Thursday, May 31, 2018

LeBron James and the Cavaliers

Watching the 2018 postseason and wondering just how it is that the Cleveland Cavaliers have completed their fourth straight run to the Eastern Conference title on the eve of game one of the NBA finals has been a full day of pondering here and even though I'm very
short on time, I wanted to get a few sentences down.

Do I think that the Cavaliers have a chance of upsetting the Golden State Warriors in the championship round?
Sure, but that chance is what in boxing is called a puncher's chance.,which basically means it's highly
unlikely, but that the underdog does have a chance of scoring the knockout if everything falls perfectly.
Why only a puncher's chance?
Well, considering the struggles in getting by an average Indiana team in seven games and seven more against a Boston squad with injury issues and inexperience and you can see why the Cavaliers deserve to be underdogs despite looking sharp in the semi-finals in dispatching top-seeded Toronto in four straight.

Even as a Cavaliers fan, I cannot logically come up with one reason to pick them over the Warriors except one- LeBron James.
For the play of James in these three series has been beyond what anyone could expect from even the best player in the game and that alone gives Cleveland that puncher's chance.
I usually don't like to make declarative statements about the great players of any game as far as just who is the best, that after all is a matter of players and the times that they played in, but I'll make a stretch and call this one- If LeBron James can lift this bunch of the Cavaliers to an NBA championship, I'm ready to say that he has become the best player ever in NBA history even over Michael Jordan.
MJ and LBJ truly are different types of players and deserve to be on their own equal pedestal, but Jordan will never have delivered what James has the chance to do in this series-bring an underdog to victory over a powerful opponent and to do almost by himself.

James has used the occasional odd game from the supporting cast (Jeff Green in game seven vs the Celtics for an example) to help himself out a bit, but he's been playing almost every minute and that has to eventually take its toll unless someone is able to pick up their play to take even a small amount of pressure off James.
No matter the results of this series, this might be the best run of basketball that I've seen and it's been something special to see-now can he do it one more time and against one of the best teams ever?

Praying for the miracle, but this time I'm picking with the head.
Warriors in six...

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Cleaning out the Inbox-Baseball Edition

The inbox polishing continues with an all baseball edition.

Some of these notes will be fairly old because they have been in the inbox for a while.

The picture to the left was taken by me during my trip to Augusta, Georgia last year to Lake Olmstead Stadium in its final season of minor league baseball.
The Augusta Greenjackets have a new stadium across the state line now in South Carolina, but what are the plans in Georgia for their old stadium?
Augusta University is currently using it for their games, but there is some talk of installing a stage and making Lake Olmstead a facility for concerts.
I would imagine that would take some dollars, but it would make sense to increase the financial viability of keeping the stadium around.
At just 23, it's surprising that Lake Olmstead has already been tossed aside, but there is going to be a movement in the majors and minors on stadiums that now are in or approaching their 20's from the last stadium boom, it'll be interesting to see the future for some of these stadiums and for baseball in these cities.

This ESPN article on Ichiro Suzuki might seem like it is a tribute to the outfielder, who retired recently, but it is actually from the off-season and it's a really interesting look at the Japanese star.
Ichiro's work ethic and attachment to the game is fanatical and what author Wright Thompson brings out shows the person behind the bat along with just why Ichiro might be one of those guys that attempts a comeback eventually, even if it is in the Japanese leagues, which would love the attention and ticket selling that would bring.
The star of the story is the lost relationship between Ichiro and his father, which I think many fathers and sons can relate to at some level.
This truly is worth your time...

Hardball Times writes of a 1980 showdown between Mike Norris of the Athletics and Jesse Jefferson of the Blue Jays at old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.
Norris, who would win 20 games in 1980, dueled with Jefferson, who at the time was a journeyman pitcher, who had once been a touted prospect with the Orioles, for eleven innings before a 1-0 decision in eleven innings.

Hardball Times also writes of the connection of baseball and the television show MASH with the various time's baseball was part of the show.
I agree with the author that the peak of the show was its early years when it was funnier than the often "heavy-handed" (to quote the author) episodes of later seasons.
I did love the episode with "Hawkeye" and "BJ" recreating an Indians-Yankees game as my favorite of the mentioned episodes.

One more from Hardball Times as they write about the battles for neutral ground from two nearby teams.
The neutral ground is Columbus in this article and it writes of the fight between Cleveland and Cincinnati for the hearts of the capital city.
The article also discusses the history of baseball in Columbus as well.

CBS Sports has a really good article on the Chicago White Sox "Ballpark that could have been", which writes about just how lousy a park "New Comiskey Park" is (Considering how "Old Comiskey was an awesome place to watch a game) and how the original plans could have been far different and better than the resulting facility.
New Comiskey is almost universally recognized as the last "new" ballpark (built in 1991, it is now 27 years old) that is terrible before Camden Yards came along and started a new era in how and what a baseball stadium is and looks like.
However, even though Camden Yards was the trendsetter in ballparks by HOK, the architects of both parks, I learned that HOK almost gave Camden Yards a look that was far more New Comiskey than an old-school ballpark, but the Orioles/Baltimore had a better field in mind.
Thank the lord for that.

SABR's Baseball Card Blog takes on an old mystery from 1969 on the baseball card of Wally Bunker.
Bunker, whose hat was airbrushed due to the expansion draft and Topps having to use old pictures after issues with the players association for the 1968 and 69 sets, is clearly at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, but the mystery is this- just what is the orange thing over Bunker's shoulder?
The author says it bothered him for years, but the great news is this- SABR members figured it out and solved it!
I'm not giving the answer away, but the answer is in the comments following the article.

SABR baseball gaming finishes this inbox with an article on realism in baseball board games and even a personal note as the author, Joe Pritchard, is a person that Ryan and I knew years ago and even played in the IFL for a while.
Joe writes of his baseball game background, including his time with MLB Showdown which I think is where Ryan met Joe in the first place.
I still get cards from that set signed to this day for Ryan, including Todd Pratt earlier this year.
Pratt was catching for the Mets on the cards and currently manages the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Marlins Low A affiliate.
Joe currently plays a game called History Maker baseball that has much customization than other baseball games.
Me? I'm still with ol' standby Strat O Matic, but I'm even thinking of giving Action baseball a try since I like their football and basketball games so much.
SOM makes you buy a brand new game every time you want to purchase the latest season, while Action doesn't, so I'm considering giving Action a try sometime, but not quitting SOM.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Over a week?

Yep, it's been over an entire week and that might be the longest break that I have ever taken from this little venture.

It didn't start that way, I assure you.
You get busy here and there and you squeeze some time away and before you know it gets out of control and you've been away for a while.
Sometimes and I know this might not be easy to understand. but you just aren't motivated or have much to say.
It's odd, but there are times that I have so much to write about, it feels like I'm going to burst without getting these thoughts onto "paper" and on occasion (and it is far fewer in number), there is just nothing that I care about in writing.

I've been watching the Cavaliers series with the Celtics and I'm planning a series recap of perhaps the greatest performance of a player to lift a team to a level that they have no business being, but that will wait another day or two.
However, even though I wanted to write about the games, I just wasn't feeling "it" last past week and I suppose that's why this is a labor of love and I've never felt the need to monetize this- I like having the freedom to come and go as I wish.
So, until the day someone wants my opinions and wants to pay me enough (Insert your snicker here) to make my mortgage payment, I like having the lack of scheduling structure to write when I want to.
I worked a lot in May to help pay for some of the fun things that I'll do in June, July and August that you'll read about here and that didn't help a lot in adding motivation to write either.

Enough about that and it's time to explain just why there is a picture of a 1965 Topps Orlando Cepeda on a post that features a return to action.
During the semi-unintentional hiatus, the lovely Cherie and I celebrated our 31st anniversary and we did so pretty quietly.
We had a nice dinner and I bought her what she wanted for her gift, which was solar lighting for the yard.
Solar lighting likely isn't the most romantic gift in the world, but I've always thought that gift giving isn't about what you want to give, it's about what the person receiving the gift wants.
That goes back to 1993 (I looked up the release date of the figure) and when a friend of mine and I went to Toys R Us to shop for Ryan a birthday present.
Ryan was six and he was huge into wrestlers then from both toy lines (WWF and WCW) and he had a few that he wanted most-silly gimmicky wrestlers like the Mountie, the Repo Man and the Berzerker.
Toys R Us had the Repo Man and Berzerker, so I talked to my friend about Ryan's "want list" and we each could buy one figure and Ryan's list would be filled!
One problem- he didn't want to buy one of these, he wanted to buy Ric Flair, who Ryan "had" through the WCW line and despite my protestations, he bought Flair anyway.
I bought Repo Man, Ryan never got the Berzerker (I wasn't loaded with cash then not that I am now!), which he jokes about to this day (send your Berzerker figures to "Wrestlers for Ryan" at...), Ryan called the new Flair "the Fake Ric Flair",although he still played with the figure and I learned a valuable lesson- gift giving isn't always about what you want to give, it's about what makes the gift recipient happy.

All this leads back to Orlando Cepeda and how he was added to the collection.
The 1965 set is my winter project when I don't have to worry about buying team sets and stuff for the graphing world as I do during the season.
I keep to only buying PSA's for the set and it's something of value that the kids can eventually do something with down the road.
I give myself a few restrictions to make it fun- I only buy "8's" unless it is a star card, where I will allow a "7" for the expense of the card and I do not allow exceeding the PSA value of the card unless I have something extra to supplement (Ebay bucks, gift cards etc).
It keeps it fun and adds an extra dimension to the project.

Cherie always feels bad because of a family thing that came up a few years back that I rolled their gifts into the set and then was changed.
I turned various gifts (I.E. Cash/Gift Cards) into Sandy Koufax (I added money to buy Koufax to allow going over budget) and I was planning to do something similar every year should that gift type continue with the next year being Willie Mays.
In any event, things changed and the replacement event was/is not the greatest in the world, although my grandmother still gives a few dollars (I always buy a common card for the set and notate that it came from her for Christmas whatever year), the better cards for more or less "free" days were gone.
"Gan" has bought for me: Al Weis, Davey Johnson (his rookie and I bought it for far under value) and the immortal Duke Carmel over the last three years for the set.
Cherie told me that because of that, she wanted me to buy a card for the set for my anniversary present and gave me a budget (I thought about adding money to buy Mays) and I shopped around mainly looking to add one of two players (other than Mays) either Orlando Cepeda or Dick (Don't call me Richie, even though Topps usually did) Allen.

Another side part of the set is trying to add players I liked first and some of these guys would have no reason to stand out to anyone other than me unless I told them why.
Only Ryan might know the reasons for some of the players already purchased (You can check out the set here) because no one knows my sports history like he does.
I was trying to keep things under budget, so that was going to make the decision between those two players and I managed to win a Cepeda for ten dollars under PSA value, so I was pleased to make this my anniversary present.
Thanks to Cherie for the thoughtfulness and for the wonderful anniversary as well!

I'll be back later tonight with another post as I continue to catch up!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Boxing Challenge: Stevenson draws with Jack, Russell tops Diaz

Sorry, this is late, but the PC is having issues that I think are related to the latest Windows update.
Hopefully, I have smoothed those out and will have no future issues, but it did cause me to lose the entire column on the Cavaliers game three thrashing of the Celtics.
Fingers crossed that this is not an issue that continues!

Kudos to Showtime for the three fight weekend from three cities, two countries, and two platforms.
I'll have more on Showtime below.

Adonis Stevenson looked to be the fearsome champion of old for six rounds and was far ahead on my card to retain his WBC light heavyweight title in Toronto.
When the bell rang to begin round seven, everything changed for the reluctant one and he would win just one more round against the challenge of Badou Jack.
That round was enough to salvage a 114-114 draw on my card and saved his title on the judges' scorecards as Stevenson kept his championship with a majority draw.
Two judges saw it as I did with another scoring 115-113 for Jack.
It was a good enough fight, but nothing that I have to see again soon.
Stevenson was badly staggered by Jack in the 12th round, looked every one of his forty years of age and might be the sports most vulnerable champion as contenders elbow their promoters for a shot at the aging Haitian expatriate.
Jack would love a second shot, I'm sure, but the WBC allowed this fight as long as the winner agreed to fight Oleksandr Gvozdyk next.
Stevenson's track record shows that he is likely to put that fight off as long as possible and the WBC has given him more breaks than any fighter that I can remember in years, so I'm not sure that fight happens next, but it should as the WBC should order that fight or mandate that Stevenson vacate the title.
Badou Jack now owns two draws in his two biggest fights ( He drew with James DeGale in a super middleweight unification contest in 2017) and really can only blame himself.
Jack gives away far too many early rounds and makes a late charge to get back into the fight only to be at the mercy of the judges in hairline fights.
It's easy to say that Jack needs to start faster, but perhaps he simply cannot.

Meanwhile, in beautiful Oxon Hill, Maryland (and I really need to hit one of these cards sometime), Gary Russell made one of his yearly appearances and for six rounds was in a dogfight with mandatory contender Joseph Diaz.
The problem with that was that title fights are twelve rounds and Russell kicked the fight into a gear that Diaz wasn't capable of keeping up with over the second half of the fight to win a unanimous decision to keep his WBC featherweight strap.
Diaz did exactly what Badou Jack in the half of the fight-he simply didn't throw enough punches to keep Russell honest and for some reason after investing lots of bodywork in the first half of the bout didn't follow up over the second half.
I thought this is how this fight would play out and as someone that has always thought the world of Gary Russell the fighter and yet next to nothing of Gary Russell's management, I hope to see Russell back in the ring before the end of the year and against good competition too.
Gary Russell deserves better, he simply needs to step up and fight for it- outside the ring as well as inside.

The afternoon fight from Leeds, England saw Josh Warrington surprise Lee Selby with a split decision win to take Selby's IBF featherweight title and attempt to place himself in the bigger picture at 126 pounds.
Selby was never able to accomplish that throughout his title reign, so we'll have to see if Warrington can pull that off, but on this night, Warrington should have won a unanimous decision as the 115-113 Selby card was ridiculous.
Warrington has one of suffocating styles that smothers others (like that?) but is never going to bother anyone with his pop (6 KO's in his 27 wins) and against the elite of the division I would be dubious of his chances, but one thing is clear-If Warrington gets that shot against the top names- they better be ready to fend him off for twelve rounds.

A few words on Showtime, if you please ( An nod to Gordon Solie there) and their growing dominance in televising boxing.
Putting aside their connection with Al Haymon's PBC, which is often more than tentative about putting their best against the best), Showtime consistently is making solid fights, if not fights that make the world stop on a dime and have made themselves the network that I have always hoped to see in televised boxing.

Showtime is making bouts happen more than any other network and keeping boxing fans active and eyes on their product that not only helps the sport but the network as well.
Not every bout has to have championship connotations and I would like to see some fighters against better competition (most notably the Charlo's), but it's tough to argue against an active network that brings boxing to fans multiple times a month in at least interesting fights.

Showtime also offers the fairest broadcast set in the fight game as well and I was struck by this watching the Gary Russell-Joseph Diaz bout last night.
The easy way to cover this was to shower Russell, a Showtime/PBC fighter, with praise while discussing Diaz, a Golden Boy Promotions, and non-Showtime fighter, with some distance as Showtime would not gain anything from a Diaz victory.
Instead, their three-man crew of Mauro Ranallo, Al Bernstein, and Paulie Malignaggi called it straight, gave both fighters their due with what happened in the ring with no consideration for their connections outside of the ring.
This would be a layup to say that is the way all events should be called, but it isn't the case.
ESPN is somewhat of an offender with Timothy Bradley, who is quite friendly with many of Top Rank's stars outside the ring, and Mark Kriegel, who is from a writing background and calls fights with a wish for a storyline and not what is actually happening in the ring.
The opposite of what Showtime does with their commentators is HBO, who has the solid Jim Lampley, but employs Max Kellerman and Roy Jones (and occasionally Andre Ward), who enter the fight with a narrative, rarely deviate from said narrative and definitely choose a side more often than not.

I've been critical on occasion of Mauro Ranallo for often generating artificial excitement when it is not needed, but I think it's his legitimate if somewhat misguided enthusiasm for the sport that causes this and I cannot knock that.
Al Bernstein has been a favorite of mine for years and even though I wasn't always a fan of Paulie Malignaggi in the ring as a fighter, I think as a commentator, Malignaggi brings up points from the fighters perspective that aren't always about his career as is often the case with the aforementioned Roy Jones.
Showtime's announcers are the fairest in the game and from the viewer's standpoint, that's all boxing fans can ask for from the new leader in boxing television.

In the boxing challenge, I scored two points to Ramon Malpica's one.
I added two points from Gary Russell's win with Ramon scoring one.
No points were scored from the Stevenson-Jack draw and both of us selected Lee Selby to defeat Josh Warrington.
I now lead the challenge 90-71.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Boxing Challenge

It's a three-fight weekend in the boxing challenge brought to you by Showtime from three different sites and two different platforms with three world titles on the line.

The most publicized bout takes place in Toronto as WBC (and linear) light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson makes a rare appearance as he defends his title against former WBC super middleweight champion Badou Jack, who vacated his title in order to rise in weight and shoot for Stevenson's championship.

Stevenson, who has managed to take an exciting career with lots of anticipated fights by the followers of the game and turned it into a punchline with inactivity, dodging top contenders and fighting a parade of no-hopers following his first two defenses (against then-undefeated Tavoris Cloud and future cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew) is finally stepping up the competition with Jack, who is on a solid run of victories against good competition with wins over Anthony Dirrell, George Groves (a split decision win that looks better with Groves run through the World Boxing Super Series), Lucien Bute and a draw with James DeGale before a win over Nathan Cleverly in his first bout at 175.
I would be very tempted to pick Jack here, but I keep coming back to Jack's only loss on ShoBox to journeyman Derek Edwards, who hit Jack with a looping right hand in round one that essentially ended the fight.
The only thing that Adonis Stevenson really does well is punch with knockout possibility with every attempt and his best punch?
A looping right hand and that is what makes this fight so interesting.

Showtime also travels to beautiful Oxon Hill, Maryland (Why don't I ever get invites to these bouts?) with the very talented Gary Russell placing his WBC featherweight title against mandatory contender Joseph Diaz.
When people try to tell you that titles do not matter, refer them to situations such as these where Russell promoted by PBC and televised by Showtime has to defend against Diaz promoted by Golden Boy and has appeared on HBO- this fight never happens without the WBC.
Sanctioning bodies do a lot to screw up our sport, but they are able to make a lot of fights that wouldn't be made without them.
I'm a big fan of Gary Russell the fighter- Russell is fast, punches well and has boxing skills, but unfortunately he has been mismanaged in such a way that I wonder if his management thinks as much of Russell's ability as I do as Russell is 1-1 against top ten fighters in his career and has made just two defenses of his title in a three year reign-both against fighters that had next to no chance of defeating him.
Diaz hasn't impressed me as a potential world champion but strikes me more as a solid top ten contender that does nothing exceedingly well but doesn't have a lot of weaknesses either with the exception of not being a huge hitter.
Diaz is the anti-Russell, where he has stayed active, defeating good, but not great opposition in the meantime and just worked harder.
If Russell fights his fight, he likely wins this going away, but if his inactivity and lack of facing good opponents causes him any type of struggles at all- I can see Diaz outworking Russell and pulling the upset.

Showtime starts the day with a live stream on their YouTube and Facebook pages of the IBF featherweight title fight as Lee Selby defends against Josh Warrington in an all-UK battle from Leeds, England.
Selby will be making the fifth defense of his title, but his resume' lacks anything resembling a big fight victory.
The undefeated, yet light-hitting (six KO's in twenty-six wins) Warrington brings a nice payday and lots of local interest, but will not likely improve the marketability elsewhere for Selby as he attempts to unify titles or make bigger fights.
Warrington is a live dog in this fight, but one would have to make Selby the favorite in this one.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 88-70 to this date.

WBC Light Heavyweight Title.12 Rds
Adonis Stevenson vs Badou Jack
R.L: Jack Unanimous Decision
TRS: Stevenson KO 8

WBC Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Gary Russell vs Joseph Diaz
R.L: Russell KO 4
TRS: Russell Unanimous Decision

IBF Featherweight Title.12 Rds
Lee Selby vs Josh Warrington
Both: Selby Unanimous Decision

Friday, May 18, 2018

Browns trade Jamar Taylor

The John Dorsey-led revamp of the Cleveland Browns secondary continued as the Browns traded veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor to the Arizona Cardinals for a 2020 6th round draft pick.

The Browns had actively shopped Taylor at the draft in hopes of trading him before they would release him in June before the new cap season and apparently the sixth-rounder two years down the road was the best they could receive for the soon to be 28-year-old cornerback.

Taylor was acquired from Miami before the 2016 season and started for the Browns at corner in both seasons that he spent in Cleveland after being a disappointment in his three seasons in Miami after being drafted from Boise State.
Taylor played well for the Browns in his first season with three interceptions and earned a new contract which runs through the 2019 season, but his play took a step back last season and when John Dorsey began to make several moves to improve the secondary, it became clear that Taylor wasn't going to be part of that process.

With the trade of Taylor, the Browns will enter training camp having traded both of their starting corners from 2017 (Jason McCourty was traded earlier) and means that the Browns will have three new starters in the secondary for the upcoming season with only Jabrill Peppers returning as a secondary starter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cleaning out the inbox-Non-Sports Edition

Photo Credit: WTNH
The cleaning continues with an all non-sports edition and the longest waiting email in the inbox finally get released.

The Cheshire Herald writes about Amy Hudak returning to her home area in New Haven, Connecticut in an article from February.
Yes, this article has been in the inbox since February 26th and that must be a record for longest amount of time in the inbox.
Hudak was a favorite of mine from her local tenure at then-WHAG and you could see pretty quickly that she was talented enough to move onto larger markets.
When someone stands out at the Hagerstown level, they won't be sticking around long and Hudak didn't as she worked in Rochester, New York before New Haven.
There have been a few through the years that stood out there as the only station in the area, but the station has struggled on almost all points since losing their NBC affiliation in 2016 including attracting young talent.

The best show that it seems that few are watching is NBC's Timeless, which seems to be placed in a day/time slot that doesn't suit it (Sunday's at 10).
Timeless has been saved once by a small hardcore fanbase and that might have to happen again for a third season.
Variety pens one article on Timeless here and Parade's interview with the brilliant star of the series Abigail Spencer discusses the show, her character Lucy and where the show might be going.

For those of you that use Gmail as I do, look for a redesign that will be introduced soon.
Techcrunch writes of the rumored changes and what it might look like for the updated mail service here.

13th Dimension salutes the brilliance of Frank Gorshin, the original Riddler on the Batman TV series.
The late Mr. Gorshin, who passed away in 2005, was the first Riddler, but not the only one as John Astin attempted the role before Gorshin would later return.
13 thoughts on the character and Gorshin makes you look back at just how tremendous he was in his episodes...

13th Dimension also discusses those wonderful MEGO toys from my childhood as well and has pictures of some of the line of the World's Greatest Super Heroes rarest items.
It's fun to look back at the prices of the day and some of the Sears and Penney's catalog displays too.

And one final note from the 13th Dimension as they have a multi-part interview series with Marv Wolfman, who in this segment discusses his role in the creation of Nightwing.
Nightwing was the more grown-up alter-ego of "Dick Grayson", who was the former Robin in the DC Comics, although who knows now with the several revamps in comic history through the last decade or so, if Grayson still is Nightwing, Robin or who knows who else.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Cleaning out the inbox- Women's sports edition.

With so much cleaning that still needs to be worked on, I had enough for our first ever all women's sports edition- That shows just how much I had built up!

I was tired after a long day, so once the first half of the Cavaliers loss was over, I fell asleep, so no coverage of a game that the coverage wouldn't have been fun to write or read anyway!
Not going to win many games shooting 36 percent from the floor.
Game two from Boston Tuesday.

We start with Lisa Kerney's announcement to part ways with ESPN.
Kerney, who is married to a favorite of mine in his playing days in former Seahawks and Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney, was a favorite of mine when she worked the late shift Sportscenter a few years ago when I actually watched Sportscenter!
Kerney hosted ESPN's Fantasy Football show last year on Sunday's, so she'll be missed there.
ESPN just makes me shake my head at times with their personnel decisions.
I'm bad luck with ESPN because if I like someone's work, they usually don't have long in their tenure.
I'm sure someone will scoop up Kerney in short order as soon as she would be available.

I wrote earlier this year about the run of Ashland University's women's basketball program, which ended in their loss in the national title game.
Their 2016-17 national title and 73 wins in a row will attract attention from other schools and they will come calling in for your coach and sure enough, Bowling Green hired the Eagles (and my favorite coach) Robyn Fralick to a six-year contract.
Fralick went 104-3 in three years at Ashland and the trip to Bowling Green isn't a long one in distance, but the jump to Division I will be a bigger one.
Fralick's Ashland teams were really fun to watch and I watched a few of their games on Sports Time Ohio.
They played a fast-paced style and Fralick will attempt to turn Bowling Green into a similar run and gun program and she'll have her work cut out for her at BG, who went 38-81 over the last four years.
I'm quite a Robyn Fralick fan and I'll be paying attention to her and her new nest at Bowling Green
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer talks about Fralick and Ashland basketball here and writes about Fralick, Ashland, Bowling Green and her replacement at AU in former Eagle Kari Pickens.

I've written about Jessica Korda on the LPGA tour in the past as well, but Korda had a severe jaw surgery over the winter that left her with 27 screws still in her face.
What also happened as part of that reconstruction is a marked difference in her appearance and a resurgence in her play on tour.
Korda has won already this season and has four top ten's in the short season thus far.
Korda discusses the new look, her game and the surgery with Golf Channel here and makes a hilarious podcast appearance on Golf.Com with her sister Nelly here.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Boxing Challenge:Lomachenko stops Linares!

In what was a technical yet exciting fight, Vasyl Lomachenko finally found an opponent that could stand to up him in WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares, who gave as good as he took for nine rounds and even knocked Lomachenko down for the first time in his career in round six.

However, Lomachenko took firm command in the tenth round and smashed a crushing uppercut to send Linares to the ropes as a preview of what was yet to come.
A combination finished with a savage left-handed body shot sent Linares to the floor and even though the proud Linares rose, referee Ricky Gonzalez had seen enough and ended the fight.
After nine rounds, the judges were split with one judge each having one fighter ahead with the third scoring the bout a draw.
I had the score even at 85-85 with Lomachenko ahead in rounds 5-4, but Linares gaining the point back with the sixth round knockdown.

The fight was close and well fought, but I see no need for a rematch as Lomachenko was coming on strong, cutting Linares and I just don't see a rematch going any differently other than Lomachenko perhaps dominating sooner.
Give Top Rank and Golden Boy credit for working together to put this into the ring and off the negotiating table, but I have no need to see this again, at least for a while.
Lomachenko said after the fight he will be keeping his newly won belt, vacating his WBO junior lightweight title and likely to next fight WBO lightweight champ Ray Beltran, who is promoted by Top Rank as is Lomachenko.
By the end of the summer, we should have just two lightweight champions as Lomachenko-Beltran will be one unification with PBC promoting a WBC-IBF unification between Mikey Garcia and Robert Easter.
The big question is this- can a unification bout be pulled off between the winners (Lomachenko and Garcia will be heavily favored) and who would televise it?
Lomachenko and Garcia would be an even more anticipated battle than Lomachenko-Linares if it can be made.
The promoters may have their issues, but even bigger in making that fight is Garcia, who has a track record of dodging the biggest fights for lesser opponents with the lame excuse "bigger and better fights".
No one would have considered Garcia's fight vs Sergey Lipinets to be a bigger fight than a Linares bout that the WBC mandated, yet still, Garcia slid by with a lesser bout than almost everyone wanted.
Mikey Garcia, not Bob Arum or Al Haymon might be the biggest obstacle to getting one of the best fights in the game in the ring.

In Verona, New York. a star was born as undefeated and formerly untested Jaime Munguia blew away Sadam Ali in just four rounds to win Ali's WBO junior middleweight title.
Ali, a small junior middle, to begin with, looked downright tiny standing next to Munguia and was bounced around the ring to the tune of four knockdowns and a fifth that could have been called before the merciful end to the bout was called.
Munguia looks to be a star in the making as he stalked Ali from the opening bell and punished him badly.
We'll see what he does against true 154 pounders, but Jermell Charlo (WBC) and Jarrett Hurd (WBA/IBF) have been put on notice- there is a new sheriff in town and he punches like a mule kicks.
As for Ali, the beating that I saw him take didn't remind me of a fight that actually happened, it made me think of one from film-Ivan Drago vs Apollo Creed.
Every punch sent Ali careening around the ring and even as far at the end of the first, a case could have been made for ending this one.
Beatings like this one have been known to ruin careers and we'll see if Ali is able to regroup at welterweight, his natural class.

In the co-feature on HBO (boy are they getting mediocre fights or what?) Rey Vargas retained his WBC junior featherweight title via unanimous decision over Azat Hovannysian.
Hovannysian attacked throughout and made it entertaining, but the classy Vargas carried the day as I had Vargas a 117-111 winner.

In England, Hughie Fury knocked out Sam Sexton in the fifth round to win the British heavyweight title.
Haven't seen this fight as of this writing...

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica seven points to three on the weekend to stretch my lead to 88-70.

I earned two points each from wins by Vasyl Lomachenko, Rey Vargas and Jaime Munguia with one from Hughie Fury.
Ramon added one point each from the Lomachenko, Vargas, and Fury wins.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Cleveland Browns Draft ReDraft??

  Now that I have a few weeks in hindsight and some time to logically look at things, I want to do things a little different with this review.

I've been making a draft DVD for a friend of mine and I've been reviewing things as they progressed.
Yes, I still was steamed at the antics of Baker Mayfield and still think that this might be a bust that makes the selections of Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and Johnny Manziel look like the 1983 draft, but he's here now and I hope he does well because if he doesn't John Dorsey better be damn near perfect otherwise in his rebuild or this will be the Dorsey epitaph for his career in Cleveland.

However, I looked at the players that the Browns selected as the draft occurred here and I'm not going to do much of this here.
What I will do is to place for posterity so no one can claim otherwise, what I would have done with the Browns final draft bounty as they have the same picks as everyone for the 2019 draft.
So don't call it a review, let's call it a redraft.

Round 1
Browns Pick: Baker Mayfield QB Oklahoma
TRS: Sam Darnold QB USC

Simply put, the Browns selected a small and not overly fast quarterback because of the most elaborate con job seen in the league in years.
I see all the points for Mayfield and I'll counter with a not overly strong arm in a division that he'll play in wind and cold often, small (watch to see if he struggles to find passing lanes against the pass rush) and not especially fast (as noted) against the elite athletes in the NFL combined with an arrogance that won't wear well in Cleveland, should he not play well.
Sam Darnold is the safer pick, the more suited for the league with size and athleticism and would have been the better fit for the weather, the city, and the organization.
Mayfield vs Darnold will be the decision that fans will be talking about for years

Round 1
Browns Pick: Denzel Ward CB Ohio State.
TRS: Bradley Chubb DE N.C. State.

This one is one that I am fine with either way.
The Browns selected the best cornerback in the draft rather than the best pass rusher and that's a matter of preference.
I would have rather seen Chubb and Myles Garrett not allowing offensive lines to double team both and quarterbacks falling apart under their wrath, but the Browns also needed a shutdown corner as well and Ward suits that bill.
This pick really was one of crab vs lobster- They are both good eating, which one are you in the mood for?
I'm fine with Denzel Ward.

Round 2
Browns Pick: Austin Corbett G-T Nevada
TRS Pick: Connor Williams G-T Texas.

I preferred Connor Williams here because without his injury in 2017 at Texas, he would have been the first lineman off the board and at minimum a top 15 pick.
That said, if Corbett can play tackle, this is a solid pick,
The Browns needed a left tackle, they took steps to get one.
I preferred Williams, but Corbett is more than a solid lineman.

Round 2
Browns Pick: Nick Chubb RB Georgia
TRS: Derrius Guice RB LSU

I didn't have a problem with Nick Chubb here either.
I had Guice, Chubb and USC's Ronald Jones all ranked roughly the same and I leaned toward Guice because he's a different type of back than Carlos Hyde and I thought some different looks would be a good thing among Cleveland's backs.
Chubb is very similar to Hyde and the Browns must have wanted backs that could slide into the same slot and be used in the same manner.
I'm not going to hit them on that, just a different manner of building a team.

Round 3
Browns Pick: Chad Thomas DE Miami.FL.
TRS: Sam Hubbard DE Ohio State

After a drop of a few picks in a trade with the Colts, this pick was the one that I really shook my head at as I thought Chad Thomas was a fifth-round pick and Sam Hubbard was at least a second rounder.
Hubbard was a high energy player with the size to be a 4-3 end.
Thomas was just another guy at Miami and is a project pick.
Projects do work out sometimes, so I'm open to this working out, but the safer pick and the one that would help sooner was Sam Hubbard.

Round 4
Browns Pick; Antonio Callaway WR Florida
TRS: Antonio Callaway WR Florida

The Browns traded up for the oft-troubled Callaway and despite my dislike for players with baggage, I was OK with this.
In a down draft for pass catchers, had Callaway not had those issues, he might have been the first wideout taken.
But he does have those issues and on a team with Josh Gordon and now Baker Mayfield, the Browns are suddenly an incubator for possible locker room lawyers.
However, at the cost and the fact that Antonio Brown, who kills the Browns every year, thinks enough of Callaway to work with him all offseason, makes me think that maybe this will work out.
I'll believe in Antonio Brown and think Callaway was worth the risk-on a short leash that is.
If you gamble-gamble on greatness.

Round 5
Browns Pick: Genard Avery LB Memphis
TRS: Genard Avery LB Memphis.

As much as I hated Chad Thomas over Sam Hubbard-I loved this pick!
In fact, I had Avery rated higher than Thomas so this could be a steal.
Avery hits hard, hustles all over the field and will be a special teams demon.
IMO- Avery will make Christian Kirksey dispensible and could push him out the door in 2019, considering the ridiculous extension, Kirksey was signed to by Sashi Brown.

Round 6
Browns Pick: Damion Ratley WR Texas A&M
TRS: Deon Cain WR Clemson

Ratley is a tools guy with big size and speed, but little production to the point of not being invited to the combine.
Ratley does have deep speed for a QB that could struggle throwing the deep ball, so he's a lottery ticket.
Cain has similar tools with far more production in working with an NFL passer in DeShaun Watson.
We're in round six, but Cain was the better bet even considering the late spot.

Round 6
Browns Pick: Simeon Thomas CB Louisiana-Lafayette
TRS: Safe: Will Clapp C LSU or Lottery: Jordan Mailata Australia

For a team that wants to "change the culture", a nice catch phrase that everyone uses when rebuilding in any sport, the Browns sure took some questionable characters guys between Mayfield, Callaway and Simeon Thomas here in round six.
Thomas had issues with academics and an off-season theft issue with teammates and despite excellent size, I would have gone elsewhere.
It's late in the draft and there were several guys that could have been drafted by me-WR's Stephen Dunbar of Houston or Cedric Wilson, RB Bo Scarborough of Alabama or Temple defensive tackle Julian Taylor.
However, LSU center Will Clapp can play center or guard and might be a lineman with a chance to have a long career and if you love the lottery ticket, why not the massive Australian rugby star Jordan Mailata, who is a developmental project that might take time, but physically looks the part of an offensive tackle to a T.
Remember if you gamble- gamble on greatness, not gambles on "meh".

It takes time (at least three years) to judge a draft, so I'm not going to try.
I wanted to look at the draft in real time before these players hit the field and take my swings at the selections.
It all comes down to Baker Mayfield- if the Browns are right, the rebuild truly has begun and things will get brighter in Cleveland.
If I'm correct, you thought things were dark before, this might be the tip of the iceberg...

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge this weekend gives boxing fans a huge gift in one of the best fights that the game has to offer as WBA lightweight champion (and WBC champion in waiting) Jorge Linares defends his title against WBO junior lightweight champion and our top-rated fighter pound for pound Vasyl Lomachenko at Madison Square Garden.

This battle between our top-rated fighters at two weight divisions took some making with two promoters involved, but in the end, ESPN did some time slot maneuvers to allow this fight to take place.
It truly matches two of the best fighters in the world and with the exception of Mikey Garcia (TRS 2), the winner will clearly have the claim for the best lightweight in the world.
Linares certainly has the talent and power to give Lomachenko his toughest fight since his only loss (a very controversial one) to Orlando Salido, but Linares can be hit and he cuts very easily.
Lomachenko continues to move up after starting his career at featherweight and for all of his extremely talented skills, sooner or later he will hit the wall where he changes over from great to very good (think Roman Gonzalez for an example).
I don't think this will happen this time, but with the best opponent he has ever faced and at a weight that he hasn't fought at before, Lomachenko will be tested.
This should be one worth seeing and with an eight o'clock start for the card, you should be able to catch it live  (Fred Landucci will be DVRing it with his graphing the craziness in Harrisburg tonight).

The reason it is starting at eight EST?
Linares' promoter Golden Boy has an HBO card and didn't want to have one of their fighters on one network against their offering on another.
The main event there shows WBO junior middleweight champion Sadam Ali (TRS 4) making his first defense against Jaime Munguia.
Ali upset Miguel Cotto to win the belt in his last fight and was scheduled to face mandatory contender Liam Smith tonight before Smith fell out with an illness.
Late substitute Munguia is undefeated with what looks to be huge power (28-0 24 KO) but has faced anyone of note, let alone someone of world title caliber.
The interesting part of this fight is that Ali is a true 147 pounder, not a junior middle and was knocked out in his only loss by Jessie Vargas, who is not a huge puncher and Munguia, although untested, appears to be a big hitter and fears no one.
How do I know that? Munguia was going to be the person that fought Gennady Golovkin before he was not sanctioned for the fight having the limited record and never having fought at middleweight, yet still wanted the fight.
If you don't fear Gennady Golovkin, you are either extremely confident in your talent or very deluded.

Rey Vargas (TRS #2) defends his WBC junior featherweight title against Azat Hovannisyan in the HBO opener.
Vargas has looked strong of late in moving up the 122-pound ladder, but Hovannisyan walked right through the respected Ronny Rios in his last fight stopping him in six after Vargas had decisioned Rios in their fight a few months before and could be a live dog in this fight.
This could be a very interesting fight.

I added one more fight to the challenge that you might have to find on YouTube without American TV as former world title challenger Hughie Fury returns after his decision loss to Joseph Parker to challenge for the British heavyweight title against Sam Sexton.
Sexton is on a nine-fight winning streak including an upset win last time out over undefeated Gary Cornish who entered the fight at 24-0, but six of those nine wins were over fighters with losing records including this gem over Tomas Mrazek who is 10-51-6!
That's right- 51 losses and he still is sanctioned to fight?
The Sexton-Fury bout is in Bolton.England.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 81-67.

WBA Lightweight Title 12 Rds
Jorge Linares vs Vasyl Lomachenko
R.L: Lomachenko Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lomachenko TKO 8

WBO Junior Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Sadam Ali vs Jaime Munguia
R.L: Ali Unanimous Decision
TRS: Munguia KO 9

WBC Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Rey Vargas vs Azat Hovannisyan
R.L: Vargas KO 8
TRS: Vargas Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Sam Sexton vs Hughie Fury
Both: Fury Unanimous Decision

Friday, May 11, 2018

May Minor League System Update!

As we near mid-May, I promised an occasional update on my minor leaguers that I drafted.
I'll also add the players that I drafted before this past draft after my picks as well.

2018-# 1
Luis Robert OF Chicago White Sox- missed time with a wrist injury, playing in Arizona, expected to start at High A Winston-Salem soon.

2018 #2
Heliot Ramos OF San Francisco-  .212 3 HR 10 RBI at Low A Augusta.
Has struggled overall, but has had two really strong weeks.
The problem is what he has done otherwise.

2018 #3
Jesus Luzardo P Oakland 2-1 in 3 starts 1.23 ERA 25 K's in 14.2 innings at High A Stockton
                                          1-0 in 3 starts 3.00 ERA 19 K's in 15 innings at AA Midland.
Looking like the pitching steal of the draft in the first month in a half.
Luzardo looked to moved aggressively starting at High A after never being above short season.
Was so dominant that he was quickly promoted to AA Midland.
Hitters hit just .120 against him in High A and only .218 at AA.

2018 #4
Adrian Morejon P San Diego 1-3 in 6 starts 3.68 ERA 30 K's in 29.1 innings at High A Lake Elsinore
Morejon at 19 was aggressively moved and is holding his own if not excelling.
Hitters are only hitting .231 against him, so the numbers aren't bad, just pales next to Luzardo...

2018 #5
Jhailyn Ortiz OF Philadelphia .158 1 HR 5 RBI in 57 at bats at Low A Lakewood-
Ortiz was striking out as I expected (25 whiffs in 57 at-bats) before being injured and placed on the DL after diving for a ball here at the beautiful Muni and its lovely outfield surface.
Not sure how much time he'll miss, but should he miss another month, it'll be interesting to see if he's returned to short-season Williamsport (Where he tore up the NY-Penn League in 2017) to gain some confidence or back to Lakewood.

2018 #5A
William Contreras C Atlanta .232 2 HR 4 RBI in 56 at bats at Low A Rome
Contreras just arrived in Rome two weeks ago after a spring training injury.
Small sample, but have to like the two homers early.

The rest of my system as follows- If a draft pick number appears to be out of order, I either released that player, traded him or lost him in the expansion draft

2017 #1
Eloy Jimenez OF Chicago White Sox .341 7 HR 24 RBI in 85 at bats at AA Birmingham.
Jimenez won't be in Birmingham much longer, the question is this-is he headed for AAA Charlotte or the big club in Chicago.
Jimenez has posted an OPS of 1.064 and looks to be the massive bat among many on a White Sox team that could be a contender for a while in a few years.

2017 #2
Juan Soto OF Washington  .373 5 HR 24 RBI in 59 at bats at Low A Hagerstown
                                            .371 7 HR 18 RBI in 62 at bats at High A Potomac
                                            .400 1 HR   4 RBI in 5 at bats at AA Harrisburg
As terrific as Jimenez has been and he has done it at a higher level, Juan Soto is just crushing the ball.
Was likely started softly in Low A Hagerstown, but at only 19, looked like a major leaguer in the SAL- the old line of a man among boys applies and the Carolina League looked to be a better challenge.
Soto only jacked things up there to far exceed those expectations to the point of having to be moved to AA, where he only homered on his first night there.
Soto notched a combined OPS of 1,275 between Hagerstown and Potomac.
The parent club may very well consider letting Bryce Harper walk if his asking price is too high in the off-season or decide to give him what he wants and combine Harper with Soto for the next few years.
If that happens-Watch out...

2017 #4
Tristan McKenzie P Cleveland
McKenzie is still in Arizona with forearm soreness.
They supposedly aren't serious and he is expected to debut soon.
His 2017 numbers would have made him a lock to start at AA Akron, he might make a start or two back at High A Lynchburg before moving up.

2016 # 3
Brady Aiken P Cleveland
Aiken is also in Arizona, but after a bad 2018 might be running out of chances.
Haven't heard anything about an assignment soon

2016 #4
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B Toronto .396 5 HR 36 RBI at AA New Hampshire
Yep, 396 for a 19-year-old in AA and only 12 strikeouts? Unreal and an OPS over 1,100!
The question here again as with Eloy Jimenez, does Vlad Jr go to AAA Buffalo or straight to Toronto?
I drafted Guerrero before he had ever played a pro game, so high reward here!
Yes, I could have a lineup of draftees of Jimenez, Soto, and Guerrero- And that's before we see how Luis Robert plays.

2016 #5
Phil Bickford P Milwaukee
Bickford missed time last year with a drug suspension (Marijuana) and a broken hand and hasn't pitched this season despite not being listed on anyone's DL.
It's too bad that he might be tossing a career away because when he sees the mound, he gets batters out- Like Aiken, I'm running out of patience.

2016 #6
Justus Sheffield P New York Yankees 1-2 in 5 starts 2.25 ERA 39 K's in 28 innings at AA Trenton
                                                              0-1 in 4.2 innings in only start at AAA Scranton
Sheffield was solid, but unspectacular in 2017 in Trenton, but it still was a surprise when he was returned there.
Sheffield didn't pout, pitched very well and earned his AAA promotion.

Pre-2016 Draftees

Christian Arroyo 3B Tampa Bay .212 1 HR 8 RBI in 53 at bats at AAA Durham.
Arroyo has struggled in his 1st season in the Rays organization, Still just 22 (23 later in the month), but his struggles might make him a cut for me at season's end.

Austin Meadows OF Pittsburgh .276 1 HR 10 RBI in 98 at bats at AAA Indianapolis.
Meadows bat has been pretty average in his AAA tenure (parts of three seasons) and has had trouble staying healthy.
I would like to see what he would do with an injury-free year, but that hasn't happened yet- Starting to get a little concerned.

Tyler Beede P San Francisco 1-3 in 5 starts 5.63 ERA 26 K's in 24 innings at AAA Sacramento
                                                0-1 in 2 starts 8.22 ERA in 7.2 innings for San Francisco
Beede looks to have had his chance and didn't take advantage of it-Barring a strong turnaround, Beede could be finished with me and maybe even the Giants.

Grant Holmes P Oakland
Holmes suffered a rotator cuff injury in spring training and may miss the season.
Holmes will likely be released by me before the next draft.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cleaning out the inbox

The inbox cleaning continues with a few notes that accumulated over the last month plus and we try to catch up.

The SWC Roundup is doing a weekly series called "Know Your Program" and started with the Houston Cougars.
The series will eventually cover every division I football program in Texas and is a great history for fans of a particular program to reflect on or even learn about a program's past for a new fan.
When it comes to the Cougars, I'm a little bit of both, so there were lots of new things that I learned from the article.
It includes all sorts of facts and stories and the Roundup's picks for the program's "Mount Rushmore".
I'm sure I'll have the Texas Tech version for a future "inbox" when the Red Raiders are added to the series. has an oral history of the original USFL Arizona Wranglers, which is the 1983 version and not the 1984 team that went to the USFL championship game.
The author talks to players, coaches and front office members and covers the team's origin, training camp and various memories of the season- on and off the field.
It's always interesting to read oral histories as they read like you are just sitting down and are having a conversation with a bunch of people talking about the subject, especially on defunct leagues which makes you want to kick back and enjoy the war stories.

The Athletic does a where are they now feature on former Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky, who was the Boise passer that led the Broncos to that well-remembered Fiesta Bowl win over Adrian Peterson and the Oklahoma Sooners.
Zabransky talks about his EA sports cover on NCAA Football (I miss that game!), what he is up to today and of course the Fiesta Bowl.

Another where are they now page comes from the San Antonio Express-News on former Loyola Chicago gunner Alfredrick Hughes, who Spurs fans call the biggest bust in Spurs history, who was the 14th pick in the 1985 draft.
San Antonio picked Hughes over Karl Malone, Joe Dumars, Terry Porter and A.C Green.
Hughes was back in the news when Loyola-Chicago made the final four as the most recent star for the Ramblers in the 80's, so his one year in Texas averaging five points a game brought back some old scars for Spurs fans.

The Cincinnati Enquirer notes the new head coach at Western Carolina is now Mark Prosser, son of former Xavier and Wake Forest coach the late Skip Prosser.
I've written before about being such a fan of Skip Prosser and I'm sure I'll be a fan of Mark Prosser's teams as well.
The Catamounts went 13-19 last season in the Southern Conference under then-coach Larry Hunter, who passed away last week following a stroke.

During the tournament. I found an old story from Staten Island's local newspaper about the loss that Mike Krzyzewski still stews about and it's not from an NCAA tournament, ACC tournament or an old loss to North Carolina or Maryland.
It goes back to Coach K's third season at Duke, when the Bill Foster recruits like Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard that had kept the Blue Devils respectable in the first year of his reign had left, his second team finished 11-17 and his first big recruiting class (Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie and a guy you might have seen on television named Jay Bilas) were all freshmen.
That bunch would take Duke to the NCAA Finals in four years, but on this January 1983 night, it was Duke losing to Wagner 84-77 AT Cameron Indoor Stadium!!
It gets worse the more that you read.
Wagner entered that game off a FIFTY point loss to UNLV and rolled into Durham with a record of 2-7!
You would think that Wagner's win revitalized their season, but you would be wrong as the Seahawks finished the season at 10-18 with Krzyzewski's squad ending the season with another record of  11-17.
Wagner wouldn't be remembered for anything for a while until it graduated Ian McArdle over thirty years later.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Rolling into ?-Cavaliers polish off Raptors

The Cleveland Cavaliers outscored the listless Toronto Raptors by twelve points in both the second and third quarters to waltz to a 128-93 win in the fourth game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals to clinch the series four games to zero.
LeBron James scored 29 points and Kevin Love added 23 more to lead all five of the Cleveland starters in double-figure scoring on the game.

Cleveland will have at least four days off with the Philadelphia win over Boston pushing that series to at least five games, so until that series reaches its end, it is unknown when game one of the Eastern finals will be played, although the series will begin at either Boston or Philadelphia.


1) The Cavaliers shot 59 percent for the game, which tied an all-time team mark for best percentage in the playoffs and most teams aren't going to lose many games when they shoot that well, especially one with LeBron James.

2) What I really loved (no pun intended) from this series was the sudden return to form of Kevin Love to the player that was so dynamic in Minnesota and was of such value that the Cavaliers felt that Andrew Wiggins and his talent and potential were more than a fair return.
This Kevin Love wasn't afraid to drive to the hoop or post up and bang the boards hard and showed such versatility that Love was the type of offensive force that eases LeBron James' use a bit (and anything helps there) and opens up the offense far more than the forward that sometimes just grazes around and fires up an occasional three.

3) Have to love the balanced scoring with the starters all scoring at least 12 points.
You aren't going to receive those type of numbers every night of course, but it's nice to see what can happen when the shots are dropping and even if you get remotely close to that production, this team can be tough to defeat- Western Conference champion or not.

4) One bad note- Tyronn Lue inserted Cedi Osman in the game in the first half and not Rodney Hood in his usual rotation spot.
Hood is reported to have refused to play in the fourth quarter garbage time as a result of that decision as Sam Amico reports.
I'm sure LeBron James will personally make his displeasure known to Hood, but what will this mean for the future of Hood?
Hood came to Cleveland with a questionable attitude resume' and we all assumed that being on a winner with the best player in the world in the locker room would straighten that out as it has in the past in Cleveland, resulting in a productive player.
It appears that Hood is still a work in progress and being a restricted free agent at the end of the playoffs, could this give the front office some pause in matching any potential offers from suitors for Hood?
And could this give those suitors pause? I'd wonder if a guy has an attitude playing with LeBron James, what is he going to do with my club?
It'll be interesting to see if the team suspends Hood or just slaps him with a fine, but bank on some type of punishment involved.

5) Demar DeRozan was thrown out of the game in the second half for a flagrant 2 foul on Jordan Clarkson and finished with a quiet 13 points on the game.
Combine that with Kyle Lowry's mere five points in 30 minutes and you have the recipe for a blowout.
Toronto made moves to compete with the Cavaliers last off-season and those allowed them to win 58 games and become the top seed, but the Raptors didn't improve themselves for the postseason and when your top stars play passively and almost intimidated, it becomes very difficult to win against the really good teams in the playoffs.
Toronto may have come to the realization that one or both of their two core stars might need to go in order to step forward over the long haul.

6) So the results of this were a mild surprise to even me.
Many were predicting Toronto to win after the LeBron centered series against the Pacers with the struggles of that series for everyone not named James.
I picked Cleveland in six, although I had a feeling that it would be five, but didn't expect four at all.
Still, I'm still reluctant to assume that the run of strong play will continue for sure.
Boston is playing without Kyrie Irving, so that would not hurt a series win, while the Sixers (Down 3-1 to Boston) are very talented and could cause major problems for the Cavaliers, but with such a young team, Philadelphia is taking a maiden voyage with each playoff step and that could be a huge advantage for Cleveland, should Philadelphia run the table and advance.

7) So we wait.
Fearless predictions- I'll take the Cavaliers over Boston in six or Philadelphia in five.
Neither of these series are walkovers, but short of a relapse to the play in the series against the Pacers,
I like the Cavaliers to return to the NBA Finals.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Cleaning out the inbox-Passings

Finally, with some time to remove a few things from the inbox, I decided to concentrate on some recent passings of note.
I did not add the death of former Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce because I want to do a bigger piece when the time for those types of posts are easier to come by.

We start with the passing of "Number One" Paul Jones at the age of 75.
Jones was a top wrestler in the 60's and 70's, mainly in the Mid-Atlantic and Florida territories, but to most fans, Jones is remembered as the ineffectual manager for the Crockett promotions in the mid-1980's that spent most of his time sending wrestlers to battle "the Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant.
It's too bad because Jones was quite a star as both the top babyface and top heel for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and Championship Wrestling From Florida.
Jones' best run was a little before my time as a fan even through the magazines, but a brief run that I remember through those magazines as a masked wrestler in Florida as "Mr.Florida" and for an angle as Mr. Florida when manager Sir Oliver Humperdink "accidentally shoved a cigar in his eye".
Jones time as a manager saw him as a dandy running around in a white tuxedo then as the leader of the "Army" where he cut his mustache short and resembled a bizarre mix of Adolf Hitler with the mustache and the "brown shirt" uniform of Benito Mussolini and finally in this Johnny Cash "Man in Black" getup where he managed Warlord and Barbarian as the "Powers of Pain in a feud against the Road Warriors that ended prematurely when (in real life) the Warlord and Barbarian left the NWA for the WWF rather than do a series of scaffold matches where they at over 300 pounds each would drop to the mat from a high scaffold.
Then Jones began using the name for himself as announcer David Crockett stated in the first program without his team- "Paul Jones is Powers of Pain".
Every once in a great while through the years, I'd send Ryan an email or a phone message stating that that "Paul Jones is Powers of Pain".
Jones is also known for attending the same high school at the same time as football coach Jimmy Johnson and the late rock star Janis Joplin and for the claim that Jones took the virginity of Ms.Joplin.

Another former wrestler turned manager passed away recently as Johnny Valiant passed away at the age of 71 after being hit by a vehicle in Pittsburgh.
Valiant was part of the Valiant Brothers with the aforementioned Jimmy Valiant in the 1970's and later a third brother Jerry Valiant and was a two-time WWWF tag team titleholder as part of the "brother" act.
Again as with Paul Jones, most fans will be more likely to remember Valiant as a WWF manager in the 1980's, most notably with Brutus Beefcake at first and then managed Beefcake and Greg Valentine "The Dream Team" to the federation's tag team titles.
I always thought Valiant was funny and effective in the role as a manager and occasional commentator but was overshadowed by Bobby Heenan and to a lesser extent Jimmy Hart in the company.
Valiant was good on the mic, could take a nice bump in the ring and pretty good as a color commentator as well, his misfortune was to be in the company at the same time as Heenan, who was simply even better than Valiant at those skills and Valiant was lost in the shuffle.

Former Southern California Sun running back James McAlister passed away at the age of 66 after battling cancer.
McAlister was a multi-talented athlete, who paired with his high school teammate Kermit Johnson at running back to play together at UCLA and with the WFL's Sun before both left the team on the eve of the league's only playoff season in 1974, when the duo (and tackle Booker Brown) when they had not received their game checks.
McAlister is also remembered for his famous Sports Illustrated cover of an up-close shot of his face inside his helmet at UCLA in 1971 but also uncorked the longest leap of 1973 in the long jump in the world, so McAlister was at the world-class level in two sports.
After leaving the WFL, McAlister would spend three seasons in the NFL with the Eagles and Patriots and his son Chris would become an All-Pro cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens.
It was ironic for me, as I was in the middle of a replay season for the Sun in my PC football league and McAlister was on my mind during that time on how best to use him in the game.

Three passings were brought to my attention by Lefty Koch, who seems to always be passing me information that I missed.
Thanks to Lefty for sending me the following three notices.

The all-time scorer in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers passed away at the age of 81 as Hal Greer passed on in Arizona.
Greer leading the Sixers in scoring is saying something for his skills as a player for a franchise that has employed Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Julius Erving and Allen Iverson.
Greer spent his first five years with Syracuse before the team moved to Philadelphia in 1963 and spent his entire career with the franchise before retiring in 1973.
Greer played his college ball at Marshall and I remember when we visited Huntington last year crossing "Hal Greer Boulevard".
Greer was named as one of the league's 50 greatest players in 1996 and was the first player ever to have his number retired by the 76ers.

Vic Bubas, the father of Duke basketball, passed away at the age of 91 in Richmond, VA.
Bubas was an assistant under Everett Case at the ACC's first basketball powerhouse at N.C. State before taking the head job at Duke from 1959 to 1969, compiling a record of 212-67, winning four ACC tournaments in the days that only the ACC tournament winner went to the big dance and made the final four three times before retiring young at the age of 42, never coaching again.
Bubas moved into administration at Duke before becoming the first commissioner of the Sun Belt conference in 1976.

Robert "the Tank" Holmes, a bulldozing fullback for three teams in the AFL before moving to Canada, passed away there at the age of 72.
Holmes' peak was in his first two years with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1968 and 69 as part of their only world championship team in rushing for just under 1,500 yards in those seasons.
Holmes would barely top 1,000 yards over the remaining five years with the Chiefs, Chargers, and Oilers before finishing his career in the CFL with Saskatchewan.

We finish with the loss of Jhoon Rhee at the age of 86.
If you are over the age of 40 and live in range of Washington DC television stations, it doesn't take more than to say "Nobody Bothers Me" to someone of a similar age to respond with " Nobody Bother Me Either"!
The Taekwondo commercials by Jhoon Rhee are known so well because of the snappy jingle "Call USA-1000" (written and sung by E-Street Band member Nils Lofgren in return for a small sum and a lifetime membership) and catchphrases mainly because there were so few stations then and those Jhoon Rhee commercials seemed to play every 15 minutes on WDCA, which was the only station that showed syndication shows (Star Trek, a lot!) kids shows (Captain 20
)and was the only place that you could watch the Orioles, Bullets, and Capitals to go with lots of ACC basketball.
Throughout all of that programming was the familiar refrain of  "Nobody Bothers Me".
Over 40 years later, I bet people that never threw a kick in their life knows that commercial, jingle and the master of taekwondo that started them all.

Still plenty of inbox cleaning to do, but we have made progress- more coming soon!

Boxing Challenge: GGG returns, Bellew finishes Haye.

Gennady Golovkin's return to action didn't last as long as it takes to bake a potato. but the ending was spectacular as ever as Golovkin retained his three middleweight titles with a second-round crushing of Vanes Martirosyan in Carson, California.
The IBF didn't sanction the fight as a title defense, although the title would have been ruled vacant had Martirosyan won, but Golovkin took a punch or two in the first before the finishing in the second that left Martirosyan prone on the floor.

The less said the better about this one, now the speculation begins whether Golovkin will face Canelo Alvarez in September.
If Golovkin wants to keep the IBF title, he will have to face Sergey Dereyvanchenko next and Golovkin has claimed for years that he wants all four belts and being stripped of one is a step back for that goal.
However, the dollars aren't even in the same universe for that fight compared to the Canelo rematch, but I don't think we will see that rematch in September anyway.
I cannot imagine that Golden Boy Promotions will have their cash cow fight Golovkin off a one-year layoff and what I think will happen will see Canelo's comeback against a softer opponent, most likely Spike O'Sullivan with Golovkin taking care of his IBF mandatory in Dereyvanchenko-possibly even on the same card.
To me, that makes sense and covers bases for both parties- Canelo gets a fight to chip the rust off and GGG gets to keep a title belt (or attempt to).

In London, Tony Bellew looks to have finally finished the career of David Haye with a fifth-round knockout in their rematch of Bellew's win in 2017.
Bellew knocked Haye down twice in the third before finishing Haye off in the fifth.
I had Bellew winning every round, although Haye was throwing punches, it appeared to me that he couldn't sit down on his punches and the Achilles injury that he suffered in the first fight didn't appear to be healed as he was forced to throw his punches off the front foot.
Bellew was calling for Andre Ward after the fight (No thanks), but a better fight might be Bellew against the Oleksandr Usyk-Murat Gassiev winner for the unified cruiserweight title.
Bellew left the division as the WBC's "Champion in Emeritus" which means he can cash in a title shot whenever he asks for it, so that could happen.

On the Bellew-Haye undercard, Emmanuel Rodriguez knocked Paul Butler down in the first and cruised to a unanimous decision to win the vacant IBF bantamweight title.
Only Rodriguez could win the title as Butler failed to make the weight and I had Rodriguez a 119-108 winner.

On Friday on ESPN, highly touted prospect (much of it on social media by himself) Ryan Garcia took a step up in competition against former world title challenger Jayson Velez and won a unanimous decision.
Garcia looked strong early but visibly weakened later in his first time going ten rounds against the tough but smaller Velez.
I had Garcia a 98-92 winner, but I'm not sure what the hurry is with Golden Boy pushing Garcia so quickly and these calls for fighters like Gervonta Davis would be a huge mistake for Garcia.
Garcia needs a few more fights against fighters that are on a similar level to Velez before anyone should even think about a title challenge or a fight against a top five level opponent.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored six points on the weekend.
Ramon received two points each from wins by Emmanuel Rodriguez and Gennady Golovkin and one each from Ryan Garcia and Tony Bellew.
My six came from two-point wins from Golovkin. Rodriguez and Garcia.
I lead the challenge 81-67.

LeBron-Again- Cavaliers cut down Raptors at the buzzer

The Cleveland Cavaliers had allowed the Toronto Raptors to crawl back into game three with a fourth quarter that bordered on obtuse and with eight seconds to go, Toronto's OG Anunoby's three-pointer tied the game with Cleveland using its final timeout.

Cleveland to the surprise of Hubie Brown at the announcer's table decided to throw the ball in from the far end of the court rather than half court.
It turned out to be exactly what the situation called for as Toronto somehow allowed the one man that could beat them in this scenario to get the ball and do just that as LeBron James took the inbounds pass, dribbled up the floor, tossed up an off-balance shot off one foot and banked it home to pandemonium in Cleveland for a 105-103 win and a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
James led Cleveland with 38 points with Kevin Love stepping up again with a 21 point, 18 rebound game and Kyle Korver scoring 18 to support the King in his efforts.
Game four is Monday in Cleveland with the Cavaliers having a chance to close the show and eliminate the Raptors, who have to be shaking their head and wondering what they have to do to defeat LeBron James four times in a row without a slip-up.


1) Tell me, just try to tell me that LeBron James isn't coming back to Cleveland.
Well, if he isn't, he is going full speed ahead in his final days and with a recklessness that borders on unsafe at times, James is playing like a player that is making a stand and one that wants to attract players to Cleveland, rather than one promoting himself to others.
At least I hope.

2) Tell me why Toronto even allowed the ball to get to LeBron, to begin with.
They didn't double-team him off the ball, didn't try to trap him or even press him until he hit the frontcourt with a head of steam.
The degree of difficulty was extremely high with eight seconds remaining as it was, but even using one of those tactics might have made that shot close to impossible.
Those decisions allowed the greatest player in the game a chance to beat you and anytime you open that window...

3) Kevin Love played well on the stat sheet, but Love also played well in the third quarter when James rested, scoring seven points without him and keeping the Cavaliers ahead by double-digits before the Raptors rally in the final period.
However. Love wouldn't take a shot in the fourth quarter, this offense still runs best with Love as the second option, not with LeBron and four extras.

4) Don't forget why the buzzer beater was needed though, missed free throws by LeBron James (I think I can overlook it) and Jeff Green to allow the tying three-pointer hit by OG Anunoby to tie the game.
It is a quibble in a victory, but it can be huge in a defeat.

5) Want to know another reason Toronto is struggling?
When you can't play your star at all in the fourth quarter because he's a liability and you rally from 14 down entering the quarter, that says a lot for your star.
Demar DeRozan disappeared from the game with eight points and Toronto played better without him?
That's not just something for Toronto to think about before Monday, it might be something to think about in the off-season.

6) So, that just about wraps this series up.
The question is now is does the series last four, five or six games?
I can see Toronto scraping together a win Monday and game five in Toronto, but I think that's the limit.
It would be better for the Cavaliers to end this series and save the legs, especially with Boston leading Philadelphia 3-0, but this series essentially ended in Cleveland last night..