Colts have a lot of work to do in the draft

I know it’s way too early, but there’s a consensus building that the Colts will select North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb with the third pick in this year’s NFL draft.

I just don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the Colts are desperately in need of an elite pass rusher, it’s just that I think it may be a down year for pass rushers in this draft. The Colts are in need of a lot of help, and I believe they can ill afford to take Chubb at No. 3 and forfeit a chance to pick up a package of draft picks.

At this point, I think the Colts can safely move down in the draft and still pick up a position of need, probably even Chubb himself. If not, there should be elite talent at safety, inside linebacker and guard available, all positions of need.

Now, I didn’t mention Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. He’s the key to this draft, as far as the Colts are concerned. If the Browns think that they can grab a QB at No. 1 and take Barkley at No. 4 because the Giants need a QB and the Colts have to have Chubb, they will be disappointed.

Barkley is the only guy in the draft that should give GM Chris Ballard any pause at what to do with the No. 3 pick. Actually, there shouldn’t be any pause. If Barkley is there at No. 3, make him a Colt. If not, fall back and grab the best available player and as many picks as you can.

If I’m running the Browns, I take Barkley No. 1 overall and grab the best available QB at No. 4. Barkley looks like a once-in-a-generation talent, while it doesn’t appear to be that much separating the top four quarterbacks in this draft.

Seems logical to me, but this is the Browns we’re talking about and that should give Colts fans hope

Careful what you practice

The Rays are placing screens across the infield to encourage their hitters to improve their launch angle this spring. Hit the ball over the screens, they say. Fly balls are in. Ground balls and even line drives are out. That seems to be the direction baseball is heading these days, as the astronomical increase in strikeouts suggests. Free agent J.D. Martinez and the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor are the poster boys for this brand of baseball as a new generation of general managers tries to reinvent the wheel. I say congratz to Martinez and Taylor, but be very careful. Everyone is not the same.

Give me someone who can consistently bring home a runner from third base with less than two outs. Yes, I’ll take a deep fly ball, but in more cases than not I’ll get a pop up or a strikeout. Instead of getting everyone’s launch angle perfected, how about working on putting the bat on the ball consistently. A ground ball to the right side will do the trick. Just don’t strike out, but that’s what they’re teaching these days. Home run or strikeout, don’t sweat the little stuff.

Don’t like the shift? Why wouldn’t clubs work on situational hitting, taking the ball the other way in order to get on base. Not every time, but enough times that defenses would think twice about using a shift against you. Hey, some analytics are great, especially the ones that emphasize reaching base and scoring runs. Why would you reduce your odds by altering your launch angle to a point where you are an all or nothing hitter? Some players, especially those who clog up the bases, are built in a way that a change in launch angle could improve what they do best. Just don’t have everyone in your lineup swinging for the fences every time.

The commissioner is worried about the pace of play when at-bats where nothing at all happens are increasing. Hit a home run, strike out or walk. I can only hope that baseball comes to its senses soon. At bat, put the ball in play, run the bases hard and keep the pressure on the defense. In the field, have your pitchers throw strikes and have your fielders make all the plays. It’s not rocket science. It’s baseball.

Big pond, little pond. Two champs

(Originally published 2/2/12)

Angelo Dundee died yesterday. The legendary trainer for Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard was 90.

When Angelo Mirena got his start in boxing during the 1940’s, he changed his name to Dundee – just as two of his brothers had done – to hide their work in boxing from their parents. Today, all these years later, tributes are pouring in from all over the country. A part of boxing died with Dundee, they all say.

Dundee’s death brings to mind another longtime boxing trainer that I once knew, long since gone. He didn’t swim in the same world-class waters as Dundee, but he left his own long-lasting impression nonetheless.

Tony Orlando Sr. operated the gym in the basement of Kirk Center in Elizabeth, N.J. He trained fighters for five decades and worked well into his 80s. Anyone would be hard-pressed to meet a nicer man and gentler soul in such a violent world than Orlando. Continue reading

Pat Summitt and the right to say ‘when’

(Originally published 3/25/12)

I’m the type of guy who loves an underdog. It’s not often that I root for a No. 2 seed to beat a No. 11 at the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but that’s the situation I found myself in yesterday as Tennessee rallied from a 14-point deficit to knock off Kansas, 84-73, and reach the quarterfinals of the women’s tournament.

I’d like Pat Summitt to get one more trip to the Final Four in what is most likely her last go-around as head coach. Perhaps even win one more championship before walking off into the sunset, retiring on her own terms and with the sounds of celebration echoing throughout the arena rather than the quiet calls for her to just go away. For the good of the program.

Getting old sucks. Getting old and sick is much worse.

The odds are stacked against Tennessee reaching the Final Four this year. The consensus No. 1 team in the country, undefeated Baylor, stands in its way. Most likely, a 38-year career comes to an end Monday night in Des Moines, Iowa, but what do I know? Only that I recognize true excellence when I see it. Continue reading

Introducing Lt. Gino Tenpenny

Book cover for Devil's Hollow

Lt. Gino Tenpenny, an old-school cop, goes paranormal to track down a killer.

“Devil’s Hollow” is a detective mystery that introduces Lt. Gino Tenpenny, a well-seasoned, no-nonsense lawman attached to a fictitious city in northern New Jersey.

Once a Marine, always a Marine, Tenpenny says of himself.

Tenpenny is like two of his football heroes: Vince Lombardi and Jim Brown, two legends from another time. He’s someone who believes in tradition and commands respect like Lombardi. But he’s also someone who is old-school tough like Brown.

And very much like Jim Brown, be aware that there’s a danger to Tenpenny lurking just underneath the surface. Continue reading

A dog’s tale

A story about family and the magic of Christmas in the old neighborhood.

“One Christmas Knight” is overflowing with colorful characters that sparkle on the digital page. They’re composites of family members, friends and acquaintances, all of whom I grew up with in the old neighborhood. Their names have been changed to protect the innocent – or not so innocent. All, that is, but one.

Jake, also known as “The Christmas Puppy” or simply “Crazy Dog,” is the real deal. And, for some reason, he has become the overwhelming favorite of many readers. So much so that Jake has let it go to his head. He’s let it be known that he expects a larger role in any and all sequels.

This isn’t your ordinary family dog. Continue reading

Of staffs and walking sticks

It must be way cooler to use a staff rather than a walking stick, but outside of Middle Earth staffs are harder to find than hobbits.

Gandalf the Gray had a staff that was simply magic in his hands. It didn’t appear to be much different than a walking stick, and that was the charm of it. As Wormtongue found out in “The Two Towers,” you were playing with fire if the old wizard entered your hall without first leaving his staff at the door.

Thunder erupted from one end of Gandalf’s staff while lightning shot out from the other. In the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Gandalf was something like 64-1 when fighting with his staff. His only defeat came at the hands of his then-boss Saruman the White, who was pretty nifty with a staff himself at the time. Of course, Gandalf scored a first-round knockout in the rematch once he had been promoted to Gandalf the White.

Sort of like earning a black belt in martial arts. Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball: Outfielders

Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is talking 50-50. That’s 50 home runs; 50 steals. In the same season. That’s the kind of talk I like to hear from the leading hitter of my fantasy baseball team.

No one’s ever done it before, but Kemp says it’s possible and he’s going to show everyone how to do it. Even if he comes up a bit short, that’s still one hell of a fantasy baseball season.

Kemp and current two-time home run king Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays should be the first two outfielders taken in most drafts, but they’ll have plenty of company right behind them. Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball: Shortstops

Troy Tulowitzki is the gold standard for shortstops in fantasy baseball. The question is, who are the silver and bronze standards?

Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez? Hanley Ramirez or Jose Reyes?

The Marlins thought so highly of Reyes that they brought the National League batting champion in to supplant Ramirez, their own All-Star shortstop. And by shifting Ramirez to third base, they accomplished a couple of things: they put a middle-of-the-order hitter at third base and they provided him with plenty of incentive, something that the talented Ramirez has shown little of in the past. Continue reading