Sunday, September 29, 2013

On Wisconsin-Ohio State holds off the Badgers

The Ohio State Buckeyes faced the biggest test of their season thus far inside the Big Horseshoe as the 23rd ranked Wisconsin Badgers hit Columbus for the Big 10 opener.
The Buckeyes now 5-0,(1-0 Big 10) passed the test as they defeated Bucky 31-24 Saturday night before a national television audience.
Braxton Miller returned to the lineup off his knee injury and threw for all four of the Ohio State touchdowns.
The Buckeyes will now face undefeated Northwestern next week in Evanston in what should be their toughest road test before the finale against that team up north.....

1) I know some fans thought that Urban Meyer should have mixed Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton after the strong stint by Guiton in Miller's absence.
I didn't and neither did Meyer,who used Miller and was rewarded for the decision.
Braxton Miller might have won the Heisman without his injury and with the right run,might still.

2) The rap on so many running quarterbacks in arm strength.
I have no doubts with Braxton Miller.
His deep throws are not lame ducks and he fires darts to open receivers too.
I think Miller has a chance at the next level...

3) The secondary did not play up to par as Joel Stave threw for almost 300 yards and Jared Abbrederis went over 200 yards receiving.
Bradley Roby was often beaten in this one and the secondary will have to improve their play.

4) The Buckeyes caught a bad break near the end of the game as senior safety and captain Christian Bryant broke his ankle and ended his season.
A unit that saw questions arise against Wisconsin will have another one to answer.

5) Carlos Hyde was the main ballcarrier with 17 carries for 85 yards,but where was Jordan Hall with just one carry?
I still maintain Hall is the best back on the team....

6) Ohio State shut the Badger ground game down by holding Melvin Gordon to 74 yards.
The game was the first this season for Gordon held to less than 100 yards.

7) Wisconsin was able to throw the ball,but the pass rush was decent enough.
The player that I thought played very well was Noah Spence and I see Spence developing into more and more of a dominant pass rusher as the season moves on...

8) I loved the aggressiveness of taking the ball with under 90 seconds and the score 17-14,to go down the field after a score.
On fourth down,Braxton Miller fired a 40 yard touchdown to Corey Brown that essentially ended the game despite the final score.
I liked Jim Tressel,but Tressel would have likely called a few running plays and allowed the clock to run out at the half...

9) Always a plus when the ABC A broadcast team is in the house. Brent Musberger,Kirk Herbsreit and Heather Cox are top to bottom my favorite broadcasting crew in all of sports.
Musberger can sometimes be a flawed announcer but he brings the big game feeling better than anyone else to the table.

10) I know I generally am not a huge fan of alternate uniforms,but I liked the brand against Wisconsin.
They took the best of the current unis and added some aspects of the Woody Hayes teams with the wide stripe down the helmet center.
I liked the chrome gray helmet as well and I wouldn't be against seeing more of those in the future.

Photo Credit;Cleveland Plain Dealer

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quick PPM

Quick PPM from the road office,as time is a bit short today.
Last Week 5-2
Season 18-6

Ohio State over Wisconsin 27-20
Bowling Green over Akron 32-30
Game of the Week
LSU over Georgia 22-16

Bengals over Browns 20-10
Saints over Dolphins 24-13
Game of the the Week
Falcons over Patriots 24-21

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cleaning out the inbox-Non Sports edition

Time for the cleaning out of the inbox and it is a bit filled.
Filled to the point of doing a sports and a non-sports edition.

The big story to me is Voyager 1 exiting the solar system.
Voyager was launched in 1977,which for those of you wondering, was when your humble author was sitting in Ms.Lucic's fourth grade class at Fountain Rock Elementary.
Voyager will now be the first craft to send back interstellar information from beyond the solar system and when you think about sends information unprecedented in mankind's history.
Deep stuff I know,but still isn't this the type of thing
that we SHOULD be funding???
The space program was such a big part of my childhood and other than the occasional newsblip on a Mars rover,it's almost a forgotten side note.

When NASA recently launched its LADEE mission to the moon recently,it brought along a frog.
The unmanned rocket was launched in Virginia and although no one can be sure,it is a pretty safe bet that Freddie got a bit toasty on that day!
The image was caught by one of three remote cameras and was an interesting image.
LADEE is an orbiter that will study the the moon's atmosphere,environmental effects on the lunar dust and conditions on the moon.

Science lives again as in 32,000 years later as my friend Krista Anderson sends note of a 32,000 year plant being grown in Russia.
Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, had some immature seeds hidden by a squirrel in the Ice Age and were able to be grown.
The seeds then produced seeds of their own,giving hope to future finds as well the continued viablities of Seed Vaults in the event of a major catastrophe.....

Stumbled upon a interesting documentary on Youtube on deceased actor Warren Oates.
Titled "Across the Border" the film spans the career of Oates,who is best known for his many characters in westerns and as "Sgt.Hulka" in Stripes.
Take a look!

Finally,I wrap up with Rachel Maizes from the New York Times with her story of her beloved "Bad Dog" Chance.
The aging 14 year old and his late life issues made me think of the loss of Teddy.

Back tomorrow with a planned signing front....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Devils sign Damien Brunner

The New Jersey Devils had been rumored to be interested in Damien Brunner in the off season,but never made a move until midway through training camp when the Devils brought Brunner in on a no promises tryout.
Brunner must have impressed the team as he was signed to a two year deal worth five million dollars.
The 27 year old from Switzerland finished with 12 goals and 14 assists in last years shortened season in his first year in the league.
Brunner's offense is yet another helpful addition for a lineup that looks to need all the offense that it can get.
Brunner can play center or on the wing so he could play on any of the top three lines depending on how the season progresses.

The Devils also sent some players to Albany with the most notables being Eric Gelinas,Jon Merril and Stefan Matteau.
Gelinas and Merril both played well,but were caught up in the logjam on defense.
Matteau was an expected move,but still makes me wonder why the Devils allowed his entry year to go by last season.
The team is currently at 28 players (really 27 as Keith Kinkaid returning to Albany is a foregone conclusion) with the need to get 23 by Monday.
We will have a Devils season preview early next week...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hoyer handles Vikings 31-27!

Brian Hoyer threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns,two to Jordan Cameron (including the game winner with under two minutes to go) in leading the Cleveland Browns to their first win of the season in Minnesota over the Vikings 31-27 in Minneapolis.
Cameron finished the day with three touchdown catches as he caught a TD from Spencer Lanning on a fake field goal.
Josh Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards in the season debut for the Baylor product including a 47 yard touchdown for the first Cleveland score.
The now 1-2 Browns return to Lake Erie next Sunday against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals.

Brownie Bits

1) Before we get too excited about Brian Hoyer's day,keep in mind that he did get intercepted three times although one was on a tipped ball.
However,Hoyer gets rid of the ball so much faster than Brandon Weeden and makes better decisions (on this day,at least) as well.
The Browns should give Hoyer the start next week even if Weeden is able to play.

2) I loved the go for broke mentality with a fake field goal,which resulted in a touchdown and a fake punt that kept a drive alive.
It brought back memories of a Browns win over the Saints in the Eric Mangini era,where they pulled stunt after stunt for an upset win.
You cannot do this every week,but it is fun football and I bet some of it was a result of the uproar over the Trent Richardson deal,where so many were accusing the team of tanking for the year....

3) The Mike Holmgren era was not filled with great draft picks,but the gamble on Jordan Cameron is starting to pay off.
Cameron has always had elite skills physically for a tight end,but never seemed to get the ball.That has changed this year and Cameron is looking like a Pro Bowl level performer.

4) Before the game,rumors were being reported that the Browns were not finished trading as they were shopping both Josh Gordon and Greg Little around the league.
Well,Josh Gordon showed just why he would be difficult to let go with his performance.
Gordon opened up the offense,gave Brian Hoyer a deep threat and once again showed the ability to be a number one receiver.

5) That said,I can understand the team gauging interest in both players,especially Gordon.
Gordon is one strike away from a one year suspension,so I can certainly see why the management is willing to listen to offers,but his talent would make him a tough loss to take.

6) I admit I was not thrilled when the Browns switched from the 4-3 to the 3-4 and I wrote so,but the Ray Horton 3-4 is different than the Eric Mangini/Romeo Crennel 3-4.
This defense attacks,blitzes and goes after the quarterback with aggressive abandon with six different Browns sacking Christian Ponder.

7) And they did a fine job controlling Adrian Peterson,continuing a good season against the run,but the secondary played well too,but that may have just as much Christian Ponder than the Browns.

8) Trent Richardson in Indianapolis for the Colts? 13 carries 35 yards and a touchdown for a 2.7 YPC.
About what he did for the Browns.
Cleveland will still need to get a running game going though.
The Browns leading rusher? Josh Rainey,who ran 34 yards on the fake punt.

9) Give some credit to Spencer Lanning too.
Lanning punted well (just under 47 yards a boot),but put nice touch on the TD pass off the fake field goal to Jordan Cameron and booted a key extra point with Billy Cundiff injured.

10) All told,the Browns had a rough week and could have rolled over.Instead Rob Chudzinski had his guys ready to play and they played hard and well.
I know it's just one week and the Browns will usually be outmanned,but this win showed character and that makes me feel much better than I did last week.

Photo Credit:John Kuntz-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, September 22, 2013

76-0 and not much to say

It was expected to be a slaughter and it was as Ohio State smacked "the Rattler" Earl Holmes and his Florida A&M team around to the tune of 76-0.
It was so bad that I'm not even doing a recap,just a few bullet points.
The 4-0 Buckeyes host Wisconsin next Saturday night to kick off the Big Ten season.

Olentangy Offerings

1) Florida A&M had one highlight as on the first OSU drive,Kenny Guiton threw an interception in the end zone.
Instead of downing the ball,the player tried to run the ball out,was hit at the five,fumbled and recovered by the Buckeyes.
That about covered the day.

2) Kenny Guiton threw six touchdowns,which tied a school record.

3) Ten different Buckeyes caught a pass,eight different Buckeyes carried the football.
When you talk about emptying a bench,this game is the definition.

4) Ohio State did not run the score up.
Trust me,if they wanted to-they could have scored 100.
In the entire second half,Ohio State did not throw the ball once.

5) Which brings us to this-Why?
Well,someone had to fill the schedule and as much as I hate these types of games,Florida A&M did get a nice payday (one million) and I'm sure that goes a long way towards their budget and some Buckeyes that rarely see the field got to play.Other than that....

6) The Big Ten wants these games to go away when the 4 team playoffs start next season and they should.
I am not as hard on playing MAC teams,although I don't want to play 3 or 4 of them,but 1 or 2 is OK.
The league will need to bulk the non-conference schedules up for the playoffs and they need to,but much of it is luck.
When Ohio State signed up for a home and home with Cal,the Golden Bears were coming off an almost BCS year with Aaron Rodgers and Jeff Tedford was a much sought after head coach.
By the time the game is played? Cal isn't even the best team in the Bay Area-Stanford is and Tedford has been fired!
You can try your best,but some of that is luck.
7) I liked Florida A&M's uniforms.pretty cool,I thought.

Photo Credit:unknown

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pigskin Pickin' Machine

The PPM returns with a pretty dull slate of games in both college and pro.

3-0 Ohio State hosts 1-AA Florida A&M (1-2).
The less that I say about this the better as I hate playing 1-AA schools as there is nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Other than I hope Braxton Miller sits,Kenny Guiton plays a little and Cardale Jones plays out the string,That's all I have.

Texas Tech (3-0 1-0 Big 12) hosts Texas State (2-0).
A rested Raider squad comes off the win of TCU and unless Flat Top Meyers has come back,I'm not sure Texas State hangs around.

Bowling Green (2-1 1-0 MAC) hosts Murray State (2-1) in another 1-AA matchup.
I can understand why the Falcons do it though in order to get another home games.
BG fell apart in a loss to Indiana in the second half,so they could be hungry.

The game of the week features the only matchup of top 25 teams as 5th ranked Stanford (2-0) hosts 23rd Arizona State (2-0).
Arizona State enters the game with a referee-aided win over Wisconsin,while Stanford plays the Anti-Pac 12 game of power football.

In the NFL,the Browns (0-2) travel to Minnesota (0-2) with a third string quarterback and either a running back from the waiver wire or one just signed in the middle of the week.
I know many are hitting the Browns for throwing in the towel,but I've seen Brandon Weeden throw and Trent Richardson run,I don't imagine Brian Hoyer and Willie McGahee drops the quality that low.
If it does,it is going to be some putrid football.
The Vikings have lost two close road games and make their home debut.
Adrian Peterson is well,Adrian Peterson and so is Christian Ponder.
Interesting in the Metrodome.

The Saints (2-0) host the Cardinals (1-1) as Drew Brees and company look to score plenty against an Arizona defense that doesn't look strong and has a hobbled Larry Fitzgerald in tow.
The Saints offense should break out this week...

The game of the week is another weak one as the 1-1 Packers hit Ohio and the 1-1 Bengals.
Green Bay will try to score points against a tough Bengals defense.
The key could be can backup RB James Starks do well on the ground?...

Last week 5-1
Season 13-4

Ohio State over Florida A&M 62-10
Texas Tech over Texas State 44-21
Bowling Green over Murray State 34-14
Stanford over Arizona State 24-13
Vikings over Browns 23-10
Saints over Cardinals 35-17
Packers over Bengals 24-20

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nicole Mitchell Interview-Part 5

I was doing some cleanup around here and discovered that I am A) a nitwit and B) Read A!
I say this because I never posted the final portion of our interview with Nicole Mitchell.
Since I posted the last part,Nicole has been hired by Al-Jazeera America as one of their on-air meteorologists and can be seen there on weekday mornings.

I have deleted a few questions that Nicole answered no comment to in order to compact space.
Thanks again to Nicole for taking the time and apologies from me for not finishing this earlier as I am ,after all, an idiot.

TRS: You were going to law school while at TWC and earned your degree from Georgia State,do you have any interest in practicing law?

NM:  I never planned to practice full-time. Most of the optional classes I took in law school related to social service, as a background for the types of volunteer work I have done. (At the time I was volunteering with CASA-Court Appointed Special Advocates, which advocates for abused and neglected children in the court system.)

TRS: How many hours a week did you have free between the reserves.TWC and law school? Was the time management difficult?

NM:Sometimes it felt like a negative number! Yes, I was very busy, but I like being busy and challenged.

TRS: Would you be willing to go to a local affiliate if that is what it took to re-enter the game?

NM:  I would consider any job that I thought would be a good fit for me.

TRS: What have you been doing since leaving TWC?

NM:  Among other things, I’ve had the time to do a lot more military work and be far more active during hurricane season.

TRS: What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?

NM: Hiking, reading, and spending time with my friends and family.

TRS: TWC has went downhill quickly since the NBC purchase with pushing less than talented (I'm referring to Stephanie Abrams) hosts beyond their abilities and a less than sharp focus on the weather with movies and reality shows. Any thoughts on the NBC decision making?

NM: Many…but I’ll leave it at that!

TRS: What is your stance on the ridiculous naming of winter storms that TWC has begun than the National Weather Service has brushed off?

NM:  I don’t know of any meteorologists who agree with that decision or who see it as more than a gimmick.

TRS:  Finally,if you look back to the beginning of your weather interest, did you ever see yourself getting to the point that you have?

NM: No, I never imagined some of the things I’ve had the opportunity to do. With that said, I believe in staying open to all possibilities, because sometimes life has an ever better plan for you than you might have thought of yourself!

TRS: Any thoughts on the Pat Tillman game (Flag football game to benefit veterans) that you played in? We cover Ohio State here regularly,what was your time with Urban Meyer like?

NM:  My favorite part was meeting and getting to spend time with a lot of other great veterans. And that all those people came out to support us was overwhelming! As for Coach Meyer…he definitely wanted to win.

Thanks again to Nicole for her time and best wishes in her return to TV with Al Jazeera..

Photo Credit:Nicole Mitchell

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Browns trade Trent Richardson to Indianapolis!

I was all prepared to address the Cleveland Browns decision to start third stringer and local standout Brian Hoyer at quarterback over the more experienced Jason Campbell to replace Brandon Weeden on Sunday at Minnesota against the Vikings.

Instead I came home from work and was hammered with word that the Browns had traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for the Colts first rounder in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Yeah,you could say that and my Facebook page was filled with people commenting that usually don't care about the Browns about the trade.
One friend said "I couldn't support a team that slapped their fans in the face like that".

Well,get ready to be surprised because not only am I not upset-I support the trade.
Anyone that thinks the Browns got fleeced have not seen Trent Richardson run very often for Cleveland.
Trent Richardson averaged just three and a half yards per carry,tended to tip toe behind his blocking and showed little breakaway ability (only 2 runs over 20 yards) other than one TD run against the Chargers that won a game last season.
I saw way too many screen passes to Richardson that I thought "now something will happen!" and then see him gain a few yards and brought to the ground.
The facts are that Trent Richardson remaining with the Browns was not going to make the Browns a good team and that Cleveland was able to pick up a first round draft pick for a player that was beginning to dangerously get close to being considered a possible bust is a solid addition to the Browns future.
Now you can argue that Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi still have to make the most of the accumulated picks (2 1's 2 3's and 2 4's) and I am hesitant with that fact as well,but the Browns got a first round pick for a guy that might have been devalued to the point of a 4th or 5th rounder by season's end.

And I know that the Browns used the third pick in the draft on Richardson and the Colts pick will likely be in the 18-22 range,which is to some is not fair value.
Ok,I agree with that-an 18 is not as good as a 3,but that 3rd pick is gone-nothing to be done about that and Cleveland has pulled in a pick that only a desperate team,which the Colts are,with a possible playoff run in jeopardy due to an injury to Vick Ballard,the teams top back.
Allow me to make this comparison-running backs are like new cars.They are depreciated from the time that you drive the car off the lot.
Running backs take a beating and usually (not always) are as good as they are going to be from the time that they get into the lineup for the next three years.
I know the Browns offensive line issues,bad quarterbacks,etc,but those problems (with the possible exception of Mitchell Schwartz getting his act together) are not going to change this season and for those of you scoring at home,that would be two years of Trent Richardson in the career books.
So after two decent,but not glory covered years,who would trade a first round pick for Trent Richardson?
My guess is no one.

It truly was a situation where the Colts were ready to take a risk and the Browns were willing to swap a commodity that was losing value every day.
This could be a deal that helps both teams.
The Colts need immediate help and could turn Richardson into a productive player in an offense that uses him as the main back,but a supporting player in the gameplan.
The Browns were going to be bad with Richardson,they are likely to be bad without him,so I have no problems gaining something for him.

No doubt the Browns are going struggle even further on offense.
The only running back on the roster is Bobby Rainey,who played very well for Baltimore in the pre-season,since Chris Ogbonnaya is forced to play out of position at fullback,but the Browns will be signing Willis McGahee Thursday,assuming he passes the physical.
McGahee will likely become the main back,but that's unlikely to happen this week against the Vikings,so Rainey will get a week to show he can do.
Who truly knows what McGahee has left in the wheels after yet another serious leg injury last season in Denver.
McGahee was brought by the Giants,but they signed Brandon Jacobs instead,is that a truer look what veteran has left?

The Cleveland Browns are now all in for the 2014 draft,even at the expense of some pretty poor offensive football in 2013.
The date to circle? December 1st-Jacksonville at Cleveland.
That game could decide the first overall pick and I would wager a bit in saying this-either one or both teams just might be winless entering that contest.
Now the concern is this-Just who is right about Mike Lombardi-Joe Banner or me?????

Photo Credit:Akron Beacon Journal

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Does it get better?

It's been a little over two months since Teddy left our lives and I'm not sure that it's truly getting better.
Sure,the stress of dealing with his late life maladies has been taken away,but so has the joy of my buddy being here as well.

It still just does not feel "right" around here without the world toughest pug,but you do get used to it-it's just that something is missing.
For the last year or two,Teddy would go upstairs with Rachel for the night,while I hung out down here on the third shift schedule,despite being off work,but I miss the nights when Teddy was Teddy at 3 AM,hanging out on the couch together,just the two of us.
Or even the days when Ryan was still at home,the three of us watching a ball game from the West Coast.

I miss that little guy even more than I thought I would when he passed.
Ed is taking up the slack and he has been a huge help,but it still isn't the same as having Teddy here.
These quiet overnights are just missing something and it's pretty clear just what that something is.
Nothing can bring him back and I wouldn't want him to suffer just for my sake,but there is no denying there is a hole here.
A hole that another dog simply cannot fill.

I always discussed with Cherie over the final few years of Teddy's life that I thought I wanted a new dog as quickly as possible when that day came in order to help the healing process.
To my surprise,I just don't have the interest yet.
That isn't to say that means never,just not yet.
Rachel wants a Japanese Chin eventually (keep that in mind, readers),although the actual list depends on cost and availability and includes Boston Terrier,Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and English Bulldogs.
I do know that I don't think I want a Pug this time.
I love the breed and maybe eventually,but Teddy has left a legacy that I don't want another dog that looks similar to have to spend their life being second best.
Compare it to this in sports,you don't want to be the person that succeeds a legendary coach,you want to be the guy that follows the successor.

I suppose that is to be expected when you lose part of your family,especially when it is a live-in member of the family.
Life is different now,although certainly not better.
I guess the answer is simply hang in there for each day and let time take its course...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reviewing the tape-Buckeyes take Cal !

The Ohio State Buckeyes put up three touchdowns in the first eight minutes and put the game on cruise control thereafter in a 52-34 win in Berkeley over the Cal Golden Bears.
Kenny Guiton fired four touchdowns in his start for the hobbled Braxton Miller with two them being long scores to Devon Smith,who finished the day with 149 yards receiving.
Jordan Hall continued his excellent running with a 168 yards on the ground with three touchdowns.
The now 3-0 Buckeyes return home Saturday against 1-AA Florida A&M.

Olentangy Offerings

1) Kenny Guiton was great as he threw a 90 yard scoring toss to Devin Smith on the Buckeyes second offensive play along with three other touchdown passes.
If Guiton played for almost any other team,he might be a Heisman contender.

2) That said,when Braxton Miller returns-it's his team.
Miller may pass as accurately as Guiton,but when Miller is in the game,you cannot take your eyes off him.
Braxton Miller brings things to the table that no one else in the game does and any experiment of sharing time at quarterback is doomed to fail-no matter how good Kenny Guiton would be.

3) Jordan Hall continues to prove that he is the best back that Ohio State has,when he is healthy and that includes Carlos Hyde.
Hall's only issue has been his vulnerability to injury and Mr.Hyde might have a scary time getting his starting job back when he returns from suspension.

4) Hall might be the best back,but the most exciting might be freshman Dontre Wilson.
Every time that Wilson touches the ball,there is a chance that he gets the ball in open space.
Wilson (as my friend Ian said) is the fastest and most exciting Buckeye since Ted Ginn Jr.

5) Cal still scored more than they should and many of those came as a result of poor tackling.
This was a problem last season and it is not totally resolved this campaign.

6) Cal's stadium showed more Red than any other color as the Buckeyes showed that they are a true national program.
There is only maybe ten of those programs and the Ohio State brand is powerful enough nationally that they should continue to play a game far away from Columbus every year to continue that exposure to help recruiting and booster donations.

Photo Credit;Marvin Fong-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Monday, September 16, 2013

Browns bounced in Baltimore 14-6

The Cleveland Browns played well defensively,but were only able to make one big offensive play and two field goal as the Browns dropped to 0-2 on the season with a 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore.
Brandon Weeden threw for 229 yards before leaving late in the game with a thumb injury.
Jordan Cameron grabbed five balls for 90 yards on the day to lead the mediocre Cleveland offense.
Cleveland travels to Minnesota for the 0-2 Vikings home opener next Sunday.

Brownie Bits

1) All things considered,there were some things to be encouraged about in the loss.
Another solid day by the defense as the Ravens were held to under 100 yards rushing.
This team is going to be very tough to run against.

2) Barkevious Mingo will be the real deal. Mingo sacked Joe Flacco on his first play,forced a holding penalty and hurried Joe Flacco on two other rushes.
Mingo's snaps were limited,but as the snaps increase,his impact will as well.
He had better,because he looks to be the only help from the 2013 draft.

3) The secondary was improved and didn't allow the big play.
Still work to do,but even Buster Skrine played reasonably well.
Joe Haden allowed catches to Torrey Smith,but didn't allow Smith to run by him for the deep pass,so I consider that a victory.

4) Another great game from Jordan Cameron,who's first quarter catch was about the only big play the Browns were able to make all day.
Cameron is showing real signs of breaking out as the athletic pass catcher that he was drafted as.

5) Trent Richardson had another pedestrian day finishing with 58 yards on 18 carries.
Richardson's longest run was just nine yards.
I would not go as far to say Richardson is a bust yet,but he seems healthy enough and the numbers still are not there.

6) Brandon Weeden struggled all day with the exception of the nice pass to Jordan Cameron early in the game.
Weeden did not throw any picks,but he still had issues with overthrows and tipped balls.
I get the feeling that Weeden is beginning to run of time,he just is not improving.

7) Weeden had a chance to make a big play,but overthrew a WIDE open Chris Ogbonnaya,who had slid out of the backfield and would have walked into the endzone.
It was a real overthrow as Weeden simply had to loft the ball to Ogbonnaya and instead fired a bullet that was thrown far too hard with little touch at all.
Could Ogbonnaya have caught it? Yes,but Weeden turned an easy play into a difficult one.
Those are the types of plays that decide games and Weeden was handed a chance to make one and could not make the throw.

8) Another rough game for Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle,who had issues with rushes off the edge.
I know it is only two games,but Schwartz has taken a huge step back from his rookie year.

9) Greg Little had 12 passes thrown to him,but caught just four.
Little might rebound next week against the Vikings weaker secondary and Josh Gordon returning to the lineup.

10) Phil Taylor was called for an unnecessary roughness for whacking Ray Rice after Rice appeared to spit on him.
You have to keep composure,but that had to be hard to do.
Stay classy,Baltimore.

11) Jason Campbell played the final few minutes after Brandon Weeden injured a thumb.
I will be interested to see if the offensive output changes if Campbell is forced to start next week.

Photo Credit;Joshua Gunter;Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mayweather speeds past Alvarez,Garcia upsets Matthysse

Floyd Mayweather put on a masterful boxing performance in controlling Saul Alvarez and easily winning (with one exception) a decision in Las Vegas.
The majority win was only that due to one less than accurate judge,who somehow gave Alvarez six rounds.
I gave him just one and scored one even for a 118-110 win for Mayweather,who is running out of anyone capable of defeating him at 154 pounds or lower.
The big question is this-would Mayweather consider a jump to 160 pounds for a shot at another title against the world champion Sergio Martinez or the best fighter in the division Gennady Golovkin?
I would wager Mayweather would consider the former and want no part of the latter.

The undercard featured an upset as Danny Garcia won a unanimous decision over favored Lucas Matthysse.
Garcia used a massive swelling on Matthysse's eye to control the middle rounds and was credited with a knockdown in the 11th,which I thought was dubious.
I would not be against a rematch down the road,if Matthysse can put a few wins together.
I scored the bout 114-112 for Garcia.
Garcia may get the next shot at Mayweather and why not as he is deserving as anyone else is,although I don't think he will be competitive in the bout.

All and all,a night not filled with explosive action,but an entertaining evening of boxing anyway.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mayweather vs Alvarez predictions

Tonight's big PPV card of boxing with three championships on the line,two of them for the top fighter in their division is one I have looked forward to for a while!

The main event features the top fighter in the sport putting a title that he has held hostage for two years (WBA Jr.Middleweight title) on the line in a unification bout with the WBC champion at the weight in Mexico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Alvarez has been surrounded by hype,but other than his most recent win over Austin Trout,has not really impressed me.
There is more buzz surrounding this bout than any in quite a while,which is always a good thing for the sport.
I look for this one to be a close fight,similar to Mayweather's win over Oscar De La Hoya,but maybe not the most exciting of bouts,which is pretty typical of Floyd Mayweather affairs.

The real fight of the evening features the WBA and WBC Jr.Welterweight champion Danny Garcia against the Argentine buzzsaw Lucas Matthysse.
Matthysee has never fought a bout that has not seen him win or drop his opponent,as he dropped both Devon Alexander and Zab Judah in bouts that saw Matthysse lose split decisions (that I thought he won) to both in their respective hometowns.
Garcia will try to box Matthysse,but will likely try swapping punches as he did in wins over Zab Judah,Erik Morales and Amir Khan.
Garcia is a fine champion against a powerful challenger in what should prove to be a terrific fight.

Ishe Smith is a Floyd Mayweather protege and holds the third of the three 154 pound belts (IBF) and defends against mandatory challenger Carlos Molina,who finally gets a deserved title shot.
Molina,who whipped Erislandy Lara and was rewarded with a draw and a DQ loss by an idiotic ref in a fight he was controlling against James Kirkland,worked his way to the bout with some elimination wins.
Smith has to be uneasy against the unorthodox style of Molina and has to know a win might mean some money for him.
Molina's style means he'll never fight Floyd Mayweather,but a Smith win might get him a fight against his mentor as Floyd (with a win tonight) might want to hold all three major belts,especially as he would have a glorified sparring session to add the belt..

Looks like a fun night in Vegas.

Our picks
Mayweather unanimous winner over Alvarez
Matthysee KO7 Garcia
Molina unanimous winner over Smith

Cleaning out the inbox

We start with the inbox with a short announcement on the end of the Hagerstown Suns season as the Suns were unable to score a run in either game in Savannah against the Sand Gnats and lost the series in four games.

I feel bad for the Suns,of course,but as I was told earlier tonight by my friend and loyal Suns fan-Denise, "So much of the past 2 seasons (has been) dominated by negativity, apathy & deceit",it makes me feel sad for the loyal fan base that just wanted one championship to go out on.
It was a great year for Suns baseball,when you consider few of the Suns are considered real prospects (season in review coming up soon),and a season that will be remembered by us even after the team is no more.

Amateur wrestling managed to fight its way back into the 2020 Olympics where it belongs and some credit needs to go to the man still known as the face of American Wrestling-Dan Gable.
Gable's record includes a career at Iowa State that saw him go undefeated until his final match of his career,an Olympic Gold medal in the 1972 games and a career as head coach at Iowa that saw him compose a record that ranks at the top of any sport,not just wrestling.
Wright Thompson might be my favorite current writer and his article on Gable's past,his present and what the legends deal with every day is tremendously well written.
Even if you don't like wrestling or never heard of Dan Gable-take a few minutes and read this story.

As a fan of UNLV back in the days of Jerry Tarkanian,Tark the Shark's long overdue election to the basketball hall of fame brought with it quite a few Tarkanian articles.
This link looks at a few various posts on what made the Shark HOF worthy and worth a look for either the Vegas fan or the college hoops fan.
This one looks at the loyalty of Tarkanian to his past players.
Makes one look deeper at Tarkanian than his wild and loose reputation from his days at UNLV.

Terry Pluto talked to former Tribe pitcher Jaret Wright on his 1997 World Series with the Indians and what he is doing today,
It is hard to believe that Wright is just 37 years of age.
Wright was supposed to anchor the Indians rotation for years,but hard living and injuries curtailed those hopes.

ESPN does another retrospective of endurance runner Steve Prefontaine on the 40th anniversary of his final race for the Oregon Ducks.
Prefontaine has been the subject of two movies,books and more and for a person that never won an Olympic medal ( Prefontaine was 4th in the Munich games in the 5,000 meters),his legacy lives on in the minds of track fans (and non fans) as he is the comparison for any American distance runner...

Finally a goodbye to former Chicago Cub pitcher Glen Hobbie at the age of 77.
Hobbie put together a few solid years for the Cubs before injuring his arm, essentially ending his career.
Hobbie recently signed some cards for my collection and they were appreciated.

Photo Credit: Brian Ray-The Gazette

Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRGBr
Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG
Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG
Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM returns with this weeks picks.
Texas Tech has already upset TCU in one of those wonderful Thursday games that happens before I think of the PPM,so we missed out on the Tech upset of the Frogs.

Before we start-here is the numbers to date.
Last Week  5-2
Season 8-3

Ohio State (2-0) travels to California (1-1) for the only non-conference road game for the Buckeyes.
California gives up tons of points and narrowly avoided a loss to 1-AA Portland State last week.
Kenny Guiton might get the start for OSU at QB and they should do that.
Get by Cal and Florida A&M and allow Braxton Miller to heal for Wisconsin later this month...

Bowling Green (2-0 1-0 MAC) travels to Indiana (1-1) for a chance to add a Big 10 scalp to the Falcons trunk.
Indiana was thought to be quite improved but allowed 35 points to 1-AA Indiana State in their opener and then 41 more to Navy in a loss last week.
Both of those games were in Bloomington,so the home field may not be a huge difference.
If the Falcons can grab this one,they could be 6-0 heading into a road game at Mississippi State in October.

The game of the week features top ranked Alabama (1-0),who faces the only team to defeat them last season in Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies (2-0) ranked sixth.
I like Nick Saban making the adjustments to contain Manziel and I'd be surprised to see an A&M repeat.

In the NFL,the Browns (0-1),who looked terrible at home in losing to Miami travels to a ticked off Baltimore (0-1) team that was shredded by Peyton Manning,gets 10 days off to prepare and is at their first home game since the playoffs.
Cleveland will need to control the ball and get a good game from Trent Richardson to even have a chance.
Looks bad for Cleveland.

The Saints (1-0) travel to Tampa (0-1),who gave away a game to the Jets.
The Buccaneer defense looks really improved from last season,so this will be a nice test for Drew Brees and company.
Is the improved Saints defense a mirage or has Rob Ryan truly turned things around?

Game of the week is another NFC West showdown between suddenly heated rivals Seattle (1-0) and San Francisco (1-0).
Two young QB's and two mouthy coaches highlight a game that may come down to the homefield in Seattle...

Ohio State over Cal 42-16
Bowling Green over Indiana 35-32
Alabama over Texas A&M 20-10
Ravens over Browns 24-6
Saints over Buccaneers 28-17
Seahawks over 49ers 30-27

Glancing at Hagerstown's attendance and the Suns future

Ballpark Digest released the attendance for all affiliated teams in minor league baseball and seeing this release made me think of a few things that relate to both the Hagerstown Suns and their owner Bruce Quinn's potential move to Fredericksburg,Virginia.

Hagerstown's Suns finished 160th of 176 affiliated teams and just five full season teams had worse attendance than the Suns (Burlington,Jupiter,Palm Beach,Beloit and Bakersfield).
These totals are based on average attendance and Hagerstown's total of an average of 1,058 not only ranked last in the SAL,but was far surpassed by teams with half of the home dates.

This is brought to my attention by the "promised help" of Bruce Quinn to give Hagerstown a New York/Penn league franchise and comparing the numbers to the Suns attendance.
Only one team in that league had a lower average attendance number than Hagerstown,ironically the one team in the league that could be considered a possible target for Hagerstown-Batavia NY,who averaged 969 fans in 35 home dates.

One thing that the New York/Penn does offer is have northern cities that would do miserably in April and May and offer them prime weather dates that the average person will take in a ball game in.
One example is Erie PA,who does roughly the same attendance numbers in full season as they did when they were in the NY/Penn league.
Could Hagerstown prosper in a league that allows for better weather,but fewer home dates?
Only in a new stadium as this years numbers did not appreciably increase in a large jump over the summer months,so that theory looks like a flawed one as long as the teams home is still Municipal Stadium.

The damage to done to this town,which has always been "A baseball town" by three ownership groups,multiple city councils/county commissioner boards,several management changes and numerous cries for a new facility have been devastating to the brand.
The name Hagerstown Suns and anyone associated with that name has become poison here through the long years of issues too many to take the time to write this morning.
I am not sure that even a new stadium would in itself be a panacea for the problems for baseball here.
It might take a new stadium,new ownership and perhaps even a new team name to overcome the twenty plus years of damage to this market that has been done.
I think it is very doable under those circumstances because the community is still a baseball friendly town,but just doing any one or even two of those possible fixes might not be enough to clean up this mess..

Could the team market better? Most definately,but one cannot drink champagne with the budget made for Dr.Perky,can you?
There are plenty of things that could boost attendance here,but nothing is going to help until the fan base (and casual fan) knows these results for certain-Will there be a team here beyond 2014? If so,at what level? And if so,where will this team play?
Until those questions are answered,no amount of marketing,promotions etc will have people invest in a franchise that is seemingly ready to leave town.
A small point is this-we live in an area where people over 40 remember the Baltimore Colts leaving town under the cloud of night and those people are more sensitive than most to threats to leave town.
In other words,they know what its like to have their hearts ripped out and they simply are not going to put themselves,children and even grandchildren in that situation of giving their support and money to a team to take it all away.
An attendance of a hair over 1,000 people a night (and we know the number actually there is safely far less than that) is a weak number,but that might look a ton better next year with the uncertainty surrounding the franchise.
This years attendance just might look sterling silver compared to what might be on tap next year.

But Bruce Quinn is not quite off the hook yet.
Art Silber and his Potomac Nationals reported an all time high in attendance for 2013 for a team that was the powerhouse of the Carolina League,winning both the first and second halves in their division,
Potomac drew 236,772 in total attendance,averaging a bit over 3,500 and finished 88th in all of minor league baseball in average.
This total put Potomac fourth in the eight team Carolina League and as I wrote,an all time record for a 36 year old franchise.
Why do I mention Potomac?
Well,it is 35 miles from Fredericksburg and the possible future home for Bruce Quinn's SAL team that currently resides in Hagerstown.

One number that has appeared consistently from Quinn and Fredericksburg is an expected average attendance of 4.100 to 4,600 fans for a low A ballclub.
I think this number is unrealistic for two reasons.
The first is the hooking so much of the hopes on traveling baseball and softball clubs for tournaments.
Will they have good crowds for these tournaments? Likely on summer weekends and the odd other day,but they will not have these crowds when kids are in school other than weekends and I would guess that not all people there for tourneys are going to want to spend downtime at yet another baseball game.
Some? Yes. Most? I think that is a bit dubious.
That is the main draw for the attendance numbers that are being estimated.

The other reason?
Too much competition.
35 miles from a High A team (Potomac),50 miles from a AA team (Richmond) 52 miles from Independent baseball (Southern Maryland) and 55 miles from the biggest dog of all-the Washington Nationals.
That is a lot of baseball within a 55 mile radius and with each of those teams taking a chunk of the radius,the actual territory that will be Fredericksburg fans is smaller than Quinn thinks.
Those fans might go to the odd game,but they are unlikely to leave their loyalty to the current team or travel in the legendary traffic in the Virginia suburbs more than a few times.

Which brings us back to Potomac and their all time high in attendance.
An attendance that is 600 fans a night LESS than the low end of the Fredericksburg projected number.
Considering the city of Fredericksburg is smaller than Hagerstown (for now,Fredericksburg is growing quickly),the county is roughly the same population as Washington County and the amount of that population that may continue to support other teams,does this seem like a less than realistic result for a team in Fredericksburg?

I believe so,not that Hagerstown has itself together in any way,but I do believe that both sides will regret this deal.
Hagerstown in losing full season baseball and Fredericksburg in not quite getting what they believe they are.
Just something to mull over as this continues to develop.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Looking at the Mid-South DVD

 I purchased one of the WWE's DVD releases, mainly because I still have a love for the old product and enjoy taking a trip down memory lane or in some cases, seeing things that I missed on the first time around.

Growing up here without cable until I was 16 meant only the WWF was a product that I was able to enjoy watching, but my brother and I kept track of the other territories around through the magazines that we faithfully purchased and told us all about what was happening in them.
The magazines were about three months behind in what was in them as the events, but in the non-internet, no mainstream coverage era, they were pretty much all you had to go by as news, and the coverage treated wrestling as a legitimate sport, which sounds ludicrous I know, but made them more of a fun read.

My brother and I spent most of our allowances on the magazines (I bought tons of boxing magazines too) and I remember well a tag team "Match" with Shane and me as "Jesse Ventura & Adrian Adonis" against two friends of mine as "the Samoans", at a time before either Ventura or Adonis had arrived in the local territory.
Without those magazines, we would have no idea who those two gentlemen were!

However, of all the various territories, the one that seemed most legitimate and mysterious was the Mid-South territory comprised of Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and East Texas.
Georgia was the territory we missed out on (no cable), Mid Atlantic seemed to have the best wrestlers (A future post might deal with a rainy vacation that Shane and I spent in Chincoteague VA), Memphis was the wildest gimmicks and Florida had some of the top wrestlers in the game, but Mid South was a different breed.
The company didn't get the attention of others by the magazines, but it seemed to have a more realistic feel, which years later I would find out was by design by owner "Cowboy" Bill Watts.
Watts wanted his fans to think his product was real and he stressed that on his show.

I still recall a 1986 day when either Shane or I (I don't remember which) discovered the Mid South (by then renamed UWF) program on WBFF out of Baltimore on at the same time as the WWF program and immediately being struck even then as so much more gritty and realistic than the more cartoony product of the more mainstream company.
Super memories of that day and the future show that we were able to watch.

YouTube has made many of the clips viewable, but I still wanted the DVD made possible by the WWE purchasing the Mid South library from Bill Watts' ex-wife.
Cleaned up tapes and the always interesting documentaries made this a must purchase.
It was worthwhile, but with a few glitches that I would have changed.

The one thing that I would change by far was this-Original theme music taken away and replaced by generic filler music.
It stands out clearly that this is dubbed in as the fans are piped in and anyone speaking has a lower and dull sound until the music is over.
It just is not the same seeing the Midnight Express without the "Chase" theme or the Fabulous Freebirds without "Freebird" or the Michael Hayes sung "Badstreet USA".
It is visible to the fan and the product suffers for it.
Jim Cornette has said in the past that Vince McMahon hates paying for music rights after watching this, that strikes quite true.

The documentary was done differently from past issues as the documentary was broken up through the three discs instead of the previous releases that would have a documentary on one disc and matches on the other.
I kinda liked it the old way, but it was not terrible in the manner that they did it.

However, the documentary was very well done as they talked to about everyone that you could think of from Mid South. Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts, Terry Taylor, Michael Hayes, Jim Ross to name just a few, and of course, the mind behind it all-Bill Watts.
WWE even used some old footage of interviews from the now-deceased Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and Freebird Buddy Roberts for their thoughts on the territory along with Jim Cornette from days when he was on good terms with the company.

The matches chosen were very well chosen with several great matches and angles with a Ric Flair title defense against Terry Taylor, a few Midnight Express-Rock N Roll Express matches, and a Terry Gordy vs Steve Williams match among many terrific selections, but my favorite was one that I had only seen on YouTube as Ric Flair took on fellow baddie Ted DiBiase, who was turned "good guy" in one night due to the interference of Dick Murdoch, who always reminded me of my late grandfather "Dukes" for some reason.
It was as good as expected.

The set has some flaws and I would hope that a future second release might correct those, but overall, Mid South Wrestling is well worth your time and if you love 80's "rasslin'" from a more solid angle, give it a shot, I think you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Suns lose game two and a few thanks

The Hagerstown Suns concluded their home schedule for 2013 with a loss in game two of the South Atlantic League champion series to the Savannah Sand Gnats 6-2.
The Suns allowed three runs in the second inning,which saw losing pitcher Austin Voth leave the game after walking three batters in a row,followed by a three run double by Jeff Glenn.

Glenn's double essentially ended the game,but Savannah would add two runs in the fifth as Cole Frenzel and Glenn again each doubled in a run.
Savannah scored again on an eighth inning sacrifice fly by Brandon Nimmo and only a two run triple by Bryan Lippincott enabled the Suns to escape without being shutout on the evening.

The series moves to Savannah for games three,four and game five,if necessary with the series tied at one.
In other words,it is now a best of three series.

I just wanted to take a few seconds to thank the people that shared the 2013 Suns (among others ) season with myself,Cherie and Rachel.

Thanks to Derreck and Tyler Chupak,my traveling comparison along with their family members,Rebecca and Mikayla for hanging out through the year.
Bill Cover has been my longest friend in this crazy hobby.
Thanks as well to Brad Adams,Kendall Morris,Bruce Begole
and Tracy Mackereth.
My friendship with each of you has developed through the years and has made the baseball season very enjoyable for me.

Thanks again to everyone and I look forward to next season.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hagerstown Swats Savannah in Game One!

The Hagerstown Suns held serve in game one of the SAL Championship series with a 6-1 win over the Savannah Sand Gnats at the beautiful and sparcely attended Muni.
The Suns scored first as Pedro Severino would score in the third inning after doubling and then moving to third and then home on groundouts.
Hagerstown would add another run in the fifth after Stephen Perez walked and then scored after back to back doubles by Tony Renda and Wander Ramos.
Savannah would cut the lead to 3-1 with a run in the seventh before the Suns would put the game away with a three run eighth paced by a two run double by Stephen Perez.

Jake Johansen allowed just three hits in five scoreless innings to pick up the victory.
Hagerstown completes its home schedule for 2013 with the second game of the title set before the series switches to Savannah on Thursday.
Free tickets for Tuesday's game at the Muni....

Photo Credit:Glenn Gaston-Auburn Citizen

Another year,another Browns lost opener

I didn't expect the Cleveland Browns to improve after I typed out the Browns preview and I wasn't surprised when the team delivered a disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Cleveland 23-10.
Brandon Weeden finished with 288 yards but was picked off three times,while the key cog in the offensive engine was tight end Jordan Cameron,who grabbed nine Weeden passes for over 100 yards and the only Cleveland touchdown.
The now 0-1 Browns will travel to Baltimore for a rested and hungry Ravens squad.

Brownie Bits

1) Brandon Weeden just played poorly.
Do not be deceived by his near 300 yard passing day.
Weeden earned much of that in garbage time,threw the ball poorly and generally gave the Dolphins every chance to rush his throws...

2) Weeden's interceptions were bad,but the offensive line was little help.
Mitchell Schwartz had his problems with Cameron Wake,but O'Neil Cousins was simply awful .
Cousins,who I didn't even mention in the preview, was overwhelmed in blocking,was called for three penalties and a false start.
Maybe the worst performance I've seen from a Browns lineman in a while and easily the worst from a guard.

3) Trent Richardson's numbers were mediocre ( 47 yards) ,but he ran with toughness and heart,often turning losses into gains.
Richardson still needs to be the focus of the offense and ....

4) And yet,he was not.
Richardson carried the ball just 13 times and rarely in the second half.
Richardson is the type of back that needs lots of carries to wear down a defense and 13 carries is simply not going to do that.

5) For all the hype about Norv Turner being such a great play caller,I didn't see it.
Brandon Weeden throwing 53 times in a game that the Browns were down just three points until midway through the fourth quarter?
Not smart strategy to me.

6) Some good news,the Browns put heat on Ryan Tannehill and it was their newcomers that did it.
Two sacks from Desmond Bryant and one each from Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves provided the hoped for rush.
I am hopeful that this can continue.

7) I don't blame the defense for the fourth quarter scores.
They were simply out of gas and exhausted by that point as Miami dominated the fourth quarter time of possession...

8) Cleveland did lock the door on a bad running team holding the Dolphins to just 20 yards on 23 carries.
Really liked what I saw from the front seven,but I'll see how things go against Baltimore.Stopping Lamar Miller is a different task than stopping Ray Rice...

9) Buster Skrine suffered again in coverage,but I still believe that the Browns could use Skrine better covering the slot receiver than on the outside.
Skrine just needs to be put in a position to succeed and right now he is not.

10) Looks like Jordan Cameron will be the best friend for Brandon Weeden.
Cameron's game was the best of his career and looks to be living up to his physical skills.

11) Finally,the Browns were 1 of 14 on third down conversions.
That not only is putrid,it will win few games...

Photo Credit;Joshua Gunter-Cleveland Plain Dealer

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cleveland Browns Season Preview

This is a shortened version of our usual Browns preview as our attention has been on the Hagerstown Suns.
I also missed the second half of the Ohio State blowout of San Diego State (it was 35-0 when I left for the Muni),so unless I have time later in the week to look at the tape,I would guess that I will not have time for a Buckeye review of their 42-7 victory over the Aztecs.

The Cleveland Browns enter,Sigh,another new era of Browns football that sees another persons personnel shipped out in favor yet another rebuilding program.
The problem is that I just don't have a ton of confidence in what is being done thus far under the Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi front office.

At quarterback,Brandon Weeden returns as the starter in what is likely his last gasp at the job.
As bad as that sounds for a player in his second season,it's true.
I do have some hope for improvement under offensive coordinator Norv Turner,but the weapons that Weeden has are the same as last season other than Davone Bess and that did not work so well last season.
Veterans Jason Campbell and Bryan Hoyer are the backups and it would not surprise me at all,if one or both see playing time as the season progresses.

Trent Richardson returns for his second year after an injury plagued rookie season.
Richardson had better stay healthy as the only back behind him is former Raven Bobby Rainey,who played very well in the Baltimore pre-season.
Richardson might be the main piece of any success from this offense.
Former halfback Chris Ogbonnaya converts to fullback,which helps in the passing game,but the jury will be out on his full time blocking effectiveness.

The Browns return the same group of receivers as last year with one exception.
Josh Gordon shows the skills of a possible elite receiver,but will miss the first two games due to a suspension.
Greg Little starts on the outside and faces a key season.Little has the tools,but despite improvement last season,still dropped too many passes.
The only addition is former Dolphin Davone Bess,who should thrive in the slot position and be the safety valve for Brandon Weeden.
Speedy Travis Benjamin will see plenty of time,Josh Cooper returns as the backup to Bess and Tori Gurley was one of the seeming thousand personnel moves before the season to be added.

Jordan Cameron is a popular sleeper to break out this season as the starting tight end.
Cameron has the ability to do so,but has had issues staying healthy,so we will see he can do so.
Gary Barnridge was added from Carolina as a blocking type and former 49er MarQuies Gray was added recently to the team.

The offensive line is again paced by Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas,who is among the best in the game at his position.
Mitchell Schwartz was very strong at right tackle last season in his right year as he shored up a weak spot on the line.Rashad Butler and Martin Wallace are the pedestrian backups.
John Greco had a huge season last year at guard and put himself as a starter after a career spent as a backup.
Shaun Lauvao is back after struggles last year at right guard with former starter Jason Pinkston pressing him for his job and rookie Garrett Gilkey will see the field often as well.
Alex Mack is very solid at center and will give the interior line the foundation for the inside running game...

The Browns moved to an aggressive 3-4 defense after piling up linemen for a 4-3 defense.
The defensive line is the strength still after the Tom Heckert moves,despite the change the Browns still have that depth.
Cleveland will start Ahtyba Rubin on one end and former Raider Desmond Bryant on the other.Second year men Billy Wynn and John Hughes will rotate in and out and I think Winn might have a good year on tap.
Phil Taylor will be the regular on the nose with Ishmma'ily Kitchen backing him up.Kitchen is a developmental project that the team hopes can give Taylor a rest when needed.

The Browns needed to upgrade the linebackers if they were moving to the 3-4 and they attempted to do so.
Jabaal Sheard was converted from defensive end to start at one outside slot and pass rushing star Paul Kruger was signed to an expensive contract to start at the other.
Both will need to produce to show that the decision to switch defenses were successful.
First round pick Barkevious Mingo will miss the first game,but will see plenty of action as will former Cardinal Quentin Groves,who is coming off his best season in the league.
D'Qwell Jackson will start at one inside spot with Craig Robertson starting at the other.
Jackson's best seasons were as the middle linebacker in a 4-3,so keep that in mind.
Second year men Tank Carder and Brandon Magee are the backups.

The secondary still has questions for me as the team did not address issues at both corner and safety.
Joe Haden is back as a number one corner,but neither of the teams two corner additions could beat out the oft' beaten Buster Skrine at the other corner.
Skrine has ability,but is better suited for nickel back duty.
Leon McFadden was drafted in the third round and former Falcon Chris Owens will be on the field,but not beating out Skrine makes me wonder.
T.J. Ward is solid at one safety but second year man Tashaun Gipson is being given the chance to start at the other.
A veteran might have been a better idea.
Johnson Bademosi and Josh Aubrey are the less than inspiring backups.

The kicking game features two new kickers are Billy Cundiff replaces the great Phil Dawson.
Cundiff replaced Dawson a few years back when Dawson was injured,so he has Cleveland experience.
Cundiff's weakness is kicking long field goals,so keep that in mind.
Spencer Lanning will be the punter and hold for Cundiff on placement kicks.

The Browns will rotate returners,but look for Bobby Rainey to see lots of kickoffs and the elusive Travis Benjamin will get plenty of punt returns...

Now we reach the time that Ryan loves-prediction time.
He asks if I have ever predicted a winning record and the answer is no.
It won't start this time either.
I fail to see what the huge upgrades are to see big improvements.
Davone Bess is a help on offense and Paul Kruger will be a defensive gain,but Desmond Bryant as the other big free agent signee is a quality player at the teams deepest position.
Barkevious Mingo looks to be the only player to help from the draft,so I just don't see the improvement on the overall.

I see six winnable games,four at home and two on the road.Let's give them three or four of those,another surprise win and you get 4-12 or 5-11.
I'll go with 5-11 and plenty of changes next season,especially on the offense and in the secondary.....

Suns grab SAL North title!

 The Hagerstown Suns pulled off a surprise as the Suns upset the West Virginia Power in the decisive game of the SAL Northern Division playoffs 6-2 at Hagerstown.

Hagerstown broke open a tight 3-2 lead with a three run sixth inning that was started by a strikeout by Stephen Perez of all things.
The Jason Creasey pitch escaped Power catcher
Kawika Emsley-Pai and allowed Perez to reach first base safely.
Four hits by the next four batters ended in three important insurance runs and essentially ended the game.
Issac Bellew finished the evening with four hits,while Tony Renda had three hits and two RBI on the night.

The Suns were able to get five good innings from winning pitcher Kylin Turnbull and with a tired bullpen,Hagerstown was able to receive a tremendous performance from Ronald Pena,who allowed just two hits without a run in pitching the final four innings of the win.

The Suns will now play the Southern Division champions-the Savannah Sand Gnats with Game one being in Hagerstown on Monday night.

A few bullet points on the night.

The crowd was enthusiastic,but not as large as one might have thought with free tickets,but the fans that did arrive were true Suns fans and cheered accordingly.
If I had to wager a guess,the crowd was likely down due to the announcement on Friday that the Suns were likely gone for the 2015 season by Bruce Quinn (who was not in attendance).
It is very tough to attract fans that feel slapped in the face and the announcement surely did not help in that aspect.

West Virginia had their fans as well and they were very involved as they had their fan leader "the toastman" in attendance with a group of a dozen or so.
I found their organized heckling obnoxious,but I'm not a huge fan of that type of stuff anyway.
I do give them credit for driving four hours and supporting their team in the series and were certainly spirited.

On another note-for the people that think the Suns do not contribute to the local economy-think about what group spent in the local economy on food,lodging,gas etc.
That is what the team brings into the area and to those that think that is a small sum-would you want to do without it?
That is what you will do without pro baseball....

West Virginia starter Luis Heredia didn't seem to have his best stuff,but the Suns did very well in working the count and taking the pitch count higher to keep Heredia from pitching deep into the game,much like the team in game one against another heralded prospect in Tyler Glasnow.
Heredia allowed 10 hits in three plus innings and picked up the loss...

I am sure that most of you know that I root for the Power when they hit Hagerstown as they are a Pirates affiliate,but I did not this time.
I rooted for the Suns because I do believe that this town deserves baseball and it would be very nice as the sun sets (pun intended) on the time in the SAL for the fans that have come out and supported the team so often through the years are allowed to get a championship before the SAL era ends.

A final note on the upcoming series.
It has been an urban legend that the New York Mets throw weight around in the SAL office to have their team in Savannah not have to come and play at the Muni against the Suns.
I have never thought that was true as every team under the dunderheaded schedule that the league uses misses teams each year,but it does seem fishy.
Some of you might recall reading my fix to this issue to be found here.
However,if this is true-You cannot get out of this one,Savannah!
See you on Monday..... 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

11 inning loss evens SAL series

The Hagerstown Suns went 11 innings before a winner was declared in game two of the South Atlantic League's Northern Division playoff series.
Problem was that it was the West Virginia Power getting the verdict 6-3 at the Muni.
The series is tied at one and will see a champion crowned tomorrow night.The Power originally slated Clay Holmes to start a possible game three,but have changed to top prospect Luis Heredia against Kylin Turnbull for the Suns on Saturday night.

The Suns led back and forth for the game until the seventh inning when the Power scored a run to tie the game.
The run should have never occurred as the Suns Stephen Perez dropped an easy throw from Pedro Severino on a sacrifice bunt that would have forced Chris Diaz at second.
Diaz would be the runner that scored on a Josh Bell groundout later in the inning to tie the game.

Hagerstown had taken the lead in the fifth after a Pedro Severino double,Perez dropped a sacrifice bunt that saw Severino roar around third and beat the return peg (and WV catcher Kawika Ensley-Pai) to the plater for a 3-2 Suns lead.

Hagerstown did manage to stay alive in the 10th as Estarlin Martinez gunned down Jordan Steranka at the plate as Steranka attempted to score on a Jonathan Schwind fly ball.
Martinez's throw beat Steranka by a hair at the plate despite the protests of the Power players on the call.

Tripp Keister caled on Justin Thomas to pitch for the Suns in the 11th and Thomas put two runners on base with a strikeout sandwiched in between.
Cody Davis then allowed a single to Walker Gourley to load the bases before going to the bullpen for Bryan Harper to face Josh Bell with the bases loaded.
Bell then smashed a two run double on a deep shot to left center to effectively end the game,despite Martinez throwing another runner out at the plate.
The Suns went out meekly in the bottom of the inning to allow the series to be tied and send us into a Saturday night finale.

Hagerstown has its work cut out for them tonight as heralded prospect Luis Heredia will start for West Virginia against veteran Kylin Turnbull.
On paper,this appears to be a huge mismatch,but the Suns did defeat Tyler Glasnow in the first game of the series,so this is not impossible,but this is asking a lot of the team for sure.

On a day that saw Suns owner Bruce Quinn pretty much confirm that he was going to move the team to Fredericksburg VA,it was nice to see the team draw a nice crowd to the game and see the Muni rocking in a atmosphere that brought back memories of a town that put Bruce Quinn,city councils and politicians aside for an evening and give the town the most important thing-playoff baseball.

I have plenty to write on Bruce Quinn's Friday meeting with city council members,but for now,I will keep things on the on field game.
Trust me,early next week,I'll have plenty of opinions ranging from all the political players to the full season vs short season debate and wrapping up with short season baseball vs independent baseball.
I hope that you will enjoy reading it more than I will writing it....

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM is back with a full slate of NFL and college games.

Ohio State hosts San Diego State in a game that I thought might be close until the Aztecs dropped a 21 point decision to a 1-AA team last week.
This one might be a little closer,but that was not a good sign for this one.

Texas Tech hosts 1-AA Stephen F.Austin.
Look for Kliff Kingsbury to roll the pts up here.

Bowling Green travels to Kent State in what might decide one of the MAC divisions down the road.
Both teams enter 1-0,but I like what I have seen from BG in their win over Tulsa.

The game of the week is number 6 South Carolina in Athens against 11th ranked Georgia.
Georgia appears to need some defense help,but they will put points on the board,while South Carolina looked sluggish against North Carolina in a win last week.

In the NFL,the Browns host the Miami Dolphins in what looms to be an important home opener.
A loss will make the fan base shudder,Brandon Weeden's play will make the difference one way or another....

The Saints host Atlanta in what will be a real shootout.
Lots of points and one defensive stand makes the difference.

The game of the week has the Packers visiting San Francisco.
As a Jim Harbaugh hater and a non believer in Colin Kapernick,keep those facts in mind.

Last Week: 3-1

Ohio State over San Diego State 43-14
Texas Tech over Stephen F.Austin 46-21
Bowling Green over Kent State 23-20
Georgia over South Carolina 46-38

Browns over Dolphins 16-13
Saints over Falcons 38-35
Packers over 49ers 28-20

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Suns take Game one in Charleston

The Hagerstown Suns took a huge leap in winning the Northern Division playoffs as the Suns went into Charleston for game one of the three game series and strutted out with a 6-1 win over the second half champion West Virginia Power.

Going into the series,West Virginia seemed to have an edge in game one between the home field advantage for the game as well as having Tyler Glasnow on the hill.
Glasnow,who would have led the league in ERA had he thrown one more third of an inning this season,looked to be very difficult to beat,but Hagerstown took advantage of some wildness and sent the touted prospect to the showers in a four run third inning.

Hagerstown used two singles,two walks,a wild pitch and then a double by Wander Ramos to provide a 4-0 lead that would not be lost,despite West Virginia loading the bases in two different innings against Suns relievers.
Austin Voth earned the victory with five shutout innings for Hagerstown,while Pedro Severino and Stephen Perez each had two hits on the evening.
Voth,a draft choice from the University of Washington,allowed just three hits in his outing.

The Suns will attempt to sweep the Power Friday night at the Muni with Pedro Encarnacion facing West Virginia's John Kuchno at 7:05.
A West Virginia win would force a winner take all game three at the Muni on Saturday night.

Meanwhile in the battle of the bugs,also known as the Southern Division playoffs,the first half champion Savannah Sand Gnats took a 10-2 win over the Augusta Greenjackets,winners of the second half in Augusta.
Savannah,a New York Mets affiliate, are in the same situation as the Suns as they just need to split two games at their home park to advance to the championship series.

Photo Credit;Joshua Bessex