Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Road Trip-Williamsport (times two)

I realize I promised a return to the Appalachian league,but I decided to combine my two road trips to Williamsport PA into one since I was there last night...
For the purposes of this post-there will be some things that might blur together between the trips and they might not be as detailed as usual..

Doug Hopkins was with me on both trips,but Bill Cover and Derreck Chupak were with me for the first visit with the Landucci pairing of Fred and Michael traveling with Doug and I last night.
It had been ten years since I visited Bowman Field-so long ago that the Crosscutters were a Pirates affiliate,Ryan was still living at home and this blog was months away from being started.

On the 1st trip,we suffered through rain (most of the day),humidity and pretty nasty staff (a young man named Aaron),while the 2nd trip was much better (We only saw Aaron once) as far as staff goes.
We had great meals on both trips in different styles.
The Kast Hotel literally is a early 20th century building that brings to mind the old television shows depicting the time period.
Doug ordered a plate of nachos that had to be seen to be believed size wise and he was fortunate that he didn't order anything else!
The rest of us ordered burgers and were pretty pleased,
The term "retro" is used pretty loosely anymore when it comes to themes and I wouldn't call the Kast Hotel retro,it is just an old place that serves pretty good food-If in the area,give it a try.

Same goes for trip two as I looked on TripAdvisor and selected three choices for everyone else to choose from.
The selection was the Sticky Elbow and despite the less than classy name,was more of an upscale restaurant.
Fred and I shared an order of nachos and a chicken dish that had pulled chicken with buffalo sauce and celery slaw inside a flatbread that was then tempura fried.
The nachos were awesome and again more than enough for everyone to jump in.
I'm not sure if Fred and I could have gotten this finished without help from Doug and Michael!
Two different types of place with two different ways of doing things,but if you go to a Cutters game-try one of them,I think you'll enjoy it...

Bowman Field has changed since my last visit as they have installed a party deck down the left field line and are installing improvements down the right field line which removed some of the seating area.
Those should be ready for 2017,but it severely limited the autographing for the home Crosscutters.
Bill and I (we didn't try on trip 2) had some good luck from outside the stadium and putting cards through the fence since the Cutter locker room is right beside the entry gate.
However,inside-the same area is cut off,an usher chased everyone away from near the field (which is vital since the dugouts at Bowman are VERY far from home plate and were generally rude.
The folks at the gate on the second trip were much nicer with the ticket manager there instead of Aaron.
Visitors access is much better,although we were told by a local fan that it too will be curtailed next season with more work.
Doug and Derreck did very well with the Auburn Doubledays (Washington) and the day two group did well with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Cleveland).
Auburn was knocking out much of the team set and the same with Mahoning Valley with the big score being former first overall pick Brady Aiken on his top 100 among three other cards.
We missed on the other Scrapper prospect as Juan Hillman started the game,but I think we got most of the rest of the team-so I thought this was a very nice graphing night.

Trip one ended in a rainout,so that story ends here,but trip two saw a wonderful late summer night with a small breeze once the sun went down.
Michael was treated with a local beer (Genesee) that saw him make the bitter beer face (remember those commercials from long ago?

The facility is roughly the same age as the Hagerstown Muni (2 yrs older) and shares the sizable covered grandstand look as well.
Most of the seats in Bowman Field are under the roof and have a one piece back that runs the length of the row rather than the individual seats of the Muni.
It was a much quieter and older crowd than most places and the "star" was someone named "Mad Chad",who had a routine based on juggling oddball items like chainsaws and doing a lot of screaming.
Mad Chad didn't do much for us.

The company was good and the day was long,but trip two was a success.
I like Williamsport and Bowman Field to watch a game and I'd come back to see how the autographing is affected by the upcoming changes in the future.
Thanks to everyone from both trips for having me and allowing me to have fun and see another ballpark...

I may be without internet at work tonight,but my intent is to try to work on a post for Pulaski and maybe a podcast since I will have plenty of time....

Monday, August 29, 2016

Browns cut K'Waun Williams,Trade Andy Lee to Carolina

The Cleveland Browns keep on moving as on the same day that the team released linebacker Paul Kruger,the Browns cut corner K'Waun Williams and traded Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee to the Carolina Panthers...

Williams,who had been the nickel corner for the Browns in his two years in Cleveland after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Pitt,had been suspended for refusing to enter the pre-season opener.
Williams claimed an ankle injury,which was medically confirmed,but the team suspended him for two weeks anyway.
That suspension was expiring this week,but the writing for Williams was on the wall and with Jamar Taylor and Tramon Williams as veterans ahead of him on the depth chart,the tenure for Williams in Cleveland looked to be finished.
Williams might be claimed off waivers by San Francisco,where defensive coordinator Jim O'Neill (formerly with the Browns) might have interest in working with a player that played well for him in the past...

Meanwhile,the Browns sent punter Andy Lee and a seventh round pick in the 2017 draft to the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers in exchange for rookie punter Travis Redfern and the Panthers fourth round selection in 2018.
Lee is one of the league's best punters,but getting a fourth round pick for a punter is a pretty nice return.
Lee and Hue Jackson had gotten into verbal jousting in the Browns loss to Tampa Bay last week for a weak effort by Lee against a Buccaneer returner,but even if things were truly settled,the lowly Browns would have been hard pressed to turn down that type of offer,even if the choice is two years away.
Travis Redfern will likely be the Browns punter with zero NFL experience,so look for punters to be on speed dial if Redfern stumbles early.

The Browns will miss Andy Lee,but seriously does losing a punter make much of a difference in the win/loss and the team basically turned a seventh round pick (traded a 2015 to San Francisco) into a good year from Lee and a future fourth rounder.
One cannot argue with that and while K'Wan Williams loses depth in the secondary,the situation clearly couldn't be tolerated..

The beat goes on in Cleveland,but the team seems to have somewhat of a clue as they continue to accumulate future assets.
The key will be taking advantage of those picks-something that has been in short supply in recent years...

Another contract casualty-Browns cut Paul Kruger

The Cleveland Browns continue to be all in-for down the road that is as the Browns released a group of players in order to hit the mandated roster limit.

There were four names that stood of the bunch,but one name carried the most weight-that of linebacker Paul Kruger.
Kruger,who was brought into Cleveland to be the classic edge pass rusher for the Browns in 2013,only produced the expected numbers in 2014 with eleven sacks as the other two seasons saw Kruger combine for just seven and with Ray Horton's return to Cleveland as defensive coordinator (Kruger had 4.5 sacks under Horton),you could make a case that both teams could profit from the decision to release Kruger.
The Browns are trying to get younger (and cheaper) and for the money they would pay Kruger (6.5 million) the team could use that time to play and see just what they have in players like Nate Orchard for one example.
Cleveland saves 6.5 million in actual dollars that they do not have to pay Kruger,but they also save money under the salary cap by releasing him now.
I'd rate Paul Kruger as a disappointment in Cleveland,but I'd wager that he could flourish in a new environment,especially if it is one where he is not the main pass rushing threat.

The other releases of note saw a new kicker decided and a quarterback released.
Travis Coons was released,which means former Buccaneer Patrick Murray will be the starting kicker.
Coons struggled with long field goals in his only season in Cleveland and on a bad team,a big leg goes a long way.

Austin Davis was released and set the Browns quarterback situation for a bit.
Davis played a few games late last season with injury issues at the position and despite signing a long term contract,Davis looked to be on borrowed time with the coaching change after a less than shiny stint.

The other player was tight end E.J.Bibbs,who looked to have the physical skills for a pass catching tight end,but rarely saw the field and his skill set seems to be different from the tight ends that Hue Jackson prefers-think Tyler Eifert rather than the stockier target rather than the taller more angular types.
I liked Bibbs and had hoped he'd get a chance to play more....

Will try again to be back later with the Pulaski trip...

Whatever happened to Danny Taylor?

At this time of year with the Little League World Series taking place, I get questions about the game.
After all, I played for five years, sat in the announcers' booth for five more, and coached for another ten, so some people (especially those that were familiar with a particular) want to ask questions on occasions.

The player that I get asked most about is the late Nick Adenhart because I was an assistant coach on an All-Star team of Nick's and coached against him (we beat him three of four times with the fourth ending in a tie, Little League can be goofy) and people want to know about my thoughts on Nick as a youth player.

However, the question that I get asked most is a variation on this "Wasn't Nick the best player that you ever saw in your time" and people are surprised to hear me answer "No".
Nick certainly was the best pitcher that I ever coached against, but he wasn't the best that I ever saw.

The most dominant player that I ever saw was a guy named Danny Taylor, who dominated the little league in town and then dominated the Pony League even further.
In fact, when I coached later, I asked a long-time local baseball icon a similar question and without a skip of the needle-his answer was Danny Taylor.
That showed me that my memory was not embellished by age.
Danny Taylor was three years older than me and I only faced him one time, when someone had the brilliant idea to have him pitch to the kids trying out for the league.
No one touched him, but that might have been the point-If a 9-year-old could even foul one off Taylor, he might be a prospect!
I don't remember if I fouled one off or not, but I'm doubtful that happened.

I remember reasonably well a game with Taylor pitching for "Byron's" against Brad Martin of "Byers Market" and throwing a no-hitter with a 1-0 win as Taylor homered for the game's only run.
That game was a game that was talked about for years that even as I sat in the booth, so it wasn't (yet again) a game that got better with age.
I remember some of the newspaper clipping and he was just as dominant in Pony League, but he must have peaked early or had an injury in the days where such things weren't as closely paid attention to because his name wasn't heard as much by my freshman year in high school where Taylor was a senior and on the baseball team.
I don't remember as much about him there and I don't believe that he was ever drafted.

Watching the ESPN program about the 1982 Kirkland Washington LLWS winners and their star pitcher Cody Webster made me think of Danny Taylor as a player that might have peaked too soon and whatever happened to him.
Since I wasn't friends with him, there would be no reason to know other than his dad helped coach me one season when I played and I have no idea where he is or what he does.
Still, his name comes up when the above question is asked a few times a year to me and I wonder just what happened to Danny Taylor and how such a dominant player never received a chance to play at the professional level.

Imagine just how many players have similar stories in the game and you get an idea of just how hard it is to make it in professional baseball.

Will try to be back next time with a look at our road trip to Pulaski and Calfee Park...

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Road Trip-Princeton

I'll be starting my review of the Appalachian League trip with Fred and Michael Landucci today with the first part of day one.
I'll be doing this as quickly as I can,but other things could postpone the series on occasion.
Also,things could be changing here at the TRS flagship as my internet connection at work is going away effective Monday,so I'm not sure how I am going to handle that.
In order for me to access the net,I may have to buy a "Jetpack" and add an extra bill.
Since an extra bill is the main reason that I do not carry a cell phone around,something may have to give and that might be internet access at work.
That trickles down to less time to talk to you (friends and readers) and less time to work on the blog.
The podcast might be affected a little less because I can do that and upload later at home,but this is going to be something that I deal with.
Just wanted to keep you informed...

The first part of day one was at Hunnicutt Field in Princeton,West Virginia.
Princeton is located in the southern portion of the state and we were able to reach there with little difficulty,although we did have one memorable stop on the way at an unlikely place-a dull little gas station.
You see,all season at various minor parks,the one thread is the constant reference to the "official chip of minor league baseball" Uncle Ray's.
However,none of these parks actually sell this chip,so its been a running joke all season about the chip that is so good that no one actually sells it-until this gas station in New Castle VA,which brought a hearty laugh from Fred and a quick purchase of the bag by Fred!
Once,Fred opened the bag and we all tried them,what we found was a thoroughly mediocre chip and the bag spent the rest of the trip in the back seat-untouched and unloved!

When arriving at H.P.Hunnicutt Field,we stayed on the visitors side of the stadium as we waited for the visiting Bluefield Blue Jays and parked our car across the street in a strip mall parking lot.
The parking lot had a steep hill and we waited for a bit until the bus arrived.
When it did,we saw one of the weirdest sights yet as the bus driver parked in the lot rather than beside the stadium with the players walking down this hill.
The bus driver left the bus and started yelling back and forth with the manager with both raising their voices with Dennis Holmberg (Bluefield manager) hollering "you better hope none of my players turn an ankle going down this hill".
Holmberg was pretty unhappy and I decided not to ask him to sign the two cards that I had.
I didn't have a lot of cards for Bluefield,but did get Vladimir Guerrero Jr on two cards and Matt Morgan to sign his Bowman.

Hunnicutt Field is a true throwback as you enter from the right field area and hit the only team stand,which is a little hutch that was manned by Amanda,who was so nice in taking care of us.
It goes a long way when employees are nice to you,which is a lesson that the Suns could learn!
Hunnicutt has next to no access to get the home Rays,although Michael was able to get the Rays number one pick Joshua Lowe by dropping a ball down to him and catching a reverse toss.
You are literally 15 feet above the playing surface and except for a small area that you can carefully squeeze a card in,are unable to get cards to players.
I mean,even the book guys could drop the book down,but wouldn't able to have the book returned.
I did get the one Ray that I wanted in Adrian Rondon using the small fence area,but I wouldn't count on getting enough guys finished for a team set.
If you want to do the Rays at Hunnicutt Field,you might want get them going into the stadium or leaving after the game...

We didn't watch much of the game there as we had planned to graph and make the one hour drive to Pulaski for the Greeneville Astros against the hometown Pulaski Yankees,but did watch an inning so we could watch Vlad Guerrero Jr hit (he singled) and grabbed a hot dog (only a dollar).
We sat on a picnic bench right behind home plate in an area that would cost a huge amount at a big league park.
It felt like we could have called balls and strikes!

All and all,I liked Princeton.
The employees were nice and the park quirky,even with the bad autograph access.
I'd return to Hunnicutt Field-especially if you want the visiting team,who is far easier to do...

Next time in the road trip series-We'll take a look at the Pulaski portion of the day!

Photo Credits:Fred Landucci

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cleaning out the inbox

Time to clean out the inbox and we'll start with Eleven Warriors and their look at Kyle Snyder,the Ohio State junior,who became the youngest United State wrestler to ever win Olympic gold.
The in-depth article on Snyder was written just before he won the gold and goes into Snyder's high school and international background.
Eleven Warriors might be best known as a OSU football site,but it is so much more than that in its Buckeye coverage....

New writes an article about the giving side of Yankee prospect Clint Frazier.
Frazier,who was the painful part for me to lose in the Indians acquisition of Andrew Miller.
I was really impressed with my own small interaction with Clint last year in Frederick,but this article shows so much more from the young man.
I don't want to spoil the article,but this is the type of player that doesn't come along every day and if the Indians don't kick the door with Miller in the next two seasons,they might regret that trade for a long time-No matter how well Andrew Miller pitches,,,,

I've written before about journeyman players from the seventies that I rooted for and had no other reason than a baseball card,name or picture in a magazine,
One of those was righthanded pitcher Lynn McGlothen,who had a few good seasons,but enjoyed an average career before dying in a fire in 1984.
Bruce Markusen selected McGlothen as the topic of his latest Card Corner and covers his tragic death along with his various stops in baseball.
The card that I liked of McGlothen's was his 1976 Topps card with his huge smile hanging around the batting cage in what looks to be Shea Stadium.

Joe Plum found this note in Popular Science with a fisherman
that found a 75 pound pearl inside a giant clam over a decade ago and hid it away until then.
Pearls are usually found in oysters not clams,but clams are capable of making pearls in some situations....

I wrap with a note from Battlin' Bob,who doesn't appear here as much as he used to,but still possesses a sharp wit and some of the funnier Facebook posts around.
The Battler found this link from his hometown of Butler PA on Charlie a 55 year old Amazon parrot that hatched in the Butler Woolworth's and then was the store mascot for 35 years before the store closed.
Charlie is still living in a private home and still has very few physical issues.

Coming soon will be the start of the Appalachian League recap!!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Road Trip-West Virginia

Since the Ohio trip was somewhat shortened by the lack of reasonable hotel rates and I drove home,it looked like my original plan to break up the trip home with a stop in Morgantown WV to hit another new stadium was kiboshed.

On the way home,I talked about it with Cherie and since the game started at four and we still had the rental car,the day trip to Morgantown and the Black Bears was on.

We stopped in Lavale MD for a Dairy Queen "Grill and Chill".
Hagerstown's two DQ's are all desserts and Cherie complains about that a lot,so that was an easy selection.
Clear,fast and friendly,the Cumberland suburb was a nice respite on our trip with their five dollar lunch that included a large sundae.
We had a little problem finding the stadium since the address wasn't listed in the GPS,but it really is quite easy to find after you have been there once.
The stadium is surrounded by a shopping area with a mall,Wal-Mart,Target,Best Buy etc,so once you have been there once,there are plenty of markers to remember for future visits.

We then arrived late,but I didn't want to graph today anyway.
Neither team (Black Bears or visiting Williamsport Crosscutters) had released their team sets,so I didn't have a particular time involved to arrive and between that and the issues in finding the stadium,we arrived in the second inning...
The Black Bears gave us the best seats in the place and we were even told so by the usher that seated us-"Whoa,these are the best seats that we have,so zero complaints there.

The field is close to the fans and is one of the few stadiums in the minors (Not sure if I can think of any others) that uses artificial turf for a surface anymore.
Monongalia County Ballpark was (like State College) built to be shared between the team and a university-in this case West Virginia University,
Since the Big 12 (WVU) has some national powerhouse baseball programs with the colder season Big 10 being a lesser light,the need to get games finished in weather that is not warm is a much bigger deal for the Mountaineers than it is in State College for Penn State.
Therefore the answer is to have a playing surface capable of playing those and that is artificial turf.

MCB's turf did bring back some memories of childhood baseball as on two occasions,balls were hit off the turf,bringing a small puff of dust and crazy hops over infielders that wouldn't have dealt with the surface very often.
One of the two resulted in a triple that brought to mind Willie McGee or Lonnie Smith roaring around second base after a turf aided triple into the gap.

Most of the entrances there are down the left field line for the fans and you walk up a steep incline.
The team pays attention to this as they offer gold cart rides from the parking lot to the park and from the ticket booth to your seat,if you need it.
I hope the team continues to use the carts as so many people in those situations would have difficulty getting around the Black Bears.
It does give an interesting visual when you enter the field and it is pretty unique.

Now for the downside-this might be the worst environment for autographing that I have ever been in and I didn't even bring anything to get signed!
As a newer ballpark,the Black Bears used the baseball recommended screen to run from dugout to dugout and severely limited access there.
That wouldn't be so bad,if the grass area (each side of the field down the baseline with a contoured hill) was available for fans.
It isn't as fans aren't allowed to be on it.
I suppose you might be able to access some visiting team relief pitchers as their bullpen is reachable near the entrance,but anyone else and you look to be spending your time graphing outside the stadium.

If you want to go to a game with a nice ballpark-I'd would say there are plenty of positives to stopping by and seeing the Black Bears and would recommend it.
If you are a autographer and want to try to get someone there-I would give it the lowest grade I could give,so keep that in mind before going to Morgantown.

Plan on being back soon with the trip to the Appy league and still owe a podcast.

Browns give up on another #1- Barkevious Mingo traded to Patriots

The Cleveland Browns admitted yet another defeat on a first round draft pick and said goodbye to the final remaining link to the Joe Banner/Mike Lombardi administration as the Browns traded 2013 first rounder Barkevious Mingo to the New England Patriots for a 2017 5th round draft pick.

Mingo was the sixth overall pick in one of the weaker drafts in recent history,but despite me liking the pick (although I did slightly prefer Jarvis Jones of Georgia at the same position chosen by the Steelers),came with some red flags as far as production from a strong program in LSU.
Mingo had a fast start in his rookie year and looked to be on his way to at least being a strong situational pass rusher.
However,after the firing of Rob Chudzinski and defensive coordinator Ray Horton at the end of that season,Mingo seemed lost in the Mike Pettine scheme and was relegated to special teams (he was quite good,but special teams for the 6th overall pick) and dropped back in coverage,which he struggled with and was the opposite of what he possessed in his skillset.

The biggest issue that I saw with Mingo was that he just wasn't strong enough to get past offensive tackles to get to the passer and his speed,while impressive,made him essentially a one run racehorse.
I remember many times watching Mingo just miss sacks a fraction of a second after the ball had been released and even futilely holding onto a quarterback,but unable to take him down to complete the play.

Mingo could be a helpful piece for New England,which has done such a good job in rehabilitating players in the past and with his physical skills should at least help on special teams at worst.
Mingo could perhaps be developed as a pass rusher and on a team that he could be deployed against a lesser offensive lineman might be helpful on occasion.

The Browns have jettisoned another wasted first rounder,but there is a positive aspect with getting a fifth rounder (although it's closer to a sixth,considering the Patriots are more than likely to be picking at the bottom of the first round.
The return is nothing to excite yourself over,but something for a player that was more than likely to be released in 10 days certainly beats nothing at all.

Cleveland continues in yet another mass cleaning of the franchise and even though I am still doubtful of the capabilities of Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta,so far I have seen nothing that I have been red faced furious over and only two things that stand that I have major questions with-the overdrafting of Cody Kessler in the 3rd round (Hue Jackson likely has a piece of that as well) and the inability to keep Mitchell Schwartz when the player wanted to return to accept a previous team offer.

Small steps for a team that may have to overachieve to surpass the 3-13 season of 2015,but I'm somewhat optimistic that the right steps are at least being considered.

Next time-West Virginia and the Black Bears....

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Road Trip:Lake County

The beginning of the road trip series starts in Eastlake Ohio for the Lake County Captains and a return for Cleveland Sports Night.

I had originally planned on doing the game and then shooting down to Ashland to visit some family,but the hotel rates were outrageous due to the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend,so I decided that the lovely Cherie and I would be driving out and then returning back to Hagerstown in the same day.
Lots of running,but kept things under a fiscal budget with the vacation just getting out of the starting gate.

I planned a simple trip,one that included a nice lunch at Pickle Bill's (you might remember that from last year) and that was enjoyable again.
I'm a big fan of Perch and Walleye (especially Walleye),so both of those being local fish that you aren't able to find as easily here makes Pickle Bill's a great place to dine before a Captains game as it is just maybe 10 or so minutes away from Classic Park.
However,on the way out,I stumbled on a perfect little shop for a quick bite that will keep you going,but not fill you up for the day in Cranberry PA.

When I drove Rachel to Avon for one of her video shoots,we stopped in at an Eat and Park in Cranberry (it's the Cranberry exit,although technically considered Marshall PA)  and saw the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe next door.
The menu is pretty basic and straight forward,but that likely keeps costs low,customers happy and keeps them flowing in and out the doors...
This time it fit the bill perfectly and extremely reasonable prices combined with a huge eating area might have cemented Brighton as a stop on Ohio trips for a while-If I continue to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike that is.
That thing gets more expensive each time that I use it!

After Pickle Bill's,we went to the park,which surprisingly opened sooner than we expected and lessened the line.
I love the way that Lake County handles their VIP giveaways.
Everyone's name is on a list with the amount of tickets that they purchased,you sign when you come in and that's it.
None of the going in and out 12 times and I mean that respectfully as some of my best friends do just that-I'm just not a fan of it.
Now,the bad part for the Captains,The VIP process wasn't really worth it.
Most of the guests were late and by the time that they were settled in,most of the public was streaming through the gates.
The guest roster wasn't as strong as last season,although I was excited to get one of my favorite all-time Browns in Hanford Dixon (who should be in the HOF!).
Had I not already had a Dixon helmet,I would have been more excited!
There were some interesting guests though.
Former NBA center Brad Sellers signed four cards for me and was the most talkative guest and former Olympic gold medalist and track world record holder Butch Reynolds signed a card to go with seeing the Larry O'Brien trophy in person.
Joe Charboneau showed up late and with driving home late and the line being long for him (since he was late),I decided to pass.

There was an added bonus with the visiting Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds) in town with the Reds last two first round picks on the team.
Tyler Stephenson even had a top 100 and with the extra time,I decided to wait for the Dragons to come off the field.
Almost all of the Dragons warmup jerseys came without numbers,except one-Tyler Stephenson,who was very nice in signing three cards (top 100 and mine and Derreck Chupak's Midwest League prospect card,bought at the team store) and baseballs for the Landucci's.
Really nice player,wish I could say the same for the other first rounder Nick Senzel,who refused to sign and barely acknowledge the people asking.
I think you have read my work here long enough to know that I'm pretty understanding on this nutty hobby and I never have a problem with the "right to say no".
I do have a problem with how it is said and Senzel was pretty sharp with his denial later "I said MAYBE after the game and I'm thinking about the MAYBE part".
So I didn't get him for Fred and Michael,which I feel bad about because they do such a great job for me,but waiting another three hours for a maybe with a five hour drive home wasn't appealing to me.
We drove home right after the anthem and still stuffed from Pickle Bill's,we didn't stop on the way home to eat.

What a wonderful day.
I always enjoy spending time with the lovely Cherie and I like these trips that we make together.
It helps me keep things in perspective a bit and traveling with the number one person in my life is very nice indeed.

Back later tonight with the Browns trade of Barkevious Mingo to the Patriots and soon with another trip with the lovely Cherie for my first visit (and maybe last) to the West Virginia Black Bears of the New York/Penn league!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thundering down the stretch!!

Three days,three towns and unexpected bonuses highlighted the last three days.
I will still be doing vacation trip posts,but I wanted to rattle off this first...

I had planned on a Sunday trip to Williamsport with Derreck Chupak,Doug Hopkins and Bill Cover,but circumstances mixed things up for Monday and Tuesday and for the better...

Our trip to Williamsport came right after a night of work and we ran right into rain for most of the day.
I'll have more of a recap of Bowman Field,the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters after I make another trip there next week,but from my first visit,the Crosscutters were less than customer friendly,but I'll move on....
We ate at a neat older place called the Kast Hotel that literally is in a former hotel that I bet is well over 100 years old.
The Kast is a basic place that doesn't look like much,but the food was very good.
The rain continued to fall as we sorted Williamsport team sets under a pavilion after we had a really hard time obtaining them.
I am not going to be specific on the things that I didn't like about the Cutters because I'm going to hope that the hectic scramble of the day as the team attempted to make the field playable after the rain forced a bad day.
Hopefully,I'll get a better feel for things after next Tuesday....
Lots of laughs,a team set and a decent run on autographing-Much better access for the visitors (done by Derreck and Doug) than the home team (me and Bill),but still well over 60 cards signed,so despite the bad weather-a good signing day....

A last second decision took away an off day and instead sent me to Harrisburg for one card-Tyler Glasnow's top 100.
Glasnow was making a rehab start with Altoona and gave me a chance to add a card that I wasn't sure was going to get finished.
We weren't sure that Glasnow wasn't going to pitch and go,so after a few innings,Fred Landucci and I waited near the clubhouse for Glasnow,Bill Cover would come down later.
What we got was good company and very little Glasnow as he stayed in the clubhouse.
I would get Glasnow on the card and make the evening a success as the only other card I got was a West Virginia card signed by Kevin Newman.
It was a fun night hanging out for what truly was an all or nothing evening on the graphing end...

Last night came with a visit to the Frederick Keys with the Winston-Salem Dash and their number one pick Zach Collins.
Collins quickly raced by us as the first player out of the clubhouse with a shout on the run "Maybe I'll get you after the game".
Reports say that Collins did sign one after the game,but we weren't there for that.
We spent the evening with the lovely Cherie's best friend Christine Hinkle and her husband Doug with of course Derreck Chupak and our little buddy Nate.
Doug was discovered to be a rabid Ohio State football fan,who will likely be looking for a place to watch the Buckeyes on the next occasion that we see each other.
A fun evening that ended after innings of badgering from Derreck about Mariano Rivera being in Hagerstown.
These rumors had flown all year about Rivera,but this one was true as Derreck's son had a picture of Rivera at his place of employment (Under Armour),so we knew he was really in town.
After six innings,we raced to Hagerstown and caught the last inning before being lucky enough to snag the Sandman on a heritage card,but the real hero was the lovely Cherie,who adeptly snared another card for the collection-she's pretty cool...

The season is ending soon and I still have lots of stories to tell,but these three are fresh in the mind and I wanted to rap these out while I can.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Exciting Announcement

Just a quick post to make an exciting announcement for a new venture.

I'll be joining my friend Ramon Malpica for a co-hosting job on "FightHeads"which will be a live boxing podcast where Ramon and I will talk boxing live online and interact with fans who will be calling in live!

The show should start in either September or October and will most likely take place on Monday nights with a time to be announced.
I hope you'll consider at least listening or calling in to participate on the show.
I'm super excited about this project and I'll be back with more details before the first show.

It won't affect the podcast or blog,but something to add to what I do here and it'll be a great experience working with Ramon.

I'll be in Williamsport PA today,so I'll have yet another post from the road to catch up on!
See you soon....

Saturday, August 20, 2016

One night in Harrisburg

Usually I discuss my trips in order and I'll be catching up on my various stops over the course of the next week with vacation (it was all I ever wanted) over,but last night in Harrisburg was the funniest night that I have had that resulted in getting a grand total of six cards signed.
Now that is not a whine from me or a knock on the visiting Erie SeaWolves-I only brought eight cards with me,but it does say the fun that I had over six cards.

I made the trip to see the last place SeaWolves mainly because the Tigers had promoted each of their top two draft picks (Christin Stewart and Tyler Alexander) to Erie,because I had good luck in each of the other times working on them,but I did want to add both players.
I was pleased to meet up with Bill Cover for the second night in a row (A rainout in Frederick covered the previous day),but I was later than usual due to Cherie's work schedule.
Bill graciously waited for me,but it did put us behind along with a weird stretch along I-81 that seems to consistently slow traffic despite no signs of construction,so we didn't arrive until the 4th inning.

Bill and I climbed the steps to sit at the top of the stadium and instantly spotted Fred Landucci in his seat.
Fred sits right behind the dugout,but likes to sit with me (and I like having him to talk with),so when we saw Fred rise from his seat,Bill and I assumed he was coming to us.
That assumption was wrong,as Fred began to walk from the stadium and with me as limping Leon,I wasn't going to catch him from the other side of the stadium.
Suddenly,we saw Fred reverse field as he passed "baseball pants",a grapher from Harrisburg.
Bill said "Baseball Pants must have told Fred we were here" and that is exactly what happened as Fred told us when he arrived at our seats!

The game wasn't really notable although I did get a foul ball (not caught on the bounce) and got to hear Fred's tale of getting a six year old card signed that had been all over the place as Fred finally was able to land AA hired gun infielder Gustavo Nunez on his 2010 Florida State League top prospect card.
No longer a top prospect at 28,Gustavo is just one of those guys that for some reason was just tough to get....

After the game was the humor that Fred missed (his lovely wife Linda wasn't feeling well) as he left in the middle of the seventh.
There was were more highlights almost than graphers as very few were around,but those that were received a treat!
First,A fellow I only knew in passing came up and apologized for yelling at me during the Brendan Rodgers night in Hagerstown.
I'm not even sure I mentioned it here and it wasn't a big deal,so I accepted his apology.
These things happen in life...

Also,we were treated to two inebriated young women in revealing clothing asking for selfies with each of the Erie players as they left the locker room.
The guy that apologized was taking pictures for them and commented "You know,it's not really a selfie,if I'm taking the photo"-Which really is a legitimate point.
It was quite funny watching this and the reactions from the Erie players-Most of whom were happy to pose with them....

And then there was Manson-as dubbed as such for his similar look,
This guy has to be seen to be believed with ridiculous questions such as this gem to Tyler Glasnow last season "Do you like the bed in your hotel room"?
Between the look,speech impediment and off the wall behavior,this guy really is either off the wall or playing one hell of a role.
I've often wondered how much of this is an act and it almost makes you think of Undercover Boss,where one day this guy is going to strip off a wig,mustache etc and introduce himself as someone that you wouldn't expect....

Strange night,but fun as always with Bill and Fred and the various characters that make up this crazy hobby of ours..
I might be back tomorrow with either an announcement or the beginnings of talking about my trips...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Getting back into the saddle again!!

Yep,I'm back.
I took off time during my vacation and with only one day to go-it's time to catch up.

There hasn't been a ton of sports news,but I have plenty of items to write about including a potential new venture that I am very excited about.

I also have plenty of notes from the road to write about!
I've made trips to Lake County,Morgantown WV, the trip to the Appalachian League and a trip to State College PA.
It'll take a while to catch up on things,but I think I'm up to the task.

I also have plenty to say about a film that I've never seen based on a comic that I rate as my favorite ever-As the fellow on the left will give you a hint on the comic.
Longtime readers will remember this post on Floyd Lawton for more on the topic..

I also have football around the corner,so keep that in mind with previews and of course-the Pigskin Picking Machine and this year's host to be chosen,,

Add it all up and I have plenty of things and opinions to share coming up here.
Going back to work could be a phrase used on two fronts.
See you soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports Edition

The cleaning of the sports version of the inbox begins with this as Hardball Times discusses those wonderful two player cards from the 1960s that Topps used so often and still uses today in the Topps Heritage sets.
The article mainly talks about the 1966 card "Power Plus" which paired Phillies outfielders, Johnny Callison, and Wes Covington.
It makes a great point as the card would have been better had it been Callison teamed with Richie (Dick) Allen as a more potent power pair.
One of my favorite all-time cards is one of those- the above picture of Rocky Colavito and Leon Wagner from the 1967 set.
Colavito is an all-time favorite with the red hats and sleeveless jerseys with Chief Wahoo on them, what's not to like about this card?!!

Awful Announcing writes of the rise and fall and then rise again of Max Kellerman at ESPN.
I've always liked Max's boxing work, although I don't share his affinity for dull boxers like Andre Ward and Guillermo Rigondeaux, I've always respected his opinion on boxing.
I remember the first time, I saw Max on the Friday Nights Fights and wondered "who the hell is this guy"?
It took only a short time of time for me to see Max knew the game and his work was solid...

ESPN writes of the long battle for the remains of the "world's greatest athlete" Jim Thorpe between his family in Oklahoma and the town that changed its name in order to get the remains in Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania.
It's interesting and I think very fair to both sides in telling the story of both Thorpe and the dispute.

I missed the HBO boxing card with another Andre Ward squash match vs Alexander Brand since I was in Lake County.
All accounts show that it was another boring Ward win.
I'll be back later tonight or tomorrow night with my trip to Lake County with the lovely Cherie.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cleaning out the inbox-Non-Sports Edition

Time to clean the inbox with some non-sports items-enough to fill an entire post.

Joe Plum sends two notes for the inbox.
Joe is a long time friend and posts interesting things on Facebook that often find their way here..

First off, the re-introduction of the Alligator Gar to northern portions of the Mississippi River is more than returning a native fish to its natural waters.
The Gar can grow as long as ten feet and weigh as much as 300 pounds,but more than just returning the Gar to a natural area and perhaps down the road developing as a sportfish staple,but has the potential to do a major favor for the environment-fighting the dangerous invasive species-the Asian Carp.
It may take a decent period of time,but once the Gar can re-establish itself in decent numbers,it might be able to make a dent in the juvenile Carp and eventually weed it down to a manageable amount....

Joe also added a link to Smithsonian magazine's site with a story of the abandoned Maryland amusement part the Enchanted Forest and where the buildings and props from the Forest are today.
I remember visiting the park a few times as a young child and even though I don't remember a lot of specifics,I do remember being there....

Mental Floss offered something that I didn't know about the 1908 Presidential election as a devotee of Theodore Roosevelt.
Most of you know the connection of TR and the teddy bear and that was used often to sell toys and as a marketing gimmick for the Roosevelt years,but in 1909,William Howard Taft took over when TR did not run and someone had the great idea for the next great toy-Billy Possum.
Shockingly,neither Taft nor Billy Possum caught on with the American people with Taft losing his re-election bid to Woodrow Wilson and Billy Possum not even making it that far.
Still,it goes to show that no matter how far one looks back in time-a bad idea is a bad idea...

Smithsonian also has another article of interest in which the genetics of the bulldogs are so slanted towards what people like to see from the animal that the health of the dog is in peril.
The bulldog now is a very unhealthy animal with short lifespans (8 years) and it appears that the gene pool of the bulldog is not diverse enough to support a bounceback from the pure bloodline.
The only way to perhaps improve the line is to take the dog and mix it with a similar,but not exactly the same breed in order to build up the various weaknesses of the breed.
What people love about the bulldog might be on its way to ending the bulldog as we know it.

I've been a fan of David Pietrusza's work for a long time.I mean,can you get better for me than writing books on Presidential elections and baseball?
So,when I saw Pietrusza was doing a podcast on the 1948 election (Maybe my favorite ever along with 1912),I was all over that!
The podcast was a great one as the almost two hour long show went by quickly.
I enjoyed it immensely and hope to see more of these types of shows from Pietrusza....

The New Yorker looks at the Libertarian party candidate for President-Gary Johnson.
I've written before about Johnson and will almost certainly be endorsing him here at TRS.
Is Johnson the perfect candidate? No,but in a year filled with awful choices-he's the best one....

And we wrap up with a science article from National Review of all places with the subject being the geologist that worked with the Apollo astronauts,Lee Silver.
Silver is the man that showed the astronauts how to "see" their environment and basically created the field of lunar field geology with the classroom and field work to prepare them for the lunar landings.
Silver is 91 now and the article promotes Silver to have a spot or area named after him on Pluto,which would be deserving....

That cleans out the non-sports inbox and I'll try to be around later in the week with the sports version..

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Giants bulk up pitching with deadline deals...

The San Francisco Giants wanted to add to their flagging bullpen and they did for a expensive fee,but they also pulled a surprise in adding an affordable arm to the back of the rotation,which will bump a veteran to long relief.

The deal that hurt the most was the trade with the Milwaukee Brewers that added badly needed help for the bullpen in the person of lefthander Will Smith.
The 6'5 Smith strikes batters out and isn't a situational lefty either,so he can be used against lefties and righty hitters.
Smith is likely to stick around for a while as although he is arbitration eligible in 2017,he isn't a free agent until 2020.
Smith should be able to help a bullpen that has been fragile at times to be generous,so that part of the deal,I have no issue with,but when you obtain talent,it costs talent and this was no different.

The biggest blow was losing righthanded pitcher Phil Bickford,the Giants first round pick from the 2015 draft.
Bickford has dominated at two levels this season (Low A Augusta and High A San Jose) notching ERA's in the low two's and showing command that few see at those levels.
Opposing hitters hit a little over ,200 against Bickford and he looked to be on a fast pace to the big leagues before this trade.
I really loved Bickford as a prospect and that part makes this a tough pill to swallow for me.

I am happy for Andrew Susac,the long time Giants catching prospect that was stuck in the awkward position of being too good for AAA,too good to be a backup and needs to play every day,but not good enough to beat out Buster Posey.
Susac spent this season at AAA Sacramento (273,8,36 in 53 games) and will finally get his chance to stick in the big leagues with the Brewers having a vacancy after finally trading Jonathan Lucroy to Texas,so I'm glad for Susac,who was never going to get that chance with San Francisco.

The Giants did need bullpen help in the worst way and Will Smith should be able to help there,but boy do I hate losing Phil Bickford!!

The Giants then made a move to bolster the back end of the rotation as they shipped third baseman Matt Duffy and two players from Low A Augusta in shortstop Lucious Fox and pitcher Michael Santos to Tampa Bay for lefthander Matt Moore.
Moore,who at one time was as good as anyone in the game,is a season and a half after a return from Tommy John surgery and at 7-7 and 4.08 ERA is just starting to get back into past form.
The 27 year old Moore was 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 2013 before getting injured two starts into 2014,so if he can even approach that level,the Giants could have another strong addition to the rotation.
I haven't heard who Moore will replace in the rotation and shove into long relief,although if I had to guess,I would say Jake Peavy stays in the rotation and it's Matt Cain that moves to the bullpen.

Matt Duffy heads to Tampa on the slide in 2016 after nearly hitting .300 and hitting 12 home runs in a second place in the rookie of year voting in 2015.
Duffy had injury problems in 2016,but wasn't playing that well when healthy and newly acquired Eduardo Nunez was likely to take playing time away from Duffy at third anyway.
The versatile Duffy can play three positions and at worst should prove to be a valuable utility player for the Rays.

Lucious Fox was a prospect from the Bahamas that was given a six and a half million dollar bonus last summer.
At 19 Fox was fast tracked to Augusta and has struggled at the bat hitting just .207 and two homers in 75 games in the SAL.
Fox might have been moved too soon considering his opposition in the Bahamas,but his tools still are there and Tampa could be buying low on a talented prospect.

21 year old righthander Michael Santos posted good numbers at Augusta (4-2 2.91 ERA) but doesn't miss many bats (44 K's in 58 innings) and that is a concern in projection for Santos as he moves up the ladder.
From what I see,Santos was the minor part of this deal...

I like Matt Duffy.although not as much as some Giants fans did and Lucious Fox hurts because of the size of his bonus.
The Giants paid him so much that the Giants could not pay any one prospect (international only) more than 300,000 for not just this year,but next year as well.
That means that a year after this deal,the player has moved on and yet the team still has the constraints from his bonus-that hits hard.
The Giants must have thought that Lucious Fox was unlikely to hit and moved him while he had value-They have to hope to be right.
Matt Moore was worth the gamble because if (huge if) he can even approach his 2013 form-the Giants have a foursome of Bumgarner,Cueto Samardizja and Moore that few teams will able to match.
It's worth the risk.

Back later,now that these trades reviews are finished with a podcast sometime today....

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Pittsburgh Pirates make three deals at the deadline

The Pittsburgh Pirates were on the outside of the wild card chase,but the distance was not so remarkable (four games) that it could not be made up.

Instead,the Pirates made what looks to be their most blatant salary dump in years and was dismaying to their fan base among three trades at the trade deadline.

The worst trade and most obvious salary dump came in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays as the Pirates traded struggling veteran pitcher Francisco Liriano and two players from the AA Altoona Curve for Drew Hutchison.
To begin,let's look at Hutchison,who did win 13 games for the Blue Jays last season,but did it with an ERA of five and half and a WHIP of 1.48 (not good),so clearly you don't to be Brian Kenny (who hates the win stat) to see that Hutchison was simply the by-product of a good hitting ball club.
The 25 year old has spent most of this season with AAA Buffalo and was a highly thought of prospect just a few years ago.
Hutchison has not had arm woes that I know of,so the Pirates are hoping to work that rehab magic one more time..

Francisco Liriano has been bad this season.
Really bad, with his ERA being almost as bad as Drew Hutchison's 2015 without the offense to make up for it hence Liriano's record being 6-11.
Liriano's velocity is down,his strikeouts are down and he was still owed 13 million for 2017,so I get why the Pirates wanted to move him,but they could have released him and kept two nice prospects.
Was a guy with a 5+ ERA last year that couldn't even make the team for much of this season that valuable to add?
In my opinion-a resounding no.
Reese McGuire hasn't hit for power (1 homer at AA Altoona),but has been outstanding defensively and leaves the Pirates farm system lacking any kind of a catching prospect...
Harold Ramirez hasn't hit for power either,but has hit over .300 at each of his last three stops in the system and at minimum could be a 4th outfielder type.
I know the Pirates are set in the outfield for a while with Austin Meadows on the way,but giving away possible players for the simple cost of saving money makes me think of the Dave Littlefield years-Never a good parallel!
Not happy with this deal at all...

Pittsburgh then continued a bizarre circle with the New York Mets as the team brought back reliever Antonio Bastardo,who left the team after last season to sign with the Mets in exchange for Jon Niese,who had been added from the Mets over the winter for Neil Walker.
Bastardo's ERA is over 4,but he's still striking out a batter an inning from the bullpen and should help a team that lost bullpen depth after dealing Mark Melancon to Washington.
Bastardo is signed for 2017 at six million.
Niese had struggled as well in Pittsburgh leaving at town with a record of 8-6,but an ERA of 4.91.
Niese had a club option for ten million for 2017 with a 500,000 buyout,so I can see this one a little.
If you didn't want to pick up the option for Niese,you saved the buyout cost and added a productive reliever in Bastardo,but doesn't that make the trade of Neil Walker look awful now?
The Pirates in the end lost Walker and got back a guy that they could have re-signed over the winter.

The final trade is the one that scares me as Pittsburgh added pitcher Ivan Nova from the Yankees for two players to be named later.
There has to be more on the surface that we know as Nova is 29,has an ERA around five for the second year in a row and is a free agent at the end of the year.
I would hope that the Pirates have a proviso of some type that the level of prospect or even number of prospects is subject to change if Nova would not re-sign with Pittsburgh,but I haven't read anything of that type.
I'm not against taking flyers on players,but this seems downright weird to me...

All and all,I'm just confused.
Salary dumping players,losing prospects just to say you are receiving something instead of nothing,bringing back players that you could have re-signed?
Making trades that make zero baseball sense because you need to shred salary?
These don't seem like the Neal Huntington Pirates-they seem like the Bonifay/Littlefield Buccos and I don't like that.
I don't like that at all.

Back later with a recap of the final team and their trades-the San Francisco Giants.

Indians add Brandon Guyer

On a day that saw many trades (that we will be reviewing over the next day or two) and involved all three teams-the Cleveland Indians made the smallest move after making the big score over the weekend in obtaining Andrew Miller.

The Indians added outfielder Brandon Guyer from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor leaguers Nathan Lukes and Jhonleider Salinas.
Guyer is hitting just .241,but mashes against lefthanders to a tune of .344 and should help against those southpaws.

Lukes hit .299 between two stops this season between Lake County and Lynchburg and at 22 wasn't overly old for the level.
I'm not saying Lukes is a non-prospect,but he's not a top 20 guy either.
Jhonleider Salinas has yet to play above the Arizona complex leagues,but has gotten some nice reviews from Indians followers.

Cleveland designated Juan Uribe for assignment following the trade.
Uribe was hitting  just .206 with seven home runs and despite being given every chance to hold the third base job,looks to be finished at the age of 37.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Indians land Andrew Miller,lose Lucroy

The Cleveland Indians landed the best available reliever at a steep price as the Indians traded four prospects to the New York Yankees in exchange for power armed lefthander Andrew Miller...

If you have been with me almost from day one,you may remember me grumbling about the Pirates not taking Miller all those years ago because they did not want to pay his bonus demands back in the Dave Littlefield days (bleech).

Miller has posted numbers of 6-1 with an ERA of 1.39 this season and if it were me,I would install Miller as the closer and use Cody Allen as the setup man,but that might not be what the Indians decide as Miller is comfortable in either role.
Anytime that you can add a pitcher of the ability of Miller,especially when you consider that the Indians will have Miller signed through the 2018 season.

The cost was steep as Clint Frazier,Justus Sheffield,Ben Heller and JP Feyereisen were shipped to New York.
The biggest loss was Clint Frazier,who was the best prospect in the system as I have him rated above Bradley Zimmer of the outfield prospects for the team.
Frazier had the potential to be the power bat that the Indians have not produced in years and is the main reason that I am not dancing around the room about the trade.
Frazier had recently been promoted to AAA after a .273/13/48 with 13 steals line at AA Akron and has the potential to be a five tool player.
I hope I don't look back at this part of losing Frazier in dismay.

I covered Justus Sheffield in the coverage of the Jonathan Lucroy non-trade,but the other two arms are interesting with hard throwing Ben Heller and JP Feyereisen.
Heller was been clocked at 100 MPH and hitters have batted under .200 against him this season as the closer for AA Akron and AAA Columbus,so this is a player that could be a key cog in the Yankee bullpen as soon as 2017.
Feyereisen posted an ERA of 2.23 at AA Akron as the setup man for Heller and then the closing role after the promotion of Heller.

This could be a deal that works for both teams,but I really like the Yankees return for Miller.

Jonathan Lucroy used his trade option to reject a trade to the Indians,so the players mentioned in the Lucroy post are still the property of the Indians.
Players have the right to use these options as they earned the right to place in a contract,but Lucroy wanted a very affordable option (5.5 million) to be bought out at season's end,which made him a two month rental.
Considering all that,the Indians were very smart to pass on surrendering that option and I have no problem with Cleveland not wanting to give up that control.

Lots of trades today and I will try to be back later tonight with another Cleveland trade,TWO from the Giants and one from the Pirates....