Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Quarterly Review - Tampa Bay Lightning

Still a thing of beauty - Photo by Getty Images
With a quarter of the season gone it’s a good time to look in on the Tampa Bay Lightning and check to see how they’re doing.  The quick answer is….meh.  At 11-10-2 (that’s 11 wins, 10 losses and 2 overtime/shootout losses for those who aren’t hockey savvy) they’re good enough for 3rd place in the Southeast Division and 11th place in the Eastern Conference.  Unfortunately, both spots get you bupkus when it comes to the playoffs.

The good news is that with 24 points they are only 2 points out of the playoff race and 6 points behind the surprising Florida Panthers for the division lead (and the home ice advantage come playoff time). One solid hot streak and they’re right back in the hunt.

The not quite so good news is that this team, as presently constructed, is average at best.  A quick spin on the stats site shows them 16th in the league in goals per game, 22nd in the league in goals against, 19th in power play, 16th in penalty killing and so on and so on.

A lot of fingers have been pointed at the goaltending situation.  Through 23 games Dwayne Roloson (.887 saver percentage) and Mathieu Garon (.916) have put up Smith-Ellisian numbers (not very good).  Anytime you have to go to page two to see where they rank in terms of goals against and save percentage it’s not a good sign.

That lack of production would seem to lead to an easy fix.  Bring in a new goaltender.  A lot of names have been thrown around on the message boards.  Most of the names mentioned happen to be in other organizations.  Organizations that are wanting to extract a heavy price for their talent. The Washington Capitals set the bar in the off-season when they dealt Semyon Varlamov to the Avalanche for a first round pick in 2012 and a second round pick in 2012 or 2013.

So for all of you crying for Tuukka Rask or Corey Schneider that’s what the price is going to be.  It’s pretty steep for an organization that is looking to build up it’s in-house depth, something that GM Steve Yzerman has mentioned is pretty important.  Even if the Lightning can work a deal that has less of an impact it might not change the results.

For all of the talk of the 1-3-1 trap and how it shuts down offenses, the Lightning have been giving up a lot of goals.  As in over three a game.  Coach Boucher’s game plan relies on a “pack mentality” that involves the entire team playing as one.  Forwards helping defensemen, defensemen helping goalies, mascots helping water boys, etc.  When they don’t play that way, things get ugly in a hurry.

Roloson was not brought in because he is a technical goaltender who absorbs shots like a sponge.  He was brought in because he was athletic enough to stop the first shot, even on two-on-ones, and then let his defensemen clear out the rebounds.  The blue-liners control the front of the net, the forwards hang back far enough to get the puck on a short pass from the defense and counter with speed.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.

After losses you can usually hear Mr. Boucher talk about “gap control”.  The “gap” he is talking about is between the forwards and the defensemen.  When the Lightning are struggling (which seems to be far too often this year) the forwards are breaking out of the zone too early and forcing the defensemen to hit them with long passes.  While once in a blue moon it leads to the odd man rush, more often than not it leads to a turnover at the blue line or in the neutral zone.

Turnovers lead to more shots, which lead to more goals.  So, just switching goalies isn’t going to help.  They need to play better on defense.  Which is something I think they will do once Mattias Ohlund returns from injury and the new players they brought in fully adapt to the system.  Of the 7 defenseman on the roster only Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark and Vic Hedman have played more than one full season with the team. There is a learning curve to Mr. Boucher’s system that takes time.

One thing that can help right away is to  improve their special teams.  With the firepower they can roll out with the extra man, there is no excuse for them to be converting only 15.7% of their opportunities.  With the Lightning that means grinding more goals out from in front of the net.  They do get in ruts when they become infatuated with scoring the prettiest goal in NHL history.  That leads to a lot of passing when it might be a better idea to throw the puck on net and let the bangers like Ryan Malone and Brett Connolly put in a rebound or two.

There was a lot of worry in the pre-season about the lack of secondary scoring with the loss of Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne.  To the most part I think that concern has been alleviated with the play of Connolly and Vincent Lecavalier rediscovering his scoring touch. Marty St. Louis is down a bit in regards to his goals, but he is a streaky scorer who can pot 4 goals in three games and be back among the team leaders in no time.

The biggest concern in the lack of scoring department has to be Dominic Moore, Steve Downie and Ryan Shannon. Moore had 18 goals a season ago, and while that might be a bit much to ask for on a yearly basis, he should have more than one goal at this point.  Shannon needs to start contributing a bit more on the offensive side as well.  He’s been benched a few times already and he might start losing more playing time now that Dana Tyrell has been called up.
Too many shots into the goalie's pads - Getty Images

As for Steve Downie, this is a big year for him.  After suffering through injuries most of last season he found his scoring touch in the playoffs last spring and was a regular on the top two lines.  This season he’s regressed a bit and found himself on the third line and with only 5 points to his name.  Even worse he’s a team worst -12, not something you want to see out of one of your checking line players.  He has been a bit snake-bit, against Winnipeg last week he hit a post and missed a wide open net, so there is a chance that the breaks will start falling his way, but he needs to make sure he’s outworking the opponents and staying out of the box.

Actually, that would be good advice for everyone on the team. Through 23 games they’ve drawn 110 minor penalties.  Through 82 games last season they only drew 335 minor penalties.  As you can see they are on pace to draw way more penalties this season.  Most of the penalties have been of the “lazy” variety.  Those would be hooking, holding, or tripping. You get those penalties when you’re not moving your feet and you let the other players beat you to the puck.

Last season the Lightning made it to the Eastern Conference Finals by outworking their competition. That’s their biggest problem this year.  They’re simply not working hard enough to overcome their deficiencies. Not even the second coming of Patrick Roy would help them now.  I trust in Mr. Boucher to make his team realize this before it’s too late.  

Favorite Downie Photo of the Year - AP on this one.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Card Showin' I Went

Before the holiday weekend I attended the Sun Times Sports Collectibles show.  There wasn't really a good reason for me to go since no vendors accept PayPal in person and that's where my card budget is located.  But I knew Sal and Tim would be there and they lured me in with the promise of free cards. 

So I went.  I browsed, but did not buy.  Finally I met up with my fellow bloggers - and blogger aficionado Nick B. and swapped out some cards.  I had one card for Sal and about 15 commons for Tim....I left with 52 new cards. 

I was also able to live vicariously through those two and watched them bust a couple of boxes of product I won't be buying this year (Upper Deck Base and Parkhurst Champions).  It's fun to rip packs even if I'm not keeping the cards.

Here is a sample of the cards that have been added to the collection:

From Sal - An ITG redemption from the National earlier this year and an Emerald Parallel of Steven Stamkos from Artifacts.  It's numbered 35/50 and is the lowest numbered card in my Stamkos collection.

Some more Sal cardboard goodness.  A Cedrick Desjardins Luxury Suite Rookie numbered72/899.  Sadly, Desjardins is no longer in the Lightning organization.  He could have helped out with their current goaltender conundrum.   Next to him is a Victor Hedman Rookie Materials card from Upper Deck.  The back of the card swears that he wore the jersey - at a rookie photo shoot. Big Vic is having a rough year so far, the Bolts need him to improve to have any chance of making the playoffs.

Just a small sample of the goodies that Tim provided.  First up is a retro-parallel of Dwayne Roloson from this year's O-Pee-Chee set. Next to Father Time is a card that Tim thought was just a base set at first.  Instead, it's an unannounced parallel version.  It's the playoff beard variant.  That's not a joke, the first 50 cards in the set have a variation featuring the player rocking his best facial hair.  Seeded at 1:9 packs it won't be easy to complete, but not impossible either.

Finally, a Jimmy Wright Young Guns card.  He made the team in his rookie year, but has yet to crack the line-up since.  Hopefully, after a solid season in Norfolk he'll be back up on the roster soon.

The generosity of fellow collectors never ceased to amaze me.  Thanks, guys!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Mailbag Time!

That's right, the only time that's better than T-Shirt Time is mailbag time.  So let's delve into what Mr. Postman delivered this week.

We have a padded envelope from Mr. San Jose Fuji!  I unloaded a San Jose Sharks relic card that was collecting some dust on my desk and in return he knocked off a couple of want list cards.  Let's see what he sent:

First Up - the greatest calling card of all time.

Next - an autographed Fredrik Modin Be A Player card.  This is the main card I was looking for as it will contribute greatly to my double secret probation wantlist. Modin is definitely one of the most missed Lightning players from the Cup era.

A trio of Murray cards that I needed. Love the oddball sets from Kaybee and Woolworth. Top it off with a Members Only Stadium Club and I'm happy. For those keeping track, once card with double gloves and two with no batting gloves.

Not a card, but part of a card set.  It's a little, bitty Vinny jersey.  From the 2007-08 Upper Deck Mini Jersey set.  I busted one pack of this product and pulled a Mike Modano jersey, which I think I still have somewhere.

The card I specifically requested and forced Fuji to go hunting in his archives for- the 1981 Floyd Rayford rookie card.  Boom! That guy on the left had a pretty good career for the birds as well. Mark Corey, unfortunately, did not.  He appeared in 59 games over three seasons (1979-81) and hit .211.  He did hit one major league home run - so he can tell his grand kids that!

Thanks, Fuji!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The 1,312,004th Blog Written About Sidney Crosby’s Return

Islanders fans - at least your goalie didn't get hurt last night (photo stolen from USA today)

As far as comebacks go, two goals and two assists isn't a bad way to do it. Even if you're not a hockey fan you might have heard that Sidney Crosby, or as I like to call him "Canada's Tebow", made his return to the NHL after post-concussion syndrome sidelined him for more than ten months. So much ink has been spilled about the topic I figured another 1000 words wouldn't hurt.

Normally, I would pass anything Penguin related to occasional guest columnist and hockey guru, Link. Unfortunately, he's currently on the DL himself recovering from some off-season surgery and making him bang out a couple of pages one-handed on an iPad seemed to be a bit cruel. So like Dave Johnson filling in for Pete Harnisch with the 1989 season on the line, I'll try my best.

Mixed in with all of the deserved superlatives that Crosby's performance garnered was the typical backlash that followed along. As with most of the anti-Sid animosity it seemed to be directed at the media "over-hype" then his actually abilities on the ice. To a point, I can agree with some of the rage that fans across the country felt seeing the U.S. and Canadian media descend upon Pittsburgh as if it was the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. To listen to NBC/Vs. on-ice reporter, Pierre McGuire, spend most of the night in a state of rapture was particularly grating.

Why so delirious? Well, we can probably owe it to a couple of factors. First, the NHL has spent the last 10 months without knowing if its best player was ever going to lace up the skates again. Secondly, the never ending media machine needed something to feed on.
The NHL knows that with the NBA on an extended hiatus this is their best chance to garner the affection of the casual sports fan. They need their number one marketing tool on the ice, and that tool is Sidney Crosby. Link, despite his injury, did send me the following comment: "The NHL builds itself based on star players and rivalry matchups…no star (esp. in Canada) is bigger than Sid".

Look, I don't like it any more than the next fan. I rolled my eyes when McGuire rolled out his "one of the most glorious nights you can be a part of" line. However, I understand that NBC/Vs. doesn't care about me. I'm already hooked on hockey, I'm not going anywhere. They are trying to sell it to the mass public. If you know why "Alexander Semin plays the bongos" is funny, or follow BizNasty2point0 on Twitter, then the broadcast isn't aimed at you.

Should they sell other players in the league more? Of course. But, skilled Russians with limited English don't play in Peoria. For all of the magic that Pavel Datsyuk can wield with his hockey stick he isn't someone you plaster across a billboard. Alex Ovechkin had his shot to establish himself as the best player in the league while Crosby was out. Instead, all he led the league in was tramp stamps and time spent at Russian night clubs.

Crosby has the perfect blend of on-ice talent and off-ice humbleness that public relations folks drool over. The Duchess doesn't know the difference between icing and off-sides yet she knows who Sidney Crosby is ("Of course he's going to get attention. 'Cause he's hotter" were he exact comment). When you have a player you can market to everybody, it's in your best interest to do so. You suffer the discontent of your dedicated fans, because you know they're not going anywhere.

There are fans that argue Crosby isn't the best player in the league. They complain that he whines too much, or that he is a "diver". Heck, even I managed a "Crosby is a diver" joke last night at one point. Why? 'Cause it's an easy joke to make and I'm an extremely lazy writer. Does he yap at the officials? Of course he does, but so does Marty St. Louis and nobody calls him "Mary St. Louis". In fact, if you watch a lot of hockey, you'll notice that a majority of the stars in the league spend a fair amount of time jawin' with the refs. It's just part of the game.

The other reason everyone made such a big deal about "Merry Sid-mas" was the media itself feasting on whatever story they could. We have to live with the fact that moving forward, every news story is going to get blown out of proportion. When I was growing up, national coverage (i.e. Sportscenter) was in its infancy. Crosby's return would have gotten a lot of play locally, but only limited coverage across the nation. The Baltimore Sun probably would have devoted three A.P.-sourced paragraphs and moved on with what was wrong with the Orioles at the time.

Now, everyone gets to sound off about it. Look at me. I'm a Tampa Bay fan who lives in Chicago and I'll still get at least 40 page hits out of this post. And half of those hits will come because I'm posting a picture of Sidney without his shirt on (it's all about the page hits, folks!). So writers who actually have a large following need to cover the story and find new ways to do it.

Drink it in ladies. (photo stolen from GQ)

In my old industry, the phrase "trying to drink from a fire hose" was bandied about anytime a vendor came in to talk about the latest new product. Monday night NBC/Vs. did their best to fire hose the casual fan when it came to explaining why the game was so important. When McGuire interviewed Crosby between the first and second period I'm surprised he had the audacity to look his Penguin deity directly in the face.

Think of all of the words written while he wasn't playing. From February to November it seemed like a day didn't go by where there wasn't an article or two posted about his status. Was he coming back? Was he still sitting in a dark room? Should he retire? Will he be able to take a hit when he did come back?

The day he actually returned to play was predestined to be a spectacle. Now it's over and the hockey world can move on. We can also continue to hit the mute button anytime Pierre McGuire is talking.

I Need Help - With a Card

Hey folks....I'm wondering if anyone out there can do me a favor.  I'm working on a project and need a specific card - a 2002 Topps Gallery Ray Lewis (believe it's number 36 or 37).

If anyone out there has one they can spare, let me know and I'll see if we can work something out.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Men Fought and Nothing Was Decided

Goatee = evil Manny Pacquiao?

Pacquiao vs. Marquez III. A disappointment or more of the same?  To be honest, it was a little of both.  Twelve more rounds between two great rivals that should have been met with open arms by boxing fans. Instead, it was received with disgust and naked Mexicans in sombreros.  Where did it all go wrong?

Sure, this post is about a week late in being written, but I wanted to watch the fight again (this time on a feed that didn’t resemble a scrambled porn channel) and score along with the judges.  Was the outrage I heard immediately after the fight justified or was it part of a growing anti-Pacquiao bias?

So I tuned into HBO and watched their replay prior to the Julio Cease Chavez, Jr./Peter Manfredo tilt (I thought Chavez looked good against an outclassed opponent).  After twelve rounds of championship boxing between Pacquiao and Marquez  I scored the fight a draw. That’s right 114-114, right down the middle.

Could it have gone either way?  Definitely. I was on the fence about several rounds. For instance in the eighth round I gave it to Pacquiao because he landed a left right at the bell.  If he hadn’t landed that punch I might have had to score that round a draw.

 If you’ve ever sat down and tried to score any of the three fights you know how hard it is to judge on a round-by-round basis.  Pacquiao scores by being more aggressive and throwing more punches.  Marquez scores by landing clearer, harder shots. If you throw away the first round of the first fight (Marquez down three times) and the third round of the second fight (Marquez on the canvas) the entire trilogy has been pretty much a draw.

In their latest contest, Marquez fought his perfect fight.  He was more aggressive, he kept landing left hooks to the body and straight rights to the face.  He frustrated Pacquiao early in the fight and won most of the middle rounds. Several times during the night he landed big shots flush on the Filipino’s jaw. If he had fought this way in either of the first two match-ups I think he would have won either fight.

On the other side, Pacquiao seemed tentative (Kellerman accurately described him as “muted“). He bobbed and weaved like the Manny of old, he relied on the straight left hand like the Manny of old, and yet something  was missing.  We were promised a more complete Pacquiao, one whose right hand was as dangerous as his left.  He was supposed to be at the apex of his talent, having trained harder for this fight than any other fight in his career.

That’s where the disappointment comes from.  Instead of “Manny Pacquiao” the man who broke Antonio Margarito’s face, we got Manny Pacquiao effective fighter who did just enough to win.  We wanted to see New York City’s 4th of July fireworks and instead got sparklers in the back yard.

Perhaps the newer, more evolved Pacquiao just isn’t as exciting as the raw version.  If you watch the fight again, look at how much better his defense is.  A lot of Marquez’s shots are picked off by gloves and elbows.  Manny’s jab is better and more effective. The straight left is still there, but he’s not twirling around the ring after he throws it.

Technically, there is no doubt that he is a better fighter than when the two matched up for the first time eight years ago, but as fans do we want a conventional  Pacquiao who blocks punches with his gloves instead of his face? Are we bored with a Pacquiao who wins on points and not with a Tasmanian Devil-esque flurry of punches?

So, if Marquez was better and Pacquiao more traditional, then how did Manny win the fight?  HBO’s unofficial judge, Howard Letterman, hit it right on the nose during the 4th round when he said judges lean to the flashier fighter.  When rounds are close, they will give the edge to the fighter that is more active, be it throwing punches or moving around the ring.  In this case, that man is Pacquiao.  Marquez is more a victim of his conservative, counter-punching style than he is of any grand boxing conspiracy.

There are talks of a fourth match-up between the two pugilists.  Why? If insanity is doing the same thing again and again hoping for a different outcome then Marquez is insane to think a 4th fight would be any different than the first three. The only way the outcome changes is if Marquez puts Pacquiao on the canvas, and he’s shown that he doesn’t have the power to do so at any weight limit. It’s time for both fighters to move on.

For Pacquiao that means Floyd Mayweather.  However, it seems the dynamics of that possible match up seem to have changed.  Mayweather is a stronger, faster, more annoying version of Marquez.  A devastating counter puncher with superior defensive skills and the uncanny knowledge of when to finish a fighter.  If Pacquiao struggled so much with Marquez, what chance does he stand against a fighter who has the power to knock him out?

Perhaps the close win was the best thing for those who hope for a Pacquiao/Mayweather match-up.  Pretty Boy Floyd would never risk his perfect record in a fight he didn’t think he could win.  Did Manny struggle enough against Marquez to make Mayweather think his skills are deteriorating?  That’s the $100 million question.  One that needs answering before the end of the year if they want to fight on May 5th.

Meanwhile, what lies ahead for the defeated Marquez?  Hopefully, the last image we have of the great Mexican fighter is not him sitting naked in the training room with a sombrero over his private parts somberly answering questions from Kellerman.  There is a long list of pretenders like Timothy Bradley that he can knock off and then retire with one last victory.

There is some talk of a bout with fellow countryman Eric Morales.  If this was 2005, I’d be all over that match-up, but Morales is a faded version of his former self and watching Marquez pick him apart for 12 rounds wouldn’t be fun for anyone.

In all likelihood the money will be too much to turn down for both fighters and we’ll end up seeing a fourth fight some time late next year.  Honestly, these two fighters could probably fight every year for the next five years and it would be entertaining.  The only problem is, it wouldn’t solve anything,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joy of a Completed Page - Sweater Style

In celebration of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s win over the Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins I figured I’d post my first ever “Joys of a Completed Page”.  Since Vincent Lecavalier scored twice, and I happen to be a Vincent collector, he gets the honor of being featured in the debut.

So Much Sweater Sweetness!

What we have here is a complete page of horizontal relic cards featuring the Lightning captain.  Some of these have been picked up via trades, the LCS,eBay and card shows.  I can state for the fact, that I have never pulled a Lecavalier relic or auto from a pack. Heck, I struggle to get his base cards when I bust wax.

Now let us go to the numbers!

9 different cards

2 Manufacturers represented (Panini and Upper Deck)

5 different players featured (Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Steven Stamkos, Paul Ranger, Jussi Jokinen (twice) and Marty St. Louis (twice).

19 different pieces of jersey

3 colors represented (2 blue, 6 white, 10 black, one mixed black/white)

5 numbered cards

99 lowest print run (2010-11 Playoff Dominion)

10/350 lowest number I have (2005-06 SPX Winning Combos)

First card I bought – 2005-06 Upper Deck Trilo3y Honorary Swatches

Most recent – 2010-11Playoff Dominion

There ya go!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dan Duquette Does Milwaukee

The fun part is over for Dan Duquette.  He’s had his press conference, picked out his office and probably picked up his first paycheck already.  Now the real work begins – building the Baltimore Orioles into a legitimate contender while dealing with a fan base that hasn’t seen a winning season since the days of dial-up internet.  The first step is under way, getting chummy with his fellow GM’s at the winter meetings in Milwaukee.

The winter meetings are really the kick-off point for baseball’s offseason.  While few deals are actually consummated during the meetings, a lot of groundwork is laid out.  After all, isn’t it more fun to wheel and deal in person rather than over the phone?  Don’t expect too much in the way of actual news this week, but don’t be surprised should a later deal happen that the participants use the phrase, “we started discussing this in Milwaukee.”

So what will Mr. Duquette be doing with his time in the “City of Festivals”?  According to the Baltimore Sun, he’ll be looking to strengthen the bench by making some offers to free agents that he hopes will be finalized within a week or so.  Exciting stuff, eh?

Let’s face it, the new man in control doesn’t have a lot of options this off-season.  Signing a big name slugger won’t fix the fortunes of this team.  Overpaying for C.J. Wilson won’t bring a title to Baltimore either.  Nor is the organization really loaded with pieces that other clubs will want so big trades are probably out of the question.

The biggest asset that the O’s have on their roster is Adam Jones.  A solid centerfielder who hits .280 and chips in 20 homeruns and is under control for two more seasons is a valuable commodity. On the other hand, the26 year-old is also a good player to build a club around.  One thing Mr. Duquette has mentioned that he likes about the Orioles is the strength up the middle with Jones, catcher Matt Wieters, and shortstop JJ Hardy.  Those three players are the ones who are probably the closest to being non-tradable.

However, should the right deal come along it wouldn’t hurt to at least listen.  Remember, he has no allegiance to any player on this roster.  His only goal is to make the team better.  Should Atlanta come along and dangle Jair Jurjens in front of his face, they might have some serious discussions.

The biggest needs on the team are definitely in the rotation.  Going into the season I would imagine the only pitchers to lock down a spot are Jeremy Guthrie and Zach Britton.  The other three spots are still to be determined and I’m sure Mr. Duquette would like to bring a veteran innings-eater into the fold.

Would Jason Marquis be a good fit?  Depending on his price tag I think he would be.  When healthy he could be a 12-14 game winner and give a team close to 200 innings. If they could sign him for around what he made last season ($7.5 million) or lower, he might be worth a two year deal.

This is not a strong year for free agent pitchers.  After Wilson, there is a big drop-off in talent and prospective buyers will be wagering on a lot of older pitchers where health can be a concern.  While the Yankees might have the payroll to be able to take such a risk, it looks like the O’s aren’t willing to risk it. In my opinion, that’s the right move.

The competition is going to be fierce for the second-tier starters such as Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle, so the O’s might be better off concentrating their efforts on the Paul Maholm’s of the world and signing them quickly before prices escalate.

The trade front could be daunting as well, as the teams that do have pitchers worth trading for seem to be holding out for a king’s ransom in return.  The Braves have let it be known that Jurjenns will require a major league, impact bat in return.  Whichever pitcher the Rays decide to move, be it Wade Davis, James Shields or even David Price, they would demand a similar return along with some prospects.

Frankly, if Jones is off the table then the O’s don’t have the firepower to make a deal.  If he does deal Jones, it opens a huge gap in their outfield.  From what I saw of Matt Angle last season, he’s not ready to be an ever day outfielder.  The top outfield prospect for the O’s, Xavier Avery, is at least one more season away from the big leagues. 

Tuesdays’ mention of Mr. Duquette meeting with David Ortiz’s agent sparked some chatter of their possible interest in the free agent DH.  At the right cost he might be a fit.  If they would sign the Red Sox slugger I think that they walk away from Luke Scott and his probable $7 million-ish arbitration awarded salary. 

Of course, there is the chance that Ortiz’s name never came up.  His agent, Fern Cuza also represents Vladimir Guerrero, so the conversation could have been about whether or not the O’s will be retaining his services for next season.  While his power production dipped, he was one of the few Orioles hitters that hit consistently throughout the year.  Even at an ancient 36 years old, he might be worth bringing back for another year.

The third possibility is that Mr. Duquette was talking to Cuza about players we don’t even know about. Cuza has a strong presence in Latin America and the Orioles VPBO might have been opening a dialogue about some of the up-and-coming players in the agent’s stable.  If you’re going to focus on developing players from the south, Cuza is a man that you want to be in contact with.

I don’t expect much to come out of the winter meetings for the Baltimore Orioles.  After all, it is only the first step on a long road to relevance.  Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Certifiably Awesome

I was going to write something about the Lightning and their road woes so far this season, but decided to adhere to the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” adage.  I’m not sure what their fundamental flaw on the road is, but I trust in Coach Boucher to figure it out and right the ship.

Instead let us delve into the card collection and pull out a random favorite. 

It’s a Martin St. Louis Certified Champions card from last year’s Panini Certified set.  I know I picked this up at the National, but I can’t remember if I bought it or if it came from Sal or Tim.  The memory really does go when you grow old.  For a card that doesn’t have my boy Vincent on it, it still hits pretty high on the “I like it scale”.
First of all it is shiny.  Shiny like a mid 90s insert.  It’s numbered, in this case 297/500.  I was trying to find some significance for the number 297 in Mr. St. Louis’ career stats.  Honestly, I can’t find one.  So you’ll have to go with the fact that he scored his 297th goal on March 31st, 2011. It was his 30th of the season and the game winner against Pittsburgh that night.  With 298 goals for the Lightning he is second all time behind Vincent’s 357.

The card reflects the greatest moment in Lightning history, the winning of the 2004 Stanley Cup.  An event so shocking that the league had to shut down for an entire year because of it.  Marty is definitely enjoying his first skate with the cut, and I think hockey fans all around enjoyed the playoff beard he was rocking.

While St. Louis didn’t figure in the scoring of Game 7, they wouldn’t have been around to play the game if it wasn’t for his heroics in Game 6.  Thirty-three seconds into the second overtime in Calgary this happened:

The goal sent Lightning fans into hysterics, however, Calgary fans probably recall that game for an entirely different reason – Martin Gelinas’ non-goal in the third period that would have brought the Cup to Calgary.  Unfortunately, my Lightning-colored glasses will never allow me to have an objective opinion on if it was a goal or not, but for what it’s worth, I didn’t think it went in.

Panini’s insert set that this card is a part of features 25 players holding the cup.  Four of those cards are dedicated to the Lightning.  Along with Mr. St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Dan Boyle are represented, as is goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.  If I had been consulted I would have substituted Dave Andreychuk for Boyle.  Sure Boyle’shouse burned down during the playoffs, but the Captain was such an important part of that team it would have been nice to see him immortalized with the cup in card form.  For now he’ll have to settle with being a background figure in Marty’s shot.

Being Panini there are about 8 parallels to this card, some with jersey relics and some with autographs.  The “black” version is the rarest of the rare as it is a 1/1.  If you happen to have that laying about, feel free to send it my way.  I have plenty of neo-vintage* cards that I can send you in return.

*neo-vintage is a term coined by Puck Junk's Sal in order to give "junk wax" a slightly sexier name.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Off Season Madness. Uniform Changes!

Tomorrow, at 9:30am the Baltimore Orioles are going to hold a special press conference.  Unfortunately, it's not to introduce Albert Pujols as their new first baseman, but rather to show off their new jerseys and hats for next year.

Reports are limited, but according to Roch Kubatko, they are going back to a carton bird on the cap reminiscent of the late 1970 style that they had.  That. Is. Awesome.

Best Hat Ever, Yuuuuup.

I'm all for ornithological correctness when it comes to mascots, but the cartoon bird is my favorite logo of all time.  It's also one, like having "Baltimore" on the road uni's, that fans have been asking for for years now.  The fans get their wish and the organization gets to sell some new merchandise (just in time for Christmas!) I'd put this under the "win,win" category.

I know it's not going to change the team they put on the field next year, but sometimes it's the little things that make a difference with an organization.  Getting the small details right show that they are moving in the right direction.

Oh and in doing my 3 minutes of research I stumbled across this article from the past. It's about the 1971 debut of the all orange uniform the O's rocked.

I'm not sure what part is my favorite: Chico Salmon's "It brings out the blackness in me"quote or the fact that Brooks Robinson's sporting goods store filled the order.

Either way, it's a nice way to start off the Diamond Dan Duquette era.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

They Have Been Weighed. They Have Been Tested. Who Will be Found Wanting?

Seventy-two minutes. Seventy-two minutes in eight years. It doesn't seem like that much time, does it? For boxing fans it hasn't been nearly enough. Luckily for us we have the chance to see another thirty-six minutes on Saturday night. That's when Manny Pacquiao faces off against Juan Manual Marquez for the third and probably final time at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Without question Pacquiao is the darling of the boxing world and one of its biggest draws. With an other-worldly combination of speed and power he has dazzled fans since his 11th round TKO of Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003. In those 8 years he has only lost once (to Eric Morales which he avenged twice) and has beaten all of the big names in weight class save for Mr. Money Mayweather.

Pacquiao has fought 17 times since the Barrera fight facing 14 different opponents. Of those 14, thirteen of them have been soundly defeated, and he sent two into retirement (Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya). Only one opponent during that stretch believes that he has never lost to the Pac Man. That man is Marquez.

They first met in 2004 and produced the fight of the year. Despite being knocked down three times in the first round and having to fight the rest of the way with a broken nose, Marquez battled to a draw. The three knockdowns showed that Marquez wasn't prepared for the speed of Pacquiao's left hand. Once he adjusted, he was able to effectively counter a majority of his opponent's attacks.

When they met for their rematch in 2008 Marquez found himself on the canvas once again, courtesy of another lethal left from the energetic Filipino. Of the four knockdowns this was the only one that I thought actually hurt Marquez.

In the 9th round, Pacquiao's repeated straight lefts would open up a huge gash over Marquez's right eye. The kind of cut that makes you say, "Ewwwww" when trainer/cutman Nacho Beristain is shoving his finger into it to staunch the bleeding. Despite the knockdown and the blood, Marquez would battle to a split decision loss. If Judge Tom Miller had switched one round to Marquez, the relentless Mexican fighter would have won the fight.

For what it's worth, I re-watched the fights (thanks YouTube!) and scored along. In their first match I had Pacquiao winning 113-112 thanks to a 10-6 first round. In the second fight I scored it 115-113 for Pacquiao. Over the 24 rounds they fought I have Marquez winning 12, Pacquiao 11, and one round a draw (the first round in the second matchup).

Pacquiao's best round of the fights is undoubtedly the first one of their first fight. Marquez was totally unprepared for Pac Man's speed and power. I don't think any of the knockdowns really hurt Marquez, but they did put him way behind in points and left him swallowing a lot of blood as a result of the broken nose.

Marquez's shining moment came in the 8th round of the second fight. He had Pacquiao's timing perfect and was pummeling his opponent at will. There was a brief moment when it looked like Manny might go down, and at the end of the round blood was flowing freely from a cut above his left eye.

So what makes Marquez such a difficult matchup for Pacquiao? Is it his relentless drive? Is it his counterpunching? Maybe it's his patient, subtle defense? Or could it be his awesome Dave Matthews-esque receding hairline?

Most likely it's a combination of all of those things. Marquez is willing to accept the fact that he will have to eat a few punches in order to get his shots in. When he's had his most success he's been able to bury a left hook into Manny's side and follow up with a right straight down the chute. The key is to get that right off before Pacquiao can come over the top of it with his devastating left.

So what are the chances of Marquez pulling off the upset? If you're in Vegas today you would
probably be getting close to 10-to-1 odds, so it doesn't appear likely. In the previous two fights Marquez hasn't had a problem getting to Manny, he just hasn't had the punching power to knock him on his Filipino ass. By focusing more on his upper body strength for this fight he hopes to change that.
There is a trade-off for building strength. It usually leads to a decrease in speed. At 38 years old, Marquez is already facing the natural erosion in skills that comes with aging. Putting on weight (at 145 this is heaviest he's fought at) also can be a detriment. Most small fighters struggle at higher weight classes, a fact that makes Pacquiao's success all the more mind-blowing (Pacquiao's first professional fight was at 107 pounds).

The biggest problem, however, for Marquez is going to be the evolution of Manny Pacquiao. In their first matchup, the Pac Man was an energetic, one-handed fighter who bounced around the ring like Calvin after his third bowl of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and fired viscous left hands from every angle. Sure he threw a couple of right hands, but in a disinterested "yeah I have this hand so I might as well use it" kind of way.

In the next match-up, wasn't quite as spastic in the ring. Still employing a ducking and weaving stance that was hard for Marquez to time, he also found out that using his right hand could be effective. He was able to use a jab that wasn't a factor in the first fight to set up his left and keep Marquez at bay.

Moving into the third fight we will see Pacquiao as the truly developed fighter. In his destruction of Antonio Margarito last November, he used both hands as battering rams, pummeling Margarito with lightning-fast combinations. In their previous fights Marquez, for the most part, has only had to counter lunging, one-punch attacks by Pacquiao. Now he faces a fighter who can snap off three or four big shots per rush.

As the overwhelming betting favorite it seems unlikely that Pacquiao will lose, and with the prospect of a mega-fight with Mayweather on the horizon you might think he could be looking past Marquez. I don't think he is. While he might not have the intense dislike for Marquez that he did for Margarito, Manny wants to end this trilogy with a decisive victory. He doesn't want there to be any doubt in this fight. Make no mistake he is looking to knock Marquez out. Against a viscous counterpuncher that need for a knockout can be dangerous.

For his part, not only is Marquez looking to prove he is better than Pacquiao, he is also looking to cement his place as one of the great Mexican boxers of this generation. He wants to be on the same tier as Eric Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. A win over Pacquiao will do that. He will no longer be the third wheel, the brilliant tactician who just couldn't pull off the big victory. He will be a legend.
As for a prediction, I have Pacquiao winning by TKO in the tenth round. (That sound you heard was the rush of thousands of Vegas-ites running to the nearest sports book to lay money on Marquez.) Pac Man is just too good right now.

I think the fight unfolds much like the second, more tactical, more boxing than brawling. The difference will be that Pacquiao can now fight that style. His hand speed and combinations will be too much for the counterpunching Marquez. That's not to say Marquez won't get his shots in. Despite his improved defense, Manny still gets hit. In the face. A lot.

Keep an eye out for head butts. With Pacquiao's lunging in style, and the natural awkwardness of a southpaw facing a traditional fighter there is a good chance there will be at least one clash of heads. In their second fight, a butting of heads in the seventh round led to a small cut outside of Marquez's eye. Marquez also likes to work the body which normally leads to the occasional low blow or two. It hasn't been a huge factor yet, but should Marquez get frustrated he could go Golota on him.

In the previous 72 minutes of their fighting each fighter has been punched more than 300 times each. Seventy-five percent of those hits were of the "power" variety. I see no reason why the next 36 will be any different. Enjoy them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ever Want To Own A Bieber Card?

Go Here.

It's hockey season so I've posted some new auctions to help support my quest to own every Lecavalier card ever made.

FYI - The Cup is Not Pregnant (as far as we know)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Embarrassing-For the Flyers That Is

It's funny how things escalate. Last night's Lightning game against the Flyers started off as a match-up between two high scoring Eastern Conference teams and ended up as a sounding board for all that is right and wrong with hockey. On one side, according to Pierre McGuire and the rest of the Vs. broadcast crew were the Flyers and the forces of good and on the other, Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher and his team full of chicken sh*t non-forechecking players.

Let's get something out in the open right away. The Lightning play a trap.  Sheldon knows it. Luigi knows it. And, of course, Admiral Ackbar knows it. It's known as the "1-3-1" and has been broken down by smarter people than I. If you're not familiar with the intricacies, go here. I'll wait for you to read it, I know it's kind of long.

OK, welcome back. So now that you're caught up with Boucher's system let me tell you how the Flyers decided to combat it. After watching hours of video tape, after facing the same defense four times last year they decided to do nothing. Literally nothing. Defenseman Braydon Couburn stood in his own defensive zone with the puck at his skates and stood there. He stood there for 30 seconds while the fans at the Ice Palace reigned boos down upon him. He stood there, probably thinking about his new 4yr/$18 million contract, until the refs blew the whistle.

Later in the game, after being warned by the refs that the puck had to keep moving, the Flyers kept the puck in their own defensive zone and passed it back and forth a few times, skated in a few circles until the refs blew the whistle. They basically employed the, "we don't know how to beat your defense so we're not going to play" strategy.

The Vs crew (or Vs./NBC/Comcast/Universal/Outdoor Network crew) were outraged. It was an embarrassment to the game. During the intermission, resident blowhard Mike Milbury walked off the set in protest. How dare the Lightning treat the sacred game that way!

Wait, what? The Lightning was to blame? How was that possible? The team with the puck, stood there and did nothing, but the team that was playing their system, the same system that they've played for more than 100 games without a protest, was in the wrong.

After the game, upstanding citizen Chris Pronger stated, "The onus is on them {Lightning}. They have to come and forecheck once in a while, too." He also said, "That was their game right there. We were making them look bad. That's not hockey in my book, but whatever. The league is letting them do it."

Ok, big fella let's take a look at what you said. First of all, nowhere in the rulebook does it say that a team "has" to forecheck. If there is an onus, it's on the team with the puck to bring it up the ice and score goals. As far as making the Lightning "look bad" I think the team that looked bad was the one standing there doing nothing. Finally, the league is letting the Lightning do it, because it's not illegal. That is the salient point here. Nothing is illegal about the Lightning strategy. Not only have they been enforcing it for over a year, some form of the system has been in the league for twenty years. It's not that much different than the system the New Jersey Devils rode to multiple Stanley Cups in the 1990's.

Why would the Flyers resort to such a delay tactic? Surely it's because Boucher's diabolical scheme is so stifling that no one can score against them, right? They must have allowed the fewest goals in the league, right? Let's check. Nope. They are actually 24th out of 30 teams in goals allowed. Justin, you say, the season has just begun, that sample size is too small! OK, let's look at last year where they played the same system for 82 games. How about 22nd in the league! Suffocating, that 1-3-1 is.
McGuire getting ready to say something annoying. Photo from Icon Sports

At some point in the game, the man in the glass for Vs., Pierre McGuire, asked analyst Ed Olczyk if he'd like to play in Boucher's system, or if "star" players would like the system. Olczyk said no way. Of course, why would a star player want to play in a system that generates a ton of turnovers and breakaways? That would be ludicrous.

If you've watched more than one Lightning game during Boucher's tenure you will notice that the Lightning do indeed forecheck. They are actually really good at forechecking, especially the Nate Thompson line. As Boucher stated in his post game conference, "When we have the puck we're aggressive with it, and when we don't have the puck we dedicate ourselves to being above the puck instead of chasing from behind."

In other words, their system adapts to their needs. When they are in the 1-3-1, they're usually up by a goal or tied. The reason they play it is simple. Their defense is weak. Right now it's even weaker with the loss of Victor Hedman and the ongoing health issues with Mattias Ohlund. With two of their top three defensemen out, they need help from their forwards, and that's what his system provides.

Almost exactly a year ago the same two teams met and produced one of the more entertaining games of the year, a 8-7 Lightning win. Guess what defensive system the Lightning played in that game? That's right, the 1-3-1. Granted they didn't play it well, but they still played it.

The uproar over the Flyers tactics will die down in a few days. I doubt many teams will follow their example to the extreme that Philadelphia did. Teams may hold onto it a little longer in their defensive zone, but not for 30 seconds at a time. What they'll do is drop their forwards lower to give their breakout more options, get to the red line and dump the puck in. You know, outwork the Lightning. That's how you beat the trap, that's how you've always beaten the trap.

Nothing to do with the story, just a great shot of Downie. Getty Images

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Will a New Man in Charge Bring A Return to the Oriole Way?

Tuesday was not a bad day for the Baltimore Orioles organization. They introduced a new GM, excuse me, a new Vice President of Baseball Operations, had a pitcher cleared of manslaughter charges and it Chris Jakubauskas headed to the Diamondbacks. That last one doesn’t mean much to the organization, but it does mean that hopefully I don’t have to figure out how to spell “Jakubauskas” ever again.

The news of the day, though, was the introduction of Dan Duquette as the man in charge of putting the Orioles back together again. Sporting a nice orange tie he started his speech not by talking about what he was going to do, but from where he came from. From the story he spun he is a disciple of the mythical Oriole Way. The first ball player he met as a kid was Brooks Robinson and apprenticed at the knee of former Baltimore GM Harry Dalton.

After story time, he got into his philosophy of building an organization, something he’s down successfully twice in his career. Duquette believes strongly that “aggressive scouting will build championships”. For most of the approximately 10 minutes he had the microphone he outlined a broad plan to redevelop the Orioles scouting department and organizational structure to better develop their prospects to either help the ball club or be of use as bargaining chips for major league talent.

He believes that the Orioles need to be aggressive in the international market, something that has been severely lacking in recent years. I’m assuming that means not only the Latin America market, but also emerging markets such as China and possibly Korea. He acknowledged that statistical analysis will be important as well, which is sure to placate the sabermeticians in the fan base.

Those fans looking for a quick fix are going to be in for a bit of a letdown. . During the question-and-answer phase of the press conference he inferred that the Orioles would not be players for the big names such as Prince Fielder and CJ Wilson. The organization isn’t in a position where one player is going to make a difference so it appears he’s going to take those resources and use them to build depth and develop their internal prospects.

That fits in with what he’s done in past organizations. With both Montreal and Boston he worked to develop prospects within the organization and sought out the lower-tier free agents that were low-risk, high-reward type players. Only when a team was solidly built would he splurge on a player like Manny Ramariz (Cleveland Manny not Tampa Bay Manny). It sounds like he’ll spend the next few weeks analyzing the talent within the system, finding someone to take over as the minor league pitching coordinator and install a scouting director.

Though he never said it directly, it looks like the O’s fans have another rebuilding effort to look forward to. There will be no splashy free agent signings this Christmas under the tree, rather some second tier filler to build up the weak spots (namely the rotation). One thing that did appeal to Duquette about the current roster was the strength up the middle with Matt Wieters behind the plate, JJ Hardy at short and Adam Jones roaming centerfield.

I don’t know if there is any significance to him not mentioning Brian Roberts and that could become a sticking point with Duquette’s boss. It’s pretty well acknowledged that Roberts is a favorite of owner Peter Angelos. The millionaire owner might not be as involved with player decisions as he has been in the past, but if Duquette makes noise about severing ties with the longest tenured Oriole it might lead to some friction in marriage.

The new GM will have a short leash with the fans. After the dismal results the Andy McPhail era produced, O’s fans aren’t going to embrace another rebuild with open arms. They want wins on the field. Duquette claims that he wants to follow the Earl Weaver philosophy of “winning every game, every day” but how he’s going to do that next season in an extremely competitive American League East with the roster as it’s now constructed will be a mystery.

The good thing about a new GM is that he has no loyalty to players on the roster or prospects in the system. If another club comes calling for some of the O’s top prospects during the winter meetings, Duquette will be more inclined to listen than his predecessor. Does that mean he’s going to trade Manny Machado and Zach Britton? Not necessarily, but it could be an option should the right deal be on the table.

One moment did bother me a little bit. While answering a question about bringing in free agents he dismissively answered the questions with a chuckle and stated the he, "won't have any trouble getting players to take my money". Apparently, someone hasn't been following the organization's trouble with free agents over the past few years. Hopefully, once he puts the house in order the Orioles will no longer be the "mystery team" that gets left at the alter every off-season.

There is no doubt that the Orioles organization is in shambles. They lack a strong international scouting department. They haven’t developed players at a successful rate. The future aces fans have waited three years for floundered last season. Duquette has pledged to change that. From his opening speech it appears that they are going to follow the Rays model of success instead of the Yankees. That’s not a bad thing, but it does require patience. Patience from the fans and patience from his owner.

The O’s do have a solid nucleus up the middle, and their pitching staff has shown moments of hope over the last two years. It’s not a lot to build off of, but hopefully with Duquette and manager Buck Sholwalter running things there is a slimmer of hope that the Baltimore fans can look forward to playing meaningful games in October.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Boxing Break! Is it on? Oh, it could be on!

JMM Vs Pac-Man III should be good - photo from

“We’re looking to make the biggest fight possible and everyone knows what that fight is, little fella.” With those words the Floyd Mayweather camp blew new life into boxing’s greatest “Will They/Won’t They” drama. The “little fella” is, of course, a reference to Manny Pacquiao, the fighter that poses the greatest challenge to Mayweather’s unblemished legacy.

No official announcement has been made by either camp, and it was just over a week ago that Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum told ESPN that the fight “will never, ever happen” because Mayweather was scared of Manny’s right hand. Pac-Man’s camp is reportedly upset with Mayweather over the timing of the announcement, nine days before Pacquiao squares off against Juan Manual Marquez for the third time.

While we’re still months away from anything official expect the rhetoric to ramp up if Pacquiao stops his relentless Mexican foe on November 12th. While the Filipino is heavily favored (a quick online search shows him a -750 favorite to win) Marquez has been one of his toughest foes over the last eight years. While he should win, Manny can’t expect it to be a cake walk like the Shane Mosley fight was.

Assuming he does get through, boxing fans haven’t been this close to seeing the two best fighters in the world square off since late 2009, before their March 2010 fight was derailed over disagreements stemming from Pacquiao’s refusal to agree to Olympic-style blood testing. The disagreement turned ugly enough that earlier this year Pacquiao hit his foe with a defamation lawsuit, adding to the undefeated champions lengthening list of legal problems.

It’s sad that the March 2010 fight was cancelled, because it would have been the perfect time for the two to meet. Pacquiao was at the height of his new found fame coming off his brutal destruction of Oscar De La Hoya and Mayweather had returned from his self-imposed retirement with a dominant victory over Marquez.

Since then, despite their continued success in the ring (both fighters have easily won two fights since then), outside distractions have mounted for both fighters. Mayweather’s legal problems which include a misdemeanor battery charge against a security guard and felony charges revolving around a domestic dispute with an ex-girlfriend. Oh, and there is the harassment charge where he was found not guilty of threatening some OTHER security guards. Meanwhile Pacquiao campaigned and won a spot in the Philippine government. He’s also released a CD, put on a few concerts and crooned some tunes on late night TV. As much as either fighter will protest, those types of activities can affect their training which, in turn, can affect their fighting.

Lets face it, both fighters are two years older as well. Mayweather, at 34, is entering that age where speed starts to abandon fighters just a notch. For him, a master of escapability in the ring, to lose even a fraction of his hand or foot speed could prove disastrous against a fighter of Pacquiao’s strength.

Pac-Man, two years younger, might not be as old, but has definitely been punished more throughout his career. Even though he dominated Antonio Margarito in their 2010 match-up (the most lopsided boxing match I‘ve ever watched), he took a lot of solid punches to the face. His straight-forward, action-loving style endears him to fans, but it also leads to a lot of shots to the head. No matter who the fighter is, that kind of punishment eventually catches up with them.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, has on more than one occasion stated that he doesn’t want to see his golden boy fight past 2013. The fighter himself as acknowledged that he is pondering retirement to focus more on his political career. Mayweather has already retired once and despite his legal woes, he should be set financially. With neither fighter seemingly wanting to fight into their 40’s the window for this fight (and a probable re-match) is closing rapidly.

Despite all of this, I really, really want to see this fight. Hell, I’d plan a weekend out of it. Thursday morning Darren Rovell pondered on Twitter how much the Pay Per View would cost to watch and said that he’d fork over $79.99 for it (in HD I assume). He probably isn’t far off on that estimation. It would undoubtedly be the highest grossing fight of all time.

Per ESPN, the biggest non-heavyweight boxing PPV in terms of buys and revenue was Mayweather’s match with Oscar De La Hoya in 2007. That fight brought in an estimated 2.45 million buys and almost $137 million in revenue. If Mayweather and Pacquiao finally agree to fight (Arum says his fighter is willing to agree to Olympic drug testing “without any conditions”) I wouldn’t be surprised to see this fight push 3 million buys.

Hey Floyd, spread the love!

Both fighters appeal to non-boxing fans. Heck, even the Duchess watched Pac-Man take down Margarito. There is a natural storyline built in with Pacquiao as the hardworking, outgoing hero and Floyd as the charismatic villain. Sports Illustrated did an excellent job profiling Mayweather before his fight with Victor Ortiz, detailing some of the more outrageous acts portrayed by “Money Mayweather”.

Without a dominant American heavyweight fighting these days, this fight would be boxing’s best chance of reclaiming some of the fans that they’ve lost to MMA over the last decade. Both of these fighters have legitmate claims to the pound-for-pound title. Not only that, but they are the marquee fighters in a weight class that has its share of decent boxers. Despite his meltdown against Mayweather, Ortiz isn’t a bad boxer, neither is Amir Khan or Tim Bradley.

The welterweight and light welterweight classes have become the focal point of boxing over the last decade as the boxers have increased their speed and power on the whole leading to some pretty damn good matches. To have their two best wage war would be a glorious opportunity for a sagging industry.

Time will tell if this nothing more than a boxer hyping a fight he never plans on fighting. Hundreds of things can still go wrong, from the choice of venue to the split of the money to the color of the gloves. However, it would probably be one of the biggest sports disappointments in out generation should these two not meet. But, hey, at least Floyd didn’t promise his next bout to be a “game changer”.