Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another Goodbye-Superior Ice Cream

Time for another goodbye,but not to a passed athlete,actor or politician.
This time,the goodbye goes to a business as Superior Ice Cream (nee' Dairy) ends its business today after 80 years in Hagerstown....

To almost anyone above 25,Superior has meant ice cream in Hagerstown and when either as a child or taking your child there,Superior was the place to go when you were in the mood for ice cream or other sweet treats.
Superior had to have taken hit after hit over the last 20 years or so as competitors to its kingdom arrived in Hagerstown and each created its own niche'.
The Big Dipper showed up first with an ice cream challenge not far away and others such as The Meadows (Frozen Custard),Sweet Frog (Frozen Yogurt) and Rita's (Italian Ice) each took a slice of the territory and between those and the lack of foot traffic near the Superior location in a residential neighborhood,one could see how tough keeping things going at Superior could be...

Small businesses are having a rough time today and I doubt that places like Rita's or the Meadows (as good as they are!) will have the same endurance in the area like Superior did,although the type of memories that are made with children are more about who you made them with than what you had as a snack.
I'm starting to think that the chain places (as good as some of them are) are just too big and every time that a Superior goes down that a place of its type isn't going to go up.
What will survive that my kids remember fondly?
It's a sad thing to think about-any time there is growth,something gets pushed aside.

I'm sad to see Superior go by and even sadder that there is one less neighborhood place to go to.
I used to take the kids there (Ryan especially after a ball game) a decent amount,but in recent years,I didn't go as much.
It feels like a loss and it is,but I wasn't a regular customer of late.
I still remember going after shopping events or church as a kid on our weekly trip to Hagerstown.
I usually ordered a banana split or got a orange sherbet cone and yesterday when I stopped in for the last time,I made sure to get a banana split.
It was one final tip of the hat to the past.
A past that we aren't getting back-guess that just means I'm getting older....

Pigskin Picking Machine

We conclude the NFL season and most of the bowl season with the PPM.
Last Week:7-1

Fiesta Bowl
Ohio State over Notre Dame 30-17

Orange Bowl
Oklahoma over Clemson 24-19

Sugar Bowl
Alabama over Michigan State 21-16

Steelers over Browns 35-10
Falcons over Saints 45-42

Game of the Week
Packers over Vikings 28-20

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On the Signing Front

One last signing front before 2015 ends,although this doesn't finish what needs to be done,it does reduce the pile from multiples to just one sizable stack...

Before I get started,I missed a story from the Charleston River Dogs and maybe the oddest guy that I've met all season in Rony Bautista.
Bautista,not exactly a huge prospect at 24 and having pitched exactly one game above Low A,signed one of three on day one for me,I skipped day two,but was reported (Wasn't there) to have cursed at a grapher on night two before day three.
I tried to get the other 2 cards that I had for him and he signed one,handed the other one back and "mumbled Best Buy".
None of us figured just what he was talking about and the best guess was that he meant to say "ebay".
Yep,I'm getting rich off my Rony Bautista signed 2014 Staten Island Yankee card-I'm quitting my regular job today!

A quick trip to Harrisburg for a few Akron Rubber Ducks resulted in me getting two (Usually just one) Bradley Zimmer cards finished (2014 NY/Penn and 2015 Carolina top prospects).
Fred Landucci helped with the Senators on their team set with the best being late season callups Abel De Los Santos and Pedro Severino on their team set cards along with Wilmer Difo on his Carolina League top prospect...
Fred would also add two more Zimmer's (USA and Lynchburg) over the course of the series and Adam Plutko on his Lynchburg and Carolina League top prospects.

The Delmarva Shorebirds hit Hagerstown for the final time and I didn't need much to finish.
Jomar Reyes signed his Delmarva and SAL prospect card after having a broken hand on his previous visit for the only interesting Delmarva sign,but Erick Fedde finally arrived in Hagerstown after being drafted by Washington in round one in 2014.
Fedde signed his USA,Bowman and Auburn team card and was very nice.
Rick Ankiel made his only appearance in Hagerstown as an organizational instructor and I was able to get one card for myself and a card for Ryan's showdown set.

Thanks to Mike Oravec for all his help this season in Frederick as we often helped each other throughout the season.
Mike was invaluable with the Frederick Keys and some of their opponents this season..

The Lexington Legends brought Kansas City Royals prospects to Hagerstown.
The Legends had two first rounders in Foster Griffin and Chase Vallot.
Both were very nice and signed all three cards that I had for them.
I added a few more of former Brave and Lexington hitting coach Glenn Hubbard,who added another new quirk,
Hubbard would not sign his 2015 Lexington card because it said "Batting Coach" on it,
Brad Adams almost got Hubbard to sign it when he erased it off the card,Hubbard stopped and considered it for a second and then said "Nahhh" and walked to the locker room...

The final visit to Frederick of the Carolina Mudcats saw me get a few stragglers from the worst signing team that I did all season.
I got my usual nothing from Connor Lien,but I did get two from Dustin Peterson,who others said was either a one or none,
The interesting addition was 2006 and 2007 Tristar and USA card from Justin Jackson,the former faded outfield prospect that is attempting to make a comeback as a pitcher,.
Jackson was very nice and talked quite a bit about his attempt...

Brandon Diehl helped with Reynaldo Lopez on his Carolina League top prospect and Derreck Chupak got three cards from Stephen Johnson for me when he was in Harrisburg for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
Johnson was a big pickup in hindsight as he was traded to the Reds for Marlon Byrd,so was not around when I did the Squirrels later in the year.

We wrap up with the Hickory Crawdads and their visit to Hagerstown.
Considering that the Crawdads pulled their usual stunt of waiting until the final homestand of the season to release a team set meant that I had little for them.I did get Luis Ortiz and Michael DeLeon on their SAL top prospect cards,Jose Trevino on his USA and SAL cards and first round pick Dillon Tate on two USA cards and a Spokane card.
This series also saw former All-Star Dan Uggla rehabbing with the Suns.
Uggla came over each time called and I was able to get his 2012 and 2014 Heritage cards signed.

That's a lot and there is a lot more to come before Mr.Winter leaves,so stay tuned..

Monday, December 28, 2015

Browns run out of time vs Chiefs 17-13

The Cleveland Browns used a ball control offense to hang in there against the favored Kansas City Chiefs and had a chance late in the game to win.
However,a Johnny Manziel completion to Darius Jennings deep in Kansas City territory was the last gasp as the Browns could not get another play off in a 17-13 win for the home team.
Manziel threw for just 136 yards and an interception,but rushed for 108 with Isaiah Crowell adding another 88 for the suddenly ground-bound Browns..
The 3-12 Browns host Pittsburgh this week in the finale' of an awful season...

1) Johnny Manziel's passing numbers were pretty bad,but I'm not going to blame him-Manziel wasn't sacked,but he was constantly running for his life from either a fierce Chief pass rush or awful Browns offensive line (I think it's both).
Considering that fact,it was a miracle the Browns had any offense at all..

2) Manziel was inaccurate (13 of 32),but I loved the taking the blame for the loss in the locker room despite it not being all his fault.
Manziel may be immature off the field,but that is the type of thing that you like to see from a quarterback of any age....

3) The key part of this game?
Cleveland taking 12 minutes off the clock in the second half and coming away with just three points.
A touchdown would have tied the game and settling for three was the final score for either team in the game.

4) Isaiah Crowell continued his resurgence with the aforementioned 88 yards including the only Brown touchdown.
I don't think Crowell is ever going to be a Pro Bowl level back,but I think if you had another solid back with him in tandem-Crowell could be very effective in the right situation...

5) I'm not against Mike Pettine surviving for another year,especially if the tradeoff is the firing of Ray Farmer,but he made himself look bad again with the handling of Dwayne Bowe.
Pettine made Bowe a captain (former Chief) after so many inactives and was rewarded with an inability to get open on an afternoon that ended with zero catches on one pass thrown to him.

6) I have been critical of Ray Farmer's draft prowess,but Nate Orchard is beginning to show signs of having potential three down playing time.
Orchard finished with a sack and a interception and even thought he was drafted to increase the pass rush,Orchard has been surprisingly strong when used in pass coverage.
I'd still like to see Orchard used more as a rusher,but for a Ray Farmer draft pick,Orchard has been reasonably productive...

7) The defense did show up in the second half with a shutdown of the Chiefs as they kept Kansas City off the board.
They came up huge on a 3rd and inches stop in the fourth quarter and Danny Shelton has had his best two games of the year against Seattle and Kansas City.
Combine that with the play of Jamie Meder and I have a little hope for the improvement against the run for 2016.

8) The Browns secondary let the team down on both Kansas City touchdowns.
On the Jeremy Maclin score,Jordan Poyer didn't give any help to Tayshaun Gipson on the rotation inside and on Travis Kelce's TD,Tramon Williams was simply beaten on the ball and just was out of position..

9) In a league that has started using roman numerals and abbreviations for senior and junior on jerseys,can anyone tell me why the Browns have two players named Williams that play in the secondary and not use an initial?

10) If indeed,this report is correct and Mike Pettine survives this season-look back at a gutsy high effort against a playoff team on the road as a possible reason why.
Pettine has to show that his team hasn't quit on him to return and the Browns are outmanned,outgunned but not always outgutted.
It'll be interesting to see the effort next week vs the Steelers...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cleaning out the inbox

Not a lot to clean out,but on another slow day,I've decided to go ahead and clean things up...

Give credit to Florida State as they are getting a new scoreboard and instead of scrapping their old one,they are giving it to 1-AA and in-state school Florida A&M.
The Rattlers will have to spend 100 grand for installing and programming it,but that is far cheaper than they could ever spend for a similar board.
Full credit to Florida State for a very classy move...

The biggest news item for the teams that we cover here was the Pittsburgh Pirates signing 32 year old vagabond John Jaso with the intention of platooning him at first base with Michael Morse until Josh Bell can develop into the eventual starter.
The two year contract is worth eight million and Jaso's attempt to play first base will be interesting to watch.
Jaso has played two games at first in his career after spending time at catcher and in the outfield and can he learn enough to be even close to average defensively to not be a liability?
Jaso hit .286 with 5 hrs in 70 games last season with Tampa Bay.

Pittsburgh also claimed righthander Yoervis Medina off waivers from the Cubs and added lefty Kyle Lobstein from the Tigers for future considerations.
Medina went 1-0 with a save last season as he split the year between Seattle and the Cubs.
Medina's numbers make me think that he could make the club as a long to middle reliever and a small move like this for depth could mean the Pirates are closer than expected to moving Mark Melancon.
Lobstein went 3-8 with an ERA of 5.94 for the Tigers and looks to be to headed to AAA Indianapolis for injury depth.
The Pirates lost reliever Bobby Lafromboise on the waiver wire to the Angels when they made the claim on Medina...

The Giants were idle,but the Indians made some depth decisions in pitching as the team bought Dan Otero from Philadelphia and signed southpaw free agents Tom Gorzelanny and Ross Detwiler to minor league deals.
Otero,a 30 year old righty,spent last season with Oakland before being claimed in the off-season by the Phillies on waivers.
Otero struggled last season with an ERA of 6.75 in 41 games,but had tremendous numbers with the A's in 2013 and 14,so this could be a case of buying low and with relief pitchers being such a variable from year to year-this could be an excellent addition at a cheap cost.
The 29 year old Detwiler went 1-5 with an ERA over seven in a season split between Texas and Atlanta.
The former Washington first rounder was used as a swingman as a Ranger and as a reliever in Atlanta,so the Indians could be looking at him in either role.
Gorzelanny,a former 14 game winner for the Pirates in 2007, has been a situational LOOGY for the Brewers and Tigers for the last two seasons and could fill in the same role in Cleveland.
Gorzelanny was 2-2 with an ERA of 5.95 in 48 appearances with Detroit last season and will turn 34 during the 2016 season.

The Indians also released Chris Johnson and ate the remaining season at eight million on his contract.
Johnson had been obtained in order to relieve Cleveland of the salaries of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn in a trade with Atlanta last season.
Johnson hit ,289 with a homer in his one month cameo as an Indian.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Day after

Normally,the day after Christmas is not a day loaded with things to write about.
There isn't a ton of sports to write about,despite the NBA's effort to make it more of a basketball day.
Actually,unless Christmas falls on a weekend (it will in 2016),it will be void of a football presence and football holds center stage at this time of the year...

I did watch the Cavaliers loss to Golden State,but I did so while visiting my parents,so while I watched the game,I didn't watch it with enough detail to write about it.
I do think despite the Warrior win that I saw enough to say that once the Cavaliers have smoothed out the kinks with the returning Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert that no matter the Warriors record-Cleveland can beat them in a seven game series....

I did pretty well on Christmas Day.
My ladies that take care of me every day stunned me with my first ever pair of Beats headphones.
They are wired,so clumsy me will need to make that adjustment to keep from having them fly off my head with my fidgety nature,but they are really nice.
I also got a neat looking jacket in an army green that is going to come in super handy on those April and May baseball nights where it gets chilly.
Toss in another season of Person of Interest on DVD,a badly needed Giants travel bag to replace my warrior of a gym bag which finally is showing signs of wearing down after over 15 years of heavy everyday use and I was pretty pleased.

This was a different Christmas as I bought things that were on my list before hand and as a result,it was like getting extra presents.
I bought a Giants hoodie for those same cold nights.
This one is a pullover,where my other hoodies are zip ups,so it does fill a need and I bought it late in the Christmas season with a 30 percent off along with a free shipping offer that made it reasonable for me to buy...

I also asked for Strat O Matic baseball or football for the PC as I was finally ready to make the leap from the beloved dice and card game to the PC.
A sale resulted in me saving 25 percent on the game and I am thrilled with it as it came with the 2014 game and another sale later on other seasons saw me add the 1969 season while I was sitting in Cleveland.
I've been playing like crazy and there will be a review coming in the future on SOM on the PC,the good,bad and everything else in the near future...

Even work hasn't been too bad this week,so this has been a pretty good Christmas,so let's hope to keep things rolling into the new year.
Hope you and yours enjoyed your holiday as well!!!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Eating on the Flip Side and Rascal House

Going to Cleveland with Rachel offered me some opportunities to eat at some places that both I ordinarily wouldn't and maybe even in some cases,couldn't afford.
You can find my reviews of these places now in the links page on the right hand side of the blog as "TRS on Trip Advisor".

The best two meals that I had were at places that I had never eaten at and heard before the trip.
I always try to read up to find places before a trip and skimmed Trip Advisor to as well,so in researching-I discovered that most people think that Rascal House ranks as the best Cleveland pizza,so I made a note of that before we left as pizza seems to be a hotel room staple.
After the first day of Rachel's "project" and food,we were all starving,so pizza looked to be the choice.
Before I ordered though,I asked my friend and local Brian Kelley for his opinion on the best Cleveland pizza and his response was Rascal House-that's when I knew I was onto something.
I didn't get pictures because I just didn't think of it,so the shown picture is from someone's else camera,but it is enough to give you the point.

I've raved about Donna D's in Ashland in the past and I talked to the manager there about the difference in their pizza and the New York style that thrives here along with the lauded Chicago Deep Dish version.
He called it "Cleveland Pizza"and said he was originally from Cleveland and brought their pizza to Ashland.
After looking (and eating) at Rascal House,I can easily make the connection.
I ordered a deluxe,the ladies a "white pizza" and we each ordered some boneless wings (hot for me and BBQ for them) and all was excellent.
I highly recommend Rascal House and if you are ever in the Cleveland area-make Rascal House your place for pizza.....

The other great place I found was right down from our hotel-the Flip Side.
I had never heard of the Flip Side before our trip and once I saw it,I wanted to give it a chance.
It's kinda of small,but it's more cozy than small.
The boast is of serving all Ohio beef,so you get a quality item that has never been frozen.
The menu was given to me by the hotel desk and Cherie immediately found the burger that she knew I would order-the appropriately named "Shawn burger"!
No kidding-the perfect burger (minus tomato) for me-Pickles,onion,bacon,mayo and cheese!
Only peppers and mushrooms were missing and I could have made this burger myself!
Combine that with an order of cheese fries that Cherie and I split and you had a great dinner,but we weren't stopping there after another day of mediocre lunch.
We added an appetizer of a delicious tempura battered asparagus and shiitake mushrooms that had to be tasted to be believed and milk shakes that came with straws made of real chocolate!
This admittedly was a high cal meal,but considering the low cal rest of the day-I'm OK with it!
The Flip Side has five locations in Ohio and I'm going to keep my eye to be able to get flipped again!

I ate at other places on the trip and I may add them to a future blog,but I really wanted to write about these two places in particular!!!
Back later with maybe a Christmas podcast!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM starts early this week with all the bowl games,so here they are for this week.

Last Week:2-1

Bowl Games
Poinsettia Bowl
Boise State over Northern Illinois 29-19

Go Daddy Bowl
Bowling Green over Georgia Southern 36-20

Bahamas Bowl
Western Michigan over Middle Tennessee State 24-23

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Washington over Southern Mississippi 23-20

Texas Bowl
LSU over Texas Tech 43-29

Chiefs over Browns 23-10
Saints over Jaguars 28-26

Game of the Week
Cardinals over Packers 35-32

Monday, December 21, 2015


It's a list day as we look at college football silly season,places to go and places I've missed.

League Park

I'm still not at total liberty to discuss my recent reasons for visiting Cleveland last week,but I can discuss one small part of the visit-taking a little downtime to check out the former home of the Indians and recently renovated for local use-League Park.

Ryan came out for the last day and he and I took a break to find League Park and the famous Slyman's Deli and their reportedly awesome Corned Beef.
We missed Slyman's by 15 minutes (considering the time I had,I should have thought to have looked up their hours of operation) as they close at 2;30 for the day.
Now that I think about it-I'm really stupid for not looking it up!

 I've had notes on the city of Cleveland in "cleaning out the inbox" fixing League Park up in the Hough neighborhood (which is somewhat famous for riots in the 1960's) and one of the notes that I've read from others visits to League Park (before and after sprucing up) is about what a rough area League Park is located at.
I'm far from a city guy,but I didn't see people hanging around on corners or anything bad going on.
I've seen worse here in Hagerstown actually,but maybe it was just our lucky day.
Ryan commented how much cleaner Cleveland was than many of the cities that he goes to and how impressed he was.
I found out later from a resident that Cleveland has spent a massive amount of dollars to clean things up for the Republican convention coming up this summer,so maybe you might want to stop in Cleveland while things are good.

Anyway,the league is locked up when not in use and there is an on-site museum that is open on Saturdays to see.
The locked fence is why the pictures have been taken through the fence,so my apologies there.
The field has been rebuilt to the exact configuration of the field from its time with the Indians.
It's really sharp and imagine the fun along with good for the game that others cities could do with similar projects.

More pictures below and I still have posts on Cleveland whenever I get the call that I have the OK...

Defenseless in Seattle-Browns lose 30-13

The Cleveland Browns played respectable for a while,but as expected,were worn down by the physical pounding given by the Seattle Seahawks and left Seattle with a 30-13 defeat.
Johnny Manziel hit Gary Barnidge in the first quarter for the only Cleveland touchdown.
The now 3-11 Browns travel to Kansas City next Sunday for their final road game against the Chiefs,who have won eight games in a row.
Good luck.....

Brownie Bits

1) Good news-San Diego defeated Miami,so if the Browns lose their final games as I expect them to do-they can pick no worse than second.
The team they are now battling-Tennessee plays Houston at home and then the Colts in Indianapolis.
Keep an eye on that scoreboard...

2) Most of the fans are likely talking about Johnny Manziel,but I didn't think he played badly with a score and an interception.
The Cleveland Browns have many issues-Johnny Manziel is far from the top of that list...

3) That said-I'm not convinced that he is the answer either.
His elusiveness allows things to happen that a more conventional quarterback could not do,but the lack of size makes that almost a must.
Watching Manziel makes me wish Mike Pettine had just given him the ball to start the season and really have a lot of data to a make a decision with...

4) The lack of discipline and smart play showed when Tramon Williams grabbed a facemask on the final play of the half and allowed Seattle;s Steven Hauschka to drill a field goal on an untimed play.
You expect that from the younger defensive backs-Williams was brought here to treach them how to-not how NOT to...

5) Take away a 39 yard run by Duke Johnson (longest of the year by him) and the Browns rushed for just 55 yards.
So much for the revitalized running game.

6) Maybe it was the return home to Washington,but Danny Shelton looked the best he has all season with two tackles for loss.
I thought Shelton and Desmond Bryant were each effective in play and effort.

7) But the Browns still couldn't stop the run as Christine Michael,who was brought back off waivers from Dallas ripped the Browns for 84 yards on 16 carries as Seattle rushed for 182 yards on today....

8) John Greco left the game at guard early with injury which meant the return of Cameron Erving,who was called for one holding penalty and didn't get thrown across the field any,so for Erving,that was a good day...

9) Dwayne Bowe played and caught two passes.
Terrelle Pryor dropped the only pass thrown to him and other than that,his only time touching the ball was another of those ridiculous wildcat plays for a one yard loss.
The wildcat is worthless without the threat of a pass and it stuns me to think of how many people that get PAID to work in the game cannot figure this out.

10) I didn't expect a winning performance and for a half,the Browns hung in there against a far superior team on the road.
I expect the same result next week in Kansas City.
The only way that a Browns win either of the last two games would truly make me happy would be over Pittsburgh-if it would cost them a playoff spot.
Otherwise-Bring on the draft.
And have someone other than Ray Farmer doing the picking...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

PPM and Boxing Challenge?

A special edition of the PPM that combines last week's missing 2 NFL picks,this week's and a quick look at the boxing challenge from Manchester England.

Last Week,I had these saved,but not posted as I picked the Browns to beat the 49ers,but had the Saints losing to Tampa and they won.
So...That puts last week at 1-1,the previous week was a 10-1 in the college championship week.
Current record stands at 88-38.

I will do another Bowl PPM later this week with the teams we follow that have their bowl games next week!

But for tomorrow,3 NFL games

Seahawks over Browns 36-13
Saints over Lions 28-27

Game of the Week
Steelers over Broncos 24-17

The boxing challenge started early with R.L.Malpica earning two points to my one to cut the lead to 153-146 after two fights from Manchester England.
The main event saw Billy Joe Saunders lift the WBO middleweight title from Andy Lee via majority decision.
Saunders dominated the early part of the fight and almost stopped Lee in the third as he dropped Lee twice in the round.
Lee swept the late rounds and in rounds,I scored the bout even at six-six,but the knockdowns swung my card to Saunders at 114-112 and meant the difference between a Saunders win and a draw on the official cards.
Both R.L and I picked Lee for no points,but R.L. grabbed two points to my one as Liam Smith retained his WBO Jr.Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Jimmy Kelly.
That bout was untelevised,so no scorecard from me...

Four posts from me today! Might be a record,but I still have lots of catching up to do!
HBO boxing tonight,Browns tomorrow and I still have to write about being in Cleveland and why!
Stay tuned!!!

Pirate transactions

The Pittsburgh Pirates made two moves while I was away and neither were exactly moves that made me leap into the air...

The ugliest,in my opinion,is the signing of 38 year old righthander Ryan Vogelsong,who continues to bounce from the Pirates to Giants and now back to Pirates in his big league career.
Vogelsong,who revived his career in San Francisco after disappointing as a Pirate (want to feel old? That was in the Jason Schmidt trade in 2001!!!) and then failing in Japan,looks to be either possibly the 4th/5th starter or possible depth in the long relief/spot starter slot.
Vogelsong went 9-11 with a 4.67 ERA in the last of three less than stellar years after his two year revival upon a mainland return.
My take is this-I know longtime readers know that I've never been a fan of Ryan Vogelsong and it's not personal,but I was amazed that the Giants received the two years of quality that they did and now that was four years ago!
Now the Pirates apparently are going to plug Vogelsong in their rotation and I have concerns about any rotation that will (unless another move is on the way) feature Jon Niese,Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong as 60 percent of their rotation-that is not the rotation of a contender.
Pittsburgh has to be hoping to see a strong two months from Tyler Glasnow at Indianapolis and maybe even Jameson Taillon before the season ends to shore this up to hopefully move Locke and Vogelsong to spots that they wouldn't need to count on as much,but that's asking a lot and walking a fine line...

Pittsburgh also brought in another journeyman bat to compete at first base as the team traded with Milwaukee for 28 year old (turns 28 during spring training) Jason Rogers.
Rogers put together a .296 4 HR and 16 RBI in a 86 game stint that saw his first extended big league action,
Rogers might be a 4A bat that can help off the bench and can play first and third (although he is reported to be not very slick with the leather at 3rd),but the alarm here are these-at his age,if he had potential,why did Milwaukee wait so long and if he could help the Brewers and at a low cost-why didn't they keep him?

The cost wasn't excessive in Keon Broxton,who might wind up being a Rajai Davis type (speed off the bench.4th-5th outfielder) at his best and disappointing minor league pitcher Trey Supak.
Supak was the the Pirates second round pick out of the Texas high school ranks,but in two years in the system has produced little in stops in the GCL and in Bristol as an Applachian leaguer.

Low risk unless Supak finds his game,but I doubt the return will be anything to get excited about....

That concludes the news other than Allen Webster,who the team recently bought from Arizona was released,so that Webster could sign with a Korean team...

Back later with a combined PPM and look at Andy Lee vs Billy Joe Saunders....

Indian additions!

When you root for small market teams,you get used to less than scintillating free agent signings over the hot stove.
That's the one thing that has been fun about rooting for the Giants over the last few years-here and there,you can land a big money fish out of the pool...

I covered the Giants signing Johnny Cueto while I was away and now that I'm home (I'll have road stories-I promise) it's time to catch up on the less than inspiring signings in Cleveland.
I will try to get a look at the Pirate addition later today or soon

The biggest name went to Cleveland in well traveled Mike Napoli.
Napoli looked to be cooked midway through last season in Boston as he was a miserable .207,13 and 40 through 98 games before being basically given away to the Rangers,where he resurfaced with a improved .295,5 and 10 in 35 games to end the season.
At 34,Napoli's performance must have impressed the Indians a lot as the team signed him to a one year deal for seven million along with handing him the first base job.
Napoli is considered a good fielder,so shoving Carlos Santana and his mitt of steel to the DH slot is certainly an upgrade in the field.
The biggest question that I have is which Napoli are the Indians getting?
The Napoli that finished the season in a hitters park in Arlington or the Napoli that looked washed up to Nick Swisher level proportions in Boston?
If Cleveland got roughly what Napoli delivered in 2014 (.247,17 and 55),this isn't a bad deal-I question which Napoli they signed though and they may eat half a year of possible poor production to find out.....

Cleveland added an extra outfielder in yet another player that has bounced around the game in 35 year old Rajai Davis.
Davis completes the TRS triple crown by joining the Indians after spending time as a Pirate and Giant and other teams as well-last season as a Detroit Tiger,Davis hit .258 with 8 homers and 30 RBI and 18 steals.
Davis provides insurance in the outfield in case Michael Brantley's recovery from off season surgery takes longer than expected..
The one year deal is worth 5.25 million and with the Indians still lacking any type of impact outfielder other than Brantley,the addition of Davis actually looks good compared to the recent additions of guys that should be the last player on the bench types or organizational depth at AAA Columbus.
Sending some cash to the Angels for light hitting Collin Cowgill,signing more light hitters in former Pirate Robbie Grossman and former Cardinal Shane Robinson and claiming Joey Butler off waivers from Tampa Bay do not look like solutions to any problems to me-Unless you are trying to field a 4A teams with these guys with Abraham Almonte types.
Of those above names,only Butler even mildly intrigues as a possible bat off the bench with a little pop (8 homers in 257 at bats) and he is 29.
Now to be fair,these guys aren't designed to be solutions,but they still don't offer the type of hope that one would.well hope for...

I'm a little more pleased with the sign average guys in bulk plan when you sign pitchers.
Relievers can be so up and down from year to year and some times a team can stumble into a real gem.
Cleveland signed one time phenom Joba Chambelain and situational lefty Joe Thatcher to deals in that realm.
Thatcher had a fine season being used that way with Houston last season as a LOOGY and could help Cleveland in the same role.
Chamberlain may never be the fireballer that he once was as a Yankee and as his velocity drops,so has his strikeouts per nine innings ratio,but I'm fine with the low risk contract...

There's life in the small market-looking for a role player that can help from the massive sandpile-just need to sift through the box....

Maybe back later with Pirate talk...

Boxing Challenge

Back after a great week in Cleveland (I'll be writing about it soon),but I forgot about the Boxing Challenge from last week and since the results are over a week old,I will not bother with a recap.
I outscored R.L.Malpica 7-4 last weekend and hold a 152-144 lead entering the final bouts of the season.
Being a good sport,I decided to give R.L. a shot at running the table and giving him plenty of fights to choose from....

I was late in getting these out and R.L.didn't get them back for the 1st two fights,so no points on those...

Vacant IBF Lightweight title.12 rds
Rances Barthelemy vs Denis Shafikov
TRS:Barthelemy Unanimous Decision

Cruiserweights,12 rds
Murat Gassiev vs Isiah Thomas
TRS:Thomas unanimous Decision

WBO Middleweight title 12 rds
Andy Lee vs Billy Joe Saunders
R.L: Lee KO 7
TRS:Lee KO 10

WBO Junior Middleweight title.12 rds
Liam Smith vs Jimmy Kelly
R.L: Smith unanimous decision
TRS:Smith KO 5

Heavyweights 12 rds
Luis Ortiz vs Bryant Jennings
R.L; Ortiz KO 5
TRS;Ortiz KO 7

Jr.Lightweights.10 rds
Nicholas Walters vs Jason Sosa
R.L: Walters KO 4
TRS:Walters unanimous decision

Lt.Heavyweights.12 rds
Yuneski Gonzalez vs Vylacheslav Shabransky
Both: Gonzalez unanimous decision

Middleweights.10 rds
Joshua Clottey vs Gabriel Rosado
Both:Clottey unanimous decision

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Giants ink Johnny Cueto to six year contract

The San Francisco Giants said they weren't finished in free agency as they needed another arm and a bigger bat.
The question was could they acquire a top of the line model at both positions?

Well,to this writer's surprise-the Giants went out and grabbed the last remaining large prize in the free agent pitching race in former Reds and Royals righthander Johnny Cueto.
The 29 year old righthander went a combined 11-13 with a 3.44 ERA between Cincinnati and Kansas City,but his numbers in the senior circuit with the Reds were far superior (7-6,2.62 ERA on an awful Reds squad) and one would think those numbers would carry over in a return to the National League.
Cueto did not come cheaply,but the six year contract for 130 million does include a two year out for Cueto should he decide to activate that clause,so the Giants get the value out of Cueto that they think that they will,this is a good deal for them.

It could backfire though as Cueto had an elbow issue in 2013 that limited him to 11 starts and 60 innings,but has been quite durable in each of the last two seasons.
However,if Cueto doesn't pitch well or has injury issues,Cueto would have to be really dumb to activate the option and therefore the Giants would be on the hook for six years.
I know the money spent to upgrade the rotation looks heavy and it is (My nephew Jeff wrote me after hearing of the Cueto addition with "LA Light"? in reference to me calling the Red Sox- New York Light),but with the subtraction of Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson from the budget,the expense
increase is not as much as one would think,although the commitment is far longer in these two cases.

Johnny Cueto is added to Jeff Samardzija to bolster a rotation filled with long term contracts.
Unless the Giants come up with a minor league phenom or injuries hit,the front four of the rotation are signed for a long time with Cueto (6 yrs),Samardzija (5),Madison Bumgarner (2 yrs plus 2 yrs of club options) and Matt Cain ( 2 yrs plus 1 yr at club option).
Only Jake Peavy has a contract that ends at 2016,so for the most part,the Giants rotation is pretty much set in stone.

After an injury riddled 2015 that saw the Giants struggle to roll reasonable non-Bumgarner options to the mound,this looks to be a pretty strong rotation-particularly if the team is able to get Matt Cain into some semblance of pre-injury form.
I would wager that this deal takes the Giants out of the bigger bats that the team desperately needs such as Alex Gordon,Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton,but I believe that the team will try to budget shop and hope to mine gold with someone like Dexter Fowler,Denard Span,Austin Jackson types.
Those players would be an upgrade in a small way and perhaps could be quite productive with a little bit of luck.

The other thing that these signings and the Arizona signings as well have strengthened those teams,but the loss of Zack Greinke should bring the Dodgers back to the field back a bit and the National League West should be an interesting three team race for the first team in a few years.

The Giants certainly are all in over the next few seasons before the inevitable rebuild would begin,so I get the Cueto and Samardzija deals.
The farm system has some interesting talent,but none (especially in the outfield where the need is largest) that is anywhere near making an impact in near future and with the Giants pitching in severe veteran mode-the time is now for the Giants.

Gambles in free agency?
Yes,gambles worth taking?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Browns stiff arm 49ers 24-10

The Cleveland Browns managed for one day to be the type of team that Mike Pettine envisioned them to be-A physical run-first type of team that can stuff the opponent's running game and break them down.
The result was a dominant 24-10 Browns win for what might be the final win of the season.
Isaiah Crowell rushed for two scores and ran for 145 yards with Johnny Manziel tossed a touchdown along with 270 yards for the day.
Cleveland improves to 3-10 on the season with the victory and falls out of the lead in the race for the first pick in the draft behind Tennessee and San Diego.

Brownie Bits

1) It's interesting to me that the fans that want change in the management team and the reaction to this win.
Browns fans seemed happy with this win over an almost equally crummy team (4-9 to 3-10),even at the cost of losing the top overall draft pick.
Cleveland dropped from first to third with the win,but...

2) I don't see the Browns winning again against their tough competition fighting for playoff berths (at Seattle,at Kansas City and Pittsburgh at home),so I don't see them sliding below third overall.
Tennessee (at New England,home vs Houston and at Indianapolis) and San Diego (Miami,at Oakland and at Denver) would need to win once for the Browns to pass them,although the tiebreakers are strength of schedule,so that could change as the final games play out...

3) The 49ers came in thinking that even with Browns retread Shaun Draughn as the their ball carrier that that they could run the football against the worst run defense in the game.
Turned out they couldn't as they finished with just 71 yards.
Much of that was being behind in the second half,but Cleveland was able to shut down the run effectively to much surprise...

4) Brian Hartline had a nice game with eight catches for 107 yards as the main target for Johnny Manziel,but he broke his collarbone and will miss the remainder of the season.
Hartline's absence will likely mean either more playing time for Terrelle Pryor among others...

5) I thought Johnny Manziel played well,but you have to consider the opposition.
I did like that Manziel was allowed to roam from the pocket and not forced into the mold,so "letting Johnny be Johnny" was the right move for the this day...

6) Isaiah Crowell has been a disappointment this season,but again consider the foes,but he looked to show signs of the hard nosed back that we saw glimmers of last season..
I don't think Crowell is a franchise back by any means,but I've liked his ability and would like to see him stay around-even if not as a number one back...

7) Nine sacks from a team that struggled to rush the passer all season!
The Niners clearly have a bad line and Blaine Gabbert isn't the most adept at avoiding a rush,but still that's pretty impressive.
Armonty Bryant had two sacks  and continues to show talent for rushing the passer at times.
Bryant's problem is under Mike Pettine/Jim O'Neill that they are trying to use him as a standup linebacker in the 3-4 when he clearly is better suited as a rush end.
I have hope for a Bryant breakout next year that will use his talents better...

8) I've ripped Ray Farmer for his bad drafting,but his second round pick Nate
Orchard finished with two sacks yesterday showing the pass rush ability that the Browns hoped he would add.
The problem with Orchard (as with past number one Barkevious Mingo,who was pre-Farmer) is that the Browns continue to try to make a pass rusher into a pass defender.
Even yesterday,Cleveland isolated Orchard on a receiver and was called for pass interference allowing the 49ers to get a first down deep in their own territory...

9) Serious concern about the special teams and kicker Travis Coons.
Coons had a field goal blocked as the "Ray Farmer special" kicked in as both first rounders Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving got blown up by the rush and rejected the kick.
Coons would kick a field goal later,but even then,the 49ers got a finger on it.
The special teams has had a bad last few weeks...

10) This might have been the last highlight of the year-hope you enjoyed it!!!!

Podcast=Catching up!!

We talk Hot Rod Williams and those Cavaliers,Baseball winter meetings and salary sustainability,the Final Four in college football and who is Oliver' Vernon and why do I care about him????

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pirates trade Charlie Morton

The Pittsburgh Pirates opened up another spot in their starting pitching cartel as the team shipped the enigmatic Charlie Morton to the Phillies for minor league pitcher David Whitehead.

Morton had been inconsistent and oft-injured since arriving from the Braves in the Nate McLouth trade back in 2009,but did put together a nice season (7-4 3.26 ERA) in 2013 before two less than strong seasons the last two years.

Morton was scheduled to make eight million in 2016 with a mutual option for 2017,so a team in the financial position of the Pirates could make an argument that I agree with-that a player that delivers such numbers is quite replaceable at a cheaper rate.
I've never been a Morton fan,so this deal doesn't disappoint me,but the team will have to step up and find someone to add to the rotation whether through trade or the minors.
I'm sure that the team has a preference for that player to be righthanded as the four scheduled starters have a 3 to 1 lefty bias (Francisco Liriano,Jon Niese and Jeff Locke to Gerrit Cole).
The Pirates don't really have anyone ready in the minors with Nick Kingham recovering from Tommy John surgery,Jameson Taillon missing all last season and ideally the team giving Tyler Glasnow a few months seasoning in AAA Indianapolis.
If I had to guess,this was a money dump in order to bring in a new starter and eight million could go a long way towards bringing in a reclamation project to fill the rotation,
I doubt that will add one of the better remaining arms,but it might attract someone for a one year deal that wants to re-establish themselves as a viable 2017 contract.
Three names that interest me as a season filler as free agents are Jeremy Guthrie (Royals),Justin Masterson (Cardinals) and Doug Fister (Nationals).
All three are pitchers down on the luck,but had success in the past and may look at the Pirates success in rehabbing careers (Francisco Liriano,A.J.Burnett and Edinson Volquez  to start) as a way to join that list.

As far as David Whitehead goes,I consider him a fringe prospect at best.
Whitehead spent his first full season at High A Clearwater and posted a less than exciting season as a Thresher (25 starts 9-11 in 25 starts).
Whitehead also doesn't appear to miss bats (94 strikeouts in 135 innings) and at 24 by next season's start doesn't strike me as much more than an organization soldier.
Perhaps the Pirates see some potential in a possible bullpen move,but otherwise headed for organizational soldier status.
I'd expect Whitehead to return to High A with Bradenton or a chances of AA Altoona....

I hope to finally knock out a podcast out tonight.
Last night,I actually had all my equipment out and ready to go and duty called,so I'll try to put that up tonight.....

Goodbye to Hot Rod Williams

It seems like I've been doing too many of these lately,but another player has passed as former Cavalier John "Hot Rod" Williams passed away at the age of 53.
Williams passed away from complications of prostate cancer.
I just heard a few days ago that Hot Rod wasn't doing well,but the passing still came as a shock,considering that it hadn't even escaped the inbox yet.

I felt a special affinity for the players of those late 80's-early 90's Cavaliers.
I became a Cavalier fan with the players of the Miracle of Richfield years,but the Cavaliers were mostly awful in my youth,which covered the Ted Stepien owned years and with the exception of one crazy year,Cleveland usually was not in the playoffs and rarely even had exciting players.
Other than World B.Free and Mike Mitchell,those lean years were pretty dreary for Cavalier fans until that bunch all came in in the same year-Hot Rod,Mark Price,Ron Harper and Brad Daugherty.
Larry Nance was added later and those players were the core of the team that might have won a title,if not for the misfortune of battling Michael Jordan.
Those Cavaliers tended to play Jordan's Bulls evenly,until general manager Wayne Embry got mad at a pre-knee injury Ron Harper and traded him for Danny Ferry.
When the dynamic Harper left,the Cavaliers lacked anyone to really make Jordan work on the defensive end,saving his legs a bit and that might have made the small difference in those tight games.

Hot Rod wasn't part of the 1986 draft class with Harper,Daugherty and Price,he was drafted in the second round of the 1985 draft from Tulane even though he was clearly a first round talent.
I first heard of Williams as part of a one man team in the old Metro conference battling Louisville and Memphis State.
I was a big Tiger fan and Williams battles against Keith Lee allowed a undermanned Tulane team to hang tough against more talented teams.
Williams was caught in the Tulane point shaving scandal and wasn't allowed to play in the NBA until that was cleared up.
Cleveland signed Williams to a personal services contract to allow Williams to pay the bills while the court case went forward.
When Williams was acquitted of the charges,he was allowed to join the Cavaliers for the 86-87 season and the rebuilding began.

Hot Rod Williams was the type of player that successful teams need-a versatile player that could score,block shots and rebound,but didn't need to be the focal point of the offense.
Able to run the floor and having the ability to play and just as importantly defend any position in the frontcourt,Williams would have started on many teams,but was unselfish enough to come off the bench.
When the game was on the line,Williams was on the floor,which was far more important than starting.

Those Cavaliers were filled with good players and nice guys and some thought it was that the Cavaliers were too nice to get by the Bulls.
I often wonder if I'd trade that group of guys for an NBA title back then and of course I'd have to consider it,but I'm not sure if I would.
That team and those guys deserved it,but being good people are more than a little more important.

Rest well, Hot Rod....

Friday, December 11, 2015

Boxing Challenge

This is a little late being posted as I was working on the Hot Rod Williams piece.
I lead R.L Malpica 145-140...

Vacant WBO Jr.Featherweight title.12 rds
Nonito Donaire vs Cesar Juarez
R.L;Donaire KO 3
TRS:Donaire KO 8

Lightweights.10 rds
Felix Verdejo vs Josenilson Dos Santos
R.L:Verdejo KO 8
TRS:Verdejo KO 4

Jr.Welterweights.12 rds
Omar Figueroa vs Antonio DeMarco
R.L:DeMarco unanimous decision
TRS:Figueroa unanimous decision

Heavyweights.12 rds
Chris Arreola vs Travis Kaufman
R.L:Kaufman KO 8
TRS:Arreola split decision

Heavyweights.12 rds
Anthony Joshua vs Diillan Whyte
R.L.Joshua KO 1
TRS;Joshua KO 2

Cruiserweights 12 rds
Roy Jones vs Enzo Maccarinelli
R.L:Jones KO 9
TRS:Jones unanimous decision

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Minor Points-Rule 5

A minor point,which basically is cleaning out the inbox with a minor league baseball slant.

Before I begin,I'd like to say I wish that I could have delivered the promised podcast on each of the last two nights,but those were two of the craziest work nights that I have ever had and I came home pretty tired from the road office.
If possible,I'll be doing one before the weekend starts with a few special notes and lots of thoughts from baseball's winter meeting along with some thoughts on the final four in college football....

The rule 5 draft was this morning and none of the three teams we discuss here made a selection in the highest phase (Major),however,all three would select players in the AAA draft.
All three teams would lose a pitcher in the big league portion,so that's interesting.
Please keep in mind in the AAA and AA portions of the draft there are no regulations as in the major draft-In those two,the team writes the check and the player is theirs-no takebacks!

As I said,none of the three made selections in the first two draft portions,but the Indians did lose one as the San Diego Padres grabbed righthander Josh Martin off the Cleveland unprotected list.
The 6'5 Martin was dominant as an Akron Rubber Duck last season in 44 appearances (80 strikeouts in 67 innings with a 2.27 ERA),but at 26 by months end,good,but not great stuff and blocked by several similar prospects in the Cleveland system,this looks like a good move for Martin.

The Indians did select someone in the AAA portion in Brian Moran,a former North Carolina Tar Heel from the Mariners.
Moran was once a major league selection in the rule 5 draft,but was returned after an injury forced Tommy John surgery.
Moran returned last season with 30 innings at AA Jackson and appeared to be especially tough against lefthanders.
Cleveland should start him at AAA Columbus and see what he has to offer as the Indians do lack strength on the portside of the bullpen with Kyle Crockett being (for now) the only player that seems to be a lock.

The Pirates took one player in the AAA portion and lost one in the major draft.
The loss wasn't a huge one as former Hagerstown Suns pitcher Deolis Guerra was taken by the Angels.
Guerra recently re-signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent and was looked at as most likely to be depth at AAA Indianapolis or a possible callup in case of injury.
Guerra was a huge prospect here when the Suns were affiliated with the Mets and was part of the Johan Santana trade with the Twins and Mets,but never seemed to fully grow into his body (6'5 plus) to develop the expected velocity.
The odd thing about this is that the Angels could have just signed Guerra as minor league free agent stock,but by taking him in the draft,they are forced to keep him in the majors all year or offer him back to Pittsburgh.

The Pirates tabbed a light hitting shortstop in 22 year old Alfredo Reyes from the Mets.
Reyes has been a pro for five years,but other than a brief cameo last season in high A,has never played higher than the New York/Penn league and didn't hit well there.
I look for Reyes to likely start at low A West Virginia and looks to be more of an organizational soldier than a true prospect....

The Giants lost Joe Biagini in the major portion to the Toronto Blue Jays and lost outfielder Devin Harris to the Diamondbacks in the AAA round.
Biagini looked to be an organizational soldier entering the 2015 season in his first test at AA with Richmond before a breakout season as a Squirrel with a 2.42 ERA.
Biagini looks to be more of a 5th starter/long reliever than a middle of the rotation guy because he just doesn't miss bats (5.8 strikeouts per nine innings).
I saw Biagini start four times last season (seemed like every time that I saw Richmond,he was starting) and he's a guy that uses his fastball and curve well,throws strikes (34 walks) and avoids the bad pitch.
His ceiling is a 4th or 5th starter,but he could be the type of player that can help out a major league team....

Devin Harris is basically a AA hired gun at this stage of his career as he turns 28 in June and has never played at the AAA level,
Harris likely fits in as organizational outfield depth for Arizona....

The Giants will likely use righthanded pitcher Wilson Santos as organizational depth as well,although Santos does have nice numbers last season at the Padres affiliate at short-season Tri-City before getting lit up at low A Fort Wayne.
At 24,I wouldn't see Santos as any more than low system fodder.

Two names jumped out at me from the AAA draft in Zack Cox and David Freitas.
A former first round pick and top prospect third baseman for the Cardinals before being traded to the Marlins,Zack Cox never seemed to hit his stride in AAA and has spent most of the 2015 season with AA Jacksonville.
Cox was taken by the Nationals and could be at either AA Harrisburg as a hired gun or AAA Syracuse depending on the Nationals needs.
I have plenty of cards of Cox that need to be signed,so I'm rooting for a Harrisburg assignment.

David Freitas has become one of those traveling catchers mitts that have value moving around the minors and he was selected by the Cubs,who must have a high A or AA need behind the plate.
The former Hagerstown Sun was looked at as a potential prospect by some (not me) after a solid 2011 in the Hub City (.288,13,73 ),but ever since has been a below average bat....

I plan on another minor points post soon where we discuss rumors on franchise moves and possibilities...

Pittsburgh trades Neil Walker for Jon Niese

The Pittsburgh Pirates made their first major move of the off-season as the Pirates traded long time second baseman Neil Walker to the New York Mets for lefthanded pitcher Jon Niese.

Niese,a former Hagerstown Sun, went 9-10 with an ERA slightly above four and is a nice fit in the back of the Pittsburgh rotation after being the odd man out with the Mets,who have an abundance of young power arms to start.

In Pittsburgh,where the Pirates have two openings among their starters after the retirement of A.J. Burnett and the loss of J.A.Happ to free agency,Niese slots in nicely in the middle to back of the rotation.
The lefty isn't overpowering (113 SO's in 176 innings),but he is durable and at worst,will be able to be an inning eater as a Pirate.
Niese is under contract for 2016 (9 million) and has team options (10 and 11 million) for the following two seasons,so the Pirates could conceivably have Niese for three years,if they desire and if the production is of value.

The loss of Neil Walker is yet another reason on how the cost of doing business in small markets tends to make teams constantly cull the herd,no matter the reason and no matter the popularity.
Walker hit .269 with 16 homers last season,but was likely to get a raise from his eight million salary with arbitration more than not as the end result before he hit free agency.
With Walker being 30 now,signing him to a long term deal did not make sense for the Pirates and moving him now enables the Bucs in getting the best possible value in Niese for the return.
Walker was the backup choice for the Mets after the team failed in getting their top identified target in free agency as Ben Zobrist signed with the Cubs and allows their best second base prospect Dilson Herrera (also obtained from the Pirates) an additional year to mature at AAA Las Vegas.
The Pirates will likely (barring no further moves) move Josh Harrison to second and hope that Jung Ko Kang is healthy enough to start the season at third.
I suppose Alen Hanson and Max Moroff have chances to win the job,but Hanson was just average at AAA Indianapolis last year and Moroff had a nice year at AA Altoona,but has yet to test International League waters,let alone the bigs...

Neil Walker had a special spot with Pirate fans because of his Pittsburgh background,but it was more than just that.
Neil Walker was drafted in the Dave Littlefield years and his selection followed by Andrew McCutchen in the next draft were about all that Littlefield did right,so fans that waited for Walker and McCutchen to wind their way through the system and hopefully turn things around developed a special bond with them.
Neil Walker took a little longer than normal as he was drafted as a catcher,spent a few years behind the plate,moved to third,but after the drafting of Pedro Alvarez,wasn't needed as the eventual third baseman and then worked hard to become a decent enough second baseman and most of that transition was done at the major league level.

This one hurts a little,but the team addressed a need and in a business that comes down to making the best out of what you have to spend,the Pirates made a prudent decision.
Less than popular with the fans perhaps,but smart and prudent......

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cleaning out the inbox

Time for an overdue cleaning of the inbox and hopefully I'll be knocking out a podcast tonight to go with this...

The Hardball Times talks about a forgotten player (doesn't someone do a series along those lines?) that had one of the best seasons that you've likely not known about.
Diamond Jim Gentile was a powerhitting first baseman that spent most of the 50's blocked in the Dodgers organization by Gil Hodges and looked to possibly be one of those 4A players that you hear about from time to time.
Gentile's 1961 (.302,46 HR and 141 RBI) was the apex of a pretty strong five year run in Baltimore that was followed by two mediocre seasons and then sent Gentile to Japan.
Interesting article....

The Ashland Eagles were eliminated from the Division II playoffs after an undefeated regular season and I didn't get around to posting this soon,but the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote about the Eagles head man Lee Owens.
Owens was the former head coach at Akron and spent time on the Ohio State coaching staff in the John Cooper years.
Despite the disappointing ending,quite a season for Ashland football....

Our buddy Big Don sends us this article from CBS Sports on the lost dawgs in Cleveland and discusses lots of things going back to the move of the team to Baltimore and people that it affected to this day.
The most interesting part was the guy that collects and restores stadium seats.
I've always wanted a Municipal Stadium and Richfield Coliseum seat and I can see a room in my house just like the one this fellow is pictured in!!!

Kevin Jones backs up our prediction for the Browns (3-13) with a look in Cleveland Scene magazine in which he asserts the Browns were set up to fail by their horrible 2014 draft..
People tell me that I'm naturally pessimistic on the Browns and they may often be true,but I looked at this teams schedule and roster and it didn't take much to pick 4-12 or worse...

In just at the gun,Tyson Fury was stripped of his IBF heavyweight title that he won from Wladimir Klitschko for taking the Klitschko rematch rather than number one contender Vylacheslav Glazkov.
Glazkov is a dubious contender anyway as he won a decision over Steve Cunningham to earn the slot that I thought Cunningham clearly deserved.
Glazkov will fight for the vacant belt vs Charles Martin,who fights for Al Haymon and his PBC,so who promotes that fight will be interesting.
Martin was scheduled to fight this Saturday against former Olympian Dominic Breazeale on a PBC card on NBC,but has pulled out in order to take the title shot vs Glazkov....

Monday, December 7, 2015

Giants sign Jeff Samardzija

The San Francisco Giants continued their usual trend by finished in the place or show position in signing free agents when they missed on Zach Greinke,who spurned both the Giants and the rival Dodgers to sign in Arizona to join the Diamondbacks.

However,the Giants came up with an addition to the rotation in righthander Jeff Samardzija to complement Madison Bumgarner and hopefully bulk up things around their ace.
Samardzija wasn't cheap at five years and ninety millions (18.2 million per in case your calculator isn't close) and his less than stellar season with the White Sox lasts season causes me some concern-I mean besides needing to consistently spell Samardzija on here!

Samardzija was so bad that he posted an ERA of just under five (3rd highest in the AL pitchers with enough innings to qualify),he lost 13 games for the fourth season in a row (although take that with a chili pepper flake) and his strikeouts per nine innings dipped by a full digit.
However,the White Sox were one of the worst fielding teams in the league and a smaller ballpark and sometimes,pitchers are just suited to certain leagues.
Samardzija's numbers with the Cubs were excellent and his half year in the AL with Oakland was excellent in the Oakland Coliseum.

The Oakland Coliseum with all of its foul ground is known as a pitchers park and so is AT&T Park in San Francisco with a vast outfield and deep power alleys.
Combine that with the tutelage of Dave Righetti,who has done miracles with lesser talents than Samardzija,the solid stuff of the righthander and the lack of an history with arm/shoulder issues makes me think that this is a gamble worth taking.
I'm a little leery of the length of the contract,but that's the price of playing poker in baseball today.
Other than the numbers from 2015 and the fifth year,I think this is a gamble worth taking.
Am I certain this is a good signing?
No,but I suspect it'll be an OK one....

I'll be covering any further Giants moves at the winter meetings as well as any by the Pirates and Indians.....

Bengals embarrass Browns 37-3

The Cleveland Browns set a new low on Sunday as they were battered into their worst loss ever to the Cincinnati Bengals 37-3 in Cleveland.
Other than Travis Coons and his 47 yard field goal at the end of the first half,there were no highlights of note.
The now 2-10 Browns host San Francisco next week...

Brownie Bits

1) With the Tennessee win,the Browns now have the worst record in the league and as of now-the top pick in 2016.
There is your highlight of the day.

2) The Browns never crossed into the Bengals red zone all day and inside the 30 just twice.

3) I didn't think Austin Davis was that bad.
I mean he wasn't great (230 yds,1 Int),but he wasn't the reason for this beating.
Those reasons go way beyond Davis and his performance.

4) The fact that Davis was down to two healthy receivers by the games end (Brian Hartline and recently promoted Darius Jennings) gave the Browns and Davis even fewer playmakers than the normally inept team usually has,
The questionable decision of Mike Pettine to deactivate both Dwayne Bowe and Terrelle Pryor left the Browns vulnerable to injury and of course being the Browns-they got them as Travis Benjamin and Marlon Moore each were driven from the game...

5) Add in that the offensive line gave Davis very little time to throw and you had the makings of a rout.
Davis was only sacked three times,but he was harassed and hammered on almost every one of his 41 dropbacks.
The lowlight here was..

6) First round pick Cameron Erving being thrown aside by Geno Atkins like Ken Patera throwing the tire in old World's Strongest Man action wasn't the only bad thing from Erving.
Erving was benched and replaced by waiver wire pickup Austin Pasztor-he was that bad.
I realize Erving's best position is center and we'll see what he can do there next year when Alex Mack leaves,but for now,Erving looks to be yet another Ray Farmer wasted draft pick.

7) I don't think Danny Shelton has been terrible this season,but it did make me wonder why the noted run stuffer was absent from the field on a fourth and one in the first quarter.
Naturally,Andy Dalton went right at that spot for the first down and later would see a huge gap in the line and walk into the endzone for a score....

8) Another 144 yards yards allowed on the ground and Andy Dalton had time to throw all day other than one sack by Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.
Complete domination on the line of scrimmage by the Bengals..

9) A.J. Green generally torched Tramon Williams on the day,which included a score,but Williams did track Green after a long gain which showed moxie and on the score,Williams was supposed to receive help from the safety-who was nowhere to be found.

10) This game was just brutal to watch and the feelings among Browns fans now is about as low as it can be.
Other than maybe this week's game against San Francisco,the final four games are likely to be just as ugly to watch.
I'm fine with that.
The Browns are never bad enough to gain the type of talent that changes teams.
Usually they are just mediocre-for once being the pits could possibly pay off....