Saturday, January 31, 2015

Schneider shines,Skaters don't in 2-1 Pittsburgh win

Cory Schneider showed up for the New Jersey Devils on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Too bad that his teammates didn't as Schneider was forced to make 41 saves with little offensive help as the Penguins took a 2-1 overtime win at the Rock.
Steve Bernier scored the Devils only goal (7) in the third period.
The Devils play the Florida Panthers tomorrow night,but I have to go to the road office early,so it'll be Cavaliers coverage on Saturday.

Hell Raisers

1) Cory Schneider was the best part of another less than great Devils effort.
41 saves,neither goal being on him and giving the Devils a point that should have never even been close to a consideration.
Add in Schneider's spectacular sliding save on Sidney Crosby among many top stops and it was blatantly clear that Schneider was the top star of this game...

2) Take away Steve Bernier's wraparound goal and the Devils offense was non-existent.
Even that took a break-as in the puck was inadvertently stopped by the referee behind the net,allowing Bernier to grab the puck at he originally was just trying to clear.
When you finish any game (let alone one that goes to overtime) with 14 shots-that's downright pathetic.
What a miserable effort

3) Now,look-I understand some of you might look at this and think "The Devils got a point,what is he so angry about?"
I'm angry because crappy games like this and the Toronto win help no one.
They don't help the Devils because they aren't helping draft position.
They don't help young players because really except for Adam Larsson,no young players have prospered since the coaching change and they damn sure don't help the fans watching dull games every night.
I'm all for boring hockey,the Devils won three championships that didn't remind anyone of the Gretzky Oilers,but you better be winning that way.
I'm sure there will be similar rants before the season is out.

4) I bag on Peter Harrold a lot and I always feel bad when I do.
Harrold is an Ohio guy,seems like a super nice fellow and always tries hard,but here is my problem watching penalties like his third period one that gave Pittsburgh a late power play that allowed the Penguins to then tie the game.
Peter Harrold is an AHL level defender that would be perfect in Albany as a veteran mentor,but is painfully outmatched in the NHL.
Playing Harrold at the expense of the maturation of Eric Gelinas and keeping his offensive skills in the skybox makes no sense to me.
Gelinas makes mistakes-more than I'd like,but sitting him doesn't help him become part of this teams future-either as a player or a valuable trade chip.

5) Lousy passing.
Just lousy.
The Devils offense rarely completed the most fundamental part of this game-moving the puck from stick to stick to create offense  and that results is bad hockey,folks.
I was hoping to see some improvement in the offense since the coaching change,but the bigger problem is just not enough talent.
The sooner we wake up to that,the sooner that the foundation for the future can begin to be laid.

As I noted above,I'll be watching the Cavaliers not the Devils tonight from work.
That just might be a good thing.....

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cleveland Browns Season in Review-The Offense

A bit late,but I've been taking my time getting to this in order to give this series the attention that deserves.
Over the next few weeks (hopefully sooner),I'll be looking at the Browns on offense,defense,special teams and mixed in (or in a post of its own) some thoughts for the off-season.
Usually the free agent season and draft are about as good as it gets for Browns fans,so I always try to address that.

Quarterback once again bedeviled the Browns and looks even worse for the 2015 season.
Brian Hoyer has his supporters and share of good games,but even at his best,Hoyer consistently underthrew and overthrew receivers,left points on the board and drove me crazy with accuracy issues.
I still wouldn't mind bringing Hoyer back under the right contract and conditions,but there are two quarterbacks that I prefer in the free agent crop,although only one might have a chance to be more than a stopgap solution.
I admit that the frustration of watching Hoyer made me want to see Johnny Manziel,especially after his touchdown drive in Buffalo.
However,that was as good as it got for the diminutive Texas A&M product,who looked overmatched after Buffalo and was more noted for off the field antics than playing performance.
Frankly,I'm just not sure what to do about Manziel for 2015.
If you draft a quarterback high,you admit Manziel was a mistake without a second year,but on the other hand,a decision to play Manziel could end in disaster if he performs in the manner that he did last year.
If anyone wants to give anything for him,I think I'd take it,but a outright release such as some are calling for is a stretch....
I liked the grit and moxie shown by rookie Connor Shaw in the final game against Baltimore and want to keep him around,but a lack of arm strength limits the upside of Shaw to be more than a quality backup...

The running game showed a vast improvement over 2013,but still was inconsistent.
Terrence West,Isaiah Crowell and the departed Ben Tate each had their big games,but each were benched at times and each had issues holding onto the football.
Tate showed an alarming lack of burst around the corner and wasn't used enough in the passing game.
The lack of speed likely was the main reason (other than a reported locker room issue) that Tate was released,but not playing to his strengths did not put Tate in a position to succeed.
I think Crowell is the more skilled and talented of the two returning backs and if I was selecting the player to carry the load,I'd select Crowell,but West was solid as well-when he didn't tap dance behind the line of scrimmage.
I think the Browns will select one or the other as the main back in camp and the other will see carries at a reduced rate.
The team talked a good game at fullback with Ray Agnew bookending that position with a cameo from Kiero Small.
Neither showed much in the passing game and neither looked to be anything more than average as lead blockers.

Ray Farmer was criticized for not devoting draft picks to a wide receiver and for a while,Farmer looked quite smart.
As the season progressed,Farmer's group began to come back to the field like a six furlong horse running a mile and a quarter.
Josh Gordon was disappointing and uninspired in his return from suspension and considering Gordon will likely miss the 2015 season to another suspension,Farmer's hand will be forced to do something (and maybe more than one) in the draft and/or free agency.
Miles Austin performed well when he was able to play,but once again injuries bit the former Cowboy and he is a free agent.
I'd be fine with bringing him back at the right cost.
Andrew Hawkins was very productive when he was able to be used inside in the slot,but struggled when forced outside due to the rash of injuries and suspensions.
Hawkins size works against him in the outside positions.
Taylor Gabriel was a nice sign as an undrafted free agent,but is small for a larger role than a 4th receiver.
Travis Benjamin is the only other Browns WR to catch a ball and he too is on the smallish side.
Ray Farmer is going to have to do something in the next few months.
Jordan Cameron has the ability to be a huge part of any teams passing game,but Cameron is a free agent and between being a little underused (24 catches on 48 targets in ten games) along with persistent concussion issues and a reported desire to be on the Western side of the country makes tight end a upgrade as well.
The Browns got more than expected from veteran blocking types Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge as pass catchers (30 catches for just under 400 yards between the pair) and both are solid blockers,but neither are the type of players that you would want to hitch your horse to as a starter.

The Browns offensive line certainly missed Alex Mack at center after his injury and it really hurt the running game.
I think the Browns would have been best suited keeping John Greco at center for Mack instead using Nick McDonald and Ryan Seymour there.
I understand the value of keeping the solid Greco at right guard,but desperate times etc and both McDonald and Seymour were sieve-like at center.
Joe Thomas might have had his best year at left tackle and rookie Joel Bitonio deserved Rookie of the year consideration at left guard.Mitchell Schwartz was adequate at right tackle,but no more than that.
I'm still not against a better solution than Schwartz at the right tackle,someone that is more of a hard nosed run blocker than Schwartz,who is more of a finesse' blocker suited to the pass blocking/deflect the rusher away of the previous west coast era...

Brian Hoyer wasn't great,but he did win seven games-although I wouldn't credit him with winning all those with his arm.

Running Back: B-
Fast start,slow finish brought this bunch back to the pack.
Two quality rookies and somewhat of a learning curve allows this grade.

Wide Receiver C-
The Browns got about all they could have expected from Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins and wound up expecting too much by Hawkins playing him outside.
Taylor Gabriel was a huge surprise,but still this is a below average bunch.

Tight End C
Jordan Cameron's season was disappointing,injuries or not,although Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge gave all that they had to offer..

Offensive Line B+
Grade would have been higher had Alex Mack stayed healthy.
Overall,a above average year despite post-Mack issues at the center spot...

Stay tuned over the next week when I take a look at the defense.

On the Signing Front

We return to the signing front for more cards as I try to put things away for the year.
My goal is to have everything put away before the season.
Good luck with that...

We start with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans,who were then a Texas Rangers affiliate and switched to the Chicago Cubs in the off season.
Looks like that switch will cause one class of players in the Rangers system (Last years Hickory players will now play in the California League in High A),to skip our circuit,but it'll be fun having the Cubs...
The biggest prospects were Jorge Alfaro on his top 100,Carolina League All-Stars and Prospects along with his team set card and Nick Williams on his all-star and prospect card.
Preston Beck and Royce Bolinger each made the CL all-star team,Lewis Brinson signed his SAL top prospect card and Christopher Bostick signed his Myrtle Beach card.
Bostick was obtained by the Nationals in the off season for Ross Detwiler and will likely play in AA Harrisburg...

The Carolina Mudcats were next into Frederick with the prospects of the Cleveland Indians.
Carolina and the Lynchburg Hillcats swapped the Indians with the Atlanta Braves in this off-season,so at least those two will remain in the Carolina League.
Like the Pelicans,the main attraction was knocking out team sets.
The Mudcats were a pretty mundane bunch with the biggest two in my opinion being former UCLA star Adam Plutko,who signed his USA and Lake County cards and Indians minor league pitcher of the year Ryan Merritt,who signed all three cards that I had.

I had next to nothing for the Lynchburg Hillcats-as in two cards as Cody Scarpetta signed an old pro debut and Lucas Sims signed his Carolina League top prospect....

Thanks to Mike Oravec for giving me a 1972 Alex Johnson.
Johnson had two cards with Cleveland and this was much appreciated.
Mike also gave me a 1989 Brian Fisher from the Pirates,

Thanks to the Superfan,who did multiple cards from the 2013 Aberdeen and 2014 Daytona sets.
The Cubs were uninspired,while the best Aberdeen catch was outfielder Mike Yastremski.
The Superfan also was able to add former Virginia Squires guard Dave Twardzik on a 75-76 Topps card.
Twardzik is currently the color commentator for Old Dominion's basketball radio network..

I had a few cards to fill in from the Akron Rubber Ducks,mainly players promoted from Carolina and Mike and Fred Landucci helped me with them.
All the Carolina League top prospect card were added as Erik Gonzalez,Louis Head and Shaun Morimando along with Eastern League All-Star cards of Shawn Armstrong and Joe Colon.

Tracy Mackereth gave me a card of Andy Reichard out of the 2012 Richmond set,which completed the 2012 Flying Squirrels.
I don't hear from Tracy anymore,but I always thought very highly of him,.

The Kannapolis Intimidators hit Hagerstown for their 15th (actually 4th) time and I had three players,the most notable being Toby Thomas on an Applachian League prospect card.

Thanks to Steve Nicholas in Indianapolis for getting me two Nick Kingham cards finished,the main one being a 1/100 Bowman Breakout Chrome card...

A special thanks to Brett Shaw-Brett did a Richmond team set for me since I couldn't get to Altoona in what was the only series that was close for me to do it.
I couldn't and Brett did it for me.Thanks,Brett-I appreciate it.
Notable players were Kyle Crick,Clayton Blackburn and Hunter Strickland,who was a post-season performer for the parent Giants.

Jason Christensen did a lot of work on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and their team set along with some stragglers from Portland and Binghamton.
Notable pickups with Jason were Mets prospects Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera on their pro debut card,while New Hampshire featured manager Bobby Meacham for the 1988 Score set,pitching prospect Daniel Norris on his Bowman,Donruss Elite and Midwest League top prospect and former White Sox pitcher Gregory Infante on his Topps Heritage and an old Carolina League top prospect that was nice to get out of the unsigned box.

Thanks to Patrick O'Connor for getting a few Trenton Thunder players-especially Mason Williams on a top 100! Dante Bichette Jr was another player that I didn't have...

This edition finishes with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in Hagerstown.
The Grasshoppers had won the SAL first half and would return for the playoffs,but we were able to get their team set finished along with some other things.
Top pickups were Brian Anderson on his New York/Penn league top prospect,Avery Romero on his SAL top prospect,Donruss Elite,Bowman and Batavia and Greensboro team set cards and Chad Wallach (son of former Expo third baseman Tim) on his SAL all-star card along with his Greensboro.

That narrows the pile further,but still a few more signing fronts to go,so more from the season to come!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cleaning out the inbox

Time for a quick cleaning of the inbox and we start with the passing of former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouqette at the age of 78.
"Monbo" was the best pitcher on some really bad Boston teams of the early to middle 1960's with a 20 win season in 1963 on a 7th place squad and a no-hitter in 1965 as well.
Monbouquette also was special to me for another silly reason-the card pictured to the left is the first ever 1965 card that I ever owned.
The card was for sale at the "top of the mall" a now demolished area of the Valley Mall for bingo players and small specialty shops.
I don't remember the price,but it was not overtly expensive,but more than I had on this day.
The next week (I remember going there roughly once a week),I went and Monbo was gone.
A few days later,as I played basketball with a friend down the street (remember this,readers?) and he was my envy because he was always able to buy these old cards because he had loads of spending money because his dad had passed away.
Anyway,Christopher was bragging about his latest conquests at the top of the mall and showed me his stack,which of course had Monbo.
Enraged (on the inside),we bet cards on some basketball games that we play and when it was over Monbo was coming home with me.
That card is around here somewhere still,but I still remember that every time I read or saw Monboquette's name or card.
For a better story on Monboquette by Gordon Edes,click here      

My friend,Krista Anderson,posted this story of a bear,lion and tiger that live together in one enclosure as family.
The three were found in deep physical distress in Atlanta by policemen during a drug raid and by being around each other at young ages,look at each other as buddies,not rivals.
It's a very sweet story and I always fall for stories like these.
Thanks to Krista for posting it.....

More from the film Red Army as Larry Brooks (Not usually my hockey writer of choice) writes about the Devils signing Vlacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov in the late 80's.
My fandom of those Soviet teams and their top defensive pair signing with the Devils cemented the Devils with me as my favorite NHL team.
The story discusses the former best friends,how they lost their friendship and how they would play in the same defensive pairing as Devils without speaking to each other.
Interesting and surprising coming from Larry Brooks,who often writes with a anti-Devils bias,since he used to work for the team and was fired.....

We finish up with Grantland's look at the great actor Gene Hackman and his career.
Hackman is retired now at 85,but what a great career and Hoosiers ranks as one of my favorite films ever.
A funny note is that Hackman almost got the role of Mike Brady on the Brady Bunch.
Bet his career would have been far different,had he taken that role and I wonder if that show would have been different with Hackman and Shirley Jones as the Brady parents as originally hoped for my the shows creators......

Devils top Leafs 2-1

The New Jersey Devils grabbed a win in a game that saying was dull would be an understatement after Jacob Josefson and Patrik Elias both scored against Jonathan Bernier in the shootout for a 2-1 win over Toronto at the Rock.
Adam Larsson tied the game with his goal (2) with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.
The Devils are back on Friday against Pittsburgh.

Hell Raisers

1) What an ugly game and one that wasn't exactly fun to watch.
After nine days without Devils hockey,this was not exactly what I was hoping to see,although I'll take the two points!
Often times when two bad teams play each other,you can have a fun game to watch-not this time.

2) I've always loved Mr.Devil-Ken Daneyko,but he's either being a homer or deluding himself as he talks about a playoff run.
The Devils are 13 points out of the final playoff spot after tonight's win and despite wanting I just don't see it.
If they have even a prayer of this,the Devils need a ten point sweep of this five game homestand.
Anything short is just that-short...

3) I'm not just saying this because he scored the only regulation goal,but Adam Larsson looks so much more confident and mature in his play since the firing of Peter DeBoer.
It's amazing how that happens when you are not constantly looking over your shoulder...

4) Cory Schneider was strong in net with 29 saves and I thought he was the Devil that performed best.
Schneider and Toronto's Jonathan Bernier gave each team a chance to win,which is all you can ask.

5) I missed overtime and the shootout as the 7;30 start and a slow moving game forced me off to work before the end.
It is nice to see some shootouts that aren't the automatic loss of days past and it is nice that Jacob Josefson does so well in these.
Usually the likable Swede's shot is like a magnet to the goalie's pads in regulation,but he shows much more skill in the shootout....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pirates send Travis Snider to Baltimore

The Pittsburgh Pirates needed to make some space in their outfield and sent outfielder Travis Snider to a place that he could play-Baltimore in return for minor league pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later.

Snider hit 13 homers last season in playing a career high 140 games (previous high was 111),but with the Pirates wanting to give the right field job to Gregory Polanco and Polanco also hitting from the left side of the plate,Snider was an extra part that had too much value to sit and not enough to play ahead of the talented Polanco.
With Baltimore's loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in this off-season,the Orioles could have use for Snider,who may finally have his opportunity to play every day.

The Pirates end of this is Stephen Tarpley,who was the Orioles third rounder in 2013,but did not get out of short-season Aberdeen last year.
Tarpley turns 22 in February and the lefthander will likely be assigned to low A West Virginia to start the season.
Tarpley is reported to have a solid fastball and curve and led the Ironbirds in innings pitched last season.
Tarpley was most likely a top 20 prospect in the Orioles system,but not a top 10 player.
The player to be named later is not likely to be a top prospect either and considering the player is to be named,I'd guess it might be someone from the 2014 draft that will not be transferred until later this summer due to the rules of MLB that a player cannot be traded until one year after his signing.

We'll see how this works out,but I like Baltimore's end of the deal as they get a solid defensive outfielder that might have 20 homer power in a hitter friendly park like Camden Yards.
The Pirates added two players to their system for a player that was likely going to play a smaller role than on last year's team.

Back tomorrow with a possible cleaning of the inbox....

Five things that Bud Selig broke that I wouldn't have broken

I've never been a fan of Bud Selig and have always thought that his reign as commissioner was a disaster despite what many in the baseball media have to say.
My list ended at eight, but I wanted to keep it light-much like Bud Selig's reign.
Here are my top five things that Bud Selig botched that I would fix, but first this does not include problems that were in existence before Selig took over such as the designated hitter.
I have opinions on more baseball items that need decisive fixing, but I'll stick to Bud for tonight as the snow falls in the Hub City.

1) The minor league draft.
A few years back, there was a movement among some of the leagues lesser lights like the Pirates and Royals to name two to spend lots of money in the amateur draft in an attempt to balance the system that keeps them from competing for the best free agents.
Selig instituted a "Cap" to keep teams from spending freely for the amateur draft by assigned each team a specific amount that they could spend on the draft and if they exceeded that, a team would pay a "tax" for overspending.
I find it ironic that the man that had no problems with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers outspending on veteran talent every year by tens of millions, felt compelled to limit spending by the Pittsburghs, Houstons, and Minnesotas of the league.
If there was a salary cap in place, I would be able to live with this system.
Instead, it smacks of hypocrisy and pandering to the larger markets...

2) Interleague Play
Several of the items considered for this list are somehow related to this one.
I just plain dislike this.
I understand the theory of fans in certain cities never getting to see the stars of the other league, but in an age that you can see any game that you want if you have the desire, that really isn't such a big deal.
Many of the issues that bug me could have been fixed or never been a problem, to begin with, had Selig not rammed this through.
This also ruined the special aspect of the All-Star game, which has seen ratings consistently drop since this decision.
I wouldn't have a problem with certain teams with an interleague weekend each year, but other than that-yuck...

3) PED's
Selig had to know that something was going on and refused to do anything as guys like Shawn Green went from 15 homers to 45+ among many.
Selig allowed drug users to prosper rather than be punished and as a result, watch the game's history and record book get trampled.
This gave fans a bad taste on the game, destroyed past numbers, and made players from other times stats look weaker and hurt Hall of Fame chances.
A stain of the game that all the positive P.R. over time cannot erase...

4) Houston
No, I'm not talking about Dean Martin's hit-I'm commenting on Selig's heavy-handed treatment of the Astros as in forcing new ownership to agree to a move to the American League or their purchase of the team would not be approved.
This led to interleague play every day of the season (yuck), but one of the reasons given was now Texas fans can have their Astros-Rangers rivalry but wasn't one of the pushed reasons for interleague play was for series like Astros-Rangers to be played?
To throw 51 years of history in the National League away just for that reason was dumb and I'll bet that one day, someone in baseball will bemoan the lack of a National League presence in Texas-blame Bud.....

5) 1994
Selig playing hardball and allowing the labor issues in 1994 resulted in the World Series being canceled and the game's history now has a hole that cannot be filled.
Selig could have guided things along and had all winter to fix the problem,instead, he used poor leadership and allowed the worst-case scenario to occur.
This essentially greased the skids for the end of baseball in Montreal...

Dishonorable Mentions
Montreal: Kissing the rump of noted con-man Jeffrey Loria rather than concerns about the fans of the Expos resulted in Canada losing Major League Baseball and Loria being allowed to scamper to Florida where he runs the Marlins to this day to mixed results.

Wild Card: I don't like the Wild Card period, but I really hate the second Wild Card.
The amount of champions that came out of the wild card cheapens the title and that comes from a Giants fan that has seen that team prosper under the system.

All-Star Game; Mentioned above, but the silly "now it counts" to determine the home field for the World Series is a terrible way to decide who gets the advantage in the post-season. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Zabbies!!! Five fighters that I am tired of seeing!

It's time for the Zabbies!
The Zabbies are named after former champion Zab Judah, who I grew tired of seeing get big fight after big fight and always accompanied by excuses after excuses for his losses, which were then followed by lots of talk about this being "a new Zab Judah" blah blah...
Judah hasn't fought in a year and hopefully will not fight further, so the namesake for the list is not on it.

The list has various reasons for being on it ranging from Judah-like excuses, weak chins, quitting when the going got tough, and being susceptible to cuts, etc.
Without further ado-the first ever Zabbies...

1) Victor Ortiz
Ortiz, a fighter with a weak jaw, holds the honor of being the only man Floyd Mayweather has knocked out in this decade, knocked out flat by light-hitting Luis Collazo, quit in his corner against the smaller Josesito Lopez, and quit during a fight against Marcos Maidana.
Yet, this guy is always shoved into big fights that he doesn't deserve.
I'm very tired of seeing Ortiz get top opportunities off one win (albeit an exciting one) over the equally overrated number two pick...

2) Andre Berto 
Berto is the poster child for undeserved chances from two networks (HBO and Showtime) simply because the two networks did not want to take the chance of upsetting Al Haymon, the Berto adviser.
Berto has always fought with heart (Unlike Ortiz) but was given soft touch after soft touch on his way to winning two 147-pound titles and only a decision that could have gone either way against Luis Collazo stands out as anything above an average win.
Berto simply isn't a world-class fighter and I'm tired of seeing him...

3) Robert Guerrero
Guerrero, who is getting another big bout in March against Keith Thurman, took a vacant featherweight title after losing to Orlando Salido, a post-fight drug test saw Salido get stripped of the strap, made some defenses against less than strong divisional opponents, and then used a few wins over top 20 opponents (a shot Joel Casamayor, Michael Katsidis, Selcuk Aydin, and Berto) along with a friendship with then Golden Boy boss Richard Schaefer into a follow around bout against Floyd Mayweather.
Guerrero is more Judah-like than the first two "I'm in the best shape of my career", "You'll see a new Robert Guerrero" etc.
Tired of him too...

4) Devon Alexander
Alexander is a guy that will fight tough competition, but generally fights the same fight (dull and featherfisted) and has made some of the most exciting warriors in the sport seem dull.
Alexander does have a good performance against Marcos Maidana on his record and a win over Lucas Matthysse (a split decision that I thought Matthysse won) but has failed in every chance to step up-losses to Timothy Bradley (could have been the top 140-pounder with a win), Shawn Porter (Dropped his IBF welterweight title, a win might have gotten him Floyd Mayweather) and most recently Amir Khan (Made Khan look as strong as he has looked in years).
Even when he wins, the bouts are tiresome and with two losses in the last three fights and the win over Jesus Soto-Karass being nothing special, I'll put Alexander on the backburner...

5) Gabriel Rosado
Rosado is a guy that we like in effort as he always fights hard, will fight anyone, and generally has his fights go the same way-Rosado gets outboxed early, but he begins to rally and wear down his opponents (except for his Gennady Golovkin bout) and just as things turn his way, the fight gets stopped due to the condition (cuts and swelling) of Rosado's face.
Rosado is too tough for his own good and if you won't let Rosado be Rosado-HBO and Showtime need to stop featuring him.

And a bonus Zabbie!

6) Mike Alvarado
Alvarado looked to be a coming star or at least a contender after wins over hard-punching Bredis Prescott and Mauricio Herrera, who has given everyone fits since a lopsided loss to Alvarado.
Alvarado then fought two great fights against Brandon Rios losing on a questionable stoppage and then outboxing Rios in a decision win.
Those fights were as good as it got as Alvarado was overpowered and quit in his corner against Ruslan Provodnikov, was dominated by Juan Manuel Marquez other than scoring a flash knockdown and again quitting in the corner, this time against Rios.
Alvarado has had problems outside the ring and his skills have quickly deteriorated.
Combine that with an attitude that sees him quit ( at this stage of his career), come into fights unprepared and out of shape and I've had enough of Alvarado...

Hope you enjoyed the Zabbies and look for another version next year!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rios forces Alvarado to quit,Boxing Challenge

Brandon Rios finished off his trilogy with a dominant victory over a disinterested and uninspired Mike Alvarado when Alvarado did not come out of his corner to start round four.
Rios,who had often shown up out of shape himself in losing two of his last three fights and winning the other through whining about low blows on his way to a disqualification win,looked to have returned to championship form as he controlled the bout and scored the only knockdown of the three bout set when he dropped Alvarado in the third round.
Rios is a very exciting fighter when motivated,so one can hope that he is ready to fulfill his potential.

The problem is that one doesn't know just what he had in front of him in Alvarado,who has lost three in a row since winning the second bout via decision over Rios.
Alvarado has been plagued by outside the ring issues and it showed in this one.
As far as I'm concerned,Alvarado's lack of effort should disqualify him from future big fights and certainly appearances on HBO or Showtime until he could rebuild himself at a lower level,
I'm dubious of Alvarado's ability to do that at this stage of his career.

In the co-feature held at the catchweight of 170 pounds (I really hate those),Gilberto Martinez pounded out a workmanlike unanimous decision over Maxim Vlasov.
Many are showing disappointment in the touted Martinez,but Vlasov is no slouch and sometimes you learn more from going the distance and getting hit than from blowing everyone out.
I had Martinez winning the fight 97-93.

I didn't post a boxing challenge pre-fight,but the 2015 edition is tied at 6.
R.L.Malpica scored three points for Rios and his KO win along with Martinez and his decision win.
I scored two for the wins,but my prediction was Rios by decision.....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks passed today at the age of 83.
Banks was nicknamed Mr.Cub for his long and merited career in Chicago and was one of the few athletes that never seemed to have a bad word said about them.

Ernie Banks was the forerunner of the offensive shortstop in the fifties as it was Banks that won two MVP's (1958 and 1959) on bad teams with four seasons in a row with over 40 homers and 100 RBI.
One could make the case that Ernie Banks was the greatest hitting shortstop of all-time and certainly the greatest before the arrival of Cal Ripken in the 1980's and the later standouts of the PED era.
Banks would be moved from the six spot in 1961 as a knee injury suffered in the military began to plague him and robbed him of his lateral quickness.
Banks was moved to left field for a interim period before transferring to first base where he would spend his defensive time until his retirement at the age of 40 in 1971 in a abbreviated 39 game season.

The 14 time all-star never put up the numbers after the age of 30 that he did in the four year run noted above,but he continued to put up well above average power numbers,even as his average dipped a bit as only twice in the decade of the sixties did Banks hit fewer than 23 homers in the age of the pitcher.

What so many will remember Banks for is his perpetually sunny disposition and his catchphrase "let's play two".
Banks seemed to be one of those guys that just loved the game and was happy to be around it in whatever form that was needed to stay in the vicinity.
Banks worked for the Cubs as a coach in the 70's,but was more often used through the years as a franchise face/spokesman as the popularity of Banks never stopped even among fans that never saw him play.
Keep in mind that was a pretty large number that continued to grow as your writer,for example,never saw Banks as he retired when I was just three.

Ernie Banks entered the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1977 and in 1982 was the first ever player to have his number (14) retired by the Cubs (there is currently six retired numbers).
Ernie Banks was the type of player that each team used to have in the 60's and early 70's before too much expansion began to suck the depth out of the game.
Let me explain,if you look back to rosters of those times,even the worst teams tended have two or three cornerstone players that were excellent players that spent their career with the team.
Take the 1963 Cubs for example-that team had three hall of famers on it that spent either their entire career as a Cub (Banks) or all but a season or two at their careers end (Billy Williams- final two years as an Athletic and Ron Santo- final season with the White Sox).
The record for that team?  82-80 and 7th place with a record that wasn't quite as good as it looks with the second year franchises in New York and Houston.
The game was better for the fact that each teams fan base could rely on having very good to great players on their team,have them for a long time and those players would mature into the type of person that could become a franchise icon that rarely could do any wrong to their fans.

Ernie Banks might be remembered for several reasons-Hall of Famer,Let's play two,franchise face and holding the record for playing the most games without a postseason appearance (a record unlikely to be broken soon with the bloated playoff system),but he might have another special note as well-possibly most beloved player of his time.
That is not a bad way to be remembered is it??

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cleaning out the inbox

Time to clean the inbox with a few notes from the sports world and from outside of it.

The Hubble Space Telescope has taken a picture that is simply dazzling and thought provoking.
This shot (Moon added for scale purposes) shows the Andromeda Galaxy (our nearest neighbor) and each tiny speck of light is a star.
The picture is an amalgam of 7,398 single exposures and then processed together to create the one picture.
Read the article for more detail on what you can see,but when you look at the size of the galaxy (slightly larger than our Milky Way) and then consider that there are hundreds of BILLIONS of galaxies,I'll never agree that there is not life somewhere in that vast space.
I just don't see that as a viable possibility......

I'm pretty excited about this upcoming year with planned trips (thank you falling gas prices!) and baseball season,but two things that have me excited as a science geek are the chances to see two dwarf planets up close for the first time.
The Dawn mission is getting closer to Ceres by the day and will go into orbit in March,while New Horizons will zip by Pluto in July.
I love stuff like this and really think that I would have loved a career in planetary science.
Try to stifle your laughter,please!!

Jayson Stark at ESPN looks at the pitchers that signed contracts of seven years and how they performed during their deals.
We discussed the Nationals contract with Max Scherzer earlier this week and expressed concerns about the agreement.
After reading the Stark article,I am even more entrenched in the camp of this being a mistake by Washington over the long term.
However,if Washington wins a title as did two of the teams that signed pitchers to this contract length,I'd bet they would look at it as a good deal....

A horribly ugly shark was dredged up by a trawler in Australia and showed why even though it might be seldomly seen because of scarcity,it's so ugly that few would want to see it!
The Frilled Shark has the body similar to an eel and the teeth of a shark-as in 300 teeth over 25 rows!
The shark is usually blind and is rarely caught by fishermen because it usually stays at deeper depths than fishermen fish at with the exception of lower scraping trawlers/
Click the links for more because I'm getting tired of looking at pictures of the thing!!

Grantland writes about the documentary Red Army,which is a film about the powerhouse hockey program of the Soviet Union and talks to the stars of the day.
The film is highly regarded and I cannot wait for it to come out on DVD,so that I can see it.
Three former Devils (Vlacheslav Fetisov,Alexei Kasatonov and Igor Larionov) are in the film and it looks really super........

Cavaliers cruise over the Jazz 106-92

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their recent run of strong play with their fourth win in a row after disposing of the Utah Jazz 106-92 in Cleveland.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 26 points as all five Cavalier starters finished with 15 points or more on the evening.
Cleveland next plays on Friday hosting Charlotte...


1) Timofey Mozgov is just what this team needed.
A horse in the low post that doesn't have to have the ball.I wrote Mozgov could average a double double with this team and he did just that against with 16 and 11.

2) Kevin Love has struggled with his shot,but I see signs of that beginning to come around and I love those outlet passes.
I still wish I could have seen Andrew Wiggins running the floor in wine and gold,but Love is not so bad as a player either...

3) LeBron James looks different since his return from the injured list.
James is being more aggressive with the ball and driving and the outside shot is beginning to fall.
Could his early struggles have been physical???

4) Had to love the awkward alley up from Kyrie Irving to Kevin Love for the slam.
Easily the play of the night and the type of play that went they hit-you know it's your night...

5) Shawn Marion announced that this will be the final season of his long career and will retire after the season.
Marion may be near the end of the line,but I bet he steps up with a moment or two in the playoffs...

6) I like the Utah green uniforms.
Classic and a throwback.
I wonder why team with great uniforms throw them away.Coming soon to this-the Cleveland Browns....

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Check out my Prizefighter appearance

Please check out my latest appearance on the prizefighter podcast!!!

Devils shock Sharks 5-2

I finally was able to watch a Devils game as they finished their three game West Coast run in San Jose before the All-Star break with a surprising 5-2 win over the Sharks.
The Devils received goals from five different players in the win-Mike Cammalleri (15 Power Play),Travis Zajac (8),Steve Bernier (6),Jordin Tootoo (4) and Jacob Josefson (2 Shorthanded)
The Devils are now off until next Wednesday when they will host Toronto in the first of a three games in four days homestand.

Hell Raisers

1) I haven't seen the other two games on the road trip (a win over the Kings and a loss to the Ducks),but my favorite Devil Steve Bernier scored three goals on the trip.
Those goals doubled his season numbers,but few remember when Bernier came up in the NHL with the Canucks and Sharks,he was expected to be a dependable 20-25 goal a season player.
That hasn't turned out,but I still have faith in Bernier that he could approach those numbers with opportunity.
And even if not,it's fun to watch a good guy have some success....

2) Loved the play by Adam Henrique on a Shark powerplay to knock the puck away and drive the net on a two on one.
The beautiful pass to Jacob Josefson for the finisher was icing on the cake for the Devils as they saw a player finish that rarely has and see Henrique continue to build his game as he matures into the future captain that I hope that he will be....

3) The Sharks have the best power play in the game and the Devils killed off all four chances for the Sharks to take advantage.
Cory Schneider was strong and made some huge saves,but the penalty killers did their job.
The penalties were dumb,but the special teams made up for it....

4) Cory Schneider was especially strong in the third period with several great saves.
With 34 saves,Schneider played very well in his first start since leaving the Los Angeles win early with an injury.

5) I don't think the Devils have a chance for the playoffs,but it is nice to see New Jersey playing somewhat better entering the All-Star break.
I'm interested in seeing how the Devils play in those home games right after the break-I don't think the playoffs are a factor,but it may determine whether Lou Lamoriello decides to try to make a run and if the Devils are sellers at the deadline.
I think it would be best to be sellers for a flagging franchise,but three wins might influence the front office a bit...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Nationals sign Max Scherzer and why this affects the future

The Washington Nationals snagged the big fish of the free agent arms in the eyes of many in signing former Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer to a seven year deal for 210 million dollars.
Half of the contract is deferred,so the blow to the current salary structure is not as bad as it could have been and might enable the Nationals to keep Jordan Zimmermann for the season (free agent after the year) in an attempt to finally get over the top after falling short for the last few years.

For the short term,this is a great signing as the team has installed one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game into a rotation that already features Stephen Strasburg,the aforementioned Zimmermann,Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez for what should compete for the best overall rotation in the game.
Scherzer might be the piece that the Nationals needed and for a team in win now mode makes sense as a short term signing.
My guess has always been that Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are out as soon as they are free agent eligible,so there is a window in Washington.
If Washington wins a championship,this deal was worth it at almost any cost.

However,I see some red alerts flashing and I'm not sure that that fans will be thrilled in the long run,unless the Nationals win multiple titles in the term of this contract.
The first of which is that despite Scherzer's top of the game last two years and a good 2012,for a pitcher that is 30-Scherzer's stat line is not as impressive as one would suspect.
You could make an argument that Scherzer is just now hitting his stride and I would tend to agree judging his numbers,but it could be that you have seen his peak years and even though his first 2/3 years in D.C.might be strong,Scherzer might have left his best games in Detroit.
Two other red flags to me are a flyball pitcher (never less than 18 homers allowed in six seasons) leaving a pitcher park in Detroit's Comerica and the high effort delivery that might make Scherzer a candidate for a breakdown.
Scherzer's delivery makes me wonder about mechanics leading to injury and I would even predict this-even with a great season-leaving Comerica Park will see Scherzer's home runs allowed totals go near 30 in 2015.
Both of those are theories and concerns on my part,but ones that should have Nationals fans at least thinking over the next few seasons.

All and all,I think the Nationals made an error by making this a seven year deal,although deferring some of the money allows them some financial flexibility and takes away some concerns,but in the near future,Washington has made them the chic' pick to win the senior circuit with this signing.
Assuming that the team keeps Jordan Zimmermann (and that is an assumption),this team's starting pitching matches and maybe exceeds anyone else's in the league,so if they can get decent help from the bullpen-Washington shouldn't have any issue in winning the division at least.

Great for the short term,questionable for the long-the Washington Nationals continue to go all in on Scott Boras clients in an attempt to win the championship that has eluded them thus far.
I applaud the effort,even as I question the methods and decision making....

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wilder takes Stiverne-Boxing Challenge

It wasn't quite the guns blazing showdown that was expected,but it was still entertaining enough as Deontay Wilder took a unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne to win the WBC Heavyweight title.

Wilder had never been past four rounds,but surprisingly showed decent enough stamina and was dominant against Stiverne using the straight right and a long jab to keep Stiverne at bay and control the pace of the bout.
My score was closer than the official judges at 116-112,but Wilder was a clear winner.
The natural matchup for Wilder would be unifying his belt with the belts of the true champion Wladimir Klitschko,but my guess that Wilder could still need some more seasoning before he is ready for that fight with some decent fights to made to build up to that one.....

The boxing challenge returned with three fights and I took the early lead with a four to three point night on the first card of the season.
I earned a point for Wilder's win while R.L.Malpica selected Stiverne.
We both earned a point for Amir Imam's exciting knockout over Fidel Maldonado and we each earned two points for Leo Santa Cruz's less exciting knockout win over Jesus Ruiz.

I've had a slow week without the Cavaliers and Devils,so I might have a personal note coming up in the next day or two....

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Boxing Challenge Begins for 2015

The Boxing Challenge returns for 2015 with the first card of the year as R.L. Malpica face off in another battle after last years saw R.L. defeat me by one point.

The main event is the first heavyweight bout that I have been excited about in a long time as Bermane Stiverne defends his WBC title against Deontay Wilder.
This one should be short,exciting and could go either way.
I have gone back in forth on my pick several times and really think this could be a fun fight to watch.

WBC Heavyweight Title  12 rds
Bermane Stiverne vs Deontay Wilder

R.L;Stiverne KO 5
TRS;Wilder KO 6

WBC Jr,Featherweight Title.12 rds
Leo Santa Cruz vs Jesus Ruiz
R.L:Santa Cruz KO 3
TRS:Santa Cruz KO 4

Jr.Welterweights.10 rds
Amir Imam vs Fidel Maldonado
Both:Inam Unanimous Decision

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Boxing's return to network TV-Is it a deal with the devil?

I've been a strong proponent of boxing needing (yes, needing) to have a presence on network television-I wrote about it here in 2010, for a long long time.
The reason that boxing has become a borderline sport as far as interest goes is because of that lack of presence and of all people, the man that has caused so many problems for the health of the game is now the man that will be returning boxing to the format that made the sport so easy to follow in the past...

The mysterious Al Haymon, the manager/promoter (although he legally cannot be listed as a promoter) that has accumulated fighters at an amazing (or alarming ) rate has reached a deal for his company to show five prime time cards on NBC, six more on NBC on weekend afternoons and another nine for NBC Sports Network.
The man that gave us the garbage fight of last year (Danny Garcia-Rod Salka), had his fighter give up a belt because he didn't win the sanctioning bodies purse bid (Peter Quillin), matched his fighters so carefully that he damaged their future (too many to list) and has now stuck it to two networks (HBO and Showtime) by refusing to have his fighters fight decent opposition and then hot-footing it elsewhere, is now the person that could have given boxing the hand up that it needs for larger interest in the sport.

The series will debut with Keith Thurman against Robert Guerrero in the main event in March with Adrien Broner against John Molina in the co-feature.
I'm not as big on these bouts as many seem to be, but the main event is comparable, if not exceeding some,to the events on HBO and Showtime in recent years and Broner is being moved again by Haymon with skill in fighting the loser of last years fight of the year (Molina's KO loss to Lucas Matthysse) instead of the winner.
I would bet that Haymon thinks Molina may have left much of himself back in the Matthysse fight and hopes a Broner showcase against a fighter that could be shopworn will restore some of the luster lost by Broner in his loss to Marcos Maidana.
Molina's decision loss to Humberto Soto in his return for the Matthysse loss confirms this suspicion.

I've never been much of a Robert Guerrero fan and have always thought that he was force-fed by Golden Boy and later Al Haymon down fight fans throats.
Guerrero has zero knockouts against top competition and when your best career wins are over Andre Berto (another Al Haymon creation) Yoshihiro Kamegai, Michael Katsidis, and a faded Joel Casamayor, you are a cut below the championship level-no matter the belts you win or how many times you are talked about as such.
However, as in his wins over Kamegai and more notably Berto, if you match Guerrero on the right level and with a fighter that will stand in front of him, Guerrero can give you an entertaining bout.
The problem with that and a potential matchup with Keith Thurman is this-If Thurman is what so many think that he is-a coming star (I'm far from convinced) than a fighter with Guerrero's style and talent will result in a one-sided blowout.
If Guerrero is able to stand in there with Thurman in a competitive bout, then my skepticism on Thurman being another Berto could be warranted.
Thurman has his own problems with weak competition and a dreadfully dull effort against unknown Leonard Bundu in his last bout makes this a must-shine bout for Thurman.
I have a feeling that what looks like a good card is really just showcase bouts with bigger names, but the B-sides to the dance always try hard, so it still should be worth watching.

The April card had just one bout announced, but it's a big one as WBA and WBC Jr.Welterweight champ Danny Garcia will attempt to add IBF champion Lamont Peterson's belt in a title unification bout.
These two fought clubfighters in arguably the worst card ever by a pay network last year when they could have been fighting each other.
The fact that they didn't was the first reason that Al Haymon's plans for NBC began to leak out after Haymon refused to match them despite Haymon managing both.
Garcia looked very vulnerable in his "win" (I thought he lost to Mauricio Herrera) and Peterson was blown out by Lucas Matthysse, who Garcia decisioned.
Still, this is the type of bout that I hope Haymon brings to this series-Important and could be action-packed.

Don't get me wrong, I think this series has huge potential for boxing and Al Haymon and could get even bigger, and here's why.
What if this becomes a success and perhaps another network thinks it's a good idea?
For example, say ABC decides to have a series that it could cross-promote with ESPN showing a higher level of fighter.
Boxing could suddenly become red hot again and be all over television- that's a good thing.
The problem is that you just don't know how Al Haymon is going to run things.
I highly doubt that you'll see crap like Garcia-Salka on NBC, but if he leans more towards the Broner-Molina fight types than bigger ones, the air could go out of the balloon quickly.

The biggest loser in this appears to be Showtime, who built some of these guys up and watched Haymon take them to NBC (Showtime is owned by CBS) possibly to not return the favor.
Even if Haymon fighters do fight on Showtime, I'd bet the best that the network gets is prospects and showcase fights.
I discussed this on a past podcast with Ramon Malpica last year that I would not be surprised that Showtime eventually shutters its boxing department under conditions that are appearing to be arriving-Golden Boy moving many fighters to HBO, Haymon's guys with NBC and Floyd Mayweather owing the network just two more bouts, Showtime could either end things or go to a cheaper program with European fights, which wouldn't be all bad.

This could be a great improvement for boxing in exposure and bringing boxing back to the average sports fan.
I am a believer that it can be extremely successful, but it really comes down to Al Haymon.
Can Haymon do what's best for the sport long term and balance that with his wallet short term?
Is he willing to work with others? We will see, but I am very interested to find out.....

10 thoughts on the National Title Game

Ten thoughts from the National Championship game and the Ohio State Buckeyes-winners of the first ever playoff!

Olentangy Offerings

1) I did a podcast on my buddy R.L.Malpica and I's Cleveland Sports Outsiders before the game.
Remember that I (tongue in cheek) picked Oregon to win and we talked about the problems at quarterback for 2015,if all three quarterbacks returned.
Good luck with that decision,Urban Meyer!

2) I spoke on the podcast about that I thought the key was the Oregon pass rush and how much they could pressure Cardale Jones.
They didn't do much against Jones,which enabled him to throw the ball with ease most of the time and since they couldn't key on Jones-Oregon couldn't...

3) Key on Ezekiel Elliott,who was basically unstoppable in rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
Elliott was the key reason for winning these games as Elliott put the numbers up that made one think more of Eddie George and Archie Griffin than what Buckeye fans expected from him.
Elliott is most likely the preseason favorite for next years Heisman....

4) Underrated play that might have swung the game Oregon's way-after the first drive resulted in a Ducks touchdown,the second saw Marcos Mariota hit a wide open Dwayne Stanford in the hands with a ball that Stanford would have likely scored with.
Stanford dropped the ball and Oregon would not score another touchdown for the rest of the half...

5) Oregon was able to move the ball against Ohio State,but another key was poor red zone and third down conversions against the Buckeyes.
Oregon scored just their first drive touchdown in the red zone and was an anemic 2 for 12 on third down.
That will rarely get the job done against good teams...

6) There was no doubt that this was all Ohio State.The Buckeyes turned the ball over four times with three of them in Oregon territory.
This game was close was close for three quarters,without those turnovers-it would not have been...

7) We all too often hear about the speed possessed by the SEC and to a lesser extent the Pac 12 school and Ohio State has come a long way in cutting into that gap under Urban Meyer,but there still is a place for rugged Big 10 style football and this win showed it on both sides of the football.
The Ohio State offensive line shoved Oregon off the line to create those gaps for Ezekiel Elliott and the front seven allowed Marcos Mariota hard earned yardage,but other than the opening long strike in the second half,only occasionally allowed the Ducks the big play that marked their offense this season...

8) I wonder if the Big 10 would like to reconsider their selection of Minnesota's Jerry Kill as conference coach of the year?
Three quarterbacks and a national title,think Urban Meyer wins a re-vote?

9) The other key play of this win?
The Buckeye defense stepping up after Cardale Jones had the ball slip out of his hand and turning the ball over to Oregon on the OSU side of the field.
It was the only time that I felt that Oregon was ready to swing the game their way and the defense dug down and held Oregon to just a field goal.
The three points cut the lead to one,but holding the Ducks out of the end zone kept the lead and felt like a victory...

10) We wrap with a look at 2015,where I would think that Ohio State will be ranked either first to start the year or worst second to TCU.
I'm fine with either because under the new system,it's not where you start,but where you finish.
Too bad TCU (who is on the Buckeye schedule for 2019 and 2020) isn't on the schedule next year-I'm sure that game would have a ton of hype over the summer!

11) Bonus-Stuff it Mark May!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Quick Notes-Buckeyes!

A few quick notes on why you haven't seen a recap of the Ohio State Buckeyes winning the national championship over the Oregon Ducks.

I've been a bit busy and I haven't had time to review the tape the way that I'd like to.
When I do a football recap,most often than not than not,I re-watch the game and add some fresh thoughts without the running emotion of the live game.
I'll start working on that tonight and in a day or two,I'll have a review that hopefully I'll be satisfied with as I look back on it on days down the road.

The other reason is that when you win a national title and most of your other teams aren't very good (baseball is turning the corner) that you tend to reflect and savor the feeling for a while because you might not have it anytime soon.
Johnny Sain once described this to Jim Bouton in Ball Four as the "Cool of the Evening"- a feeling of a job well done that you don't have to do again for a while,

I have some things that I want to get finished while I'll have some down time with the Devils and Cavaliers being away.
I want to do a Browns recap by position and maybe a Buckeyes as well,although I just might leave a national title  where it is without any critiquing by me!
I also have a personal post or two to add and I think some of you might enjoy those and later today,I'll be putting up a link to my latest podcast that I'm sure maybe one or two of you might listen (I can hope for more).

Anyway,I'll be back soon with more,but until then-Go Buckeyes!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Overhand Right

The overhand right returns with a few thoughts on the boxing world before things get a little warmer next Saturday night with the WBC Heavyweight title tilt between Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder.

Our picture for this edition is from the bantamweight battle that featured the WBA champion Alfonso Zamora and WBC champ Carlos Zarate in a 10 round non-title bout to prove the best bantamweight in the world,since neither organization would sanction a unification fight.
Zamora would stagger Zarate in round one,had the round interrupted by a fan that came into the ring to stand and watched his chance go away. Zarate finished Zamora off in four rounds...

I'm not a hip-hop fan,so I know little of Jay-Z,so I was wondering about what I would think of the first show of Roc Nation televised on Fox Sports 1.
The card was essentially a club show and they won't be able to have tons of celebrities for that level of show very often,but there were some positives and negatives on the presentations.

Pro-I loved the "box" with the fighters name and trunk color on the screen for the entire fight.
Most networks put it up briefly and take it down,so I really liked that part of the telecast.
The graphics were bold and easy to read too,all too often when other sports use the box,it's small and hard to read...

Con- The "host" was this really loud woman (didn't take notes on the name) that was really obnoxious.
I would have preferred the usual Fox Sports 1 host in Jessica Rosales,who was far more understated.
Gus Johnson's back.
Gus Johnson is my least favorite football and basketball announcer,but at least he knows his stuff there.
Johnson is out of his element in the fight game and comes off as unprepared when he does boxing...

I'll be interested to see the Roc Nation presentation when they present a big fight compared to one a level below the ESPN Friday Night Fights...

Al Haymon vs Golden Boy battle continues as Golden Boy settled with their former CEO Richard Schaffer and released several Haymon fighters from their contracts.
Haymon is expected to announce a deal with NBC and NBC Sports network this week that returns boxing to the network airwaves,which I have been hoping for years to see.
As much as I think that this is a good thing,Al Haymon and his stable may suddenly have painted themselves into a corner.
When you consider that Haymon has shown a reluctance to match his fighters in tough fights and has already cut himself off from HBO (and likely now CBS owned Showtime),Haymon may have a hard time making big fights for his guys,especially when you consider the only hope for Haymon to take his fighters outside his reach would be mandatory title fights-which might be out the door with Haymon fighters vacating belts in order to please Haymon.
The business of this transaction will be interesting to watch as it plays out....

I posted my thoughts on Andre Ward and his signing with Roc Nation a few days ago,but I was interested in his words during the broadcast when he was asked about Gennady Golovkin and he did say that "absolutely" he was interested in fighting GGG.
I'm not quite convinced.
In boxing-Absolutely usually means you accept all my terms and frankly Andre Ward isn't a big enough star to be dictating terms to people.
Let's see who Ward fights this year and if he forces his fights to continue to be in Oakland,since he cannot sell tickets anywhere else.....

On the signing front

The signing front returns as I try to get cards put away from last season.
With the Devils and Cavaliers on the road,the signing front might be chipped away at over the next few weeks...

The Lakewood Blue Claws hit Hagerstown and at least I had their team set because if not,I would have had very little.
The best pickup was Carlos Tocci on his SAL top prospect card and Andrew Knapp on a Bowman..

The Altoona Curve were in Harrisburg and I was able to work on their team set.
Shortstop Alen Hanson was one per and quite a grind,but I was able to get two with help from Mike and Fred Landucci later in their homestand.
The Curve was not loaded with prospects this season,but the best of those that I was able to get with Orlando Castro (very nice) and Adrian Sampson (pitched and won on this day) and Stetson Allie (2 per and quiet).

Tom O'brien got me Julio Rodriguez (before his release) on a 2012 heritage and Eduardo Rodriguez (before being traded) on a 2013 heritage at Bowie along with an old Bowman of Thomas DiBenedetto,who works for the Baysox as their video coordinator...

Next in was the only visit of the season by the West Virginia Power and the Pirates low A affiliate.
The Pirates first rounder Austin Meadows had missed most of the season and collectors were loaded for Meadows.
Meadows was super accommodating,signed everything for everyone and was so good that he set up the incident of the year after the game in Hagerstown.
The Power also had another Pirates first rounder in catcher Reece McGuire,who signed everything and a baseball.
I always try to get the Pirates first rounders on baseballs (I have each one back to Andrew McCutchen),so both Meadows and McGuire were added to that collection.
Shortstop Jacoby Jones was the surprise prospect of the year,but he had just one card-a Panini insert which were limited in number.
I ,of course,had to have one and Jones signed it.
Other prospects were then-catcher (now a third baseman) Wyatt Mathisen,Luis Heredia (SAL Prospect and Heritage) and Robby Rowland,who I had several cards for.
The Power team set was not out at that point,so that didn't get finished...

The next stop was Altoona Pa for the Eastern League All-Star game and the dumbest setup for a fan fest that I've ever seen.
Each division had a determined period of time while the other division practiced.That's how it is done often and that wasn't the problem.
The problem was half the team was at the center tables on the field and the rest were scattered around the stadium,then they would switch at the halfway point.
So you could wait for people at the tables for an half hr,not get there and they would switch.
That's exactly what happened and I missed Alen Hanson etc.due to timing.
I am rarely surprised when teams have fan fest that usually aren't fan friendly.
When they work out well,it's usually because someone involved in planning stages is a true fan.
You would be amazed at just how few people that work for team aren't really fans....

I only bought the Western Division set (for Akron,Altoona and Richmond) and worked on misc. stuff for the East.
I did get Gary Sanchez on a top 100,so I was happy about that,but many guys were only one,which is disappointing at a fan fest,
The selection of players weren't as good as past games,but I did get Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor on his all-star card...

A few miscellaneous cards were finished.
Mike Landucci got me Manny Banuelos then of the Yankees (now Braves).
I got a few of Brian Johnson,a Red Sox pitching prospect in Reading.
Hall of Famer Jim Bunning signed two cards in the mail.
And I had just one player for a Kannapolis Intimidators visit as Brandon Brennan signed a Bowman and a 2013 Kannapolis card.

The Lynchburg Hillcats were an Atlanta Braves affiliate (this year they are with the Indians) when they visited Frederick.
The Hillcats team set was released and I got some cards signed from it,but the biggest additions were getting some players that I thought were "dead cards" finished.
Dead cards are cards of players that I thought I would never have signed and this series saw four players get out of the box unexpectedly with the coolest being Cody Scarpetta-2009 Midwest League prospect and Danny Carroll-2008 Tri-Star.
The more time that goes by,the less of a chance that a card will get signed,so those are always considered successes!

Kendall Morris visited family in Frisco,Texas and nabbed me some cards with the biggest get being San Diego catching prospect Austin Hedges and pitching coach Jimmy Jones on a 1990 Score.
Right now in the hobby,my most valued cards are the Top 100's along with 88 and 90 Scores-those cards are put into their binders as soon as I get them,so they (over time) might be skipped in the signing front because they aren't with the other cards.
Don't be misled-they are most important!
Kendall also filled in some Carolina league and Myrtle Beach cards of players that left the Pelicans for AA Frisco,most notably power hitting Joey Gallo and the manager for San Antonio,former Oriole second baseman (and Kendall's favorite player Rich Dauer).

A quick trip to Bowie for a bobblehead saw me fill in a few cards for the Altoona Curve as Derreck Chupak went there.
Derreck got me some Curve team sets fill-ins,most notably outfielder Willy Garcia (who was hiding with Alen Hanson during most of the E.L. All-Star Fan Fest) along with recently promoted Josh Bell on his Bradenton team set card and most importantly his top 100!

We finish with the Greenville Drive in Hagerstown and once again in the "Summer of Brandt" there was no team set available,but being a Red Sox team,there were some mainstream cards to get signed and former big leaguer Paul Abbott,who was the teams pitching coach.
Abbott had a family member with him and if the family member was there,he was very accommodating.
If she wasn't,Abbott was not as friendly!
Manuel Margot signed his SAL top prospect card and two pitching prospects signed as Ty Buttrey (very nice) and Trey Ball (Not so nice) added their signatures.

However,the biggest catch in this series came with someone that was in the stands not on the field as former White Sox and Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent was in town visiting his son Cody with the Suns.
I had carried Dent cards all season in case this happened and it finally worked out as the lovely Cherie helped me as I wound up getting Dent on cards from 1976,1976 SSPC and 1977 with the Pale Hose and a 1981 Fleer as a Yankee.
Dent was very nice in signing before the game and I enjoyed meeting him....

Well,that's the end of a long catchup!
I'll see if I have plastic sheets to put these away and move onto another signing front soon.
The pile has been reduced to one pile now (it is as high as it will go now though),so there will be more over the winter coming soon!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM returns with the NFL playoffs and the national title game.
Keep in mind that Ohio State has won every time I picked against them :)

Oregon over Ohio State 32-27

Patriots over Ravens 23-17
Seahawks over Panthers 32-13
Broncos over Colts 35-21
Packers over Cowboys 28-20

Last Week:3-1
Season: 101-41

Islanders drop Devils 3-2 in OT

John Tavares scored the final two goals of the game and the New York Islanders took a 3-2 decision in overtime over the New Jersey Devils in Newark.
The Devils received goals from Travis Zajac (7) and Scott Gomez (4) in the loss,which will be the Devils final game at home until the last few days of the month.
New Jersey is off until Wednesday when they travel to Los Angeles against the Kings..

Hell Raisers

1) We will be away from coverage for most of the next month due to the West Coast swing and then the All-Star break.
The only game that we will have coverage of until the 28th is the game in San Jose,which is on a Monday.
The next two games are at work,which if the NHL were as cool as the NBA,I could watch online.
They aren't.

2) John Taveras took the game and his bullrush of Adam Larsson in overtime shows the types of plays that players that you can build around make.
Taveras was all over Larsson in the corner,took the puck away and then swung around the defenseman for a shot against Keith Kinkaid for the win.

3) It's easy to blame Adam Larsson for the play at the end of the game.
He didn't do well,but two things-the first is that the guy on him is one of the best in the game and the other is-he's learning.
I know he has a few years in the league now,but actually in practical experience,he's barely above a rookie -thanks to Peter DeBoer's mishandling of him.
It's OK to be frustrated with the loss,but consider the total picture...

4) I thought Keith Kinkaid played very well and none of the goals could be looked at as bad ones.
Both Taveras goals weren't on him and the Josh Bailey goal was off a defection,so the Devils getting a point at all can be attributed to the efforts of his play...

5) I've always thought the Dainius Zubrus was overpaid for his production and Michael Ryder has equaled him this season,but I'm not sure that I know what to do about it.
Bringing up the Tim Sestito's of the world doesn't change things and getting rid of them doesn't do a ton of good on the salary cap immediately.
I suppose you just live with it for the season,but some of this stuff is tough to watch...

6) Finally,you may notice the disappearance of the Cap Geek link in the links page.
CapGeek's founder Matthew Wuest is having serious health issues and those forced him to shut the page down.
It was an invaluable resource and it'll be missed.
I'll have another link to the Devils cap,but it'll likely be less than what CapGeek brought to the fan.
Best wishes to Matthew for a speedy recovery...

Friday, January 9, 2015

Andre Ward signs with Roc Nation

Rap mogul Jay-Z (I have never heard of this gentleman before his entry into the sports agent game) had made some noise about his new promotional group,but when they tried to use then-WBO middleweight champ Peter Quillin,Quillin turned down his largest ever purse to stay with advisor Al Haymon-even at the cost of his title belt.
Large offers to Keith Thurman and Deontay Wilder were turned down and things then quieted other than their first small card being televised on Fox Sports one (the return of Gus Johnson,bleech).

However on the night that their debut card hits television comes word that the Super Middleweight champion of the world has signed with them as Andre Ward has settled his disagreement with Goosen Promotions,an issue that has kept Ward out of the ring for most of the last three years.
Ward only holds the WBA version of the title,but he beat all that there was to beat during the Super Six tournament,so until someone beats him-Ward is the Super Middleweight champion to me.

Before I begin to write about why Roc Nation may have overpaid for Ward,let's discuss his positives.
Ward is extremely skilled technically,is arguably the most talented non Mayweather fighter in the game,was willing to fight top competition in the Super Six and could be favored against anyone under 168 pounds.
Clearly,Andre Ward is a talented fighter and has some value in the game of boxing.

Here's my problems with Andre Ward- Doesn't like to fight a lot (2 fights in last three years and none in 2014),Doesn't like to fight outside of his hometown in Oakland against top notch opposition (Only his decision win over Carl Froch in Atlantic City was outside of Oakland),is dull inside the ring and has only ever stopped one world class opponent-the soft jawed Chad Dawson,so his fights tend to be tedious and one sided decision wins.

Ward also doesn't appear to have a ton of fights waiting for him either.
The top 160 pounders have fights among themselves that they can get done-Gennady Golovkin,Canelo Alvarez,Miguel Cotto may have a mini round-robin coming up soon as well as being in position in case Floyd Mayweather wants a middleweight belt.
The top 168 pounders are fighters that Ward has already beaten (Carl Froch) or bring little mainstream recognition (James DeGale,George Groves,or the Dirrell brothers) and a move up to 175 for Sergey Kovalev brings danger,while Adonis Stevenson would have the HBO/Showtime problems to deal with.

All things considered,it seems to me that Roc Nation might have been paying a lot of money for a fighter that doesn't always like to fight,is not a draw outside of Oakland and has few guys to fight.
In other words-Look for a few Andre Ward lopsided decisions against top 10-20 style opponents in your viewing future.
In my opinion,that money might have been better spent elsewhere on more exciting fighters to build into attractions despite the ability of Andre Ward...

Back later with the Devils vs Islanders