I missed the Verlander one hitter as I was in Altoona PA,but apparently I missed little other than a Josh Harrison hit....

2) The win could have been much easier without a borderline call on a Prince Fielder chopper that looked to be fair and would have resulted in an easy out.
Instead it was called foul and a few pitches later Fielder ripped a two run homer...

3) A.J. Burnett's ERA after this one was 4.78.
Nothing special right?
Now imagine the ERA without the 12 earned runs allowed in his start against the Cardinals.
Burnett has been pretty good minus that start....

4) The Pirates struck out 12 times in the win.
That's 12 as in after 11.
In case you didn't know-That is too !@#$ing high as Marshall Lucky would say in Used Cars..

5) I don't watch a ton of American League baseball,so it isn't often that I see some of the parks in the junior circuit.
When I do, I try to get a feeling for the park and Comerica Park did not do much for me visually.
The park that I thought of looking at it was New Comiskey in Chicago.
That is not a compliment.

6) More worries on the possible draft selection of Deven Marrero.
I have read reports on attitude issues and not hustling.
This feels worse and worse to me...

7) Running out of superlatives for Andrew McCutchen.
Just look at the team stats and tell me this teams record without Cutch.
Looks like the extension is going to be a bargain at this rate....

8) The teams wore Negro League uniforms in the annual tribute.
I thought Pittsburgh were cool enough,but the Detroit were kinda silly looking...

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Third Verse-Same as the first!

The third game of the Eastern Conference finals looked a lot like game one of the series.
Unfortunately for the New Jersey Devils and me,that was a loss as was game three as the New York Rangers broke a scoreless tie with two goals in less than two minutes in the third period in a 3-0 win.
The Rangers now regain home ice advantage and lead the series two games to one.
Game four is Monday at the Rock.
I will be in Frederick for the first visit of the Carolina Mudcats to Frederick unless the game is rained out,so I will be watching the game on tape,unless the game enters overtime.....

Hell Raisers

1) The time out came into play for both teams with one calling theirs at just the right time and the other perhaps not using it as well....
The Devils dominated the first period and yet did not score,but during this run,John Tortarealla called a timeout to berate his team and change the momentum.
It worked as the Rangers played much better after that and put themselves into a position to win...

2) The first Ranger goal came on a power play that was caused by Bryce Salvador's hooking penalty.
The Devils had to ice the puck twice and in addition to a long backcheck in their own zone,the Devils were exhausted and might have been better served to use the timeout.
Pete DeBoer didn't,the penalty ensued and that allowed the Rangers to score on the man advantage...

3) More bad officiating as Brandon Prust clearly elbowed Anton Volchenkov with an elbow that would have made the American Dream Dusty Rhodes proud.
No penalty called,but Prust is expected to miss the next game once the player control henchman Brendan Shanahan gets a hold of this one.
The refs looked very bad in missing this one...

4) Henrik Lundqvist was terrific in net.
The Devils had several excellent chances and Lundqvist turned them all away.
You have to give credit where it is deserved and on this day-Lundqvist was the difference in this game...

5) Devils 0 for 5 on the power play.
Not very much that I can add to that other than I tired very quickly of Marek Zidlicky's puckhandling mishaps on the power play.
I counted at least three of those occurring when the Devils appearing to have the Rangers scrambling to keep things in their control...

6) Martin Brodeur was flat out up to the level of Lundqvist for two periods with several saves that kept me shaking my head.
I cannot blame him truly for either of the two goals allowed,especially not the first.
On a day that Marty needed to be perfect,he was only tremendous.

7) Henrik Tallinder and Jacob Josefson are now practicing,could either or both return to the lineup for Monday's game?
If so,I would think Tallinder would replace Peter Harrold and Josefson could take Ryan Carter's spot in the lineup....

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pirate Hooks

The Pittsburgh Pirates split two games in Florida and split two more with Washington before this weekend's series against Detroit in the thrilling (ahem) return of interleague play.

I saw the first three of those games and missed tonight's as I was at the Muni and the game did not end before I had to leave for work.

So.....I'll try to catch up a bit with some hooks and some thoughts on the 18-20 Pirates....

On a non-Pirate note,check my post on run by my friend Luke Erickson on the Hagerstown Suns position players.
Be sure to look around at Luke's site for more info on the Suns along with the past Suns as they move up the prospect ladder.

James McDonald is having a breakout year thus far,but the real sleeper for now is Brad Lincoln,who should be inserted into the rotation for now in place of the struggling Kevin Correia.
Lincoln looks as strong as he ever has in his MLB chances and needs to get a regular turn every five days.

As disappointed as I am with any position player not named McCutchen thus far,the pitching has far surpassed any hopes that I have had.If this team had any hitting at all,the Pirates might be quite a surprise....

The Pirates sent down Alex Presley to Indianapolis and recalled Evan Meek to add another arm to the Pittsburgh bullpen.
I wish that I could say that someone that could turn the offense around was available at AAA,but with the arguable exception of Starling Marte (hitting .252 currently),not only is there not a current possibility of help available,there might not be one available eventually.
That shows the barren landscape of bats in the Pirates system....

I have a confession-I am not as up on the MLB draft as I have been in the past.
I have allowed my Baseball America subscription to lapse because I simply tired of paying 95 bucks a year for a magazine that hits the stores before my mailbox and therefore have a little less knowledge on this year's draft crop.
Thus far,many mock drafts have the Pirates taking Devin Marrero a shortstop from Arizona State,that has struggled with the stick this season.
Considering the Pirates lack of bats in the system,I am not in favor of taking a player at positional need,let alone one that appears to have a glove first tag with a top ten pick.
Taking low ceiling college players that look to be average bats is a recipe for mediocrity and no one can argue that fact....

I'll try to get in touch with guru Wilbur Miller for a few words on Marrero and a few others that Wilbur might prefer in Marrero's place....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Devils grab game two!

The New Jersey Devils rallied from a two to one deficit to defeat the New York Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden and tie their Eastern Conference final series at a game apiece.
David Clarkson's deflection early in the third period eluded Henrik Lundqvist to lift the Devils to the lead.
The Devils had received the first goal of the game in the first period on a Ilya Kovalchuk power play blast before allowing the Rangers to score the next two goals of the game.
Ryan Carter deflected a Bryce Salvador shor past Lundquvist late in the second to tie the game and turn a period that was controlled by the Rangers into anyone's game at the end of two.
The stage was set for Clarkson's redirection of an Adam Henrique shot and the game winner.
Game three hits the Rock on Saturday afternoon at one o'clock....

Hell Raisers

1) I had to leave for work with about 15 minutes remaining in the third period,but I did see the Clarkson goal and listened to the remainder of the game via XM radio.
It did seem to me to be a tale of the Devils controlling the first period,the Rangers most of the second and the third seemed pretty even except for the Clarkson goal.

2) The Devils controlled the forecheck in this one and that made a huge difference.
The Devils set the stage in the first period with the effective forecheck and had the Rangers on their heels.
New Jersey needs to continue to be aggressive the forecheck and that could prove to be effective in keeping the Rangers away from their constant hitting the ice to block shots...

3) Good news-the Rangers scored both of their goals on the power play.
Bad news-see above.

4) Reading the above,I'll still take the stat.It is easier to stay out of the penalty box than it is to correct issues on even strength...

5) Bryce Salvador-9 points all season and 8 in the playoffs.
It is funny how that those types of things occur in the playoffs...

6) I have been less than thrilled with Mark Fayne in the past,but his play as of late has been terrific.
Mark Fayne might be the player that has improved his game most thus far in the post-season.

7) Just goes to show that name power only goes so far as the world's most overrated arena could not manage to open a penalty box door for eight minutes in the middle of the game.

8) Martin Brodeur was better than Henrik Lundqvist in the win.
Brodeur's second period save on Marian Gaborik was simply astounding.Unreal...

9) I wrote in the game one recap that the Devils had to find a way to keep the Rangers off their shot blocking game.
The blocks by the Rangers reduced by ten from 26 to 16.

10) Onto the Rock for a early afternoon start for game three,due to NBC showing the Preakness,so the game will start early.
Being that both teams will have two days off,the early start should not give either team an advantage,but it is an unusual start time and it is a interesting thing to pay attention to....

Photo Credit;AP Photo

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Whitewashed in Game One

The New Jersey Devils played the favored New York Rangers straight up and scoreless for two periods before a defensive lapse,a missed penalty call and the final empty netter in the third period added up for a 3-0 Ranger win and a series lead of one game.
No Devils scored,obviously and the second game of the series takes place on Wednesday night.
I will miss the end of that one due to work and the eight o'clock start time.

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur played very well.
Henrik Lundqvust was better.
I think the first Ranger goal was a mental lapse as the defenders were playing the puck and did not see Dan Girardi slip onto the ice and get into position to fire the puck past a screened Brodeur.

2) This is not an excuse,just a fact-in playoff hockey,the ice gets bad.
Nothing that can be done about it,so griping is pointless,but you just have to hope the breaks even out.
The first goal was set up by a bouncing puck over Bryce Salvador's stick and things quickly led to the Girardi goal.
Breaks of the game...

3) The second goal is the one that really has me steamed though.
The Rangers are on the power play and the Devils dump the puck into the Rangers zone.
Michael Del Zotto and I think Travis Zajac (Not positive on the Devil) fall to the ice and scrap for the puck.
Del Zotto clearly scoops the puck and throws it up ice.
No penalty and on that possession,the Rangers score.
Missed call and it essentially ended the game....

4) Give both Lundqvist and the Rangers defense credit-twice the Devils had breakaway chances and the defender was able to break back enough to make Kovalchuk/Parise rush their shot and allow Lundqvist time to to swat the puck away.

5) The Ranger shot blocking/fall to the ice and pray was very effective tonight.
So much in fact that New Jersey is going to have to figure a way to deal with the tactic.
Whether that is quick passes to deal with the fallen player or more a plan to go around them,the Devils have to find a way to get more rubber on net.
If not,this is trouble in the making.

6) This one is not a huge loss,Game two looms bigger and a loss there makes Game three gigantic.
The Devils did not play awful,they were far from great either.
Let's see what they have on Wednesday night...

Photo Credit:Kathy Willens-AP Photo

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pirates rally in the rain!

The Pittsburgh Pirates rallied in the ninth inning to force extra innings and then again in the bottom of the twelfth to pull out a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros in a damp finale' at PNC Park.
Josh Harrison ripped a two out single to score Clint Barmes from second to secure the victory.
Tony Watson (3-0) pitched a scoreless twelfth inning to earn the win on the mound.
The Pirates will be in Miami tonight for their first game in the new Marlins ballpark.
Brad Lincoln(2-0) gets the start in the Erik Bedard rotation slot against Miami's Anibal Sanchez (2-0).

Pirate Hooks

1) The Pirates were forced to audition first basemen after Clint Hurdle totally emptied the bench in the ninth and tenth innings.
Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes each spent time at first.
I understood Hurdle's maneuvering to attempt to tie the game in the ninth,but finishing the bench with Barmes pinch running for Barajas in the 10th limited Hurdle and made things tougher than it could have been.

2) A.J. Burnett looked as strong as he had as a Pirate in his eight innings as he allowed just two runs.
Burnett fanned four,so I don't think his stuff is entirely back after missing spring training,but this start was very encouraging...

3) The Pirates had to be disappointed after having the tying and winning runs in scoring position and no one out and only scoring one in the ninth inning.
Pedro Alvarez did tie the game with a sac fly,but the Pirates could go no further and forced extra innings...

4) Four scoreless innings from the Pirates bullpen from four pitchers.
The quartet also did not allow a hit in the term.

5) Brad Lincoln has pitched well of late from the pen,I am looking forward to seeing how he looks in tonight's start,but this might be his only shot (for now) as Erik Bedard returns on Wednesday.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Sunday, May 13, 2012

McCutchen mashes as Buccos win!

Andrew McCutchen homered (3)as part of a four for four evening and Jose Tabata homered (2) and tripled to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 win over the Houston Astros at PNC Park.
Charlie Morton allowed one earned run in six innings to move to 2-3 on the season with Juan Cruz pitching the ninth for his third save of the season.
The series concludes Sunday afternoon with A.J.Burnett for the Pirates against Wandy Rodriguez for Houston.

Pirate Hooks

1) It is a damn good thing that the Pirates have Andrew McCutchen because if they did not,I have no idea how this team would score any runs at all.
Take McCutchen's .342 average from the lineup and the Pirates best hitter is Neil Walker,take Walker and the best hitter currently drops to Jose Tabata.
The McCutchen extension looks better every day...

2) Charlie Morton looked the best that he has all season in his six innings,but he still frustrates me.
Morton just works so slow and even those his Roy Halladayesque mannerisms that have helped him just make him seem so slow to the plate.
That said,I'll live with an earned run every six innings...

3) Could Jose Tabata be waking up a bit?
One hopes so after a triple and homer in this game and a triple in the series opener,but I would not want to jump to conclusions.
The Pirates could use a Tabata rebirth after a slow month of April.

4) Joel Hanrahan will return after missing the last two games due to attending his grandmother's funeral.
Hanrahan was the subject of the teams only bobblehead giveaway on Saturday and ironically was not there to enjoy the evening...

5) Brad Lincoln will get the start Monday as Erik Bedard's back has pushed his start back to Wednesday.
That is good news as Bedard will not be going on the DL with the back problems.
I thought Lincoln threw very well when I saw him pitch against the Nationals on the evening that Bedard was injured and this might be one of his last chances to solidify his role on the team...

Photo Credit:Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bud Norris-Bucco Killer

I wrote that I was looking forward to seeing two of my favorite pitchers go at it Friday night in Pittsburgh and the results were worth it even if the wrong team won.
Bud Norris worked his way out of two jams without allowing a run and James McDonald allowed just one run over eight innings (that on a double play ball) as the pair dueled in a 1-0 Houston win.
McDonald picked up the hard luck loss (2-2) despite striking out eight and allowing just four hits.
Same two teams tonight at PNC Park.
Charlie Morton for Pittsburgh,JA Happ for the Astros.

Pirate Hooks

1) Tough break for James McDonald,who allowed the games only run in the second inning as the Pirates allowed a run to score in order to turn a double play to clear the bases.
McDonald's ERA is now in the low two's and has improved,in my opinion, from one thing-McDonald is attacking with the fastball earlier in the count.
With improved control,that goes a long way.

2) McDonald's eight fans on the evening increased his string of seven strikeouts or more to four games.
Not bad at all...

3) Bud Norris.
I know,I seem to be one of the few guys high on him,but he seems to be such as unnoticed pitcher.
Norris whiffed eight over six innings and I love his slider.
Maybe the Pirates can get him over the winter since the Astros are moving to the AL?
I doubt it,but I think it would be a smart move,put him on a better team and he wins 15 games easy,oh better team,,,never mind...

4) Stupid base running killed Pittsburgh in this game.
The biggest stab?
Jose Tabata,after a triple,breaks for home on a grounder to Chris Johnson and is thrown out easily.
Add to that Josh Harrison being picked off after being inserted into the lineup as a pinch runner for Rod Barajas in the eighth and the base running was less than stellar...

5) Loved the relay from Tabata to Neil Walker to Pedro Alvarez to just nab Jed Lowrie at third as the Astro shortstop tried to stretch a double to a triple.
That was just the way that a coach hopes to see that play after the endless number of drills that you do...

6) After the game,the Pirates bought Jeff Larish from Boston and assigned Larish to Indianapolis.
Not exactly an earth shaking maneuver...

Photo Credits;Gene Puskar-AP Photo

Friday, May 11, 2012

Taking a look at Homeschooling

I know that this is not the normal post,but as we are more than just sports,I wanted to do something different.
The lovely Cherie suggested a look at her life's passion-home schooling a few weeks back and I decided to get a start on it.

Our homeschooling adventure started by accident and sometimes it is funny how things work out almost from the opposite of what you expect.
We thought Ryan would be in the school district of one elementary school and I took him to the school to sign him up for kindergarten.
We took the school tour,talked to the teachers,filled out the forms and came away quite impressed.
However,twist number one occurred before I even reached home as the school had called and reported that Ryan was literally on the wrong side of the tracks and would be going to another school with a far lesser reputation that we were not pleased to be sending Ryan to.

We then jumped to another option,sending Ryan to my old elementary school,using my parents address and driving him there every day.
A hardship,yes,but one preferable to the school that was in our district.
However,the principal was rude and without knowing our plan and thinking we lived in the school district,he claimed that the school was too crowded and he didn't have time to even enroll Ryan,even though had we followed through,he would have no choice in the matter.
After that.we were starting to consider our options,should we apply for a waiver and attempt to get him in the school of our choice?
Should we try to just put him in the school that he was assigned and take our chances?
We just were not sure and then I remembered an article in the Washington Post that discussed home schooling that I read one day at work.

We wondered about it and at first thought that it might buy us some time to figure out what to do about Ryan's school situation and decided to try it for one year.
What we discovered was that homeschooling would become the passion of Cherie's life.
Ryan and Rachel both learned differently and both had to be taught differently.
Ryan was able to watch more programs and do reports on them,I was far more involved with his schooling than I was with Rachel,who needed much more of the verbal style yet seemed to do better in comprehending the material.

As we learned with Ryan as we went along,we discovered that we did really well in some things (most) and struggled in others (math) and yet Ryan was way ahead in the subjects others than math.
I like to think that perhaps we did not handle his weakness as well as we could have in hindsight,but I think much of the person that people like so much was as a result of home schooling.
Ryan was able to work on things that he liked,things he didn't like at the time and eventually would and things that he disliked and would not be interested in.
Rachel did not learn in the same way,but still has been able to vary her likes and dislikes to a personal template instead of the public school template.

I wish that I had a nickel for every time that Cherie or I had been asked about the social aspect of home schooling.
I might to be able to not work for a living.
Honestly,I cannot say that I have a perfect answer.
I do think that you need to make a special effort to have children involved in activities so that they are around other children and I do not think that the answer is to hide your children away.
But,one can make a huge case that not having the everyday grind of dealing with peers enabled my children to be more of an individual and certainly more of a leader than if they had attended public school.
The social aspect of being around a group of peers that are your exact age every day is far more limiting than the real world and isn't school supposed to be preparing you for the everyday grind,not holding you back?
I believe that had my children attended public school,one of them would have been radically different as a person (not going to name which one) as the pressure to follow the crowd is so great that that child seemed likely to do so.

My wife and I came to the same agreement on home schooling,but for different reasons.
Cherie wanted to keep our children away from the people that break your children down,the peer mentality and the group think that influences kids and usually not for the better.
My reasons were more for the educational aspects.
I had (and still do) held deep resentment for the our local BOE and schools for their handling of me when I went through the system.
Although,with hindsight,I can now accept some of the blame for my mistakes (and my parents),I blame those entities immensely for my school career.
I did not want my son (and later daughter) to have his talents wasted by a conveyor belt that finds it more important to keep children moving along rather than developing their skills in a specific area.
Our decision has been the right one.
Both of our children have avoided labeling because of that decision and they have been able to settle into situations where their skills and character will decide what they do and where,not being handicapped by a decision by someone observing them at too young an age.

I do think that public school has a sheepherder mentality that takes good care of the middle level children,but can bore the higher level child and can leave the lower level child far behind in order to keep the herd moving.
I watch from afar at various children's issues and grit my teeth at the absolute craziness of some of the things that schools tolerate,encourage and yes,teach.
Putting children on behavior medications at ages that one could argue that are simply children being children is (in my opinion) nuts.
I roll my eyes when I hear some of the emphasized things at an age where the basics should be stressed and then spin off of the basics in order to expand the learning.

I do not believe that home schooling is perfect and certainly not for everyone.
There are a few downsides,mostly that it can be more difficult to meet people.
I know that sounds counter to my earlier statements on socialization,but bear with me.
It is far from impossible,but just a little more difficult,especially in the teenage years when activities become harder to come by for the age group.
Sports transition to the high school athlete as do other activities,they can be found-they are just harder to do so.
Ironically,one problem affects the parents only.
The children are around all the time,so it can be tough to find time for us,but that is a sacrifice worth making for the future.

Another downside for some,is that you can tailor the curriculum to the student and some students would chafe under the one on one style,but for the child that is advanced or behind,we can speed up or slow down in order to help things actually be learned instead of the learn it.pass the test and then forget it style.
I realize that is not perfect either,but it is not about being perfect-it is about doing what you think is best..

I would recommend this to parents that either will be committed to the program totally or for kids that are struggling in the school system,sometimes you cannot just stand by and take what is given.
Change can sometimes make a difference and shaking things up can help.
I would say that to the homeschooler that is struggling as well.perhaps a move could turn things around as well.
I would not change our decision,although there are always small issues that we might like to change as we look back.

I am not sure how my kids think about our decision.
I gave Ryan the choice to attend high school and he turned it down.
Rachel was not given the choice as her learning style is different and we felt that she needed the structure of we offered rather than the school template.
I do know that Ryan's fiance' is a very pro-public schooler and I am resigned to whatever decision that they make for what they think will be best for their child.

In the end,I cannot complain about how things turned out.
I have two terrific and well adjusted children and I allocate our decision to home school for some of those results.
Much of the credit has to go to Cherie,she did far more work than I ever did,especially with Rachel.
I am glad that she found something to be passionate about and enjoyed doing.
I wonder what she will jump into next as we wind down our wonderful adventure?
One thing that I feel pretty safe in saying-it will not be baseball autographing!

Due to internet issues at the road office,this was pushed back again and the finishing knocked off the terrific Astros-Pirates game last night.
I may do that shortly anyway,even though today's game starts shortly....

Blame it on the Bossa Nova..

Sorry for missing yesterday.
I was working on a feature post that has nothing to do with sports at the road office and suddenly the person that provides my gift of the internet turned said net off and instantly ended my online evening.
In any event,I put the PC on sleep so that I did not lose the work that I did finish,so I hope to finish it tonight.

I know that some of you are disappointed with the lack of baseball coverage thus far,but I just have not had as much time.
I did see the last two games of the Washington series for the Pirates,but last night's fiasco occurred in the fourth inning of the MASN replay,so I did not have that finished for a planned two game recap.
I hope to kick that in gear shortly or rather in a month or so as that means the Devils will keep their run continuing.

The advantage of the laptop (internet included) is that I am able to sleep when I get home instead of working on the blog.
My sleep has improved,so I am not minding,but I will address this issue if and when this becomes a recurring problem.

I hope the Pirates game tonight is finished before I leave for work as I am looking forward to seeing as my favorite Pirates starter James McDonald takes on Astro strikeout machine and long time blog favorite Bud Norris.

Not surprised that Erik Bedard is injured again,this time with back spasms.
Bedard appears to be doomed to be a solid pitcher that just can never stay healthy.

Keep an eye out at Nationals Prospects for my upcoming look at the Hagerstown Suns.
I hope to have that delivered by Monday....

Looks like next weekends Lamont Peterson -Amir Khan rematch is off due to high testosterone test by the champion Peterson.
Peterson claims it was medically prescribed and he had better hope so or his titles are gone and will be likely to be suspended for a year....

HBO looks to be working on signing 175 pound champ Chad Dawson with 168 pound titlist Andre Ward on the summer tour.
The fight sounds nice between the two champs,but will likely result in a dull fight.

Sorry to hear about the recent passing of the Hawaiian bomber Andy Ganigan at the age of 59.
Ganigan was often featured on the weekend sports boxing shows on the networks (remember those?) for his big punch and exciting bouts.
Ganigan is most remembered for his dropping of Alexis Arguello in his only lightweight title shot before losing and his two round demolition of Sean O'Grady in the bout that essentially ended O'Grady's career as a serious contender.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On the Signing Front-Giants Edition!

A short signing front to keep caught up covers the two San Francisco Giants teams that I saw recently with the Augusta Greenjackets in Hagerstown and the Richmond Flying Squirrels in Harrisburg.

The Augusta Greenjackets hit town for four games,but I had such a few amount of cards with a minor exception,I was able to finish them in one night.
I missed former big leaguer and pitching coach Mike Caldwell and I had a work meeting to hit on the final day of the series,so I will have to try Caldwell when Augusta returns.
Other than that,the big catch was the Giants first rounder from last season in pitcher Kyle Crick and outfielder Brett Krill.
Outfielder Chuckie Jones signed his Topps debut cards and was very nice,but was sent down before the end of the set as Jones was hitting .093 at the time.
Not a lot of cards,not a lot of prospects,but nothing really difficult....
The highlight was the rehabbing Chien-Ming Wang,who I waited for as long as I could before I had to go to work.
Fortunately,Bill Cover stuck around and nabbed the pitcher for me.Thanks to Bill for the help.

Monday night,I traveled to Harrisburg with my usual partner Bill Cover and Corey Cunningham for the Giants AA affiliate,the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
The main goal for me was outfielder Gary Brown,the Giants first round selection in the 2010 draft and a draft pick of mine in my minor league fantasy league over the winter.
Brown was noted by other collectors as sometimes being a less than willing signer,so I was unsure what the results would be.
Bill went to the dugout spot as he was helping a young man that he knew find his sea legs in the collecting ocean.
Corey and I went to the "Autograph Alley" at Harrisburg,which is only sometimes open as the team rents it out to parties,but was open on a cold,mildly rainy Monday.
We did pretty well as there was just the two of us along with Bruce,a collector from Reading that just does his own pictures and "Lefty" a local Harrisburg collector.
Both are great guys and I enjoyed talking with them during pre-game.

The Squirrels have great uniforms and terrific colors,but the name does not do much for me and the first player out was a player that I also drafted in my minor league draft and a player that was super nice with Augusta two years ago in catcher Tommy Joseph.
Sometimes,players are not the same quality of signer as they rise through the system and a good signer in Low A ball does not always remain one as they are promoted.
Not the case with Joseph,who was as great as before,signed everything we had and talked a bit about his memories of the Muni,which as expected are not the best.
Tommy Joseph remains one of my favorites and I hope his career goes well.....

I also added Chris Dominguez,Ryan Cavan notably among others,but then came Gary Brown.
Keep in mind that Brown looks pretty grumpy in his first card from Bowman, but my experiences have sometimes been different from others on both sides of the fence.
I have had players reported to be great that blew me off and I have had players that many said were tough that were not a problem for me,so I try to keep an open mind going into things.

Brown came over and signed one card for each of us (3),which is never a problem,was surprisingly friendly and Bruce asked Brown,if he would mind taking a picture.
Brown replied" I don't do pictures,but I'll take one with you".
That was somewhat befuddling as he would not take a picture,yet he would take one with you?
Unusual,but my friend Dan,who would I see after the game shed some light on the matter for me and his explanation makes sense.
Dan says the Giants are attempting to control unauthorized photos by telling their players not to take them.
I suppose it is theirs (or Richmond's logo) in the pictures,so I see their point somewhat,but it still seems silly to me.
I think Dan is in the ballpark as pitcher Ari Ronick also refused a photo for Bruce,but said "I'll be happy to sign anything you have".

Not a bad bunch,really and we then watched the game (a 2-0 Richmond win) as we waited for after the game.
I added prospect Ehire Adrianza and pitcher Andy Reichard afterwards and got to see Dan and meet his new wife Rebecca.
SO as I am getting Adrianza,I look up and over to my right and Corey is getting Brown again,so I figure OK,Brown is a one pre-game and one post-game,so I'll get the other card I brought signed.
Brown's reputation kept me from bringing a bunch of his cards along and that would keep me from wasting time putting them back away.
I ask and Gary takes the pen and then says "I signed earlier for you".
I think it is my distinctive look,fat guy, beard (Growing it out for the Devils playoff run) etc.
My friend Kendall,who had his own little hot time with Brown in Bowie says I should have a new slogan-"Gary Brown thinks I am very memorable!".

How did Gary do in the game? 1 for 5 and currently is hitting .232 without a homer for the season.
All and all-a good time and not a bad night at all.
Lots of fun and a good night of adding future Giants to the collection!

One mail pickup from former Lions defensive tackle and Webster co-star Alex Karras

Photo Credits:Unknown

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Devils finish off Flyers in Five!

The New Jersey Devils continued to take care of business quietly and efficiently last night as the Devils polished off the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 in the fifth and final game of their series.
The victory sends the Devils to the Eastern Conference finals against either the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals,who will play game six of their series tonight,which the Rangers lead three games to two.
Bryce Salvador,David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk scored the New Jersey goals in the victory.
Now the Devils can kick back,watch the other series and rest up a bit!

Hell Raisers

1)  The Flyers scored the first goal in each of the four Devils wins,which shows that fast starts do not always win games.
I agree that more often than not,the team that scores first will win,but the series shows that is not always the golden rule....

2) The play that most are talking about is the second and eventual game winner by David Clarkson,who did not shoot the puck by Ilya Brzygalov as return his own clear off the stick.
To put it better,it was a rebound without Clarkson doing anything and a poor play by the Flyer cager....

3) Plenty of credit to the unsung heroes on the blueline in the series-Mark Fayne,Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador were very steady,Anton Volchenkov picked up his game from the Florida series,Marek Zidlicky's offensive game has been very effective and Adam Larsson has had his moments as well....

4) Zidlicky missed the third period after a borderline hit by Wayne Simmonds.
No word yet on either the injury or any potential missed time...

5) Two more cheap hit by Zac Rinaldo,who played because of the suspension of Claude Giroux for a cheap hit.
Rinaldo's hit on Dainius Zubrus might earn him a suspension into next year.
The fact that the Flyers continue to play guys like this through the years goes a long way towards their lack of titles...

6) I ordinarily like the Devils to take little guff from teams like this,but in this series they played it perfectly.
The Flyers pushed,shoved and blathered from the mouth and the Devils just skated away.
Philly picked up the dumb penalties for silliness (like James Van Riemsdyk's grab of Patrik Elias,which created the dagger to the heart on Ilya Kovalchuk's goal) and lost their composure when their tactics did not work.
Pittsburgh played Philadelphia's game,the Devils refused to...

7) The win means the Devils will be sending their 2013 third rounder to Minnesota to finish the Marek Zidlicky trade.
The pick was conditional and would only be sent if the Devils made it to the Eastern Finals-Done Deal...

8) Moving on to the next round,I really do not have a preference between the Rangers and the Capitals.
Both have their pros and cons.
Washington has an explosive scorer,New York a terrific goalie.
Washington has a ton of local frontrunners that do not even watch until the first round of the playoffs are over,New York has a group of fans that rank behind only Philadelphia as the league's most classless.
The Rangers are the most hated rival to most Devils fans,the Capitals bring the joy of facing more people that I know.
It really is a wash,but I will say this-I am rooting for Washington tonight.
Why? Extra wear and tear on the series winner,if they have to play a seventh game....

Back later or tonight with a special signing front on the Giants teams in Hagerstown and Harrisburg....

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Monday, May 7, 2012

Frustrating the Flyers in Game 4!

The New Jersey Devils fell behind two goals in the first period,yet rebounded by totally shutting down the Philadelphia offense and controlled the game thereafter in winning game four 4-2.
The Devils move to within one win of the Eastern Conference finals as they currently hold a three games to one lead in the series.
The series continues ( and with some luck ends) tomorrow night in Philadelphia for the fifth game of the series.
New Jersey received two goals from Dainius Zubrus and one each from Petr Sykora and Marek Zidlicky.

Hell Raisers

1) Give this one to the Devils defense as they shut the Flyers down and kept them whining all game long.
Marek Zidlicky had his best game of the playoffs with one exception and Bryce Salvador along with Mark Fayne were excellent inside the Devils zone...

2) The series is not over yet,the final win is often the hardest to get,but the Flyers look to be a frustrated team right now.
Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell are crying every other minute about something or another and the team looks to be out of energy.
Could it be that the Flyers either A) took the Devils lightly after their impressive dispatching of the Penguins or B) the win over Pittsburgh took a ton out of them and they are not the same team???

3) The enigma that is Dainius Zubrus returned with the final two goals of the game.
I was most impressed with his work on the game winner as he stole a hopping puck from Daniel Briere and shoveled it down the ice while being taken down.
What a career that Zubrus could have had with consistency...

4) Martin Brodeur turned 40 yesterday,which was overdone,but here is a stat that should last a while.
Brodeur has now won a playoff game in his teens and his forties.
Match that one any time soon!

5) Liked the soccer style header by Ilya Kovalchuk to try to keep the puck in the Philly zone.
It failed,but showed moxie...

6) Finally,pre-game for one of those chummy Pierre McGuire interviews where he wraps up with something along the lines of " have some fun out there" with Petr Sykora.
Sykora listens to this and skates away with a "Thanks Bob" leaving McGuire in a rare state of not knowing what to say!

Photo Credit_AP Photo

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On the Signing Front-April Edition

The signing front for this edition will cover the month of April in Hagerstown and Frederick as well as mailbox arrivals,which are usually dwindling at this time,since I begin to slack off mail signing in favor of the in person world...

The signing season began with the West Virginia Power hitting town for their only visit of the season.
I have never understood why the Hagerstown Suns do not push harder for more visits from the Power,as this is their only trip to Hagerstown this season.
Between the proximity to West Virginia and the large amount of Pirates fans in the area,this should be a layup.
Three visits from Lexington and just one from West Virginia?
The Power was a strong signing team,although the lack of a card for Alen Hanson was a disappointment.
Highly touted prospect Josh Bell could not have been nicer and talked for quite a while.
It took me a little bit of work to get Stetson Allie,who signed a lot for some and then gave up and ignored the rest.
I did get him eventually,so all's well that ends well.
But of all,the best experience was with Rinku Singh,who talked for a while.walked down from the bullpen and talked about how happy he was just to be there.
"Everyday is a great day to play baseball",I could not agree more,Rinku and here is hoping that you can make it to Pittsburgh!

A short drive to Frederick for their opening series against the Salem Red Sox was next.
I did not have a ton for Salem,since I did most of them when they were at Greenville,but it was Rod Langway day,so a chance to add a hockey hall of famer was a easy decision to make.
Langway was nice enough and I was able to get through the line so quick that I could work on the Red Sox.
I was able to get one of the two players that I wanted most as Jackie Bradley Jr signed for everyone and has a great signature as well.
Xander Boegarts was disappointing as three guys were in front of me and he signed for them,but when I got there with two cards,he looked at me and said "no" and walked away.
Former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman is a Salem coach and was very nice in signing four cards.

Next into Hagerstown was the Lexington Legends from the Astros parent club.
I had next to no cards,but filled in what I had,but really wanted their bench boss Ivan DeJesus,the former Cubs and Phillies shortstop.
DeJesus signed none for the first two days,but offered two nice stories for the front.
My friend Kendall hollers "Ivan,would you please sign"? DeJesus: "how you doin'?" as he runs away.
Hey,Kendall,how you doin'?
The other comes as we wait for him at the bus,where he sprints at 59 years old faster than any collector from the locker room to the bus and then sits in the front seat and grins at us.
I did get him on the final day and even then a story-Another collector called him over to the two of us.He signs the first card and even gets ready to sign a second,puts the sharpie on the card to the point of a dot on it and then hands it back unsigned.
Ivan DeJesus-How are YOU doin'?

Thanks to Kendall Morris for knocking some cards off the Richmond Flying Squirrels (what a dumb name,but cool mascot) that included Tommy Joseph.

My usual partner Bill Cover and I tackled the Winston-Salem Drive on a night that cold would be a very generous adjective.
Kendall was back again to ask former big leaguer and Dash batting coach Gary Ward to sign.
Ward looked at him like he was going to squash and then said"Two".
I had three,but easily settled for two on this night.
Other than outfielder Trayce Thompson,who talked to me about hoops and his brother Klay of the Golden State Warriors,I did not really get much finished.
The cold made players indistinguishable as they all looked the same as they ran by with jackets and hoods up.
Very little finished on this night. 

The Lakewood Blue Claws and the prospects from the Phillies were next in the Hub City and with two former big leaguers on the coaching staff,the Blue Claws were a decent draw for the collectors.
Former Cubs pitcher Les Lancaster was terrific as he signed as much as anyone had,but manager Mickey Morandini was a two per and although I did not have him do this to me,he gave some grumbles to one collector about signing his Cubs cards.
The Phillies have two more super athletic outfielders off the conveyor belt that seem to provide every season in Kyrell Hudson and Aaron Altherr and Kelly Dugan,a first baseman that has a famous connection as his dad was commissioner Doug in the Adam Sandler film Happy Gilmore.
During this series,Cutter Dykstra joined the Suns and Dykstra is a favorite of mine for both his constant hustle and his terrific interaction with the fans.
I have yet to see a night that Cutter didn't take the time to sign and talk to whomever asks him to.
Dykstra is a very easy player to root for...

The Lynchburg Hillcats were touted as a great signing team by a friend of mine.
My experience in Frederick was a bit different as their two top prospects were a mixed bag with Nick Amato doing one (although I liked the fact that Nick said upfront one only and did not vary from person to person) and Matt Lipka signed for no one and ran right by.
Lipka is reported to be an after the game signer,so I'll try that next time.

If Lynchburg was a disappointment,the Rome Braves were more than enough to make up for them as the Braves might have been the best signing team in Hagerstown in a long time.
I had many cards for David Filak,who signed all with a great attitude as did catcher Cory Brownsten,who talked about his love for the Buffalo Sabres.Prospect Elmer Reyes was a nice pickup,but my favorite two were Brandon Drury and Kyle Kubitza,who both signed,talked for a long time on the first night and shook hands with after thanking me for asking.
Great guys and I wish more teams were like the Rome Braves.....

Through the Mail

Former Cubs,Twins and Rangers pitcher Bill Hands
Former Cubs,Pirates and Giants pitcher Rick Reuschel
Former Tigers pitcher Virgil Trucks
Former Cardinals,Cubs,Astros and Yankees outfielder Jerry Mumphrey
Former Astros and Angels pitcher Ken Forsch
Former Indians and White Sox second baseman Eddie Leon
Former Rangers second baseman Bump Wills
Former Pirates manager Jim Leyland
Former Orioles and Pirates pitcher Grant Jackson

Former Seahawks kicker Norm Johnson
Former Buccaneer defensive end Eric Curry
Former Browns center Mike Babb
Former Eagles receiver Pete Retzlaff
Former Chiefs running back Curtis McClinton
Former Browns quarterback Frank Ryan
Former Eagles safety Jesse Campbell
Former Colts quarterback Bert Jones
Former Eagles running back Tom Woodeshick
Former Falcons linebacker Tommy Nobis

Former Cavaliers forward Larry Nance
Former Purdue head coach Gene Keady
Former Cavaliers and Pacers forward Mike Sanders

Former Barons and North Stars goalie Gilles Meloche

Fred Couples
Ray Floyd
Lou Graham
Tom Watson

Jake Garn-Former US Congressman and Astronaut-Thanks to Pol Heiney for his kind gift on Mr.Garn's card!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tackling brain trauma

The recent death of future Hall of Famer Junior Seau from a suicide that is possibly related to the brain trauma acquired from years of playing professional football is a loss of not just a football superstar,it may be the beginning of the end of football as we know it.

I know that sounds like hyperbole,but bear with me.
Think back to the early 20th century and football was so violent that the game was on the verge of being banned before President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in,formed a commission to change a game that was killing players every year and began to refine the game a bit to make it safer,but yet added things that would change the game to a version that is closer to what we know it as today,which added the forward pass,changed the amount of yardage to gain a first down and eliminated the scrum type formations that you see in Rugby.

There is precedent for a almost total revamp of the game and the current incremental changes are going to slowly but surely change the game of football.
The changes to the kickoff rule might be just the start of gradual rule changes that over time might make this game quite different than the game that our great grandchildren watch,if for that matter they watch it at all.
Plus who knows what rule changes are coming as more and more knowledge is gained by the study of the problems with the brain.

Look,I am not a neurologist,but it does appear that a game that is based around hard hitting is going to have its share of head injuries and I do not think even with cutting edge technology that we can avoid those types of injuries involved with football anytime soon,but is the game that has become the country's most popular one in trouble?
Not more than any other sport that has issues.
Hockey has issues with head injuries and boxing has had them for as men raised their fist to fire at others and as sure as the Earth rotates around the Sun,the popularity of the mixed martial arts will be affected with this issue as well.
The NHL has gotten some unwanted attention with the recent problems of enforcers that have committed suicide,but short of banning fighting,I do not know any other solutions that the league can do to better battle head injuries.

My brother posted about the attention that Junior Seau's death getting attention for the topic of brain injuries yet the issues that many professional wrestlers have with brain trauma have been ignored and even laughed at.
I understand the dangerous issues that so many wrestlers have faced,but there is one huge difference between what pro athletes in sport and what professional wrestlers have to deal with.
Professional wrestlers have done much of this to themselves.

Few people that are not involved with professional wrestling have the love that I do for the "business",so I say this with as much respect as possible for the men that truly live for the business.
Much of what you are going through is what you have brought on yourself.
Conducting matches that offer predetermined violence that can deliver the same type of brain trauma that sports that are played in "real time" in which people can get hurt is silly and frankly dumb on the athletes part.
Wrestling has moved past the 1990's mentality that brought the ridiculous "hardcore" style that featured
full forced blows to the head with objects that would only be used in the most violent of situations in the real world,but just as professional football is dealing with its stars of the same time period being forced to ponder this issue and for all the raps that professional wrestling takes,it is about to take more.
The pounding that wrestlers take up until that point had usually been scar tissue,back injuries from taking bumps and neck injuries from the same,but that era and the style that thrilled some did something else-damaged brain cells.

There is just one problem with that-it just was not needed to make wrestling worth watching.
It just shortened careers and sent its stars into pain that was not just unimaginable,but unnecessary as well.
Wrestling had always been about the illusion of violence that despite being grueling,long term damage did not occur,now the violence was real even if the winner was pre-determined
It is one thing to gain sympathy for injuries sustained in a physical game,it is another in which the combatants control what they do in a match.
Both performers agree on just what to do to each other (with the exception of an ending) and therefore for the most part,the inflicted damage and how it occurs is pretty much agreed on,so some of the things used cause injury.
And not the type of injury that is a light one either.
They are punishing and they are permanent.
And they bring it on themselves......


Friday, May 4, 2012

Devils grab Game 3 with overtime win!

Alexei Ponikarovsky scored late in the first overtime period to give the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win in Game three of their Eastern Conference semi-final series with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The win at the Rock allowed the Devils to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Patrik Elias,Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise scored the Devils goals in regulation time.
Game four is back at the Rock on Sunday night.....

Hell Raisers
1) I missed the overtime as I had to move to the road office,so I have not seen the Ponikarovsky goal,but reading about it,the goal appears to be off a rebound of Ponikarovsky's own shot.
That is what I like to see in hockey,crashing the net,creating opportunities and smacking in rebounds.
When you play aggressive and not passive hockey-good things happen...

2) Huge night for the returning Ilya Kovalchuk with a goal and two assists.
Kovy's "lower body injury" must have healed quickly after missing game two because this was a far different player than the payer that limped through game one.
Kovalchuk even showed the fire that he has been often criticized for lacking when he pounded the glass and screamed at the refs on a awful call for delay of game that replays showed was a deflection off a Flyer stick...

3) I did not see the OT as noted,but the Devils were accessed a penalty in overtime on Dainius Zubrus for boarding.I cannot say right now,but the AP recap writes that the call was controversial.
From the three periods that I saw,the officiating was far from stellar...

4) One could make a really strong argument that the game should not have reached overtime.
The Daniel Briere goal that tied the game in the third period really should have been a save by Martin Brodeur.Brodeur waited around the net instead of going out and grabbing the puck,which allowed Briere to slam the puck into the net.
Philadelphia would get only one more shot on net for the rest of the period.
Brodeur's uncharacteristic lack of aggressiveness could have cost the Devils severely....

5) More strong penalty killing by New Jersey as they allowed just one goal on the Philly power play in five chances with the PK killing two penalties in overtime.
The Flyers beat Pittsburgh with their power play success for three games against New Jersey,the same level of success has been missing...

6) All things considered,the Devils won a game that they did not play their best game and were the victims of a few bad calls-they still won a game that was a huge one.
If they can add Sunday's game to the coffers,things are looking very good in New Jersey...

Photo Credit:AP Photo