Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Only Trade Post To Highlight Juan Berenguer? Probably.

Have you ever picked up a card in a trade that you swear you already had? In that mental card file that we all keep of our cards that particular card is firmly planted in there.  I don’t know if it’s because it seems like every card is posted on the internet or if it’s residual images of flipping through millions of cards in dime boxes, but I could have swore I had this card:

That’s a 1990 Juan Berenguer Topps #709.  Sexy ain’t it?

Yet there it was on my want list.  “Was” being the operative word thanks to Scott over at Hand Collated. He  recently sent me some 2009 Heritage and 1983 Topps sandwiched between a stack of 90 Topps.  Yes, it’s sad that I’ve spent the last 22 years trying to finish one of the most overproduced sets in the history of card collecting, but hey, what can I say, my attention wanders from time to time.

The point is, if you had put a gun to my head and asked me if I owned this card, I would have said “yes” without hesitating.  Did I mistype a number when inputting the data? After all, I’m not the most diligent typist in the world (especially if Star Wars is playing in the background). Perhaps there a box of 90 Topps lost in the vast wasteland that is my closet that I haven’t entered into my collection yet?

Who knows, maybe it’s an iconic image of Juan Berenguer. Can a middling player such as Berenguer have an “iconic” image?  Heck, “Senor Smorke” was in the big leagues for 15 years, there is a good chance that one of his other cards has a similar photo on it.

The more I think about it (cause I never fully think anything out before I start writing - welcome to my stream of conscious) the more I lean towards blaming the internet (or Canada, or Obama, nope, it’s Ted Nugent’s fault).  Whether it’s from people ripping packs, “Card of the Week” posts, Checkoutmycards, eBay or zistle, the Internet is flooded with card images.

For the most part that is a good thing.  When I don’t want to collect a particular set like Gypsy Queen or Allen & Ginter it allows me to see what the cards look like, almost like a virtual card break.  I can see the goodies the sets have to offer without having to make a financial investment.

Verifying cards is also easier now with the Internet around.  I have stacks of oddball cards laying about that aren’t cataloged.  Back in the old days (when telephones had wires and I was my dad’s remote control) finding out what set a card belonged to meant paging through the Beckett Catalog and hopefully getting a match, or going to a card shop where hopefully the dealer had seen something like it before.

Now, we can just pop in a couple of bits of information and see if Google Images has a match. Then click on the link and chances are someone has written a post about the set.  Imagine trying to figure out what the short prints and variations of 2012 Heritage without the help of the Internet!

At the same time some of the fun is lost.  Part of the fun of ripping wax is the surprise of seeing a cool card for the first time.  Would I have enjoyed the 1992 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr. as much had I seen it on four different websites before I pulled it in a pack?  Probably not, since the surprise factor would have been lost.

Think of this as an observation of how the hobby has changed over the last 20 years, not as a criticism of box breaks or pack reviews.  Those posts are pretty much the lifeblood of what we write as a community.  If we couldn’t post pictures of the cards we own, what would we post?

It’s nice to know that the mental card catalog in my head is a little closer to matching the actual card catalog that I have stored away.  Scott, thanks for the cards!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Round Two Predictions (Because We Did So Well In Round One)

Is this the defining image of the first round? What story will the second round tell?

Before we delve into round two, let us go ahead and see how Link and I did in round one of the playoffs. Let's just say Brendan Shanhanon got a higher percentage of his suspensions right.

Western Conference:

Vancouver vs. Los Angeles - LA wins series in five games
  • Link - Canucks in six - miss
  • Justin G. - Canucks in five - miss.  Um. So I missed on that whole "Kings don't have a chance" thing.
St. Louis vs. San Jose - St. Louis wins in five games
  • Link - Sharks in five - miss
  • Justin G. - Sharks in six - miss. What we meant was that the Sharks are waiting for NEXT YEAR's playoffs.
Phoenix vs. Chicago - Phoenix wins in six games
  • Link - Hawks in six - miss
  • Justin G. - Hawks in five - miss.  I live in Chicago. Who was I supposed to pick?

Nashville vs. Detroit - Nashville wins in five games
  • Link - Predators in five - hit - dead on for the Linkinator
  • Justin G. - Predators in six - hit. I'll take it.

Eastern Conference

New York vs. Ottawa - New York wins in seven games
  • Link - Rangers in five - hit
  • Justin G. - Rangers in five -hit. It took a little longer, but the Rangers found their game late in the series.

Boston vs. Washington - Washington wins in seven games
  • Link - Bruins in six - miss
  • Justin G - Washington in seven - hit.  Yeah, baby! So what if Alex basically was a non-factor.
Florida vs. New Jersey - New Jersey wins in seven games
  • Link - Devils in five - hit
  • Justin G. - Devils in five - hit. I watched 1 and 1/2 periods of the series. Brodeur looked old.

Pittsburgh vs. Phildelphia - Philly wins in six
  • Link - Flyers in six - hit. The Penguins fan knows his team.
  • Justin G. - Penguins in seven - miss. Eh, I didn't realize the Flyers would have a 98.4% power play.

So final totals:
  • Link - 4 and 4. He wins the tiebreaker by guessing the series length correctly in more games.
  • Justin G. - 4 and 4.  I apparently know nothing about the Western Conference.

Now on to Round 2!

Western Conference

St. Louis vs. Los Angeles
  • Link - Los Angeles in six games. He has a hard time going with the Brian Elliot/Jaroslav Halak tandem. Playing musical goaltenders doesnt work. Jonathan Quick is as good as any goaltender left in the playoffs.
  • Justin G. - Los Angeles in six games.  In what should be an extremely low-scoring affair I think the Kings have the slight edge in offense. We may see more than one 0-0 after regulation games.
Nashville vs. Phoenix
  • Link  - Nashville  in six games. Pekka Rinne is the better goalie
  • Justin G. - Nashville in six games.  The Mike Smith experience comes to a crashing end.  Phoenix did an excellent job of bottling up the Blackhawks offense in the first round, Nashville has a few more grinders than skill players and will find ways to score dirty goals.  My unsolicited (and unseen) advice to them - make Smith play the puck.
Totally unrelated note - if Phoenix somehow wins the Cup, do all of the owners in the NHL get a ring?

Eastern Conference

New York vs. Washington
  • Link - Rangers in five games. Can Washington win 2-1 games. The Rangers have the better goaltending in the matchup. Can Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom succeed in Dale Hunter's system. If Washington opened up they can beat them. 
  • Justin G. - Rangers in seven games.  The Washington Capitals exist to break the hearts of their fans.  All two of them. New York looks like they've found their feet in the post season and Lundqvist is the best goalie left in the East. He'll be the difference

Philadelphia vs. New Jersey
  • Link- Flyers in seven games. Bryzy plays a few good games (but there will be a Bobrovsky appearence). New Jersey doesn't have enough balanced scoring to beat Philly.
  • Justin G. - Flyers in five games.  There is usually a team that looks like world-beaters in the first round that falls flat on their face in the second round. The Flyers are not that team.  New Jersey won't give them as many power play chances, but Claude Giroux and his boys are lethal.
Pre-round 2 Stanley Cup Finals Matchup
  • Link - Philadelphia vs. Nashville - I think Link is in a Philly-induced coma right now. He's a Sad Panda because his team lost.
  • Justin G. - Rangers vs. L.A. - the TV Market Matchup!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Quick Notes

Sad Messi wants more blogposts!

I'm working on some posts to get this site up and running on a regular basis again, but for now here are some quick notes from around the Justin G. sports world.

- The NFL Draft starts tonight. Yeah, I have no clue who the Ravens are drafting nor do I care. If they drafted the resurrected corpse of Bubba Smith I would think it was a good pick. I like watching the draft coverage because Mel Kiper is so earnest when talking about the draft picks.  As if it really matters in the long run. 

- Speaking of resurrections - we renamed one of our cats JesusCat.  I can't wait to take him to the vet and let them know of the name change. Added bonus - he'll get reminders in the mail addressed to JesusCat when it's time for us to schedule a visit.  Awesome.

- The O's are in first place.  Yes I'm enjoying it.  Yes I know it won't last.  I'm not worried where they finish in the standings, I'm more concerned with the possibility of them destroying the record for strikeouts by a team and errors by a third baseman.

- Roberto Luongo may be heading to the Lightning. Or the Maple Leafs. Or the Blackhawks.Or he might stay with the Canucks. Or he might retire and open a pizza joint.

- I just had a card-tastrophe.  Went to grab a box off the shelf in my closet and a piece of paper on top of it started to slide off.  So I went after the paper and dropped the box. Five-thousand cards crashed onto the ground, well some of them on the cat (not JesusCat). While I was initially upset, a part of me is excited to sort them all out again.  I LOVE sorting cards.

- If you want to get a lot of page hits over the next couple of months just throw "Roberto Luongo" and "Trade" in a title.

- Two songs stuck in my head over the last two weeks.  Gotye's "Someone I used to know" (pronounced goat-ee-A apparently) and fun's "We Are Young." Not sure if I like Gotye, but it's growing on me.  First heard "We Are Young" at Wrestlemania where they used it to pimp the John Cena/Rock match-up.  Probably would have been better for the Undertaker/HHH match.  Yes, I am a dork.

- Went to my first roller derby match last weekend.  Liked it, will probably write about it (sometime in the next three months).

- Three straight games for Messi not showing he hurt or should we start the "Messi can't perform in a big game" articles. Whoops.  Already there.  Although "rendered impotent" is a bit harsh.

- Yeah, I'll go over my horrible first round picks this weekend once the first round is over.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2012 Heritage Trade Brait

Hey some extra 2012 Topps Heritage cards for trade.  If you need them, check out my "wanted" list somewhere on the right hand side of this blog and get a hold of me. Help me help you.

Updated 6/5/12 (Italics are pending trades)

17 Mike Moustakas
28 Josh Beckett
31 Jeff Samardzija
45 Jimmy Paredes
51 Alex Gordon
58 Marlon Byrd
63 Cincinnati Reds
84 Doug Fister
90 Joey Votto
102 Ron Washington
104 Danny Duffy
105 James Loney
117 Vernon Wells
119 Matt Downs
131 Kevin Gregg
179 Shaun Marcum
197 Ian Kennedy
206 Lance Lynn
209 Chris Iannetta x2
220 Rickey Romero
232 Kevin Youkilis
233 Terry Collins
236 Salvador Perez
241 Johnny Cuerto
257 Jacob Turner
267 Nick Hundley
274 2012 Rookie Stars
280 Brett Lawrie
291 Stephen Strasburg
305 Ryan Roberts
306 Star Receivers
310 Jerry Sands
320 Zach Greinke
325 Brian Wilson x2
333 2012 Rookie Stars
340 Russell Martin
349 Alex Gonzalez
360 Chad Billingsley
368 Andrew Bailey
397 Kansas City Royals
419 Casey Janssen
421 Kyle Farnsworth
493 Josh Willingham
Chrome -
HP32 Neil Walker (Pirates)

Black Border (Non-Chrome)
HP86 Carlos Santans (indians)
HP92 ALBatting Leaders
HP98 2012 Rookie Stars

Then & Now
TN-YC Yaz and Miguel Cabrera

Monday, April 16, 2012

Edner Cherry Highlights an Entertaining Night of Boxing in Cicero

Alas, Big Curtis Tate wasn't on the card

Last Saturday saw professional boxing return to Chicago, well to Cicero that is.  Located west of Downtown, take a Pink Line El train as far as it goes, and you will find venerable Cicero Stadium.  The aging complex hosted 8 Count Productions Solo Boxeo, presented by Tecate, a night of boxing featuring Edner Cherry and Adrian Granados.

Inside, there was a much more intimate feel than the spacious UIC Pavaillian.  The ring was set up in the middle of the basketball court with only 4 or 5 rows of chairs surrounding the squared circle.  Two sections of bleachers that ran the length of the building held most of the fans and provided them with an up-close view of the action in the ring..

As a few of the fights were being broadcast by Telafutra (with analysis by legendary Israel Vazquez) an impressive lighting rig hovered a few feet above the ring while cameramen and techs scurried about the arena all night.  While the presence of the TV crew added a festive atmosphere to the night, it also slowed things down a bit as some fights were held to make sure the broadcast crews were ready.

The delays didn’t take away from the action in the ring as 8 Count put together a fairly competitive card for the night. A raucous cheering section supported local fighters Dimar Ortuz, Adan Ortiz and Granados all night long while Marlon Smith learned that the easiest way to get heat from the crowd is to wear a St. Louis Cardinals hat into the ring.

Dimar Ortuz (3-0-0, 3 KOs) vs. Rayshan Myers (4-12-0, 3 KOs)

The first match of the night featured the undefeated Ortuz matching up against his most experienced opponent to date. Myers, whose white trunks trimmed in black and penchant for shuffling his feet in the ring had the hecklers ringside calling him “Ali”, confounded the aggressive Ortuz early in the fight.

Myers’ southpaw stance had Ortuz stumped for the first round.  His attempts at landing big punches were in vain as his slick opponent was able to duck out of the way for most of them.  In the second, Dimar “The Strongman” adjusted and started to find his range.  A big right from the Chicago-based fighter seemed to sap some of Myers confidence.  That punch altered the dynamic of the match as for the next three rounds Myers was content to hold and run from the more aggressive Ortuz. He would offer little offense the rest of the fight while Ortuz landed a few shots here and there.

The fight ended up going to the scorecards after the bell sounded at the end of the fourth and final round.  The judges awarded Ortuz the unanimous decision which had to ring a little empty for the hometown fighter as he wasn’t able to secure the knockout for his local supporters.

Adan Ortiz (1-0-0, 1 KO) vs. Joseph Santos (0-1-0)

Adan Ortiz wouldn’t have that problem.  His fan base had barely settled into their seats after the introductions before he had them standing again in appreciation of an overwhelming performance.  Both fighters were game as the opening bell sounded as they came out throwing punches. 

Unfortunately for Santos is was quickly apparent that his handspeed wasn’t in the same league as the impressive Ortiz. Mere seconds into the fight, a solid left hook to the body hurt Santos and Ortiz was quick to press his advantage as he followed up with a left to the jaw and then a flurry of punches from both hands.

Santos was on his knees after a straight right/left hook combo dropped him.  His trainer leaped to the  apron waiving the towel before referee Celestino Ruiz finished his count and Ortiz had his TKO victory at just the 1:13 mark of the first round.

Adrian Granados (9-2-1, 5 KO’s) vs. Ramon Guevara (9-21-2, 6 KOs)

Granados played up his ties to Cicero as he sported what appeared to be his American Legion baseball jersey into the ring for his matchup against his Dominican opponent (who sported the always classic look of shiny brown trunks with black tassels running down the legs).

The first round started a little tentative as both fighters were cautious in feeling out each other.  Granados gained a little momentum when he found success by doubling up his straight lefts while Guevara was able to land several solid shots to the body.

“Che” decided to up the pressure in the second round as he came out quickly and snuck a few punches in on the hometown fighter. His advantage wouldn’t last.  “El Tigre” showed why his fan base is growing in The Windy City as a right/left combo dropped his opponent.  Seconds later another big left would earn him the knock out a Referee Ruiz reached the 10 count at the 58 second mark of the round.

In picking up his second win of the year, the 22-year-old fighter looks to have recovered from his 2011 loss to Frankie Gomez and could be on his way to headlining some more exciting bouts in the near future.

Lamar Russ (9-0-0, 5 KO’s) vs. Jose Alonza (13-0-0, 7 KO’s)

Jose Alonza brought an interesting story into this match-up of two undefeated boxers.  At 35, Alonza seemed a little old for only having 13 pro fights under his belt.  The skimpy fight record was a result of the 8 years he took off after “losing his desire to fight” despite having won his first 11 fights and earning the WBA Fedcentro super middleweight belt.

Having regained interest in the sport in 2011 he was fighting outside of his native Florida for the first time in more than a decade.  His opponent, Lamar Russ sporting the odd nickname “The Boxing Que”, was more than ready to give him a challenge.

The early rounds were a muddled affair as Russ used his reach to keep Alonza at distance.  Alonza, tried to close the distance by launching lunging right-handed attacks that were only marginally effective.  He did land enough punches to have blood streaming from Russ’ nose by the third round, but wasn’t able to sustain enough offensive to truly hurt his opponent.

Russ, who I had winning the first three rounds, would dominate the fourth. A tired Alonza had begun holding on at the close of the previous round and would last only a minute into the fourth.  A right hook to the top of his head would be the punch responsible for ending the fight, but it followed a straight right to the head and a left to the body that set up the climatic blow.  Alonza was able to beat the count, but the referee decided he had enough and stopped the fight at the 1:08 mark of the round.

Highlights here (Sorry about the commercials) (highlights are in Spanish, but that high school Spanish I to work!)

Edner Cherry (29-6-2, 16 KOs) vs. Juan Carlos Martinez (19-13-1, 7 KOs)

The headline bout of the night featured former title-challenger Cherry matching up against the experienced Martinez. The 29-year-old Cherry was looking to build on his February victory over Guillermo Sanchez at the UIC Pavilion as he continues to rebuild his title chances after his 2008 loss to Timothy Bradley.

The first four rounds would see-saw between the two fighters.  Neither was able to dominate as Martinez was content to work the body, while Cherry worked his left jab trying to set up his big “Cherry Bomb” right.  However, Martinez didn’t give him a chance to land it early.

As the fight progressed, it became apparent that Cherry was the better fighter. He was able to repeatedly tag Martinez with both straight rights and lefts to the head. By the fifth, Martinez was bleeding freely from the nose and Cherry managed to land 5 power rights in the round.  “El Pez” displayed a granite chin as the big shots never came close to knocking him down.

Martinez would find some success in the 8th when Cherry relaxed a bit.  It appeared that the fighter from Wauchula, Florida was trying to bait Martinez into opening himself up to a knockout blow, but the Mexican fighter was cagey enough not to fall for the trap, instead landing a round-winning haymaker that staggered but didn’t drop Cherry.

The ninth and tenth round featured more big punches from Cherry and by the end of the fight Martinez was doing his best just to survive the fight.  He would make it to the final bell, but lose when the judges awarded a majority decision to Cherry by scores of 95-95 (odd), 99-91 (almost as odd) and 97-93 (more in line).
Highlites here

Luis Santiago (4-0-0, 1 KO) vs. Marlon Smith (2-1-0, 1 KO)
The final fight of the night had the feeling of a wrestling “dark match”.  With the TV cameras turned off and about half of the crowd having left after the Cherry/Martinez bout it felt a bit anti-climatic.  This was a shame because the fans that left missed one of the best fights of the night.

Santiago put his undefeated record on the line against a very competitive Smith.  “Sito” wanted to keep the fight at a distance where he could effectively land his punches, but Smith wasn’t going to let him.  He kept bulling his way in close to the larger fighter and was able to do damage by working the body with short left hooks.

The crowd was on its feet in an exciting second round when “Sito” landed a huge right cross that stunned Smith.  Santiago pounced, landing lefts and rights to the head and body of his staggering opponent.  Despite his corner’s pleas to wrap up, Smith chose to weather the storm of punches and eventually began to land some of his own.  It was soon apparent that Santiago had punched himself out and quickly found his back on the ropes as Smith came on late in the round.

Smith would keep working the body in close throughout the fight to set up some punishing shots to the head.  By the third round Santiago was sporting a bad cut next to his left eye courtesy of short right hooks from Smith.

Despite displaying some tired legs, Santiago rallied in the fifth round, coming out strong and rocking the determined Smith.  The last two rounds would be as close as the rest of the fight and when the final bell rang the decision would be in the hands of the judges.

Judge John Epperson would rule it a 57-57 draw while judges Jerry Jacubco and William Lerch would score it 58-56 for Santiago.  A decision that met with cheers from the crowd, but disagreement from press row (I had it 58-56 for Smith).  In our eyes it was a questionable decision for an extremely close fight as Smith had been more active and done more damage throughout the fight.

That final decision didn’t detract from a good night of boxing.  The intimate setting of Cicero Stadium makes for a great boxing crowd as it feels like they are right on top of the action.  It was another solid card of action from 8 Count that featured knockouts, hometown heroes and a just a dash of controversy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Always Late, Never Right - It's the Hopeful Chase Playoff Preview

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know…what kind of preview posts up the day after the playoffs start?  Well, the Hopeful Chase kind, my friend! We may run a bit behind schedule here, but we do get the information out.  Heck, I have a post about the Masters that is only a week late now (I swear I’ll get it posted this week, Pops!).

Anywho….roving Penguin correspondent Link called me yesterday from somewhere between Euclid, Ohio and Pittsburgh (not really, but he’s on the road so much I’m sure he’s been there before) to give me his predictions for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Please remember that all of these predictions came before last night’s games.

Western Conference:

1.  Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings:

                Link’s pick – Canucks in 6

Reasons: “LA can’t score” and “Even if Dan Sedin isn’t back till Game 2 or 3 the Canucks have enough offense to win.”

Justin G.’s pick – Canucks in 5

Reasons: I don’t care if the Kings racked up 4 goals in the first game, the Kings don’t have a shot in this round. The Canucks will rebound from the Game 1 loss and sweep the next 4 games. 

2. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. San Jose Sharks

                Link’s pick – Sharks in 5

                Reasons: “Not sold on St. Louis” and “Sharks waiting for playoffs”.

                Justin G.’s pick - Sharks in 6

Reasons:  I think the Blues play enough defense to make this series competitive, however, like Link I think the Sharks have been treading water until the playoffs start.

3. Phoenix Coyotes vs. 6. Chicago Blackhawks

                Link’s pick – Hawks in 6

Reasons: “Can Phoenix win a non 2-1 or 3-2 game?” and “Chicago’s goaltending is a question mark”

Justin G.’s pick – Hawks in 5

Reasons: I really want the ‘Yotes to advance to the Finals, but unfortunately I think they got one of the toughest draws in the entire conference.  Despite the shaky goaltending, Chicago has to be considered a favorite to advance to the Finals. They have depth in scoring, a decent enough defense and the unexpected goal scoring talents of Andrew Shaw.

4. Nashville Predators vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings

                Link’s pick – Nashville in 5

                Reasons: “Wings are too beat up, especially in the blue line”

                Justin G.’s pick – Nashville in 6

Reasons: I was going to agree with Link and go with the Preds in 5, but with Shea Weber possibly facing a 1 or 2 games suspension I think it will cost them at least one win (update – Weber was only fined $2500- screw it I’m staying with 6 games). Nashville is a quietly complete team that has just enough offense to be dangerous.

Eastern Conference

1.  New York Rangers vs. 8. Ottawa Senators

                Link’s pick – Rangers in 5

Reasons: “Ottawa has to capitalize on power play” and “They can’t make it a long series as they don’t have enough in the tank”.

Justin G.’s pick – Rangers in 5

Reasons: I bet on the Rangers. 

2. Boston Bruins vs. 7. Washington Capitals

                Link’s pick – Bruins in 6

Reasons: “Boston wins, but will be tougher than people think” and “their backchecking will be the difference”.

Justin G.’s pick – Caps in 7

Reasons: I think the Caps are starting to figure themselves up and it appears someone woke Alex Semin up.  Alex Ovechkin has found his scoring touch (11 goals in last 13 games) and Nick Backstrom is back in the lineup.  Boston struggled a bit down the stretch and I don’t think this team has the depth that last year’s did.

3. Florida Panthers vs. 6. New Jersey Devils

                Link’s pick – Devils in 5

Reasons: “Florida doesn’t know who will be their starting goalie” and “the only reason Florida is in the playoffs is because of the charity point.”

Justin G.’s pick – Devils in 5

Reasons: Is there anyone picking the Panthers in this series? They did manage to hold off the Caps push at the end of the season and pulled out wins when they needed to, but Dale Tallon’s collection of misfit just doesn’t have the firepower to stick with the Devils. One more run for Marty Brodeur

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 5. Philadelphia Flyers

                Link’s pick – Philly in 6

Reasons: “Worst matchup for the Penguins” and “Philly can match the best aspects of the Penguin teams – power play and penalty kill” and “Philly can be physica”.

                Justin G.’s pick – Penguins in 7

Reasons: Philly’s goaltending will be their downfall. So will be their inability to refrain from taking retaliatory penalties. Of course, this will lead to folks claiming that the “Penguins get all the calls”. I also think that Philly will lose at least one of their key offensive players.

Pre-Round 1 Stanley Cup Finals Matchup Prediction:

Link: Flyers vs. Blackhawks

Justin G: Rangers vs. Blackhawks (The NHL’s market matchup dream?)

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Time For Baseball. That Means STONE COLD LOCKS!

I have few annual traditions on this spot of the Internet.  One of my favorites is when I turn it over to a friend of mine, a former co-worker and the Gulf Coast of Florida's leading expert on digital displays, SCL Mike. Plus it gives me an easy post!

He is a Rays fan (and a NY football Giants fan, but we won't hold that against him) and contrary to popular opinion he isn't 97-years-old. I had the honor of attending my first playoff and World Series games with him back in 2009 where he proved that he could indeed fit in the space beneath the sink in one of Tropicana Field's suite.  He is also the man for getting Michael Taylor to "pound it and lock it in" when he was just an unknown kid playing in Clearwater.

All ideas and opinions are Mike's own and may or may not reflect the opinions of this website. Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this post, without the express e-mailed consent of The Hopeful Chase, is prohibited...or at least frowned upon.

Without further gilding of the lily I'll turn it over to the man himself...

Time for the 3rd annual MLB STONE COLD LOCKS!

I will first start out with 10 general predictions before I go to my AL East and Playoff locks!

1. Yonder Alonso will hit .310 this year and win the NL rookie of the year. Playing in San Diego will mean he only hits 10-15 Home Runs, but he will have plenty of extra base hits.

2. Ryan Braun will hit in the 250-280 range. Huge letdown season, but you know what they say about Karma.

3. Stephen Strasburg will have a disaster season. He is going to win 8 games if he is lucky.

4. BJ Upton will return for real this year, hitting in the .280s with 20 HRs and 40 Stolen Bases.

5. We will all witness the demise of Josh Hamilton. We will see at least two drinking related issues this season.

6. Mike Naopli will go back to being Mike Napoli after being possessed by the talents of Johnny Bench for a season.

7. The Mets will have lower attendance than the Rays.

8. Ozzie Guillen will get thrown out of 7 games this year.

9. Prince Fielder will hit less than 32 HRs in the AL, Albert Pujols will still tear up any pitch he sees- 45 HRs.

10. The Pirates will win over 83 games this year. This is the start of something great for them.

Now on for the surest bet anybody has each year….


1. The poor Orioles will once again finish in last place. They will have proven to us all that they are the anti-Rays with pitching prospects. Anybody remember 3-4 years ago when everyone was saying how they had 4 bona-fide starters ready to come up? (ed note - Why yes, yes I do.) Maybe the Rays will throw them Wade Davis or Alex Cobb for helping out in game 162 last year (Alex Cobb for Chris Davis down the stretch, yes please!).

2. The Blue Jays will be a huge thorn in the Red Sox side. They are going to win 85 games, Jose Bautista will hit 40+ HRs and for some reason they still will not make the playoffs.

3. The Red Sox. Oh, how I loved seeing them flounder last year. It’s a lock that they will be worse this year. The injuries have already started to pile up, and Carl Crawford will be lucky to see the field before June 25th. Good old beer swilling Josh Beckett will continue to slide some more, and will hurt his back sometime around July 15th.

The golden child, Dustin Pedroia, is finally going to have a down year, and Jacoby Ellsbury will realize that 'roids can only take a guy so far. On the left coast, Josh Reddick will hit .290, jack 15 HRs and laugh that he was traded for Glass Joe’s baseball playing son, Andrew Bailey.

4. The Yankees will find out that CC Sabathia can only take a team so far. They still win plenty of games, but need LOTS to go right with their starter. They are still going to hit the poop out of the ball and score lots of runs, but Father Time is watching Jeter, A-Rod, Pettite, and Rivera just waiting to step in and take one of them out. Rivera will have a 3+ ERA in this year, and it will be the last time you see the man in pinstripes. They may win 90 games this year but...

5. THE RAYS. Other than Carlos Pena, what is there not to love about these guys? They got the ladies man at 3rd ready to jack 40 HRs this year, the racist at DH ready to jack 30 HRs this year, the fresh faced kid in right getting his chance to play every day ready to jack 30 HRs, the speedy guy in left ready to steal 40 and jack 20 HRs, the religious 2nd baseman with the hot wife ready to jack 25 HRs, the old salty catcher ready to not hit .210 for a change, the angry CF who is always getting hated on ready to steal 40 and yes…JACK 30 HRs!

And I haven’t even gotten to the rotation. Let’s just be honest, there are 4 guys out there who can be number ones on other teams. It is sick. Shields is going to win 17, Price is gonna win 16, Hellickson is gonna win 15, Neimann is gonna win 15, and MATT MOORE IS GOING TO WIN 20!!!! LOCK THAT UP. First Ray to win 20 games, and FIRST RAY TO TAKE A CY YOUNG TO THE BURG!!!!

97 Wins for these guys, and if you lost count AT LEAST 175 JACKS BABY LOCK IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bold words from a man known for wearing an ALF costume while drinking. As always, thanks for taking a column off of my hands, Mike and we'll review your predictions at the end of the season.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Separated At Birth?

Before I go dark for a couple of days....Heading out of town, baby!

What you see here is Dwayne Roloson's mug shot superimposed (cause I got mad skills) on a picture of Christopher Dennis.  Dennis would best be known as the "Superman" who poses for the tourists on Hollywood Blvd. He was also one of the subjects of an excellent documentary that's streaming on Netflix called Confessions of a Superhero.

Dye Roli's hair black and give him a curl and he could fit right in.  Of course, Roloson would have to smile at some point, and I'm not quite sure he's capable of doing that.

There is a better than average chance that Roloson played his last home game in a Lightning uniform Monday night and he was exceptional.  His stop on Mike Green might have been one of the top saves ever by a Tampa Bay goaltender.  This season might not have been the smoothest, but he did give us plenty of moments like that throughout his short career with the Bolts.

Thanks, Roli.

Hamr-time! Lightning Card of the Week

1997-98 Pacific Invincible Roman Hamrlik

First of all, let us talk about the card shall we? If there is a set that defines all that was wrong with the the industry in the 1990’s it’s all here in the 1997-98 Invincible set:

Lots of gold foil – check

Hard to read type on the front – check

Floating head inserted on card – check

One of about 765 sets released by Pacific that year – check

Massive overproduction - probably

I’m not really sure how “Invincible” is represented by a mostly gold card that is “scratched” away to reveal a sky blue accent.  To me that actually makes it quite “vincible”. It also makes it hard to find cards in good condition as nothing shows chips and dinged corners better than gold foil.

I generally enjoy acetate cards, but for some reason on this card it seems an unnecessary touch. In fact, it gives me a strong impulse to poke it out with something sharp.  The back of the card doesn’t really add much other than another photo and two or three biographical sentences.  There is no breakdown of stats or anything along those lines.

Now for the player. Roman Hamrlik has the distinction of being the first player selected by the Lighting in the NHL Entry Draft.  He was also the first of three players drafted number one over all by Tampa Bay (Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos are the other two). Other Lightning draft picks from that year include Drew Bannister (2nd round), Brent Gretzky (3rd round), Aaron Gavey (4th round) and Derek Wilkerson (7th round).

Overall, the 1992 draft wasn’t the strongest one in history. While it’s filled with a lot of solid players one would be hard pressed to find any first ballot hall of famers among the list of players picked. Sergei Gonchar (1st round by Washington), Kirk Maltby (3rd round by Edmonton) and Nikolai Khabibulin (9th round by Winnipeg) might get some passing consideration, but none of them will make a voter think, “My God he has to be in the hall!”

As for Hamrlik, he immediately jumped into the Lightning line-up and posted 21 points in his rookie year of 1992-93. He would mature into a steady blueliner for the Bolts, and experienced his best season with the club in the 1995-96 as he racked up 16 goals, 49 assists and 103 penalty minutes for the playoff bound team.

He was also the subject of one of the more entertainingstories from the Lightning’s days of playing at the State Fairgrounds.  As head coach Terry Crisp was about to start a pre-game meeting, he noticed that Hamrlik was missing. The young defenseman was soon discovered fishing beside a duck pond located a stone’s throw from the dressing room. Hockey Paradise, indeed!

After the initial success in his career, the team itself began the gradual descent into mediocrity that would eventually net them Lecavalier as the overall number one pick in 1998. Along the way Hamrlik became more valuable as a trade chip then he did as a defensive cornerstone to build around.  In December of 1997, Hamrlik and Paul Comrie, were shipped to Edmonton for Jason Bonsignore, Bryan Marchment and Speedy Stevie Kelly.  Marchment would end up being the key to that deal as he was later shipped to San Jose in the deal that landed the Lightning the first overall pick that they used to draft Lecavalier.

The Czech defenseman would last 2 ½ seasons in Edmonton before being traded to the New York Islanders in a package that included current Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer. Hamrlik would end up playing for Calgary and Montreal before signing with Washington this season.  He has returned to taking regular shifts with the Capitals recently after spending several games as a healthy scratch around the trade deadline in February.

With more than 1,300 games under his belt, Hamrlik has the distinction of being the active player with the most regular season games played without winning the Stanley Cup. At 37-years-old, his chances of raising Lord Stanley’s chalice are rapidly diminishing.  It would be nice to see him get one more shot at glory even if it means the Capitals are in the Finals.

Despite not having suited up for the Lightning in over a decade, Hamrlik still ranks among the top five all-time Lightning defensemen in games played (3rd), goals (3rd), assists (3rd), points (3rd) and penalty minutes (4th). If there is ever a Ring of Honor placed in the Ice Palace, the name Roman Hamrlik should receive heavy consideration for inclusion.