Monday, June 26, 2017

Matt Adams Excels - Freddie Freeman to Third Base?

Matt Adams
In May the Atlanta Braves traded for Matt Adams giving up a low level prospect.  Adams is filling in for Freddie Freeman while he is on the disabled list.  All indications were that Adams would be traded at the deadline once Freeman was available to return.  Adams has outperformed his past numbers putting up a .299/.354/.634 stat line in 34 games for the Braves.  You couldn’t ask for much more.  That said, this team is still not that good and will celebrate if they can hold on to second place in the division but they aren’t even looking like a .500 team yet.  I would think they’ll still be in “sell” mode come the trading deadline adding players who can provide help at need positions.     

But there are now rumors that Freddie Freeman may move to third base to allow Adams to stay in Atlanta and in the starting lineup.  This is where I get worried.  While Adams’ play is a big surprise, moving Freddie Freeman to third base seems like a huge risk.  He is a stud  on a long term contract and the face of the franchise.  Moving him to a position that is more difficult defensively makes me worry that any struggles he may have in the field would bleed over to his appearances at the plate.  He played the position in high school but that was some time ago. 

Atlanta really needs to think this through.  Is Matt Adams really the Braves have seen in limited time
Freddie Freeman
or is he the guy St. Louis traded away due to a .271/.315/.453 stat line while striking out every 4.3 plate appearances in 486 games with St. Louis?  It obviously puts the Braves in a bind.  You don’t want to get rid of a guy playing this well but I think they need to look at the possible consequence.  I have nothing against Matt Adams but I’d rather have Freeman at first and hitting well and use Adams as a nice trade chip.  There are plenty of needs on this team so there is no reason to keep him if he won’t start.  For now I’ll hope he keeps hitting and Atlanta can find a team needing a 1B or DH come the trade deadline. 




Friday, June 23, 2017

Skillet's New (ish) Album Unleashed is a Great Hard Rocking Listen

I’m still a CD guy and purchased Skillet’s Unleashed album after getting hooked on their single Feel Invincible.  Whether online or in the car I’ve listened to Feel Invincible over and over -  a lot.  I’ve listened to the entire album many times now and I’m really enjoying it.  This takes me back to their Awake album with how easy it is to listen to the entire CD.  Feel Invincible made it to #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, their first ever to chart at #1.  It has also been used by some of the major sports leagues as part of promos and advertising.  The single Back from the Dead is featured as part of Marvel Comics’ ad campaign for their Monster’s Unleashed comic book series while the song Stars is featured on the soundtrack for the movie “The Shack”.  I missed an opportunity to see Skillet live earlier this year and I’m really kicking myself.        

I describe Skillet’s sound as driving rock –energy willing you forward with a head banging enthusiasm.  They’ve had big albums in the past with Comatose and Awake though their last album Rise didn’t have quite the same success.  Comatose brought Skillet to prominence in the rock scene with the help of singles Whispers in the Dark, Rebirthing, and Comatose leading the way.  The album Awake had their biggest hits prior to this album in Hero, Monster and Awake and Alive.  I can’t get into technical nuances of music but I know what I like and this album is very good.  If you like this album definitely check out Comatose and Awake.  Skillet is a Christian rock band but don’t let that scare you away.  This is an excellent album that should be listened to if you enjoy rock. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Atlanta Hawks Trade Dwight Howard

The Atlanta Hawks traded Dwight Howard and the number 31 pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the number 41 pick.  The Dwight Howard signing didn’t look good before last season and it didn’t look any better after the season.  Howard never seemed a fit for their offense and his signing contributed to the loss of Al Horford in free agency and Horford was a much better fit.  Howard finished the year with a 13.5 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG stat line while logging just under 30 minutes per game.   

 I like Dwight Howard and he deserves tons of praise for a great career.  But if you don’t have a team of shooters around him, his offense which consists of playing around the rim is very limiting.  He’s still a very efficient scorer shooting 63% from the field but he works better with a spread offense.  A movement oriented offense needing a big that can shoot is not his thing.  Howard is only 31 and I hope he can find success in Charlotte.

I hope Plumlee can give Atlanta something, anything.  He is making $12M per year but his stats are not anywhere near what you’d expect for someone making that much money – 2.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG in 10 minutes per game last year.  Belinelli is a shooting guard who should at least be a nice bench asset.  He can shoot the three and give you ten points per game.  He has one year left on his $6M deal. 

What’s next:  How hard will the Hawks pursue free agents Paul Milsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. this offseason?  Where do they see the team moving forward?  Dennis Shroder is the PG and face of the franchise if those two aren’t re-signed but there won’t be much else left around him.  I’d hate to see Atlanta starting over but that may well be what they are doing. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Golden State Warrior Win NBA Championship

The Golden State Warriors won their second NBA championship in two yeas winning the NBA Finals four games to one over the Cleveland Cavaliers.  First and foremost this shouldn’t have been a surprise.  The Warriors are stacked.  They have four star players with good depth.  Even in the game they lost I wasn’t concerned.  They had one horrible quarter defensively but they did score 33 in that same quarter.  And this was with Curry, Thompson and especially Draymond Green not shooting at their normal high standards during the series.  It is fun watching them when they are clicking.  This is a team for the ages with Kevin Durant added to the mix.  I’m not sure what team could challenge them in the future aside from a LeBron led team.     

Series MVP Kevin Durant deserves all the accolades he is getting. Cleveland had no answer for him – 35 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG, 1 SPG, 1 BPG, 55%/47%/92%.  That is a crazy stat line playing against an excellent Cleveland Cavaliers team and he played good defense.  We knew he was special and probably the number two guy behind LeBron but there is no doubt now.  Amazing how we knew he was great but was still able to put an exclamation point on it with this series. 

Cleveland has to be disappointed even if they believe they weren’t the better team.  Sans a late game meltdown in game three who knows?  Maybe that, coupled with a game four win, would have put more pressure on Golden State and given them an opportunity to steal the series.  As is they aren’t as good.  I personally think they need to move Kevin Love and get more scoring.  Love hasn’t played a good Finals yet and while I like him, they can do better.  Moving him wouldn’t be easy with his big contract but you never know what might happen.  LeBron once again showed the world how great he is and Kyrie shined for most of the series.  They just really have nothing else to offer.  J.R. Smith was absent at times, Tristan Thompson wasn’t a factor, and the bench was lackluster at best.  We’ll see if this offseason they can give themselves a better shot at beating a stacked Warriors team who isn’t going anywhere. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

2016-17 Panini Threads

First time I had seen the 2016-2-17 Panini Threads basketball cards so I had to grab some.  I have to say it was a bit of a letdown.  The packs contain 20 cards for $4.99 so I'm looking for some bang for my buck.  The inserts in this pack included a wood rookie Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics and Patrick Ewing Board of Directors.  The wood card is a nice looking card and is pretty thick.  The design on the base cards themselves is a good one.  The backs also have plenty of color which is a big plus.
  The pack didn't have a ton of star quality.  Obviously it is only one pack so I can't say this is indicative of other packs but I would have liked to have seen a few more stars. 
So while the pull was a disappointment overall I like these cards and I'm sure I'll pick up another pack.  The price point might mean I don't grab too many but I'll still role the dice on at least one more pack.  
13 - Base Cards
  -- 3 of those were RC
1 - Wood Rookies
1 - Board of Directors

Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 Topps Archives

I've really enjoyed Topps Archives in the past so it was a no brainer to grab a blaster when the 2017 Topps Archives cards came out this year.  This year's set is a 300 card set with current and former players on cards based on the 1960, 1982 and 1992 Topps card sets.  I'm very happy I did.  I enjoyed these cards as much as last years.  My favorite cards were the Pedro '82, Rob Manfred '82, Tony LaRussa '92 and Johnny Damon '60. 
My big pulls were the two Aaron Judge cards (base and 1960 Rookie Star).  He is obviously a huge player in the eyes of collectors today so that is was fun to see these in the first couple of packs.
No huge inserts like an autograph.  Did grab the Judge 1960 Rookie Star, the Corey Seager Bazooka Baseball card, and a Derek Jeter retrospective card though.  Not a fan of the odd sized cards and the blasters also contain coins which don't do anything for me but one was a Mike Trout so that is a win.  I won't complain as those are personal preferences.  I pulled a redemption card (Kyle Schwarber) last year so I had my hopes up for similar success this year.  Still this was a fun box.
None of these cards are high on my lists of set designs but again I really like them. I think the fact that there are plenty of stars including retired players and three different designs with a new twist make this set standout to me.  Plenty of these cards will go into my personal collection and at some point I'll pick up more.  Too much fun to pass up.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Harold Baines Autographed 1981 Topps Card

Harold Baines is another favorite player of mine whom I've gotten an autograph.  This was on his 1981 Topps rookie card.  I believe I tried getting more autographs through the mail but it wasn't always successful so the Baines and Zane Smith cards are the only autographed cards I have.  This card is cool.  It is his rookie card and to have his autograph on it makes it one of my favorite cards. 
Baines was a great hitter and has been brought up in Hall of Fame discussions but I can't say myself that he deserves induction.  I did think he deserve more votes than the 6.1% he topped out at in Hall of Fame voting. There is no denying he was great with the bat.  He finished with 2866 hits, a .289 batting average and was a six time all-star. He also batted .324 in eight post season series to include a World Series appearance with the Oakland A's.  He never excelled at defense and ended up playing DH a good part of his career.  Those two things definitely work against him when looking at his overall career in a hall of fame discusson.  Still 2866 hits! 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Zane Smith Autographed 1986 Topps Card

Zane Smith was a starting pitcher who didn't have a spectacular career but is a player I am a big fan of.  There is no rhyme or reason to why but he was an Atlanta Brave and Boston Red Sox which is obviously a good start and as a kid I don't doubt I thought his first name was cool.  I mailed off for his autograph but that is about all I remember.  I'm assuming I got the mailing address for the team via a Becket price guide or other sports magazine.  I must not of had many of his cards at the time because I really don't care for the '86 Topps cards.  I do like the photo on the card though and I love this card.  I think I  was in high school or junior college when I got this card and for me just the experience of getting an autograph is too cool.  I also got Harold Baines' autograph through the mail and will share that in another post.  

Smith was only 39-58 with a 4.06 ERA in 6 seasons with with Atlanta. Traded to Montreal he had a great year as a reliever before going back to starting and ended up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990 via trade.  He stayed there 6 seasons pitching in two National League Championship Series.  He finished his career with one poor season in Boston.   His 3.74 career ERA was pretty good considering he finished with a losing record.  He didn't strike out many but also didn't give up homeruns or walks which is always a big plus. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

2016 Topps Archives Blaster Break

Picked up a 2016 Topps Archives blaster box at Wal-Mart. They've brought back some of the different blasters at reduced prices.  I really enjoyed these last year so this was a no brainer.
Again I'm very happy.  I didn't pull a redemption card like last year nor did I get any major inserts but I still grabbed quite a few cards for my personal collection. 
Plenty of retired players in this set which is something I really enjoy.  Smoltz, Chipper, Rice - some of may all-time favorites not to mention Ted Williams and Griffey Jr. and Reggie Jackson cards that are pretty sweet looking. 
I like that the set isn't huge which means it is packed full of stars.  The different card designs mean that if I don't like one design there are others to enjoy.  I may have to hit some other Wal-Marts to see what I can find.  This was a lot of fun. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Baywatch Movie

As a late birthday celebration me and the family went to see Baywatch last week. Yep, my idea.  Something about the trailers just looked fun.  It didn't disappoint me. I know this movie is getting ripped left and right but it is exactly what I thought it would be.  It doesn't take itself too seriously and was just a fun movie to watch.  The Rock and Zac Efron were great in their roles and the supporting cast was right there with them.  I'm not sure what most viewers were expecting so the all the criticism has caught me off guard.  The family all enjoyed it to include my wife.  I know it isn't for everyone but I thought it was funny.  Maybe they should have gone the 21 Jump Street route and kept it PG-13?  I don't know. I thought it was funny and as long as you know what you are getting yourself into I think folks shouldn't shy away from Baywatch the movie.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Albert Pujols Hits Homerun #600

Albert Pujols hit homerun number 600 for the Los Angeles Angels last night against the Minnesota Twins.  His grand slam put him 9th on the all-time list with a real chance of moving past Ken Griffey Jr. (630) for 6th place next year.  He also has a good chance of passing Willie Mays (660) during his career if he stays relatively healthy.  Living near St. Louis I'm very familiar with Albert Pujols.  Albert is one of the greatest right handed hitters of all-time.  That is a fact.

Unfortunately since joining the Angels injuries have limited what Pujols has been able to accomplish. Combined with a 10 year, $240M contract that has been criticized since he signed it and Albert is not looked upon as well as he once was. Pujols is 37 now and still has four years left on the deal.  He has had three years of 30+ homers with the Angels but his .265 batting average and .793 OPS shows he is not the Albert that came to prominence in St. Louis.

And it is shame.  Angels' fans have not embraced Pujols for the great hitter he is because they have rarely seen him play as well as they expect him too.  They see a huge contract and a player that is constantly hampered by injuries though he has played 152+ games in four of his five full seasons with the team.  The lack of coverage of his chase or 600 homeruns has in itself shown  how far Albert Pujols has fallen.  Him leaving the Cardinals was right for both sides.  St. Louis couldn't afford him at that price at his age and Albert could get so much more money with the Angels.  The Angels are seemingly the losers here.  Again it is a shame.  He was such a great, not very good, great hitter with the Cardinals and MLB and fans should be touting his rise up the charts.  Unfortunately too many things worked against him.  It is still a monumental achievement and I, for one, are more than happy to appreciate Albert for what he is in MLB history and enjoy his rise up the homerun chart. 


The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

 The Princess Diarist was the last of Carrie Fisher's books prior to her passing away.  I was excited as it was to be her Star Wars behind the scenes tales.  I wouldn't quite call it that. While it revolves around Star Wars it is not a behind the scenes book.  It talks little about the making of the movies or even what happened during the making of the movies.  She does speak quite frankly and at length about her affair with Harrison Ford while filming Star Wars.   I have to admit I was looking forward to what she had to say on the subject once I heard she'd be opening up on the subject in this book.  And it was fun to hear the details. But that is about it as behind the scenes notes. 

Don't take that to mean this isn't a good book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and it is an easy read.  It is my first book of hers but I'm sure the style seen here is similar to that in her others.  She is very open, honest, self depreciating, and funny.  I find her honesty refreshing and enlightening.  It is nice to see her thoughts and I think many will either agree with her or understand where she comes from. 

Besides her tryst with Ford, her diaries during the making of Star Wars are also shared and she talks about the celebrity of being "Princess Leia" and the stardom that comes with it.  I would have liked to have seen more behind the scenes content but I won't hold that against the book - that is purely a personal preference and what I thought I'd be seeing.  Her writing style appeals to me and matched with her honest and humor had me hooked.  It won't take long to read once you get started (sans maybe the diaries which are introspective centric writings).  Anyone who is a fan of Star Wars should enjoy this book.  I did and it was nice to get to know Carrie Fisher more than just what I've seen on screen or short articles online.  Like thousands of others she is seared into my consciousness and someone I'll never forget even if you take a way the iconic metal bikini.  I recommend this book to anyone who remotely thinks it would interest them. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Warriors Thump Cavs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Golden State beat up on Cleveland pretty good in game one of the 2017 NBA Finals.  Two points.  This shouldn't have been unexpected.  Golden State was a great team prior to winning the Kevin Durant sweepstakes so a thumping of the Cavaliers was definitely not out of the question.  That said Cleveland is still a great team with the best player on the planet on their side.  GS didn't turn over the ball at a record setting level and Kevin Durant feasted on the Cleveland defense while Clay Thompson and Draymond Green couldn't score to save their life.  If you're Golden State you have to think those guys will skew closer to their norms which should help even if they do have more turnovers moving forward.  The Cavs can't continue to turn the ball over and must get better contributions from Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson who were both nearly invisible out there (sans rebounding from Love). Love must score and score efficiently and play better defense while Thompson must be a force on the boards and on defense.  I still think this can be a good series.  Most of the games from last year's Finals weren't close yet it went seven games.  I do think Durant is the difference maker here and I just don't know how Cleveland can win the series without playing near perfect ball from here on out.  That is why the play the games, right?  You just never know.  I'm hoping for a seven game series but thinking six with the Warriors getting some revenge on the current champs.

Wonder Woman Movie Review (No Spoilers)

DC Comics got this one right.  I truly enjoyed the Wonder Woman movie last night.  No matter how good the trailers look you just never know what you'll get when you sit down to see a movie.  Everything from the beginning origin story to Diana being sucked into World War I to the villain it all worked.  I won't say it was perfect because there is no such thing but Gal Gadot was great as our hero.  She worked no matter the scene or situation and you leave believing there could be no better actress in that roll.  The trailers and what you can read on the net pretty much lay out the story so there are only minor surprises throughout but I still won't divulge any of those.  I will just tell everyone they should go see this movie.  It was fun to watch and gives me some hope that the upcoming Justice League flick will not be a disappointment.