Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of the year

Just a quick post for the end of the year to wish you all a Happy New Year.

I likely will not be doing a recap of the Browns loss to Pittsburgh since the Rob Chudzinski firing has changed the topic of the Browns unexpectedly.

I have some interviews for the upcoming year that I am excited about and I am thinking more draft coverage than in the past for the Browns as a possibility.

I return to work tomorrow night and I hope to get some posts out based on some recent goodbyes and some goodbyes from 2013 that I missed.

I hope you all enjoy what I do here and have a great 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Browns fire Rob Chudzinski

This was planned to be the final Browns recap of the season, finishing off a 4-12 year with another painful loss to Pittsburgh, lead into my planned next few posts that I wrote about before I return to work (Ugh) and then work next week a review of the Browns season on both sides of the football.

Those plans leaked out the door when word broke just before kickoff when the rumor broke that the Browns were considering firing Rob Chudzinski and before the evening was over-Chudzinski was looking for a job.

I was non-plussed on the hiring of "Chud" back in January, I preferred the track record of former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt as the new head man, I mean, after all, he did take the CARDINALS to within a few minutes of a world title (Whisenhunt is still available by the way), but was more concerned about the promises of a big name hire and coming up with Chudzinski.

Jimmy Haslem was reportedly furious with the team's effort in New York last Sunday against the Jets and yesterday against Pittsburgh to the point of leaving before the game was ended.
I cannot really blame him for that, but there is more to the team's 4-12 record than just Rob Chudzinski.
I'll get into the on-field stuff when I do the season in review posts, but this is a team that gave its coach three quarterbacks, none of whom will remind you of a top passer, a trade of their top runner and previous number one pick (I was on board there), a trade for a supposedly sure-handed receiver that could not catch, adding zero offensive weapons for a team crying for more and the list goes on.

I don't want to say that I thought Rob Chudzinski was a great coach, he made mistakes and I'm hesitant to say that I believe that he would have been the answer to the Browns woes, but considering the hand that he was dealt, I think this is an unfair firing.
Tony Grossi offers some behind-the-scenes reasons for the firing here and if things had gotten so far out of sync that this had to be done, then I could see there is no point in bringing Chudzinski back.
However, he didn't do a poor job or one that deserved just one season for his on-the-field work.
If Jimmy Haslem was so frustrated with his team that he felt changes were in order, perhaps he should have taken Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi with him for providing him with such a group.
Put the five Pro Bowlers aside, the Pro Bowl is a joke, for the most part, this team is not loaded with talent, and with the exception of talented but still unproven Barkevious Mingo, show me one piece of young talent added by Banner/Lombardi.
Desmond Bryant was playing well before his injury, but Paul Kruger disappointed and that pair was essentially the free-agent signings.

The rumor mill is already running with candidates with three names most prominently heard.
The aforementioned Whisenhunt, Penn State head Bill O'Brien, and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are names and this brings me to another point.
I promoted the hiring of Whisenhunt last year, but why would he take the job after being turned down once and then seeing how quickly Chudzinski was dispatched?
O'Brien likely would prefer the Houston opening with a talent that remained from a team that made the playoffs one year ago and the number one pick.
To me, that leaves Josh McDaniels, who struggled in Denver but has the beloved Bill Belichick connection.
When you consider the negative reaction that is bound to come, one has to think that the team has targeted their one or two guys and believe they will get their guy, but watching this thus far gives me even more doubts.

Jimmy Haslem came to Cleveland crowing about how he had learned from his time in Pittsburgh the importance of continuity, yet in a year's time, the Browns are about to hire their third head coach.
For Haslem and the Browns-this hire had better be the right one...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Z to Z lifts Devils to W

It took a double bounce for the New Jersey Devils to score the game winning goal in the third period against the New York Islanders at the beautiful Nassau Coliseum,but bounce it did past Evgeni Nabokov for a 2-1 New Jersey victory.
Marek Zidlicky's shot bounced off an Islander (Franz Nielsen,I think) and then slammed off Travis Zajac's shoulder (7) and into the net.
Adam Henrique scored (8) for the Devils first goal and his second in two nights.
New Jersey will tackle Pittsburgh Tuesday for the finish of 2013 in an afternoon matinee'.

Hell Raisers

1) Two great plays in this one-the first was the controlling of the puck by Jaromir Jagr on the game winning goal.
Not just flashy puck handling,but effectively dominating the puck before the Zidlicky shot.
Jaromir Jagr has been the only creative Devil on this team for the season and he has been the offensive force...

2) Another nifty move on the first goal from the "Heartthrob" line.
Reid Boucher skating on the wing backhanded the puck on the tape of Adam Henrique,who lifted the backhand over Nabokov for the goal.
Slick moves by both players..

3) Adam Henrique might be the best fit for Reid Boucher on a line .
Young enough to skate with him,mature enough to help the young guy along.
Both players looked very strong last night...

4) Cory Schneider finished with 30 saves and was solid.
The only goal that beat him was off a deflection,so Schneider was excellent.
Cory didn't have to make a ton of great saves,but he made all the routine ones,which is all you can ask for...

5) Ryane Clowe got into a fight with Matt Carkner.
The Devils have the fewest fights in the league,so it was nice to see a bout,but my concern is that a guy with concussion issues is slugging it out.
Like the effort,but wonder about the smarts...

6) Bryce Salvador returned from a long absence and didn't play well.
Salvador was near the play that saw Franz Nielsen tie the game,
Rusty,I'm sure,but he'll need to step it up.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Quick PPM

Bad Week!
Last Week:1-5
Season: 65-36

Holiday Bowl
Arizona State over Texas Tech 36-28

Rose Bowl
Michigan State over Stanford 21-18

Fiesta Bowl
Baylor over Central Florida 54-37

Orange Bowl
Ohio State over Clemson 34-27

Sugar Bowl
Alabama over Oklahoma 40-14

BCS Title
Florida State over Auburn 31-20

Steelers over Browns 27-13
Saints over Buccaneers 32-14
Game (S) of the Week
Eagles over Cowboys 24-7
Packers over Bears 30-24

Shootout woes haunt Devils again

The shootout problems continued for the New Jersey Devils as they tossed another goose egg up in the skills competition and had to (again) settle for one point in a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Rock.
The loss wasted a fabulous performance in net by Martin Brodeur,who stopped 29 of 30 shots and was only beaten by Cam Atkinson in the shootout.
Adam Henrique stuffed a Patrik Elias rebound past Curtis McIlhinney to tie the game (7) in the third period for the only Devils goal.
The Devils will not have much time to dwell on the loss as they hit the ice tonight against the Islanders....

Hell Raisers

1) Can you make a shot one on one against a goalie?
Please send your resume and/or video to Lou Lamoriello Newark NJ.
At this point,the team is so bad at this part of the game,they might be interested!

2) I have stated my opposition to the shootout before,so this isn't a Devils are bad at this,so Shawn hates it as I felt the same way when the Kovalchuk/Parise/Elias trip gave the Devils a wheelbarrow full of extra points from the shootout.
However,the Devils have now lost six shootouts and therefore six lost points-that is the equivalent of three regulations wins.
Think this team could use that right now?
I dearly hope the league does something to add to overtime to allow the winners to be determined from the TEAM on the ice,not just two players....

3) Martin Brodeur was brilliant in net.
He stood on his head for the entire game with the exception of the game winning shootout and deserved so much better than for one lousy point.
Which does beat zero points for the math majors out there.

4) Adam Henrique snapped a long scoring drought with his goal that (GASP) came from crashing the net!
Why the Devils do not do more of this has always befuddled and yet they never seem to do enough of it.
When you are offensively challenged,you need to try things and what better to try than things that can be done through hustle and are not affected by the level of talent...

5) Peter DeBoer said he did not use Reid Boucher in the shootout because he "hadn't played well and was cold".
Boucher is still the only Devil to score in the shootout and other than maybe Patrik Elias is the only Devil that looks even semi-comfortable in the format.
I'm not saying Boucher played well,he didn't and struggled defensively,but winning comes first-this is PRO hockey after all.
Nice to see proving a point is more important than winning a game-this isn't little league,Pete.

6) Another lack of shots on net evening as the Devils squirt gun attack produced just 17 shots in 65 minutes of play.
The offense on this team (there are exceptions) is ridiculous-lots of standing around and hoping someone else does something.To me that reflects badly on Peter DeBoer.

7) An example of Brodeur brilliance came on the only goal by Columbus in regulation.
Marty made two great saves and only when he lay belly first on the ice,did Columbus lift the puck over the prone netminder.
And that was even helped by Mark Fayne and Mattias Tedenby standing around like they were waiting for the damn bus....

8) Finally,I need to add this point before I go.
Readership here on Devils posts has increased.
Increased to the point that Devils posts have went from being the weak sister here to passing the Browns and Buckeyes in hits.
I give full credit to Rachel and my new friend Dom's Devils Facebook pages,who both put links to here on their pages for finding new readers,but keep this in mind-We tell the way we see it here.
I am a Devils fan,but these gentlemen aren't "my boys" (meaning I'm not their father) and when they play poorly,we will say so.
No one wants the New Jersey Devils to succeed more than I do,but wearing the rose colored glasses and parroting the house line gives no one any insight or things to think about.
If you want that,fine,but it won't be available here .
Thanks for reading!

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cleaning out the inbox

Time for the final inbox cleaning of 2014.

NASA has turned its WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) satellite back on after two years off and renamed it NEOWISE ( Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) to help in the never ending battle to identify asteroids.
It's recycling in space,if you will and getting even more use out of an object already in space is better use of our space dollar especially for such important work....

A possible success story in saving a species from extinction is the Mangarahara cichlid,which saw 18 of them in the wild in what was described as a less than ideal environment.
The female is more likely to be attacked than bred,the article states,but there has to be some hope now.

ESPN discusses the value of Masahiro Tanaka,the latest off the Japanese pitching line.
Tanaka went 24-0 for Rakuten last season and is thought to be at least the equal of Yu Darvish.
I'll have to talk to our man in Japan,Brandon Siefken,for his thoughts on Tanaka.

Jim Cornette has had his issues with the WWE throughout the years,but Cornette did speak with WWE.com for their website's article on Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
Cornette among others contributed and it was very well done by the author.
WWE does not always do the best job on the history of wrestling,but this is an interesting read....

I plan on a posts filled with goodbyes and a little talk on some upcoming things in the works..

I'll be back soon with the Devils vs Columbus!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

A late note of good wishes for happy holidays to all of you!

I have enjoyed spending time with family and friends both in person and talking via phone.

I think this is going to be a good year coming up here and I'll talk about the plans more around New Years.

Enjoy the holidays and I'll be back tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tomahawked in Chicago

It might have been too much to ask for the New Jersey Devils to stay as high as they were after their comeback win over the Washington Capitals as they entered Chicago and the waiting mighty Stanley Cup Champions.
It was close for the first 25 minutes and the game was knotted at one despite a pitiful amount of shots on goal for the Devils.
Thereafter,it was all Hawks as Chicago cruised to a 5-2 win.
Devils goals to Stephen Gionta (2) in the second and Michael Ryder (11) in the third.
New Jersey is off until Friday when they will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Sorry that this is late,busy going to my parents to celebrate the holidays....

Hell Raisers

1) First off,sitting through this game had only (and only one) benefit-I was able to avoid the Atlanta-San Francisco game on Monday Night Football and it's outcome that decided my fantasy league title.
Other than that-it was a waste of my time...

2) 12 shots on goal.Bleech.Not going to win games against good teams with 12 shots on goal.

3) Michael Ryder did make a nice play with his swipe of the puck away from Brent Seabrook and speedy backhander into the net.
That play was about the only glimmer of created offense all night as the Stephen Gionta goal was off a rebound.

4) Cory Schneider was decidedly mediocre in net.
It was not all his fault,but I'd say three of the five were "should have been" stops.
Not awful,not blameless and Schneider sure is not making a claim to the goalie job....

5) Damien Brunner will be out for 2 to 6 weeks after his knee injury,
This team will need a winger.Mattias Tedenby isn't it because he never finishes plays,Ryane Clowe is unlikely to stay healthy and he isn't back yet anyway.
Could the Devils be in the trade business soon? Perhaps.....

Finally,a Merry Christmas to my readers out there that only read the Devils posts.
Thanks for reading and happy holidays.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mixed emotions as Jets beat Browns

The Cleveland Browns took a ten point lead into the waning minutes of the first half in New Jersey against the New York Jets and then,as has become the norm,went into halftime tied at ten with defensive lapses before being outplayed in the second half.
End result? A 24-13 Jets win that will rank pretty highly among the worst football games that I have watched in the seven year history of this blog.
Edwin Baker rushed for 64 yards and a score,which on this team makes him Leroy Kelly,if not Jim Brown and Josh Gordon finished with 97 yards receiving to lead an offensive offense.
The now 4-11 Browns finish up next week in Pittsburgh against the suddenly resurgent Steelers.

Brownie Bits

1) What a day.
The Browns play this ridiculously terrible football game,the Saints lose in Carolina with under a minute to play and looks like I am well on my way to losing my IFL title game.
About the only decent thing that happened all day in the virtual world was Jonna Spilbor of Fox News responded to a tweet of mine about the game.
Other than that-Bleech...

2) The Browns coaching staff confuses me.
Rob Chudzinski has been a gambler all year and suddenly in a game between two awful teams,he is kicking field goals?
Yet,he did that twice in this one,once in the first quarter and again in the fourth with little to gain with either.
The first quarter Billy Cundiff kick seemed submissive to me as in we aren't driving all the way down into Jet territory and coming away with nothing,but you are 4-10,who's going to rip you for trying?
I'm sure not....

3) Jason Campbell was not good as in under 200 yards,zero scores and two interceptions and continued to show why he is better suited to be a backup at this stage of his career.
Campbell looked flustered in the pocket and lacked poise.
The play that made me wince was an overthrow on a wide open Mar'Quis Gray on a third down attempt that not only would have earned a first down,but would have been a huge gain.

4) It wasn't all Campbell thought as he could have had two touchdown passes but watched Josh Gordon drop one and Greg Little drop another that was right to him (pictured above).
The Little drop was a huge one as it was on third down and resulted in a field goal.
I was on Twitter during the game (I've enjoyed using it during Buckeye and Browns games) and discussed Little with Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal.
We agreed on two things-one was Greg Little has loads of physical skills and the other is how long can you keep a guy based on that?

5) The line was not great either as Campbell was sacked three times,but harassed far more than that.
When I look at this game,Campbell might be below average on the day,but it was more than just his fault.

6) Edwin Baker might not be a long term answer or anything great in the short,but he showed enough speed and wiggle to deserve to stick around,
I like him better than Chris Ogbonnaya for sure and I think he could be a decent change of pace back.

7) Ray Horton's defense continued to break down when it counts as they allowed 10 pts at the end of the first half and the backbreaker of the Geno Smith TD run late in the game.
I was against the 3-4 because this team lacked enough linebackers and it still holds true,but since the switch was made-stick with it.
Changing things constantly does no one any good.

8) David Nelson was released in camp and would sign with the Jets.
Nelson grabbed two scoring passes and showed a return to form that made him a solid pass catcher for Buffalo.
I would not be too tough on the Browns for waiving him because he was still not back totally from injury,but it is glaring when you look at the pass drops by Greg Little and Davone Bess...

9) Josh Cooper finally got to play with the absence of Davone Bess and caught all that was thrown decently to him.
Cooper has great hands and has watched two coaching staffs not give him a chance to play.

10) Finally as bad as this game was and it was terrible.The Browns avoided what they always seem to do-win a meaningless game and drop in the draft.
Right now,Cleveland is one of four teams at 4-11 with 4-10 Atlanta playing tonight
So they could pick as high as 3rd or as low as 7th depending on next weeks results.
Tampa Bay plays at New Orleans,Jacksonville is at Indianapolis,Atlanta hosts Carolina and Oakland hosts Denver.
None of those look likely upset spots,but if Indy and Denver sit guys down ,the Browns could move up.

Photo Credit:Cleveland Plain Dealer....

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hitting the stores

I felt like doing something extra today and asked for some ideas on facebook.
My buddy Hank's fiance' Alicia was the only person that offered so here it is!

Alicia wanted to know what I think about shoppers in the season running around Wal-Mart and the local mall.
Here's my take-I can't stand it.
The best thing that ever happened was the internet for me and I do the majority of my shopping there.
Not sure if my wallet will allow it to continue with the internet sales tax on the horizon,but I save money and get to avoid the crowds.

Keep in mind that I am not a patient person to begin much of the time and listening to pushy people yakking on their cell phones (geez,I hate those things) annoy me on a good day,let alone on a bad one.
I know I can seem rude at times,but my general rule of thumb is,don't bother people unless they bother me first.
People tend to drive me nuts and it is often difficult for me to deal with others,especially when they are loud and often stupid.

I would love to patronize small businesses more locally,but their prices are higher (the cost of business) and I try to do that when I can,but as a health care worker,I don't make a ton of money and the bottom line comes into play.
The problem then becomes dealing with the others that congregate at the mall and the department stores.
It's often a different kind of person with the Wal-Mart attracting a louder,ruder bunch and the mall (which is a breed dying of cancer around the country) attracting a snottier crowd along with the teenage hangout group.
I hung out there years ago,so I know!

Long lines,obnoxious others and ease of shopping aren't the total reasons that I stay at home to shop.
It helps to get what I want and what others do.
When you live in an area where you dislike the local sports teams and lacks a bookstore of any repute since the closing of Borders,the options are just so much more vast from the PC than in the retail store.

Basically in the end,the hermit in me has won out.
Anytime that I can avoid people-I do so,except for most of you.
Thanks for reading.

You CAN call it a comeback! Devils KO Capitals!

The New Jersey Devils twice rallied from two goal deficits in the third period and used a bounce off of Andy Greene (6) to knock out the Washington Capitals 5-4 in overtime in front of a stunned Washington crowd.
Devils goals (besides Greene) to Jaromir Jagr (13 power play),Dainius Zubrus (8) and Marek Zidlicky (4 power play and 5).
The Devils travel to Chicago Monday night and another powerhouse team in the Blackhawks...

Hell Raisers

1) I didn't think this team had it in them.
There. I said it.
Entering the third period after a horrible second on the road-the Devils seemed licked.
If the Devils manage to do anything out of this season and to me that would be simply making the playoffs,you might want to look back at this night as the start....

2) Jaromir Jagr was tremendous with a power play goal and two assists and even hit someone!
Jagr's sharp angle goal with the score 3-1 was delivered with stoic execution and Jagr clearly was the player of the game.

3) Not take any credit away from the usually frowned upon Marek Zidlicky,who came through with two goals.
Zidlicky's power play goal showed just enough to tease Devils fans with what he is capable of when he is performing at his highest level.

4) The Capitals might have been lucky to even get to overtime,if not for a mental clunker by Patrik Elias.
With Washington leading 3-2,Elias tried to make a pass down the chute in his own end,which was stolen and passed to Alex Ovechkin,who gunned the puck by Marty Brodeur.
Just goes to show,mental errors aren't exclusively the realm of the young.

5) Martin Brodeur was not good in this one.
The Mihkail Grabovski goal was excusable,but one goal was handed on a fat rebound,another he thought he had and didn't and the Ovechkin went through the five hole.
You know,Marty has bailed a bad offense out enough through the years,I suppose he deserved one like this...

6) Andy Greene is either A) having a career year or B) is turning into a defenseman that is starting to reach all-star caliber.
Either way,Greene's play was tremendous on this night and Greene deserves a bow...

7) It wasn't all Jaromir Jagr dominating,it was his linemates too as Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac each came up huge with Zubrus chipping a rebound off a Jagr shot in and Zajac assisting on both goals scored by the line.
This line was the dominant line of the night....

8) This one feels good,I must admit,but it is just one game.
Monday night will be very interesting..... 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Quick PPM

Another quickie as the NFL season winds down.
I'll be back later with Devils vs Capitals and maybe something else too!

Last Week;1-2
Season: 64-31

College Bowls (Between Sunday and next Saturday,I picked the three of personal interest)
Hawaii Bowl
Boise State over Oregon State 39-30

Little Caesars Bowl
Bowling Green over Pitt 24-19

Military Bowl
Marshall over Maryland 36-28

Browns over Jets 14-13
Saints over Panthers 28-23
Game of the Week
Chiefs over Colts 23-17

Ducks drown Devils in OT

The Anaheim Ducks won their seventh game in a row,but the New Jersey Devils gave them all they wanted and even picked up a point as the Ducks earned a 3-2 win over the Devils on a Kyle Palmieri wrap around goal in overtime.
Michael Ryder scored in the second period (10) and Andy Greene tied the game and sent it to overtime with his third period goal (5 powerplay) for the Devils.
New Jersey travels to Washington for a Saturday night game.

Hell Raisers

1) The game winner did go off the stick off Jon Merrill,who was attempting to cut the corner of the net.
However,I'm still not blaming Merrill because watching the replay makes me doubt that Cory Schneider was going to get to the corner anyway.
Merrill got there quicker than Schneider or the puck would have went straight in...

2) Damien Brunner was helped off the ice and looked to have injured a knee when his knee met that of Marc Fistric.
Brunner did not return and was in a lot of pain when leaving.
I didn't think it was a cheap shot at all,just one of those things that can happen in the game of hockey.

3) Jaromir Jagr did not score a goal,but had a good night with a sharp backhanded pass on the Andy Greene goal and several chances.
Jagr would also though play a key part in the Ducks first goal.

4) Jagr had been on the ice for over a minute and was trying to get off the ice,when icing was called.
An exhausted Jagr then had to stay on the ice for the resulting faceoff in the Devils zone,which resulted in a Cam Fowler goal.
I am not always a big fan of this,but perhaps Pete DeBoer should used his timeout there.

5) A very impressive game for Cam Fowler of Anaheim,who played a solid game at both ends.
Fowler is what the Devils hope to get from their young defensemen when they mature.

6) The win was the seventh in a row for the Ducks,who rank second in the Western Conference,so the Devils earned a point,which is something,but I cannot help but feel a bit disappointed.
Two points were on the table to be taken and the Devils fell short.
It is nights like these that are going to cost this team a playoff spot.

7) Word is that Ryane Clowe and Bryce Salvador are nearing their return to action.
My guess on who goes away to make space as long an injury does not make the decision for them (like Damien Brunner,perhaps)?
I'd bet on Reid Boucher at forward and Jon Merrill of the defensemen.
Boucher has impressed,but could use AHL time,Merrill looks to be the odd man out of the young defensemen.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Friday, December 20, 2013

On the Signing Front

We return to the signing front as the card pile is beginning to shrink for the winter

We start with thanks to Jason Christensen,our good friend in Binghamton New York.
Jason worked on my B-Mets team set along with some players from the Trenton Thunder (Yankees).
Cory Vaughn,Danny Muno,former Oriole Rhyne Hugnes and Ceasr Puello were notable Mets with Mikey O'brien and Tyler Austin among the nice Trenton additions.

The Lexington Legends finished up their third visit to Hagerstown and I really didn't have much for them.
Lexington's team set came out very late and wasn't there,so that hurt the numbers a bit.
The best additions were Bubba Starling and Raul Mondesi Jr. on their Bowman Top 100's with Starling and Brent Mooneyham of the Suns signing their USA Champions cards..

The Potomac Nationals wrapped the Frederick autographing season and I worked on the Potomac team set.
Most of the pickups were team set cards except Matt Purke on his Suns and USA Champions cards and Michael Taylor on his Carolina League prospect card,but a surprise was Matt Skole,who was injured in his first series of the season at AA Harrisburg.
Matt was traveling with the team,I had been tipped that he could be there so I was able to add Matt on his Senators card...

The Hagerstown Suns hosted the West Virginia Power for the Northern Division title in the SAL playoffs.
I didn't have much for the Power,but I did have a few.
Josh Bell on his Topps Debut and Luis Heredia on two cool cards-the Bowman Blue Wave and a Gold refractor on a Bowman Platinum.
Other interesting pickups were Jimmy Rider on a Bowman Silver Ice (Rider has since been traded),John Kuchno on a Bowman refractor (John added GO BUCKS from the former Buckeye) and manager Michael Ryan and coach Miles Durham on old Indianapolis cards...
I also added three Suns on their Auburn cards-Jake Johansen,Austin Voth and Issac (Don't call me Cat) Ballou.
This series was also notable for a group of fans traveling with the Power,including their top fan-"the toastman".
Filled with chants and generally obnoxious (albeit light hearted) behavior,the toastman burned some chants in Cherie and I's head that remain there months later....

Thanks to Bil Cover,who added my two Pirates from the NY/Penn Prospect set when he went to State College.
The two cards of Harold Ramirez and Jin-De Jhang were the only cards of Jamestown players this season.

Thanks to Kendall Morris for picking me up auto cards of former Pirates Jeff King and Stan Belinda along with former Giant infielder Dave Anderson.

We wrap up with the SAL title series against the Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets).
Savannah has never appeared here in the years that I started doing this and all were rooting for them to make the title series so they would have to.
The person everyone wanted to see was Frank Viola as the former Cy Young winner was super as a signer and seemed like his pitchers loved him.
From my seat in the top of the stadium,I clearly heard Viola yell at Pedro Severino "to move his ass to first base" after Severino glared at a Sand Gant pitcher that hit him with a pitch.
I asked Frank about this and he sheepishly asked "did you hear that?" and added "he shouldn't have shown up my pitcher".
Viola also remembered my asking the day before about his chances of being in AA Binghamton in 2014 and after signing after the set "See you in Harrisburg" next year....
Most of the Sand Gnats were team set cards as we gambled on the Gnats being the opponent and ordered a set for them,even though we weren't sure that would happen.
The gamble paid off as we then had plenty to get signed.
Nice additions were former first rounder Brandon Nimmo (very nice and easy to root for),Stephen Matz on his Appy league prospect card,Gregory Pron on a Topps Debut and Phillip Evans on a Donruss Elite.
Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia was in town on a rehab assignment,but I wasn't able to get him on anything.

From the non-baseball department
Former Buckeye linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer-Certified Auto-Card Show
Former Eagles quarterback Brad Goebel
Former Texas Longhorns and Browns running back Eric Metcalf
Former Cavalier center John Lambert-Certified Auto-Card Show

Looks like the next and maybe final signing front will be all from my friends and helpers,so look for that soon!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Devils offense explodes over Senators 5-2

The New Jersey Devils unloaded some offense on Wednesday night with a five goal explosion on the Ottawa Senators and defeated Ottawa 5-2 at the Rock.
The Devils received goals from five different players in the win paced by Jaromir Jagr (12 power play),Damien Brunner (8),Eric Gelinas (4),Stephen Gionta (1 shorthanded) and Reid Boucher (1).
Martin Brodeur finished with 23 saves in net for New Jersey as he earned the victory in goal.
The Devils have today off and will play Anaheim Friday at the Rock before a Saturday night game in Washington.

Hell Raisers

1) Stephen Gionta returned from the disabled list and scored shorthanded minutes into the game after a miscue by Ottawa's Joe Corvo to keep the puck in the zone.
Gionta and Adam Henrique then worked a nice 2 on 1 breakaway for the goal and that set the stage for the tempo of the game thereafter..

2) First NHL goal for Reid Boucher in this one as he took a bullet off the boards fired by Eric Gelinas that rebounded to Boucher for the shot that beat Robin Lehrer for the tally.
Peter DeBoer said Boucher reminds him of Mark Recchi,That would give the Devils their best home grown forward since Zach Parise.Not bad.

3) Had to love Damien Brunner's second period goal.
Not only was the goal highlight reel worthy,it was a backbreaker after Ottawa cut the lead to 3-1 and seemed to have the momentum shifting their way.
Brunner's play has improved tremendously since his scratching against the Red Wings a while back...

4) Good start from Martin Brodeur as he allowed two goals with one in garbage time with the game already decided.
The question is which game of the back to back will bring the great one to the ice-home vs Anaheim or in D.C?

5) Jaromir Jagr's goal was not just a goal,it was a goal that moved him into eighth of all time (693) past Steve Yzerman and since Ottawa scored a garbage goal,was considered the game winner.
The game winner finally broke the all time record of Gordie Howe in that category.

6) So yet again,the Devils seem to be on the verge of turning a corner.
The Devils are one of three teams at 34 points in the division and just one point behind Carolina and have won two in a row.
Getting one of the next two would be helpful,but is it too much to ask for two wins?
That would be four in a row and finally some consistency in the lineup...

Photo Credit:Getty Images

Monday, December 16, 2013

Browns lose home finale'

The Cleveland Browns defense scored two touchdowns,but were unable to stop the Chicago Bears when it counted in the second half as the Bears ended the Cleveland home schedule with a 38-31 Chicago win.
Jason Campbell threw for 273 yards and a touchdown,but tossed two interceptions as well.
The now 4-10 Browns will finish the season on the road with games against the Jets and Steelers.

Brownie Bits

1)The defense did score twice,but again for the third week in a row,failed in crunch time.
The defense is still a work in progress and it once again showed.

2) T.J. Ward tipped a pass in the end zone for an interception to Tashaun Gipson and recovered a fumble that he scooped for a touchdown.
Ward has stepped his play up over the last few weeks as he enters free agency at season's end.
It will be interesting to see if the Browns attempt to keep Ward or if they allocate that money in other areas....

3) Jason Campbell looked bothered by the weather on his two interceptions.
The first one clearly hung in the air and the second lacked some zip and there could have been a miscommunication with Greg Little (I think) on the play.

4) Josh Gordon caught a long pass for a score in garbage time,but otherwise was bottled up by a Bears defense that came into the game among the worst in the league.
Just goes to show over the course of the season,even the best have less than top notch games...

5) Fro m the Cleveland Plain Dealer-"The Browns blew a fourth-quarter lead for the third straight game. The Bears had four fourth-quarter possessions, scoring touchdowns on the first three and taking a knee on the last one. Remove that final series and here's what the Browns' fourth-quarter defense looks like in the last three games: Nine possessions, eight scores, six touchdowns."

6) Edwin Baker rushed for 38 yards on eight carries and a touchdown in his NFL debut after being signed from Houston.
Baker ripped off a 15 yard run which was longer than Trent Richardson's longest run in his two games as a Brown.

7) The two player misjump that saw Alshon Jeffrey grab the ball and score broke the back of the Browns.
I have been a Jeffrey fan dating back to his days at South Carolina and wanted the Browns to take him.
The Browns passed and took Brandon Weeden and Mitchell Schwartz.

8) The return of the wildcat as Mar'Quis Gray made it work in his possession as he rushed for 30 yards on a possession that ended in a score.
Not a wildcat fan,but Gray was effective against the Bears...

9) Joe Haden left the game in the second half with a hip pointer and Jay Cutler went to work on the Browns secondary.
Chicago scored three TD's in four fourth period possession and the fourth saw a kneel down...

10) The Browns loss put them at 4-10 and are one of five teams with that record,
If the draft was held today,Cleveland could pick as high as third or as low as seventh....

Photo Credit;Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quick PPM

Last Week: 3-3
Season: 63-29

Bears over Browns 32-28
Saints over Rams 35-20
Game of the Week
Lions over Ravens 35-32

Magnificent Marty blanks Tampa!

Martin Brodeur stopped all 33 Tampa shots and Dainius Zubrus scored two goals ( 6 and 7) as the New Jersey Devils snapped a losing streak with a 3-0 win at a sparsely populated Rock.
  Damien Brunner scored the game's first goal (7) in the second period with a sharp wrister.
The Devils are off until Wednesday when they host Ottawa.

Hell Raisers

1) Martin Brodeur was very sharp in net as he collected his third shutout of the season.
I thought this was the best outing all season for the veteran as he was agile and mobile in swatting away Tampa attempts.

2) The best save came with the glove as Marty flat out snatched away a point blank bullet from the stick of Martin St.Louis.
Vintage work from the greatest goalie ever...

3) Damien Brunner was too fancy in a breakaway attempt against the Penguins Friday,but he must have remembered that as he was aggressive in a similar situation last night.
Nice moves and credit to Eric Gelinas for a nice pass...

4) Dainius Zubrus and Jaromir Jagr were busting their humps in the third period to pick up the offensive pace and it paid off with two goals for the line.
Zubrus has always been a player that teases more than produces,but I think something about Jaromir Jagr pushes Zubrus in a way that he hasn't been before..

5) Points to the penalty killers,who were strong all night,but especially at the end.
Tampa pulled Anders Lindback with roughly four minutes to go and the Devils stopped every attempt.
Nice work.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Penguins dampen Devils 3-2

After the Devils worst period of the year,the Pittsburgh Penguins led 3-0 at the end of the one.
The New Jersey Devils rebounded a bit by outplaying the Penguins in the final two periods,pulling to within one goal and missing some opportunities to tie in a 3-2 Pittsburgh win.
Patrik Elias (7) and Dainius Zubrus (5) each redirected shots in the second period for the Devils goals.
New Jersey hosts Tampa Bay tonight,weather permitting.

Hell Raisers

1) What an awful first period.
The Devils looked terrible.The first goal of the game may have been on a slow whistle,but otherwise the Devils had no excuses for an awful period.

2) Cory Schneider was terrible in the first,better in the final two,but frankly did not look like a player battling for the larger chunk of the playing time.
Schneider might have been mildly screwed on the goal mentioned above,the defense hurt in the second goal,but he still had a chance to fight them off and the final goal was not one to blame on others.

3) The second goal was the worst as Jon Merrill whiffed on the puck,Eric Gelinas played the man not the puck and Schneider was less than strong against the shot.
Merrill and Gelinas were so bad in the first period that they were split up later in the game.

4) I think the young guns need to play,but it does seem that Peter DeBoer plays favorites with the young players.
Merrill and Gelinas make mistakes and they get to play through them,which they should,but Adam Larsson makes mistakes and they tend to get him scratched.
The young players need to play,but it applies to all of them...

5) The Devils did play very well in the final two periods as they blasted 30 shots in those periods after just seven in the first.
The Devils had several nice chances against Marc-Andre Fleury,who played very well for Pittsburgh.

6) Patrik Elias made a nice redirection on his goal.Elias is on a five game points run..

7) Rough night for Adam Henrique.
Henrique hit a post with seconds remaining with a shot that would have tied the game and got a two minute penalty late in the game for playing (kicking) the puck with a broken stick in his hands which hampered the Devils attempts to tie....

Photo Credit;AP Photo

Friday, December 13, 2013

Only in dreams...

Roy Orbison might have sung it,but I have been living it.

I've been having problems sleeping and the main reasons is a succession of dreams that seem to get worse by the day.
There are so many things that the subconscious mind deals with that none of us are close to comprehending that affect us.
My sleep is never a strong suit as it and it is affecting me even wanting to sleep.
I've been dreaming about things that have happened and those that haven't yet are too horrible to contemplate.
People in my life,people that I don't want in my life and people long forgotten and obscure are making appearances.
I have no idea why this has started and even less in what they mean,so I'm confused about all of this.
I don't put a ton of stock in dream interpretations because I don't believe they have any more knowledge than I do on just what these things mean,but I do know this-I could use the sleep and I sure hope whatever is going on will stop!
Wish me luck!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

When it's over,what next?

After a dream that was frankly,one that I would never want to return to,I found a link from a Facebook friend to hit a topic that I found both interesting and something that I wanted to write about.

Tim Pahuta is a 30 year old journeyman in the game of minor league baseball.
Tim is a player that I saw for years here in Hagerstown as a Sun,in Frederick with the visiting Potomac Nationals and then for parts of three seasons in Harrisburg with the Senators.
Tim spent last season with the Sioux Falls Canaries in independent baseball on a team that also had former Suns Mitchell Clegg and J.P.Ramirez.

Sioux Falls is a step down in baseball from the minors and I hadn't thought about Pahuta much last season.
30 year old first basemen that never showed the ability to make consistent contact (.212,.260 and .226) in three years at the AA level generally end up finishing up their careers in towns like York,Camden or even Sioux Falls and that was generally Tim Pahuta.

Most guys like Pahuta are looked at by the rats of the game like me as good coaching material.
Why else would you keep what seems to be a non-prospect around other than maybe to be the "Crash Davis" to a bunch of "Nuke LaLooshes"?
Pahuta was a type of player that populate the Low A and High A levels-guys that are power hitters at those levels,keep a team competitive (the Suns could have used a guy like that in 2013),yet be used at a position where a "real" prospect doesn't get blocked from playing time,usually a fan favorite and as mentioned, be the older influence on a team filled with younger players.
I figured Pahuta to be a future coach on the circuit,Miles Durham with the Pirates followed the same path,plenty of time spent at AA or lower and then a coaching job at the bottom of the ladder,except Durham did see AAA for a little stretch,but at least for now,that has not happened for Pahuta.
Durham started his coaching travels last year with Low A West Virginia with the player/coach tag so Durham could play in case of injuries.

Let me write this-Tim Pahuta is not a friend of mine or anything.
I keep in contact with a few players that have passed through here,but Tim wasn't one of them.
Honestly,I thought he was pretty fan friendly at Hagerstown and less so in my dealings with him at Harrisburg,although I didn't deal with him often there.
AA baseball is the benchmark for the older player,you can see your limitations so much more clearly at double A against the higher level talent,the pressures increase and the end of the game is often able to be seen.
I don't begrudge that for the most part as the rats like me are generally an annoyance to some,a pain to some and at best, part of the game and the Tim Pahutas of the world generally only get asked to sign team set cards,some current,some older and occasionally the obscure.

When it's over,what do you do?
Tim Pahuta asks this question like this in his blog,which he started yesterday.
Actually he asked this "My name is Tim Pahuta. I played eight years of semi-successful baseball in the Washington Nationals minor league system. I am now an unemployed 30 year old with no job experience and an out-dated degree in, you guessed it, communication.
Somebody please tell me, what now?"

Don't cry too much for Pahuta,his degree might be "outdated",but in a economy that values a college degree,he'll be OK,although it may take a little time.
All things considered,I like Pahuta's chances better than the fellow that signed out of high school and is getting out of the game.
Pahuta likely won't have the rats running to him to sign cards much anymore or as the late Jim Valvano once said "when you work a real job,no one cheers and screams when you show up for work and there is no announcer calling your position as you trot to left desk",but by the time that you are ready to leave the game,much of the attention that seemed so cool at 20,is just a distraction as you age.

I never played professional baseball,although I would have loved to have done so,but Tim Pahuta is just starting to realize what all of us do at one time or another- life will take you through stages,some more successful than others and as we move through those corridors-the unknown ones down the hall can be scary.
The future always is,but having those memories that so few of us have-now that is really something.

I'm rooting for Tim Pahuta and hope he sticks with his blog,I bet it is going to be some pretty interesting reading if he continues to tap the keyboard....

Cleaning out the inbox

Huge dumping of the inbox today in which we clear things out from the last few weeks.

We start with a link to an interview with one of my favorite broadcasters discussing his past history with my favorite game-Strat O Matic baseball.
Bob Costas discusses his playing the game and some of
his memories involving SOM.
Always a great read for me when Costas talks baseball,let alone SOM...

Bruce Hooley of ESPN Cleveland writes an entertaining and yet sad list of all the craziness that has happened to the Browns since 1999.
I have been through this stuff and yet reading it makes you wonder if fans of other teams see these types of events.

Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is not just involved in administration in his job at Akron,he is in the classroom as an educator as well.
ESPN's article on Tressel in Akron can be found here.

Grantland hits with an author's look at the awkward Eminem interview with Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit on an ABC telecast earlier this season.
These things are always so clearly forced for promotional purposes,but the take on Musberger is an interesting one.

As most of you should know Murderin' Ray Lewis holds the title of my least favorite athlete of the last 20 years,if not my entire lifetime,but the the shameless huckster never took much heat in Baltimore.
Lewis finally felt a little fire from Baltimore Sun TV critic Dave Zurawik,who discusses Lewis and his idiotic behavior on ESPN as well as some insight on how the Baltimore media including himself was so light on Ray Lewis and his ramblings...

Fox News is not known for its left leanings,but Kirsten Powers is one of their "Democratic Strategists " for the "fair and balanced" network.Powers discusses her move to evangelical christian in this article that she penned for Christianity Today.
No matter your stance on politics or religion,it is an interesting read....

Finally a goodbye to Evan Chambers.
Evan was an outfielder in the Pirates system and passed away in his sleep at the age of 24
Evan was also one of the nicer young men that I met in the graphing game.
Evan always had time to talk and sign along with a great attitude.
Our condolences to his family

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Browns outfoxed in Foxboro 27-26

The Cleveland Browns looked to have salted away a stunning upset of the New England Patriots in Foxboro after a Jordan Cameron TD catch that gave the Browns a 26-14 lead with a minute to play.
However,a prevent defense,a bad bounce on an onside kick and a horrible call by an official shocked the Browns in a 27-26 defeat.
Jason Campbell threw for 391 yards in his return to the lineup and tossed three touchdowns while Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron each went over 100 yards receiving with a score for Cleveland.
The Browns fall to 4-9 after the loss and will host Chicago next week in their final home game of the season...

Sorry this is late-I started and then didn't get finished due to the wonders of dealing with snow...

Brownie Bits

1) Right off the bat-Leon McFadden didn't commit pass interference on the play that that put the Patriots in a position to win the game.
Clearly incidental contact and an awful call to decide a game.

2) When are referees in sports going to start being less intimidated by home crowds and start calling the damn game?
There is no way that call is made in Cleveland,nor should it be.

3) It is amazing the difference when you have an even average quarterback in the lineup.
Jason Campbell played his heart out and near the end of the game,he could barely stand in the pocket,but the still gave the Browns a presence that is nowhere near the usual.
Do the math-Jason Campbell,a near upset of the Patriots in Foxborp,Brandon Weeden,a loss at home to lowly Jacksonville..

4) Jason Campbell,as noted,could barely stand by the end of the game,yet kept the Browns in a game that they could have won.
Campbell is not the future passer for the Browns,but he is decent enough to make these last few games a little less painful to watch...

5) Another huge day for Josh Gordon.
What can I say that I haven't already?

6) What Jason Campbell does that Brandon Weeden doesn't is look at receivers other than Josh Gordon.
Jordan Cameron caught nine passes for 121 yards and a score.
Weeden locks in on Gordon,which results in huge numbers and happy fantasy owners,but a extremely one dimensional offense.
Gordon will get his numbers no matter what,but getting others involved makes a huge difference...

7) I generally have been positive on Rob Chudzinski,but he messed up in calling his final timeout after the pass interference penalty.
Had the Browns kept that in their pocket,Jason Campbell could have called timeout and had one more play to gain a few yards for Billy Cundiff,who's 58 yard attempt fell short.
A few more yards would have won this game.

8) The defense played well all day until the crazy final two minutes.
Four sacks of Tom Brady and controlled all the Pats,but Shane Vereen made this a good day.
Tough to say,but still see improvement.

9) The Browns running game continued to struggle and late in the game again forced the Browns to pass instead of time controlling with runs.
Overkill? Sure,but Willis McGahee and company just will not get it done next year.
Or any year.

10) Caleb Hanie was released and Edwin Baker was signed off the Houston practice squad.
The Browns need a runner with the concussion to Willis McGahee and maybe Brandon Weeden is closer to a return?

Photo Credit; Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Quick PPM

Full Disclosure. I am giving myself a 1-2 record for college this week as I would have picked Auburn over Missouri (won),Northern Illinois over Bowling Green (lost,but happy) and Ohio State over Michigan State (lost but sad)

Last Week;5-2
Season: 60-26

Patriots over Browns 28-10
Saints over Panthers 24-14
Game of the Week
Seahawks over 49ers 23-13

Buckeyes BCS hopes bounced by Spartans

With a shot at the National Championship on the line in the Big 10 title game,The Ohio State Buckeyes came out flat,moved with a strong run to take the lead before yet another defensive letdown would cost them everything in a stunning 34-24 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in Indianapolis.
The Buckeyes were led by Braxton Miller,who rushed for two scores and threw another.
The last ever (thank heavens) BCS poll will be announced tonight with Ohio State expected to go to either Miami for the Orange Bowl or New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl...

Olentangy Offerings

1) The Buckeyes were their own worst enemy with too many defensive penalties to count to keep Spartan drives alive.
The secondary has killed this team all season with poor play and on this night,they were not good at all.

2) Speaking of the defense,can we please agree to part ways with Luke Fickel now?
Urban Meyer did the right thing in keeping a loyal Buckeye around after his help with the horrible situation in 2011,but his defense (especially the non-Ryan Shazier part of the back seven) has disappointed all season.
I expected that would come back to haunt OSU eventually,but I didn't expect it this soon.
Fickel will always have a place in Columbus,but the time is best for both parties.

3) I have some blame for the offense too as Braxton Miller was just 8 of 21 passing for barely over 100 yards.
Other than the 20 yard TD catch by Corey Brown,the passing game was filled with erratic passes and dropped balls and Miller was not exactly dynamite with his arm..

4) Miller was fine with his feet as he finished with over 100 yards and made the Spartans rock on their heels when he ran.
The problem was that when he was most effective was running without a plan.
Ohio State continually would run Miller out of an empty backfield,which tipped the Spartans and rarely worked for large amounts of yardage.
Ohio State never seemed to grasp that the Spartans were ready for that formation..

5) Ohio State ripped the "Nation's top defense" for 273 yards on the ground,which Gus Johnson told us constantly,but yet despite Carlos Hyde finishing with 118 yards for an average of 6.6 yards per carry,he only carried the ball 18 times.
When the Buckeyes took the lead,one would have expected it was time for Hyde to slam the Spartans like he had all year to other teams.
Unexpectedly,that didn't happen.

6) Ohio State did get another solid game from Joey Bosa.
The defensive strength of this team is up front and they are only getting better.
Next season with Bosa,Noah Spence,Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett,this might be the best defensive line in the nation...

7) Give the Buckeyes credit,they could have mailed it in and didn't.
It truly was a three game set with the Spartans winning the first and last 20 minutes and the Buckeyes dominating the middle.
Ohio State showed some heart in erasing a 17 point lead and moving in front.
One could say many things about this game,but rolling over is not one of them one..

8) This loss showed a flaw in the Buckeyes that still will take some time for Urban Meyer to fix with another recruiting class or two.
The speed positions still are not where they need to be as the secondary and wide receivers still need to raised to another level.
Urban Meyer's goal when he took this job was to raise Ohio State to be able to compete at the national title level and they are close,but it still will take time to move the players that suit the Meyer system in as juniors and seniors in  and the more suited players for Tresselball out....

9) I don't blame Urban Meyer for going for it on fourth and one with the Buckeyes down one.
It's easy to second guess the play call of Miller when you have the bulldozer that is Carlos Hyde available,but Meyer said he wanted the ball in the hands of his best player and I suppose you cannot disagree with that thinking.

10) I still would have ran Carlos Hyde.

11) Finally,I am not sure what I want tonight from the bowl selection.
Do I want Alabama and a chance for redemption,but more likely a defeat or someone in the Orange Bowl most likely Clemson) that has a better chance of winning?
In any case,it's disappointing,but everyone loses,just hasn't happened in a while...

Photo Credit: Marvin Fong-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Disappointing Devils drop decision to Detroit

The New Jersey Devils did not exactly cover themselves in glory Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings in a dull 3-1 defeat at the Rock.
Unless you consider 11 shots on goal a reason to compliment an effort and I do not.
Andy Greene scored the first goal of the game (4 power play) in the first period and they would score no more.
The Devils play the Rangers this evening.
Hope they can play harder than in this one.

Hell Raisers

1) What a dull game.
The Devils as noted put just eleven shots on goal and Detroit weren't exactly lighting up the shot total with 21 shots.
Just a dull and tedious game...

2) When Detroit took the lead on Johan Franzen's goal,Adam Henrique was near the play,didn't touch Franzen or shove his stick into the play.
Just a symbol of a bad night.

3) The Devils were robbed of a chance to pull Cory Schnieder and have a 6 on 5 skater advantage with a horrible call on Schneider for playing the puck outside the trapazoid..
Not only was Schneider within the legal area to play the puck,it was the type of call that you don't make it in a one goal game and a minute to play.
Detroit would have likely won anyway,but the Devils were denied the chance..

4) In about the only good thing for New Jersey in this game,Andy Greene's goal was reminiscent of Bobby Orr.
Greene took the puck up the ice weaving through Red Wings,dished to Patrik Elias and then took the return peg for the goal.

5) Pete DeBoer doesn't like Damian Brunner.
Scratching Brunner against his old team showed that.
Granted,Brunner hasn't scored in over a month,but sometimes a meeting with old friends can get things rolling again.

6) I'm starting to think that considering a coaching change might be a good idea.
Not saying that they should,just consider it.
The lack of effort shown by the Devils is a red flag to me and usually when you reach this point,there is no turning back.

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Friday, December 6, 2013

On the Signing Front

We return to the signing front and the pile continues to grow smaller,but there still should be at least two,if not more signing fronts before we are caught up from the 2013 season.

We start with the Asheville Tourists.
The Tourists usually bring a decent amounts of graphers to Hagerstown because they are the only team on the East Coast that are a Colorado Rockies affiliate.
The lucky catch was first round pick David Dahl,who was injured for nearly the entire season,but was traveling with the team.
Wonder who Dahl ticked off to spend four days in Hagerstown when he was nowhere near the condition to play?
Dahl was a terrific signer and signed everything for everyone.
Rosell Herrera was the breakout player of the Rockies system last year and was a willing signer,but the player I felt worst for was Max White,who had tons of different cards,yet signed them all.
Former big leaguers Mike Devereaux and Joey Eischen signed for us as well in their return to Hagerstown....

Next on the docket were the Winston-Salem Dash in Frederick.
This was the day with Big Don and my Buffalo Wild Wings gift night from Bridget as written about here.
The Dash themselves were led by speedy Micah Johnson and Courtney Hawkins.
Hawkins is a great signer,that might be getting tired of the overkill that top prospects get with the pen.
Courtney came out and I had 4 cards,which was a drop in the bucket in the past.
Courtney signed two and handed the other 2 back,I walked away with Derreck and said "looks like another guy ruined by the 25 at a shot gang".
Hawkins then walked to the field and looked up at us.Derreck says "He's trying to get your attention!".
Courtney then hollered up and said "Come down here after I'm done and I'll get the rest of those for you"!
First time for everything in this hobby!

Next up was another trip to State College to work on the Spikes team set and the visiting Williamsport Crosscutters,the short season team for the Phillies.
Both teams were strong enough and it's always a good time traveling with Derreck.
The Spikes featured Carson Kelly and David Washington as the top prospects.
Kelly signed his New York-Penn prospect card as well as the Bowman Silver Ice card that came in the mail the day after our last trip to State College,while Washington signed his State College and NY/Penn card too.
Nice pickups from the Crosscutters were Mitch Gueller on his Ny/Penn and Bowman refractor,Andrew Knapp,Andrew Pullin on a Bowman refractor and Dylan Cozens on his NY/Penn and Topps cards.
We stuck around far longer than we should for coaches Oliver Marmol and Ramon Ortiz,but with the season ending,its kinda nice getting the extra time in...

Next into Hagerstown was the Greensboro Grasshoppers and prospects from the Florida Marlins.
The interesting addition for the Grasshoppers was 2013 first rounder Colin Moran.
Moran had no cards at the time,but I was able to get him to sign the Hopper logo card from their team set.
Moran was also noted for a running style that brought to mind Tom Hanks running back kicks in Forrest Gump.
Chad James was a one time first rounder that had suffered injury problems.
Chad was very nice in knocking out all four cards that I had..
The other prospect that I was able to get was Jesus Solorzano on a team not filled with them.
During this series,I also got Nationals first rounder (sandwich pick) Jake Johansen and Derek Self on an Orange Bowman I got at a card show...

The Altoona Curve hit Harrisburg for their first shot at their team set.
Jameson Taillon was gone to AAA Indianapolis,but Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson had arrived from High A Bradenton.
Neither Hanson nor Polanco were especially cooperative on this night as Tyle and I were the only ones to Hanson pre-game on one,while Polanco refused pre-game and post-game signed for a few before trying to leave.Tyler caught him,which allowed me to get his top 100 card signed.
Boy,am I going to miss him when he is finished in this hobby!
Nick Kingham was nice and Alex Dickerson was quiet but signed everything.
Dickerson was recently traded to the Padres as he looked to be blocked by the organization's outfield strength.
Curve manager Carlos Garcia continued to be a less than friendly one per,which is as always,better than zero from the former Pirate shortstop.

We wrap with the regular season finale' in Hagerstown with the Lakewood Blue Claws.
Strictly team set cards for the Claws,which mean my first graph from 17 year old Carlos Tocci.
Other than Tocci and Larry Greene,just more of the same guys that come all the time from the Phillies.
Coaches Greg Legg and Aaron Fultz were great as always and manager Mickey Morandini was grouchy as usual,but did sign my team card,which was all I had.
At least he signed that,which was more than he was for some..

Thanks to Jason Christensen for his help in Binghamton with the main pickups being Noah Syndergaard and Travis D'Arnaud before D'Arnaud was promoted and Quinton Miller on his Bradenton card.

Thanks to Tracy Mackereth for two players that I didn't have cards for on the Grasshoppers.
Tracy graciously gave me a Robert Ravago and Austin Dean,that for some reason I didn't have....

Thanks to Bill Cover for his help filling in some Wilmington Blue Rocks that I couldn't get to Frederick for.
No real top prospects,but I did get J.C. Sulabran on an old Tri-Star.
The "Dark Set" is one of my favorites and as it ages,I get fewer of those signed..

Whew! That's a lot of card emptying,but there still is more!
We have the Suns two playoff opponents,some arrivals through the mail with a new champion for length of return time and more help from my friends.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Boucher debuts,Devils shootout woes continue

The New Jersey Devils entered the third period at the Rock trailing the Montreal Canadiens by a goal but twice overtook Montreal only to blow leads of 2-1 and 3-2 with less than four minutes remaining in the game,
That then left the Devils to their old bugaboo-the shootout,where they did score once (for the first time all season),but still lost 4-3.
The Devils received goals by Michael Ryder (7),Patrik Elias (6) and Andrei Loktionov (3) in the third period for their scores.
The Devils will play on Friday against the Red Wings.

Hell Raisers

1) Reid Boucher made his NHL debut and it was an impressive one as Boucher finished with an assist and scored the first goal for the Devils all season in the shootout.
How long Boucher stays with the team is questionable,but Boucher looks to have offensive potential in an organization that needs it..

2) Boucher was on the track of Devils fans since he broke Steven Stamkos' junior hockey goal scoring record and the fans gave him a rousing welcome.
It's only one game,but I think he kinda reminds me of a guy that used to wear number nine.

3) More Boucher-He is reported to be "a real cutie" from Rachel. Mr Henrique might want to watch out...

4) Cory Schneider was awful in this one.
If you want to be the blaming type,you could tag the loss on him.
The first and third goals were on Schneider and the shootout performance was downright bitter.
Just a bad night,...

5) Michael Ryder has said in the past that he is a streaky player and he is showing just that.
After not scoring in what seems to be forever,he scored in both ends of the home and home.Ryder just might be one of those players that scores in bunches and you live with the long dull stages..

Photo Credit:AP Photo

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Forgotten Superstars:Chris Noel

We return to the Forgotten Superstars universe today with a look at an actress that was just beginning to make a career move and then gave it all up to entertain for essentially free.

I didn't know much about Chris Noel until recently.
I didn't even recall much about her other than being the pretty friend of Shelley Fabares (remember our meeting with her?) in the Elvis Presley movie "Girl Happy".
I must admit to being struck by her in her limited role in one of the handfuls of Elvis flicks that I can never seem to pass up when I see them on television, which is a weakness that dates back to childhood insomnia on late night movies.
Off and on over the years, I would wonder why she didn't make it, not on acting ability because who really knows who can and cannot act based on Elvis films(!), but because she was so obviously beautiful in an era where that one gift can make a career appearing in films.

Last week, I went out with my friend Greg to Sam's Club and there was a terrific price on the entire series of Bewitched.
While I was a much bigger fan of I Dream Of Jeannie, I would consider myself a fan of Bewitched and grabbed it to watch at work at that price.
I am still watching the first season, but on one of the first episodes, I almost jumped out of my seat.
That's Chris Noel! Now remember I've seen most of the Bewitched episodes, but the first two black and white seasons were rarely in syndication, so the shows that drilled into my mind as a fan were the other color episodes.
Seeing Chris in this episode finally occurred at the right time for me to look up what happened to her and I was quite surprised to see the results...

Chris turned out to be quite committed to our servicemen in the Vietnam War and put her career on hold to attempt to help with entertaining the troops.
Noel was stunned to see the condition of veterans during a hospital visit in 1965 (the same year as Girl Happy) and decided to devote her time to the cause.
Noel joined the Armed Forces Radio Network and would do a daily one-hour radio program titled "A date with Chris" to give something to help the troops get through the day.
Noel would do these shows from Los Angeles but would make several trips of multiple week stints to Vietnam to entertain and visit troops live.
Chris was considered so important that the Viet Cong put a sizable bounty on her head during these visits-I.E.-Kill her to take away what helped troops feel a little better even if just for an hour a day.
No matter your opinions on the Vietnam War, one has to realize the polarizing effect that war, in particular, has in this country even to this day, and with the majority of people in control of the film and television industry lean towards the liberal side, so most likely Chris's stance hindered if not eliminated a successful return to the business.
Chris still is tirelessly working for Vietnam vets with her Vetsville Cease Fire Houses, which is a series of homes for homeless veterans and sometimes their families as they try to transition to the working world.

It's a pretty interesting story and I was quite intrigued while working on this post.
We welcome Chris Noel to the Forgotten Superstars universe and thank her for her service to our veterans!

For more on Chris Noel, her website is here.

Photo Credit: Unknown

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Miffed in Montreal

The New Jersey Devils held the lead early,but it was not enough to earn victory in Montreal as the Canadiens held serve in this home and home in a 3-2 win.
Steve Bernier (3) scored in the first period and Michael Ryder found the net (6) in the third to account for the Devils scoring.
The rematch is in Newark on Wednesday.

Hell Raisers

1) The key player in this game was a player that didn't score a goal or get credit for a save.
P.K. Subban made two plays on likely goals to bail out Carey Price and save the game for Montreal...

2) Nice to see Michael Ryder escape from a funk with his first goal in quite a while.
Ryder's third period slapper briefly tied the game at two.
Ryder improving his play would be key for a Devils playoff run...

3) Martin Brodeur faced just 17 shots,but still allowed three goals.
Sometimes lack of work affects a goalie,but I still find that hard to say.
Brodeur was not at his peak in his first game in Montreal since the passing of his father...

4) Adam Henrique looked to have injured his leg and is considered day to day,
Other than Rachel being gloomier than when Will Pinwica-Worms was called up to Potomac,Henrique's loss adds to a team filled with injured forwards.
When your AHL team is not exactly filled with scorers,these types of injuries loom even larger...

5) Another goal for Steve Bernier when he redirected Anton Volchenkov's shot in the first period.
Bernier has now surpassed his previous season goal total in not just two games,but two periods -the final period against Buffalo and the first in Montreal.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Golden Gordon not enough in loss to Jaguars

The Cleveland Browns looked to have one final chance win as a favorite this season as they hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars in Cleveland.
Alas,the Browns still had Brandon Weeden,who will forever burn the memory of three turnovers in the final two minutes among others and the Browns completely annihilated any remaining piece of good will with the fan base in a
32-28 loss.
Josh Gordon broke the Browns receiving record for yards that he established last week with 261 yards on 10 catches and scored twice.
Brandon Weeden threw for over 300 yards (370) and three touchdowns,but committed four turnovers in the defeat.
The now 4-8 Browns will be in Foxboro for the Patriots next Sunday...

Brownie Bits

1) The Good-Josh Gordon!
My lord,what a receiver.
Gordon made Brandon Weeden look good with catches of errant passes,running by Jaguar corners and grinding for extra yards with the ball.
I'll even go as far as this-You get a real quarterback throwing him the football and Josh Gordon has the skills to be the second best pass catcher in the game behind Calvin Johnson.
Josh Gordon could be that good.

2) I have written already numerous times about my concerns about Mike Lombardi's ability to properly use the draft picks the team has accumulated.
My concern isn't as much that the Browns shopped Josh Gordon at the trade deadline,but as Mike Lombardi's comments about him being a wasted pick when the team drafted him.
You don't think that Josh Gordon's skills were worth a second rounder? I have doubts on your evaluation
of talent skills...

3) One more Josh Gordon note.First player in NFL HISTORY to have consecutive 200 plus yard games!
That is in league history,folks!

4) Brandon Weeden.
Heavy Sigh-He did throw three TD's,but his meltdown near the end of the first half handed the Jaguars 13 points in a game the Browns lost by four.
Two interceptions and a fumble took away any resemblance to a passable NFL quarterback.
I spent the game talking to my buddy Josh and as soon as the first pass was picked off-I was sent this note "Well,welcome back Brandon Weeden".
Little did we know just how bad it was going to get.

5) Weeden even brought back his wonderful underhand flip and pray toss on TWO occasions.
I understand what a weapon Josh Gordon is and really is the only major one,but completely ignored any other player.
Locking in on one guy,no matter the talent is the NFL equivalent of spreading the floor to have one player go one on one and the other four guys stand around and watch...

6) Blame Joe Haden for losing Cecil Shorts for the game deciding score if you wish and it should be noted that this was the second time in two weeks (same spot in the field too) that Haden was burned,but I'll look at it this way-the best cover corners get beaten and despite the language Haden was reported to have used in the locker room,I'll give him a pass.
Haden took accountability for the loss (which is one more time than I've heard it from Brandon Weeden in 2 seasons) and the fact that he takes mistakes so hard is why I think Joe Haden is a keeper.

7) Alex Mack might have snapped his way out of town with his errant snap over the head of Brandon Weeden.Mack is a free agent after the season and generally is solid,but the Browns might not value centers as much as other teams anyway,so this will not help that any.

8) I know Brandon Weeden looked silly with his boot out of the back of the endzone on that play,but he did his job-get the ball out of the endzone as quickly as possible.Giving away 2 points beats 6 every time,the Browns have enough problems doing that.

9) Ray Horton's defense has been praised often,but an offense led by Chad Henne,who is the Southern model of bad QB,put together two eighty yard drives against them with the final one deciding the game.
Were they put in some bad spots by the offense? Certainly,but when the chips were down,the defense is supposed to be the strength of the Browns and they didn't get the job done.

10) Brandon Weeden suffered a concussion and if Jason Campbell has not recovered from his,the Browns will need to sign another QB and Cleveland will start their 4th passer of the season next week in New England.Trick Shot Tanney-Come on down! You are the next contestant on..Never mind....

11) Absolutely hate the Jaguar helmet.
They look like a car painted in primer and then ran out of the real paint.
Nike's work with Seattle and now Jacksonville since getting the NFL apparel contract scares me to death with Jimmy "the pilot" Haslem looking at screwing up err  re-designing the Browns unis....