Saturday, June 28, 2014

Devils finish first round with John Quenneville

The New Jersey Devils finished the first round of the NHL Draft with the pick given back to them from the Ilya Kovalchuk debacle in the 30th slot with the selection of John Quenneville.
Quenneville is a relative (second cousin) of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville for those of you wondering.

Right off the bat,a full admission on Quenneville.
I don't know much about him.
When it comes to the NHL Draft,I don't know an eighth of what I know about the other three sports drafts.
If the Devils have a top ten pick,I can patch my way by because there is a fair amount of available information on the top 10-15 players or so.
Past that and to me,the names are just that-names and statistics.
Therefore,I'm not going to pretend that I like or dislike the pick other than that Ivan Barbashev was a slipping player available that was projected to go much higher and on the surface might have been worth a go.

Quenneville did score 25 goals last season for the Brandon Wheat Kings and being a forward is the position of need in the Devils system,so that was fine as far that goes.
For more on Quenneville,click here to go to
In Lou We Trust's report on him.....

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cavaliers pick Andrew Wiggins first overall!

The Cleveland Cavaliers followed my advice and used the first overall pick in the draft to tab Andrew Wiggins, the 6'8 small forward/shooting guard from Kansas.

I discussed yesterday why I felt that Wiggins was the better selection for Cleveland than Jabari Parker, but here is how I see Wiggins affecting the Cavaliers.

Wiggins will instantly upgrade the Cleveland defense as at 6'8 he is tall enough to tower over two guards, yet he is quick enough to be able to guard them.
Wiggins will also be very effective in defending small forwards with his athleticism and right off the stick will be a plus defender.

On the offensive end, Wiggins is going to be in transition on a team that desperately needs a player that can finish off the wing and will produce his share of points just doing that before we even get further.
Wiggins can knock down the open shot and even though the Wiggins shot still needs some refinement, opponents will not be able to play off him.

Cleveland needed help at the small forward and the selection of Wiggins makes sense.
Jabari Parker might have the height that you like at the small forward position, but even now, Parker was not going to guard players at the three spot now, let alone in a few years.
I'm not saying Parker is a bad player, I'm stating that his game is that of a power forward and time wouldn't change that.
When you look at the Cleveland roster before Wiggins, the small forward spot was manned by Anthony Bennett (really better suited for the 4 position), Luol Deng (likely to leave as a free agent), and Alonzo Gee (lacking on the offensive end), so not only was Andrew Wiggins the best player in the draft, in my opinion, he was the player at the biggest position of need.

I am thrilled with the addition of Andrew Wiggins and I'm convinced that he will be a long term star in the league.

Cleveland added Joe Harris of the Virginia Cavaliers with their second-round pick.
Harris is a shooter on a team that could use help with the outside shot and Harris could prove to be helpful if he can knock down opportunities from the three-point line.
Harris looks to be the type of shooter that may be one dimensional, but on the right team could be quite effective.

I hear that Cleveland has another deal in the works, so if it comes down-I'll be back with it tonight and the New Jersey Devils have their draft tonight, so I'll be around with the newest addition to the Devils system as well tonight!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wiggins or Parker for Cleveland?

The Cleveland Cavaliers somehow lucked into the top pick in what appears to be a loaded draft and what happens?
Speculation on who they will pick or a trade down.
That's Cleveland basketball and for all of the lunkheaded decisions that the team has made since a certain someone took his talents to South Beach, they cannot afford to botch this one.

Now that Kansas center Joel Embiid is out of the picture (note to teams, the track record of big men that are "projects" and come with back and/or foot problems, usually don't live up to the risk) due to back and foot problems and let's assume that the team is smart and does not trade down (unless it's to target Embiid and take the risk along with adding a player besides) for these purposes.
That leaves Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker of Duke and I'll take a look at which I'd rather see in Wine and Gold tomorrow night.

Andrew Wiggins is a 6'8 small forward that will immediately step in and be a force on defense, which happens about as often as an appearance from Halley's Comet from a 19-year-old with one year in college.
Wiggins has great athletic ability, can run the floor in transition, will find his way to the foul line a handful of times a night and will play the team game.
What's not to like about Wiggins? The rap on him is a less than strong outside shot, but I think that's somewhat exaggerated.
You don't hit 34 percent of your three-point attempts without being able to shoot a little bit.
Could there be some improvement? Sure and that could come with teaching, but I wouldn't go as far as to say Wiggins is a bricklayer that is a lost cause as a shooter...

Jabari Parker is 6'8, which is the same height as Wiggins, but they have far different games.
Parker can hit the outside shot but is more of a power forward type.
Parker will bang the boards and looks like if he can keep his weight under control, he might be one of those players that you can write down 20 points and 10 rebounds a night and feel like that's a pretty safe guarantee.
Many comparisons have used for Parker's game, but the one that I like the best is this one that goes back to the old school- a taller Adrian Dantley.
Capable of scoring inside with the bulls and capable of hitting the jumper to make defenses unable to play off him, Parker is going to score in the league and looks to be the readiest for the league right now.

The downsides?
Well, Wiggins does have some detractors that don't like his shot and think that he is not the type of player that aggressively snatches control of a game.
Parker's doubters look at some bad defensive tendencies and that he has gained weight since the end of the season that staying in shape could be an issue.
Parker also has been accused of bombing his workout in Cleveland on purpose, so he would go to Milwaukee at the second choice.
If that's true, that shows not just immaturity, but also a player that might not be at his best when things don't go his way.

Both players are going to produce in the league, I don't doubt that, but I would take Andrew Wiggins.
I love the defensive skills and I think he's going to grow into things on the offensive end.
Imagine a prime Shawn Marion with offensive skills and that might be what you get from Andrew Wiggins.
Jabari Parker may be the rookie of the year next season, but my pick for the long haul would be Andrew Wiggins...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On the signing front

We return to the signing front in an attempt to keep that pile down!
At this time of year,resistance is often futile,but it might keep it from growing to two piles soon!

We start the signing front with the Chicago White Sox doing double duty with the Winston-Salem Dash visiting Frederick and the Kannapolis Intimidators hitting Hagerstown.
The Dash didn't have a large amount of cards,but I did have a sprinkle of things.
The most notable were Courtney Hawkins on a Bowman and a Bowman Blue Wave Refractor,
Tim Anderson on his Bowman and Rize and Jacob May on his Bowman and Great Falls Voyagers card.
However, I was happy to get Brad Goldberg on his Great Falls card and asked the former Ohio State star to add Go Bucks! to his cars.
When guys from Ohio State and Xavier have cards,I like to get that inscription on the card.
I think it makes it pretty cool,in my opinion and since they are my cards.....

The Kannapolis visit saw me get one Hagerstown card as Drew Ward signed his Panini Elite insert.
That's a neat card because it is numbered one of 200 as in the first one off the assembly line.
At least it was to me.
Kannapolis was led by second rounder Tyler Danish,who was dominating in his start against the Suns and was soon to be headed to Winston-Salem to join the Dash.
Danish signed all four cards for me -his Bowman,Elite,Bristol and Appalachian top prospect card.
Other nice additions were Andrew Mitchell (USA and Great Falls),Trey Michaelswski and Cleutius Rondon,but my favorite might have been former Rockies prospect Carl Thomore.
Despite being in the Rockies system,Thomore had never been to Hagerstown and I always like getting older (in some cases) cards signed that I thought would be buried in the box....
I also was able to get Nationals roving instructor Jeff Garber on his 1991 Line Drive (Love those) and long time favorite Buddy Bell on his 1976 SSPC with the Indians with the V-8 juice Indians uniforms....

I also took Rachel to Frederick for the Potomac Nationals and her hero Will Pinwica-Worms.
While Rachel got to see WPW,I added three cards.
Shawn Pleffner on his Bowman,John Simms on a USA Chrome and Oscar Tejada on his last year's Indianapolis Indians issue.

Thanks to Jason Christensen for his shipment of stuff from Binghamton and cards from the visiting Portland Sea Dogs.
The biggest addition from Binghamton was Kevin Plawecki on his heritage,but the best (as in Carl Thomore above) was Cody Satterwhite,who finally signed his USA card from years ago.
Satterwhite had suffered injuries while in the Tigers organization and I bet that card had been up and down the East Coast several times!
The best Portland additions were Deven Marrero and Travis Show,but Jason was able to fill in a lot of the Salem 2013 championship team set.
That was a great idea by Salem and I wish more teams would consider doing those types of sets...

I started working on the Hagerstown Suns team set during their series with the Lakewood Blue Claws.
This worked out mainly because I had a total of three cards for Lakewood.
The Suns main prospects are mostly pitchers other than third sacker Drew Ward and I got all of them quickly in Lucas Giolito,Austin Voth,Jake Johansen and Nick Pavetta...

I did a postgame trip to Harrisburg with Derreck and Brad for the New Britain Rock Cats.
I didn't have a ton for the Rock Cats,but I did manage to get a few finished with the most notable being former Brave Sean Gilmartin and pitching prospect Adrian Salcedo.
My favorite was an older Panini that I missed on last season with Pat Dean in his Boston College togs.
That was the last year that Panini had the college rights for logos and Upper Deck took them away,only to do nothing with them from the baseball card side of things...

I had only a few stragglers for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans,but some were big ones.
Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro signed their Top 100's,Cody Buckel signed three (Derreck would get the other two for me later in the week),Victor Payano signed his new Bowman and Chris Bostick signed both his Bowman's (2013 as an Athletic and 2014 with the Rangers).
This series reminded me of a joke on Rachel,who loves David Lyons,a star of the television show Revolution.
"Rachel ,do you want to go to Frederick and see David Lyon today".
"ARGJHHH,Really?,he will be in Frederick?"
"ARGGHHHH,five minutes of excitement"
"You are really this excited over David Lyon?"
"All over a backup catcher?"
"David Lyon,the backup catcher for Myrtle Beach"
Shows her a David Lyon card.
"ARGGHHH,Dad! I hate you so much!" With a smile and laughing.
"Oh,you got me there,that was a good one,Dad,I have to admit"!

Two Certified cards from the non-baseball world with
LPGA golfer Anna Rawson and one of my favorite players of my youth-Campy Russell of the Cavaliers.

We finish up with thanks to Tom O'Brien for his help with the Erie SeaWolves.
Tom got me Gerald Perry to add to the 88 and 90 Score collection and two top Tigers prospects in Steven Moya and Eugenio Suarez,who has already been promoted to the big league club among other players from Erie.

The pile is reduced,but far from finished,so count on another signing front soon!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cleaning out the inbox

We start the inbox cleaning with the sad news of the passing of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn from Salivary Gland cancer at the age of the young age of 54.

I often step on the W.J.Bryan box about how Cal Ripken was overrated and would offer this question-If fill in the blank played every day for that number of games, how many (hits or homers) would they have produced?
Every time the player that I would use for the hit comparison would be Tony Gwynn.
Gwynn didn't have the best power numbers (17 homers was his career-high), but he was the best hitter of his generation in my opinion.
Gwynn always seemed to combine the fun of the game with the business approach of the job and I always considered myself a Tony Gwynn fan.
He will be missed...

More from the baseball world as Sean Nicol was released by the Washington Nationals earlier this week.
Sean has always been a class act and did an interview with us in 2013.
I'm hoping to get him for another one looking back at his career and in the years of my going to Suns games, Sean Nicol ranks right with Erik Arnesen as my favorite Suns player.
A super person off the field and we wish Sean the best in life after the game.

We stay with even more baseball as an Indians blogger "Did the Tribe win last night" offers some thoughts on Eddie Grant, who was the only person to ever die in battle during an active baseball career.
Grant, who spent time with the Indians and Giants, was killed in the First World War and was memorialized with a plaque in centerfield at the Polo Grounds in New York.
If you play MLB the Show and play at the Polo Grounds (I do as the Giants sometimes), you can see the Grant plaque in the field of play.
The plaque was stolen when the Giants left in 1957 and wasn't heard from again until late 90's when it turned up in someone's home in Brooklyn.
The Giants turned down offers for a replacement as well as the original until putting one up in 2006.
Grant is also thought to have a connection to the film-The Natural as "Bump Bailey's" death and resulting plaque at "Knight's Field" is reported to have been loosely based on Grant...

Grantland slams one home with an article on the late Seton Hall star and NBA player Eddie Griffin, who passed away almost seven years ago.
I always find it an interesting read when we look back at players that never went to college or were one-and-done players years down the road and see how things turned out both on and off-court.
Give it a once over and see what you think.

Most of you know how much I love the Shawshank Redemption, but here is a Wall Street Journal post on the business side of Shawshank that explains why you can see it on various channels along with the cash that it still drives every day.
The article talks about the making of the film and other interesting notes that a huge fan like me should enjoy...

Finally, we wrap up with this note as the Jolly Roger amusement park in Ocean City MD celebrates its 50th year in business.
I haven't visited Ocean City for almost 30 years, but I remember through pictures and home movies, trips that my parents took me to a pre-schooler in the early '70s, although I think the one that I remember best was the second satellite park opened there in 1974 just off the boardwalk.
Points to our favorite person to come out of Baltimore (I know, fans, it's a short list!) Mary Beth Marsden, who brought it up recently and added that she was a former employee at Jolly Roger!

Whew! That was a heavy cleaning, but I have more in the making with that Cavaliers draft preview talking about Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins and the autographs from the signing front just keep piling up, so we will have to do something about that soon!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Finishing up strong

We finish up the trip with a stop on the way home to two different places and an observation or two.

We left Canton and doubled back a hair (not too much) to the greatest chicken place in the world (just my opinion) in Barberton's Belgrade Gardens.
We have written about Belgrade Gardens here before (here and here),but once again Belgrade made the trip out of the way well worth the time.

Usually,I order the medium white meat (2 chicken breasts),but on this occasion,I decided to order the large and bring two of the three back to Hagerstown (Yes,I had a cooler of ice waiting,no one likes food poisoning!) for a next day dinner bonus.

Between the chicken and the top notch cole slaw with vinegar,it was another great stop at Belgrade Gardens,but the company of the ladies matched the quality of the food as they managed to keep my mind off the loud lady two booths pontificating about her life and still have a great time.

I made a stop on the way home at an Antique shop on the way home and after a call to Derreck landed him two Cleveland bobbleheads for his collection and found a cool giveaway for myself as well to make it worth the stop.
In 2006,the Indians did a figurine giveaway of the 25th anniversary of Len Barker's perfect game and I found it there in the box for just ten bucks.
As those Indian teams from the time period were the base of my Tribe fanhood,that was an easy choice to pick up..

A final word on Turnpike rest stops.
The Ohio Turnpike had closed some of their stops because they were rundown and often smelled bad.
As I've written before,I like old styles and designs,but sometimes they can be just old instead of charming.Use the Muni for an example of this!
However,the new and improved stops in Ohio are just terrific!
Large,roomy,clean and well designed,I would say this is a massive upgrade in the quality and I'd wager that the state's take from travelers might show the difference....

Thanks for reading my trip thoughts.
I have three things planned soon-some thoughts on the NBA Draft on Thursday and who I would like to see the Cavaliers select,a inbox cleaning and a badly needed signing front update as the cards are stacking up thus far!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lomachenko! Boxing Challenge

In what was the true fight fans main event on the three fight Showtime card from Carson,California,Vasyl Lomachenko proved he was the real deal as he dominated the talented,but untested Gary Russell to win the minor WBO Featherweight belt.
The relentless body attack slowed Russell and the multi-faceted Lomachenko controlled the bout,which I had noted was the hardest fight for me to pick all season.
Lomachenko settled for a majority decision win as only judge Lisa Giampa appeared to think this bout was close as she scored it 114-114.
I scored Lomachenko a 117-111 winner.

In the advertised main event,Robert Guerrero overcame a battered eye to earn a unanimous decision win over Japan's equally courageous Yoshihiro Kamegai.
I get tired of seeing Guerrero sometimes,but this was a good action fight that exceeded my expectations.
I scored the bout with Guerrero a 116-112 winning score as I did the opener as Devon Alexander took a unanimous win over Jesus Soto-Karass.

The Boxing Challenge remained a three point difference at 48-45 as we agreed on most of the bouts.
Both Ramon Malpica and I earned two points for Devon Alexander's unanimous win and one point each for the wins of Vasyl Lomachenko and Robert Guerrero.

If I have time,I hope to finish up the story of my trip tomorrow.....

The hero of Canton?

You would only know the title of the post,if you were a fan of the
TV show Firefly ,but for one special Father's Day-Cherie and Rachel indeed did make me feel like the "Hero of Canton".

Since we were going home and since it was Father's Day,the ladies that care and take care of your humble author decided to take me to the renovated Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton,Ohio.
The Hall has undergone several renovations through the years that Cherie and I have been together,not to mention the first visit that I made as a child in 1976.
I've always thought the best way to handle the HOF is to go through every handful of years or so,usually when they do an upgrade of some type,although there have been many times that we stop by as we were driving through the area for a gift shop run.
The HOF never charged for that,which was smart to install that policy as I'm sure that they made lots of money off that decision!

First off,for those of you that have been here before,the upgrades are dazzling!
Those of you that know me know of my love of older things,but sometimes old can mean rundown and even though the HOF was not that,these make it simply a much more fun visit!
The entrance is different than the traditional entrance at the Domed Oval seen at the upper left of the picture and I sort of miss that,but it really is much more visual and exciting to enter now than before.
Also,the design and items inside the oval are totally revamped and as much I'll miss the old oval and its layout,you can make a real case for a renovation as that part was basically untouched since my visit as a child in 1976!

I'm not going to get into too much detail as you need to go yourself,but I will add a few things.
The store is now twice as big as previously and there is loads of stuff from every team,albeit some overpriced!

A few areas of the HOF weren't changed much and that's nice.
My favorite area is untouched with the leagues that challenged the NFL,including my beloved USFL,but nothing that was truly outdated is still there.
A few new exhibits are very cool including a life size bench of player sculptures of NFL greats.
Care to bet who we picked for a snapshot?

There is also a 50 yard field beside the parking lot now to throw the ball around and its painted nicely to resemble a real field.

However,the most fun thing that the HOF has added is now a walk through Fawcett Stadium next door.
Fawcett is not only the home of the Hall of Fame game every season,it also hosts the most rabid high school rivalry in the country between Canton McKinley's Bulldogs and the Tigers of Massillon.

The HOF has several markers on the turf that mark exactly where famous NFL plays occurred and a fellow talks about the plays.
That stuff I knew about,but it was so fun looking at things from a different perspective on the field.
Often we look at things as they look on TV,so this was a great touch along with just being on such a famous field,I was thrilled.
After that,the group got some free time,just to toss the ball around and another thrill was getting to throw the football to the ladies.
I'll never forget that and I wish that they offered this before so that I could have shared that with Ryan.
That would have been another memorable experience.

The ladies weren't finished with me though as they finished my Father's Day gifts with a metal sign for the house with Brownie the Elf embossed on it.
Earlier in the trip at the Duck Tape Festival,I had almost purchased the sign,but it was on the other end of the facility from where we parked and I reluctantly passed.
Fortunately,the same sign was available and for the same price as well and the ladies insisted on buying it for me!
Off to lunch and that will be covered later this week.

It was a great day and I thank the ladies for everything,.
It's good to be a husband & father and good to be loved along with being appreciated.
Both of my ladies do just that.

I would recommend the new HOF very highly and if you are in the area stop by.
Canton isn't quite the same experience as Cooperstown,but I'm not sure it's supposed to be.
Enjoy it for what it brings to the table...

I hope to wrap up the trip with the drive home (and pictures) with another post later this week.

AND if you are still wondering about the title-here is your explanation!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Boxing Challenge

The Boxing Challenge continues this week after a one week hiatus (caused due to me forgetting to ask before my trip) with a three bout card on Showtime.

This card features the toughest fight for me to pick all season thus far and I broke down every possibility to select a winner.
Even then,it came right down to the wire to pick the Vasyl Lomachenko-Gary Russell winner.
It's strange that the guy with two fights has the better resume' than the fighter with over twenty!


Vacant WBO Featherweight title 12 rds
Vasyl Lomachenko vs Gary Russell
Both: Lomachenko Unanimous decision

Welterweights.12 rds
Robert Guerrero vs Yoshihiro Kamegai
R.L: Guerrero KO 5
TRS:Guerrero KO 8

Welterweights.12 rds
Devon Alexander vs Jesus Soto-Karass
Both;Alexander unanimous decision

You don't know how many times I went back and forth on Lomachenko vs Russell and I'm really looking forward to seeing it tomorrow morning after my work day concludes!

May be back later with the trip's wrapup-Father's Day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

David Blatt hired as new Cavaliers coach

The Cleveland Cavaliers decided to go big or go home as the team announced the hiring today of David Blatt as the new coach of the Cavaliers.

Blatt has never held an NBA job of any type,but he established himself as the top coach in the European league,which essentially makes him the top coach outside of North America.
Here are the pros of this hire from our perspective.

Blatt brings a fresh perspective to the team as he has not been in North America and should bring more of a free flowing,move the ball offense to Cleveland.
Blatt played for Pete Carril at Princeton and should be quite adept at running that offense in the league.
The Princeton offense is run by a few NBA teams,but not enough to say that it is commonly run.

Blatt also is known as an "innovator",for whatever that's worth and I liked the fact that he once coached former first rounder Sergei Karasev,who seemed overwhelmed last season under Mike Brown and could eventually be a nice player under the right coach.

The cons on Blatt?
He's 55,which is not exactly young for a first time head coach.

Has never even worked in the league and other than Golden State,who looked into Blatt as an assistant,no other team was interested in hiring Blatt.

So it's David Blatt for good or bad and here's my take.
I'm a bit shaky on the hire.
I like that the team didn't hire another retread without a titled resume' like an Alvin Gentry and Lionel Hollins,but at the same time David Blatt doesn't exactly thrill me either.
If Blatt turns out,the Cavaliers look brilliant for thinking "outside the box",but if he doesn't,once again,Cleveland looks like an dysfunctional organization that has changed nothing since former general manager Chris Grant's need to be the smartest person in the room left Lake Erie.

Now we move onto Thursday and the draft where the Cavaliers have many options.
I plan on a post before then that covers those options and what I would do as the decision maker in Cleveland.....

Friday, June 20, 2014

Len Bias

Every year around this time, I think back to the days of my youth when college basketball meant so much to me.

It's been 28 years since Len Bias overdosed on cocaine and began a ripple that would affect the NBA for years.
However, to me, it was almost yesterday.
I'm going to save the what if's and a look back at the playing career of Len Bias at Maryland for another day to tell the story of me on that day.

In every person's life, there are a few events that you remember where you were and what you were doing when they happened.
For my grandparents, generation-it was Pearl Harbor.
For my parents-the the assassination of President Kennedy and for me, there have been three.
The explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger on national television at a time when such things just didn't happen, of course, 9-11 and if you were on my age and lived in the Mid-Atlantic, it might have been the death of Len Bias.

Living here as a child, ACC basketball was at the top of the sports food chart and as a Maryland fan, I suffered from frequent wins and often heartbreaking losses.
When I was growing up, the boogeyman was Dean Smith and his North Carolina Tar Heels as the Duke Blue Devils were just beginning to move up the standings as I neared graduation, and usually, Duke was of little concern to the Terrapins, that rivalry would mature later.
Len Bias was a hero to me and other Terrapin fans.
Bias was the only Terrapin that not only equaled Tar Heels stars but surpassed them,
Maryland had plenty of great players, but only with Bias, did the Terps have the type of star that could single-handedly take down the Heels.
That's right-Len Bias was better than Michael Jordan in college.
I'm not saying it would have been that way in the NBA, but he was in college.

I had been to a friend's house to watch the NBA draft as my house had cable, but not USA network, which covered the draft then, to see Bias be passed over by the Cavaliers picking first (they took Brad Daugherty, which worked out, but I thought he was so soft from his UNC days) which ticked me off.
I was mowing the grass and came in for a break and as I took a drink, the news broke into my Aunt Edna's soap opera to announce the death of Len Bias.
They interrupted programs in this area. that's how big Len Bias was.

It was the beginning of the war on cocaine.
Before that, people either didn't pay attention to its dangers or put it out of sight out of mind.
After Len Bias, people began paying attention and drug use began to be focused on instead of being blissfully ignorant.

It's funny how things go as time moves on.
The 17-year old that loved basketball has become the 45-year old that is somewhat jaded towards it.
Physical changes and mental changes through the years, I wonder if a similar incident happened today how I would react.
Likely not with nearly as passion, I'm sure.
We deal with these things in the news far more often today and it is numbing, but 28 years ago, the world changed for me.
I never looked at athletes in the same way after Len Bias passed away.
I rooted for them, liked them, but it was changed for good.
For good or bad, they became people that did something well not someone to be put on a pedestal.
Change isn't always for the soft...

Maybe next year, I can write about Len Bias the player and how much fun he was to watch!

Akron's Canal Park or Downtown is the place to be?

Another stop on my weekend jaunt was knocking a ballpark off my list on Hardball Passport (You really should use this site!) in Akron's Canal Park, home of the Cleveland Indians AA affiliate.

I had been to Canal Park once before as Ryan and I stopped by years ago on a non-game day to buy a team set when we were in the area, but I have two lists for ballpark visits.
The most important is actual game action, but there is a second list that is less prestigious that covers ballparks that I have been inside, but did not see a game there.
That list covers Ernie Shore Field, the former home of the Winston-Salem Dash (then Warthogs), and a bunch of Appalachian league stadiums, so eventually, I would like to eliminate this list altogether.
The only way that Ernie Shore is getting off the list is for me to see a Wake Forest game (The Demon Deacons own the field now) and I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

I originally was going to go to Akron on Saturday for the Joe Walsh bobblehead (I hate the Eagles) and be able to add it to the pile that accumulates of giveaways that I sell at the end of the season, but that game was sold out, so since Rachel was finished with the festival for the day on Friday, I decided to make the 45 minute run to Akron.
Right off the bat-parking is a pain.
Akron is one of the cities using the downtown revitalization reason to put their park there and it did seem to do just that.
The streets were closed around the park for the fan experience and that makes things rough on the GPS as it obviously doesn't deal with closed streets when it calculates directions.
Finally after parking on the roof of a parking deck, which at least allowed us to look straight down into Canal Park for what I hope was a cool picture.

Upon entering the park at the ticket window, I was greeted by one of the nicest employees that I've met, who saw my pass and went to the extra mile to get the best seats possible with three together, which wasn't easy considering that this game was also an eventual sellout.
Very nicely done and super professional.

Inside, the place was a zoo.
I've been to three other Eastern League parks (Altoona, Harrisburg, and Reading) and none of them were like this-lots of people, frenzied activity all over, and simply put-a major league crowd in a minor league park.
In other words, a team's dream and my nightmare.
It wasn't a baseball guy's crowd, it was a party crowd with the park as the backdrop.
Now, I don't blame the Rubber Ducks, it is a business and the object of said business is to fill the seats and make as much money as possible.
The Ducks can check that box for sure.
It did seem more about the peripheral things than baseball, but that's the way it can be at times.
The hardcore baseball fans usually aren't enough to fill the seats on their own, so this is what it is.

For a team with a new name and everything else, you would never know they re-branded things because other than the retained (as one of ) mascot Orbit, they have scrubbed everything that remotely said "Aeros".
Cherie asked how long they had been the Rubber Ducks and the reply that this was the first year surprised her.
In the team shop, normally you see lots of leftover items on clearance and past team sets etc-in Akron-gone.
One would think that perhaps the team decided not even try to get a sliver of clearance sales and move the Aeros to the dust bin as quickly as possible by taking the loss on anything that retained the name.
I'm not sure if this is correct or not, but one urban legend is that the teams held two "Name the team" contests that Aeros won both times, and new owner Ken Babby just decided to change the name anyway, only relenting on the fans pleas to keep Orbit around...
After a team set purchase for Mike Oravec in return for Mike's constant help with 7up 10 and a sharp-looking road alternate hat that was my Father's Day gift from Cherie and Rachel (thanks ladies!), we moved to our seats.

The seats were boxes and nice ones, especially considering the crowd and that we walked up.
The sightlines were quite impressive and the video board was nice as well.
I intended on attempting to graph the visiting Portland SeaDogs, but an EBAY purchase of Henry Owens and his top 100 didn't arrive in time (I bought in enough advance times that it should have been and it was waiting for me in the mailbox when I returned of course), so I didn't lug the briefcase along to weigh me down.
From what I saw, I wouldn't have had a ton of success as there seemed to be a lot of graphers and the crowd would have made things tough.
I'll get another shot at Owens, who is a good signer, in Reading on an upcoming date as long as he isn't moved up by then.

I'd like to report that I stayed the entire game, but I didn't.
Between the long trip, the travel back in forth to Avon, traffic hassles on a Friday in Akron, etc, I left after a few innings, but as we walked out, I saw a familiar face in Mike, who was there with our most loyal reader Big Don!.
After a few minutes of verbal patter, we left Canal Park, but not after giving our seats to Don and Mike to give them an upgrade from general admission, which I imagine wouldn't be fun.

All and all, Canal Park was just a little too busy for me.
Nice park, nice employees, and pretty customer-friendly equals that I would consider a return trip.
IF I could hit a weeknight day or travel with another driver that is!

Perhaps back later with another anniversary from yesterday or more from the trip and if the Cavaliers officially name a coach today (I hear that could happen), I'll be back.
I told you that I'd be back with a flurry of posts!!!  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Duck Tape Madness

After a week away, I plan on trying to catch up over the next few days as I look at my weekend with my ladies that includes a stop in Akron for a first-time visit to Canal Park for a game and a stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Father's Day, but we start with the reason for the trip-Rachel's graduation wish for a trip to the Duck Tape Festival...

Now, I normally jump on any chance to hit O H I O even if it's just for a trip for Jones potato chips or a shot at Grandpa's Cheese Barn, but I must admit the Duck Tape Festival truly didn't seem like my idea of a great time from the start.
It didn't turn out that bad though and Rachel wound up getting a nice "haul" for her supply table, so it was worth it to her.

Avon, Ohio is a small city (census estimate is about 20,000) near Cleveland that houses the Duck Tape brand factory and uses the name and product for the reason for the city to have a fair type setting.
Many small towns use a theme for a weekend setting for the town to have a parade and a fair and since the factory is the town's largest employer, what better theme could there be?
I know the true name is DucT Tape, but Duck Tape found a niche' with the mispronunciation of the name and became the name brand of the product.
Think of regular tape is usually called Scotch tape for another example of this...

We rode by the factory on the second day and Rachel along with Cherie stopped and snapped some pictures of the sign in front of the factory.
It really to sum it up was a large carnival or small fair if you prefer with a decent size addition on the end devoted to Duck Tape.
There were large works of art using the tape with the theme of the year being space and some of those artworks were interesting-my favorite was a large Saturn V rocket.

The parking was not done well considering the large ground that they had and on Saturday, we had to park far away (I can use the walk), but was blocked in such a way that I had one small avenue to exit and that was with several shifts and starts.
Fortunately, only a skilled driver as I was able to maneuver my way through in the rented SUV.
Full sarcasm and a nod to First Blood there, for those of you that have seen the film many times, I'm sure you know what I'm referring to.

However, what Rachel enjoyed best was getting tape that wasn't available elsewhere such as scratch and sniff tape (what won't they make?) that has not been released for sale in stores and getting free rolls of "Old School" silver (Excuse me, sir have you gotten your free roll? Of course, not) for her.
The downside? Well, there were two.
The first was the interminable wait for credit card machines to get rolling (hey, when you are spending the money-get those points!), but the lady running the store was very nice and the other was someone named "J Wallets".
I don't watch Duck Tape videos other than Rachel's, but apparently, J is another video person and he obviously has A) Rich parents, B)Parents that spoil him or C) Both as he loaded up a massive basket filled with this stuff while running around pouting that he didn't get enough tape.
There were a few things that could have went smoother on this trip, but now in hindsight (although maybe not at the time), have to spend 20 minutes in line behind a whining J Wallets might have been the worst part of the trip.

All things considered, the festival was tolerable for the old man and I even had a good cheesesteak out of it and Cherie had a nice stromboli according to her for another plus.
I'd do it again IF there were other things to do as well to go with another trip to Avon!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pirates punt Polanco debut

The highly hyped debut of Gregory Polanco ended with one hit and a 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.
Casey Sadler took the loss in relief (0-1) after allowing four runs in the sixth and seventh innings to snap a deadlock at three.
Andrew McCutchen homered for the Pirates in the third inning (9) to provide two of the three Pirates runs.
The series vs the Cubs finishes today with Brandon Cumpton (1-2) against Chicago's Jason Hammel (6-3) at 7:05

Pirate Hooks

1) Francisco Liriano started the game,but left in the fourth inning with "right side discomfort".
Hope it is not one of those dreaded "Oblique muscle" issues,those things take a lot of time to heal and often can become a chronic injury.

2) I like Starling Marte as a player and like the enthusiasm that he plays with as well,but sometimes that can be a detriment as last night,he took off on a caught fly ball,stood and watched it past second base,didn't re-tag second and was doubled off first.
Just not smart baseball....

3) Gregory Polanco scored a run after his career starting single on Andrew McCutchen's homer,but it was the way he did it that was amusing.
Polanco just roared around the bases like McCutchen had slashed the ball into the gap.
Love seeing the speed,but didn't he see a third base coach or anything?

4) Polanco,Marte and McCutchen are going to be a tremendous defensive outfield,but as the adjustment for Marte took time in left,Polanco will need the period of refinement as well.
Polanco had a ball hit off the heel of his glove that I would have scored an error,but the Pirates scorer tabbed a double.
The threesome will cover a ton of ground,but will need to learn to work together as a unit...

5) One can see the tools of Gregory Polanco,but I especially like his swing.
If you look carefully,you can see a little of Ken Griffey Jr. in the Polanco swing.
Slightly up without being an uppercut,if the Pirates got anywhere close to that type of production-they'd be thrilled.

I'll be in Frederick tonight,but with luck I'll be back with a look at the Indians in the afternoon game in Kansas City....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pirates call up Gregory Polanco

The Pittsburgh Pirates pulled the trigger in an attempt to reverse a sub .500 season as they called up super-prospect Gregory Polanco  from AAA Indianapolis to plug into right field.

Polanco hit just under .350 in his Indianapolis tenure and gives the Pirates what has the potential to be a multiple tool outfield for years to come with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen,but why the wait with the spectacular start by Polanco and the less than fast start by Pittsburgh?

The reason was to make Polanco ineligible for arbitration as a "Super 2" which takes spectacular young players that exceed their contracts and allow them to go to the arbitrator's table.
I can understand the financial reasons for a small market franchise to save money when they can,but in this case,I think the team made an error in judgement.

When you consider the Pirates playoff appearance last season and the teams expectations after such a great year,the blatant money issue could result in a loss of goodwill with the fan base.
And if the Pirates turn things around and just fall short of a playoff return?
One could make a case if Polanco plays well,that he could have been the difference over the less than sharp play of Jose Tabata and Travis Snider.
I'm going to try to watch tonight's game and be back tonight,if all goes as I hope....

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cotto hammers Martinez,Boxing Challenge

Miguel Cotto hammered Sergio Martinez to the floor four times, three of them in round one alone, and grabbed the WBC Middleweight belt held by the Argentine when the champion's corner stopped the bout before the start of round ten in New York City.

I, of course, didn't see the fight being at the road office, but my fellow fight fan, Ramon Malpica, reports that Cotto shook Martinez with every shot and that Martinez never looked steady on his legs after knee surgery after his last defense against Martin Murray of England.
When you consider that Martinez is a fighter that bases his entire style off his movement, the leg issues meant doom for the 39-year-old.

Now that Martinez is likely to step away from the title picture and Miguel Cotto has the title held as the lineal "true" Middleweight champion -what's next?
I would not think that Cotto or promoter Bob Arum have any interest in unifying with the WBA champ and (in my opinion) best fighter in the division Gennady Golvokin, WBO champ Peter Quillin brings little in marketability along with the Al Haymon factor and IBF champion Sam Soliman brings even less than Quillin, although if Cotto needs a stay active bout, Soliman makes a lot of sense for Cotto.
Soliman would bring a belt with him, would likely make more money than he would elsewhere, but far cheaper than the other names and should have no problems coming to U.S soil.
I could see Cotto-Soliman in the fall if things are unable to be worked out for a bigger bout.

Considering the above factors, there are two bouts to be made that would be huge interest fights.
Floyd Mayweather defeated Cotto once in an entertaining (for a Floyd Mayweather fight) bout and could look at this as a way to annex another division title against a fighter that he defeated.
Canelo Alvarez would be an interesting fight with the Mexico-Puerto Rico angle along with two fighters unafraid to stand and slug it out.
Either would be huge pay-TV numbers and both could be made, although promotional arrangements suggest that Alvarez would be more likely with Golden Boy and Top Rank recently making up a little bit.
Two things are sure to me-the middleweight division has taken a leap up in interest and the big loser other than Sergio Martinez last night was Gennady Golovkin, who may have to keep knocking out second level contenders to keep busy.
I doubt  Miguel Cotto will fight Golovkin, I believe Sergio Martinez would have...

That moves us to the boxing challenge, where due to personal issues,I didn't have time to post the picks on a weak undercard.
Ramon and I did make our picks though and it wasn't a great night.
I picked Martinez by a unanimous decision and earned zero points for the loss, although I did get one from Marvin Sonsona's split decision win over Wilfredo Vasquez Jr.
I picked the decision to be unanimous, so I only earned the lone point.
Ramon's night was worse as he picked Martinez via a 6th round KO and Vasquez to win a decision, so he added no points on the night.
I gained one standings point and trimmed Ramon's lead to 44-41.

Back later or tomorrow!!!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cleaning out the inbox.

Lots of stuff from the inbox and I mean LOTS, so it may take a few times to truly clean it out.
I'm going to work from the oldest up other than the time-sensitive stuff.

I did watch the Tyler Beede start today for Vanderbilt in their NCAA game against Stanford.
What I have read about Beede looked to me to be true-Mid 90's fastball, nice curve, and changeup, and will come down to this-Can he stay in the strike zone?
Beede looked good for three innings, but began to show some command issues in the 4th and 5th, leaving the contest in the fifth after allowing six runs, all of them earned.
I liked what I saw arm-wise, but the Giants have some work to do.

I used to be a massive horse racing fan that trickled to just a casual one, but most of the near misses that William Nack writes about for ESPN, I've seen.
I was a huge Sunday Silence fan that ran into the one course that Easy Goer could beat him on and I still rate Spectacular Bid as the best horse I've ever seen (yes, I did see Secretariat) that was beaten by injury and jockey error in his Belmont run, but most of the rest of the near misses really weren't truly great horses.
The Bid might be headed to the Forgotten Superstars universe sometime soon and even if you are just a casual fan, check the article out.
I bet Ryan recognizes a lot of those names!
And yes, the above bobblehead of the Bid is in my collection and might be my favorite bobble!

Waiting for next year is a Cleveland-based sports site and they did an article on the "lost cards" on former Indians first baseman Tony Horton, who abruptly retired and never had a Topps card made of him.
The Horton story is a sad one, worth reading about, and of course, it talks about the 1971 Topps set!

Grantland looks at the draft lottery and the astonishing Cavalier victory here.
I don't know what the Cavalier plans are, but unless they get a star player that is under contract for a while (Kevin Love has one year left on his deal), I'm taking Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.
I'll be looking at the Cavaliers in a future post before the draft...

ESPN looks at former top prospect Brien Taylor in an oral history of the 1991 top overall pick that injured his arm for good in a bar fight in North Carolina.
It's a great article on Taylor, who was unavailable for comment as he is serving jail time for dealing crack cocaine.

Finally, we say goodbye to the most exciting light heavyweight ever as former WBC champ Matthew Saad Muhammad passed away at the age of 59.
Saad Muhammad was Arturo Gatti before there was Gatti as he fought war after war on national television defending his belt in memorable brawls.
Combine the style with the story of him being abandoned in Philadelphia at the age of five and you had a compelling reason to watch Saad, who held the title from 1979-81 in making eight successful defenses of his belt.
Check Saad Muhammad out on youtube for some thrilling bouts.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pirates select Cole Tucker

The Pittsburgh Pirates apparently chose need over the best player as the Pirates selected Cole Tucker with their first pick in the amateur draft.
Tucker is a 6'3 Arizona high school shortstop that has the body frame to move to other infield slots or possibly stay as the long term shortstop.
Many observers appear to think that this was a bit of a reach and the Pirates' decision to make a "need pick" brought back memories of the selection of Tony Sanchez in round one that proved to be a disappointment.

Tucker is projected to be a player with a plus glove with gap power and not a real threat to develop power as a plus tool, so think of  Tucker as a typical Pirate shortstop than an Alen Hanson type.

The Pirates used the pick obtained from the Marlins for Bryan Morris on Connor Joe from the University of San Diego.
Joe is listed as a catcher/first baseman but could be moved to the outfield.
Joe hits nine homers for the Toreros but is said to have more doubles power (21) than homer potential in the pros.
Most saw this as another reach, but the Pirates may be keeping their high picks around or under slot money to go after some hard signs and gambles in the second round of the draft today...

I may be back AGAIN as Giants top pick Tyler Beede pitches this afternoon, so I may be back with a scouting report tonight.....

Indians select Bradley Zimmer

The Cleveland Indians continued their investment in bats as for the third draft in a row,the Tribe selected an outfielder in the first round of the MLB draft.
Bradley Zimmer joins Tyler Naquin and Clint Frazier as the most recent first rounders taken by Cleveland.
The 6'5 lefty swinger played his college baseball at the University of San Francisco like his brother Kyle,who was a first rounder by Kansas City in the 2012 draft.
Zimmer is projected as a centerfielder by the Indians and looks to have four tools,but average power at best.
Sounds a lot like Tyler Naquin did to me and Naquin has been good,but not great as he works his way through the Indians system.
Zimmer is larger though and might develop more power as he fills out.
As I said earlier,I didn't read as much on the draft this season,so my thoughts are more reading the reports of others and then reading between the lines by looking at the numbers.
Good speed,defensively appears that he could handle center and should hit for a high average.
The biggest question appears to be can he hit for average power,if he can,Zimmer should be project as an above average centerfielder.
If he cannot,he might be more of a 4th outfielder and you do expect more than that from a first rounder...

The Indians also had the 31st pick in the first round with their compensation pick for losing Ubaldo Jimenez and grabbed Tennessee high school pitcher Justus Sheffield.
The lefty tosser is 6'2 and is reported to have a four pitch mix and is reasonably polished for a high schooler,but has a commitment to Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt is suddenly becoming a home for pitching prospects and it is unknown how strong Sheffield's commitment is what it will take for the Indians to get him to agree on a contract..
One thing to remember is that Sheffield's brother plays for Vanderbilt,so that might take even more dollars to buy him away....

Back later with a look at the Pirates first rounder and their pick that they obtained from Florida for Bryan Morris.....

Giants select Tyler Beede

Been a tough night at the road office,so look for a quick series of posts on the Giants,Indians and Pirates first round selections in last night's MLB draft.
I haven't been as up on this years amateur crop as in the past as I let my Baseball America subscription lapse,so much of my thoughts might be rehashed from other sites..

The Giants picked first of the three in the 14th slot and we will start with them.
Tyler Beede was a first round pick for the Blue Jays a few years back,but decided to head to Vanderbilt instead.
The 21 year old Commodore comes from a program that produced David Price and Sonny Gray,both of which have remained healthy thus far as a pro,which is more than I can say for many college programs.
Physically,Beede has the look that the Giants prefer in the pitchers that they draft-tall,filled out and guys that throw "downhill".
The 6'4 Massachusetts native throws in the mid-90's and has impressive breaking stuff when under control.
I added that caveat mainly because the issue with Beede is his command,which often can go awry.
Throwing strikes has been a question with Beede and the main reason that he was available to the Giants at 14.
Arm-wise,Tyler Beede appears to rank with the best in this draft.
It'll be up to the Giants to refine his tools to make him the best pro in the draft.

Back later with the Pirates first rounder and the Indians two first rounders.....

Thursday, June 5, 2014

On the signing front

We return to the signing front with some stops on the circuit.

We start in Hagerstown at the world's most decrepit ballpark with the Hickory Crawdads (Rangers) and Lexington Legends (Royals) hitting the Hub City.

The Crawdads featured two interesting pitching prospects in first rounder Collin Wiles and Yohander Mendez along with another first rounder in shortstop Travis Demeritte and super toolsy outfielder Jairo Beras.
Three players with potential returned to Hickory for a repeat season in Lewis Brinson,Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara.
All signed their various cards,but the best catch for me was former big leaguer Bobby Rose,who signed two of my favorite cards in 1990 Score and 1992 Fleer Ultra along with his Yokohama Bay Stars card from his days in Japan.
Thanks to Bill Cover for his help with Rose,who was a two per....

The Legends were a less than inspiring bunch after a strong prospect squad last season,pitchers Cody Reed and Luke Farrell (Thanks to Kendall Morris for his Prism card) along with outfielder Alfredo Escalera and catch Cody Johnson were the best of the bunch,but the coaching staff featured two former major leaguers in former Pirate Abraham Nunez and former Brave Glenn Hubbard.
Nunez was excellent all three days,but I did not have any advanced scouting on Hubbard.
I would be told later that Hubbard was a less than earnest signer,but on day one,he signed all four cards that I had (of five),after skipping the middle game,I returned for the final games and watched Hubbard sign multiples for Kendall and his daughter Molly,who had missed the other games,but told me no for one card.
I suppose Hubbard is a once a series signer,which is his option.....

In between,some thanks to Bill Cover for getting Christian Lopes while he was in Florida for his son's diving meet and former Padre and Indian Bob Owchinko arrived through the mail...

Next up was a rainy and crazy Saturday in Altoona for the Akron Rubber Ducks.
Between a scheduled doubleheader,a rain delay and even more rain,it looked like a bad night on the horizon (I would have a bad one in Altoona down the road) for the Quackers.
The main reason for doing Akron was getting another one of my seemingly endless pile of Francisco Lindor's finished and Lindor did do his first Bowman card.
I just never seem to drop the pile of the Indians future prospect down any!
Lindor does seem to be much more happy and easier to deal in AA than he was in High A,he'll joke around and talk to you,but it's still one unless you really get happy Lindor for a two spot.
Lindor was an extra on this night as the player I really wanted was former Cub Bryan LaHair,who had a few strong months with the Cubs a while back,and was returning from Japan.
I really wanted LaHair on two of his Japanese cards and I was able to those done as well as reliever Kyle Crockett on his Mahoning Valley and New York/Penn top prospect cards.
Crockett would shortly skip Columbus and go straight to the Indians for a brief time before returning to the minors in Columbus.
Former Brave and Royal Kyle Davies is attempting a comeback with Cleveland and was so nice in signing his 2011 heritage card that he thanked me for asking him!

Thanks to Derreck Chupak for getting me a signed Bowman of Mookie Betts,who set the Eastern League on fire before being promoted to AAA Pawtucket earlier this week....

The final stop on this signing front featured the Richmond Flying Squirrels for a morning game in Harrisburg.
The game saw Clayton Blackburn throw five perfect innings before fielding miscues and a few bad breaks saw Harrisburg drive Blackburn from the game and hand him a loss.
Consequently,Blackburn was in an less than wonderful mood after the game and signed just one card.
Kyle Crick was the other super addition as he signed his 2013 Top 100 card (Yes!) among others as Hank helped me out on this day by getting me two more and almost catching me up on the Giants top prospect.
I also got Ty Blach on his California League All-Star card to wrap up the day...

Still plenty down the road from the signing front,but with luck,I'll be back later today with a cleaning of the inbox....

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pirates ship Morris to Marlins

The Pittsburgh Pirates made the first move after a disappointing start to 2014 as the Pirates traded reliever Bryan Morris to the Miami (still feels weird typing that) Marlins for the Marlins competitive balance pick (#37) in the upcoming baseball draft.

Before I get to Morris,yes,I know that there is supposed to be no trading of draft picks in baseball,but those special competitive balance picks can be traded.
I'd like to see all the picks be dealt,but that is a post for another day.

The 27 year old Morris was 4-0 this season with an ERA of 3.80 in 23 innings of work,but the Pirate had been used less of late as Clint Hurdle had problems finding uses for Morris with an array of command issues of late.
If the Pirates truly thought Morris was as good as he was going to be-which was not bad,but not a future bullpen stalwart at the end,then this is a nice deal because it will get them an excellent prospect in return at the 37th spot.
However,I think there just might be more to this-sometimes teams make a smaller deal to grease the skids for a later and larger deal.
Just saying that there is a power hitting gentleman waiting to be dealt in Miami....

The deal also shows (along with the Ike Davis trade that for some reason I never wrote about) that even with a new contract,Neal Huntington must be feeling a little bit pressure from somewhere to change things up.
Not that means win now mode because trading a big leaguer for a draft pick is the opposite of that,just that Huntington is trying to shake up a team that I thought would take a step back this year before a potential leap next season.
You do not change the culture of losing in one short season folks,no matter how successful that season was....

This also closes the book on the first big trade of the Neal Huntington era in Pittsburgh with Morris leaving to Miami.
The Jason Bay trade with the Dodgers and Red Sox could certainly not be called a success for Pittsburgh as other than the small contribution from Morris,the assets obtained were disappointing.
Brandon Moss has become a nice hitter,but it was in Oakland,not Pittsburgh that Moss's bat offered any value.
Craig Hansen was disappointing before having his career essentially finished by injury and the less said about the Andy LaRoche era at third base the better.
Often times the sweeping changes that a new management team makes aren't always the best (think this at your job sometimes) and it's the later moves that work out once you get a handle on things.
Check this out for our thoughts at the time on the Jason Bay trade.

Back later tonight,I hope!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Jamie Romak hits the big time.

Driving to work tonight, I was listening to the end of the Pirates-Dodgers game from Los Angeles and heard a name that I haven't heard in a while.
Jamie Romak was getting ready to enter the game for the final inning of a 12-2 blowout, but hearing that name made me think.

Jamie Romak has been in the minors for years and I had thought that he was long back into the real world and yet, after all those years, was in the big leagues.
Romak was a name that came up often in the early year or two of this blog (Do a blog search using his name) when the Pirates farm system was pretty weak and when we covered the prospects even closer than we do now.
Romak was considered the Pirates' top power prospect at one time after being obtained from Atlanta in 2007 with Adam LaRoche for Mike Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge in a system that screamed for power with the awful Dave Littlefield/Ed Creech drafts.

The Pirates never seemed to handle the Canadian correctly and despite posting decent power numbers, was repeating levels in each of his three years as a Pirate and was allowed to leave via minor league free agency.
Romak then moved to Kansas City where he played in Frederick as a member of Wilmington and appeared to be headed to hired gun status, where teams would sign an established High A/AA bat to fill in a spot that needs something on the level along with a veteran attitude to help younger and usually immature players.

I often talked hockey with Jamie in his stops in Hagerstown and Frederick and found him to be an engaging guy-the type of guy that you would wish would make it, but the odds were against him.
I lost track of Romak after that and figured he was on the independent circuit, but began to post solid power numbers in Triple-A with a 22 homer season in Memphis last season and was signed by the Dodgers before this season.
Romak ripped 13 homers in just under two months in AAA Albuquerque, so with his versatility (LF, RF,1b, and 3b) made him a good choice for a team that needed a callup due to injury issues.

My friends on the autograph circuit often talk about how we wish Sean Nicol would make it to the big time even if just for a while because he is just the type of person that you would love to see succeed and Jamie Romak was that type of person, albeit a little less outgoing.
I think of the guys that I hang around with only Bill Cover and Mike Oravec still graphing from when Romak was playing on the local circuit, so he isn't quite as known as a similar player would be currently.

Minor league baseball is a long road to the show and one not filled with glamour.
Unless you think playing in towns like Hagerstown, eating sandwiches, long bus rides, and sleeping multiple people to a room is glamorous, that is.
And for as much as guys like me like to say we'd play for free, we probably wouldn't-at least at this stage of our lives anyway with families to support for what is essentially peanuts compared to the big league game, so the trek that career minor leaguers like Romak make truly is more of a survival test than that of a romantic quest.

I'm not sure how long Jamie Romak will stay around the big leagues, but I'm happy for him that he got to the majors and I hope he manages to get a hit sometime (currently 0 for 2), but for all the Jamie Romak's that made it, think about all that paid a similar price and came up short.
Give them a thought once in a while for paying the same cost with zero rewards...

Froch KO's Groves,Boxing challenge

George Groves was well ahead of my card after seven rounds in his rematch vs Carl Froch,but you could feel things turning to the point that it felt like just a matter of time before Froch made his move.
Froch did just that with a one punch knockout of Groves in round 8 to retain his IBF Super Middleweight title.
No controversy on this one and the KO helped R.L.Malpica increase his lead over me in the boxing challenge to 44-40.
R.L earned two points for the Froch KO win and he would earn four more on the day from Evgeny Gradovich (2 pts for his unanimous decision),Nonito Donaire (1 pt for a win) and Nicholas Walters (1 pt for a win).
I scored just three on the day from Gradovich and Donaire...

Groves used his awkward style to throw Froch off,but the fight had a different vibe than the first bout.
In the first fight,Groves controlled the action and you felt like he was frustrating Froch.
In this return bout,Froch may have been outpointed on my card,but he was calmer and more patient and it seemed like was just waiting for the mistake from Groves.
He found it in round 8.

I have another post in mind for tonight,if I have time...