Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cleaning out the inbox

We start with a cleaning of the inbox with the passing of one of the stars and characters of the American Basketball Association.

Marvin "Bad News" Barnes passed away after a long and often "spirited"life at the age of 62.
Barnes led Providence to the 1973 Final Four and then signed a large contract with the Spirits (get the pun) of St.Louis of the ABA,where he won Rookie of the Year,averaged 24 points a game and lifted the Spirits to one of the greatest upsets in ABA playoff history over the New York Nets and a fellow named Julius Erving.

Barnes had the postup game at 6'9 to succeed,but yet was one of the forerunners of today's power forwards with enough speed and athleticism to run the floor.
Barnes had led Providence to a double digit lead over Memphis State in the NCAA semis before a injury to Barnes ended his evening and allowed a comeback that ended the Friars season before a possible meeting against Bill Walton and UCLA in the finals.

Barnes was a high pick in the ABA dispersal draft by Detroit,but the player in the ABA never transferred to the NBA,playing with the Pistons,Celtics,Buffalo Braves and the Braves successors-the San Diego (now Los Angeles Clippers) and Barnes became better known for off court trangressions than what he did on the floor.
The Marvin Barnes stories are those of legend and for more on Barnes and the ABA,I could not recommend more Terry Pluto's oral history of the ABA-Loose Balls which is a fun read for not only basketball fans,but even the non-sports fan....

The reigning Peregrine Falcon queen of the Terminal Tower in Cleveland ended in a death last week as SW was found dead after apparently losing her "spot" to a deposed falcon that lost her home to the demolition of the Inner Belt Bridge.
SW had raised 38 chicks through her 12 year term at the top of the Tower with three different mates and had battled through various injuries.
The speedy falcon is able to do well in large cities with the abundance of spaces to nest and the small birds to feast on allow plenty of food as well.

Former Ohio congressman James Traficant passed away at the age of 73 after the tractor he was driving turned over and fell on him after some heart conditions while driving.
The eccentric Representative had been known for his crazy hairstyle (later revealed to be a toupee'),his rambling speeches on the floor of Congress and his using of the Star Trek phrase "Beam me up" at the conclusion of his speeches.
As entertaining as his speeches were and his populist rants often hit home,Traficant wasn't always warm and fuzzy as he was expelled from Congress and convicted of racketeering,bribery and fraud.
The former Pitt quarterback that was teammates with Mike Ditka would attempt a political comeback after seven years in prison,but would only receive ten percent of the vote in an try for his old seat in Washington.

Hardball Times hammers one out of the park with an article on small town baseball in the minors in Elizabethton TN, with the Elizabethton Twins and their consistent success in the Appalachian League.
The story talks about the development of players through the years,small town baseball and famous players that have been through town.
The Twins only have one rookie league (as do the Braves) and as a result those two teams are generally the bullies of the league....

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Buckeyes fight off Cincinnati 50-28

Ohio State was looked at as being a possible upset victim going into their game against Cincinnati,but instead it was like a bunch of older kids playing a team of younger ones.
Often times,such games end in a long lead,then relaxed play tightens the game and then once the team gets back into the swing of things,the game is salted away.
That was what the Buckeyes 50-28 win over the Bearcats was like.
A 30-7 lead was tightened to as close as 33-28 before a final flurry produced the final.
J..T. Barrett threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns while Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 182 yards and a score.
The now 3-1 Buckeyes being conference play next week against the Maryland Terrapins in College Park.....

Olentangy Offerings

1) Ohio State set a record for first downs in a game with 45.
That broke a record from 1935 against Drake.
When you get 45 first downs,your offense is running smoothly and that's a good sign unless the Cincinnati is made up of little kids....

2) J,T.Barrett looked as comfortable as you could have hoped for throwing  the football.
Barrett might be coming into his own as a passer and just might get the Buckeyes through this season yet...

3) As good as Barrett played,Ezekiel Elliott was the player of the game.
Elliott reminded me of Carlos Hyde as he simply moved the chains and with 182 yards and a long run of 14 yards,that's what a running back can do.
He may not have breakaway speed,but Elliott is the type of game that you can win games with...

4) The co-hit of the game?
Joey Bosa's crunching of Gunner Kiel that saw the ball fly ten yards backwards and then batted out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Joey Bosa is a monster.

5) Anthony Schlagel's hit early in the game.
Anthony Schlagel?
Yep,the former Buckeye linebacker that played eight or nine years ago and is now the team strength coach drilled some dum dum that decided to run around the field.
Reminded me of Mike Curtis nailed a dum dum in Baltimore when I was a kid...

6) Give full credit to the offensive line that so many (including me) have had questions about.
They kept the pocket clean and opened holes for the running game,which gives me some hope for Big Ten play...

7) Downside-I still don't feel Luke Fickel as defensive coordinator.
The big plays that the Buckeyes allowed were based a lot on scheme and could be been on Fickel as much as the players.

8) I like Vonn Bell and think he has plenty of talent,but he is starting to remind me of Bradley Roby and that's not a good thing.
Roby was never a favorite of mine and Bell is beginning to show a tendency to give up the big play.

9) Three passing touchdowns against the defense of 60 yards or more.
The vulnerability is there,can any of the conference opponents take advantage of it?

10) Back to back games welcoming the newbies to the league.
Would be nice to teach them early what it is like to battle the bully of the league and set precedent for the way things are going to be....

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cavaliers trade Keith Bogans

The Cleveland Cavaliers did not hold onto swingman Keith Bogans very long as the team swung Bogans to the Philadelphia 76ers along with a 2018 second rounder in return for another protected second rounder and most importantly,a 5.3 million trade exception to be used in a trade later this season.
This could have been in the works from the start as Bogans never arrived in Cleveland to meet the media,so he could have been tipped off from the start.
I also (in hindsight) never saw a Bogans tweet on the trade,so that looks like a prepared deal with the Sixers as well..

The loss of Bogans is not a huge one,but I did find it interesting that the team acted so quickly in obtaining a trade exception rather that seeing what Bogans had left in the tank and using Bogans expiring salary with that of Brendan Haywood and obtaining a possible star level player for the 2015-16 season.
That plan is now not possible after this trade,but the option for improving the team is still there through the exception.

Cleveland also will more than likely avoid paying the salary cap penalty for exceeding the cap without the contract of Bogans so I would say that had more than a little to do with this decision,

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM returns after a strong week.
Not a great stretch of games with Texas Tech playing on Thursday and the only game with two ranked teams on the same day.

Ohio State over Cincinnati 27-23
Bowling Green over UMass 34-20
Stanford over Washington 31-26
Boise State over Air Force 32-19

Game of the Week
Texas A&M over Arkansas 45-19

Saints over Cowboys 35-26
Game of the Week
Eagles over 49ers 29-26

Last Week:7-1
Overall: 22-8

Friday, September 26, 2014

Television Tryouts!

As long time readers know,I usually scan the new television shows and catch a few that for one reason or another have appeal for me to try.
It can be the premise,star or even genre to get me to try shows and usually I'll give each show three or four weeks to cement my viewerships.
Some stick for the long term,some stick for the short term and then fall by the wayside when I miss a few episodes and some just don't make it at all...

This year its four (Editor's Note-now Five) and I'll get back to you in which makes the cut in a month or so.

Madam Secretary-Sundays CBS.
This is a politically based show from the White House and I am a political junkie.
However,I never bothered with the West Wing,so this makes the tryout camp for one reason-Tea' Leoni,who I would wager that I rank at the top of her most loyal fan list.
Hell,I sat through the godawful Spanglish,didn't I?
We will see if the star power of Tea' Leoni can be enough to make this a TRS winner...

Gotham-Mondays Fox
This is a Batman "prequel" based around future Commissioner Gordon as a crime show and with some Batman track record tossed in.
Seems interesting as a comics fan and with Donal Logue (loved Life and Terriers with Logue as a co-star) as detective Harvey Bullock,Gotham was worth a few shows....

Scorpion-Mondays CBS
Scorpion is a show that looks like a team filled with geniuses that will fight crimes around the world yet cannot normally function in the everyday world.
Of the four shows on the surface,this looks like the one that is most likely to not make my cut.

This one revolves around a medical examiner who is immortal and deals with the curse of such.
Only one person knows his secret (Judd Hirsch? LOU?) and he has another fellow with a similar problem chasing him too..
This show is likely the show that gets cut first as ABC has programmed it against the terrific Person of Interest on CBS and I would wager that the person that might like Forever may never give a chance because of already watching POI.

Editors Note-Late addition AKA I forgot
NCIS New Orleans-Tuesdays CBS
I don't watch either of the NCIS shows,but this one has appeal as Cherie and I were both huge fans of Quantum Leap and Scott Bakula.
Being that Bakula is the center of this series,I think this will be keeping itself around along with the convenience of being on right before Person of Interest.
As long as Cherie can handle "Sam Beckett" being another character,that is...

I'll try to be back in a month and give a report on the results...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cavaliers acquire Keith Bogans

 The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to add role players to bulk up the bench around the new Big 3 as the Cavaliers sent the three players (and their team friendly contracts) that they obtained from the Utah Jazz,along with forward Dwight Powell and two second round picks to the Boston Celtics.
The return? Keith Bogans,who will step in with three point shooting ability (35 % for his career) and underrated defensive skills.
Well,the Cavaliers also added two future second round picks that were originally the Sacramento Kings property,although those are "top 55 (yes,that is NOT a typo) protected".
That made me laugh more than you can know when you consider those picks have to be in the final five picks in the draft to receive them and makes them the definition of the term throw-in.

The facts of the three players going to Boston can be found on the link above,so I won't get into those too much,although I still would have liked to have found a spot for John Lucas III as a backup point guard at a cheap price and since it is likely that the Celtics will waive Lucas,I wouldn't be against the Cavaliers re-signing him at reasonable cost.
Boston did get a nice prospect in Stanford's Dwight Powell,who is now on his third team since June's draft and he should make their team.

Keith Bogans does bring the aforementioned skills to Cleveland,but he did only play in a handful of
games last season and is 34.
Still,even if he close to healthy,he brings even more veteran leadership and professionalism to the locker room,but he brings with him one other thing-A contract that is not guaranteed for this season and next season at a little over five million per.
Cleveland isn't going to have a ton of cap space anymore,so quiet deals like this are how they are going to continue to tinker with the roster.
Take Bogans and his five and half million for next offseason with Brendan Haywood's ten and a half million and suddenly Cleveland could turn two aging role players into a possible superstar addition at 16 million per year.
And the Cavaliers will still be able to get whatever they could out of the pair for this season on the court as well!

This deal could be the most underrated move that the Cavaliers have made other than the LeBron James signing and Kevin Love trade as it sets them up for a long term run over the next few years as a team that needed cap space stunningly will have it.
Whatever Keith Bogans brings on the floor might be overshadowed by what his cap space brings next summer and that might prove to be quite interesting...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Hagerstown Suns in Review-The Hitters

The 2014 Hagerstown Suns were much more well known for their pitching prospects than their position players,but there were a few that shows prospect potential this season..

We start behind the plate as we then work our way around the diamond.
Spencer Kieboom returned from an injury marred 2013 and hit well (over.300),but showed signs of defensive issues to the point of being a liability.
Kieboom was 23 and a little old for the level,but considering he missed 2013,that was to be expected.
I like his bat and think he is someone to keep track of next season.
Craig Manuel's numbers in Hagerstown (.270 4 HR) were better than those that he posted in Potomac and he may be on his way to battling Cole Leonida as the organizational catcher.
Austin Chubb replaced Manuel after his promotion and showed little at the plate in limited action.
Considering Chubb's age (25) I'd scratch him off any prospect list.

The infield starts at first base with Jimmy Yezzo,a solid performer that could continue to progress.
Yezzo bats lefthanded and has a chance to hit prospect status with a solid 2015.
John Wooten hit over .300 in the first half for the Suns before being promoted to High A Potomac.
Wooten's numbers there were unspectacular and next year will be pivotal for the former Oakland Athletic.
Carlos Lopez replaced Wooten as the DH/part time first baseman and delivered exactly what you would hope from a 24 year old at Low A-a little power (6 homers) and a lot of leadership ability.
Lopez is the type of Crash Davis type that might hit his ceiling at Harrisburg down the road.
The Suns shuffled their lineup in the middle infield constantly with many of the group spending time at both second base and shortstop.
Wilmer Difo was the breakout star in winning the SAL MVP award.
Difo looked overmatched in his Hagerstown stint in 2013,but his play this year put him on the prospect map.
Showing power (team leading 14 homers) and speed (49 steals),Difo might best project as a super sub type that plays every day in different positions.
The rest of the bunch do not show ability to succeed at upper levels,
Brennan Middleton hit for the highest average (.253),but with no homers and average speed (5 steals) along with turning 24,Middleton doesn't seem to be hitting many prospect lists.
David Masters started the season at shortstop and ended the season there with Willie Medina playing in between during a Masters injury.
Both players straddled the Mendoza line offensively and should return to Hagerstown next season.
Cody Dent played all four infield positions and corner outfield spots and hit the homer that rocked the Muni in the playoffs.
Otherwise,Dent's offensive numbers were nothing to rave about (.204),but his versatility should keep him around the Nats system somewhere....
Drew Ward spent the entire season as a 19 year old in Hagerstown at third base and showed promise (.269,10 homers).
Ward might not be at third long term (18 errors) and he tends to wave at outside curveballs,but with patience,I think Ward has potential.
I might think about returning Ward to Hagerstown to start next season considering his age,but his numbers will most likely land him in Potomac.

Rafael Bautista leads the outfielders as Bautista hit a solid .290 with 69 steals on the season.
It wasn't a totally punchless .290 either with 5 homers and 20 doubles,so the 21 year old could develop into a higher level prospect,if he can develop a little more power as he fills out.
I compare Bautista to Michael Taylor,who was less than impressive in Hagerstown and turned into a fine prospect with some patience.
I liked Bautista the better of the two,looking at past notes and think he is worth keeping an eye on.
Issac Ballou was decent in Hagerstown and Potomac,but not spectacular and being that the Marshall product will start next season at the age of 25,he will need to do something special to start in 2015 to have any chance of being considered a prospect...
Narciso Mesa was overmatched at Potomac before being returned to Hagerstown at the age of 22.
Mesa improved as a Sun and I'm not ready to give up on him,but the struggles at Potomac cause me some concern...
Wilman Rodriguez was ok in a year that saw him injured and never seemed to really get on track.
Rodriguez will turn 24 in the middle of next season,so I suppose the team will try to move him to Potomac if they think he has a chance of being a higher level player.
Estarlin Martinez returned to Hagerstown after spending 2013 with the Suns and after a month of hitting over .300,was moved to Potomac.
Martinez looks the part of having power,but between the two levels,Martinez hit just one home run and power questions continue to plague him.
Not ready to give up yet,but I'm very interested in following him in 2015.

The position players for the 2014 Suns are a mixed bag,but they have a few that are solid prospects,even if none of them are five star prospects.
The Nationals continue to use older players in Hagerstown (although this years team was a bit younger than 2013) to give their teams a chance to win championships.
That's great for fans here,but it can hurt the development of prospects or not have younger players at all.

I may be be back sometime soon with some thoughts on memories of the 2014 season for the Suns and the graphing circuit along with more thoughts on the status of the team as far as Fredericksburg Va goes.....

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 Hagerstown Suns in Review-The pitchers

We begin our two part series looking at the players of the Hagerstown Suns starting with the pitchers.
Keep in mind,that we attempt to be honest here and look at players potential by evaluating and yes,guessing, what they may do as they move up the ladder of the National farm system
We aren't always correct and we've made our share of mistakes,but we've been right far more than wrong and I'm pretty proud of that track record.
This has been a scouting based site at it's heart from day one and even though I may like some of the players that I write about on a personal level,these year in reviews have nothing to with that and I believe that they are unbiased.
We aren't a "Go Suns Go" site and if that's what you are looking for- there are other places to go for that.
Thanks for the time and even though you may not agree with all the evaluations and thoughts,I hope that I was able to make you think...

The 2014 Hagerstown Suns were built around their prospect pitchers.
It allowed them to complete the best overall record in the Northern Division and it killed them in the series against the Asheville Tourists..

The biggest name is Lucas Giolito and the 6'6 righthander did not disappoint.
Many thought his time in Hagerstown would be short,I thought he would be in High A,if he pitched well in the first half.
All were wrong as the Nationals kept Giolito in the Hub City all season and true to form,stuck to their 98 inning pitching limit,which shut him down late in the season.
Without Giolito in the rotation,the undermanned Suns had to rely on the lesser lights of their staff.
Giolito dominated the SAL at 19 (for most of the season),which is surprising yet expected.
Surprising because at his age,one expects some growing pains as a high school draftee,yet expected because of the skills he possesses.
Giolito's command was quite impressive (28 walks) and showed impressive maturity over the course the season.
Giolito has all the tools,but the one thing that I wonder about is the high fastball,which tends to get a little straight.
At higher levels,that is a flaw that will need to be corrected as those hitters will feast on that pitch.
Otherwise,Giolito has the potential to be the top of the rotation starter for years to come in Washington...
Giolito could start at AA Harrisburg,which is where I would put him to challenge him,but the Nationals may decide to start him at High A Potomac instead.

The breakout star was Reynaldo Lopez,who ,despite losing the third game against Asheville ,was the shining light of the final month,
Lopez throws as hard as the touted Giolito and has a sharp curve that is the type that makes you gasp.
Lopez and his handful of late season starts were the talk of the stadium and in many ways,I like him as much as Giolito.
My biggest concern with Lopez?
His size.
Listed at 6'0,there is no way he is remotely that tall and I always worry about slight pitchers that throw very hard.
The shelf life for that pitcher does not tend to be as long as others,but that is the only question mark that I have about Lopez,who should start next season at High A Potomac...

Austin Voth made the SAL All-Star team in a season that saw him reach AA Harrisburg.
Voth was excellent at Hagerstown,but even better in a short term at Potomac.
Voth's season ended shortly after reaching AA,but the 22 year old former Washington Huskie averaged over a strikeout an inning in his three stops,which is a stat that I look closely at in the low minors.

The prospects dip quickly after the upper three,which is to be expected.
Jake Johansen throws very hard,but needs development in adding something softer to his toolbox.
As a starter,Johansen was often pounded,but I saw potential in his ten or so appearances after moving to the bullpen,which looks to be a better fit for the Texan.
Johansen does turn 24 before the 2015 season starts,so time is ticking a bit,
Johansen will likely start at High A Potomac,although I wouldn't be shocked with a Harrisburg assignment with a strong spring,

Nick Pivetta was not impressive to me in posting a four plus ERA,striking out well under a batter an inning and looks to me to be a flyball pitcher that was helped by the confines of the Muni.
Pivetta's stuff is just average and I don't see anything that makes me think he is more than an AAA level pitcher at best..
Pivetta will have a chance to prove me wrong at High A Potomac.

I would say the same for Hector Silvestre,who split his season between the Suns and Potomac,if not for one thing-when Silvestre was good,he was very good and that makes me think that there may be something that is correctable somewhere.
I have questions on Silvestre,but his good nights (which weren't as common as his bad ones) intrigue me into waiting another year.
Silvestre should return to High A Potomac.

Wander Suero was borderline dominant in Hagerstown,yet was practice fodder in Potomac.
Combine that question with wonders about a slight,lanky frame and I have doubts about long term/higher level viability.
Suero does throw reasonably hard,so I'm not giving up on him yet...

Moving to pitchers that made a few starts early or late in the season.
John Simms was dominant in five Hagerstown appearances,but his numbers in Potomac and Harrisburg were pedestrian,so the jury is out there.
Matthew Spann was very similar to Simms,dominant in Hagerstown,average elsewhere.
Travis Ott was less than impressive in a small sample size late in the season,but I'm willing to give him next season to form a firm opinion.
Brett Mooneyham was thought of as a high prospect at this time last year,but injuries have taken their toll as he was rocked at Potomac and didn't look like the same pitcher after being returned to Hagerstown.
He may be finished as a prospect.
Andrew Cooper was a spot starter and spent more time in the bullpen with an ERA over five,I don't consider Cooper a prospect.

The relievers were a mixed bunch with one or two standing out.
Jake Walsh was an All-Star before a Potomac promotion and posted excellent numbers at both levels,but turns 24 before next season,so he was a bit old for those levels,
David Napoli took over as the teams closer from Walsh and did well.
Problem is that he will be 24 by next season's opener and was way too old for the SAL.
Napoli is a lefty though,so that plays in his favor.
Justin Thomas was a player that I winced whenever he came into the game,but his season ending stats were far better than I would have wagered.
Like David Napoli,he starts next season at 24 and like Napoli,he is lefthanded,so..
Ryan Ullmann was also 23 all season and his numbers weren't as impressive,Ullmann will have to make a quick jump in order to avoid the organizational soldier label.
Phillips Valdez has decent stuff,but the numbers didn't quite match.
Valdez will be 23 next season and will,like Ullmann,need a fast start.
Joseph Webb pitched well and I liked his ability to keep the ball on the ground,but he will be 24 when the season starts and coming off an injury.
Sam Johns was a late round 2014 pick that looks like an organizational soldier to me after being-  wait for it-23 years old.
The diminutive Cody Davis is already 24 and was decent enough at Hagerstown and Potomac despite less than top notch stuff.
Davis is likely already thought of as an organizational soldier.
No other Sun made more than an handful of appearances and since some of those were on the road,I didn't see enough to offer an opinion off of seeing them pitch.

The Washington Nationals have built themselves winning teams in Hagerstown and Potomac by drafting older players and having them be successful at lower level by simply filling those teams with experience.
By the time those players reach Harrisburg,some of them have reached their level and the Senators do not share that same success.
It is not a coincidence that the pitchers that seem to have the most success are the younger pitchers (Giolito,Lopez and Voth) that are able to establish themselves against older or same age appropriate competition,while the older pitchers are not truly considered as prospects.

Tomorrow with some luck,I'll take a look at the position players....

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Bang,A Block and A Boot-Browns nipped by Ravens 23-21

Sometimes when you hear coaches talk about special teams,especially the kicking game being the most important part of the game,you could be excused if you chuckle a bit.
On this Sunday in Cleveland,those statements were correct as a bad snap forced one Billy Cundiff kick to bang off the upright and a missed block allowed a Raven to reject another field goal attempt.
Combine that with Justin Tucker's 32 yard field goal on the last play of the game and you have the recipe for a gut-gnawing 23-21 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Brian Hoyer threw for 290 yards and a touchdown,while rookie runners Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West each ran for a score on the ground.
The now 1-2 Browns enter their bye week (Doesn't it seem too early for these) before returning on October 5th in Tennessee against the Titans....

Brownie Bits

1) This one hurts and if it seems that I am more critical this week,please keep in mind that this one should have been the Browns,
Unlike the loss in Pittsburgh,which points could have been given for coming back at all,this game was there to be taken and a combination of poor plays along with bad luck gave this game to Baltimore.
One could say that is progress in itself,I'll choose to say more is needed...

2) In the bye week,the Browns need to bring in some long snappers to take a look and consider a replacement for Christian Yount.
Yount's bad snap forced the missed extra point in the win against the Saints and his snap was certainly low on the 50 yard field goal try by Billy Cundiff that clanged off the upright.
Never hurts to take a look....

3) On Cundiff's blocked field goal,I hold him blameless.
Billy Winn essentially whiffed on his block and the rush blew by him off the corner and the block resulted.
I like Winn on the defensive line and on kicks,defensive linemen are often used as beefy protectors,but if this is what Winn brings to that table in that spot,find someone else...

4) The defense was a mixed bag in this loss.
Let's start with the positive.
Had to love the stop in the fourth quarter on fourth down and the team did take Torrey Smith and his gamebusting speed off the table for just two catches and 25 yards,so there were some positives to speak of..

5) The bad?
Well,the Browns turned Lorenzo Taliaferro and Kyle Justzczyk into stars as Taliaferro looked like Earl Campbell bowling over Browns and Justczyk looked like Tom Rathman from 49er days gone by as he just strolled out of the backfield catching swing passes at will and turning them into first downs and on one occasion a touchdown.
The Browns run defense has certainly been a huge problem and that needs addressing immediately.

6) More bad?
The Ravens went right at Joe Haden late in the game with the aging,but crafty Steve Smith and Smith was the winner with the 32 yard reception that put the Ravens in short field goal range for Justin Tucker.
Combine that with Justin Gilbert's pass interference call and Mike Pettine's pride and joy combo was invisible when crunch time arrived....

7) The play that I would most like to have back is the 70 yard pass to Taylor Gabriel in the fourth quarter.
This may be the biggest indictment of Brian Hoyer-his arm.
Gabriel was so wide open that he would have waltzed (or cha-cha maybe)
However,Hoyer's throw floated a bit and Gabriel had to wait like an outfielder for the Indians and camp under it.
Gabriel waited so long that he fell down and despite getting up for more yardage,he was held out of the end zone and Cleveland would score zero points as this was the drive that resulted in the blocked field goal attempt.
Something to keep an eye on as the season progresses...

8) Nice to see both rookie backs do well as both scored a touchdown.
Terrence West is going to be a solid back,but Isaiah Crowell might be the more talented back with breakaway ability.
I like West as he does fall forward to gain yards,which is not always a talent that Browns backs have had (I'm looking at you, Trent Richardson),but Crowell might be special.
The question is on a team with West and Ben Tate will he get the carries to prove it?

9) The Browns did nothing in the fourth quarter offensively and I question the play call of a pass on first down on the final drive.
When that pass was incomplete,the Ravens knew the next play would be a run and the resulting short run and 3rd down incomplete pass left the Browns having taken just seconds off the clock..

10) Before that drive,Travis Benjamin left a punt bounce over his head and cost the team valuable field position.
Benjamin is returning from an injury that ended last season,but he seems very tentative on the field.

11) Twice the Browns were called for 12 men on the field.
That is a communication problem and can be overcome,but that could come down on the coaching staff.

12) The Johnny Manziel play.
Yeah,it looked cool and was something right off every playground pickup game that you can imagine,but it was illegal and a good thing that Terrence West was flagged for not being set on the play.
They won't get away with that one again and even though I applaud the attempt to keep opponents off balance with a "Johnny" play package,I do wonder if this is the best way to utilize your first round draft pick...

13) How the Browns react to this loss will tell the tale for this season.
The schedule gets softer after a brutal start as three of the next five games are against winless teams and the Titans have just one win.
Only Pittsburgh at home interrupts a run against bad teams as the Jaguars,Raiders and Buccaneers follow.
If this team picks itself up from these close losses,this season is not lost.
Let's see what Mike Pettine and staff can do after this heartbreaker.....

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM returns without the Buckeyes or others this week so I'll be adding an extra game of the week.

Wisconsin over Bowling Green 31-21
Boise State over Louisiana-Lafayette 45-20
Washington over Georgia State 54-14
Games of the Week
Florida State over Clemson 33-23
Alabama over Florida 35-13

Browns over Ravens 17-16
Saints over Vikings 42-14

Game of the Week
Seahawks over Broncos 24-21

Last Week;4-4

Friday, September 19, 2014

For the loss of a shoe.

Sometimes the downtime can be quite painful when you work the late shift.
And even though I enjoy it for the most part and often times it results in some quality topics for here,but it also can be a bit on the negative side when you reflect on the wrong things.

By wrong things,I suppose I'm saying things that make you think or things that could have been different.
Thinking about things that could have changed on the choice one made on anything.
It's like the old television show Quantum Leap,where Dr. Sam Beckett would arrive to change one thing that would change a life for the better.

I have a few that I'd wish to have back and a few that bounced my way,but there was one time that not only did it change my life,it saved my life and might be the one thing that would make me think about the existence of the Almighty.

It was the year 2000 and I had to attend a little league meeting at a local hotel.
After the meeting,I had to park in a different spot than usual.
I normally parked on the end of a corner because we lived on a one way street.
If I parked on the corner,I could back out into a side road and then go the other way instead of going all the way around the neighborhood in order to get where I needed to be,
But on this night,someone was in my normal spot and I had to park just ahead of him.
A huge thunderstorm hit and I worried about the car being beside this huge tree and when I looked out the window "my" spot was open.
I began to get ready to run out into the rain to move the car,but I could not find my shoes.
It took me a minute or two to find them and put them on and then I began to descend the steps from our second floor apartment and as I hit the landing,I heard a huge crash.
I walked to the porch,saw what it was and then returned to the house to tell Cherie "our car is crushed".
Not just crushed,destroyed to the point that my car was on the front page of the Herald Mail the next morning.
The tree was a huge one in height and width and split my car in two-horizontally through the roof.
Had I gotten down there a tiny bit faster,I would be in the car moving it and most likely would have been killed.
I would have left a widow and two children and who knows what would have happened to them.

I wonder how things work sometimes,but I often think about how not just my life,but others would have been affected.
It is strange and true in how things can change in a second and whether it was fate,luck or the hand of God-I'm still here when very easily I could not be.
All for the loss of my shoes......

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Signing Front

We return to the signing front as we begin to whittle down the two massive piles (and third smaller one) from the past season.

I'll start with a few non-baseball graphs

Former Chiefs and Cowboys running back Paul Palmer
Former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore (Certified) via Ebay.
Former Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion Michael Spinks

We traveled to Wilmington for the Carolina vs California League All-Star game and it was a long grueling day.
Upon arriving,we were able to get a few people outside the hotel which shares a parking lot with the stadium.
It was a long and hot day compounded by a stadium with zero places to eat around the area.
This day was so bad that the lovely Cherie implemented a new policy for me of bringing a small cooler with drinks for future trips.
A steamy day spent on concrete combined with an hour plus wait to get into the stadium and then another wait in line before the graphing session started.
This was truly the turning point in me attempting to take better care of myself.
I was simply worn out,flushed and running on fumes by the end of the one hour session.
Heat,concrete and hustle took it out of me to the point of having my friends become concerned about me.
I've tried to be smarter since this day,but I had it better than my friend,Fred.
Fred was so worn out that he wavered on his feet,grabbed my shoulder to manage to stay on his feet and was on the edge of passing out before we tried to get him to a place to sit.
The Wilmington GM hollered "No,it's not time yet".
My response was " If you don't get him inside to sit down,he's going to pass out right here in front of the gate!".
That scared them enough to let Fred in the door for a seat and some water,but Wilmington's staff really handled that wrong to have a line that long in exposed sun for such a long period was asking for trouble,

The session itself was productive enough with the Carolina players on one side of the concourse and the California players on the others.
Of course,we chose to hit the California guys first and though I didn't get all of them,I did pretty well.
We waited in the longest line for the most touted California Leaguer in Carlos Correa,who signed one of my two top 100's.
The Correa line often clogged,so I was glad to get my one,I guess.
I also added 2013 top 100's of Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Trevor Story of the Rockies.
I only had one of Seager's two top 100's,so he was fine.
The other nice additions were Padres prospects Hunter Renfroe,who signed everything I had, and Joe Ross,Diamondbacks prospect Brandon Drury,A's catcher Bruce Maxwell and Reds outfielders Jesse Winker and Kyle Waldrop.
I added a few Carolina prospects as the session was wrapping as I exhaustedly stumbled out of the stadium and we all would eat (a salad) for me at an overpriced,but very clean rest area before finishing the ride home.
A long,interesting and fun day that helped me straighten out a bit and learn some things too....

The next set featured the Boston Red Sox as their affiliates were in both Hagerstown and Frederick at the same time with the Greenville Drive visited Hagerstown and the Frederick Keys hosting the Salem Red Sox.
Greenville's big prospect was pitcher Trey Ball,who not only was less than friendly (he did sign two for me) he had an ERA over seven.
The Drive also had a nice prospect in outfielder Manuel Margot,who signed a Bowman Chrome,a Lowell team set card and a NY/Penn top prospect card.third baseman Carlos Asuaje,who said "no duplicate cards,my agent told me so" and pitcher Jamie Callahan,who was very nice.

The Salem Red Sox had their team set out,so I was able to start working away on that a bit,
This year's edition of the High A Sawx were not loaded with prospects with the highest rated being pitchers Pat Light,Madison Youngnier and Simon Mercedes.
Not a memorable series or many great graphs tossed into the collection.

I also got two cool cards from Corey White in Tennessee,most notably former big leaguer Joel Pineiro on his 2011 Heritage and Arodys Vizcaino on his 2011 Carolina League top prospect card.
I love getting older cards signed that I've given up on getting finished.
Corey also got Charlie Cutler from the 2013 Altoona set and Drew Gagnon from the Florida State League top prospect set...

This barely put a dent in the pile,so there will be plenty more signing fronts to come!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest Post-Binghamton Mets win the Eastern League

Today we feature a guest column from my good friend Jason Christensen.
Jason asked to do a post on his hometown team,the Binghamton Mets and their recent winning of the Eastern League title and we were happy to provide the space...

The last time the Binghamton Mets won the Eastern League championship, Jayce Boyd was 2 1/2 months from his third birthday.
Boyd ended the Mets' 20-year title drought Friday night, delivering a walk-off single after Steven Matz flirted with a no-hitter, as Binghamton completed a sweep of Richmond with a 2-1 victory.
Pinch-hitting in the bottom of the ninth inning, Boyd lined a single to center field off reliever Steven Okert to score Gavin Cecchini with the winning run and send the Mets' Double-A affiliate to the third title in team history and first since 1994.

Being in attendance for that game was one of the best sports moments I have witnessed it is only behind the Duke-Syracuse game from the Carrier Dome last season. Going into the game the Mets needed that one win and I was glad that got it done in the first try. I know when you give a team enough chances anything can happen. The crowd was unbelievable and it was nice to almost a sellout crowd especially with high school football going on.

I would actually be not telling the truth if I said I knew the Mets were going to win the Championship. In the East Division series the Mets were down to the Portland Sea Dogs two games to one and had to do almost the impossible win two games on the road. The impossible did happen they won game 4 11-4 and the final game 8-5. In my opinion those were the two best teams in the Eastern League. The Sea Dogs were a great team and still were tough even with the callups of pitcher Henry Owens, hitters Mookie Betts,Travis Shaw, and Blake Swihart they were still a tough foe. Owens, Shaw, and Swihart were called up to Pawtucket which won this years Governors Cup title.

The Mets were clearly the best team there was a few holdovers from last seasons team that had the best record through the regular season. I always say it takes more than one person to win a championship I would say a full team effort. The Mets were hit a blow to start the postseason with  second basemen Dilson Herrera being called up to the New York Mets however TJ Rivera was able to pick up the slack and was one of the key performers in the offseason. Catcher Xorge Carrillo won the MVP of the postseason well deserved with clutch hitting and a great performance behind the plate however there was two pitchers that I would say were the key performers in the bullpen during the postseason. Hansel Robles who was a starter beginning of the season pitched 6 2/3 innings and had 10 strikeouts and closer Cody Satterwhite who had two wins and two saves in the postseason also did not give up a run.

I was excited I was able to witness the final game and see the celebration also was neat was getting a photo with the Eastern League Championship I sure wasn't the only one. Writing this article it would of felt better if my friend's (That's me) hometown team Hagerstown Suns won their title but they also had a great season. I always say repeat but in minor league baseball that is tough to do.  I just hope I don't have to wait another 20 years to see it again

Monday, September 15, 2014

The NEW Kardiac Kids? Browns nip Saints 26-24!

Photo Credit;Joshua Gunter Cleveland Plain Dealer
For the second consecutive week,the Cleveland Browns went down to the game's final play (well,there was a kickoff) to decide a winner,but this time the site and the victor was changed as Billy Cundiff drilled a 29 yard field goal to lift the Browns to an upset 26-24 win in their home opener over the New Orleans Saints.
Brian Hoyer threw for over 200 yards and a touchdown,Terrence West ran for his first NFL score and Tayshaun Gipson grabbed a pass that bounced off Jimmy Graham's hands and returned it sixty two yards for the other Browns touchdown.
The stunningly 1-1 Browns host Baltimore next week in what has suddenly become an interesting game.....

Brownie Bits

1) Many keys in this game and I'll get to those as we proceed,but I feel very good about this team.
Maybe for this season,this is not sustainable and perhaps it is,however when you consider the lack of pass catching talent and this team won this game without Jordan Cameron (let alone Josh Gordon),one has to feel pretty good about what is being possibly put together in Cleveland.

2) The play that put Billy Cundiff in position to kick the game winner was the broken coverage on Andrew Hawkins,who was so wide open that Brian Hoyer almost put too much air under the football like a punt.
I appreciate Hoyer not wanting to overthrow and had he thrown the ball differently,Hawkins may have cruised in for a touchdown,but it was scary watching the ball float and Hawkins having to twist under it to make the grab,,,

3) However,the real game saver was neither Billy Cundiff's kick or the pass to Andrew Hawkins,it was a fourth down conversion by Brian Hoyer on a pass to Gary Barnidge,who wouldn't remind you of Kellen Winslow Jr,let alone Kellen Winslow Sr.
That was where I began to believe in this team.
In the past,I would have expected a Colt McCoy swing pass for 2 yards when you needed six....

4) Now I know Jimmy Graham had a huge day,but you expect the best pass catching tight end in the game to do so and Joe Haden isn't going to be able to cover him one on one in the end zone and neither is anyone else.
Too much size and strength there.Let's remember that this was Jimmy Graham before killing the Browns for giving up numbers to the tight end.

5) Loved the offensive line work too.
The Saints and Rob Ryan like to use the blitz and overwhelm you with numbers along with having two very good pass rushers in Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette.
The Browns line looked very strong against the group as only Gallette on the final drive of the game reached Hoyer for a sack.
Combine that with the solid run blocking and I really liked how they handled the Saints.

6) I like the pair of rookie backs in Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell.
West has the edge for now,but Crowell is the breakaway back.
I know Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan like the committee back system and when Ben Tate returns,things will be somewhat muddled,but Crowell might grab hold of the job and never look back,if he got a game with 20+ carries,
His skills are that good...

7) Yes,I know Johnny Manziel made his debut and I'm not against a "Johnny Football" Package,but if you have one,let him throw the ball and make something happen.
Having the play result in a handoff makes me think of all those Josh Cribbs Wildcat formation that ended in a sweep for four yards a few years back.

8) The Browns overcame two kicking game breakdowns in the win.
Photo Credit:John Kuntz Cleveland Plain Dealer
The botched snap on an extra point meant the Browns were down by one on the final drive rather than tied and Billy Cundiff smacked a field goal off an upright that a Saints penalty overturned.
Fortunate that these were able to be overcome,but I hope that this is not a worry of things to come.

9) Karlos Dansby is a beast.
Not the typical veteran that has a nice contract and then plays out the string here.
Dansby's sack of Drew Brees on the last New Orleans drive took the Saints out of field goal range and allowed the Browns to play for a field goal to win rather than a touchdown.
Dansby is all over the field and exactly the type of three down linebacker that you love to have as Dansby makes the routine tackle,rushes the passer and is solid in pass coverage.
Love this guy!

10) The Browns will need to toughen up against the run though.
Allowing 174 yards to the pass happy Saints is not a good day.

11) Like the new colored Browns end zones.
The team took an online vote for brown or orange and brown grabbed an overwhelming win.
It looked good and I liked it,but I voted for orange and here is why.
The football is brown and can't you just see a "breaking the plane" replay that is shown as "inconclusive evidence" with a brown football into a brown end zone?
This is still Cleveland sports after all!

12) Now that we have colored end zones finally,next step-Brownie the Elf at midfield!
Let's do this!

13) Wrapping up,I'm excited.
Winning games without all weapons present and showing heart and toughness every week-that is what Cleveland Browns football should be all about.
I'm really beginning to start buying into "Play like a Brown" and not because that generally has meant bad football....

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Suns lose decisive Game Five

Before we start, I likely will not be doing a post on Ohio State's 66-0 blasting of Kent State.
Since Saturday was so busy (more next week), I didn't see the game as I badly needed the rest and considering the score, I doubt if I watch the tape,

The Hagerstown Suns had a chance to give the hometown "crowd" a rarity-as in not just a championship, but a title on home ground.
The Suns fell short in the decisive game five as they lost to the Asheville Tourists 4-1 at the Muni.
This post will cover the three home games at the stadium, where the Suns lost two of the three (winning game four, but losing the third and fifth games).
I am planning a post soon that looks back at the season with some scouting reports on players and maybe some memories from the season.
But that's for later.

1) I was decidedly unimpressed with the umpiring in this series throughout all three games.
It didn't decide the series on one play, but they were consistently missing calls for both teams every night and don't get me started on the strike zones.
If this is the best crew that the league could assemble, I wonder how bad some of the others were throughout the season...

2) OK, Get me started on the strike zone.
I would make a real case that this series was decided in game three when the Tourists defeated Reynaldo Lopez in large part because Lopez lacking his best stuff simply could not get any call on his curve.
That changed the game as Lopez had to become fastball dependent and gave up three runs including a long homer to Jordan Patterson.

3) The Lopez loss then meant the Suns were in a position of having to win back to back games started by Travis Ott and Nick Pivetta and that was simply unlikely to happen against a team the quality of the Tourists.
Ott pitched passably enough in game four in his two and two thirds even he did allow two homers, but he did work his way out of a bases-loaded situation in the second without allowing a run.

4) The Sun's bullpen had been an Achilles Heel all season, but in the three games here, the Suns' relievers allowed just one run and that was a run allowed in game three by Nick Lee after the Tourists already had a sizable lead.
Excellent work by an often questioned unit.

5) Jake Johansen's outing in game four in relief of Ott was the underrated point of that victory,
The hard-throwing, but erratic Texan fired three and two-third innings and allowed just one hit in keeping the Suns close as the team teetered close to elimination.
Johansen may have had a disappointing season, but he showed the potential to have a future in the bullpen and came up huge when the Suns needed it most.

6) I've been to a lot of games at the dreary and crumbling Muni and most of the time, it's the same regulars watching the game, but I have never heard a roar like I did when Cody Dent's three-run homer to right field cleared the wall.
The old stadium was trembling from a nice, but not packed crowd and it was the moment that I want to remember from the 2014 season.

7) As excited as I was to have game five and a chance to win the series, I was not confident by any means.
That was mainly because Nick Pivetta was getting the start.
I know some think Pivetta is a prospect because he made the All-Star team, but Nick Pivetta is the prototype reason that smart baseball people don't look at wins as a top pitching statistic.
When Pivetta pitched this season, you had to count on scoring four (and usually five) runs or more to win the game.
I don't consider a pitcher like that in the South Atlantic League to be a prospect.
Pivetta did what he usually did (four runs in five innings) and on this night- the Hagerstown offense could not pick him up.

8) I mentioned this point earlier in the series, but I still never understood the reasoning behind starting club handed Carlos Lopez at first and the usually dependable Jimmy Yezzo at DH.
Lopez made some errors during the series and not that Yezzo is Mark Grace at the sack, but he was far superior to Lopez around the bag.
When you could flip the pair's position and still had the same lineup, I wonder why that was done.

9) When you have four umpires, you shouldn't miss a home run call.
In-game three, the umpires did just that in the ninth inning as Wilmer Difo's shot cleared the first level of the fence for a homer and yet the call was a double.
At the right-field wall at the Muni, the wall is separated so the visiting team's relievers can walk under the wall to reach their bullpen, If the ball hits above that point,, the ruling is supposed to be a home run. It did and it wasn't and I might have been the closest fan to the play.

10) Craig Manuel returned to the team to catch the final two games after Spencer Kieboom injured himself stealing a base in game three.
Rather attempting to steal a base that is as the slow booted Kieboom was out by the proverbial country mile, was injured on the play and then was removed from the game for Austin Chubb after the play and Manuel for the series.
As much as I like Craig Manuel personally, Spencer Kieboom is the superior bat, even if he may be the inferior defensive catcher.
Offensively, the Suns certainly took a hit in the batting order without Kieboom.

11) I picked Asheville to win the series because of their superior sticks, but give their arms some credit too.
Konner Wade beat the Suns twice and never allowed a run in either start, while Zach Jemiola came into game three with a plus-five ERA and definitely the B-Side to Reynaldo Lopez and fired a gem over eight and one-third innings.
When Lopez was not as his usual form and the absence of Lucas Giolito (more on that soon), the Sun's advantage on the hill for the season disappeared and they were never going to have the hitting edge not with...

12) Patrick Anderson's insistence of playing David Masters at shortstop was basically giving Asheville an out each time at the plate.
Anderson often used Wilmer Difo at short during the season with Brennan Middleton at second.
Now Middleton is not a prospect or exactly Robinson Cano (.253 O HR's) in the lineup, but compared to the anemic bat of Masters (.182 O HR's), the Suns gave some outs away during this series.
When the casual fans are groaning each time that Masters name was announced, you know you have problems.
It almost came across as the Nationals brass wanted to see Masters play and told Anderson so.

13) I did like Anderson's handling of the pitching staff in the series.
He didn't leave a pitcher in that was getting hammered and wasn't afraid to go to the pen early either.
Anderson's removal of Travis Ott in game four after allowing two homers and a 3-0 deficit saved the game for the Suns in the third inning.
Anderson's decisive decision kept his team in the game before things got out of hand, which it seemed was precariously close to happening.

14) Now to the big question-Lucas Giolito.
Would the Suns have won this series with the righthander making the start?
Well, I wouldn't go as far as to say yes, but you have to think a Giolito start rather than two Nick Pivetta starts would have increased their chances.
I'll get into the whys and wherefores on the Nationals in my season-ending Suns review, but the parent club's cap of Giolito at 98 innings was ridiculous.
I see no correlation in injury between 98 innings pitching and 108 for a season even considering Giolito's past Tommy John surgery.
They could have easily told Patrick Anderson that he could have Giolito for ten innings in the playoffs (Greensboro and Asheville) to be used at his discretion, Whether he wanted to use them in two five-inning starts or a shorter mix from the bullpen.

15)   Finally, the better team won.
Asheville just has more talent as their top six hitters in the batting order last night all are of super to decent prospect status-I really like Jose Briceno's arm behind the plate, David Dahl is putting things together off an injury-plagued 2013 and Raimel Tapia looks to have plenty of tools for a 20-year-old.
In comparison, the Suns really had just three in Rafael Bautista, Wilmer Difo (who was my surprise of the season) and Drew Ward (so young playing the entire year at 19 that I might even return him to Hagerstown to start next year) and frankly I might take any of the Rockies six over any of the three Suns as prospects.
The Suns needed to outpitch Asheville and get some luck, they just couldn't get enough of either...

Back later with the New Orleans Saints in Cleveland...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pigskin Picking Machine

I'm exhausted after a really long and fun day,so I'm keeping the PPM short this week.
Look for some fun posts early next week

Ohio State over Kent State 41-10
Bowling Green over Indiana 33-29
Boise State over Connecticut 28-14
Washington over Illinois 45-28

Late Editor's Note at 3;30
Texas Tech over Arkansas 48-44
Game of the Week
Georgia over South Carolina 29-19

Saints over Browns 31-20

Game of the Week
49ers over Bears 26-17

Last Week;7-2

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest appearance and long day!

Yesterday was a very long day and today will be as well.
I'm going to offer thoughts on Game 3 of the SAL Championship series later on with the other games in the set,
Just too zonked with a work run and baseball,but when we get caught up,I'll have lots of stuff for you that I hope you enjoy!

Until then,If you get a chance,check out my guest appearance on my buddy R.L.Malpica's Corner 2 Corner Boxing Podcast.
I always have a good time doing the show,so if you give a listen to R.L's show and give him some support,I'd appreciate it!
Plus,it might keep me in the guest rotation!  Ha Ha,

See you soon!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rain Rain,Go away and...

A few different quickie notes,which normally would cover a cleaning of the inbox,but with rain in today's forecast,I'm busy rooting for it to stay in order to see tonight's SAL Game Three of their championship series.
As the series is currently tied at a game apiece,I'm guaranteed of two more trips to the Muni,if not three.
I not only want to see tonight's contest,a rainout would make a potential game five on Sunday-that puts it dead against the Browns vs the Saints.
I know which I will choose,but that doesn't mean that I hope it turns out that way!

Pulaski VA. looked to be in trouble for keeping their Appalachian League after the Seattle Mariners decided to leave town.
New owners bought Calfee Park and intend to put some money into the field as well as a housing complex for the players,which was a badly addition from what I hear.
However.the Mariners leaving placed the 2015 season in jeopardy as the Appalachian League level teams can be filled with complex teams in Arizona or Florida.
But the New York Yankees came to the rescue and will be placing a team in Pulaski!
The Yankees are not a team with a recent Appalachian history,but will be welcomed in a town that small time baseball is truly a part of the community.
Thanks to the ever faithful Big Don for the link.

Today is the day for teams to notify affiliates that they intend to shop around.
Most of the teams on this circuit have already announced extensions,but here are the teams that have not as of yet.
SAL:Augusta (Giants),Savannah (Mets)
Carolina: Carolina (Indians),Lynchburg (Braves),Myrtle Beach (Rangers)
Eastern:Erie (Tigers),New Britain (Twins)

That doesn't mean those teams would be leaving those cities or even the league as sometimes things shuffle inside the league,just those teams have deals that have not been extended
There are other teams at that level that could come in,but I doubt that would happen in many of those cases.

We wrap up with word from our friend Lefty Koch of the passing of Richard Kiel.
Kiel was famous for the hulking character Jaws in the James Bond films,Voltaire in the TV series The Wild Wild West and Mr.Larson in Happy Gilmore.
The 7'1 Kiel was a great choice  for roles that needed size because he could do verbal roles without being difficult to understand like Andre the Giant for an example.
Kiel was 74 years old

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Suns crushed in Asheville

I was going to wait on a post on the SAL championship series between the Hagerstown Suns and Asheville Tourists and just post a short review of the game from the radio from the two games in North Carolina.

However,considering that the Tourists slammed their way to a 14-0 lead and eventually cruised to a 16-7 win and a one game to nothing lead,I'll pass on a review,but I will add some thoughts on the series which features the best two teams in the SAL.
Editor's Note;Most of this article was written before the Asheville 16-7 win on Monday.
That isn't always the case in minor league playoffs as teams that win first halves often aren't the same team by seasons end after promotions and injuries take their toll.

The Asheville Tourists were the top overall team in wins this season in the SAL South and made a key move late in the season that upgraded their lineup and might have tipped the scales in any potential series-They demoted David Dahl back to Asheville after Dahl performed well there earlier this year.
Dahl performed reasonably well at High A Modesto,but was demoted in a surprising move.
Parent clubs rarely give that much credence to minor league playoffs,let alone care enough to drop a player of Dahl's talent,so I was surprised that the Colorado Rockies did that.
The Rockies also kept top prospects in the SAL all season in Ryan McMahon,Raimel Tapia,Jose Bricano and Correlle Prime when a valid case could be made that any or all could have been moved higher in the system and Colorado even quickly accelerated the movement of 2014 first rounder Kyle Freeland to Asheville as well.
So these Tourists are talented,can the Suns hang with them in a best of five?

Short answer? Yes.
The pitching for the Tourists is good not great and it will depend on that.
Asheville has their own phenom or their Reynaldo Lopez,if you will in Antonio Senzatela and he could possibly pitch in either game 4 or 5 as would the aformentioned Freeland.
Game one features Asheville's Connor Wade vs Nick Pivetta and that's an even match,
Game two might be the most interesting and pivotal matchup as the Tourists throw their Pivetta in Johendi Jimenan (lots of wins,average ERA) against the erratic Wander Suero.
Despite the home field advantage,I firmly believe the Suns need to win one game in North Carolina to win the series.
Hagerstown sends Reynaldo Lopez against Zach Jemiola (9-10 ERA over five) in game three,so you have to think the Suns look good there.
No starters have been announced in the event of a 4th or 5th game.

Prediction time.
I like Asheville.
I'd love to pick the Suns and I'll be rooting hard for them,but Asheville is the better hitting team and without Lucas Giolito,the pitching is closer than it was during the season.
Go ahead and hate me,but I like Asheville in 4.
Hope I'm wrong....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Roman Gonzalez-the best fighter that you have never heard of

Roman Gonzalez was the kingpin of the light flyweight division for four years and before that he ruled the strawweight or minimum weight division for two more,
He just won the WBC flyweight title over the lineal champion Akira Yaegashi by a knockout for his third division title and he has won 40 fights without a defeat with 34 of those ending via a stoppage.

Gonzalez even defeated the WBA champion at Flyweight,Juan Francisco Estrada two years ago in a defense of his light fly belt,so he has established himself as the true flyweight champ in a suddenly exciting division.
All three major belts will be on the line in the course of a week with Gonzalez winning his belt Friday,Estrada defending his with a win over Giovanni Segura and Ruenroeng defending his IBF belt against McWilliams Arroyo later this week,the eyes of many in boxing are on the flyweights.
Between Gonzalez,Estrada (with wins over Brian Viloria and Segura),Viloria,Segura,Yaegashi,Zou Shiming,IBF champ Ruenroeng,Arroyo and more,the 112 pound division has quality depth with exciting fights to be made up and down the division for the first time that I can remember in many,many years.

So what's the problem?
No one knows about Roman Gonzalez outside of the hardcore boxing crowd and that's a shame.
Gonzalez knocks people out with a fierce left hook,he comes forward,yet isn't reckless and he is very skillful,but has only appeared on American (English speaking) television once.
I would think that Gonzalez would have some appeal to Top Rank with his skills and that the company has done business with many of the mentioned flyweights above including WBA champ Estrada that would make it easy to build excitement in China with their much ballyhooed and promoted Zou Shiming.
Shiming would be meat on Gonzalez's platter right now,but beginning to feature Gonzalez now and even Estrada as well makes sense to me.
Trying to get Shiming a belt may be tougher than expected,so why not make as much as possible for a shot at Gonzalez?
A HBO Boxing after Dark with defenses by Gonzalez and Estrada could be an appetizer for a Gonzalez-Estrada unification bout which makes even more sense since Estrada was the only fighter to even give Gonzalez a run for his money in their first bout.
ESPN has been investing a little money in boxing of late,maybe they could be convinced,especially when you consider the money that the flyweights make would make those bouts very cost friendly for the network,
Most of the fights involving the flyweights could be easy to make except for maybe if McWilliams Arroyo would win his fight this week as Arroyo is with Golden Boy and it would build interest internationally for an eventual Shiming title fight.

Until then,Roman Gonzalez will continue to be the best kept secret in boxing and the best fighter that most have never heard of.

So Close yet So Far,Browns nipped in Pittsburgh 30-27

Photo Courtesy:Thomas Ondrey Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Cleveland Browns uncorked a furious rally from the back of the field to work their way back from a 27-3 deficit and tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately,the Steelers would score last as Shaun Suisham drilled a field goal on the games final play for a 30-27 Pittsburgh victory.
Brian Hoyer led the comeback with a touchdown and 230 passing yards,while Terrence West rushed for an even 100 yards with Isaiah Crowell slamming for two touchdowns in the second half for the injured Ben Tate.
The 0-1 Browns will host the New Orleans Saints next week in what is the only game that I can live with a loss in.

Brownie Bits
Photo Courtesy:John Kuntz Cleveland Plain Dealer

1) Let's get the elephant in the room noticed quickly,so we can move on.
Antonio Brown's Daniel LaRusso like crane kick was a cheap shot and only the biggest Steeler homer would say otherwise.
I think Brown did have the intent to try to hurdle Spencer Lanning and when he discovered that he couldn't-one of two things happened.
A) He intentionally kicked Lanning in the face and didn't care if Lanning got hurt.
B) He was in mid-air and his roughness instinct kicked in (and all players have this in such a violent game) and he kicked Lanning in the face without thinking about it.
Watching the video,you see Brown flex his leg back and follow through with force.
To me,that's uncalled for and ridiculous,but this is a franchise that found James Harrison warm and cuddly for years so don't count on anything done in-house.
No matter which you prefer,Brown will get a deserved fine and should have been removed from the game.
The game is rough enough for someone using such a tactic to be allowed the privilege of playing it with such a lack of respect for the opponent.

2) The play that most are discussing is the 4th and 7 from the Steeler 37 and the decision to punt.
I don't rip the decision because Billy Cundiff isn't known for his long range accuracy,but what I do question is the playcalling that led up to that point.
The Browns were successfully running the football,another run rather than a pass might have made it a few yards closer for Cundiff or made it worth considering going for the first down.

3) Loved the no huddle offense led by Brian Hoyer to bring the Browns back and it clearly gassed out the Pittsburgh defense,but in what I thought was a rookie mistake by Mike Pettine,the Browns began to play it safe once the game was tied.
The shotgun and pistol formations began to fade away later in the game and they were a huge help in making the comeback

4) Injuries to Ben Tate and Jordan Cameron were losses,but both were replaced well for one game.
Tate was running well when he sprained a knee,but Terrence West rushed for 100 yards off the bench and Isaiah Crowell scored two touchdowns in the excellent second half.
Backup tight ends Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray do not bring the skills in pass catching that Cameron does,but both made catches that resulted in first downs.
Cameron would be harder to replace if the injury sidelines him for a while,but I feel better about replacing Tate than I did entering the game.

5) Loved the games by the key veteran pickups of the defensive end with Donte Whitner finishing with 12 tackles and Karlos Dansby with six and a interception.
Nice to see free agent signees that want to play and not just cash a check.

6) I also liked hearing that the veterans spoke up at halftime and that the coaching staff made adjustments to what the Steelers were doing right in the first half.
Neither have been noted to have happened a lot in past Browns games,especially the latter...

7) Now to the bad stuff.
Cornerback is the hardest position to make an impact at for a rookie and Justin Gilbert showed that as he was taken advantage of badly,especially in the first half,but even in the second as it was Gilbert that Markus Wheaton beat on third down on the play that put Pittsburgh in field goal range.
Tools are there for Gilbert,but it's gonna take time.

8) Speaking of which,Joe Haden didn't have a good day against Antonio Brown.
I remember reading Johnny Sample's book as a kid "Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer" in which Sample in detail describes receivers of the day,but it always stuck with me how Sample described how every corner had a guy he owned and one that owned him.
I'm starting to think Antonio Brown has Joe Haden's number.

9) The play that might have meant the most-the collision between Christian Kirksey and Gary Barnidge at the goal line on the punt mentioned earlier.
The two banged into each other,Kirksey's shoulder broke the plane of the line and the ball was a touchback,not downed at the one.
The Steelers didn't score,but it did affect the last Browns drive as far as field position goes.

10) Bad,BAD tackling in the first half by the Browns,I mean awful.
Way too many extra yards by Steeler ball carriers and that will need to be improved quickly if the defense is to improve...

11) The offensive line played better in the second half,but still let down on the final Cleveland possession when Cameron Heyward busted through for a first down sack.
Still some work to do there,but much improved over the first half where Hoyer was hampered on almost every throw.

12) Have to be pleased with the effort and the spirit shown.
I know there is no place in the standings for moral wins,but just having that comeback alone might show that this era might be different.
It's just one game,but maybe we are on our way....