Sunday, July 31, 2016

Indians trade for Jonathan Lucroy-Maybe

The Cleveland Indians appear to have upgraded behind the plate as the Indians have agreed to a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers that would see All-Star backstop Jonathan Lucroy come to Cleveland for four prospects-none of which are higher than AA Akron at the present time.

The deal is not official yet as Lucroy has Cleveland listed among eight teams that he cannot be traded to without his waiving the clause.
One report has Lucroy wanting a contract extension before approving the deal,which I find ironic that a player wants a contract extension to stay in a town that you placed a clause in a contract to not play in.

The 30 year Lucroy would immediately shore up what has been a disaster area for Cleveland this season with the injury issues and anemic offense from Yan Gomes and Chris Gimenez and assuming he would be able to agree to a contract extension could be the mainstay for years.
Lecroy is hitting .300 with 13 homers and is noted for his ability to work with pitchers,so once he settles in would be a an asset behind the plate as well as with the stick.

The four players that are rumored to be in the trade are all prospects,but only one is considered one of the top of the Indians system and only two reside in the top ten.
The jewel of the trade is catcher Francisco Mejia ,who at the age of 20 has hit .343 at stops at Low A Lake County and High A Lynchburg and is in the middle of a 42 game hitting streak at the two levels.
Considering his age,hitting prowess and isn't looked at as a defensive liability,Mejia is a player that you hate to lose,but veteran players like Jonathan Lucroy do not come for free.

Yu-Cheng Chang is a 20 year old shortstop that is a top 15 prospect for the Indians with a .272/12/65 line in High A Lynchburg that looks to be blocked at higher level,so Chang will likely have a faster way to the big leagues in Milwaukee.
Chang has 28 doubles,which shows that he might not be a slap-hitting infielder.although he might project best as a "super sub" similar to the Indians Jose Ramirez.

Greg Allen is a speedy outfielder that looks to be a leadoff hitter.
Allen hit .298 with 31 steals at High A Lynchburg before being promoted to AA Akron last week.
A strong defender,Allen's issue was being in a system with Tyler Naquin,Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer before the Indians used their first rounder on another prep outfielder in Will Benson will have a much better opportunity in Milwaukee.

The fourth name in the trade is the one that isn't consistently mentioned in reports of the trade,but is usually mentioned as 20 year old former first round pitcher Justus Sheffield.
Sheffield is 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 91 innings at again-High A Lynchburg.
Sheffield is a good arm in a system that boasts Brady Aiken,Tristan McKenzie and Juan Hillman soon to be on his heels with a solid big league rotation as well,is a prospect that despite his talent would not deplete the system.
In other words,he has been passed by other prospects and could afford to be moved.

Now,here is hoping Lucroy approves the trade,helps the Indians and doesn't make this work all for naught!!

Good fight salvages bad night-Boxing Challenge

Showtime had a bad night saved by a great fight as Carl Frampton upset Leo Santa Cruz and took away his WBA featherweight title via a majority decision in Brooklyn.
The fight certainly deserves consideration for the fight of the year as the action ebbed and flowed.

Frampton threw far fewer punches than the defending champion,but threw the harder shots and won the old adage of "ring generalship" as he swept most of the early rounds on my card and created a cushion that Santa Cruz could not erase in the second half of the fight.
Neither fighter was knocked down although Santa Cruz was stunned and stumbled backwards into the ropes in the second round.
I scored Frampton a 116-113 winner,which translates to 7-4-1 in rounds.
Frampton has a few options next,which could be a unification fight vs IBF champion Lee Selby of Great Britain or a Santa Cruz rematch-either of which would have a good chance of being held in Frampton's Northern Ireland home of Belfast...
Ramon Malpica and I each picked Santa Cruz,so no points scored in the boxing challenge.

The exciting main event saved an awful evening of boxing on Showtime,which gave us a mismatch,a boring bout,Danny Garcia trying to convince people that he had no say in his opponents and Gary Russell,he of the Zabbie award win for fighting arguably the worst competition for a champion around,who then called out Vasyl Lomachenko,who schooled Russell in Russell's only bout against top ten opponents...
Combine that with the usual cliche' filled awful announcing from Mauro Ranallo and you get the point.
Just a terrible night to watch,other than the main event....

Mikey Garcia returned from his Carter administration hiatus to blast out the smaller Eloy Rojas in the fifth.
The win proved little,but considering the time off (2.5 years),I suppose Garcia deserved a gimme.
Both Ramon and I added two points for the win.

Over on HBO Latino,Golden Boy's hyped Antonio Orozco was in a life and death battle with Adam Lopez.
I thought Lopez scored the upset narrowly 96-94,but wouldn't have argued with the same score for Orozco.
Instead,boxing did what boxing does and offered a decision made before the fight started with Orozco winning a wide unanimous decision.
Ramon picked up two points for the decision win,with me adding one...

Joseph Diaz impressively took out Victor Proa in two rounds in a featherweight fight.
Diaz looks to be a comer in a suddenly talent packed 126 pound division.
Ramon and I each added one point for the Diaz win.

The boxing challenge is at 96-80....

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pirates send Melancon to Washington

The Washington Nationals were concerned with the state of their bullpen.
The Pittsburgh Pirates wanted to get something for a player that that they were unlikely to be able to afford in a few months and as usual in these situations-a match is created as Pittsburgh shipped their closer in Mark Melancon to Washington for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon had already notched 30 saves this season after 51 in 2015 with a 1.51 ERA for the current season.
The 31 year old Melancon will be a free agent at the end of the season and Pittsburgh was unlikely to pay double digit millions for the veteran righthander,so getting any kind of return was paramount for the Pirates.

The return was underwhelming on the surface,especially when you look at the haul that the Yankees brought back for Aroldis Chapman,but despite the save numbers,Mark Melancon isn't Aroldis Chapman and in the postseason,which pitcher would you fear facing more?
Still,Felipe Rivero is a decent arm for the bullpen and at 24 and with plenty of contract control,could be helpful in a Pittsburgh 'pen that is all about putting together a unit that is cost efficient.
Rivero's ERA is higher than last season,but his strikeouts are up and some of his numbers indicate that he had been pitching better than the basic stats show.
Rivero has five years of team control,throws in the mid-90's and could eventually prove to have closing level ability.
Rivero was obtained by Washington before the 2015 season from Tampa in the trade that sent Nathan Karns to the Rays.

The other part of the trade might be the most interesting as Taylor Hearn leaves the Hagerstown Suns in the trade and most likely will be in town Monday as a member of the visiting West Virginia Power.
The 6'5 lefthander had impressive numbers after an early season ankle injury that cost him over two months of the season,but has been a reliever after his return after being in the Hagerstown rotation at before the injury.
Hearn turns 22 in August,but isn't extremely old for the level.
Hearn touches 96-97 and has an excellent slider when the mechanics are smooth,which isn't always the case for tall pitchers.
An interesting lottery ticket for a strong arm for the Pirates,although he will need plenty of refinement to reach his potential.

For the effect on the current Pirates-Southpaw Tony Watson will likely receive most of the save chances at first with Neftali Feliz having the odd opportunity as well from the righthanded side.
I don't think the Pirates will take a huge hit in the bullpen even if Watson proves to be better suited as a setup man.
Feliz was an experienced closer in Texas and should be able to take over should Watson falter.

Sure,it is easy to scream about not getting what other teams are getting for high end closers,but Melancon isn't an elite closer to me,he is solid and the return was in line as such.
Something certainly beats nothing and the Pirates decided to be proactive in this situation.
You may argue about the return,but you shouldn't complain about moving the player.

Back later with a report on Leo Santa Cruz vs Carl Frampton...

Stevenson pounds Williams-Boxing Challenge

Adonis Stevenson retained his WBC light heavyweight title in a pretty entertaining scrap as he disposed of Thomas Williams in the fourth round in Quebec City.

The defense was the latest in several lopsided title retentions against overmatched competition for Stevenson,who has seen his reign be more notable for who he hasn't fought (Sergey Kovalev most prominently) than who he has.

Stevenson may have been well above the talent level of Wiliams,who lacked a notable win other than a two round shootout against another fringe contender in Edwin Rodriguez,but give Williams credit-he tried to win.
Williams threw punches (many of them wild) and even appeared to sting Stevenson a time or two,which brings to mind the criticisms of some observers (including me) of Stevenson's chin being questionable.
However,in the end,the superior power of Stevenson shone through and after some rehabilitating body shots Stevenson ended the bout with one power left.
The strong moments of Williams almost never happened as Stevenson dropped Williams late in the first round and Williams was almost finished then and there.
Stevenson's next opponent will be his WBC mandated contender in undefeated Elieder Alvarez,who fought on the undercard and delivered a drizzlingly boring decision win over late replacement Robert Berridge.
Looks like defense number eight might be little better than what we have seen already from Stevenson and his title defenses.

I don't dislike Adonis Stevenson,he's a fun fighter to watch and his power combined with a chin issue makes most of his fights somewhat entertaining,
My issue is with Stevenson's blatant ducking of Sergey Kovalev and to a lesser extent Artur Beterbiev,which would be a fight easy to make as both are under the same promotional umbrella.
Every champion has the right for occasional optional defenses as long as they are mixed in with quality opponents as well-Stevenson has not faced a top ten caliber opponent since Andrzej Fonfara over two years ago and even then Fonfara built his name more from the decision loss to Stevenson and thereafter then anything done before signing for the bout.
Stevenson-Kovalev or Stevenson-Beterbiev would be fun and exciting fights-must see fights for the fight fan.
Unfortunately,either (or both) Stevenson or the PBC has little interest in those fights and prefer these pro wrestling like squash matches.
Stevenson uses the nickname Superman,but as a comic fan,I know this-Superman didn't make his rep by beating the Clock King and the Rainbow Raider-he built it by beating top notch opponents.

In the boxing challenge I earned four points for the Stevenson and Alvarez wins,with Ramon Malpica picking Williams and getting two points for the Alvarez win.
The boxing challenge now stands at 92-75...

Friday, July 29, 2016

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge continues with a multiple network and fight nights that covers many divisions...
The challenge is currently at 88-73 in my favor...

The biggest fights include the lineal and WBC light heavyweight champ (Adonis Stevenson) defending against another flawed opponent,a great bout between the best featherweight in the world (Leo Santa Cruz since Vasyl Lomachenko moved up) and the second best junior featherweight (Carl Frampton) moving up in weight and a former multiple division champ (Mikey Garcia) fighting for the first time in two and a half years.

WBC Lt.Heavyweight title.12 rds
Adonis Stevenson vs Thomas Williams
R.L:Williams unanimous decision
TRS: Stevenson KO 7

Lt.Heavyweights.10 rds
Elieder Alvarez vs Robert Berridge
Both:Alvarez unanimous decision

WBA Featherweight title.12 rds
Leo Santa Cruz vs Carl Frampton
Both: Santa Cruz unanimous decision

Jr.Welterweights. 10 rds
Mikey Garcia vs Eloy Rojas
R.L:Garcia KO 4
TRS:Garcia KO 6

Jr,Welterweights.10 rds
Antonio Orozco vs Abner Lopez
R.L:Orozco unanimous decision
TRS:Orozco KO 9

Featherweights.10 rds
Joseph Diaz vs Victor Proa
Both:Diaz unanimous decision

Podcast:Back from Hiatus

Back from Podcast hiatus with thanks,some political talk,IFL and fantasy football talk with why teams are always looking for bullpen help at the trade deadline....

Giants trade for Eduardo Nunez

The struggling offense of the San Francisco Giants needed an infusion and along with waiting for the return of Joe Panik and Hunter Pence,decided to add a little more as the Giants traded minor league pitcher Adalberto Mejia to the Minnesota Twins in return for Eduardo Nunez.

The 29 year old Nunez is in the midst of a career year as he made his first all-star team and has already set career highs in several offensive categories.
Nunez played shortstop for the Twins,but can play second or third also and looks to see plenty of time at third with the injury to an Achilles tendon for the regular at third in Matt Duffy.

The Giants always like to have a supersub around and in the best of times (which right now,these aren't) Nunez will have plenty of playing time available at various positions.
Bruce Bochy handles his position players well and is able to use a player like Nunez almost as a starter without having a steady position to play.

The cost of Mejia is one that some are wondering about as some prospect ratings have him as high as third in the Giants system.
I don't rate the 23 year old that highly,but he does possess potential,even if he may project better down the road as a reliever more than a starter.
Mejia has pitched better at AA Richmond over most of the last three (red flag) seasons there than he has in sporadic appearances at AAA Sacramento,so I wonder about that,but he certainly is still of prospect status at 23..

I like the addition of Eduardo Nunez for the Giants.
Nunez had been rumored to be of interest to the Indians of late,so I thought I might be typing a post for him,but of his arrival in Cleveland,not San Francisco.
Nunez will hopefully plug in at third base for at least a while and then find plenty of at-bats elsewhere.
Mejia is an interesting arm,but one of a cluster of interesting/not elite arms that the Giants have at Richmond and Sacramento,so I'm not too concerned about losing Mejia....

Still working on a podcast,so look for that,but wanted to hammer out this breaking news.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Road Trip-Batavia

The year of the road trip continued as Doug Hopkins and I traveled to Batavia New York to visit Dwyer Stadium-home of the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn league.

Batavia has been a stop that I have targeted for quite a while and I was thrilled to have the chance to get there.
Why was Batavia such a big deal?
Well,Batavia is likely the next small town to lose their NY-Penn team and in such a small town (population 6,000),it is most likely to be the next on the extinction list.
Much like Jamestown New York,once professional baseball leaves this market-it won't be coming back.
Batavia almost lost its team already as the club was sold to a group that wanted to move it to Waldorf,Maryland for the 2017 season.
The Washington Nationals were going to make a deal to become their major league provider and it was all set-Until the Baltimore Orioles decided to get some payback.
The Orioles and the Nationals have been feuding over the MASN network,how the money is allocated and how much each team receives from the network and the case is going to court.
Since Waldorf is inside the Orioles territory,Baltimore had to sign off on the deal and since the two teams aren't in the mood to help each other,the Orioles blocked the move and for now-Batavia still has a team.

Doug and I drove the little over five hour trip through the early morning fog,so we didn't get to see some breathtaking views until the ride home and I slept often through both the ride up and back.
The rest was needed,but I feel bad that I wasn't better company.
We didn't eat much on the way,Doug stopped for a breakfast sandwich at a McDonald's,while I passed.
Breakfast sandwiches,just don't do much for me.
I would wait until later to eat and we had a short wait at Dwyer Stadium.
Located in a small residential area of Batavia,Dwyer Stadium is either 20 years old or 79 depending on your opinion.
This version of Dwyer opened in 1996 on the same site of the older stadium and did what I saw in Lynchburg Va and what they could do in Hagerstown-keep the field and renovate everything around it.
The seating is metal and the grandstands are partially covered.
I love the covered grandstands and really liked the look of this one.

Batavia and the State College Spikes had been rained out the day before and the game was delayed,which enabled Doug and I to get all of the few cards that we had for the two teams signed and all were friendly.
When you do the short season teams,there are very few players that have cards until the team sets come out,so I was limited to some USA cards and two or three players had Bowmans.
Batavia's clubhouse is on the third base side and the visitors are on the first and each clubhouse has lettering on the top of them to identify them.
A State College pitcher was tossing a ball aimlessly and hit the letter the second letter I with the ball,sending the metal letter tumbling down upon him.
It was funny to see,although I'm sure the team and the person that will have to install the letter again might not find the humor in it.

I got hungry during the delay and ordered what the stand called "Muck Dog Chow" in which for 6.50,you get two meats (minus the bread) of your choice,macaroni salad and home fries.
At a good price,I added a 7up (Dwyer gets high grades just for that) and for ten bucks,a decent platter.
The home fries weren't great,but the "White Hot" sausages were quite good.
Not bad at all,but I wish I could say the same for the souvenirs which were located in a stand that had paint peeling and few items.
I try to buy the ladies a shirt from various stops,but these items had hard to see prices and the stand wasn't manned so I passed.

After we left,we ate at a place named Bourbon and Burgers.
We had a choice of over thirty burgers.and I selected the Hollapoppa,a burger with bacon,jalapeno poppers and cheddar cheese.
The burger was tremendous,even if the side of fries were just average,but at 10.99 for such a sizable burger-I thought it was a bargain.
The real star of the dinner was our waitress Tara,who was tremendous,
If you are ever in Batavia and I doubt that I will ever be again,try Bourbon and Burgers and hope you get Tara to wait on you...

The drive home saw us drive right past Bowman Field,home of the Williamsport Crosscutters of the same league and had we had cards,we could have stopped by.
Instead,Doug and I with Bill Cover and Derreck Chupak will wait a few weeks and see the Cutters host the Auburn Doubledays,which will hopefully see a whole bunch of cards signed!

I slept much of the way home and after a long day,we arrived home.
Doug and I always have a great time on these trips and I will hopefully get another one in before the season ends.
If you have a chance to see Batavia,you won't be overwhelmed,but you'll enjoy baseball from a past time and you just might smile a little....

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Forgotten Superstars-NOT that Victor Cruz

A long overdue trip to the Forgotten Superstars universe with a long-forgotten player that shows that this feature isn't always for superstars, or even just stars-it can be regular players that for one reason or another connected with me...

Victor Cruz was a pitcher that showed promise until he couldn't control his weight and was quickly out of baseball.
I've written in the past that certain teams make connections with you even if they aren't very good.
The 1979 Cleveland Indians were that team because it was the first year that I was an Indians fan and Victor Cruz was a player that I connected with as it was his first season with the Indians-just it was my first as a fan.

Victor had been obtained in the off-season from Toronto in exchange for promising shortstop Alfredo Griffin, who would be the starter there for the Blue Jays for the following six seasons and would win Rookie of the year in the 1979 season, but Cruz had high value after a 7-3 season in 1978 with a tiny 1.71 ERA in Canada.
Considering the cost (Griffin and Phil Lansford, who was a former first-rounder of the Wahoos) and his 1978 performance, Cruz was expected to anchor the Cleveland bullpen for seasons to come.
Instead of a solid shortstop with the talents of Griffin, Cleveland was forced to continue to run the likes of Tom Veryzer and Jerry Dybzinski out to the position until the arrival of Julio Franco in 1983, so hopes were high for Victor Cruz.

Victor responded by not winning the closer job outright (he would split it with lefty Sid Monge) and finishing 3-9 with an ERA over four with ten saves.
Cruz would rebound a little in the 1980 season with 12 saves and cut a run off of his ERA of the previous year in improving his record to 6-7.
Little did Victor know it, his career was almost finished in the big leagues as he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 1981 campaign as part of the trade for Bert Blyleven.
Despite notching decent numbers (2.65 ERA) in 23 games, Cruz was sent to the minors and other than a 17 appearance stint in 1983 with Texas (1.44 ERA and 5 saves), Cruz was finished in the big leagues-career finished at 25, although he would pitch in the Mexican league for a while.

Why is Victor Cruz so memorable to me?
Well, it was his distinctive pitching motion, which brought to mind Luis Tiant and his weight (well over 200 pounds on a 5'8 frame) giving him the look of a stubby milk bottle from the days of milk being in the quart glass jars.
Cruz had different deliveries, but most famous for a back turning sidearm sling that was fun to watch and could be very effective.

The other memory was from Big Ball.
Those of you long time readers might remember this post about the Big Ball Universe and all those wonderful games against my brother and kids from the neighborhood.
Well, I spent many of those games as the Indians and would often "use" Victor Cruz as my "closer" and go fully into the Cruz impersonation, which drove my brother crazy.
Mainly because he couldn't hit the ball off the motion, but it caused him to lose his mind- to the point of refusing to swing no matter where the pitch was if I used that motion!
Of all of those things, my little brother screaming and refusing to swing against that motion is the most memorable of all.

I met Sid Monge when he was the pitching coach of the State College Spikes and playing in Niles, Ohio vs the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and I asked about his former bullpen partner.
Monge told me Cruz had passed away and said: "Victor ate himself out of baseball first and then he ate himself to death".
A sad ending for not a superstar and often forgotten player that nonetheless steps into our little universe.

 I will be doing a recap of my trip to Batavia with Doug Hopkins either later tonight or tomorrow,

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Crawford unifies over Postol

Terence Crawford unified his WBO junior welterweight title with the WBC version of the title with a easy unanimous decision win over Viktor Postol in Las Vegas.

Since as with all pay per views fights,I am unable to watch those due to work,I am relying on the words of others for the bout.
The fight was even for four rounds,before Crawford(TRS rated 1st at 140) dropped Postol (rated 2nd by TRS) twice in the fifth round and didn't lose another round as he cruised to victory,

Crawford called for Manny Pacquiao after the win,if Pacquiao would drop the weight to fight at Crawford's division,but reading the reports,some have been critical of Crawford for not stepping the pace forward in an attempt to finish Postol off.
Crawford would certainly be a preferable foe for Pacquiao than the other proposed opponent-the also Top Rank controlled WBO welterweight champ Jessie Vargas.but I'm not sure that Top Rank wants to take that fight so quickly.
Crawford might be the right fighter to tame Pacquiao,but another cash-in against Vargas first enables the money train to keep rolling...

Oscar Valdez was impressive in winning the vacant WBO featherweight title in blowing out Matias Rueda in just two rounds.
Valdez looks to be a coming star in the 126 pound division,but the issue is that all of the fighters rated ahead of him in the TRS rankings (Valdez is currently 5th) are all promoted by Al Haymon's PBC,so those fighters could be tough fights to make for Valdez.

Ramon Malpica and I each notched four points in the boxing challenge,which currently stands at 88-73

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge features a bout for the fight fan on pay per view that is better suited for premium cable as the best two junior welterweights in the world face off in Las Vegas.
WBO champ Terence Crawford will unify his belt with WBC titlist Viktor Postol's and as good of a fight as this is-Crawford isn't ready for PPV and Postol really has just one elite level win-his last bout vs Lucas Matthysse.

So why is this on PPV?
Call it HBO budgetary problems and the network couldn't really afford the bout,so promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank decided to make the fight on pay per view and hope for the best.
Both fighters are talented,but I'm not sure that the styles are going to mesh for an exciting bout.
Talented featherweight Oscar Valdez goes for his first world title as the co-feature as he faces Matias Rueda for the WBO title vacated by Vasyl Lomachenko after his win of the same title at 130 pounds...

I lead the boxing challenge over Ramon Malpica 84-69

Unification WBC-WBO Jr.Welterweight title.12 rds
Viktor Postol vs Terence Crawford
Both:Crawford Unanimous Decision

Vacant WBO Featherweight title 12 rds
Oscar Valdez vs Matias Rueda
R.L:Valdez KO 4
TRS:Valdez KO 7

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cleaning out the inbox

Time for an inbox cleaning before things start to build up too much.

We start with the passing of Nate Thurmond, who as a basketball hall of famer is best known as a Golden State Warrior, but will always be a Cavalier to me.
Thurmond was acquired in the middle of the Miracle of Richfield season and gave that team a lacking frontcourt veteran presence that they lacked.
Thurmond only played a year and a half for Cleveland before retiring, but his number was still retired by the team (For as highly as I thought of Thurmond, I still believe World B.Free was more deserving of a number retirement) after his tenure.
Thurmond was more of a rebounder/shot-blocker than a pure scorer and spent most of his career as the third-best big man in basketball, first behind Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, then behind Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and finally behind Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Lanier.
The hall of famer died of leukemia at the age of 74.

I've written in the past about the greatest pro football writer ever in my opinion -Paul Zimmerman.
I even put Zimmerman in the Forgotten Superstars segment (now that I mention it, isn't it time for another installment of Forgotten Superstars?) and his work is sorely missed.
Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback spent a whole week looking at the work of Dr.Z and his unfinished memoir.
The best part for me was Dr. Z's all-time NFL team and lots of interesting things to read from the link...

Peter King also writes in MMQ about Donald Trump and his involvement in the United States Football League.
Trump, who has been cited for the ridiculous decision for the league to invade the fall to challenge the NFL, which was responsible for the league's eventual demise, owned the New Jersey Generals and the story deals with some of the stories with Trump's ownership of the team.
The story with Trump pushing his way to the end of the league is the first and arguably major reason for my dislike for the Republican nominee for President...

We finish with Style Blueprint's interview with long-time TRS favorite Christi Paul.
Those of you familiar with the Pigskin Picking Machine will likely remember Christi as the face of the PPM in 2015.
Who will be this year's face?
Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tim Duncan

Finally,making time to write about the retirement of one of my favorite basketball players of all-time as Tim Duncan retired from the San Antonio Spurs.

Some argue that Tim Duncan wasn't a true power forward and rate him as a center and therefore use that as a reason to keep Duncan off the all-time NBA starting lineup.
I wouldn't argue against people that wish to rate him as a center,but I'll take him at power forward.
For the record,my all-time starting five is Magic Johnson at the point,Michael Jordan at shooting guard,LeBron James at small forward,Duncan at power forward and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the pivot.

Tim Duncan has been a favorite of mine going back to his days at Wake Forest,when he wasn't a polished and finished product,but you could see the potential.
At that time,I was watching tons of college basketball and the stars in the ACC were all the same age-North Carolina's Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse and Maryland's Joe Smith with Duncan showing promise,but not playing at that level at that time.
Duncan wasn't even the star of those Demon Deacon teams as that honor went to guard Randolph Childress,who led Wake to the 1995 ACC Tournament championship.
You could clearly see that Duncan had raw ability,but I would hardly say I figured at that time that he'd be an all-time great.
Where Duncan showed his maturity was realizing that he needed development time and unlike Smith and Wallace for example,he stayed and improved his game and would far surpass the pair in the pro game,where both would be good not great players that traveled around the league playing for multiple teams.

Duncan going to the Spurs was another one of those flukes that happen in sports.
Similar to the Colts being a top team under Peyton Manning,having a bad year with Manning lost to injury which enabled the team to stumble into Andrew Luck,the Spurs did the same with a awful season caused by an injury to David Robinson,which led to a lottery win and the resulting selection of Duncan.
Duncan's loyalty to San Antonio was very similar to staying at Wake Forest when he had NBA opportunities.
Duncan could have made more money elsewhere and could have went to bigger markets for other options both on and off the court.
Duncan didn't have a ton of endorsements and simply spent his career as a quiet superstar-one that eschewed the spotlight in order to be as close as a normal person as an NBA star can be.
I always have held a soft spot for San Antonio as a former ABA team and Duncan certainly made the Spurs an easy team to root for-as long as they didn't play the Cavaliers!

Duncan's game didn't have a ton of flash,but had the consistent record of dependability.
Duncan wasn't a three point bomber like so many of the big men of today,he was effective with the short jumper and could play on the block and post up defenders as big men should.
It was a reasonably simple,yet devastatingly effective,particularly in today's game with Duncan playing against one dimensional players that were useful only from inside the free throw line on defense and being able bring them out a bit on the offensive end.

I'm sure that we may see another player with Tim Duncan's skills in my lifetime,but I'm not sure that we will see one with his skills combined with the team first persona and the lack of ego in my time.
Tim Duncan was easily my favorite player for his era and as sad as I am to see him leave the game,it seems to be the right time.
I'd rather see him leave now than pushing things one sad year too late.

Tim Duncan will be missed....

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Road Trip-Syracuse

The road trip season and dream year of knocking off new ballparks continued with a trip to Syracuse,New York with Derreck Chupak and Doug Hopkins along with Brandon Diehl.
I had worked all night,which didn't really bother me because I wasn't driving,so even though I would be tired,I was able to doze a little when needed.

The drive up was pretty uneventful with just a few pit
stops for gas/snacks.
We arrived in Syracuse early per usual as the entire reason for the trip (for Derreck at least) was the Bryce Harper bobblehead,which came complete with a fireman hat,which looked ridiculous in my opinion,but was sponsored by someone involved with that industry.
Sitting in a hot parking lot didn't seem very appealing to Doug and I,so other than getting our tickets and a Chiefs staff member being kind enough to open the team store for us,we pretty much killed the time talking around the car,while Derreck and Brandon actually met some bobblehead traders for the first time.
I know how neat that is from personal experience,so I was happy for them,despite the time that needed to be ate away.

NBT Bank Stadium was opened in 1997 and it is a pretty ordinary AAA stadium.
It seems to be located in an industrial area of town and the outfield looks to have a lot of brush and a railroad track behind the wall.
Those tracks likely allowed the Chiefs to retain their name in this era of political correctness as they changed their logo from an Indian to a steam engine.

I got my voucher for the bobblehead that was redeemed elsewhere in the stadium (that's an awesome way of giving them out in my opinion) and gave it to Derreck.
I mean,really-what would I want with that thing?
Doug and I went down to the field level to attempt to do a little autographing,while Derreck and Brandon went around and gathered more firemen.
It was a little crowded and one dum-dum almost knocked me over from behind,but it wasn't that bad.
Triple-A graphing is never easy and I brought just a few cards and just one was important to me with shortstop Daniel Robertson having a needed top 100 for that set from 2015.
I did get that card done,so that made the trip a success.
I also got a heritage of Richie Shaffer (very nice),a Midwest top prospect of Casey Gillespie (not so much) and Jaff Decker signed three cards (very nice) for my graphing haul.
Best story-well traveled catcher J.P,Arencibia walks over,grapher calls him wrong name,J.P: "I've been around here so long and you still don't know who I am?" "I'm not signing for you" and he went out and stretched.
Upon returning,the same guy asked again and the response was the same "You guys called me the wrong name,so I'm not signing".

Doug and I climbed the steps and watched a bit and chatted with my friend Jason Christensen and his buddy Gary,
Jason was there when we arrived and we swapped a few cards earlier,but I was so tired,I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked with him.
We then left the stadium early (missing a no hitter by Syracuse's Justin Marks) in order to eat at a recommended site-Dinosaur Barbeque.
When we arrived though,the line was around the building and some of the block,so with a ride of five hours looming,we reluctantly decided to pass.
However,we did get a great meal at an old school A&W in Cortland New York that even surpassed my hometown favorite one as they had a small eat-in area and retained the affiliation with A&W itself!
I enjoyed a burger and coney with some great root beer and they even had miniature golf on site had we had time to play.
And the best bonus was the statue out front of the A&W Bear which I even took a picture with!

I slept a lot of the way home,so I don't have a ton else to add,but I enjoyed the trip to Syracuse more than being there.
That's not a knock against the Syracuse Chiefs or their stadium,it's more like the old saying that getting there is half the fun!
I always have a good time on road trips and I have a few more to go during the remainder of the season

Monday, July 18, 2016

Boxing Challenge-Wilder retains title

The Boxing Challenge rolled through with four fights,seven points for me and five for Ramon Malpica.
I hold the latest lead at 84-69.

The PBC card at Birmingham saw Deontay Wilder (TRS rated 2nd) stop Chris Arreola in his corner at the end of the eighth round to retain his WBC heavyweight title.Wilder floored the faded and undeserving Arreola in the fourth,but a torn bicep and broken hand (Which will keep Wilder from fighting again in 2016) kept Wilder from turning the heat up further before forcing the corner surrender.
Both Ramon and I picked up two points for the Wilder stoppage.

In the better fight,a mild upset as former Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz won a far closer than it really was unanimous decision over Sammy Vasquez,who had a nice run of second tier victories stopped by the talented Diaz.
Diaz,who lost a split decision to Lamont Peterson in his previous bout that I thought he deserved the decision,controlled the fight after being a late replacement for Luis Collazo.
PBC had managed Vasquez well in his run,but picking Diaz as the fill-in and his style was the exact wrong one to look good against and worse lose to.
I scored Diaz a 98-91 winner and added two points with Ramon picking Vasquez..

Two titles were retained in Cardiff Wales with Ramon and I earning three points on the card.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (TRS rated 1st) stopped James Dickens at the end of round two after breaking Dickens jaw in the round with a crunching left to retain his WBA junior featherweight title.
Before you put too much stock in the normally dreadfully dull Rigondeaux's win,Dickens was barely in the WBA's top 15 (12th) rankings and had not one notable win entering the fight.
Ramon and I gained one point with the win.

Terry Flanagan (TRS rated 3rd) dropped aging veteran Mzonke Fana twice and was reported to have won every round in a unanimous decision win to keep his WBO lightweight title,.
Ramon and I each earned 2 points for the win.

Buddy Ryan

I've been working on this for a while, but I finally have some time to bang this out on the passing of Buddy Ryan.

Most people remember Buddy Ryan as the defensive coordinator and innovator behind so many great defenses such as the Vikings Purple People Eater, the Eagles Gang Green, the Jets team that stunned the football world in Super Bowl Three, and of course, the legendary 85 Bears, but Buddy was a pretty good head coach too with a deceiving overall record.
55-55-1 doesn't look that great, until you consider that his final year (4-12) is what took him to the .500 level and his 1st year in Arizona (8-8) was the best record that the Cardinals had notched in the previous ten years.

The Bears' "46" defense was dominant, but I rooted for the Eagles because of Buddy Ryan.
I just loved the guy from his hard-hitting teams with attitude and that he just didn't take crap from anyone.
I never rooted for the Eagles before Buddy, but I was a diehard fan from the day that he took the job and I remained an Eagles fan until down the road with Andy Reid, different uniforms and colors etc.
How many coaches have games named after them "The Bounty Bowl", "The Miracle in the Meadowlands II" and most notably "The Body Bag Game" in which the Eagles knocked out each quarterback against Washington with the Redskins finishing the game with running back Brian Mitchell taking snaps on Monday Night Football.
Buddy even made headlines when he was not the head man with his battles in Chicago with Mike Ditka and his famous punch at Kevin Gilbride in Houston that was again on national television.

Being an Eagles fan was so much fun with Buddy Ryan around, but they could be very frustrating for a fan.
Buddy wasn't just 0-3 in the playoffs, but the Eagles under him typically would look tremendous against top-level teams and then lay an egg the very next week against a foe that they should roll over.
Buddy also had a tendency to almost ignore the offenses on his teams and rely on Randall Cunningham to as Buddy said famously "Randall will make five plays on offense and we'll win".
That sounds simple. but it's tough to develop consistency that way and often times in big games, it would come back to bite Buddy's teams.

Buddy Ryan was a coach that most guys loved to play for as the stories are plentiful from Buddy's goodbye to his Bears on the night before the Super Bowl to the loyalty shown to players during the 1987 strike and his siding with players in contract disputes with management.
Some of this came back to haunt him when Buddy often called his owner, Norman Braman "the guy in France" during a contract issue with I think Keith Jackson.
This didn't always help Buddy's standing with the front office!

Buddy's legacy is about more than being popular with the players and fans, he also is the father of current Bills head coach Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan, who has been the defensive coordinator with several teams.
Much of the attacking philosophy of the Buddy Ryan defense has been used by both of his sons throughout the years and why I always pulled for first the Jets under Rex Ryan and now the Bills with Rex coaching there.

Buddy is remembered by most for those tremendous 85 Chicago Bears, but I'll always remember him as the coach with the quick quip with lines that I've used to this day and for being one of the people that made sports so much fun to follow.....

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Cavaliers sign Birdman,trade Kaun

The Cleveland Cavaliers broke the news on a rumored issue as the team signed the well-traveled and well tattooed Chris "The Birdman" Andersen to the veteran's minimum contract.
The 38 year old Andersen brings a hustling,high energy style to Cleveland that if the team is able to keep his minutes low,should be able to be helpful off the bench.
Andersen played in 27 games last season in a term split between Miami and Memphis,but does the have the approval of LeBron James,who was a booster of the team acquiring Andersen after being teammates with him in his Miami years.
Anderson averaged a little under four points and four rebounds per game last season.

Cleveland needed to make a little cap room in order to corral the Birdman,so Cleveland added a trade exception with the trade of Sasha Kaun to the Sixers in return for the rights to another European player that you'll never see play.
Chukwudiebere Maduabum is the name and he's another name that gets swapped around the league in order to make trades like this done.
Philadelphia is expected to release Kaun quickly and the cash considerations were enough to get Philadelphia to help out the cap strapped Cavaliers.
Kaun averaged less than a point a game in 25 garbage time appearances,but don't feel too sorry for Kaun,who earned a million and a half dollars and a championship ring for his one year of bench time in Cleveland.....

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge has a four fight weekend that featured Deontay Wilder defending his WBC heavyweight title against the less than deserving Chris Arreola.

I currently lead the boxing challenge 77-64

WBC Heavyweight Title.12 rds
Deontay Wilder vs Chris Arreola
R.L:Wilder KO 5
TRS:Wilder KO 9

Welterweights.10 rds
Sammy Vasquez vs Felix Diaz
R.L:Vasquez unanimous decision
TRS:Diaz unanimous decision

WBA Junior Featherweight Title.12 rds
Guillermo Rigondeaux vs James Dickens
Both;Rigondeaux unanimous decision

WBO Lightweight title.12 rds
Terry Flanagan vs Mzonke Fana
Both:Flanagan unanimous decision

Friday, July 15, 2016

Boxing Rankings-Part Two

The TRS boxing rankings continue with the rankings from the lightweight division and down!

1) Jorge Linares 14 pts
2) Dejan Zlaticanin WBC Champ 12 pts (Up One)
3) Terry Flanagan WBO Champ 8 pts  (Down One)
4) Rances Barthelemy 7 pts (Up One)
5) Anthony Crolla WBA Champ 4 pts (Down One)

Junior Lightweights
1) Vasyl Lomachenko WBO Champ 15 pts (Unranked)
2) Francisco Vargas WBC Champ 11 pts
3) Takashi Uchiyama 7 pts (Down Two)
4) Nicholas Walters 5 pts
5) Orlando Salido 3 pts
Also received votes;Takashi Miura,Jezreel Corrales WBA Champ

1) Leo Santa Cruz WBA Champ 15 pts (Up One)
2) Gary Russell WBC Champ 12 pts (Up One)
3) Jesus Cuellar 6 pts (Up One)
     Carl Frampton (Unranked)
5) Oscar Valdez 5 pts (Unranked)
Also received votes: Lee Selby IBF Champ, Jorge Lara

1) Guillermo Rigondeaux WBA Champ 15 pts
2) Scott Quigg 11 pts (Up One)
3) Nonito Donaire WBO Champ 10 pts (Up One)
4) Hugo Ruiz WBC Champ 4 pts (Unranked)
5) Albert Pagara 2 pts (Unranked)
Also received votes: Julio Ceja,Rey Vargas,Jesse Magdaleno

1) Shinsuke Yamanaka WBC Champ 14 pts (Up One)
2) Juan Carlos Payano 12 pts (Down One)
3) Rau'Shee Warren WBA Champ 9 pts (Unranked)
4) Lee Haskins IBF Champ 6 pts (Up One)
5) Jamie McDonnell 2 pts (Down Two)
    Anselmo Moreno (Down One)

1) Naoya Inoue WBO Champ 15 pts
2) Carlos Cuadras WBC Champ 12 pts
3) Kohei Kono WBA Champ 9 pts
4) Omar Narvaez 3 pts (Up One)
5) McJoe Arroyo IBF Champ 2 pts (Down One)
    Srisakat Rungvisai
    Luis Concepcion

1) Roman Gonzalez WBC Champ 15 pts
2) Juan Francisco Estrada WBA/WBO Champ 11 pts (Up One)
3) Kazuto Ioka 10 pts (Down One)
4) Johnriel Casimero IBF Champ 4pts (Unranked)
    Brian Viloria
Also received votes: Amnat Ruenroeng

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Road Trip-Charleston

Our latest road trip saw my friends Fred and Michael Landucci travel with me to Charleston, West Virginia for a visit to the Appalachian Power Park and the homestanding West Virginia Power.

I have never been to the park, but I had been near it twice in the last two months, first on my trip to Bowling Green with Derreck Chupak and Kendall Morris and then last month with Ryan on the way to Louisville.
This was a two day, one night trip because the Landucci's were kind enough to wait to leave until nine AM when I got off work, and then I had to work again the following evening, so the time away was going to be short.

The best part of the trip down was some of the places that you see on the way through West Virginia.
I wrote about some of these on the other trips, but just seeing names such as Flatwoods, Big Chimney, Jane Lew, Mink Shoals, my future daughter in law's native Weston, and the always first in our hearts-Big Otter made myself and the Landucci's laugh at some of these towns.
I mean, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to consider how these towns came to have their names a century or more ago...

We pulled into Flatwoods for gas and where we came up with a new "friend".
Those of you that read about the trip with Derreck and Kendall might remember the interaction with "Denzl" on the same exit at a Sunoco and despite the different gas stations, we would find another unique character that I'll refer to for a long time to come.
As Fred pumped, Michael and I entered the store and as Michael paid, I asked "How far we were to Big Otter"?
This would become a running gag, but this time this was a legitimate question as I knew we had not seen it yet and I was wondering when it would pop up.
The cashier turned to a person named Les and asked him how far Big Otter was away.
Les then responded with "Big Otter? and then about 90 seconds of not a damn thing that Michael or myself could understand.
This had to be heard to believed (or mildly understood) and unless you saw it or heard Les, it simply is not being done justice.
Suffice it to say that Michael and I will be talking about Les for years!

We cruised down to the Charleston Capital hotel to check-in.
It was being renovated, so lots of paint and spackle around, so a trip here in a year would feel totally different.
I took a nap of a little under two hours in order to get some rest to be ready for the game.
I was tired after not going to bed from work, so just that little bit was enough to get me through the evening.
We then traveled to the Bluegrass Kitchen, which had been recommended to us by Rusty, who works for the same company as Ryan and lives in the area.
The kitchen is located in a building that dates back to the '20s and has artwork all around the place by local artists.
Bluegrass touts itself as one of those "local ingredients, locally grown" type places and we were one of the few there at the time (a little after 4) to order.
Just we sat down, the sky opened and began to pour rain in a heavy thunderstorm.
Michael's cellphone showed a heavy storm cell going through, but clear otherwise, so if the field at APP could survive that onslaught, we'd likely be in good shape.
Because of the outside conditions and the older building (think large older windows) the lighting radically changed and took a dark, dank look that I thought complimented the place.
The one thing that I didn't like was the menu selection as because we were there at four, we had very few choices because of their conversion from lunch to dinner.
The waitress gave what was listed as their "Betwixt" menu, which wasn't filled with choices, Fred and I chose the meatloaf sandwich that came with mashed potatoes on the sandwich, while Michael went with the chicken sandwich and the more important sampling of various beers.
The meatloaf was good as it didn't have an abundance of tomato sauce as some meatloaf does and the mashed potatoes on top (no gravy) gave it an interesting texture.

We finally made it to the park- there is a parking garage across the street from one entrance and another lot located with a Family Dollar that was even closer to an entrance-we took the latter and got our tickets.
The ticket person asked me where I would like to be seated as a courtesy.
We asked for (and received) tickets near the Toastman, the Power's superfan so that Fred and Michael could get the Toastman experience,if they were annoyed,we could always move.
It never ceases to amaze me how I am treated like royalty at most places that I go to and using the same pass at my own home park, I get consistently treated like something Posey dragged in...

The autographing is pretty easy at APP as both teams come out of the clubhouse under the concourse in right field, so they have to walk right by you, and in the event of rain, they have a covered area to sign in.
I was able to get most of the Augusta Greenjackets (Giants) finished and Ke'Bryan Hayes of the Power signed all three cards (Including his top 100).
I had so much for Augusta that since I was not familiar with the setup in Charleston and the Power hitting Hagerstown in a few weeks, I left West Virginia cards other than Hayes at home.
If I ever go there again, I'll bring cards for both teams...

The concessions are very reasonable with a pre-game, buy one get one free for beer being a Michael staple.
I enjoyed the frozen lemonades and Michael was thrilled to find out that the Power does not stop selling beer until the game ends.
Most places end their beer sales in the seventh inning-not so in Charleston. Michael exclaimed as he ran to the stand "I LOVE THIS PLACE"!!
Sitting with the Toastman was quite fun with all the things that Rod Blackstone does.
I found his stuff much more entertaining on this trip than I did when he made his visit to Hagerstown a few years back.
This time I found him hilarious-he is organized, comes with mounds of stats (I even helped him with a few), and manages to get into the heads of the opposition, which is why he does it!

The game itself was a record-setter for me.
West Virginia's first batter tripled, scored on the next batter's sacrifice fly, and would only have one more hit for the remainder of the game against Augusta's Michael Connolly.
Connolly would go without offensive support from the Greenjackets and lost 1-0 with a complete game.
Connolly's performance was an 86 on Bill James' game score for starting pitchers and erased the name of Darren Byrd after nine years from the R.S.record book from SAL games I have scored.
That means the name of Michael Connolly will travel around in the book until broken.
We waited outside for the few Greenjackets that we missed, especially Connolly and we were the only people there.
Connolly was on his cell and I pointed to the cards and asked silently if it was OK.
Connolly told his caller that he would call them back shortly, signed my cards, and talked about the game "That's baseball" for a few minutes.
I'm not sure how far Michael Connolly is going to go,(at 24, he's older for the league) but he's earned a fan in me.
The game was played in a blazing 1;47, which is good in any league, but especially in the South Atlantic League.
Neither team made an error and neither team walked a batter-it is amazing how fast the game can be played when that happens!!!
If you want to graph or just watch a game,I recommend seeing the Power very highly!

Back at the hotel and Miguelito was feeling no pain!
As we waited for an average tasting pizza, Miguelito complained to the front desk guy and most memorably decided to do his best Hulk Hogan impersonation as Fred implored him not to tear his shirt off!!
After pizza, it was time for bed and I really liked my room.
King size bed, nice size room, and decent TV as I watched boxing on FS1 as I wound down from a hectic day.

Up at 7 because we wanted to get home because I had to work, we attempted to have breakfast from another Ryan suggestion, but parking was difficult, so we planned on rolling further down the road for breakfast, but we decided to suck it up and do lunch in Morgantown-home of the Mountaineers.
The planned stop was a place called the Dirty Bird, but that was closed for the summer.
We asked a local for a suggestion on the downtown strip and Jameson's got the nod until we discovered that they weren't opening for another half-hour, so we tried Gibbie's next door.
We were the only people in the place and the boneless wings were good, but not especially hot.
Not bad, but I wouldn't go out of my way for them.

The other trip home highlight?
A return to Flatwoods for you guessed it-Denzl and sure enough, he was in!!
Of course,I had to ask how far from Big Otter we were and he gave the exact dialect that I would expect in an explanation that went way too far for a place straight down the road.
The Landucci's got quite the laugh out of Denzl!

I returned home and pretty much went straight to bed to rest for work, but I had a great time with Fred and Michael and we just might make another trip before the season ends.
Thanks for having me and I'm looking forward to more memories.
I still have the Buddy Ryan tribute to do and a Tim Duncan post with the retirement of my favorite player to work on!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kovalev decisions Chilemba

In his return to his home country and in his final prep for Andre Ward,Sergey Kovalev hammered out a workmanlike unanimous decision win over Issac Chilemba.
Kovalev knocked Chilemba down in the seventh round and hurt him badly in the eighth,appearing to be on the verge of ending the fight.
However,the plucky Chilemba managed to hold off the onslaught and was not in serious danger over the final four rounds.
I had Kovalev a 117-110 winner on my scorecard as he retained his WBA,IBF and WBO light heavyweight titles.

While it is true that Kovalev may not as been as sharp as usual,lets give some credit to Chilemba,who fought well in defeat.
Chilemba,who won three rounds on my card,might have worked his way into consideration for a future TRS rating at 175 rounds and will give any fighter in the division a tough night.
Kovalev might benefit more from a hard 12 rounds for the November Ward fight than with another quicker knockout and could see some of the advantages in that bout...

R.L.Malpica and I  each added one point in the boxing challenge and the total moved to 77-64 with the lead staying with TRS...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Boxing Challenge

The Boxing challenge hits a rare Monday night as the broadcast comes from Russia,Sergey Kovalev defends three of the four light heavyweight belts against stablemate Issac Chilemba on HBO.
Kovalev is a heavy favorite to defend his titles against Chilemba and move to a lucrative pay per view bout vs Andre Ward,but Chilemba is no gimme having come off a close split decision loss to Eleider Alvarez in an elimination bout to determine the top contender in the WBC for the only belt not held by Kovalev-held by Adonis Stevenson.

The bout is being held on Monday because that is the big night for boxing in Russia like Saturday is here.
It's funny because back in the days when boxing was bigger in the U.S,the biggest bouts were always held during the week-not on the weekends.
That was because the biggest fights were in theatres on closed circuit television in the days before pay per view and theater owners did not want to lose the revenue from the weekend films...
For one night,it's a walk back in time...
I lead R.L.Malpica in the boxing challenge 76-63.

WBA/IBF/WBO Light Heavyweight titles.12 rds
Sergey Kovalev vs Issac Chilemba
R.L:Kovalev KO 4
TRS:Kovalev KO 8

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Boxing Rankings Part one

Time for an updated TRS rankings which will range in part one from junior welterweight to heavyweight.
We still have a three man voting panel and I will note with each fighter-their title (if applicable),points total and if they moved up or down since the last rankings..
Also keep in mind that just because a fighter is rated 1st doesn't mean he is considered the consensus champion.
I consider Tyson Fury the consensus champ,but he is not number one on my ballot...

1) Luis Ortiz 12 points
2) Anthony Joshua IBF Champ 9 pts (up 3 spots)
    Deontay Wilder WBC Champ (up 1)
4) Tyson Fury WBA/WBO Champ 8 pts (down 2 )
5) Wladimir Klitschko 7 pts (down 2)

1) Krzsytof Glowacki WBO Champ 15 points
2) Denis Lebedev WBA/IBF Champ 11 points
3) Marco Huck 9 pts
4) Tony Bellew WBC Champ 6 pts (unranked)
5) Gregor Drozd 2 pts (down one )
Also received votes: Olesander Usyk,Marias Breidis

Light Heavyweights
1) Sergei Kovalev WBA/IBF/WBO Champ 15 points
2) Andre Ward 11 points  (up one)
3) Adonis Stevenson WBC Champ 9 points (down one)
4) Artur Beterbiev 7 points
5) Joe Smith 2 points (unranked)
Also received votes :Eleider Alvarez

Super Middleweights
1) James DeGale IBF Champ 14 pts
2) Gilberto Ramirez WBO Champ 13 pts
3) Badou Jack WBC Champ 8 pts (up one)
4) Andre Dirrell 3 pts (up one)
5) Arthur Abraham 2 pts (down two)
    Felix Sturm WBA Champ (unranked)
    Callum Smith
Also received votes:Lucien Bute

1) Gennady Golovkin WBA./WBC/IBF Champ 15 pts
2) Daniel Jacobs 12 pts (up one)
3) Billy Joe Saunders WBO Champ 8 pts (up two)
4) David Lemieux 6 pts (unranked)
5) Chris Eubank Jr 1 pt (unranked)
    Andy Lee (unranked)

Junior Middleweights
1) Canelo Alvarez  15 pts (unranked at 154)
2) Erislandy Lara WBA Champ 9 pts (down one)
3) Jermall Charlo IBF Champ 6 pts
    Julian Williams
5) Demetrius Andrade 5 pts (down one)
Also received votes:Jermell Charlo WBC Champ,Miguel Cotto.

1) Kell Brook IBF Champ 15 pts
2) Manny Pacquiao 12 pts
3) Keith Thurman WBA Champ 9 pts (up one)
4) Errol Spence 5 pts (unranked)
5) Timothy Bradley 2 pts (down two)
    Shawn Porter (unranked)
Also received votes; Danny Garcia WBC Champ

Junior Welterweights
1) Terrence Crawford WBO Champ 15 pts
2) Viktor Postol WBC Champ 12 pts
3) Adrien Broner 9 pts (up two)
4) Lucas Matthysse 4 pts
5) Lamont Peterson 2 pts (down two)
    Antonio Orozco
Also received votes;Eduard Troyanovsky IBF Champ

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Road Trip=Heading home

The trip wrapped up on its final day with a little time killing needed.

I wanted to take Ryan to Pickle Bill's,which was the seafood place that you might remember that Cherie and I went to last August when we went to Northeast Ohio.

In order to wait for Pickle Bill's to open,we had to wait until one o'clock and we wanted to be there when it opened as we expected it to fill quickly as it was Father's Day.
So,we were able to take a leisurely trip across the state to get to Pickle Bill's,but we were able to see the Cleveland skyline from the road.
From a distance,if you looked quickly and closely,you could see the area around the Quicken Loans Arena area beginning to fill up for the television watching party as this was the day of game seven of the NBA finals.
It would have been so neat to have driven by when it was completely filled!

When we arrived a little early at Pickle Bill's (after struggling to find a place to walk around ),we waited outside by the Cuyahoga River until it opened.
Ryan and I swapped lots of basketball talk,which was the type of thing that I hoped would still be there for us.
I've written before that the top thing that I missed about Ryan being gone was those times of just sitting around swapping sports talk and those late night baseball games from the west coast.
When Pickle Bill's opened,we were seated quickly and the line we were in lengthened before we were officially in to eat!
It was a smart move to get there early as when we left at two,the place was packed with people waiting for a table!

Ryan and I had the all you can eat Perch and Walleye and we each had some of the other (shhh) and it was as tasty as I remembered!
I still want to try the rival across the stone drive in Brennan's seafood house sometime,but sometimes you don't want to get into a spot of losing the known quantity when you so rarely get to go!

We worked our way home as we wouldn't be hungry for the rest of the day,only stopping for the standard drinks,breaks etc,but as we neared the Pennsylvania Turnpike.I could see where the vacation had started-Oakmont.
We crossed under the bridge and heard a huge roar and I looked and saw the 18th hole grandstand standing in cheering,so Ryan and I knew something big had happened as the final round of the U.S.Open was in progress!

The trip was over and I missed the few minutes of game seven,so we made it in time for most of the game.
I'm not sure if I'll ever get to make a trip with Ryan again,but it was exactly what I was hoping for-One last fun trip with my son.
It meant a lot and even if I never get to make another one-I still have this one in the memory bank.

Coming soon will be the Buddy Ryan tribute,boxing ratings and maybe,just maybe a podcast...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cavaliers trade for Mike Dunleavy

The Cleveland Cavaliers were in a position to profit from someone's cap problems and they may done so with the addition of Mike Dunleavy Jr from the Chicago Bulls in a trade late Wednesday night.

Chicago needed to clear cap space in order to sign Dwyane Wade and Dunleavy,a long-time favorite of LeBron James,was an easy savings for the Bulls cap.
Cleveland,who is so limited in cap space was able to use part of it's trade exception from the trade of Anderson Varejao to be able to squeeze in Dunleavy and his 4.8 million contract for 2016-17.

Dunleavy played in just 31 games last season,having been hampered with back problems and there is no guarantee that the soon to be 36 year old will return to form,but I'm willing to guess that he'll be able to shoot his way back.
Much like in boxing,where the last thing that goes is punching power,in basketball,a standup shooter can knock shots down for years-even when their other talents have gone away.
Why else do you believe that teams are chasing a 41 (by seasons start) year old Ray Allen that has been out of the game for two years?
Because in the right situation-Ray Allen can still shoot and if Mike Dunleavy can move a little bit-he'll be able to shoot it.

Dunleavy is known to be a solid passer and of course possessing the skill to drain the three as he hits 37 percent of his shots from beyond the line for his career.
Adding that you can get away with playing (how much depends on other situations) Dunleavy at three different positions and it is a good fit for both parties.
It's funny because just yesterday on a trip to Harrisburg,Derreck Chupak and I were discussing the type of player that the Cavaliers could use to surround LeBron James with to help off the bench and the names that were mentioned were similar to Dunleavy (although his name didn't come up) J.J. Redick,Kyle Korver,Doug McDermott etc-shooters to take advantage of when James drives and kicks the ball out.
Dunleavy (if healthy) has the capability to do that.

Cleveland will also retain Richard Jefferson,who decided to change his mind from a decision to retire and signed a two year contract.
No word on what the Cavaliers will be paying Jefferson over the term of the contract.

Also no word on what the Cavaliers will be sending to the Bulls for Dunleavy,although the Cleveland Plain Dealer says that it will not be any draft picks and will likely be the rights to an overseas player,although it will not be their prized youngster Cedi Osman from Turkey.

Back injuries are tricky problems and it's not a sure thing that the Cavaliers will get anything out of Mike Dunleavy,but if he is able to play-Mike Dunleavy is exactly the type of situational shooter that this team needs.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Podcast-Chasing Cardboard!!

Another edition of Chasing Cardboard from the world of minor league baseball with Derreck Chupak!

Road Trip-Toledo

The trip on its second day featured the most downtime that Ryan and I had and we took it to its best advantage.

You see,I've had different travel partners and each do things a little differently.
Kendall Morris is a straight forward get to the destination with as few stops as possible.
Derreck Chupak will stop for food once in a while,but it's usually at McDonald's including a recent stop in Bowie that ranks among my worst stops of all time (check my TripAdvisor page for more on this).
Doug Hopkins likes to stop at places and look around as well dig around before we go for interesting places to eat at and I must admit I'm a lot more like Doug on trips to places that I've never been to than Kendall and Derreck,but that's not always the case!

On this day,Ryan and I had time to kill and I saw so many things and places from the state that despite not living there for a long time,that I'll always consider home and what a wonderful experience to share with my son.
When we left Louisville (after a grape icee stop at Thornton's as mentioned in part one!),we originally considered a return (when they were open) to the Muhammad Ali center and/or a Kentucky Derby museum trip to start our day.
Well,we decided to pass on both-the Ali center due to the issues we had leaving Louisville and not wanting to get caught in that again and the Derby museum due to its cost,which wound up being over 30 dollars per person by the time that different fees were introduced.
We then moved through Kentucky into southern Ohio and entered Cincinnati.
I had never been to Cinci and it was really neat to see some of the things as we crossed the Ohio River that I had seen so often on clips of the classic "WKRP in Cincinnati".
Ryan then surprised me by taking an exit so we were able to actually stop at Great American Ballpark for a few pictures before we left town.

We had another target in mind near Cincinnati in Blue Ash,Ohio.
Blue Ash is a town that was downright brilliant in the late 80's as the reconstruction of the late lamented Crosley Field was done on their sporting facility.
Their Crosley is accurate down to its exact dimensions including hills in the outfield and a perfect replica of the Crosley scoreboard with sponsors of the time and the scores of all the MLB games when the final pitch was thrown.
They also have an original ticket booth from Crosley and the seats on the third base bleachers are all from Crosley's original incarnation to boot.
Add to that another field that has the dimensions of the Reds home after Crosley in Riverfront Stadium complete with artificial turf and the people of Blue Ash certainly have made a unique home for their advanced youth baseball programs.
After we left the fields,Ryan wanted a coney from Skyline Chili,not a full meal,just a quick dog and since we had passed a Skyline on the way in,it was convenient.
As we ate,I wanted to make a note of the exact location for my later reviews for TripAdvisor,so I asked what the exact town the Skyline was located in.
This sounds dumb,but many times in suburbs,if you don't get the city exactly right,nothing will come up and therefore no review.
On my kindle,it was coming up that we were in Sharonville,yet I thought we were in Blue Ash,so I asked the waitress which was the case.
She looked at me with a puzzled look and said three times in a deep southern drawl "This is Blue Ash"...
This was a lot funnier in person that it reads-I promise!!

We then continued our run north through Western Ohio,including a cruise through Dayton,where we saw the Dayton Arena,where the first round of the NCAA tourney is played and moved to Wapakoneta and yet another place that I've always wanted to visit as a space buff (wasn't every kid in the 60's and 70's?)-The Neil Armstrong Air and Space museum honoring hometown hero and first man on the moon-Neil Armstrong.
I smiled as I snapped the picture at the top of the page as it reminded me exactly of what you would think a space museum built in the 1970's would look like-a large walking path leading up to an imposing dome,although it appeared that there was lots of landscaping work being done in order to give the museum the appearance of being buried.
Once inside,you saw that the museum was actually below ground level and you worked your way to the dome at the top,things began to clear up.
I was simply enthralled by the Armstrong museum.It had a seventies feel without the mustiness and lack of care that some museums with lower funding often have.
Well maintained with lots of Armstrong and U.S. space items,it also gives its fair share of attention to the opponents in the space race as the Soviet Union has some attention paid to it as well.
There is a video on the moon landings under the dome and to be fair-it's a little dated,but if you have children or haven't done a lot of lunar reading of late,it's entertaining and interesting enough to get you by.
I just loved going to the Armstrong museum and at 8.00 for adults and cheaper for kids,it isn't going to be oppressive in cost.
I did pick up a few postcards and a little something for myself-a Armstrong snow globe.
I've always liked those and even those I don't really collect them,I couldn't pass this little guy up!
If you are ever in the area,give it a try.Ryan said he enjoyed it and he wasn't sure that he would when he arrived-so there is an endorsement from someone other than me!!

After leaving Wapakoneta and the museum (which is very visible from the interstate),we moved toward Toledo and passed (the shot wasn't great) Doyt Perry Stadium,home of Bowling Green football.
I'm planning on making my first visit to the Doyt in Sept to see the Falcons take on Middle Tennessee State (not sure on travel partners,if any for that trip) and it was nice to have a little bit of an idea of where the Doyt is located!

More northern driving saw us decide to cross the Michigan line in order to count Michigan as a state that we have been to and we'd drive for a little bit,stop and get out and then turn around to return to Ohio.
When seeing a sign for Beef Jerky Unlimited,we knew we had our stop!
Located in a small store right off the highway,Beef Jerky Unlimited had a lot of different flavors,ranging from sweet to hot and in beef,chicken and pork!
Ryan graciously bought us some and we used it as snacks down the road,in the hotel and even the next day.

We left Michigan and passed Toledo again in order to eat at Frisch's Big Boy.
Frisch's is the midwestern version of Bob's and Shoney's as it has the classic Big Boy statue out front and I remember it from being the sponsor of a Cincinnati Stingers  pocket schedule in my collection.
Frisch's offered the classic Big Boy burger and fries combo and I happily had such as we ate before our jaunt to Toledo for the home team Mud Hens and the visiting Rochester Red Wings.

I'm never a fan of paying for parking.
NEVER.It has to be done and it's part of the price of playing when you visit big cities,but I really don't like it.
There is ZERO parking on site at Fifth Third Field-home of the AAA Mud Hens and so you could either pay eight dollars and park across the street or five and walk blocks.
That was an easy choice and even with my foot feeling better than the day before (In which I spent much of the day in slippers),I still wanted to save steps.
Entering the stadium was interesting,as those of you that know me,know the briefcase that goes everywhere with me and it came to Toledo as well..
I wasn't checked when entering the stadium,which I found unusual ,with the exception of Hagerstown or Frederick,where they know the contents,I'm usually checked,which I have no problem with.
Ryan and I made a hard turn into the team shop where I discovered I was being tailed by a guy in uniform.
Everywhere I went,this guy was there and then after a while,I watched this guy go up to another uniformed person and start looking at me.
Honestly,I was a little uncomfortable,so being me,I decided to end their suspicion and walked over and said "You guys are watching me right?"
The second fellow arrogantly responded "yes,we are",so I said let's end your suspense and showed the contents,which relaxed them.
The follower said "You have to admit that's pretty unusual" and I responded "Perhaps,but usually I'm checked at the door".
I understand the need for security and I never have an issue checking the case,but wouldn't it have been so much easier to check it before I walk in????

Fifth Third Field was sold out for this night and we were treated to good seats,but had the misfortune to sit in front of some dopey kid who seemed to know all and tell all to a girl sitting next to him.
My highlight was listening to him talk about basketball despite knowing next to nothing.
This guy brought to mind a cross between Cliff Clavin and a local grapher and it was painful.
The  noise was a little loud with us sitting under a speaker,but it wasn't terrible,
Toledo has similarities to Akron,where the stadium is located in an urban area with various things to do around the ballpark's exterior for revelry to ensue.
In other words,all the things that I hate! LOL.
Toledo did a mild stadium renovation,which Ryan remarked is likely the reason for an attendance increase.
I did like this "Wedge" of seats that started this season in which it incorporates a building that is used as almost part of the scenery (I'm not sure if it is part of the park or not) and adds what I'd bet is higher priced prestige seating.
I'm still not a huge fan of the downtown parks,I'll take a suburban or a slower city location anytime,but Toledo was Ok.

We left Toledo and moved to our hotel for the night in Sandusky,Ohio after a long and fun day.
I had a great time with Ryan and I hope you can handle the length of this post!
I'll have the final day up soon,but later tonight,I'll have the podcast and the latest edition of Chasing Cardboard....