Friday, November 30, 2018


It's college football championship week and as usual, I pick all of those title games.
I am posting this after the Saints-Cowboys game where I pick in all honesty!

Last Week; 8-3
Overall: 103-21-1-


Buffalo over Northern Illinois 24-14

PAC 12
Washington over Utah 28-21

Big 12
Oklahoma over Texas 45-37

Sun Belt
Appalachian State over Louisiana-Lafayette 30-20

Conference USA
Middle Tennessee State over UAB 24-17

Central Florida over Memphis 38-28

Alabama over Georgia 35-21

Mountain West
Boise State over Fresno State 27-21

Clemson over Pitt 45-14

Big 10
Ohio State over Northwestern 35-20

Saints over Cowboys 24-17
Texans over Browns 28-17

Game of the Week
Steelers over Chargers 28-25

Boxing Challenge

The month of December starts with an interesting heavyweight title fight that few may see along with some other bouts over the weekend.

The biggest fight literally and figuratively comes from Los Angeles as WBC heavyweight kingpin Deontay Wilder faces the lineal champion that never lost his titles in the ring in Britain's Tyson Fury.
The heavy-hitting Wilder's most impressive win came in his last fight in January with a exciting knockout of Luis Ortiz that saw Wilder badly hurt in the seventh round, but rebounding to stop Ortiz in the tenth.
The victory over the division's most avoided fighter earned Wilder more credibility in one night than he gained in his first six defenses combined.
Wilder hits as hard as anyone in the game, but there are still chin questions and for as much power as he brings, his wild and freelancing style leaves him wide open for counters.
Fury won three of the four world titles (lacking only the WBC title at stake in this fight) and the lineal title in a 2015 decision over Wladimir Klitschko that was clearly won by Fury, but was one of the duller title events in recent history, but issues out of the ring caused him to relinquish the titles before two fights earlier this year against limited competition.
I still remember cruiserweight Steve Cunningham knocking Fury down and almost out years ago and I think part of his chin holding up against Klitschko was the reluctance of the former champion to throw any punches at all.
It'll be an interesting fight and I could see it going either way as Wilder is the harder puncher, but Fury is the bigger man.

The undercard is nothing special with WBA and IBF junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd defending against Great Britain's Jason Welborn in Hurd's first fight back from shoulder surgery.
Welborn is a journeyman type, who isn't deserving of a title fight really, but under the circumstances, fits the bill for Hurd's return to the ring.

Luis Ortiz, who will have an excellent chance of facing the Wilder-Fury winner next, faces journeyman Travis Kauffman, who has fought just three times in three years and was once stopped by Tony Grano.
This one is designed to make Ortiz look good and could end early.

Showtime is showing an excellent "free view" on its channel, YouTube and Facebook before the card from Los Angeles starts as WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson defends against mandatory contender Oleksandr Gvozdyk in Quebec City, Canada.
This is interesting on several fronts as Stevenson rarely defends against anyone with a chance to defeat him ( He ducked mandatory contender Elieder Alvarez for years), will be defending against a fighter that isn't controlled by the PBC (Gvozdyk is promoted by Top Rank, who lost the purse bid), against a fighter that is a natural light heavyweight (Stevenson drew with former 168 pound champ Badou Jack last time out) and Stevenson is now 41 years old.
I would have picked Gvozdyk easily had he not fought just once in the last 16 months and looked ordinary in that fight against Mehdi Amar, but hopefully "The Nail" will rise to the occasion.

The first fight in the challenge is the Australian grudge match on ESPN+  around 6;30 AM Friday morning as former WBA super middleweight champ Anthony Mundine faces former WBO welterweight titlist Jeff Horn in a catchweight fight.
I normally hate these, but without a title on the line and Mundine being far larger, this is one of those rare occasions where it is a good fit.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 194-174.

Middleweights. 12 Rds
Jeff Horn vs Anthony Mundine
R.L: Horn Split Decision
TRS: Horn Unanimous Decision

WBC Lt.Heavyweight Title. 12 Rds
Adonis Stevenson vs Oleksandr Gvozdyk
R.L: Stevenson KO 10
TRS: Gvozdyk Unanimous Decision

WBC Heavyweight Title. 12 Rds
Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury
R.L: Fury Unanimous Decision
TRS: Wilder Unanimous Decision

WBA/IBF Junior Middleweight Titles. 12 Rds
Jarrett Hurd vs Jason Welborn
R.L: Hurd KO 7
TRS: Hurd KO 6

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Luis Ortiz vs Travis Kauffman
R.L: Ortiz KO 5
TRS: Ortiz KO 3

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Cavaliers trade Kyle Korver to Utah

The Cleveland Cavaliers began to sweep the veterans out the door with the first of what is expected to be many moves as the team attempts a rebuild as the Cavaliers traded veteran three-point specialist Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz in return for forward Alec Burks and two future second-round draft picks.

The 37-year-old Korver had asked to be traded in the off-season, but the Cavaliers had demurred by stating that they expected to compete for the playoffs without LeBron James, which lasted all of a few games into a start of 4-15 upon the time of Korver's trading to Salt Lake.
Korver was averaging just under seven points for the Cavaliers but was hitting three-pointers at a forty-six percent clip, which is what makes a player like Korver always attractive as a role player for a contender and makes him marketable for a team in the bottom half of the standings.

Alec Burks averaged around eight points a game as a guard/occasional small forward for the Jazz, having spent his entire career with Utah after being drafted by them in the first round in 2011.
Burks has struggled to stay on the court for Utah over the past four seasons, playing more than half the games just one time over that term.
Burks will come motivated to Cleveland as his eleven million dollars per year contract expires at the end of the season, so Burks will be using the remainder of the year as an audition for the Cavaliers and the rest of the league for a new deal, although he's unlikely to receive anywhere near the contract that he currently owns.
Burks contract could make him attractive to a team in need of cap space in the off-season so Burks might want to rent in Cleveland for the next few months before the trade deadline in February.
Cleveland also received Utah's 2020 second rounder and Washington's 2021 second rounder.
More often than not, these are used to make other trades work or picking European players that rarely come to North America, but rights can be moved around to finish off trades.

Alec Burks will play a few months in Cleveland, maybe show he's healthy enough to make him attractive to a contender that values a second unit guard and an expiring contract and maybe those second rounders will help make a future trade complete, but selfishly, I was hoping for a little more for Korver.
Perhaps that was unrealistic on my part, hoping for a first rounder, even if near the end of the first from a championship contender.

Kyle Korver was a class act and kudos to the Cavaliers for sending him out to a contender (even if a mid-range one) and to a place Korver and family were familiar with (Korver played with the Jazz earlier in his career).
That's the type of move that spreads through the league and over the long haul can help the image of a team that has not always been known as player friendly.

This trade will be the first domino to fall in a long line of dominos between now and the next draft.
Let's hope Koby Altman does better in rebuilding than he did in retooling..

Back later with the boxing challenge.

Pirates sign Lonnie Chisenhall,Indians lose Lonnie Chisenhall

Catching up on a few news notes before the weekend with the boxing challenge, Ohio State back in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game, the Browns traveling to Houston for Baker Mayfield's first big test against a good defense and the inbox that appears ready to burst!

The Pittsburgh Pirates gained and therefore the Cleveland Indians lost outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall in a pre-winter meetings free agent signing.
Chisenhall signed a one year contract for 2.75 million with some incentives in the contract as well.

The 30 year old Chisenhall returns to the team that first drafted him, but was unable to ink him to a contract in 2006.
Three years later, the Indians would draft him in the first round and be able to sign him to a deal as a then third baseman before a move to right field after he had spent some time with the big club.

Chisenhall has spent most of the last two seasons dealing with calf injuries that saw him play in just 29 games last season after only playing in 82 in 2017.
Chisenhall did hit .321 in his cameo appearances, so that's something for the Pirates to consider, I suppose and the one year deal isn't oppressive in cost either.
Still with Pittsburgh signing Chisenhall to play right field while Gregory Polanco recovers from shoulder surgery that could keep Polanco on the sideline for much of the first half of the 2019 season has its risks.
Chisenhall's injury history is even worse than Polanco's and that's the real risk- hoping that Chisenhall can stay healthy enough to keep the position warm for the retuning Polanco and that will take either a change of fortune for Chisenhall or plenty of luck.

Lonnie Chisenhall was always a polarizing player for me.
I never thought that the production was anywhere near the hype for him among Indian fans and much like the prospect that he reminds me of (in prospect hype and skill level, not necessarily similar skills) Bradley Zimmer, Chisenhall gave Indians fans what they want to see.
If you saw a player with a developing bat and later in his tenure as an outfielder, possible plus defensive skills, Chisenhall could give an observer enough to believe that.
If you saw a player that was more streaky than consistent with the wood and a player that was even more inconsistent with the glove that he needed to change position, Chisenhall could back that position up as well.

Whether you were a fan of Chisenhall or not, the loss of him (well, he's been gone most of the last two years anyway) to an already questionable outfield situation doesn't help very much.
Michael Brantley didn't receive a qualifying offer from the Indians, journeymen Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis are free agents and losing Chisenhall leaves these as the competitors for the outfield spots- Bradley Zimmer (will miss some of the season anyway),  late-season acquisition Leonys Martin (who had an life-threatening illness that almost killed him), Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow, who was recently traded for from the Pirates and another late-season addition at the AAA level Oscar Mercado from the Cardinals complete the current field.
I'm hoping that this group looks different before the trip to Arizona through trade, free agency or even another 4A type bat that may be needing a chance.

Just a hunch on my part, but keep an eye on the San Diego Padres, who have four young outfielders in Wil Myers, Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot and play in a pitchers park- watch for a possible deal with the Padres, especially with Myers, who's more expensive and the Padres would likely prefer the other players who would come more cost-controlled (Cleveland would rather have the cheaper, long-term controlled players as well) than Myers.

I might be back later for some talk on the Cavaliers making the first of what's likely to be many trades this season and the boxing challenge kicks off early this week with a 6;30 Friday start from Australia.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Boxing Challenge:Bivol decisions Pascal, Bad decision in Monaco

The boxing challenge weekend saw three fights and all of them added up to a collective "meh".

The tepid weekend was an appetizer for what is hoped to be an explosive slate of fights to start December and like an appetizer that doesn't measure up, it was small and in one case left an awful taste in your mouth.

HBO continued its flat tire of a farewell tour with Dmitry Bivol delivering a dominating yet unfulfilling unanimous decision over a faded Jean Pascal to retain his WBA light heavyweight title in Atlantic City.
I had Bivol winning all but one round,(119-109) but never seemed close to really turning up the heat and trying to finish Pascal off and whether Bivol was bored or there was another reason for an average outing.
Bivol is now a television free agent and where he signs will determine what champion that he will try to unify his title with.

DAZN streamed a less than exciting card from Monte Carlo with Denis Lebedev cruising to a boring unanimous decision over American unknown Mike Walker in a bout that will give Lebedev the WBA cruiserweight title, should Oleksandr Usyk vacate it.
Less said about this the better, but I had Lebedev a 119-109 winner.

The other challenge event saw a robbery as Kal Yafai retained his WBA junior bantamweight championship via a ridiculous unanimous decision over Israel Gonzalez via scores of 117-111 and two cards of 116-112.
I thought Gonzalez controlled the fight and outpunched the heralded Yafai and won on my 116-112 scorecard.
If this is how Yafai is going to fight in the future, he will have real problems with the other champions/top contenders as Gonzalez lost every round and hit the mat three times earlier this year in a challenge to the title of IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica outscored me five to four and trimmed my lead to 194-174.
The difference was Ramon's two points for Denis Lebedev's win to my one.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Browns finally win on the road- Beat Bengals 35-20

Baker Mayfield tossed four touchdowns, three of those in the first half as the Cleveland Browns used a dominant first half to snap their road losing streak in Cincinnati with a 35-20 victory over the Bengals.

Nick Chubb caught one of Mayfield's touchdown passes with a great catch and rushed for the other Cleveland touchdown as part of an 84 yard rushing afternoon to lead the rest of the Browns offense.

The Browns improve to 4-6-1 with the win, snap their 25 game road losing streak and put together their first back to back wins since 2015,.
The Browns will visit Houston next week in what should be a sterner test of the team than the last two against weaker defenses.

Brownie Bits

1) Baker Mayfield was once again accurate and impressive in a win and I'm starting to think that I may have been wrong on him, the only caveat is the last three games that he has played so well against have been among the leagues worst defenses (Chiefs, Falcons, and Bengals).
Mayfield will get a stern test next week in Houston against the Texans.

2) However my initial doubts turn out, today might be the day that I look back at the day Baker Mayfield became "my" quarterback of the Browns.
Hue Jackson came over after the game to give Mayfield a hug etc as happens so often in the game today.
Mayfield gave a halfhearted handshake to Jackson and shrugged off the hug,
Mayfield said later that he took it personally that Jackson moved to a division rival so quickly.
In an era where fans take things to heart more than players usually do, Baker Mayfield is one of us and he just might have won me over.

3) Another player that has played well and acted like one of us was safety Damarious Randall, who intercepted an Andy Dalton throw and ran out of bounds and handed the ball to Hue Jackson.
Not only funny but a way of getting a point across.

4) Nick Chubb was solid but not spectacular on the ground as the Browns gave him the ball 28 times on the day as the Browns attempted to run clock in the second half and finished with 84 yards, but his reaching behind the defender, pinning the ball and tumbling into the end zone was the highlight of the day for the pass catchers.

5) David Njoku also stepped up with a touchdown reception, one that showcased his physical attributes and desire as well.
Njoku was hit with a pass and seemed to be caught as he dove for the goal line, but Njoku continued to push and with a teammate or two's help crossed the line for the score.
Njoku has all the characteristics to be a star in this league, all he has to do is consistently catch the football.

6) The Browns once again spread the football around as eight different Browns caught Baker Mayfield's nineteen completions.
David Njoku caught the most (5) and the most passes were thrown to him as well (5), which means Njoku caught them all in another good sign for him!

7) I did think the Browns didn't do themselves any favors in taking their foot off the gas and playing the clock for much of the second half.
I rarely understand changing what you did to build a lead to protect it, but they held on for the win, although it likely gave the Bengals a little bit hope for the rematch in Cleveland.

8) Another game for the offensive line that allowed no sacks on Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield did wiggle out of one, but on the overall, the pass protection has much improved with Greg Robinson at tackle for the injured Desmond Harrison.
The protection has been helped by the playcalling and route running to get the football out faster and Mayfield with a rolling pocket, but still, they are keeping the passer clean and you have to like that,

9) For the first time, I'm starting to think Gregg Williams may have a chance to keep this job.
I still think it's going to take at least three, if not four wins in the Browns last five games to do, but I can see a scenario where Williams can make the decision very difficult on John Dorsey.
I think the Browns "playoff chatter" is still premature, a five-game win-out of the remaining games only puts them at 9-6-1 and I'm not sure that gets it done, but winning four out of five to finish with a winning 8-7-1 record just might give Williams that "Punchers Chance" of retaining the head coaching position.

10) The Browns turned a corner no matter who the coach is for 2019.
The win gives them a 2-1-1 record inside the division for now (the Browns finish the season against these Bengals in Cleveland before going to Baltimore to finish) and establishes that they aren't to be bullied anymore AND.

11) They put Hue Jackson in the rear mirror for good.
Yes, that game in Cleveland will be a focus for the fans that want to say "goodbye", but the big game was this one.
Hue Jackson was a hire that I agreed with at the time.
The Raiders were terrible for years and only Jackson's one season at 8-8 stood out, so I thought that it could have been the organization and not Jackson.
Jackson wasn't the only problem  (Sashi Brown) with the Browns, but it is clear that his behavior was toxic and his continued presence was holding the team back.
After this win, the Browns can finally move away from Hue Jackson.

I have a ton to write about- the boxing weekend, passings and even more!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Buckeyes cancel Revenge Tour- Wallop Michigan 62-39!

Jim Harbaugh brought what was said to be Michigan's best team in years if not ever to Columbus and was favored to defeat Ohio State even in their own "Horseshoe".

What seemed like a cast of thousands ranging from Urban Meyer to Dwayne Haskins to Chris Olave and more ranging all the way to Brutus Buckeye slammed the Wolverines without mercy until the kneeldowns inside the Michigan 10  at game's end as the Buckeyes crushed the hope of the blue with a record performance of 62 scored points in a 62-39 victory!
Dwayne Haskins fired five touchdowns, two of those to Chris Olave, Olave also blocked a punt that was scooped and scored by Sevyn Banks and Parris Campbell scored on a rush of 78 yards and caught a touchdown pass as well to pace what seemed to be even more than 62 points scored.

The victory gives the Big Ten Eastern Division title to the now 11-1 (8-1 Big Ten) Buckeyes and a trip to Indianapolis for the second year in a row to play the West champions, with a new defender of the West as its Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern Wildcats winning the title for the first time.

Olentangy Offerings

1) Honestly, NO ONE saw this coming.
Now, when I was asked about the game this week, I thought it was a pick 'em game and that home field for Ohio State made it that way with home field being worth three points to the oddsmakers.
Still, I picked Ohio State because I thought that Ohio Stadium would be a help after two weeks on the road and because when Urban Meyer's teams (at Florida and Ohio State) are thought to be the underdog, that's when Meyer has performed best.

2) Of all the boxes to check as when you evaluate the reasons for this win- number one goes to the work of the offensive line.
Against Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary, the often-maligned offensive line came through with its best game of the season as the vaunted Wolverine defense came up empty in rushing Dwayne Haskins as they finished the game without sacking Haskins and rarely putting pressure on Haskins to rush his passes.

3) Dwayne Haskins threw short, medium, deep with accuracy against the nation's top-rated defenses (by the numbers anyway) and it seemed like no matter where he wanted to throw, he hit his man.
19 of 30 seemed to be worse than I would have thought as it seemed that Haskins completed more passes than that.
Still, the coolness of Haskins set the tone to keep the Buckeyes at an emotional peak without being so hyped that they are making mistakes by being out of control.

4) Parris Campbell is the game breaker that might make an NFL team very happy as one of those "Swiss Army Knife" type players that is the rage when describing a versatile player.
Campbell doesn't get caught from behind and when he took a short pitch around the tackle and sprinted 78 yards for a score, mere seconds after Michigan cut the lead to 16 and had mild hopes of a comeback- that was the pin that popped the Wolverine balloon.
Campbell might not be a day one pick and we'll see if he is a day two, but he is going to be a player that can make a real impact if used properly in special situations.

5) Freshman Chris Olave has been a player that has been discussed by Urban Meyer, the coaching staff and some media as a player that is sitting on a breakout.
That breakout came on Saturday with not only the game's first touchdown and another later in the game, but in the second half when Olave burst through the Michigan punting unit to reject the boot of Will Hart, sending the ball careening toward Sevyn Banks who cruised into the end zone for six OSU points.
Olave's talents as a receiver have been often noted, but plays such as his block have been characteristic of the Buckeye receiver this season on special teams with Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon often making big plays with the coverage units.

6) There really was just one time that I wondered about this game- the DeMario McCall muff of a kickoff after a Michigan score with under a minute to play in the half.
Michigan quickly scored and went for two points afterward for the tie, which failed.
Michigan had cut the lead from 21-6 to 21-19 within seconds.
They would never be that close again.

7) Michigan runner Karan Higdon had promised a victory but wasn't a factor in finishing with 78 yards rushing.
Now some of those numbers could be waved off as Michigan needing to throw the football for most of the second half, if not the game, but other than one run of 24 yards, Higdon was unable to make a real impact.

8) Now, even in defeat, I have to say Michigan has two excellent pass catchers in Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Both of these sophomores are going to be top notch players next year (they already are) and I'm not looking forward to watching the Buckeyes corners cover them next year in Ann Arbor.

9) One of the main points made by so many this week for a Michigan win was the defense and its coordinator Don Brown.
Brown had been seemingly crowned as the best defensive mind since Buddy Ryan, with his unit allowing only 13 points a game and 238 yards of offenses, but his team and Michigan's recruiting learned very quickly that the difference between these two teams is speed.
Ohio State was simply faster and no matter what one thinks of Brown, it's that speed that overmatched his defense.

10) Urban Meyer is now 7-0 vs Michigan.
Add to that Jim Tressel's 8-1 and the loss by the 6-6 team by interim coach Luke Fickel in 2011 and the Buckeyes have lost two times (with one being a flukey year in 2011 and still almost won before losing 40-34 in Ann Arbor) since 2001.
15-2 is the greatest run in the modern history of this series.
I don't take this for granted, things don't last forever, but this game had the feeling going into it for Michigan supporters that "if we don't get them this year, when will we"?
They didn't and I'm not sure that malaise is not beginning to set into their program.
A loss in Ann Arbor next year might truly signal a resignation of "We just aren't at that level anymore".

11) The difference between the Buckeyes since Urban Meyer's arrival-Speed.
As mentioned above Ohio State was simply faster than Michigan and when Meyer's Florida Gators ran past Jim Tressel's Buckeyes for a national title- Urban Meter noticed and remembered that needed upgrading in recruiting.
That is typical of almost every Buckeye recruit and slow turtles may not apply.

12) What a game by the Buckeye linebackers, who have been wondered about all season under Bill Davis.
Malik Harrison and Tuf Borland seemed to be in on every play, made plays upon impact and weren't dragged for extra yardage- the type of linebacker that I complain about often with the Browns.

13) I made a statement a week or two ago that if the Buckeyes beat Michigan and won in the Big 10 title game, I would not complain if they didn't get into to the playoff.
I won't, if the 4th team is Oklahoma, I'll live with it.
Some one-loss team has to sit out, Oklahoma's loss to Texas is certainly more excusable than the Buckeyes loss to a 6-6 Purdue team and against Oklahoma, OK.
However, if Georgia upsets Alabama and the SEC gets two teams in again, I think this sets the stage for the needed move to a eight-team playoff.
No one can argue against undefeated Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame getting in, but IF both Oklahoma AND Ohio State miss out for two SEC teams for the second year in a row- the snowball for eight begins to roll.

14) So, what do we know about Northwestern?
The Wildcats might have completed the strangest path to a major conference title game ever.
8-4 Northwestern won each of their eight games in conference, went winless out of conference and one of those losses came to an eventual likely 4-8 (they play at South Carolina next weekend) Akron team at home in Ryan Field!
Northwestern started 1-3, but have won seven of their last eight and their only loss was by ten points to undefeated Notre Dame.
The numbers and the visuals favor Ohio State, but I am a big fan of Pat Fitzgerald, he knows Northwestern will have very few chances to win the Big Ten and the Wildcats will be well prepared.
Don't take them lightly.

15) What a win.
Every time OSU wins this game, my weekend is a good one, but this one is really special because for one of the few times over the streak, I wondered about this one.
I just want to hear from Desmond Howard, noted Wolverine, COUGH, impartial football observer, who picks Michigan to win this game every year and every year proclaims Michigan is back.
Wonder what that homer, ERR impartial football observer has to say?

See you from Indianapolis and later tonight with Browns and Boxing Challenge!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ohio State-Michigan Memories

It's The Game morning and there still is no morning like this one.

I've seen every Ohio State-Michigan game since 1973 when I was five, so I have quite a few memories that stand out..

In that 1973 game that saw both teams enter the game undefeated and finish in a 10-10 tie, my big memory was that I instantly became a Buckeye for life when the team came up and tore down the M club banner (Hey, they shouldn't have put the damn thing in front of the Buckeye entrance)
The 10-10 game that I didn't see for years until my friend Brandon Siefken sent me a copy wasn't all that exciting, but it featured all the physical smash mouth football you can take.
This is the game that gave us Bo Schembechler's whining about being "Bitterly Bitterly Disappointed" when his 10-0-1 Wolverines lost the Big 10 vote to go to the Rose Bowl to the 10-0-1 Buckeyes in the days of only one team making a bowl.

The 1974 game was memorable for Tom Klaban's four field goals in a 12-10 OSU win, but I remember the 1975 game more for the pair of late interceptions by Ray Griffin and Craig Cassady of Michigan quarterback and future major league baseball player Rick Leach to preserve the win.
That win in Ann Arbor would be the final time that the Buckeyes would win this game under Woody Hayes as Michigan under Leach would win next three years.

The 1979 game saw Ohio State win and move to the Rose Bowl off of what Sports Illustrated called the Buckeye Block Party with Todd Bell recovering a blocked punt for what proved to be the winning score in an 18-15 win.
I had the SI picture of Bell celebrating the score on the wall for years after that.
The win under Earle Bruce in his first season seemed to show things were on the way up, but under Bruce, the series trended pretty evenly.
Bruce, however, became noted as 9-3 Earle and was fired before the Michigan game in 1987.
Bruce poked fun at his image of being a rumpled coach with a suit and fedora for the game and was rewarded by his players when he was carried off the field after a Buckeye team that was a strong underdog pulled off the upset.

The John Cooper years were noted for their Michigan failures more than their successes.
Few memories stand out more than All-American corner Shawn Springs slipping to the grass out of his break resulting in a long touchdown pass to Michigan's Tai Streets in a 13-9 loss that was the only loss of the season for the second-ranked Buckeyes.

Cooper also gave us losses from an then unknown runner named Tim Biakabutuka and a 28-0 shellacking in Ann Arbor entering both games undefeated and leaving Buckeye fans deflated beyond belief, but besides the Springs slip, the Cooper era brought us more grief.
That Desmond Howard Heisman pose that we see constantly during the season?
Against Cooper's Buckeyes.

It was under Cooper that I know exactly how Michigan has felt against OSU (Michigan has won just twice since 2001, one of those a meaningless win over interim coach Luke Fickel)  because that's how inept Cooper teams was against Michigan and his 2-10-1 was worse because unlike the Wolverines of late, Cooper most of the time had the better team and still lost.
I know the feeling and I don't want it again.
When I hear about the rivalry being better when the teams are equal, I'm OK with that-a win means that much more!

I planned on more memories, but an unexpected issue at the road office has made time short.
I'll look at the good times of the Tressel/Meyer years before next years game!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Boxing Challenge

Only three boxing challenge events this weekend with the main fight taking place on the dying franchise that is HBO with Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA light heavyweight title against a well-past his prime Jean Pascal.

Bivol would have been involved in a huge title unification against Sergey Kovalev on this card, had Kovalev not been upset in August by Eleider Alvarez, but will instead face a name fighter in former champion Pascal, who seems to be well past his best days.
My best guess is that this fight goes one of two ways- Either an inspired Pascal summons whatever he has left in his backpack, troubles Bivol for a while and but wears down for a late stoppage or clear decision or Bivol just dominates Pascal from the opening bell and finishes him in the first six rounds.

The other two fights are on a DAZN card from Monte Carlo with the main event being the WBA's cruiserweight "Champion in recess" (Which basically means he'll receive a title shot when he asks for it) Denis Lebedev returning to the ring against Mike Wilson.
Wilson is from Oregon (Not exactly a traditional boxing area) and has fought no one of note, despite being undefeated.
Lebedev returns to the ring for the second time since September after fighting just one in two years
after losing to Murat Gassiev in 2016.
My guess is that Lebedev is attempting to get back into ring shape as he anticipates Oleksandr Usyk's departure from the cruiserweight division and then cashes in his title shot for the vacant WBA belt against a softer opponent.

The only challenge bout on the undercard from Monaco will show Kal Yafai's defense of the WBA junior bantamweight title against Israel Gonzalez.
Yafai will hopefully have a shot a bigger fight in the division in 2019 and an impressive win over Gonzalez might help after Gonzalez lasted ten rounds with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas in February.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 190-169

WBA Light Heavyweight Title.12 Rds
Dmitry Bivol vs Jean Pascal
R.L: Bivol KO 6
TRS: Bivol KO 8

Cruiserweights. 12 Rds
Denis Lebedev vs Mike Wilson
R.L: Lebedev Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lebedev KO 5

WBA Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Kal Yafai vs Israel Gonzalez
Both: Yafai Unanimous Decision

Thursday, November 22, 2018


The PPM arrives early this week with the various games scheduled for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Last Week: 8-2
Overall: 95-18-1

Ohio State over Michigan 35-32
Buffalo over Bowling Green 30-20
Memphis over Houston 40-32
Washington State over Washington 29-22
Texas Tech over Baylor 54-49
Middle Tennessee State over UAB 23-21
Boise State over Utah State 27-24

Game of the week
West Virginia over Oklahoma 43-40

Browns over Bengals 27-21
Saints over Falcons 38-30

Game of the week
Cowboys over Redskins 24-17

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Busy, Busy, Busy,

Sometimes when you get crazy busy, you almost feel stripped down to the bone or in the picture to your left, metal.

Still, with working as much I have been, adding in the upcoming holidays, one and possibly two quick trips in the next few weeks, the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and now a new venture that I'll be writing more about as time goes by and whew, the time can be short/

It seems like I have more to write when I am at work than when I am at home!
Still, I have things to come and still have two future columns that are partially completed that I need to finish up when I have a chance as well.

I think once I make the announcement of what I am into now, it'll be an interesting look at something I've never written about before. I just want to make sure that I receive some permissions within reasons and if I don't have those, I"ll still write, just have to make some adjustments.

I'll be back later tonight with an early PPM with all of the Thanksgiving games causing an early week.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Boxing Challenge: Miller walks through Dinu

A Matchroom card televised by DAZN managed to kill a Saturday (or in my case Saturday and Sunday before I watched the entire card) with various bouts of interest and three in the boxing challenge from the boxing hotbed of Mulvane, Kansas.

The main event saw Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller win a minor heavyweight title with a fourth-round knockout of Bogdan Dinu.
Miller weighed in at over 300 pounds and Dinu looked strong enough by winning the first two rounds.
Miller picked up the pace in the third before finishing him in the fourth round after two knockdowns.
Miller could be the spring opponent for three title holding champion Anthony Joshua, who is also promoted by Matchroom, but even if not then Miller will eventually receive that shot with the minor title that he won in Mulvane.
Miller makes me think of so many of the beefy 1980's heavyweights such as Greg Page, Tony Tubbs, Michael Dokes etc that possessed world-class abilities and the appetite to go with it that made them capable of the occasional brilliant performance yet so often were maddeningly inconsistent.
Hopefully, Miller can win his battle with the fork and make the best of his chances.

Going into the evening, I believed that the best fight of the night would be the grudge middleweight fight between Gabriel Rosado and Luis Arias, but the surprise of the night was the absolute war (which is an often overused term in boxing, but it fits here) between Brandon Rios and Ramon Alvarez, the brother of Canelo in a junior middleweight contest that saw plenty of punches thrown and plenty caught by each fighter as Rios wore down Alvarez and stopped him in round nine.
I have nominated Rios for a "Zabbie" (Fighter that I wish would go retire) plenty in the past and even in this win as a junior middleweight, I still think that would be a good idea.
However, if matched properly and preferably at welterweight, Rios can still have some fun fights to watch, but not at anyone resembling a current contender and especially one at junior middle.
That will not be how it turns out though as Rios still is a name, he'll face someone he shouldn't and he is very likely to take a bad beating.

The Rosado-Arias bout had what looked like a sure-fire ingredient for the best fight, bad blood, a side bet between the fighters of ten thousand dollars, what seemed to be a motivated Luis Arias, who looked dreadful against Daniel Jacobs and you had Gabe Rosado, who always makes interesting, if not always competitive battles before his face would fall apart and let him down.
This time Rosado used a new game plan for him that saw him be less entertaining, but longer lasting as the normally cut prone Rosado wasn't bothered by cuts at all.
The problem was on my card, where Rosado's new style cost him the first rounds before his usual late charge against Arias.
The final card saw a draw with one judge scoring the fight for each fighter and the third had the scores even.
I had Arias a close 96-94 winner, but if the fight had been a twelve rounder, I think Rosado would have gotten the nod.
The winner could have been next for WBO champion Demetrius Andrade, although I don't think either would be deserving or overly competitive in a prospective fight.
The talk was of a rematch, where perhaps both camps could double down on their wager and bet $20,000 on the outcome.

Non-Boxing challenge fights on the slate was another ladies title fight and Olympic bronze medalist Nico Hernandez, who won a less than fascinating unanimous decision in his eight rounder.
Hernandez is going to have to show a little more pop in his mitts if he wants to draw attract American fans to his normally internationally dominated division.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica scored four points (Three for Jarrell Miller and one for Brandon Rios) to my two (One per Miller and Rios) to cut my lead to 190-169.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Buckeyes survive College Park, Defeats Maryland in OT

Ohio State's inability to stop Maryland running back Anthony McFarland came in the first quarter, followed for the remainder of the game and finished with one final run that brought Maryland to within one play of a stunning upset.

Fortunately for Ohio State and my mental health, Maryland and interim coach Matt Canada decided to go for the win then and there and when Maryland quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome's pass fell incomplete, only then could Buckeye fans breathe with a 52-51 victory,

Dwayne Haskins threw for 405 yards, threw for three touchdowns and ran for three more and for what proved to be the game winner in overtime, while Haskins had plenty of help as J.K. Dobbins ran for 203 and both Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon finished with over 100 receiving yards.

Ohio State improved to 10-1 (7-1 Big Ten) as they return home to conclude the season against that team up North with the Big Ten East title on the line, a slot in the Big Ten title game against Northwestern in Indianapolis and keep any playoff hopes alive.

Olentangy Offerings

1) Ohio State never led until their score in overtime in this game, so despite all of their issues and they are many, the grumbling about the lack of heart shown in West Lafayette should stop, no matter the results next week against Michigan.
The Buckeyes had every opportunity to pack this in and they kept scrapping back.

2) I'm not sure what the issue is that so many have with Urban Meyer on the sideline.
In the Purdue and Michigan State games, the complaint was that Meyer seemed pained and distant.
Yesterday, in the first quarter, I counted three times that the ESPN crew dropped comments about Meyer being "angry" and "that his out of control demeanor could carry over to his team".
One week it is one thing and then the opposite.
Does this team have problems and could Urban Meyer be part of those?
Sure? But ever since Brett McMurphy started his campaign in the summer, ESPN has taken every jab that they could take- time to man up.

3) Dwayne Haskins seemed to take personally the comments by Urban Meyer and some of the Buckeye media about his reluctance to run with the football/
Haskins tucked the ball down and ran fifteen times for 59 yards, which must have those doubters happy and will give Michigan something to think about when watching next weeks film.

4) Had it not been for the day on the ground by Maryland's Anthony McFarland (298 yards and looked to be the next coming of Gale Sayers), the talk of the day might have been J.K. Dobbins ,who may not have had the flashy long jaunts of McFarland, but rushed for 203 yards himself on 37 carries.
Dobbins allowed the Buckeyes to keep Maryland's defense honest against the pass despite being down on the scoreboard all game, which paid off in the passing game.

5) The passing game changed too with Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon going over 100 yards on the day.
Because Maryland had to respect J.K. Dobbins, which was not always the case earlier this season, Dwayne Haskins was able to throw more passes downfield instead of having to use screens and dump offs to replace the running game.
Sometimes, the answer to one problem can be traced to another.

6) There was only one time that I thought that Ohio State might not win this game.
Mind you, that wasn't arrogance on my part, I was checking in on the game when I had an extra second, but Ohio State continued to battle back and with minutes remaining, the Buckeyes had managed to tie the game at 38 but had just allowed another of what seemed to be about 50 big plays over the course of the game to put the Terrapins inside the one with Maryland poised to lead.
The Buckeye defense stepped up for one of the few times on the day and punched the ball loose from quarterback Tyrelle Pigrome and the ball bounced forward into the end zone.
When it was Maryland that fell on the football for a touchdown and the lead, for the first time, I moved from worried and concerned to Oh, No.

7) Dwayne Haskins, as most of you know, was an Ohio State flip from a Maryland commitment and would likely be starting his only game in front of his home crowd, so he was heavily motivated for this game and the drive that tied the game with one minute might be the legacy that he leaves at Ohio State.
Calm, cool and the bullet that he fired to Binjimen Victor from three yards away was as good of a short yardage touchdown pass as you'll see.
Add in that in what might be his only year as the full-time quarterback at Ohio State, Haskins set season records for yards and touchdown passes yesterday in the win.
Haskins might not have been Urban Meyer's idea of a quarterback, but he sure fits mine.

8) But that defense.
It seems like every Anthony McFarland run was straight out of the old Tecmo Bowl video game where you as the defense call pass at the top of the screen and the offense calls a pitch run to the bottom and chaos ensues.
I mean, these plays weren't even close- no breaking tackles, just a run call and run straight to daylight.
Just terrible.

9) Maryland and Matt Canada showed guts in attempting to win the game at the end of the overtime.
In these situations, the less talented team's chances of winning decreases with each overtime period.
And the play call worked-the receiver was open as the Buckeyes wound up sticking two players on one receiver, it's just that the throw anticipated the receiver going one way and he went the other.
The call was good and they just didn't make the play.
I'm usually a little dubious of interim head coaches that get promoted in-season getting the full-time position, especially if they have never been a head coach before.
However, considering Maryland's current problems and yet the effort that they showed, I'd seriously consider scrapping a head coach search and tabbing Matt Canada for the job.

10) Now, next week and the rival for all the marbles.
The Michigan defense is among the best in the nation, but I think they can score on them, although not the type of points as in some games.
Shea Patterson gives them their best passer in years and their offense must be respected.
However, they struggled against Indiana at home yesterday and this game is in Columbus.
I rate Michigan a narrow favorite no more than a field goal.
I think this is a close game and if Michigan cannot get this one against a flawed Buckeye team, I'm not sure when they can.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Boxing Challenge: Hooker stops Saucedo

Everything seemed to be in the favor of Alex Saucedo for his attempt to lift the WBO junior welterweight title from Maurice Hooker,
Saucedo had the home advantage in Oklahoma City, his promoter (Top Rank), his television network (ESPN) and the small ring to suit his aggressive style and not the large ring preferred by the rangy Hooker.
Everything was in place to bring Saucedo the title and Top Rank, the next big fight for ESPN, which would be a Saucedo unification with WBC champion Jose Ramirez, which why Top Rank overpaid Hooker in order to win the purse bid to gain their fighter those advantages.

However, all of those advantages couldn't overcome one problem - Saucedo's inability to make the right hand of Hooker miss and the result was Hooker retaining his title and taking it back to DAZN with a seventh-round knockout.
It wasn't easy though, as the power-punching challenger dropped Hooker with a second round right hand and Hooker was dazed upon rising from the floor, but Hooker managed to clear his head and even though I had Hooker losing the third round on my card, you had the feeling that Saucedo might have seen his best opportunity go across the bow.
Hooker then began to turn the tide and at the end of the sixth round-I tweeted that I thought that I saw a look of resignation on the face of Salcedo, which usually is not a good sign.
It wasn't as Hooker stung Salcedo seconds into the seventh round and drove a staggered Salcedo into the ropes, which the referee correctly scored a knockdown as only the ropes kept Salcedo from falling.
Hooker jumped upon Salcedo after the eight count and landed several uncontested right hands which forced the referee to end the bout.

The Hooker victory ruined Top Rank's plans for a spring unification bout with WBC champion Jose Ramirez as noted earlier, but Hooker and promoter Eddie Hearn both invited Ramirez for a unification fight anyway, but the key words belonged to Hooker "come on over to DAZN", which is the television network for Hearn's fighters and where Top Rank fighters seldom tread.
Since Top Rank signed their deal with ESPN, only Oleksandr Gzovdyk has crossed lines for a challenge of Adonis Stevenson in two weeks on Showtime on another network, so I'm doubtful that fight is able to be negotiated unless Hearn is willing to bring Hooker back to ESPN.
If this is how Top Rank (or any other promoter with a platform deal) is going to talk contract with opposing promoters, don't count on a lot of these big inter-promotional fights to be signed.
Golden Boy brought Jorge Linares over to make a Vasyl Lomachenko happen and Eddie Hearn honored the purse bid to have Hooker defend here and that means that when a fighter really wants to make a fight it can be made, but if this is indeed the line in the sand for Top Rank, get ready to wait.

The co-feature (shown on ESPN +) saw Egid Kaviliauskas overcome a headbutt in the second round to knock out Robert Arriaza in the third round in a welterweight eliminator from the WBO.
Kaviliauskas used a right hand to the side of the head to floor Arriaza but added a punch to Arriaza while he was down, which rightfully angered the Arriaza camp, but I doubt that it would have changed the outcome.
Give Kaviliauskas credit for the rally with such a bad cut sending plenty of crimson flowing down his face, but not too much because we really don't know how good Arriaza really was.
The win will give Kaviliauskas the mandatory position for WBO champion Terence Crawford, also promoted by Top Rank, who watched the fight from ringside between Twitter call-outs of IBF kingpin Errol Spence, who also was watching in support of fellow Dallas native Maurice Hooker.
I don't think Crawford should be too concerned about Kaviliauskas, who fights more crudely than his two-time Olympian status would suggest nor should he worry too much about fighting Errol Spence anytime soon either.

The problem in making a Spence-Crawford fight is this- Spence is signed with PBC, who is the company least likely to allow their elite fighters to fight another elite fighter from another promoter.
Crawford is with Top Rank, which brings its own issues, but has more of a track record of making tough fights, should their fighter demand it, but of course, would prefer matching their fighters with Crawford such as Kaviliauskas.

Spence has more options with a fight in March against lightweight champ Mikey Garcia, which looks good on paper, but likely won't be more than an overpowering of Garcia in the ring and with WBA champ Keith Thurman and WBC champ Shawn Porter in the PBC stable, while Crawford doesn't have nearly as many options, unless Vasyl Lomachenko wants to make a Garcia-like leap to challenge him, so Crawford needs Spence more than vice-versa for now.

The boxing game just makes you cringe sometimes
Crawford likes to fight often but has problems finding suitable opponents.
Spence has plenty of suitable opponents but doesn't seem to want to fight very often, as he will have fought one round in 14 months by the time he fights Garcia.
WBC champion Shawn Porter seems to be willing to fight anyone, but he's never been the preferred welterweight of his own promoter and few of even his fellow PBC fighters want to fight him unless a sanctioning body forces them to and even if you defeat Porter, it's a rugged grueling fight that leaves more of you behind than you would prefer.
WBA beltholder Keith Thurman's activity in the ring makes Spence's ring time look like he's fighting constantly with only one fight in twenty-two months (and that fight was preceded by another nine months of inactivity before that) when he finally returns against shopworn Josesito Lopez in an understandable squash match to chip some rust off.
The welterweight champions talk about settling who's best, but it's going to be quite a while to see just who is the best of them all.

The funny part of the Spence-Crawford whatever that was video above was Spence's comments that Crawford was "too small and light in the ass" and could be taken as Crawford was too little to make such an encounter interesting, yet Spence, who will have fought one round in 14 months by the time he fights Garcia, has no problems fighting the even smaller Garcia.
Only in the boxing business.

In the boxing challenge, I earned two points for the Kaviliauskas win, while Ramon Malpica scored one.
Both of us selected Alex Saucedo to defeat Maurice Hooker.
I still lead the challenge 188-165

Friday, November 16, 2018


The college season nears its end, but the PPM still steams forward strong with Thanksgiving up next week.

Last Week: 8-2
Overall: 87-16-1

Ohio State over Maryland 34-14
Houston over Tulane 44-31 (Already played)
Boise State over New Mexico 39-19
Kentucky over Middle Tennessee State 30-23
Akron over Bowling Green 24-13
Texas Tech over Kansas State 52-38
Washington over Oregon State 20-6

Game of the Week
Central Florida over Cincinnati 30-21

Saints over Eagles 35-27

Game of the Week
Rams over Chiefs 41-38

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge starts early this week as the biggest fight of the weekend is on a Friday night from Oklahoma City on ESPN at midnight.

Top Rank and ESPN has a very intriguing bout for the WBO junior welterweight title as hometown hero Alex Saucedo challenges for the title of Maurice Hooker of Dallas.
Hooker upset Terry Flanagan in England to win the title vacated by Terence Crawford and will be attempting to make his initial defense a successful one.
Saucedo is coming off an absolute battle against Lenny Zappavigna winning on cuts in round seven on ESPN to secure his spot as the mandatory contender.
Top Rank (Saucedo's promoter) won a tight purse bid to hold the fight in Oklahoma City and place it on ESPN over Hooker's promoter (Eddie Hearn and Matchroom), who had they won the bid would have placed it on DAZN to broadcast and would have placed the bout in Dallas

Hooker was an underdog against Flanagan and he'll be the underdog against a hostile crowd in Oklahoma City, but he's a very live underdog with boxing skills that could carry the day against the aggressive and heavy hitting Saucedo.
A win by Hooker will set him up to perhaps face the eventual winner of the 140 pound World Boxing Super Series, which has two of the current champions in it in WBA's Kiryl Relikh and IBF's Ivan Baranchyk as well as the tournament favorite in Regis Prograis.
A win by Saucedo could see him right back in the spring as Top Rank has announced that they are likely to match Saucedo against WBC champion Jose Ramirez (also promoted by Top Rank) in what not only would unify two titles but would match two exciting to watch and undefeated champions, so there is plenty on the line when the clock strikes midnight (or 11 PM locally) in Oklahoma City Frida night!

I've heard that ESPN is only televising Hooker-Saucedo with the undercard on ESPN+ and the main fight on the supporting card is not only part of the challenge, but an important fight in its own right as two undefeated welterweights face off for the right to be fed (err become the mandatory) to WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford with Egid Kavaliauskas battling Roberto Arriaza.
Egid Kavaliauskas is from the Egis Klimas stable that manages Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk and has a sizable amateur resume, while I don't know very much about Arriaza at all, so this will be interesting to see which fighter will be next to challenge Terence Crawford.

DAZN has the other challenge fights on Saturday night from the boxing hotbed of Mulvane, Kansas as Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller will fight Bogdan Dinu for a minor title that was stripped from Manuel Charr for failing a drug test.
The title means little to most, but Miller is trying to stay busy and one can never take issue with that, especially with a fighter that tends to balloon quickly in weight when he is out of the ring.
I've never seen Dinu, but as respected as source as Showtime's Al Bernstein was quoted as saying that if Miller comes into this fight out of shape or underprepared, Dinu could pull a major upset.
I'll often think of such things as hyperbole from someone announcing the fight, but Bernstein has nothing to do with the contest and that lends major credibility to the chances of Dinu.

The main reason this card is in Kansas is the continuing comeback of perennial Zabbie contender Brandon Rios, who was last seen being dispatched by the naturally larger Danny Garcia.
Rios is being matched well this time against the journeyman younger brother of Canelo Alvarez-Ramon Alvarez.
If Rios cannot win this one, I think Rios should consider leaving the game because if he cannot beat fighters of Alvarez's level, it is time to go.

The final fight has the always entertaining and always bleeding Gabe Rosado meeting Luis Arias in a middleweight battle.
Arias was last seen in a timid effort (after a large amount of pre-fight bluster) against Daniel Jacobs on HBO, but he has the boxing skills to win a decision over the often crude Rosado.
The questions are these- Does Arias have the heart to hang for the entire fight against the constant marching forward and brave Rosado and win on the cards?
Can Rosado manage to keep his skin together long enough not to have the fight stopped just as he begins to make his traditional late-round charge?
This one could be on either end of the spectrum from entertaining to tedious.

WBO Junior Welterweight Title. 12 Rds
Maurice Hooker vs Alex Saucedo
Both: Saucedo Unanimous Decision

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Egid Kavaliauskas vs Roberto Arriaza
R.L: Kavaliauskas Unanimous Decision
TRS: Kavaliauskas KO 9

Heavyweights, 12 Rds
Jarrell Miller vs Bogdan Dinu
R.L: Miller KO 4
TRS: Miller Unanimous Decision

Junior Middleweights 10 Rds
Brandon Rios vs Ramon Alvarez
Both: Rios Unanimous Decision

Middleweights. 10 Rds
Gabriel Rosado vs Luis Arias
R.L: Arias Unanimous Decision
TRS: Arias KO 8 (I don't see Arias knocking out Rosado, but he'll cut him up)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Indians-Pirates Trade Utilitymen

The Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates made a minor swap involving five players that could see some of the players making the big league team or see them as stalwarts at AAA to be used as possible injury reinforcements and one very interesting prospect to eye on for the future.

The Indians received outfielder Jordan Luplow and utilityman Max Moroff in exchange for another utilityman in Erik Gonzalez and two pitchers that pitched for the lowest level last season in the Arizona Rookie League.

Jordan Luplow will be given a chance to compete for a roster spot in the suddenly depleted outfield.
The 25-year-old Luplow played in 64 games in Pittsburgh over the last two seasons, in an occasional call-up when the Pirate outfield would have an injury.
Luplow showed power hitting three homers in each of the two seasons, but hit just .194 as a combined total over the two years in 170 at-bats.
Luplow can play all three outfield positions and will challenge for a backup spot off the bench for the Indians.
If Luplow cannot win one of those jobs, he will be a strong option to be an injury call-up from AAA Columbus after hitting .287 with eight homers last year for the Clippers top rival in Indianapolis.
Cleveland is likely to lose as many as four outfielders to free agency (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis) and three more recovering from injuries/surgeries (Leonys Martin, Bradley Zimmer and Tyler Naquin) that make them unlikely to be counted on at least early in 2019, so an opportunity is there for Luplow should he grab it.

Max Moroff has spent time with the Pirates over the last three seasons, but in none of those has the 25-year-old Moroff distinguished himself other than like Luplow showing a little power with six homers over a 181 at-bat total.
Moroff can play all around the infield and has an excellent glove, so Moroff has a more than fair chance to occupy the utility spot off the Cleveland bench that was held by Erik Gonzalez in 2018.
If Moroff does not win that spot, he has options left and like Luplow, could be a starter for and be a veteran call-up from the Indians AAA squad in Columbus.

Speaking of Erik Gonzalez, it is Gonzalez that is headed to Pittsburgh as their main acquisition in this trade.
The 27-year-old shortstop played in 81 games last season for the Indians, as he was the infielder off the bench in the role that Max Moroff hopes to fill, hitting .265 with a homer in 143 at-bats.
Gonzalez is out of minor league options so Gonzalez will at least be the utility infielder for the Pirates as he can play second and third along with his natural position of shortstop.
Gonzalez has always been a player that I have liked and despite an average at best bat, I've thought that he could be a steady glove-first shortstop or even a second baseman that could start on the right team.
With standout Francisco Lindor at shortstop and the highly-paid Jason Kipnis at second, Gonzalez was always blocked with Cleveland and he may be stopped again in Pittsburgh as, despite their 2018 starter Jordy Mercer leaving via free agency, former number one draft selection Kevin Newman would be their top choice, but Newman struggled with the bat (.209) and with the glove (four errors) in 31 late-season games so Gonzalez may have a crack in the door to slip through with a strong appearance in the Bradenton spring to perhaps win the starting job.

The other two players that the Pirates added are both young pitchers that have not pitched above the Arizona Rookie League and are lottery tickets.

Dante Mendoza turns 20 next month and along with being a 12th round draft pick in 2017, Mendoza's only note of substance is being the cousin of former Baltimore closer Zach Britton.
Mendoza was 2-2 with a 4.58 ERA in Arizona last season but did strike out 37 batters in 37 innings, so that is a stat that I always look for when evaluating low minors numbers.
Mendoza walked 20 though and seven of his ten appearances came from the bullpen, so that lack of control is not an appealing number for a reliever's future.

19-year-old Tahnaj Thomas is perhaps the more interesting of the two after being signed as a free agent from the Bahamas, which isn't exactly the hottest spot for power arms, but despite a 4.58 ERA over just under twenty innings of work, Thomas had two numbers that leaped out at me- batters hit just .188 against him and 27 strikeouts.
Thomas did make some appearances on the Indians top 30 prospect lists at the end of the season, so he is not a throw-in by any means, he's far from a sure thing, but he's very interesting to me.

I suppose both Mendoza and Thomas have chances to begin at the Pirates new affiliate in the South Atlantic League with Greensboro, but either or both could remain in Florida to start in June with the Pirates New York-Penn League franchise in Morgantown WV.

Back later with an early boxing challenge as there is an important fight on a rare Friday night and the PPM as well.
If I remain at the road office today, I will have some time, so I'll try to find time to keep working on that promised post on Dick Slater.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fantasy Minor Picks; 2018

Now that the season is over, I wanted to update the players that I selected in my minor league fantasy draft last winter.

It's a mixed bag between great seasons, disappointing ones due to injuries and some just taking time to develop.
Nonetheless, I'm still fairly pleased and with one possible exception, I think I'm going to keep these guys around for 2019.

Round One: Luis Robert OF Chicago White Sox
Low A Kannapolis 13 Games .289, 0 HR 4 RBI 4 SB
High A Winston-Salem 32 Games .269, 0 HR, 11 RBI 8 SB

The 21-year-old Cuban defector had a rough year as he played in just fifty games between a spring training wrist injury and an in-season thumb injury and didn't hit a homer.
Still, wrist and thumb injuries can take away power so I can excuse that and Robert is playing very well in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .369 with a homer in 49 at-bats.
Hopefully, 2019 will show more of the true talent of Robert.
Robert will likely return to High A Winston-Salem, but it's possible he could start with AA Birmingham with a strong spring training.

Round Two: Heliot Ramos OF San Francisco
Low A Augusta: 124 Games  .245 11 HR 52 RBI 8 SB

Ramos, who didn't turn 19 until the season was challenged with an assignment to Low A Augusta and it was a decent, but not great full-season debut.
The average was a little low, but Ramos showed pop with 24 doubles and 8 triples, so the power potential is there. Ramos struck out 136 times which is a lot, but I'll hope that as Ramos gains experience some of those strikeouts will go away.
At 19, Ramos may return to Augusta to start 2019, although he might be assigned to High A San Jose.

Round Three: Jesus Luzardo P Oakland
High A Stockton: 3 Starts 14.2 IP 1-1 Record 1.23 ERA 25 SO 5 BB 0.75 WHIP
AA Midland: 16 Starts 78.2 IP 7-3 Record 2.29 ERA 86 SO 18 BB 0.97 WHIP
AAA Nashville: 4 Starts 16 IP 1-1 Record 7.31 ERA 18 SO 7 BB 2.00 WHIP

Luzardo turned out to be the standout of my draft, dominating two stops, before a late-season cameo at AAA.
In his 108 innings, Luzardo struck out 129 and walked only 30, showing an ability to miss bats and command of the strike zone.
Luzardo turned 21 after the season, so he was not only moved quickly but has room to improve.
Luzardo will likely start 2019 at the Athletics new AAA affiliate in Las Vegas.

Round Four: Adrian Morejon P San Diego
High A Lake Elsinore 13 Starts 62.2 IP 4-4 Record 3.30 ERA 74 SO 24 BB 1.24 WHIP

Morejon was pitching very well in June before hitting the disabled list with a triceps injury,
Morejon would make just one start in each of July and August, pitching a total of five innings before being shut down for the season after August 5.
The injuries are not reported to be serious and Morejon turns twenty over the winter, so my guess is that he returns to Lake Elsinore to start the season and with a solid April, should receive a speedy promotion to San Diego's new AA location in Amarillo, Texas.

Round Five: Jhailyn Ortiz OF Philadelphia
Low A Lakewood: 110 Games .225 Avg 13 HR 47 RBI

Ortiz had a very disappointing season at Low A, striking out 148 times (12 more times than Heliot Ramos in 14 fewer games) and when I saw him play, didn't exactly wow me with his hustle.
Ortiz played the season at 19 (turns 20 in November) so there could be just immaturity issues and he hit a homer at Hagerstown that was the longest that I saw all year, so with 13 homers the power potential is there.
Ortiz is likely to return to Low A Lakewood to work on his contact issues.

Round Five A: William Contreras C Atlanta
Low A Rome: 82 Games .293 11 HR 39 RBI
High A Florida 23 Games .253 0 HR 11 RBI

Contreras continued his development with a strong year in the South Atlantic League before spending August in the Florida State League.
Contreras turns 21 before next season and has time to develop his plate discipline.
Contreras is rumored to be a possible piece in any off-season Braves trades, but if he stays in the Atlanta organization, he'll start back in Florida with the High A Fire Frogs.

I'm more than likely going to keep all of these players, but if I release one, it would be Jhailyn Ortiz.
I may do another piece on the other players in my system on another slow day.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Chubb burns through Atlanta! Browns upset Falcons!

Nick Chubb raced for a team record touchdown run of 92 yards and Baker Mayfield tossed three touchdowns to lead the Cleveland Browns to a surprising 28-16 upset of the Atlanta Falcons in Cleveland.

Chubb finished with 176 yards rushing for the game, while Baker Mayfield completed 17 of his 20 throws on the afternoon with each of his three scoring passes to a different Browns receiver to lead the Browns to the victory.

Cleveland improves to 3-6-1 and broke a four-game losing streak with the victory as they enter their off week before traveling to Cincinnati for their next game.

Brownie Bits

1) The 92 yard run of Nick Chubb not only set a team record that was set by Bobby Mitchell for the longest touchdown run in 1959, but it continued to establish Chubb as a breakaway threat.
When Chubb was drafted, he was thought of to be more of an inside power runner that lacked that type of speed.
Chubb's cantor in this game and the two scores that he ripped off in Oakland have quickly changed that scouting report.

2) As for another highly drafted offensive player, Baker Mayfield was tremendously efficient in this victory as he completed 17 of 20 passes.
Mayfield was active, accurate and did exactly what a quarterback needs to do to pull upset-Avoided mistakes and kept his team in position to win.

3) The one play that showed Mayfield at his best was his 28-yard touchdown dart to Rashard Higgins in the first half.
Mayfield rolled right out of the pocket and while on the rollout, fired hard and straight to Higgins, who made a nice catch in the end zone to outleap Atlanta's Robert Alford for the ball.
That is how to best use the strengths of Mayfield and in the two games under offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, the Browns have been much improved in allowing Baker to play to what he does best.

4) Freddie Kitchens has been a breath of fresh air so far, but it has occasionally seemed as if he wants to empty the playbook quickly.
Take the one Browns turnover of the day when the Browns were moving the ball and tried a halfback pass with seldom-used Dontrell Hilliard, who badly underthrew intended receiver Baker Mayfield (?) and the ball hung for so long that Atlanta's Damontae Kazee had more than enough time to glide under for the interception and resulting 33 yard return.
About the only good thing that I can say about that pass was this- the ball hung so long that it might have hurt Atlanta as a better-thrown pass might have been returned for a touchdown.
It was irrelevant as the Falcons scored on the resulting drive anyway.

5) I also hated a fourth down try where Baker Mayfield wanders out of the pocket, pretends he isn't getting the signal, the ball is quick-snapped to the running back (Nick Chubb in this case) for a draw play, which hopefully will catch the defense sleeping on the job.
It didn't and stuff like that comes off so Harry High School.
It plays out like the kid in little league baseball that fumbles with the baseball for five minutes to do the "Hidden Ball " trick, which isn't only illegal in little league, everyone in the ballpark sees it coming.

6) Plenty of credit to Gregg Williams defense as well for this win.
I picked Atlanta to win this game, but before the season, I thought that a dome/turf team might struggle in Cleveland.
Still, with the recent play of the Browns and the strong games of late by the Falcons, I thought this could be ugly
The Falcons are a better version of the Buccaneers in which they score a ton and allow a ton, they just manage to win more than Tampa does playing in that manner.
Matt Ryan threw for over 300 yards, but was kept from one of those crazy days that the Falcons are capable of having and Julio Jones did catch seven passes and 107 yards with a score, but his longest play was just thirty yards- A great scheme kept the Browns in the game and didn't let the opposition's best players beat them.

7) Baker Mayfield wasn't sacked at all and the offensive line played well, but the play that I want to write about came from a block that the Browns didn't make.
Brooks Reed came flying off the edge and beat Greg Robinson off the ball and appeared to be on a heat-seeking mission for an unsuspecting Baker Mayfield.
It was looking to be the type of play that games turn on- the quarterback gets crushed on the blind side, coughs up the football and bad things ensue.
However, it didn't and why?
Because Robinson didn't give up on Reed and kept moving his feet, which led to Robinson getting back into the pocket and getting just enough of Reed to send him careening BY Mayfield and just another harmless play.
That's the type of hustling play that winning teams make and the type of play that truly brings more "Culture Change" than any press conference, speech or poster.

8) I've always been critical of so many of these coaches/coordinators from the "Bill Walsh" coaching tree that always seems to think their system and knowledge is so much better than the opponents.
I cannot count the times that I've seen one of these guys outsmart themselves with a play call designed to catch defenses off guard rather than line up the players and go man against man.
This games showcased Steve Sarkisian, the Falcons play-caller and former head coach at Washington and USC, who allowed the Browns to hold on a 4th down and half a football in the fourth quarter by instead of having Ryan lean into the pile for an almost certain score or even a handoff to Tevin Coleman for either a leap over the bunch or maybe a toss play, if you really wanted to get racy, had Ryan throw a pass to backup tight end Eric Saubert that fell incomplete.

9) And yet minutes later. the Falcons and Sarkisian almost did the same thing AGAIN.
Starting with a first and goal from Cleveland's one, Sarkisian called pass plays on first and second down, before the Browns stopped Tevin Coleman on a third down rushing attempt.
Finally, on fourth down and ANOTHER pass play, Ryan had to throw the ball up and hope for the best as Gregg Williams sent Damarious Randall on a blitz that Ryan barely avoided.
Ryan's "alley-oop" was grabbed by Austin Hooper, who finished with ten catches on the day, and Hooper's dive for the goal line had just enough power to push Jabrill Peppers back to break the plane for the score.
Making a game much harder than it has to be- Ladies and Gentlemen- Mr. Steve Sarkisian!

10) Baker Mayfield completed passes to nine different Browns, only one caught as many as four passes (Duke Johnson), only one was targeted five times (Jarvis Landry) and none of the receivers finished with more than 39 yards (Antonio Callaway).
Spreading the ball around when you don't have a dominant receiver, (No, I don't consider Landry a true #1) is a good idea to keep defenses guessing by not being dependent on one guy.
Jarvis Landry will likely be most affected by this over the course of the season, but it's not a bad thing.

11) I wasn't sure the Browns would win another game, so this was pleasant news.
It will be interesting to see if the Browns simply played the best game that they could play at home against a flawed defensive team or if indeed some things have turned around,
After their off week, they travel to Southern Ohio and the meeting with the currently 5-4 Bengals, who allowed over half a hundred to New Orleans yesterday and fired their defensive coordinator.
Cincinnati travels to 4-5 Baltimore this week in a game that both need badly (Baltimore a little more) and one wonders just what the Bengals shape will be for the Browns if Baltimore wins.
The rumors are flying that Hue Jackson could be returning to the Bengals in some capacity, so if that happens before the Browns arrive, things could be very interesting.
This has become a winnable game, but until the Browns show that they can beat anyone on the road (the Browns last won a road game in October 2015, an overtime win over Baltimore), I cannot pick them to win, but this game looks like there is a far better chance of winning than I would have said two days ago.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Boxing Challenge: Usyk finishes Bellew

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images
In a DAZN centered weekend, the star was the expected one as the only man to hold all four championships in his division,Oleksandr Usyk ended a close fight (on some cards) with a left hand that not only ended his fight with former WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew, but likely ended the Briton's career in the eighth round.
The fight was interesting and competitive entering round eight, but I had Usyk well ahead (5-2) and wearing Bellew down, but apparently, the on-site judges were seeing something that I was not as Bellew led on two cards and was even on the third.
Bellew had his moments early, but I cannot fathom him being even in any way, let alone ahead, but Usyk took the scorecards out of play with one shot.
Usyk is likely to vacate his titles (too bad, I really like having one champion) for a move to the heavyweight division, where Eddie Hearn, who co-promotes Usyk and fully promotes WBA/IBF/WBO champion Anthony Joshua, was quoted after the fight that the plan was for Usyk to fight his next fight at heavyweight and then challenge Joshua.
The win for Usyk added Bellew to Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev to Usyk's victims for 2018 and considering that all three wins were in his opponent's home countries and the World Boxing Super Series victory, Oleksandr Usyk will more than likely be my choice for fighter of the year.

The co-feature saw former WBA lightweight champion Anthony Crolla hammer out a workmanlike unanimous decision over Daud Yordan to become the mandatory contender for the WBA and their lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko.
Lomachenko, who will attempt to add the WBO belt of Jose Pedraza in a few weeks, might be likely to travel to London to spread his reputation (and show he can sell tickets) in Europe to fight Crolla, but Eddie Hearn may not be in a hurry to force his man to fight Lomachenko and may be content to bide his time and hope for a Lomachenko voluntary vacating of that title, should that situation arise.
I scored Crolla a 117-111  (9-3) winner.

The evening card had the World Boxing Super Series finishing their quarter-final round by completing their cruiserweight semi-final bracket from Chicago.
The first fight featured the tournament's top seed and the man that gave Oleksandr Usyk his most difficult bout earlier this year with former WBC champion Mairis Briedis against little known Noel Mikaelian of Germany.
This fight displayed two surprises- the first came when Mikaelian controlled the fight with his jab against an either underprepared or overconfident (perhaps both) Briedis and won handily on my card 115-111 (8-4) with both fighters being penalized one point for fouls (Mikaelian in the 4th, Briedis in the 10th) in the fight.
The second surprise rose when the scorecards were announced to the surprise of everyone, including Briedis it seemed, that Briedis was the winner and even worse by margins that were simply incredible (2,4 and an unbelievable 6 points).
I feel bad for Mikaelian, who stepped up with a solid effort against the toughest test of his career and should have been rewarded with a winning, if not glittering victory.
If I made the decision for the WBSS, I'd immediately place Mikaelian as the "Stand-by Alternate" for each of the next two rounds to be used in case of an injury or a competitor misses weight.
Briedis will face the winner of the other bout in Krzysztof Glowacki.

Glowacki, who won a WBO minor title that I usually wouldn't mention, but if Oleksandr Usyk does vacate his titles. Glowacki will likely be elevated to full champion in that organization, defeated Maksim Vlasov via a unanimous decision in a fight that was more entertaining than the other quarter-final, but still was far from a classic.
Glowacki was credited with a third-round knockdown that appeared to be more along the lines of a trip but was scored a knockdown on his way to a 118-109 (10-2 with a bonus point for the knockdown) triumph on my scorecard.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica outscored me six to five on the weekend with the difference being Ramon earning two points for the Mairis Briedis win, whereas I scored just one for the Briedis "win".
I lead the season 186-164.