Thursday, July 31, 2014

Indians ship Asdrubal Cabrera to Washington

With 20 minutes to go before the trade deadline,the Cleveland Indians have moved shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals in return for infielder Zach Walters.

The Indians had been trying to trade Cabrera,who is a free agent at the end of the season and the team was not going to attempt to re-sign Cabrera with Francisco Lindor being a year or less away from being the long term shortstop and apparently the Washington offer of Zach Walters was the one that they liked the most.
The Indians will also pay the remainder of Cabrera's money for the 2014 season.

The 28 year old Cabrera was obtained from Seattle in 2006 for Eduardo Perez,so the Indians got plenty of mileage out of a similar deal.
Cabrera peaked as a 25 year old as the shortstop posted career high numbers across the board,but has rarely approached those numbers since.
The drop from that season for a younger player and never really look like the same player thereafter is one of those puzzlers that you wonder what happened.

Cabrera will play second for the rest of the season in Washington with Anthony Rendon moving to the hot corner as the Nationals fill the hole left by the injury to Ryan Zimmerman,which could also give Washington a chance to see if Rendon could be the full time third baseman in 2015.

Zach Walters is a 25 year old shortstop that looks to be more of a utilityman at the big league level.
Washington traded for Walters in 2012 from Arizona and looked to be just another player until 2013 when he suddenly saw a power increase as he hit 29 homers after his previous high was 12.
If that was a big leaguer,red flags would immediately appear,but little was said about Walters leap in homers.
The Nationals must have wondered as well as Walters was returned to Syracuse where he hit another 15 homers in 60 games with the Chiefs instead of sticking with the big league team before being called up when the Nationals dealt with injury issues and hitting .205 in 43 at bats,but did hit three homers in the limited action.
Walters played shortstop with Syracuse,but looks to be moved to either third base or even possibly left field in the Indians system.

I've seen Walters play and I have never been impressed,although the power numbers have made me a little more open to him.
Walters still strikes out so much (134 times in 2013) and he just strikes me as a player that might wind up being a AAA hired gun in the long term.
I just don't think that he will make enough consistent contact at the big league level to be a starting level player to be a long term producer.

Back tomorrow with more from the inbox as it has some interesting stuff popping over the side....

Swapping for Arms,Peavy in SF,Masterson out of Cleveland

 On a day that saw one arm leave one team,I realized that I had never written about a deal a few days old,so I'll catch up with both deals at once!

The freshest news is the Indians sending Justin Masterson away to the St.Louis Cardinals in exchange for a former first round selection in outfielder James Ramsey.
Masterson won double digit games for the Tribe in the last three seasons,but had struggled for Cleveland in 2014 with a 4-6 injury-plagued season and an ERA over five in his contract season.
The issue for the Indians before the season was should they attempt to re-sign Masterson as the best pitcher on the staff.
The final decision was made by the ineffectiveness of Masterson and with the Indians still needing
bats in the system that could be productive power producers-The trade was an easy one for the Indians to make,despite the team being on the edge of playoff contention.

As far as the 24 year old Ramsey goes,he was hitting .300 with 13 homers at the Cardinals AA affiliate in Springfield and was the first round pick by St.Louis in 2012 out of Florida State.
Ramsey is well thought of as a "high makeup" guy and has always been noted as a leader in the locker room,but for whatever reason repeated AA and that is a red flag to me.
Ramsey also strikes out a lot (108 times last year),so that might been one reason for his AA return along with batting average that improved from .251 to .300 in the repeat year.
The Indians must have decided that they wanted to see what Ramsey had immediately as he was assigned to AAA Columbus.

I'm OK with this deal,especially when you consider two things-the dearth of power prospects close to the majors (Maybe Jesus Aguilar could turn out) and the poor performance of Masterson dropped the potential return for the pitcher.
The deal depends on how James Ramsey does whether the return is reasonable enough....

Meanwhile,the Giants needed to add arm strength with the potential loss of Matt Cain for the season and struck quickly with the acquisition of lefthander Jake Peavy from Boston in return for AAA pitchers Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree.

Peavy,a past Cy Young award winner,had struggled this season like most of the defending World Champion Red Sox,but brings a live arm to San Francisco,even if Peavy is not quite the electric powerhouse of seasons past.
Peavy wobbled to a 1-9 record in Boston,but his ERA was similar to 2013 when he went 12-5 combined with the White and Red Sox (4.71 to 4.72) and that tells me that he was one of the players most affected by the Red Sox poor record.
Peavy allowed four runs in six innings in his first start vs the Dodgers,but didn't look awful doing so.

The pitchers that the Giants shipped away were both once highly thought of but had reached faded prospect status of recent times.
Heath Hembree had once been thought of as the Giants closer of the future,but various issues kept Hembree from reaching the big club and despite nice save numbers in AAA Fresno over the last two and a half years,the peripheral numbers were not up to snuff.
Despite Hembree's arm and potential,the Giants would only use him for nine games last season and not at all this season.
Hembree might be one of those players that needed a fresh start and new organization in order to thrive because I just don't think it was likely as a Giant.

22 year old Edwin Escobar looked like a comer after an excellent 2013 split between High A San Jose and AA Richmond.
However,the lefthander had issues this season with AAA Fresno and unlike his results rising through the system,his strikeouts fell and walks rose a bit.
Escobar's ERA with the Grizzlies was over five,but with the solid prospects waiting at AA Richmond,the team might have just decided to avoid a logjam in the 2015 Fresno rotation and move Escobar while the getting was good.
It seems to me that the Giants may be giving up on Escobar a little early,but sometimes these things have to be done.

Peavy could be a free agent at the end of the year,but he does have a player option,so if he triggers the option,the Giants could get another year out of this deal.
I believe the Red Sox could get mileage out of both the pitchers that they obtained in the trade,but the Giants were in a position that they had to do something when you consider the potential loss of Matt Cain to bolster their rotation.

Hope to be back tomorrow with more.....

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Devils extend Andy Greene for five years

The New Jersey Devils decided to lock up their best veteran defenseman as he came off a year that might have saw him enter his prime as Andy Greene signed a five year extension worth 25 million dollars.

Greene is coming off a season that saw him become the team's steadying force on defense and have the best overall year of his career.
The question is after the team just escaped one long term contract on the blueline this season by buying Anton Volchenkov out of his deal and one year away from Bryce Salvador walking away,why now and will Andy Greene continue to progress or has Greene plateaued?

Greene turns 32 in October and his prime years could be in front of him as his best season was last year,so that might be a good indicator that this might be a nice deal for the Devils.
The problem is this-A five year deal is simply too long in my opinion.

Considering that the deal is added onto the current contract with ends at the end of this season,so the commitment holds Greene to the team for the next six years and will see that Greene is under hold until he is 37.
That alone doesn't sound so bad until you realize that if some  (and the odds say some) of the younger Devil defensemen work as long term linchpins of the franchise and will need new agreements within the time frame of the Greene contract.
Whether its any or all of Adam Larsson,Eric Gelinas,Jon Merrill or anyone currently on Albany's roster or even still at juniors/college,those players that work out will need to be taken care of
So,my issue is not the extension (fine with that) or the cost (five million per year is not unreasonably high overall),it is the length of the deal,which is the M.O.of late for Lou Lamoriello and the Devils that could make him more difficult to move Greene late in the deal or make him almost a drag on the team at that time.

Overall,I like keeping Greene,like the cost and the Devils should be getting a lot of production for the first few years of the deal.
However,the length of the contract levels my opinions out a bit as the Devils might be trading early production for later salary problems for a well past his prime player...

Back later with thoughts on the Indians trading Justin Masterson and a few days old thoughts on Jake Peavy's arrival as a Giant....

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reynaldo Lopez-A Bolt from the Blue

When you watch enough minor league baseball,sometimes you can get a bit numb to things.
Games can become dreary and players become routine,but then are nights like last night when you are surprised to the point that makes you realize why you watch the games.

Reynaldo Lopez may not look the part of a power pitcher,but he sure impressed me in his first appearance in Hagerstown.

Lopez had appeared in two games with the Suns earlier in the season,but both games were on the road,so this was my first game in seeing the Dominican righthander pitch.
Lopez entered the game with the best ERA in the NY/Penn league with Auburn with a number of 0.75 in seven starts,but he had less than impressive numbers in his two Suns starts,so I wasn't sure what to think.

I do now after a sharp start against Greenville that saw Lopez pitch six innings,whiff nine and allow just two hits,one of which was a blooper off the end of the bat.
Lopez throws hard.
As in tremendously hard.
So hard that Bill Cover and I remarked just how loud the pop of the mitt sounded at times to the point of resembling the loud crack you hear from a good firecracker.
For the all of the hype on Lucas Giolito and it's deserved,I haven't heard the catcher's glove ring like that in the starts that I have seen Giolito pitch this season.
It was reported to us that some radar guns (I have always wanted one of those) had registered Lopez as high as 101 MPH during last night's contest.
Normally,without seeing the gun,I would dismiss such things as hyperbole.
I will not this time as I saw (and heard) the pitches-I believe it.
This is a prospect that is flying way under the radar and at just 20 years old,the Nationals may have found themselves a arm for the future that could develop into a fine top to middle part of their rotation down the road.
There is plenty of refinement needed,but the raw ability is there.

Nights like last night are the type of nights that make following this game fun.
When someone without a large background to draw from suddenly shows up and makes you sit up and take notice,it's always a great feeling.
Reynaldo Lopez may or may not be a big leaguer and he has plenty of distance still to go,but I'll remember him one way or another on a chilly (yes,chilly) night in July that he arrived like a bolt from blue and popped that glove.
That is just another reason that I love this game.....

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boxing Challenge-Golovkin blitzes Geale!

I didn't have time to post the boxing challenge between me and R.L. Malpica,but we each added 3 points to our totals.

Heavyweight Bryant Jennings earned a heavyweight title bout with a split decision win over Mike Perez.
Both of us picked Jennings via unanimous decision and added one point to our total.

WBA Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin continued his devastation of the middleweight division with a one punch knockout of former IBF champ Daniel Geale in the third round.
Geale tagged Golovkin with a solid right that saw Golovkin counter with his own to end the fight.
Geale staggered to his feet,but told the referee that an honorable surrender was fine with him.
Gennady Golovkin is the best middleweight in the world,the best puncher in the world and if he could just get a huge name to fight him,maybe the best fighter in the world.
That's how good this man is and no fighter has to see this demolition of Geale,a fine fighter and just shake their head in disbelief.
The only bad part of this is looking back to last summer and imagine had Geale gotten the split decision (he lost a split nod) to Darren Barker and kept his IBF title that this could have been a unification bout.
I doubt WBC champ Miguel Cotto takes on Golovkin,especially when he could make far more money for a winnable bout against Canelo Alvarez,WBO titlist Peter Quillin is unlikely to accept the challenge for his trinket due to promotional considerations,so Golovkin's next bout could be IBF kingpin Sam Soliman,who holds Geale's old belt after Darren Barker passed it to Felix Sturm,who dropped it to Soliman.
Soliman is not up to Geale's standards let alone Golovkin's so look at that to be a similar showcase of Golovkin's skills,but might be the best payday that Soliman could get.
Look for more on Golovkin in a future post...

The three point evening placed R.L.'s lead still at two points at 56-54....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On the signing front

A smaller signing front today,but one that buys some space on the pile!

We start with the Wilmington Blue Rocks,a team loaded with prospects that with one or two exceptions were struggling on the field.
The Wilmington team set had been released quickly (which is a refreshing change from teams that signed contracts with Brandt Sportcards to produce their team sets) and had loads of prospects to ink.

The biggest fish were as always the two with Top 100 cards and I was able to get both in different manners.
Raul Mondesi Jr, was an excellent signer in the SAL last year and kept up the good work in the Carolina League as he signed his 100 and 4 others including his Topps Heritage,Lexington and Wilmington cards.
Mike Landucci ran down to the field and got Bubba Starling on his top 100,which was appreciated.
I would add more from the outfield prospect in the next Blue Rock visit.
The two first rounders from the Royals 2013 draft were both super nice in signing two cards apiece.
Hunter Dozier signed a Bowman Chrome with his Wilmington card,while Sean Manaea signed his Wilmington with a Panini Elite.
Powerarmed Miguel Almonte signed all five cards that I had,but I missed out on local prospect Christian Binford on this occasion as he was the starting pitcher on this evening.
The story on this night was a funny one as Bubba Starling and pitcher Daniel Stumpf switched jerseys (names on the back) to run to the field and then switched back in the dugout.
Not sure if it was an accident (both names starting with ST) or just guys having fun (both signed,so I doubt it was to dodge us),but a interesting note.....

Kendall and I trekked to Altoona for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the worst day of graphing all season.
As in four cards.
At least I did get the two oldest cards finished in 2008 cards for PJ Walters and Richard Bleier,but those and two from Matt Newman finished a bad day in Altoona.
Altoona is easily my least favorite graphing stop on the circuit anymore between the tough accommodations and the usually unfriendly ushers,but this day was bad even by Altoona standards...

The Delmarva Shorebirds were in Hagerstown,but yet no team set was released yet.
So that led to just 2013 first rounder Hunter Harvey,who signed a super sharp Blue Panini numbered to 75 and his blue Bowman mini.
Harvey is nice,but quiet as he signs everything,I just wonder how long that will last...

I'll wrap up with the Akron Rubber Ducks in Harrisburg on a day that was the opposite of the previous note-I was able to get every player in the team set signed including the top Indians prospect in Francisco Lindor.
Lindor usually signs just one card,but after his 1st run through,he returned for a second time around.
He got to me and I told him "Francisco,you already signed for me"
Lindor replied with an outstretched fist for a fist bump and said "you are an honest man,I like that,I'll sign a second one for you".
It's stories of that nature that make this hobby so much fun....
Other Ducks of note include former Cub Bryan LaHair,former first rounder Tyler Naquin and Joe Wendle on his Bowman Chrome.

That's all for this time on the signing front.Still plenty on the pile though,so I'll be back soon for more....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Andrew Wiggins signs-the countdown starts....

The Cleveland Cavaliers made the next step that needed to be made in order to trade for Kevin Love or to just prepare for the upcoming season as Andrew Wiggins signed the maximum contract allowed and started the 30-day clock.

Just what is the 30-day clock?
NBA rules stipulate that rookies cannot be traded for 30 days after signing their first contract, so Wiggins could not be the centerpiece of a Love (or any other) deal before that period of time would elapse.
The Cavaliers could come to an agreement with another team before the time allowed to deal Wiggins, but they cannot announce it until the conclusion of the time period.
Wiggins signed a 5.5 million dollar deal, so he could be included in a trade now to make things work fiscally.

Now, the clock begins and we will be treated to 30 days of rumors.
Will Minnesota deal Love at all? Could they ship him to another team other than the Cavaliers?
It's been known that Golden State wants him, but want to keep Klay Thompson, much as Cleveland wants to try to keep Wiggins.
If Cleveland can make a deal, does it have to include Wiggins?
Is a third team needed to make the trade work?
Is Andrew Wiggins even included in any talks?
There have been so many "sources" that are "close to the talks" saying so many different things, that you just get tired of listening to them all because there is so much information that you just do not know which one to believe.

The bigger question to me is this-Is losing Andrew Wiggins and his huge potential worth trading for Kevin Love?
Well, the first answer is easy-No way unless Love is willing to sign a new contract before the trade is finalized.
Regardless of the pundits that insist that Cleveland "HAS" to make the deal for Love because of the window of the prime of LeBron James, if Love does not agree to an extension before a trade, then to me, Andrew Wiggins is off the table.

The second has a few variables.
Let's assume that Kevin Love does agree to a long term extension, lets say four years, do you think that four years of Love is worth 15 of Andrew Wiggins?
I know that all Cleveland fans want a title and one would have to think that James/Love/Kyrie Irving could produce one, but couldn't one think an Irving/Wiggins combination could thrive far beyond the prime of LeBron James?
Wiggins turns 20 in the middle of next season and Irving becomes 23 in the middle of the season as well, so assuming that you think that LeBron has 4-5 years as his peak time remaining (James is 29 now), that would give Kyrie Irving 10 years left at least and Andrew Wiggins could be a Cavalier for a good 15 years.
Is that worth a title against a potential dynasty run?
I know that we are so desperate for a trophy in anything in Northeast Ohio that one wants to win now, but that choice is not an easy one.

I'm in the keep Andrew Wiggins camp.
For as talented of a player as Kevin Love is, the numbers that he routinely puts up in Minnesota would be reduced in Cleveland naturally as he would no longer be the focal point of the offense.
That isn't why I would not include Andrew Wiggins in a trade.
I wouldn't because I think Wiggins is going to be special.
Special enough that I haven't seen a player with his potential on both ends of the floor since LeBron James and I think keeping him is the best way to maintain chances for the Cavaliers to thrive for the next generation and maybe beyond.

I'd love to land Kevin Love and I'd do whatever it takes to get him even trading Kyrie Irving if need be, although after his agreeing to an extension that is not happening, but I've hopefully made my point on how highly I think of Andrew Wiggins.
One way or another-the countdown has started-See you in a month,...

P.S-I really want one of those Cleveland Basketball shirts, if I can find one in jumbo size-I have to have one.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Someone cares about my opinions???

Apparently so,as my rival in the Boxing Challenge,R.L. Malpica asked me if I would be willing to make a guest appearance on his podcast Corner II Corner and of course,I was more than pleased to accept.

You can hear the show and my thoughts here on various issues in the world of boxing,but I must admit it is always a little surreal hearing yourself speak.
I always found it strange watching myself on TV appearances a few times through the years and I never got over seeing and/or hearing you outside yourself.

I enjoyed being on the show and I sure enjoy doing "radio" or the internet version of it more than television.
Radio features the spoken word and you have to pay attention to what the person is saying,where on television,it often is more important what the person looks like than what they are saying.
I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else,so I'm not trying to be holier than thou,I'm just saying it's easier to process things when you aren't distracted by the looks of the person.
In any event,thanks to R.L. for inviting me on the show,I had a blast doing it and I hope his listeners weren't too bored with my opinions on boxing!
Please check the show for the boxing thoughts or just to hear me ramble,so I get a return invite! Ha Ha!

It's always nice to know that someone thinks enough of your knowledge to be invited to speak and that alone makes me feel pretty good.

I hope to be back tomorrow with a On the Signing Front because the cards are overflowing and need to be reduced a bit!!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Robert Newhouse

Sorry to hear of the passing of my all-time favorite Dallas Cowboy Robert Newhouse at the age of 64 after a battle with heart disease.

Robert Newhouse was never the featured ball carrier on the Dallas powerhouse of the 1970's,but he was the toughest player on the field for those teams.
Newhouse was the fullback,so he blocked for the likes of Calvin Hill and later Tony Dorsett,but had he been a member of another team,he might been their bellwether back.
Newhouse was a star rusher at Houston in college before being the second round selection of the Cowboys in 1972 and with his hard running style could have been the star on some teams.

Instead,Newhouse blocked,caught passes and did the short yardage dirty work that good teams always seem to need and tough players seem to relish.
Newhouse was noted for the size of his thighs for a player,let alone a running back at an astonishing 44 inches,which easily were the largest in the league.
Tackling Robert Newhouse was once described as trying to tackle a rolling bowling ball and given his dimensions-I could certainly believe that.
Watching highlights of the Cowboys and Newhouse saw a player that never stopped pushing downfield and those films would show him taking shot after shot yet spinning forward and never stopping.
Just watching those hits would make one a Robert Newhouse fan,even if I wasn't a Cowboys fan.
I remember as a kid buying the seasonal Topps Football cards and drafting teams against my dad and always taking Robert Newhouse as my fullback.
Dad hated the Cowboys and I did too,but I'm not sure Dad ever understood how I could hate the Cowboys so much,yet love Robert Newhouse!
I would always tell him "wouldn't it be great if the Redskins (I rooted for them as a kid in the NFC) traded for Newhouse?".
He always would say "Tom Landry will never trade anyone to George Allen".

Newhouse's most remembered plays wasn't even a run-it was his long touchdown pass to Golden Richards in the Cowboys 27-10 win over the Broncos in the 1978 Super Bowl.
Watching the play,it's a strong throw as Newhouse rolled to his left and let it fly!

A few years ago when I was in a mailing frenzy over the winter sending cards,I sent some cards to my old favorite and sure enough a month later,all three cards back,signed by my childhood star.
Newhouse worked for the Cowboys in retirement and his son Reggie played a few years with the Cardinals in the late 90's before his health issues came to the forefront.

Best regards to his family for their loss and a final thank you for the great memories of watching Robert Newhouse play....

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cleaning out the ...Never mind..

The Cleveland Cavaliers must be close to a trade with Minnesota or someone else because there is no other reason for tonight's trade with the Utah Jazz other than to accumulate contracts to make a trade work under the salary cap.

The Cavaliers obtained three players,none of which averaged more than four points an outing last season,but all have contracts that would help a potential deal get done.
John Lucas III is the type of player that I actually wouldn't mind seeing the Cavaliers keep around as Lucas can run the point for 10 to 12 minutes a night and get you through some Kyrie Irving rest periods.
At the same time,guys like him can be signed at almost anytime,so it wouldn't be a huge loss.
The other two players are forwards that rarely played in Malcolm Thomas (8 games between the Spurs and Jazz) and Eric Murphy (24 games with the Bulls).
Both fill the power forward role,but would likely be the largest towel waver on the bench for a good team....

Cleveland traded Carrick Felix,who the team picked in the second round in the 2013 draft,a future second rounder and a cool one million dollars to the Jazz in obtaining the above three.
Felix spent time in Canton with the Cavaliers D-League squad and battled injuries as he played just seven games in Cleveland.
Felix might develop into a defensive type or could just as easily never be heard from again,so he appears to be just another player.
The second round pick is part of the price of doing business and the money?
Well,Dan Gilbert ,for all of his mistakes, has never been afraid to spend dollars,let alone a million.

Clearly,this is a deal that was made to lead to another deal,most likely Minnesota and Kevin Love,but it isn't out of the question that it could be another deal in the making.
If the Cavaliers cannot land Love,the need for a big man still exists,so one way or another -Cleveland should be making a trade.
The team cannot enter another year depending on injury-prone Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson as the main bigs up front.
LeBron James or not,that is not a championship level frontline.

Tonight's deal looks small on the surface,but it clears the decks to make a big deal work and that deal will be the once that will tell the tale of the Cavaliers true title hopes....

If you believe-we put a man on the moon?

I know that most of the country is saturated with notes on the 45th anniversary of the first Apollo moon mission and I myself have been reading non-stop tweets as a "live in flight" play by play by space historian Amy Shira Teitel (If space history interests you, you REALLY need to follow her on Twitter),so for a few days,manned space flight is back in the news.

Of course,it will shortly retreat back into the pages of history for another five years when the Armstrong/Aldrin/Collins team will return to the news for the big 5 0, for non stop looks back,very similar to all the JFK retrospectives that were on seemingly every network last November.
It really shouldn't though.
I would go further and add this-I wish that every person that mildly cares about anything would get off their duff and wonder why was this the end of manned space exploration?

I blame every President for this decision.
Richard Nixon killed off Apollo,but every President since-Democrat or Republican,has had opportunities to revive manned space and it just doesn't happen.
We not only should be on Mars right now,we should have been there for years and built the beginnings of bases for even further exploration!
I know this kinda sounds like a poor movie on the Sci-Fi like Sharknado,but hear me out.
If technology that had less power than the PC that I am typing on could take us to the moon,imagine what 42 years (date since last Apollo mission) could have done?
Sure,the shuttle did a few things in space like renting a vehicle to move your stuff and the space station has its advantages too,but neither were broad strokes of imagination to really get things moving towards the future.
Trust me,the future isn't today,tomorrow or 50 years from now,but eventually there will be a reason to move on and it's never too early to start.
Just as I think that we need to invest more money into having a plan to defend against a catastrophic meteor hit (no,I didn't watch Deep Impact last night),I think an investment in exploration is a excellent one.
I'm not against private exploration,in fact I applaud the idea,but imagine what could be accomplished with the backing of world governments pouring money into the plans and then the people that would be put to work on it?!
That would be huge for not just the program,but for the economies of participating areas.
Now,I know there are people that are against funding from both sides of the political aisle as one side says that there are better things to spend money on and the other would rather not spend money on anything,but I beg differently.

Imagination brings things only thought of to life,isn't there room for a little imagination in our world?
Especially when it eventually will mean so much?

Back later with more

Monday, July 21, 2014

Forgotten Superstars: Buck Williams

 We return to the Forgotten Superstars universe with a glance at an all-time Maryland great and one of the most underrated players of his time-Buck Williams.

Buck Williams was an all-star level player with the then-New Jersey Nets after being drafted third overall in the 1981 draft before being more of a rebounding/defensive specialist in Portland and with the New York Knicks to round out his career.
Williams entered the draft after making the 1980 Olympic team, which was the one that boycotted the games (what a waste) in Moscow due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The 6'8 Williams was the classic power forward, although he often played the pivot against larger players as he was able to use his strength and underrated quickness to adapt to the larger centers in the game.
Buck also was a better scorer than people give him credit for as he averaged 18 pts a game on three different occasions as a Net and never lower than 13 ppg, which only happened once.

As good as Buck Williams was as a pro, I'll always remember him as the workhorse center on the Maryland teams that he played for.
Buck used to give the lanky 7'4 Ralph Sampson of Virginia fits on the block as Sampson couldn't push him off, yet Buck was quick enough to keep the lighter player from taking him outside the paint.
Those Maryland teams never got outside the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament with Buck, Albert King, and Ernie Graham, but they did win two ACC regular-season titles and lost two ACC Tournament finals by one point each to Duke and North Carolina.

Back then, the ACC Tournament meant almost as much as the Final Four did because it was the teams in your backyard.
The league had just added Georgia Tech and was years away from adding Florida State, let alone the other schools that watered down the league to this day.
The 1981 loss to UNC was just another tough loss to Dean Smith that you learned to live with as a Terrapin fan, but the 1980 loss to Duke?
Ah, well that was one that kills me to this day even as my Terrapin fanhood burns dry as they move to the Big 10...

With Bill Foster-led Duke (No Coach K yet) leading by one, but Maryland possessing the ball for the game's final shot, Albert King, and his sweet jumper let fly from 17 feet.
King's shot fell a little short but hung around on the rim, however, as usual, Buck Williams had inside position and was ready to tip that shot in giving Maryland and Lefty Driesell that long-awaited ACC tourney title.
However, the typical officiating bias that favored the North Carolina schools came into play as Duke's Kenny Dennard undercut Williams, sending him crashing to the floor.
No tip-in. No call.No title.

In my opinion-the worst call in ACC history.
Period. How that couldn't be called is beyond me and when you hear the stories about the Carolina teams being favored in the league-they aren't just stories, they are true.
Back then, it was Carolina 1st, followed by the rest (since then Duke and Carolina get the most) of the North Carolina schools, but it was tough being a Maryland, Virginia, or Clemson fan being outnumbered and watching this stuff every week.
I only wish I could find a YouTube of this play, but I bet the above picture tells you all you need to know.

Still, Buck Williams might have been the best big man in Maryland school history and that says a lot even if the Terrapins logs did not have a large number of centers at the top of the list.
We welcome Buck Williams to the Forgotten Superstars universe and thank him for all the memories for this aging Terrapin fan... 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Picking the best

Sitting around the house yesterday with the lovely Cherie on a slow sports day and little to do,I asked her what she would rank as the best local food stops,if someone was offering her a free gift card to eat at the place of her choice.
Since this is still a slow sports day,I figured that I would jump in and add some thoughts.
Keep in mind that these ratings are only for the local area and do not include chains or stops outside the area....

Fast Food: Five Guys.
Five Guys is the best fast food burger in the area bar none.
Five Guys is a little pricey for the genre',but there is zero comparison vs the McDonald's of the world....
I've yet to try the Hagerstown Sonic and Checkers in Hagerstown just once.
Those two establishments managed to put themselves in the worst possible place for me to drive to in town.
Just a hated and awkward drive from my house to that area.

Subs: Earl's Market.
In a stunning upset over the usual titans of local subs Hartles and Freddie's,I gave Earl's a try on the word of my friend,Denise and it was well worth the time.
I had always thought that the big two couldn't be touched,but I was wrong.
Give Earl's in State Line PA a shot and watch the powerhouses move over and make space..

Pizza: King's New York Pizza
Keep in mind that I consider the local pizza to be an inferior product,but I give King's the edge over the field.
I like to patronize local shops,but pizza is a tough sell in a house that features the guy paying for it liking supreme and Rachel's preference for Cheese or Pepperoni on the odd racy day.
King's has a solid enough pizza to nose out Ledo's and the lesser quality,but cheaper Papa Johns to win the category under the restrictions of this contest...

Steakhouse: Longhorn Steakhouse
There are three that are pretty close in food quality,but Longhorn gets the edge for two reasons over Outback and Texas Roadhouse.
The first is that they have the atmosphere edge over the party style Roadhouse and the date happy Outback.
I prefer a quieter restaurant and Longhorn wins there.
The other? Longhorn serves lunch,the other pair doesn't open until four,so people like me can enjoy a meal in a yes-quieter atmosphere.
I don't think you can lose for the steak in any of the three places....

Chicken: Kentucky Fried Chicken
Since the market is limited to KFC and Popeye's-I give a huge edge to the Colonel.
It's stiff and if I am really in the mood,I'll drive to Chambersburg PA or Martinsburg WV for a KFC buffet,since the Hagerstown version does not offer that option.
Been a fan since I've been a kid and locally,I doubt I'll lose that anytime soon....

Sit down/Casual
I'm going to set a different dynamic for this as I will have a category that's a little more formal and a less formal winner as well...

More formal
Chicago UNO's;
It's not really that UNO's is a ton more formal than the other category,but I'll explain why when I get there.
UNO's noses out TGI Friday's by a hair as the last few times that I've been to Friday's have seen them gaining on the leader...

Less Formal
Buffalo Wild Wings
The category is more for the places that have TV's all over the place and a little more hectic paced.
I'm not totally against these places and BWW is my usual favorite.
Try the Wild Sauce for a wet mop wing (boneless for me) or Salt and Vinegar for a dry rub....

Ice Cream/Frozen treat:The Meadows
For years,this was owned by Rita's,but a late opening by their North End store and a closing of their South End shop cleared an opening for a new champ.
The Meadows has a great frozen custard and their italian ice was a surprisingly thicker version for someone used to Rita's with a very robust flavor.
Many have recommended Nutter's ice cream in Sharpsburg,but I've never tried it.
Perhaps in the future....

Chinese:Hong Kong Restaurant
Located literally down the street from me in a former Red Barn.
Hong Kong has the best takeout in town and when we eat in,a waitress that seemingly remembers every patron dating back to the Truman administration offers tips on what's good according to your past orders.
What a memory and great food as well.

What's that?
No local places offer a buffet and other places are just too expensive for what they offer this author.

Non-Chain restaurant: Red Byrd
Thanks to my friend Krista for reminding me of Red Byrd and their terrific chicken.
I've also enjoyed their liver and onions through the years.
The Keedysville location is a bit out of the way,but I've always loved the Red Byrd,which noses out two contenders in the Colonial,which is near the Hagerstown airport and Windy Hill in Clear Spring.
I've had great meals at all three of those places,so give any or all a chance!

I'm sure that your views might differ and they wouldn't be wrong!
I'll listen to all feedback!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cleaning out the inbox

The inbox isn't overflowing,but on a slow day (unless I want to comment on the 1,000 different rumored variations on Kevin Love coming to Cleveland),I figured I could keep things cleaned up.
These things tend to ebb and flow,so a clearing things out works for me....

The biggest news for me is that ESPN and the Canadian Football League have reached a multi-year agreement to televise games in the United States.
ESPN first exposed me to the CFL in the early 80's and the game has been important to me ever since.
Different networks have televised the league through the years and usually it covers lots of the early season games before the college year begins and then dwindles off.
ESPN will do things a bit differently with having ESPN3 online and although my Fred Flintstone speed internet likely won't be able to handle it,it's still a good move.
I was able to watch the Tiger-Cats and Stampeders last night from Calgary and despite a surprisingly dull game (a 10-7 Calgary win),I always enjoy the games.
The Grey Cup along with the Eastern and Western Finals will be televised and although I hope to see the Eastern and Western semis get a U.S. TV home-that is a really good start for a fun game to expose the northern style...

I've written often about my fondness for Strat O Matic baseball and here is a article from an author that credits Ryne Sandberg for winning a bet with his dad for the cash to pay for the most recent SOM season!
Sandberg's Saturday game of the week heroics is remembered by most fans of the Cubs that were alive then and that game is occasionally shown on MLB network.
I'm always a sucker for SOM stories especially from the time that I was living at home because I can really relate to the time and importance of the game.

A very poignant story on the struggles of the aging Y.A. Tittle as he struggles with dementia later in life.
The Hall of Famer is 87 now and the problems with anyone of the age is quite apparent as the author Seth Wickersham follows Tittle and his daughter through a trip home to Texas.
As someone that has recently had to deal with such a diagnosis,the article hit home with how these things not only affect the person but their surroundings as well.
I highly recommend the read.

We wrap up with an article by my favorite ESPN baseball author Christina Kahrl on Julio Teheran and his blossoming as the ace of the Atlanta rotation.
I've been a Teheran fan since seeing his low A debut against the Suns and quickly added him to my minor system in the next fantasy draft.
My best Teheran story though came off the field as I was still learning the ropes of graphing and watched in the parking lot as Julio signed what seemed to be 100 cards one day in Hagerstown.
Teheran had just one card and slowly signed Julio Teheran with every letter being clear (That changed as now Teheran is reported to sign JT) on every card and without a reply.
I assume that was due to a language issue,but I remember that quite vividly.
That's one reason that I give latin players somewhat of a pass on signing at the lower levels because often times,they simply struggle to communicate well due to being new to the English language.
I might be in the same boat in other countries....

Friday, July 18, 2014

46 arrives!

A few days late on this,but 46 arrived right on schedule on July 15 as expected.

Time defeats all things,but I have to be honest-it doesn't bother me all that much.
Being way overweight bugs me far more than getting older mainly because usually I don't feel old.

Don't get me wrong-I have had my days over the last year and I'm sure more of them are coming as I,well,age.
I don't feel old,but pulling a calf muscle running through a nasty thunderstorm in the Muni parking lot made me reconsider that stance and on a steamy Wilmington day for the Carolina League All-Star game made me feel like the picture in the attic of Dorian Gray as I wilted on concrete.
However,at the same time,I haven't had to invest in Just For Men quite yet!
That coach is arriving at the mound shortly for that soon,but that doesn't bother me much either.
I'm not a cosmetic person and that's a good thing at my size!
I would certainly like to weigh less,but more for long term health than anything visual.
After all,I have a lovely wife that says she wants me to live a long long life with her.
I even had a lady at work that was just hired tell me she thought I was close to her age (27) and no older than early 30's.
I think she was being nice because I don't see that.but sometimes being silly and immature must help you look younger!

I'm now officially closer to 50 than 40 and I feel pretty good about it.
I do need to try changing some physical things for long term maintenance and I've said that a lot through the years,but part of aging means more preventive care.
I suppose its like taking care of a car in that way,take care of it before hand and you just might get more use of the vehicle.
I need to do a better job of that,but mentally I feel great.
I'm not hung up on any of that age stuff and it's kinda cool in a way.
Recently,I was sitting around somewhere and heard a young lady say "wow,I love 80's music,it must have been so great living in those times".
It might be fun telling another two generations of people,my memories and thoughts of the past.
That's kinda what I do here,but it also means that I stuck around for a while and had even more experiences.
Not bad.
Not bad at all.

Time for me to take a quick walk.
After all as the cliche' goes-the longest journey starts with the first step.
Even if the finish line is just as far away as the starting block.....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cavaliers sign Mike Miller and James Jones

Before I get started,I'd like thank everyone for the birthday wishes and thoughts.
I plan on a 46th birthday post soon as I catch up on things.
Of late,it seems like when I am off work at this time of year that I struggle to find time in keeping this up and for that I apologize.

Well traveled sharpshooter and friend of LeBron Mike Miller will bring his outside shooting abilities to Cleveland after spending last season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Miller's departure from Miami before last season was reported to be one of the reasons that LeBron James was upset with the Heat as the Heat allowed Miller to leave in order to not pay the luxury tax for exceeding the salary limit.
The two year contract will pay Miller five and a half million and brings one of the best pure shooters in the game to Cleveland.
Miller is 34 years old,but if you spot his minutes correctly,Miller's shooting and underrated defense
is going to be a valuable role player in the Cleveland rotation...

The less publicized signed for the Cavaliers is a one year contract signed by James Jones for the minimum salary allowed by the league.
The 33 year old swingman brings another skilled outside shooter to the team,but has not completed a full season in the past three seasons as he played no more than 51 games in any of the three campaigns.
A healthy Jones gives Cleveland another three point capable weapon off the bench at a bargain rate,but I'm not getting too excited because I'm not convinced that he will stay healthy enough. the minimum rate,I'm fine with taking the risk..

Back later with more....

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Alvarez squeaks by Lara,Boxing Challenge

Canelo Alvarez grabbed a controversial split decision over Erislandy Lara in Las Vegas in a middleweight battle of the best two junior middleweights in the world.
I was at the road office,so I have no opinions on the matter,but the scores were divergent from the official scorecards to people watching the fight.
R.L. Malpica had Lara a wide winner,while Dan Rafael of ESPN saw Alvarez a clear victor.

In the boxing challenge,I gained one point on R.L. on the night and trimmed his lead to two at 53-51 as I earned six points on the evening to R.L's five.

I was able to get two points for calling the Alvarez win as a split decision with R.L. getting just one for the win.
R.L got two to my one for the Abner Mares unanimous decision over Jonathan Qquendo.

We both added two points for the Mauricio Herrera unanimous win over Johan Perez,while I added one for the Francisco Vargas knockout of Juan Manuel Lopez.
I picked Vargas to win a decision,while R.L. picked Lopez to win.....

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Boxing Challenge

Tonight's picks from the boxing challenge from Las Vegas.

Canelo Alvarez vs Erislandy Lara Middleweights 12 rds

R.L. Alvarez KO 8
TRS: Alvarez split decision

Abner Mares vs Jonathan Oquendo Featherweights 10 rds

R.L. Mares unanimous decision
TRS:Mares KO 7

Juan Manuel Lopez vs Francisco Vargas
Jr.Lightweights 10 rds
R.L.:Lopez KO 6
TRS:Vargas unanimous decision

Johan Perez vs Mauricio Herrera
Jr.Welterweights 12 rds
Both:Herrera unanimous decision

He's back! LeBron James returns to Cleveland

I never really thought it could happen until a few weeks ago, but things fell into place just as they needed to and LeBron James will be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When we place all the animosity aside and I've had plenty of it towards James on my own, in my opinion, this might eventually be one of the greatest sports stories ever.
If things fall right and when it comes to Cleveland sports, things rarely fall perfectly.
However, this looks like it could work.
There are still pieces to be moved around and I'll be discussing the basketball end in a future post, but this strikes me as someone that simply wanted to return and rectify mistakes that were made.

I am choosing to believe that LeBron James truly has realized the mistakes that he made four years ago and although it is easy to say that after winning two championships, but in his well-crafted response in announcing his return, I believe it's sincere.
Now it is the time to get past the past and move onto the goal-getting a world championship for the city of Cleveland, state of Ohio and the Cavaliers organization.

Perhaps I'm guilty of approving the return because I want to win.
Likely that's true, Cherie looks at this differently and she wants no part of a return.
I also think that there is something to be said for forgiving, but not least until the career of LeBron James ends.
Today, he took a step forward in the court of not only public opinion, but in the eyes of basketball historians but attempting to right a wrong and I'll be pulling for the Cavaliers and LeBron James.
After all-he plays for my team.....

Friday, July 11, 2014

Changes in scenery

My friend Krista posted a picture on Facebook as the Bester elementary school in Hagerstown is being torn down.
I never set foot inside Bester,which had two parts,one being a middle school originally dating back to the 1930's,but if you drove through Hagerstown's downtown going south to north,the odds were pretty good that you were familiar with the building.

It made me think of some of the other "new" perspectives that people my age have never seen before around the area.
I recently was riding around and suddenly thought "What the hell happened and where the hell am I?"
Where I was? the old Pangborn manufacturing plant that was being torn down,so instead of facing the building head on and then taking a gradual left turn parallel to the building and its brick facade.
Having spent several of our early married years living near Pangborn and taking Ryan to play at the park there,it was quite jarring to see the different view that saw you look straight back through a wooden area to the North End of town.

Another different view is the demolition of the former Manbeck Bread factory that had pretty much been a dormant eyesore for years.
Still after demolition,the view was different without something there that had been there always in my lifetime.
The larger difference was going north to south where you can now look diagonally and see from a never before seen angle.

Yet another one is in Williamsport where the Red Barron building has hit the ground in order to build a new (and badly needed) Sheetz for the community.
The Red Barron building dated back to the 19th century (So I've been told) and when you enter Williamsport via Hagerstown,you couldn't miss the building.
Now it features a view never seen before as they build the new Sheetz-straight through to "downtown" Williamsport .

One of the most fun reads that I have ever looked at was a coffee table book titled Cleveland then and now,which showed pictures of areas in Cleveland over a 100 year interval.
It was really neat to see the changes and what was there before.
I admit that it's more interesting today to see after a demolition than it is to see a new building in an old slot,but it's still cool to think about as time marches on.

I wonder how my kids will feel 40 years from now as buildings that have always been there for them are razed and what they will think.
I remember things like Wesel Blvd.being nothing but a wooded area without a road or the days when other than drug stores or 7-11's nothing was allowed to be open locally on a Sunday or when Long Meadow shopping center was the fresh shopping spot in town,what will their thoughts be?

Interesting things to think as time marches on...

Photo Credit;Krista Anderson

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Devils sign Cory Schneider to seven year deal.

The New Jersey Devils answered the questions that arose when the team acquired Cory Schneider from Vancouver on draft day 2013.
Would the Devils be able to sign Schneider long term and would he be happy in New Jersey?

Apparently,the answer was yes to both questions as New Jersey signed Schneider to a seven year contract worth 42 million dollars and should keep the twenty eight year old netminder in the crease for the remainder of Schneider's prime.

The deal will pay Schneider six million dollars in each of the seven years and contains a no trade clause so the Devils have committed to Schneider for the long haul and essentially have made him the face of the franchise for the term of the contract.

Give the Devils credit when they shipped a top ten draft choice to Vancouver for Schneider and two years remaining on his contract that they gambled that they could re-sign him.
That gamble paid off,now the question is this-Is Cory Schneider the type of goalie that you can plug into the lineup as a number one for years and not worry about the net?
I think so,but Schneider has never been the full time guy before,so I guess that is the next portion of the Devils shell game.
If he is,the Devils can address other needs over the next seven years.
If he isn't,then the team has paid a lot of money that will take up cap room and not settle the position.

I wish the deal had been a little shorter (5 yrs would have been better),but the Devils rarely negotiate contracts during the season,so getting it done now and eliminating the distraction is a good thing.
The biggest question now is who backs Schneider up?
Scott Clemmensen or Keith Kinkaid looms as the most interesting battle of the training camp and I'd rather write about that than will Cory Schneider re-sign articles.

The Devils might have another move in store before the camp,but I imagine that the heavy lifting is finished for the off season.
Now the question becomes-Have they done enough to return to the playoffs?
See you in October....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Missing Teddy

One year ago tonight, we lost our little buddy Teddy after a game between the Suns and the visiting Hickory Crawdads.
We came home from the game and he needed help.
After a trip to the 24-7 Vet, Teddy was gone as I had to make the toughest decision that pet owners have to make.
More about that night can be found here, but I wanted to write about life without Teddy a year later...

He's missed.
Simplistic, I'm sure, but the house just isn't the house without him.
It's just not the same without that face waiting for me when I come home from work or a ballgame or a trip to the store.
Ed's been helpful, but it's just not the same.
I don't have the little guy hopping up on a couch to lay with me or the running to get tossed popcorn or whatever food item I happened to have at that time and that makes me smile just thinking about it...

We still have not brought home another dog and I'm still not in a hurry to do so.
We have looked around the net a time or two but just haven't been sparked enough to make any movement.
Cherie says she's not sure about another dog with the house eventually being just the two of us.
She thinks that could be a problem when we go away, but I disagree.
When both kids are gone, a dog would be a great bridge to avoid the empty nest syndrome, but that's neither here nor there because in any case, it won't be Teddy.

Loss never is easier to take and the saying "time heals all wounds" just isn't so.
It still hurts a year later and I bet it always hurts.
The loss in my life is beyond words.
I don't think non-pet owners can ever really understand the connection that can happen sometimes.
Not always, I can think of plenty of pet owners that never quite get there and that doesn't make things bad-we don't connect with every family member in our life now do we?
I remember talking about Teddy to Kendall Morris and he said something that stayed with me.
Kendall's family had bought a dog over the previous year or two and he said "I never understood people with a dog or cat and how they took things so personally-Now I do".

I think of my pal every day over the last year and it sometimes makes me laugh, smile, and sometimes even worse.
The time we spent together, I wouldn't trade for anything and his passing cannot take that away.
My religious views are well known, but I'd like to think that my pal is spending his time right now waiting for me at a special back door.

I miss you and I hope to eventually see you again...

Back later with the Devils reaching a contract with Cory Schneider, I just felt that this was more important for me to get down on "paper",... 

Cleveland clears cap space

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their relentless charge to bring LeBron James back to Cleveland as the team today culled some space on the salary cap in a three way deal with the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics that can only be looked at as making space to entice James.

The Cavaliers swapped veteran point guard Jarrett Jack and 2014 first rounder Sergei Karasev to the Nets,while sending 2013 first rounder Tyler Zeller along with the team's 2016 first rounder (protected from lottery) to the Celtics while Cleveland received the rights to three players that have never played in the NBA and one that hasn't even played in Europe in years.
Cleveland could pull in a future second round draft pick,if certain conditions were met,but that is likely to be a moot point.

The deal was made to create space to attract LeBron James and if he indeed is returning to Cleveland with the space made by this deal,then it was a successful trade.
However,if this has been another attention seeking maneuver by James and he stays in Miami-the Cleveland Cavaliers traded two first round picks that are nice role players (Zeller) and one (Karasev) with the possible potential to be an off the bench scorer that all teams seem to have for essentially cap space to attract players that likely would not be coming to town.-this could loom as a huge mistake.
The Cavaliers are all in and I suppose Karasev and Zeller might be worth the risk of losing to add James.
I know Jarrett Jack is worth losing as Jack was overpaid and underproducing in his one year in Cleveland and veteran PG types are a dime a dozen in this league.

Give the Cavaliers credit for being in the race in a battle that would have never been imagined a few years ago and I'll easily do that,but deals like this and other rumored (Please-NO moving Andrew Wiggins!) are risks that we will have to wait and see whether they were worth it or not.

I'll be back later tonight with a special post.....

Power Outages and why they "suck"

An interesting day from the world headquarters as it started strong,had issues and then finished better to conclude the day.

The title is a paraphrase from my neighbor,who so eloquently offered her thoughts on power outages.
After a great start with a great sub (more on that on a future slow day),seeing the lovely Cherie and I's friend Denise there and finding some more pepper plants to place in Pepper Land MD,the day was pretty good as I sat at the Muni waiting for the Lakewood Blue Claws,so I could finish their team set.

The graphers with Derreck and I swapped various forecasts for an impending storms arrival when suddenly my phone rang.
Yes,I know most of you don't even know I have a cell phone-that is how seldom I use it,but it rang to Derreck's amazement and Cherie told me it was pouring rain at our house.
We live just a few minutes (as in maybe 3 or 4 by car) and it was literally the calm before the storm at the Muni.
I'm sure anyone knows the feeling before a storm when the skies get dark,yet the wind stops and the eerie calmness arrives.
I was able to trek to the back grandstand before hearing Cherie utter "OH MY GOSH,OH MY GOSH,I HAVE TO GO".
It was a very unsettling feeling being so far away and helpless and by the time we reached the other end of the grandstand,the storm had arrived and I limped to Derreck's car in the downpour.
Derreck graciously took me home and all was well except no power.
We would have no power for the next 3 or so hours,except for a brief respite of a few minutes in between.

One never realizes how much comfort that we have until the power goes out.
No cooling,no television,internet etc.
It really makes you think how pampered we are-me included.
Nothing seems to make the clock tick slower than having little to pass the time.
I brought out the Strat O Matic cards and played two games of the Giants 1971 season as they took both games from the Cardinals to have something to do as the one advantage was that it was at least daylight available to play and later read (started the Long Season) as well.
I'm sure that I would have gotten by in the non-electric times,which my wife seems to romanticize,and you deal with the hand that you've been dealt,but for all the nostalgia that I have for the past-I don't have a fondness for the days of limited power.
As my dimwitted neighbor says "This sucks".

For the record,we eventually killed the times by going to the Muni anyway and catching a few innings of a Suns win.
Amazingly,the game was played!
If you have been there for a hard rain,you would know just how amazing that was!

Back later with more!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

On the Signing Front-Mini Version

A mini version of the signing front today as time is short yet the pile needs to be shaved down a bit....

The Asheville Tourists hit Hagerstown and so did the graphers as the Tourists are the only chance to graph the only Colorado Rockies affiliate on the East Coast.
Sadly,there was no appearance by first rounder Jonathan Gray,who was assigned to AA,but there were some interesting players in Asheville.

David Dahl returned after an injury filled 2013 and being killed by graphers last season in street clothes in Hagerstown in Asheville's last season trip here.
Dahl wasn't quite as accommodating in the 2014 run,but still signed 3 and I was able to get him on both of his top 100's,so I was happy enough!

Ryan McMahon was another highly thought of prospect that signed for me and chatted a bit as was Correlle Prime.
Prime has one of the better signatures that I've seen this season.
19 year old shortstop Emerson Jimenez,powerhitting catcher Jose Briceno and pitcher Johendi Jiminian were other top 30 Rockies prospects to make it into the collection.
Former White Sox catcher Marv Foley was traveling with the team as a roving instructor and I was able to get Foley on two cards.
Thanks to Corey Cunningham for running down to the dugout to get Foley as I continued to work on the Tourists....

I also continued to work on the Suns during the series as I was able to add roving instructor Gary Thurman on his Donruss "The Rookies" and Suns ace Lucas Giolito on his Bowman Blue Mini.
I also nabbed Nick Pivetta on his Suns card before he started personalizing....
A few words on personalizing.
I love personalizing on pictures,I think it adds a lot to the picture and since I don't sell my stuff anyway,it doesn't bother me a bit.
However,as much as I love it on bigger items,that's how much I dislike it on cards.
Why? Well,mainly because of the smaller surface area,there just isn't much room for a "to Shawn" and then the signature.It tends to looks cluttered and junky.
The player can sign however they want,they are doing me the favor,but just stating an opinion on the eventual look of the item...

Derreck and I were accompanied by our good friend Tracy for a trip to Reading for the Trenton Thunder,the Yankees AA affiliate.
You never know what you are going to get with a Yankee team and the bag was mixed this time.
The team had three top 100's with Tyler Austin,Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams and I went 1 for 3 as Austin signed,but a miss with the other two.
Supposedly,both Sanchez and Williams signed getting on the bus,but Derreck had to be at work,so we had to leave at an appointed time.
The bad part was that Derreck was still late as we took an hour to reach the interstate (usually about 15 minutes) due to road construction.
Derreck asked Williams to sign earlier and was told "I ain't got time for that".
Good thing too,because his average fell to .200 later in the game.

I did get a few nice signatures though.
The best was catcher Peter O'Brien (very nice),Taylor Garrison and Taylor Dugas along Robert Refsnyder,who was very surly before the game,but nice after in a bi-polar way.
It happens with competitors sometimes,I suppose.
Former Tiger and current coach Marcus Thames signed,but not before ruining my sharpie by dropping it on the point and shoving it into the pen.
Occupational hazard! HA HA!

That ends the short version of the signing front,buying me a little room before a larger next update.
Until then,keep the sharpies inked!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Jim Brosnan and my love of the written word

I was sorry to hear of the death of Jim Brosnan earlier this week at the age of 84.
Brosnan was an average reliever for the Cubs,Cardinals,Reds and White Sox in the late 1950's and early 60's and was best known on the field for his 1961 season as the "fireman" for the surprise National League titlist Reds.

Off the field,Brosnan was best known for his two books released during his career-diaries of the 1959 season,"The Long Season" and "Pennant Race,Brosnan's look at the miracle run of the 1961 Reds.
Brosnan's book were the first real look at the inside of baseball and were predictably bashed by many in the game.
Brosnan's book were a little more whitewashed than later books,most notably Jim Bouton's Ball Four as Brosnan deleted any talk on sexual issues and Brosnan cleaned up much of the language of the locker room to tame the subject a bit,but the books never seem to be sifted through by censor.
Brosnan simply took out things that he didn't feel was needed for any potential young readers to read and I can respect that decision.

Brosnan wrote an inside the game look that could be read by all ages and I loved reading those books,yet I didn't actually own them until a reprint a few years back.
Brosnan told the truth and named names,which is half the fun of reading such books.
I remember reading the Dirk Hayhurst minor league diary and being disappointed because he created pseudonyms for players.
I understand the wanting to have players keep some privacy,but by not doing so,Hayhurst took away the readers potential connection to the subject and his work suffered for it.
Brosnan didn't and like Bouton,you feel a connection from the word for players that are represented by just a statistic or a baseball card.
As a result,you feel like you "know" the manager with a bias like Solly Hemus or a player that isn't your kind of guy like Fred Talbot or even Brosnan or Bouton themselves for being more intellectual than most in the game.
Baseball,for all the fun it can be,is still a job to be worked at,like we all have and whenever there is a job to do and you don't control all the surroundings,there will be people that you don't always like.
Brosnan's book was the first one that show baseball as just another job and opening that up made people feel closer to the game (at least for a while until salaries went out of control for the average person) and look at them as real people,not just people on card.

One side effect of reading Brosnan's book and later Bouton was me getting very excited about getting common cards of players that were on teams that were featured in those books.
Few of those players were stars as the only one's that come to mind in Long Season or Pennant Race were Stan Musial and Frank Robinson,but I remember being thrilled finding cards of players like Joey Jay and Marshall Bridges just because of their appearances in the book,let alone if I could find an actual Brosnan or Bouton card!

Jim Brosnan stepped into my life as a young child with these books from the library.
I bet I checked those books along with Jim Bouton's more times than I can count.
My family emphasized reading without telling me what to read,so from day one,my love of reading allowed me to gravitate towards sports,which was the one thing that I had in common with my father.
Looking back,whether I realized it or not,I was searching for something to be able to have in common with a man that was often at work or emotionally unavailable and sports was the only avenue that I had.
Don't get me wrong,I love the games or I wouldn't be doing this today,but there has always been more to me than just sports and I haven't always done a sterling job of letting people know that.
I mean,I've always prided myself on being multi-dimensional,yet often unless I get to be good friends with someone,the easy way is to just look at me as a sports guy.
I've always loved reading not just sports though.
I also love biography,history,space,politics and the list goes on as my enjoyment of reading has never stopped.
Reading has always been a friend to me,a friend that is always available and only leaves me when I'm dumb enough to not bring something to read.
I wonder if the next few generations will have the same attachments to reading when so much will be digital?

Jim Brosnan's books capture a period of time in baseball history as the time begins to turn towards the more modern ballplayer,yet they still show that no matter the time period,this game is still played by people of a certain age and no matter the advances in the social world,people of that age group is still a certain type of person-often untouched by failure and filled with the answers that only age makes one realize is truly fools gold.
I think I'm up for re-reading,even if you aren't a baseball fan,maybe you might enjoy it too.
Even if it's just for the time holding a book in your hand.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Grading the circuit-Frederick Keys

Today is the start of an occasional series that will look at what I like and dislike on the various stops on my travels on the minor league baseball circuit.
Future post will deal with Hagerstown,Harrisburg,Reading and Altoona along with possibly others,but today we will start with the Frederick Keys.

The Keys have usually been the gold standard in my experiences from top to bottom through the years and they continue to lead in most areas.
Frederick is easy to graph at,as I've noted in the past and the park offers easy access to the field at any spot on the concourse.
The park is beginning to show its age a bit,but still offers a close view to the field and was among the first of the 90's parks to offer a view of the game while waiting in line at a concession stand.
Now,many parks have more stands or have television's showing the game while you wait,but Frederick still has the advantage of simply turning around to watch the game.
The lines usually go slow as the team won't be able to add lines until the day comes that the team is able to add some areas for renovation to Harry Grove Stadium,but at least you can watch while you wait.

The Keys also get high marks for the lack of obnoxious games that used to be a staple in Hagerstown (More on them on the Suns post) and when they do play various on field games,the microphone isn't turned on high and drown out every persons conversations.
I understand that the casual fan is the fan that teams have to draw from to make money,but the Keys also seem to get that baseball is the draw and that leads to a toned down experience that allows everyone to enjoy the game and the entertainment surrounding it.

Harry Grove is a solid park to watch a game at,nothing spectacular,but solid.
I wish that the Grove had an outfield area to sit as stadiums that have that tend to spread the crowds out a bit,but it is what is and there really isn't what I would say is a bad seat in the place.
The sightlines are good and the seats are close to the field,so you'll enjoy your game viewing,but pay attention-foul balls tend to get to the stands FAST and more than once,I've seen fans get smoked by foul shots.
Two times,I've seen fans leave via ambulance so please pay attention to the game,even if just enough to know where the ball is going.

The Keys usually get top marks for customer service too.
The employees in the ticket office are quite accommodating and the front office folks are helpful as well.
I only added the word usually because of a bad experience with a Keys usher at a recent game was my first bad one ever in Frederick.
I'm not going to give play by play of this experience,but suffice it to say "Daniel" won't be winning any All-Usher team spots any time soon.
Frederick is not alone with this as one of the regular stops has constant issues with rude and downright mean ushers as we will discuss this when we reach that particular team.
I'll never understand why ,with the importance of customer service, that teams employ these types.
But it's just our opinion and if you have one problem over eight or nine years,that's a pretty good ratio for the Frederick Keys when you consider how many games I get to.

The Frederick Keys do a good job and I rank the Keys experience near or at the top of the teams that I see regularly.
I'll be ranking these in order as we go along so as you read a new post,I'll have the new rankings.

1) Frederick Keys

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cavaliers lock up Kyrie Irving.

The Cleveland Cavaliers locked up their franchise player as Kyrie Irving accepted the team's maximum contract offer of five years and 90 million for a extension adding to this season,which is the final year under Irving's original rookie contract.

Irving's commitment to Cleveland allows new GM David Griffin to build the franchise around the skills of Irving without the worry of Irving packing up and leaving town at the end of the upcoming season.

The process began with the drafting of Andrew Wiggins,who I think will mesh very nicely with the skills of Irving,will continue with the free agency period as the Cavaliers are rumored to be preparing offers for several players,although which one depends on what you read (I'm hoping for Gordon Hayward of the Jazz,myself) and might end in a trade,if not two.
The person that might be most likely to leave in a trade might be Dion Waiters,who despite being an explosive offensive player has not been able to work well with Irving when both players are on the floor at the same time.
Waiters has been productive enough that he might bring a nice piece to the Cleveland puzzle or perhaps a future number one pick depending on the trade partner.

Kyrie Irving's biggest problem has been health as his 71 games last season was his highest in his three seasons by the lake and that means that he still missed 11 games.
Irving's durability issues goes all the way back to his lone season at Duke,so this is nothing new or a one season aberration,but the Cavaliers are forced to live with them.
Kyrie Irving will have to be the focal point of the Cleveland organization,at least until Andrew Wiggins matures, and this contract allows the Cavaliers to know that he is locked as said focal point.
Now the biggest issues are these-Can the Cavaliers surround Irving with the talent that every team needs to succeed? Can Irving thrive as the franchise player or would he be better suited as the second best player on a contending team?

I don't have the answers to either of those questions,but I do think that this deal was a no-brainer for the Cavaliers.
They had to show that they could keep the star player (s) around after that certain someone took his talents south and that forced their hand,although Irving's performance certainly warranted a contract such as this.

The rebuild continues with two foundation stones in Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins,now the time is here to see how Cleveland is able to add to the foundation.....