Thursday, March 23, 2017

Freddie Fre
The Atlanta Braves had a bad year in 2016.  They finished 68-93, fifth in the National League East.  That said they finished the second half of the season with a winning record of 37-35.  The trade for Matt Kemp seemed to give the Braves a much needed boost and the Braves have continued to retool during the offseason.  While I wouldn’t say they will contend this year it should be better year overall.

The starting staff added R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon, and Jaime Garcia to go along with Julio Teheran and probably Mike Foltynewicz.  Dickey and Colon should eat up innings and if we’re lucky will get Atlanta 12 wins each.  Garcia’s career numbers are good but he always seems to disappoint in the end.  I live near St. Louis and the Cardinal fans do nothing but laugh when this comes up.  Hoping for the best, he is another guy that can get ya 10 -12 wins.  With a little support Julio Teheran should get around 15 wins while Foltynewicz is a bit more of a wild card.  I don’t mind this starting staff.  It won’t wow you per se but it has more upside than what we saw last year.  Dickey and Colon are on one year deals so no huge loss if they struggle but who doesn’t like Bartolo Colon or the knuckleball?  Bullpen hasn’t changed much.  While Jim Johnson resigned to handle the closer duties, all hopes are that Arodys Vizcaino will eventually earn that job from him. 
Bartolo Colon
At catcher the club will go with Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki.  I think Atlanta is happy to go with a defensive minded replacement for now until a better option is available.  Stud first baseman Freddie Freeman returns anchoring the lineup as well as the right side of the infield.  Brandon Phillips was traded for after free agent pickup Sean Rodriguez was injured in the offseason.  I like this move.  Very aggressive even if it is for a veteran on the downside on his career.  Shortstop will again be manned by Dansby Swanson who has everyone excited with his potential.  Adonis Garcia will be at third.  His batting is below average and his defense isn’t great.  They are stuck with him until another option is obtainable. 
Ender Inciarte
The outfield returns Ender Inciarte who has been great in the field and had a very good second half of the season at the plate.  Matt Kemp will man left and I’m hoping he can hit something close to what he did after he was acquired last year.  Light hitting Nick Markakis will be in right.  He at least can get on base at a decent clip and stays healthy but he won’t really wow you otherwise.

Dansby Swanson
Atlanta did a good job in the offseason at least giving themselves a decent team to put out on the field.  Both the offense and pitching should be respectable.  Depth is still an issue so injuries could put a major hurt on them if they pop up.  No one will be expecting them to make a playoff run this year but I do think 70-75 wins is attainable assuming the pitching staff stays healthy and a few things go right for them.  No matter what happens Atlanta should be trending up.  They still have talent in the minors and a new ballpark which should provide more revenue and make them a destination worth looking at for future free agents.   That is the fun part about spring training.  We all still have hope.  And check out this funny five tool Bartolo Colon video hyping his coming to Atlanta. 
Brandon Phillips

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2014-2015 Panini Prestige Basketball Cards

Another random pack of cards from Target.  These are the 2014-2015 Panini Prestige basketball cards, a set I've never collected before.  There were six cards in the pack, all seen here.  I'm happy with my pull getting Paul George, Kirk Nowitzki, and Andre Jordan among the six.  The Jordan card was an insert, Prestigious Posts.  The fronts are pretty nice having two photos, one of which is black and white which is shown behind a different color photo.  I like how neither photo is obscured giving you two good looks of the player on one card front.  The backs are different with just a few key stats for the player.  Nothing special there.  Still I like these cards.  The photos are nice and the design simplicity is something I like.  Glad I grabbed these. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

2016 Upper Deck Moana Trading Cards

Grabbed a pack of the Upper Deck Moana cards at the local Dollar Tree for a dollar (go figure).  There were five cards in the pack.  The set itself has 20 total cards and the backs of the cards make up a puzzle.  I really like these cards.  They aren't the typical screen shots from the movie but have some great art and presentations of the main characters  I haven't seen the movie but have heard nothing but good things and think I'll see it at some point.  Back to the cards.  I think Upper Deck did a great job.  To me Upper Deck consistently does a very good job and I think these are top notch.  I'm very happy I picked up a pack of these cards.   

Friday, March 17, 2017

Random Pack: 2015-2016 Panini Excalibur Basketball Cards

Grabbed a random pack of the 2015-2016 Panini Excalibur cards at a Target.  I hadn't purchased any before but liked the photos of the cards I've seen.  I do like these cards but I'm not sure why.  I prefer in game photos and backgrounds.  These obviously don't have the photo's background but have a bit of an artistic background to them.  Still it works for me.  The backs are basic but have nice color and design. My pull included Andrew Wiggins, Stephen Curry, and Chris Paul which is a great.  There were eight cards in the pack and I can't remember if the price was $2.99 or $4.99.  I think the former.  Either way they aren't cheap cards. I'll still look for these and pick some up if possible and I'm glad I picked up this pack.     

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trail Blazers Defeat Spurs

After seeing Atlanta fall to the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night I was also able to catch the Portland Trail Blazers play San Antonio last night.  It was Portland’s second game in two nights on the road as they fell to New Orleans on Tuesday.  The Blazers prevailed 110-106 in a tough game despite some late game miscues.  Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum starred while new addition Jusuf Nurkic also had a good game.  Lillard led the team with 36 points on 12 of 22 shooting (3/8 threes).  McCollum added 26 hitting both three’s he took.  I like what I see from Nurkic.  He gave them a solid game at center ending the night with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals.  Kawhi Leonard had a great game for San Antonio  34P, 9R, 6A, 3S, 2B) while LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points.  It wasn’t enough in the end.  After erratic play early, Portland put together a late surge to put them up enough to hold off the Spurs.  Lillard and McCollum were once again the driving force and won them the game.  Great to get to see the Trail Blazers play.  They are usually on TV too late at night for my old man schedule.  Also nice to see them win as the season has definitely been a disappointment (30-37) after winning 44 games last year.   

Portland is very reliant on their backcourt as scoring from their forwards has never materialized.  This will have to be addressed at some point.  They gave contract to Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu but they aren’t getting much back for the money spent.  Nurkic looks really good right now and I am loving that trade with Denver.  I do think if Portland can get a bit more punch from the front line they can compete with better teams.  Some better defense is also up there on the list of needs.  Evan Turner ($16M) and Allen Crabbe ($18.5M) are really tying up a lot of money and, while they are very good in their roles, they can’t be paid that much money to give the team nine and 10 points respectively.  I expect that to change once McCollum’s four year contract extension kicks in next season.  As is, all the pressure and shots are coming from the back court and every team knows that.  I believe the future is bright for Portland.  They have two dynamic young stars that if surrounded by a good supporting staff, can take this team far.  I still think they can make it to the playoffs this year as well (currently 2 games out of the playoffs) but as always there are good teams in the West that they will have to catch up to and overtake.  I have hope…    

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hawks Lose to Spurs

Was able to catch a good portion of the Atlanta Hawks - San Antonio Spurs
game Wednesday night.  I rarely get to see the Hawks play so it was a treat.
Atlanta lost 107-99.  The Spurs looked pretty good even without LaMarcus
Aldridge and Tony Parker, and Kawhi Leonard not playing up to his normal
standards.  No big surprises for me.  The Hawks are who I think they are.
They are a very good team that could still make noise in the Eastern
Conference playoffs if everything falls right but they just don't have a
scorer to put them over the top.  They have guys who can get buckets but no
true blue get you a basket guys.
Milsap is very good but won't necessarily take them to the next level - at
least not alone - and Atlanta may regret not trading him at the deadline if
he walks in free agency.  Dennis Schoder is a good young point guard and Tim
Hardaway has become a good scoring option but Kent Bazemore is not the
scoring threat they had hoped he would develop into while Thabo Sefolosha is
good supporting player but that is it.  Dwight Howard is playing well but as
in this game his free throws cause him to be off the floor in close games.
Pickup Ersan Ilyasova is a nice addition to the team but comes off the
bench.  I just can't see Atlanta ever being better than a fifth (currently)
or fourth seed but also wouldn't be surprised if they drop further in the
standings.  They need a dynamic wing player.  We'll see how it plays out but
I think the playoffs will end similarly to years past which isn't that good.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Look Back at NFL Player Williams Andrews

WilliamAndrews is one of all-time great Atlanta Falcons players.  His career was shortened due to injuries but when he was at the top of his game there were few better.  He starred at Auburn University sharing carries with fellow star running backs James Brooks and Joe Cribs.  Andrews has stated this probably helped lessen the wear and tear on his legs during his college days. 

His rookie year, 1979, Andrews was the feature back for the Falcons and rushed for 1023 yards averaging 4.3 yards per carry while adding 39 receptions.  This was good enough to earn him a spot on the NFL All-Rookie team that year.  The next season Andrews rushed for 1,308 yards averaging a career best 4.9 yards per carry and caught 51 balls.  Atlanta was 12-4 that season and looked like they could do some damage in the playoffs but lost to the Dallas Cowboys after blowing a big lead late in the first round game.  1980 was also the year he was elected to his first of four straight Pro Bowls.   

Andrews had another good year in 1981 with 1301 yards at a 4.5 yards per carry clip, 10 touchdowns and added a career high 81 catches for 735 yards and two more touchdowns.  Atlanta didn’t make the playoffs that year but did the next year in the strike shortened 1982 season.  In nine games he averaged 4.1 yards per carry for a total of 573 yards while his 10 touchdowns were good for fifth in the league.  He added another 42 receptions that year.  Atlanta unfortunately lost again in the first round of the playoffs in a close game to the Minnesota Vikings. 

1983 was Williams Andrews’ finest year racking up 1567 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, 59 receptions and a total of 11 touchdowns.  The team struggled as it only won 7 games and missed the playoffs.  In the preseason of 1984 Andrews sustained nerve damage to his knee that would ultimately keep him out of the game for two seasons.  The Falcons also suffered mightily only winning a combined eight games in those two seasons.  Andrews attempted a comeback but was no longer the lead back.  In 1986 he only had 214 rushing yards but still managed to average over four yards a carry.  I didn’t know this but have read that he even played some tight end that year.  1986 was Williams’ last year in the NFL. 

He retired owning 19 Atlanta Falcons’ team records and was just the second running back at the time to have two 2,000 combined yard seasons.  O.J. Simpson was the other.  Andrews also had more total yards than any other player during his first five seasons in the league.  It is truly a shame his career was cut short.  It isn’t a stretch to think he could have been mentioned among the all-time greats with just three more healthy seasons.  He finished his career with 5,986 yards, a 4.6 average, and 277 receptions for 2,647 yards.  He was inducted into the inaugural AtlantaFalcons Ring of Honor class in 2004. 

I was 10 years old during William Andrews’ rookie year and he made a huge impression on me and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.  I loved his bruising running style and talent.  He also was a guy who could catch the ball out of the backfield which was a big part of his game.  Andrews will always be one of those “what if he had stayed healthy” guys but his career is still worth remembering and I remember it very fondly.