Saturday, March 31, 2018

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge is all about heavyweights and all about Wales as at 5 PM EST, three of the four heavyweight belts will reside with one man as WBA/IBF champion Anthony Joshua faces WBO titlist Joseph Parker in Cardiff.

Joshua is coming off a win over Carlos Takam (whom Parker had previously defeated) stopping him in the tenth in October, while Parker's last fight was a unanimous decision win against Hughie Fury in September.
Joshua seems to be the easy pick with stronger punching power and better victories (Wladimir Klitschko and Dillian Whyte) compared to Parker's best wins being over second-tier
 challengers( Takam, Hughie Fury and a tight decision over Andy Ruiz).
Parker might be one of those fighters that need to have the challenge of tougher fighters on a bigger stage though and he'll have no bigger stage than the one he'll see Saturday.
I think this will be a tougher fight for Anthony Joshua than many think and I think Parker's going to deliver a career effort, but the heavier hitter will wear Parker down and Joshua pulls away late in the fight for the decision.

I added three undercard fights to the boxing challenge with former WBA champion/current WBA & WBO number one contender/multiple time PED cheat Alexander Povetkin against former Olympic bronze medalist/faded prospect David Price in what appears to be a massive mismatch.
Povetkin's failing tests aside, he possesses plus punching power and Price has been stopped in all of his losses-against far lesser competition than that will be provided by Povetkin.
It's too bad that Price's chin crumbles worse than a generic potato chip when hit because he otherwise looks the part of a contender.
All things considered, this fight looks like a bad idea to me.

Ryan Burnett holds the WBA and IBF bantamweight titles, but will only be defending the WBA belt against Yonfez Parejo, who is unranked by the IBF, but second in the WBA.
This happens more than you think in the lightest weight classes, but the 24-2 Parejo should be rated by the IBF as both of his losses have been to former world champions (Zhanat Zhakiyanov by split decision and Hugo Ruiz by late round KO) appears more qualified for a title shot as anyone else in the 6-15 range of contenders.

Former WBA lightweight champ Anthony Crolla continues his comeback after two decision losses to Jorge Linares against Edson Ramirez.
Crolla defeated Ricky Burns in his last fight via a less than an action-packed decision, but Ramirez should come to Crolla and I think this should be a more entertaining battle for the viewer...

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 48-37

Unification WBA/IBF- WBO Heavyweight titles. 12 Rds
Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker
R.L: Joshua KO 7
TRS: Joshua Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Alexander Povetkin vs David Price
R.L: Povetkin Unanimous Decision
TRS: Povetkin KO 2

WBA Bantamweight title. 12 Rds
Ryan Burnett vs Yonfez Parejo
Both: Burnett Unanimous Decision

Lightweights.10 Rds
Anthony Crolla vs Edson Ramirez
Both: Crolla Unanimous Decision

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Happy Anniversary!

Eleven years is a long time.
Today, TRS celebrates its eleventh year.

I still think that I do a pretty decent job churning out material close to every day and last year was my all-time high for posts in a year

I enjoy covering the teams here and even though I've watched a lot less Devils hockey since Rachel lost interest, I'll still be back covering any playoff action I think.

I really do like writing the cleaning out the inbox columns, both in sports and out of the sports world and the occasional Forgotten Superstars posts as well.
I think I enjoyed writing the three USFL posts as much as anything that I did last year here and I'm thinking of trying to write some other similar posts later in the year.

I like talking autographs (even if I never got around to putting the last season's autographed cards away) and I like writing about the trips that I take with my friends too.
Those trips are fun on so many levels, but as much as I like them, part of what I wind up enjoying as well as being able to look back on them with the journal that resides here.
Memories do fade a bit and even more as we age, but having those trips with so many different friends and family to look back on here is just wonderful.
It's fun a few times a year or when something makes me think of a memory from one of those trips, looking it up and almost always, I'll read something that I had forgotten about.
This happened recently when I was planning a trip to Hickory NC and Lynchburg VA- two stadiums that I have visited before-in year one of the blog.
Ten years later, I'll be returning to those towns with Fred and Michael Landucci and I looked up those trips here.
Floods of great memories came pouring back to me of the other trip with Ryan and Battlin' Bob and the laughter that ensued.
I'd love to take another one with those two sometime!
The point is, it's just great having a place to read about those memories rather than only thinking about them.
After that trip, I was never able to think about NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett without laughing and thanks to Battlin' Bob for that!!

I do have some special thanks to the loyal readers in Big Don Cain and Fred Landucci, my wonderful wife Cherie, who actually thought of the idea to do this eleven years ago and the various people that talk to me about this, the occasional podcast and Fightheads with Ramon Malpica.
Thanks to all of you that read my work, whether consistently, occasionally or like some more topics more than others.

Eleven years is a long time to stick to something like this and sometimes I wonder just how many memories and flashbacks that I can write about before running out.
We'll see if we can make it through to year twelve...

Today is opening day and I might do some coverage of the openers.
I'll try to find time for some previews and if not, at least a prediction...

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Browns trade Cody Kessler to Jacksonville

Photo Beacon Journal
In a move that was destined to happen when the Browns signed Drew Stanton last week, Cleveland traded Cody Kessler to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft.
The condition is more than likely triggered, if Kessler either makes the roster out of camp or is on the roster at a certain point of the season.

The Browns were never going to bring four veteran quarterbacks to camp, especially when they are going to add one quarterback in the first round and might add another on day three.
There just aren't enough reps in camp to give all of those players what they need to be a fair competition and Kessler seemed to be the odd man out, even for the final camp spot against Kevin Hogan.

Kessler was badly overdrafted by former Browns personnel head Sashi Brown in the third round in 2016 and was the first player to be looked at as a pure "analytics" pick based on his college stats and perceived numbers more than his actual physical ability and chances to succeed in the NFL.
Kessler was forced into action as a rookie in 2016 and lost all eight starts but threw six touchdowns against two interceptions, which look decent enough for a rookie not turning the football over, unless you actually watched the games that Kessler played in.
Watching those games saw a quarterback that didn't have an arm to even considering going deep and was a checkdown specialist that went short on a constant basis not optionally, but because he didn't have a choice-he simply was unable to throw the ball well past twenty yards.
Kessler held the ball far too long to avoid interceptions and took 21 sacks in those starts.
Kessler played three games in 2017 as a backup to DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan, throwing one interception in 23 throws in his limited action.

Cody Kessler will likely, in the long run, be better remembered for being the poster player for the Sashi Brown "Analytics" regime and for the Hue Jackson quote "Trust me on this" after the press immediately questioned the selection on his draft night, far more than anything that he ever accomplished on the field.

Back in a few hours with something special..

Chris Mack leaves Xavier

The Xavier Musketeers lost their all-time leading coach and the leader of their program as head coach Chris Mack accepted the same position at Louisville.

Mack received a seven-year contract that was valued at roughly 28 million at Louisville, a price that Xavier was never going to be able to match.
Mack won 215 games at Xavier and brought the Musketeers to the NCAA's in eight of his nine years, one Elite Eight and a number one seed in this year's tournament before being upset by Florida State in the field of 32.

Mack is a loss, especially because of Xavier's often being a waystation for coaches on their way to another stop,but between Mack's nine years and being an alum made me think that tide had finally turned, especially with Xavier joining the Big East, their success there and finally pushing their way past the Cincinnati Bearcats to be the premier hoops team in the city.
However, for all that Xavier has become, they still have some issues to bull their way past in order to be one of those programs that coaches leave for rather than leaving for elsewhere.
Mack might have been a special case as despite his being a Xavier alum, his wife is from Louisville and that likely had a lot to do with the Cardinals landing Mack, despite his not knowing what awaits their program after the latest mess that Rick Pitino left a program in.

However, despite moving into the power conference level with the Big East, Xavier still has to prove itself on the biggest stage and no, a final four spot will not be enough- just ask Butler, who remain in much of the same position as Xavier, despite two championship game appearances.
Xavier will also have to prove long-term contention in the Big East, which since they haven't been there that long isn't their fault and despite leaps in coaching compensation and improvement to the Cintas Center, both aren't among the elite that will enable the Musketeers to retain or attract coaches to Cincinnati.

Mack might be taking all three assistants (although top assistant Travis Steele has a real shot at landing the head job) and Mario Mercurio as the head of basketball operations is likely Louisville bound as well so Xavier will be more than likely to take a look around nationally.
Hiring Steele will have the look of stability and might keep a recruit or two that might change their commitment, but it appears that keeping Steele will not mean that anyone else from the staff stays as noted above, so stability might just be a perception, not reality...

So, if it's not Steele ( If Steele wants to be a head coach, there are few jobs that will give a first-time head coach a better starting position, ask Mack, who was promoted when Sean Miller left for Arizona), then who?
Pat Kelsey was a Xavier player and assistant that has built a winner at Winthrop in the Big South, but Kelsey comes with some baggage from accepting the UMass job after the 2016-17 season and then reneging to Winthrop.
One name that I keep hearing is Northern Kentucky's John Brannen, who has won 46 games in the last two years.
Ryan Odom (UMBC) and Nate Oats (Buffalo) are currently of note after their teams scored big upsets in the NCAA's, but both signed new contracts after their wins and those more than likely with come with buyout clauses.
There are always rumors about Thad Matta wanting to return to coaching, but I'm not sure Matta is a great candidate for a Xavier return.
Matta didn't leave under the greatest terms and his drop in recruiting talent was a major factor in his departure from Ohio State.
Three candidates that I'd kick the tires on from smaller schools are John Becker, who has built Vermont into the bully of the America East (Has won 20 or more games of his seven year run and 31-1 in conference over the last two seasons), Steve Forbes of East Tennessee State (76-29 in his three years and has major recruiting experience with Gregg Marshall at Wichits State as an assistant) and Matt McMahon (26-6 last season),of Murray State, a school with a history of moving coaches up the ladder with success (Mark Gottfried, Mick Cronin ,Billy Kennedy and Steve Prohm).

It'll be interesting to see how Xavier handles their search with a quick hire or longer more national search.
If the hire happens quickly then I would think that is good news for Travis Steele, if they bring in lots of candidates then it is more likely that they are looking for experienced head coaches...

Back later with most likely a cleaning of the inbox...

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Minor League Fantasy Draft Round Four- Adrian Morejon

Photo Credit: Shari 
The fantasy draft moved into the fourth round and I decided that I wanted another pitcher before taking the best available player with my final pick in the fifth round.

After taking Jesus Luzardo in round three, I wrote that before picking Luzardo, that I had three pitchers to decide from at that pick.
One of the three was selected a few picks later as Franklin Perez of the Tigers, formerly of the Astros, who traded him to Detroit in the Justin Verlander trade at the trade deadline.

However, the third pitcher was still available, so it didn't take me long to move in and select Adrian Morejon from the San Diego Padres system.
Morejon was signed by the Padres out of Cuba at 17 in July 2016 as the top international prospect available to an eleven million dollar bonus.
Morejon just turned 19 in February and last season at 18 split his season between short-season Tri-City and Low A Fort Wayne, which made him very young for the level.

Morejon's numbers weren't eye-popping in his 13 starts (Seven at Tri-City, Six at Fort Wayne) with a combined 3.86 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 63 innings, but considering he was just 18, they weren't that bad at all and showed promise against older competition.
Morejon throws the four-seam and two-seam fastball sits in the low 90's and can heat his best fastball to 95.
Again, with his age, he does have the potential to gain a little more hop on his fastball as he matures.
Morejon uses the curve and changeup as his choices to mix things up and the curve is considered to be a possible plus pitch in the future, so with four pitches, he could develop into a well-rounded pitcher and for now, doesn't have problems finding the strike zone with only 16 walks (Only three of those in the Northwest League) in 2017.
Watching the video at the bottom of the post, two things struck me- the first of which is the easy, effortless motion as the ball jumps out of his hand.
You always like to see a relaxed and refined delivery rather than an explosive one that takes more effort that looks violent visually.
The pitchers with composed mechanics tend to hold up better as far as durability and aren't as susceptible to shoulder or elbow injuries.

Morejon does have a few issues, some scouts think his body is a bit soft and that he'll need to work on conditioning a bit and some see him as more of a fourth or fifth starter in the big leagues.
However, I have seen some observers that believe Morejon could be a number two starter and maybe even a number one on a second-division squad, so with such a small sample size, who really knows what I and the Padres have in Morejon, but the upside seems pretty high, although he is far from a sure thing.

Morejon should return to Low A Fort Wayne to be part of what seems to be one of the more prospect-laden rotation in the country as the Padres are likely to send their first rounder from the 2017 draft MacKenzie Gore (First overall in our draft) there and could possibly return Michel Baez and Logan Allen there as well to start the season there, if not finish it there.

I'll be back soon with my final two picks of the draft as I couldn't decide which of the two players I wanted, so what do you do when you cannot decide?
You swing a trade and get them both!!!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Browns sign Drew Stanton

The Cleveland Browns added the veteran to the film room that the team lacked so badly last year as the Browns signed veteran Drew Stanton to a two-year contract Sunday night.

Stanton turns 34 before the 2018 season and spent the last four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, starting four games in 2017 and won three of his four starts with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
Stanton's major issue has always been a low completion percentage and his 49.7 in Phoenix last season was worse than DeShone Kizer's with the Browns and we all know how unhappy fans, coaches, front office, Brownie the Elf etc were with Kizer's numbers.

The signing of the veteran makes it even more likely that the Browns draft a quarterback in the first round, in my opinion. as Stanton will be that "veteran in the film room" to tutor a rookie that we hear so much about being needed.
Well after last year's experiment with a rookie and two second-year players at quarterback, I think this is a good idea, even if it was learned by the Browns at the cost of losing every game and the person that needed to learn it (Sashi Brown) is no longer available to ride this train.
This also is likely to see the end of careers in Cleveland for at least one and likely both of Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.
It's highly unlikely that the Browns are going to keep four quarterbacks, so I would likely say that the team will get rid of one of Kessler/Hogan before the draft and bring the other to camp to attempt to keep their job ahead of Drew Stanton, which is unlikely because of the previously noted intangibles possessed by the veteran.

If the Browns were bringing Drew Stanton to Cleveland to be their "bridge quarterback", I'd be very disappointed and wouldn't see much of an upgrade at quarterback, but to be either the backup or third-stringer and be the wise old sage in the quarterback room, I'm fine with adding Stanton.
I would say he would make the team unless Stanton is so bad in camp that the Kessler/Hogan survivor moves Stanton out, which I would have my doubts happening.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Boxing Challenge Whyte blasts Browne

As I wrote yesterday, the boxing challenge was headed for a slow weekend, so I added some marginal Euro bouts to a possibly big heavyweight bout to come with something for the challenge.

Remember how I've written here and said on Fightheads (I really miss doing that!) about sometimes in boxing, it takes as little as 20 or 30 seconds to see what's in store in the fight?
That was the case in the biggest (literally) fight of the weekend as Dillian Whyte blew out Lucas Browne with one left hook in the sixth round.
Whyte, who entered the bout as the WBC's number one contender to their champion Deontay Wilder, won every round, just about ripped the side of Browne's face in round two, causing bleeding throughout the fight and as mentioned finished the Australian off with one violent hook.
Browne, who I couldn't decide whether he reminded me of Bald Bull or King Hippo, just listlessly lumbered forward ineffectively and ate punch after punch from Whyte.

Whyte now has placed himself squarely in the middle of the heavyweight picture and someone will have to deal with Whyte in the near future.
The WBC could mandate Whyte against Deontay Wilder or Whyte could face the winner of next week's heavyweight unification bout, who will walk away with the other three heavyweight championships either Anthony Joshua (WBA and IBF) or Joseph Parker (WBO).
Whyte's only loss was to Joshua in a great fight that saw Whyte hit the deck in the second round, only to arise to badly hurt Joshua and sending him stumbling around the ring in the third round before being stopped in the seventh.
With Whyte and Joshua both being promoted by Eddie Hearn, I would imagine a Joshua rematch would be worth more than a Wilder fight, but if Whyte and Hearn wanted to take a risk, Whyte could try to take Wilder's belt and make a Joshua rematch even more lucrative with all four belts on the line.

I wrote of the other three bouts being from the horrid WBA and was critical of the organization.
I think titles are good for the sport, I do think four titles are too many, which is why I waited close to 20 years before reluctantly recognizing the WBO last year and I definitely think that three "World Champions" from one organization is really diluting the broth.

I was very critical of the filling of the vacant "regular" cruiserweight title with two untested fighters without zero recognizable wins.
I'll stand by the title being superfluous and that both fighters didn't deserve to be fighting for a title, even a ridiculous one like this one, but they put on a decent fight and maybe even produced someone worth keeping an eye in winner Arsen Goulamiran, who stopped Ryad Merhy in the eleven round.
Goulamiran is trained by Abel Sanchez, who trains an actual cruiserweight champion in Murat Gassiev, and was very impressive in walking down Merhy throughout the bout and asserting his presence with authority ( Bull Durham reference).
Goulamiran looked much larger than Merhy, who tried hard but looked overmatched in this one.
I'm not ready to throw Goulamiran in with the winner (or loser for that matter) of the World Boxing Super Series final, who will own all four "real" titles, quite yet, but I saw enough to want to see him against hopefully a top ten level opponent to get a real feel for what he brings to the table.
I had Goulamiran ahead 98-92 after ten rounds before he impressively closed the show.

No one has put up video of the other two challenge fights yet so I haven't seen them yet.
Tyron Zeuge retained his minor title with a second-round knockout of Issac Ekpo in a rematch of their fun five rounder of last year that ended on an Ekpo headbutt that badly cut Zeuge and allowed the German to win the technical decision.
From what I have read Zeuge dropped Ekpo in the first round and only the bell saved Ekpo from being blown out in one.
Instead, he was blown out in two and likely is finished as a contender.
Zeuge should eventually have to challenge the George Groves-Callum Smith winner (The winner will have the real WBA belt, but having seen German champions in the past, who have been very reluctant to leave German and its big purses and knowing the WBA and its penchant for collecting sanctioning fees-I would bet you'll see Zeuge happily keeping his minor belt and knocking over second level opponents for a decent amount of time.

In the other WBA fight, Michel Soro decisioned John Vera via unanimous nod to become the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Erislandy Lara-Jarrett Hurd unification fight in two weeks.
Soro was the more seasoned fighter against decent opponents and from reports, it showed against Vera, who is promoted by Roy Jones and had looked strong against very limited opponents.
Soro isn't a true top ten level fighter, but being top twenty caliber was a planetary leap in challengers for Vera, who wasn't ready for that jump.

In the boxing challenge, I earned five points to Ramon Malpica's two to increase my lead to 48-37.
My points came from wins from Michel Soro (two) and one each from Arsen Goulamiran, Tyron Zeuge, and Dillian Whyte.
Ramon grabbed one point each from wins by Whyte and Zeuge.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Boxing Challenge

A slow week for the boxing challenge this week, but I came up with a few bouts for Ramon Malpica to ponder over as I attempt to fend him off and keep my lead of 43-35.

The biggest (literally) fight of the weekend is from Britain and surprisingly on HBO, who bought the fight between Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne, that mainly looks like a purchase to appease Eddie Hearn as the "Network of Champions" attempt to bring Anthony Joshua to their network at the conclusion of his deal with Showtime.
I won't argue as I'm all for seeing more and more of the European fights televised here, but let's be honest-if Whyte vs Browne was promoted by anyone other than Eddie Hearn, there is no way that HBO is buying this fight.
It still is interesting though as Whyte is the number one contender to WBC champ Deontay Wilder after his wars with Dereck Chisora (a win) and Anthony Joshua (a loss), but was downright dull in his last fight-a decision win over Robert Helenius and Browne would have been in line for a title shot at Anthony Joshua after his minor title KO over Ruslan Chagaev in 2016 had he not failed his drug test for clenbuterol (the same drug Canelo Alvarez recently tested positive for) and then another failed test before a scheduled bout vs Shannon Briggs in which again would have put him in line for Joshua with a victory over the elderly Briggs.
This could be a fun fight or a dull one-I know that covers the spectrum, but it is heavyweight boxing and one never knows just what you'll get.

I added three more fights all from the WBA, my least favorite of the four sanctioning bodies.
In one of their lower title fights, Tyron Zeuge defends his 168-pound "belt" in a rematch against Issac Ekpo in a rematch of their bout that saw Zeuge win a five round decision after being cut open by a head butt.
Neither Zeuge nor Ekpo has a name on their resume of note, other than Zeuge's decision over Paul Smith, who won't be confused with his brother Liam, let alone a top super middleweight, so both have questions to answer.

The WBA is supposedly reducing their silly lower titles, but yet they are filling vacancies for them.
When Murat Gassiev stopped Yunier Dorticos in a great fight, the "regular" title at cruiserweight could have been retired.
Instead, we get this classic battle between two guys that I've never seen fight (I did look them up on YouTube clips), rarely heard of and with one exception all of the fights from both fighters have been held in either France or Belgium, neither are exactly overflowing with top boxers period, let alone cruiserweights.
Ryad Merhy of Belgium and Arsen Goulamirian of France have no names that resemble fringe contenders, let alone world class ones and the only name that you'll recognize on either record is Mitch Williams and no, it's not the former Phillies closer, so you wouldn't recognize him either.
Both guys are undefeated, so they have that going for them, but even though the WBA has Murat Gassiev as its champion and Denis Lebedev as its "champion in recess", they feel the need to have another champion (more likely another sanctioning fee), but to pick these two unproven fighters is an unfunny joke from an organization that is its own unfunny joke.

The WBA has an eliminator at junior middleweight on the same card as Michel Soro battles John Vera for a title shot against the winner of next month's Erislandy Lara-Jarrett Hurd title unification bout.
I have at least seen these guys fight as Vera is promoted by Roy Jones and I've seen him on Jones-promoted shows on CBS Sports Network and BeIN Sports Network against some lower level competition.
Soro does have a win over Glen Tapia (before Tapia's career was destroyed by some bad beatings), a split decision loss to Brian Castano and draw with Antoine Douglas (before Douglas had his career destroyed by a bad beating against Avtandil Khurtsidze), so he has fought a few decent fighters.
I'm not sure the winner is deserving of being a mandatory contender, but compared to the cruiserweight "title" contenders, this looks like the equal of running the gauntlet for a title shot.

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Dillian Whyte vs Lucas Browne
Both: Whyte Unanimous Decision

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
Tyron Zeuge vs Issac Ekpo
Both: Zeuge Unanimous Decision

Cruiserweights. 12 Rds
Ryad Merhy vs Arsen Goulamirian
R.L: Merhy Unanimous Decision
TRS: Goulamirian Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights. 12 Rds
Michel Soro vs John Vera
R.L: Vera Unanimous Decision
TRS: Soro Unanimous Decision

Friday, March 23, 2018

Browns sign E.J. Gaines

John Dorsey had hinted that the Cleveland Browns may not be finished in free agency and the Browns latest signing could have an effect on just who (and what) the team does with their second first-round pick in next month's draft.

The signing of E.J. Gaines to a contract worth four million for 2018 should give the Browns a new starting corner, might see a few players on their way out of town and will possibly make the Browns first pick in the secondary in the second or third round rather than the first.

The 26-year-old Gaines, who played for Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for the then-St.Louis Rams in 2014-15 and then in 2016 after the team moved to Los Angeles, had a strong 2017 in his only season with the Buffalo Bills with 59 tackles, a few forced fumbles and an interception in his eleven starts at Buffalo.
Gaines will challenge to start at cornerback against Terrence Mitchell,(signed from the Chiefs) and Briean Boddy-Calhoun alongside the other Browns free agency signing in T.J. Carrie (T.J and E.J is going to trip quite a few commentators on Browns games next season) as part of a revamped Cleveland secondary that will see three new starters (Damarious Randall from the Packers will be the other) along with the return of Jabrill Peppers, who hopefully will be used differently and one way or the other will show whether or not he is more sizzle or steak after his highly hyped and low production rookie season where the defense did not take advantage of what he does best.
Peppers shouldn't have that excuse in 2018.

This move might be the end of Jamar Taylor in Cleveland, who regressed a bit in 2017 after a strong 2016 after which Sashi Brown signed Taylor to a three year 16.5 million dollar extension, that the Browns would have to eat the final two seasons if the team decided to release Taylor.
I'm not saying that it would be Taylor that would be released, but in a suddenly crowded Browns secondary with free agent arrivals, the return of 2017 fourth rounder Howard Wilson and a likely high draft pick, when you consider Taylor's cost, he looks to be the most likely odd man out...

Minor League Fantasy Draft-Round Three-Jesus Luzardo

I had forgotten about my fantasy draft after all the various Browns news, so I'll be filling in the final few picks of mine over the next few days.
I plan on perhaps following these players at the end of each month with a post looking at how they are playing at their respective levels,

In the third round, I planned on taking the best pitcher available and there were three pitchers that I had highest on my board ( Two players that I was watching were selected after my second round pick of Heliot Ramos), I looked over things and decided to take Jesus Luzardo of the Oakland Athletics over the other two.

Luzardo, who turned 20 after the 2017 season concluded, was drafted by the Washington Nationals but was traded at the trade deadline last season with Hagerstown Sun Sheldon Neuse to Oakland for pitching help for the Nationals in Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
Luzardo underwent Tommy John surgery in high school, but Washington paid a 1.4 million dollar bonus to keep Luzardo from going to the University of Miami.
Washington has had good luck with drafting injured pitchers that dropped through the draft farther than they should have due to injury and then nurturing them through the aftermath of surgery having done just that with Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde before drafting Luzardo.
Luzardo made his minor debut last year at short-season Vermont and dazzled before the trade in five starts allowing just four earned runs over 18 innings before the trade to Oakland.
Oakland sent him to their Arizona rookie league team first rather than straight to their NY-Penn league in Vermont where he allowed just two earned runs in eleven innings there.
Luzardo's numbers in his three stops ( he also pitched some for the Nationals Gulf Coast league team). were strong with an ERA of 1.66 and 48 strikeouts in 43 innings.
Strikeouts are always a number that I look strongly at the lower levels- mainly that I want to see a strikeout per inning pitched against lower competition.
Even a finesse pitcher should have his share of strikeout in the low minors and if they aren't tricking hitters by either pure stuff or perplexing movement (of either the ball or a deceptive motion) at those levels, they aren't likely to fool many as they climb the ladder.

That's not all from Luzardo, who is reported to sit in the low 90's, but has been listed as hitting 98, he walked just five batters in those 43 innings.
Keep in mind that batters at these stops aren't always known for their plate patience, but still five walks for a hard thrower is pretty impressive to me.
The well-traveled lefthander, who was born in Peru, lived some in Venezuela before settling in Florida for high school has an excellent head on his shoulders besides his three pitches (fastball, curve and change-up) as Luzardo graduated from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school, the site of the recent shootings in 2016 and is involved in raising money to honor Douglas A.D. Chris Hixon, who was shot and killed during those shooting as he sought to save others.

It'll be fun to follow the power-armed lefthander as he moves through the Oakland system this season, he is expected to start at Low A Beloit, and even though drafting pitchers are always risky, Jesus Luzardo was a nice selection in round three.

I'll attempt to finish the series with my other picks (I pulled a trade later to add a third player) as the week goes on...

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Snow dance or No dance

Yes, it was the first day of spring with opening day just
over two weeks away and after a winter without the awful
whiteish grey glop, spring arrives in the Hub City and here's a foot of fluffy garbage.

Since I couldn't find a Hagerstown snow globe and I didn't take a picture, I used a Cleveland one instead and an unshaken globe to follow my wishes for no snow!
I did, however, try to get a picture of the various Cardinals at my bird feeder, but of course, whenever I had the camera (Ipad) at the ready, the birds that I wanted to see were nowhere to be found.

The snow-covered roads canceled school and as a result, canceled an exciting Fire Safety class (I'd rather have finished it than make it up next week during an 11-day work run), but I did shovel a little and planned on working on what I was working on- pictures for Action football and basketball along with continuing to chip away at the DVR collection to move things off the recorder.
I was called into work early through the snow (roads better than expected) and I've written in the past how much I despise winter and snow, but if it is a night that I don't have to travel or get stuck at work, it's kinda nice to just hang out at the house and spend time with the family.
A few notes from during the storm.

I was able to watch the Sam Darnold pro day and came away with my opinion confirmed that Darnold should be the Browns choice as their franchise quarterback.
Throwing the ball extremely well through a pouring rain (who says it never rains in Southern California?) and showing solid athleticism, Darnold is the guy for the Browns and he is the player that I want for the Browns first pick in the draft.

Watching a few shows on television that I follow and some of them appear to be jumping the shark.
Gotham has been very disappointing with its spring return with a replacement casting for "Poison Ivy" and it appears so far to have lost its way.
It's a tough balance to keep your audience involved with the anticipation of "Bruce Wayne" becoming Batman, yet not keep them waiting too long that by the time you make that move, they don't care anymore.

Designated Survivor was a show I really liked in year one with one notable exception-a character that just doesn't fit my idea of a show about the White House administration with an intelligence agent running all over the place and only having a minute amount of involvement with the President and the White House.
Well, that character (agent Hannah Wells) is even more of a part of the show this year with her adventures and it feels like the writers have really missed the boat.
If the show returns for season three, I'm hoping for a way to remove this character from the show!

Timeless returned for a second season on NBC after a long absence following its first season.
The biggest issue that I had watching its return was that it had been so long (13 months) since it had last aired, that I had forgotten much of what had occurred!
The three lead stars are very good (Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett), but the big question to me is how long can they play out the premise of good guys vs bad guys changing American History?
Sooner or later, one has to win and it might open up more storylines, if the good side eliminates the bad, but has to continue to clean up their messes through time travel.

Wrapping with the end of the second season of the HBO comedy/drama Divorce, which I find to be quite interesting with the story of a divorced couple and how the story progresses from there.
I've never been a fan of Sarah Jessica Parker and I have liked Thomas Haden Church in the past (Wings), but the real treat is the supporting cast with Molly Shannon, Tracy Letts and especially Talia Balsam, who all add the intangibles to a show that successful shows always need.
Balsam has been a solid character actress for years, but I remember her all the way back to the 80's in a "Family Ties" guest appearance as a wild girl that intimidated Michael J. Fox's "Alex P.Keaton".
When you watch that episode, you get the feeling that the writers/producers of the show were floating a trial balloon for Balsam's character to be the love interest, but it wasn't meant to be.
Too bad as I would have wagered that Balsam's character might have made a much more interesting foil for Alex compared to the later interests played by Tracy Pollan (who wound up marrying Fox) and Courtney Cox.
Balsam is definately one of those actors with the chops to be a huge star, but never received the right break..

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports version

Photo credit: Unknown
It isn't often that women's basketball leads off the inbox.
It also isn't often that a women's basketball team wins 71 games in a row with a national championship and is on their way to the Final Four in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as the number one team in the country.
Now, imagine how rare that it is to have that team come from my hometown and you have the Division II dominating Ashland Eagles.
Head coach Robyn Fralick has a career record of 103-2 (of this writing) and has a unique assistant coach in her husband Tim, the former head coach of Ashland High School.
Barry Fortune of the Ashland Times-Gazette writes of the unique working relationship and how coaches function with a home life built around basketball.
When I grew up, Ashland was more of a hoops school than a football school, so men or women, it's nice to see the hoops programs doing so well there.

More on Ashland basketball as Eric Musselman, the son of Ashland University (then college) legend Bill Musselman, has led Nevada to the Sweet 16 after a huge comeback to upset second seed Cincinnati.
Nevada will play Loyola-Chicago for a trip to the Elite Eight.
If I was Louisville or Pittsburgh (Especially Pittsburgh) -ACC schools with a massive rebuilding project ahead, I would be looking into Eric Musselman as an excellent choice to be their person to attempt to bring back their program to tournament status.

Surprised to see Penny Hardaway as the head coach at Memphis.
I understand that Memphis missed the tournament in both years under Tubby Smith, but in the past flashy hires of former great players without college coaching experience hasn't turned out well (Houston with Clyde Drexler and currently Georgetown with Patrick Ewing and St.John's with Chris Mullin to name just a few), but the one thing that makes me think that Hardaway has a better chance than the others is that he is a Memphis icon coaching Memphis with a built-in recruiting hotbed waiting for him.
I'm not saying Hardaway will succeed, but I like his chances better than others that attempted this in the past.

Eleven Warriors uses the tournament (and adds football) to explain just why entering the Big 10 may be a great idea for dollars, but not such a great idea for success as it looks at the adventures of Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland and of course Rutgers and their struggles with their occasional successes.
When you consider that the Big 10 likely has one more expansion left in them, future contestants may want to measure winning against the bank account...

One passing of note as Ed "the Glider" Charles passed away at the age of 84.
Charles spent most of his career with the Kansas City Athletics, but best remembered by many for his 1969 postseason heroics with many key hits for the Miracle Mets against the Braves and Orioles.
Charles saved the best for last in his career as he never played in the big leagues after the World Series victory.

We wrap with the O.J. Simpson interview,
No, not THAT O.J. Simpson interview- Simpson did one last week that he hasn't done even well before that night in Brentwood as he talked football, his career with the Buffalo Bills, USC, his potential to possibly contend with CTE and even some about his time in prison in Las Vegas.
The Buffalo News managed to get Simpson to talk about these and other things in what I thought was a very interesting piece if only to get Simpson's thoughts on topics other than the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Boxing Challenge:Ramirez Decisions Imam

Top Rank and ESPN hosted the boxing challenge for an St. Patrick's Day card in New York City that saw two challenge bouts, but the card was more than just the challenge as far as results go with the result being a very interesting night from the "World Wide Leader In Sports"
(Even though that's probably true, doesn't that line always seem pretentious?).

Let's start with the challenge and the most important fight of the evening (technically not the main event, but I digress) as a pretty solid scrap ensued as Jose Ramirez took a unanimous decision over Amir Imam to win the WBC junior welterweight title vacated by Terence Crawford.
The fight was close for the first half of the fight (I had Ramirez winning four of six rounds, but I could have seen 4-2 Imam just as easily), but Ramirez dominated the second half of the fight, badly swelling Imam's right eye and marching forward with aggression that overwhelmed Imam to the point of slowing Imam's ability to return fire.
I had Ramirez a 117-111 winner and despite a ridiculous scorecard that gave Ramirez every round, the decision was a clear-cut and fair one.
Ramirez is mandated to fight the WBC 'interim' champion Regis Prograis, who impressively dispatched Julius Indongo a few weeks back in his next fight, but Top Rank, who hosted Prograis and his promoter Lou DiBella last night, asked if Prograis would be willing to make a defense as the co-main event to a proposed Ramirez defense in his native Fresno, California, where Ramirez draws very impressive crowds and would be expected to do even better as a champion.
That makes sense to build exposure for Prograis and would give some buildup for a Ramirez-Prograis fight that style-wise might be a fight of the year level between the pair of undefeated bangers.

In the "our" co-feature highly rated light heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk dominated Mehdi Amir but didn't impress as much as I expected in winning an interim title that only exists because the WBC allows its champion Adonis Stevenson to do as he pleases (as in no mandatory defenses since 2013).
I had Gvozdyk an easy 118-110 winner, but the victory not only lacked knockdowns, Gvozdyk didn't deliver the dazzling victory as expected.
The win does make Gvozdyk the mandatory contender for the winner of Stevenson's fight against Badou Jack in May, the speed of that fight occurring may be up to the WBC as Gvozdyk (Promoted by Top Rank) brings a lot of danger, but does not bring an excessively large purse for either Stevenson (PBC) or Jack (Mayweather Promotions) along with the promotional (and television) difficulties involved.
I'll believe Gvozdyk fights either (but especially Stevenson) fighter when they enter the ring on fight night.

The promoted "Main Event" that went onto finish the evening in a non-challenge fight saw Irish Olympian Michael Conlan demolish David Berna in two rounds.
Normally a fighter in his sixth fight (that isn't Vasyl Lomachenko) is a preliminary, but Top Rank is attempting to build the appeal to the Irish fan base in NYC of Conlan as he matures as a prospect.
I wouldn't have promoted Conlan as the main event, but as I watched the fight, someone on Twitter raised a great point-had Conlan been the prelim bout, half the crowd would have left and would have taken some of the energy away that wound up being present for the Ramirez-Imam fight.
Looking at things that way, I can see their point.

I watched the undercard on the ESPN app and it was an interesting three fight card (I think there was a fourth, but I took the ladies for Meadows custard before the broadcast started) with three fighters of interest going in and saw a shocking upset with a dose of just how hard it truly is to project a prospect's future-no matter their amateur pedigree.

Four years ago, when Ramon Malpica and I first were getting to know each other, we did a post called the six-round staredown and we picked "Can't Miss" and "Tired of Seeing" for each of the three major promotions.
When Top Rank came up, Ramon picked Felix Verdejo, while I picked Vasyl Lomachenko (don't give me too much credit, I picked Omar Figueroa for Golden Boy's Can't Miss) for the Arum bunch.
Fast forward four years and Verdejo has suffered through motorcycle accidents, injuries, a few disappointing performances along with a thirteen-month layoff before his return against Antonio Lozada.
Lozada had a solid (37-2 31 KO's) record but had never fought outside of Mexico and the once touted Verdejo, who in his rise was an HBO fighter against lesser opponents than Lozada in anticipation of being one of boxing's next stars was relegated to the Watch ESPN app on a stream.
Verdejo was competitive but was in a dogfight against the taller Lozada entering the final round.
I had Lozada leading by a point, but I was completely prepared for a close and arguable decision for Verdejo on the cards.
Verdejo was the house fighter, the bigger name and the guy that was marked for future appearances and I've seen this happen a thousand times, but on this night, Lozada was having none of that.
Lozada took no chances and did what so many fighters should do in similar situations-he took the pencils away from the judges and finished the fight as he dropped Verdejo and pummeled him until the referee was forced to stop the fight with 23 seconds to go.
It was disappointing for Verdejo and his promotion to drop his return bout, but what's really disappointing is more than just one bout.
One loss doesn't destroy a career and all too often in today's boxing, a loss is a bigger deal than it should be (call it the Mayweather Ramification), but it seems like all the issues outside of the ring have taken its tool on a young fighter with loads of ability and I'm very dubious of any idea that we'll ever see from Felix Verdejo what so many thought we would see in the ring.

The other two bouts saw promising junior lightweight Christopher Diaz win by a TKO in the fourth over Braulio Rodriguez, when Rodriguez separated his shoulder (Egads!) and former junior lightweight champ Jose Pedraza win a unanimous decision over Jose Rodriguez in an eight rounder in his first fight since losing his title to Gervonta Davis and first fight since signing with Top Rank.
I thought Diaz looked like he was ready to make his first leap against better competition and Pedraza looked sharp all things considered as well.

The stream call had a different announcing crew and I liked some of what I saw.
I've always been a big supporter of Crystina Poncher calling fights,she knows the sport and just needs the reps in the job to be a coming star and I liked Brian McIntyre's (trainer of Terence Crawford) analysis too as I hadn't been too familiar with him at the mic, but thought he was solid.
I wasn't as thrilled with Todd Grisham, but that could be my bias against former wrestling announcers, although my rap against Grisham (and Showtime's Mauro Ranallo) is that they seem to come into a broadcast with set jokes and stories that they are going to get into the broadcast no matter what and the artificial excitement that seems to always be a staple of the former McMahon bunch when they commentate sports that don't have a predetermined victor.

I'm still just not thrilled with the ESPN/Top Rank main crew.
Joe Tessitore is decent enough but like an average team, he plays to the level of the competition and with Mark Kriegel and Tim Bradley, he is limited in what he has to work with.
Bradley struggles to get his thoughts out quickly and he might be better used as a commentator in between fights or even rounds where he has a little bit of time to get his insights out.
Bradley says some interesting things but could thrive in a different role and especially the same for Kriegel, who was terrific in a roundtable with Don King and Bob Arum recalling their old war stories, but in a live fight environment is just not very good.
I'm not sure how Kriegel got into this position and had enough pull to push Teddy Atlas aside, but someone at the network or promotion must really be fond of him.

In the Boxing Challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored two points to move the total to 43-35.
Ramon scored two points for the Oleksandr Gvozdyk win, while I scored one each for wins by Gvozdyk and Jose Ramirez.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge is built around one card this weekend as Top Rank and ESPN features a good ol' throwback to the 80's as Bob Arum and Don King work together in the main event as Jose Ramirez (Arum) fights Amir Imam (King) for the vacant WBC junior welterweight title.

The winner will be facing the talented "interim" WBC titleholder Regis Prograis, but first things first and Ramirez-Imam isn't a bad fight.
Ramirez is the A side of this one as an undefeated and exciting former Olympian but hasn't fought the best opposition with his best win being a knockout win over fellow prospect and equally untested Mike Reed.
Imam was looked at as a rising star after wins over fringe contenders Yordanis Ugas, Fidel Maldonado and Walter Castillo and was the mandatory contender for then-WBC champion Viktor Postol before being shockingly upset by Adrian Granados in what was a fight that was a stay-busy fight while waiting for Postol in 2015.
Inam has won his three fights since them, although none of them against even marginal contenders.

In the co-feature, Oleksandr Gvozdyk is expected to roll past unknown Mehdi Amar in a fight for the WBC's interim title at light heavyweight
Normally. I hate these belts, but WBC champ Adonis Stevenson has spent years fighting weaker opposition and his mandatory for the last two and a half years, stablemate Elieder Alvarez has not pushed for his title shot and accepted money to not fight Stevenson, while the champion fought non-entities.
Stevenson will be fighting Badou Jack in May and supposedly will be mandated to fight Gvozdyk next, although with the politics involved-I would take a bet that you never see that fight occur.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 41-33.

Vacant WBC Junior Welterweight Title. 12 Rds
Jose Ramirez vs Amir Imam
R.L: Imam KO 3
TRS: Ramirez KO 6

Light Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs Mehdi Amar
R.L: Gvozdyk Unanimous Decision
TRS: Gvozdyk KO 4

Joe Thomas retires

The Cleveland Browns lost their best offensive tackle in the history of the franchise and arguably the best offensive lineman (Hall of Fame guard Gene Hickerson might have some support as the top offensive lineman) as well when Joe Thomas announced his retirement.

Some are questioning why Thomas took so long to announce the move and wonder if it cost the Browns potential replacements in free agency (Like those are hanging around on great offensive linemen trees) by waiting.
My guess is that the Browns were in the loop on the decision all along and just decided to give Thomas the wide berth to perhaps change his mind if he wanted to return.
Honestly, I have a feeling that we may not have seen the last of Joe Thomas on the field.
I think there is a remote chance that should the Browns show legitimate signs of improvement to the point of considering themselves possible playoff contenders for 2019 and if the various ailments and injuries heal up enough that Thomas feels good, I could see a scenario that Thomas could consider a comeback then.

Joe Thomas certainly deserved better than one winning season in eleven and that in his rookie season, so he finished his career with ten losing seasons in a row, but that didn't diminish his career and I'd rank him with Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden as the best tackle in pro football over the last twenty years.
Pace might have been a better run blocker and Ogden's footwork might have made him Thomas's superior in pass protection, but I might argue as an all-around tackle that Joe Thomas might have been a little better than either, which would be more than enough to send him to Canton in five years.

Joe Thomas leaves Cleveland as one of the last of his kind.
Thomas was a throwback that played all the time, gave back to his community and didn't make headlines for the wrong reasons.
The retirement of Thomas also made me think a bit when I remembered that Thomas not only played his entire eleven-year career as a Brown, but he also spanned the history of this blog.
The blog turns eleven in less than two weeks, but the drafting of Thomas was covered here in the first month and as I look back on that selection that I wrote that "Thomas will be a cornerstone in Cleveland for the next ten years", it made me think about feeling bad for Thomas, but I felt bad for me too.
Thomas might have played for ten losing teams, but I watched and wrote about them all as well- and when an offensive tackle is your best offensive player, not only will you not be very exciting, more often than not, you won't be very good either.

Back later with a preview of tonight's Jose Ramirez-Amir Imam fight in the boxing challenge.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Browns trade Jason McCourty to New England

Bob Levey/Getty Images
The Cleveland Browns didn't add any new players on day two of the official NFL year, but they did jettison one player as the Browns traded defensive back Jason McCourty to the Patriots.

The Browns included a seventh-round pick in this year's draft in the deal and received the sixth-rounder of New England in return for McCourty, who will turn 31 during training camp.

I was mildly surprised with the move, mainly because even with the signings yesterday in the secondary of T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell, the Browns still seemed to need further help and I thought McCourty was arguably the team's best player among the defensive backs last season with 54 solo tackles and three interceptions.
I thought McCourty might be moved to safety with his age and ball skills, I think he has a good chance of making that transition with New England, should they decide to try that move and I thought he would have been a decent option for the Browns there, but when the Browns decided that Damarious Randall was going to play safety and not cornerback after being brought in from Green Bay that McCourty was expendable.

Initially, McCourty was announced as released with a wave of other players, but that was amended to this trade, which moves a pick up one round when New England had interest in acquiring McCourty,
The Patriots have the other McCourty twin (Devin) and the Browns likely decided to do a favor to a hardworking veteran and traded him to the Patriots.
New England may have acted quickly to make a trade before a release as perhaps another team would have claimed him off waivers (New England is next to last in waiver claims).

There were several players released by the Browns today, but only one of note as the team released wide receiver Sammie Coates.
Coates was obtained from Pittsburgh just before the opener with a 2019 seventh rounder for a 2018 sixth-rounder in a trade similar to the McCourty trade in which Pittsburgh received something for a player that they may have released anyway.
Coates never seemed to get on track with Cleveland (He wasn't alone in that) and often seemed listless and finished with only six catches for seventy yards...

Browns sign Carlos Hyde-Free Agency begins

Photo Credit:USA Today
The revamp of the Cleveland Browns under John Dorsey continued on day one of free agency as the Browns signed four players with one of them a pretty big name in former Buckeye Carlos Hyde to plug in at running back.

The biggest news of the day was the retirement of multiple time All-Pro Joe Thomas, which I'll write about on a slow day, so I'll stick to the four newest Browns.

Carlos Hyde is the flashiest name and his signing breaks the longtime unofficial embargo on the Browns, who under the last million administrations seemed to have an aversion to bringing in former Ohio State players.
Hyde signed a three-year contract for 15 million to replace Isaiah Crowell, who signed with the Jets yesterday as the main veteran back on the team.
I say veteran back because whether the Browns draft Saquon Barkley or not, Cleveland will definitely draft a back and more than likely in the second round.
Hyde rushed for 938 yards and eight touchdowns last season for the 49ers, but his yards per carry dropped under four yards for the first time in his NFL career.
Hyde brings a tough hard running between the tackles back that the Browns lacked and that Isaiah Crowell was not going to be so Hyde will be a major upgrade in that aspect of the running game.
Hyde also showed that he has the capability of being a three-down back as last year he caught 57 passes, which was more than Hyde had caught in the previous three seasons combined.
If the Browns can get the type of production from Hyde that he gave to the 49ers, the Browns have signed their best back since the two years that they received from Jamal Lewis in 2007/08.

Cleveland signed a blocking tight end in 31-year-old Darnell Fells, formerly of the Lions to a three-year deal at 12 million dollars.
Fells caught 17 passes last year (three for touchdowns), but is much better as a blocker in the running game.
At 6'7 and 285 pounds, Fells can take on defensive ends and not be overpowered on sweeps and pitches.
The signing of Fells will likely mean the end of Randall Telfer in Cleveland as there is little need for two blocking tight ends on a team and I don't think Seth DeValve can feel too safe as one of the receiving tight ends.
It wouldn't surprise me to see John Dorsey go after a veteran pass-catching tight end and if that comes to pass, it'll be DeValve that is likely to pack the bags out of town.

The Browns signed two cornerbacks and one of them was a surprise- at least at the money that was
shelled out.
Cleveland wasn't able to add one of the bigger names at corner (Trumaine Johnson signing with the Jets was the most painful miss), so they are gambling that T.J. Carrie of the Raiders can up his game to that level after four years in Oakland.
Carrie is getting starter-level money at four years, 31 million, so Carrie is going to have to improve to be worth that contract.
Carrie did start 30 games for Oakland over the last three years, is reported to be a hard worker/good locker room guy and reading Raider sites about him, it seems that their fans are sorry to see him leave, but they are understanding of signing a contract that the Raiders weren't going to be able to match.
I have to admit, I'm a little leery of this one at that price, but after the big names were off the table, the Browns had to sign someone, especially when they announced that recent acquisition Damarious Randall was going to play safety, not cornerback for the Browns and Carrie ranked among the best of the rest...

The Browns finished their day with another depth signing at they inked Terrance Mitchell to a two-year contract.
Mitchell has spent time with Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City in his first four NFL seasons, but didn't break into the secondary with the Chiefs until last season when he started nine games for the Chiefs.
Mitchell made 47 tackles and picked off four passes in his first extended starting action and showed flashes of potential, but the Chiefs have decided to revamp their cornerbacks in allowing Mitchell to leave and trading Marcus Peters to the Rams, so the knock (from what I've read) is consistency.

If the Browns sign anyone today, I'll be writing about the new arrival and if not, I'll likely be writing about the retirement of Joe Thomas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Browns add three on free agency eve

Free agency wasn't supposed to start until Wednesday, but teams were coming to agreements with players left and right even though they couldn't sign them officially.
It's unlikely, but teams or players that have "agreements" could change their mind before the start of free agency.

The Cleveland Browns were no different as they came to agreements with three linemen- two on the offensive line and one on the defensive side of the football.

The Browns signed two players away from division rivals and both will either be key parts of a rotation or start, although I would imagine they are being signed to start.
Tackle Chris Hubbard was signed from the Steelers and will most likely challenge Shon Coleman at right tackle, although he could move to left tackle in the event Joe Thomas announces his retirement in the next few days.
Hubbard's contract with the Browns is worth 37.5 million over five years, which is sizable for a right tackle, but even if the Browns convince Thomas to return, Hubbard could play right tackle for a year or rotate in and out as Hubbard can play tackle or guard.
Hubbard was more of the latter with the Steelers although he did start ten games for Pittsburgh last season.
Todd Haley is a fan of Hubbard and likely played a part both recommending Hubbard as well as a part of Hubbard signing on his part, so that alone speaks well of him, but I also looked up a few Steelers sites and all of those said that the team would miss Hubbard.
One, in particular, wrote that Hubbard played so well in his replacement of injured.suspended Marcus Gilbert that they knew that they were going to lose him because they couldn't afford him after that stretch of play.
When the team that loses a player talks in terms of wishing they could have kept him, you usually are getting a solid player and I think the Browns have done so with Chris Hubbard.

The Browns added another player to the offensive line as they signed Donald Stephenson to a one year deal for 2.5 million.
Stephenson last played for Denver but was very familiar to John Dorsey as he played for the Chiefs during Dorsey's tenure there.
Stephenson is expected to be a backup and will provide depth as a backup.

On the defensive line, the Browns added Chris Smith from the Bengals on a three-year deal worth 14 and a half million.
The 26-year-old Smith spent last season in Cincinnati after spending his first three years with the Jaguars and finished with three sacks as a rotational piece on the Bengals line.
Smith is mainly a defensive end, although he can play defensive tackle in a pinch and played about a third of the snaps in Cincinnati.
Hopefully, at the cost of Smith's contract, that number increases in Cleveland.
The Cincinnati Enquirer writes that Smith began to develop some pass rush ability with the Bengals and noted that the Bengals wanted to keep him, but the Browns extra salary cap space exceeded what the Bengals could afford to pay.

I'm anxious to see what the Browns can pull off today.
They are reported to be in the hunt for Nate Solder of the Patriots to replace Joe Thomas and Terrelle Pryor to return from Washington to boost the receiving corps, but all of the top cornerbacks that the Browns were going after to boost the secondary signed elsewhere, so the Browns might not be able to sign the caliber of corner that they were hoping to ink to a contract.
We'll see more of John Dorsey's plans over the next few days...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Podcasts? We've got Podcasts!!

Podcasts, you say?

Well, my podcast tenure has been up and down (running out of dollars for the TRS podcast for one) and my tenure on Fightheads- the live show.

I loved doing the live show, but Ramon and I had stated that we were still going to be around in various formats and we are.
You can find my occasional podcast, Ramon's "Mind of Malpica" and our shows together here and be sure to give an ITunes review too.
Ramon says it helps to move us up the ranking etc, so help us out if you can.
I knocked a single PC out last weekend talking about boxing and the Browns and we did one together a while back.
I plan to do one or two solo's each week and I want to bring back guests on my solo appearances very much like the old show, so thanks to Ramon for allowing me to do that and our shows together as well.

There's more than just Ramon's podcast and mine in this post though, so here's a few more of interest (pun intended) that we have listened to and enjoyed of late!

Starting with "Nerd Appropriate" and their 300th episode where they landed Amy Acker ( "Root" of Person of Interest and therefore the above pun) for their show.
If you aren't a fan of POI or Amy's current show "The Gifted" or are unfamiliar with her other work,
you might remember her as last year's face of the PPM.
As an Acker fan, I really enjoyed this and she comes off as someone totally unfazed by fame and as one of the nicest people in show business-Now that would be someone I'd love to have on the "New" TRS podcast.

Another interesting listen was posted on Twitter as one of their past podcasts with Rebecca Jarvis of ABC News and her "No Limits" with guest Erica Hill of CNN/HLN.
I've always liked Hill going back to her early days at CNN before she traveled to the networks before returning back to the "Turner" networks and I prefer her to all the CNN anchors in the afternoon when her HLN show airs.
My biggest issue with HLN, which makes sense with the name of their network as Headline News, is seeing the same items over and over again, so I don't watch it often, but Hill would be great with CNN and an afternoon slot.
Hill talks about the news game, the problems for women in the field and mistakes that she has made, which I thought was refreshingly honest.

And it wouldn't be a podcast post without a sports one and here is a two-part episode that I loved as "Good Seats" spends two and a half hours with author Mark Speck (another person I'd love to have as a guest) talking about the World Football League.
Good Seats is a podcast that you are going to see a lot here at TRS as they deal with defunct sports leagues and as they write "What used to be in professional sports", so look for more on future podcast posts or cleaning out the inbox segments.
I'm not sure if I mentioned it here (I know I did on social media), but I was given a WFL game ball recently by a friend and I play WFL games on the time on my Action Football game, so for me, I loved listening.
Speck has written two books on the WFL that I'd love to read that I haven't been able to yet, but they aren't available on Kindle and they are pretty pricey to boot.
Part one can be found here and part two in this location.

Hope you found a podcast or two to listen and maybe even Fightheads, I think this will become an
occasional fixture here, so send me a podcast that I might find interesting and it might wind up in a future post.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Boxing Challenge:Valdez outslugs Quigg

In yet another network counterprogramming
adventure-ESPN faced off with Showtime with titles on the line in the main event on both networks.

ESPN's card featured Oscar Valdez defending his WBO featherweight title against himself as Scott Quigg weighed in three pounds overweight and could not win the title.
Valdez could have lost it though with a defeat that would cause his title to become vacant, but in a fight that was fun to watch, but felt like an anti-climax, Valdez won a unanimous decision to retain his title.
Give both fighters plenty of credit (in the ring), both fought gallantly through injuries as Quigg's nose was broken giving him a look of an NBA player wearing a mask to protect a broken nose and Valdez fought half the bout with a broken jaw that forced his corner to keep his mouthpiece in to avoid the pain of taking the gumshield in and out.
I scored Valdez a 116-113 winner (7-4-1 in rounds), which was a little closer than the scorecards.
The fight was action-filled, but the actions of Quigg (who I've always liked) and his camp in first missing weight that badly and then hamstringing Valdez/Top Rank/ESPN on terms to even allow the fight to happen at all, were less than honorable.
Quigg did fight through a stress fracture in his foot and to be fair that could have hurt his chances to make the weight, but Quigg was clearly the larger man in the bout.
Oscar Valdez rose a great deal in my eyes with this win as he overcame a size difference, dealt with outside the ring drama and dealt with a broken jaw and still managed to win the fight against a strong opponent.
It was a great fight that deserves a rematch, but I'm doubtful that we'll see it unless Valdez has no other options (which might be the case with the three other featherweight champs Gary Russell, Leo Santa Cruz and Lee Selby all being with PBC).

The co-feature saw Erick DeLeon battle to a majority draw with Andy Vences in a fight with two undefeated prospects.
I scored it 95-95, so I was more than fine with the decision.
Vences seemed a bit quicker, DeLeon threw the harder shots, a draw was good enough for me...

Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Mikey Garcia won his fourth divisional title via a unanimous decision over Sergey Lipinets to lift the IBF junior welterweight title in Texas.
Garcia wasn't as effective at the higher weight despite putting Lipinets on the floor in the seventh round and it was more workmanlike than spectacular in the victory.
I scored Garcia a 118-109 winner (10-2 with a knockdown), but in my opinion, Garcia would be better suited to return to 135, where not only is he more effective, but he has bigger fights there against Vasyl Lomachenko, Jorge Linares (rumors are flying that Lomachenko-Linares in May is close to getting signed!) or Robert Easter than at 140 where you are just beginning to see the titles filled from Terence Crawford's move up to 147.
There seem to be some fighters at junior welterweight that might develop into stars (Jose Ramirez and Regis Prograis seem to have the best chance of doing that or Amir Imam should he upset Ramirez next weekend), but they sure aren't there yet and other than collecting belts that he won't defend, I don't seem any real advantage to hanging around junior welterweight for Garcia, who has built his career on beating good fighters with flaws and has yet to face someone that might have an even chance of defeating him.

In Showtime's other bout, one of the worst decision's of 2017 was remedied as Kiryl Relikh shutout (on my card) Rances Barthelemy to win the vacant WBA junior welterweight title.
The two fought last year in a title eliminator that saw a decision so bad that the Hamburglar was out as Barthelemy took an awful decision.
The judges this time got it right in the mandated rematch as Rellikh dominated the fight against Barthelemy.
I'm not sure Relikh is a star in the making, but his walk forward style could make some fun fights at 140.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored four points on Saturday.
I received two points each from Mikey Garcia and Oscar Valdez, while Ramon earned two from Valdez and one each from Garcia and Kiryl Relikh.
I lead the challenge 41-33.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Browns trade Danny Shelton

The vapor trail out of Cleveland continued on Saturday as the Browns traded defensive lineman Danny Shelton to the New England Patriots as yet another former first-round draft pick is jettisoned from the station.

The Browns sent Shelton and their fifth-round pick in April's draft to New England in exchange for the Patriots 3rd round selection in 2019.
Shelton played in 14 games last year without a sack and was reported to have played on less than half of the defensive downs.
Shelton was the final Ray Farmer first rounder to leave after being the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft and was drafted to be the run plugger in the two gap as the "Haloti Ngata" in the 3-4 then used by the Browns.

I've been reading that Danny Shelton was a bust and I think that is a somewhat harsh assessment.
It's true that Shelton may not have produced as much as the Browns would have hoped for a player selected in the first dozen picks, but I thought he had a pretty solid season in 2016 and seemed to be coming into his own.
However, Shelton's body type makes him suited to be the nose tackle/two-gap tackle in a 3-4 defense and ill-suited for the more athletic tackle position in the 4-3 that was installed before the 2017 season under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The Browns defensive line is probably the strength of the defense and with two young defensive tackles better suited to the 4-3 in Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley impressing during their rookie seasons last year and deserving more playing time, it was probably a decision that made sense for the Browns and it'll help Shelton as well.
Yeah, going from the Browns to the Patriots is a given, but the Patriots play the 3-4, Shelton should be able to help the Patriots in a role that he is best suited for and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to look back in a year or two and having to add Danny Shelton to a list of players that didn't succeed at their full potential until they left Cleveland.

I know it seems like the Browns didn't get much for Shelton, a pick likely to be near the end of the third round and not being used until 2019.
However, the Browns really didn't plan on using all of these picks and bringing in 12 more rookies to an already young team wasn't going to add any experience, so moving a player that didn't fit the defensive scheme, sending him to a place that he does fit (that helps with players more than you know when talking about an organization) and getting a day two pick for 2019 is about as good of a return as you could expect.
I always liked Danny Shelton, but this makes sense for both parties.

Back later with more boxing...