Wednesday, August 16, 2017

NHL news: Wild sign Cullen

         The Minnesota Wild have signed center Matt Cullen to a one year, $1 million deal. Also, there is a $700K performance bonus.

           Even though Cullen is 40 years old, he's still a solid bottom-6 center. The last two years, he helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups. He can help the Wild in 2017-18. He is a defensive center who puts up about 30 points a season. He's a cheap option there, and he has some playoff experience, and is a proven leader, so he can be a mentor to the younger guys on the team. Also, he played three seasons with the Wild from 2010-11 to 2012-13. He knows some of the team, so that's a good thing.

           In 72 games for the Penguins last year, Cullen scored 31 points (13 goals and 18 assists) and had a +/- of +4. In his 19 year NHL career for the Penguins, Wild, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now Anaheim Ducks), Cullen has scored 248 goals and 441 assists for 689 points and a +/- of -29.

MLB news: Weaver hangs up the spikes

           After 12 major league seasons, RHP Jered Weaver has officially called it quits. He last played this year for the San Diego Padres, before going on the 60-day DL. In 2017, he had a 7.44 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 42.1 innings.

           In 2004, Weaver was drafted 12th overall by the Los Angeles Angels. After a couple minor league seasons, Weaver was called up to the Angels in 2006, when ace Bartolo Colon went to the DL. After that, Weaver was only sent to the minors once, which was when Colon returned. But his season ended up being very good, and he ended up fifth in the AL rookie of the year voting.

           The rest of his career, Weaver was an ace. He was a three time all-star from 2010-12, and finished top-5 in the Cy Young voting all three years. But, he started to decline in the 2015 season. After 2016, Weaver became a free agent. He signed a one year, $3 million deal with the Padres in 2017.

             Weaver, now 34, had a career ERA of 3.63, a WHIP of 1.19 and 1621 strikeouts in 2067.1 innings. Though his career K/9 was just 7.1, his career BB/9 was 2.4. He was never a strikeout pitcher.

My interview with baseball ballhawk and author Zack Hample

     You are watching your favorite team in action on TV. The team's slugger rips one to right field... It's a home run! While you are too busy celebrating the homer, baseball "ballhawk" Zack Hample is also celebrating, for a different reason. The reason? That home run ball is sitting in his glove, a place many home run balls land. Hample is a ballhawk who goes to MLB stadiums, looking to catch baseballs both in batting practice and during the game. Since 1990, Hample has been to 53 different MLB stadiums, snagging over 9,900 baseballs. Also, he's caught approximately 70 game home runs in that 27 year stretch. In 2017, Hample looks to reach a big milestone of 10,000 baseballs all-time. Also, he's caught 100 or more baseballs at many current MLB stadiums. Plus, he's caught many big-time milestone homers, like Mike Trout's first career home run, and Alex Rodriguez's 3,000th hit, which was a homer, before giving them back to the players. To help others catch baseballs, Hample wrote three books in "How to Snag Major League Baseballs", "Watching Baseball Smarter" and "The Baseball".

         At a recent Yankees-Mets game, I was able to catch up with Hample to talk about his life as a ballhawk.

         Me: "For most people, almost catching a home run ball and being on TV is an amazing experience. For you it's just another day at the office. Does that seem crazy to you?"

         Hample: "I guess if I step back and think about it, yeah. Probably most people could go years without even getting close to a home run. But for me, if I go a month without getting close to one, I start to get frustrated. I expect to be close to balls, and it was fun to be involved in that play (meaning an Austin Romine triple he would of caught if it was a home run). If I had reached over and interfered, I would really be involved, but that's not the kind of thing that I would do. Just to be close to the action is what I love about doing this."

         M: "Tonight you are seeing a Mets-Yankees game, yesterday a Red Sox-Yankees game. Do you just love seeing these rivalries coming together on the field?"

         H: "I do, but I don't. The baseball fan in me loves it, but the baseball collector in me wants to see the Twins and the Rays at Tropicana Field, because nobody will be there, and there's more space for me to move around and catch balls. I'm always conflicted like that. I want to go to the big games because they're exciting, but I personally catch far fewer baseballs."

         M: "For you, is it easier to catch a ball on the fly in BP (batting practice), or get a toss-up from the players?"

         H: "It's becoming a lot harder for me to get toss-ups, because there is so many kids out here doing this, and the players would always rather throw baseballs to younger people. It depends on the stadium. Some of them are configured very badly for catching home runs, so I will actually focus on toss-ups in those places, so it really just depends."

         M: "Which MLB ballpark is your favorite to ballhawk at?"

         H: "It was Camden Yards (the Orioles stadium) for a very long time, and I still love the look of that place, and how it's designed and the layout for ballhawking. But security has gotten awfully strict there in the last few years, so that makes it less fun, but I'm still looking forward to getting back there whenever I can."

         M: "Do you think that your skills as a kid are helping you now getting almost 10,000 baseballs?"

         H: "If you are talking about my skills just being athletics and playing baseball, then definitely. I see people come out here with gloves, and they think that they are in the right spot, and maybe they saw my videos, but they've never tried to catch a fly ball before, and they have no chance. So the fact that I've played baseball my whole life growing up certainly helps."

         M: "What's your favorite three balls that you still have possession of?"

         H: "Probably a Derek Jeter home run late in his career that was his 254th career home run and his 3262th hit. Another one is a Barry Bonds home run (724th). The third would be the last home run the Met's ever hit at Shea Stadium (Carlos Beltran).

         A big thanks goes out to Zack for doing this interview. Check out his blog,, subscribe to his YouTube channel, Zack Hample and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @Zack_Hample.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MLB news: Blue Jays sign Anderson

           The Toronto Blue Jays have signed LHP Brett Anderson to a minor league deal.

            The Blue Jays aren't too far away from the wild card, but there is so many teams in front of them, it seems unlikely they'll make it. But, Anderson is still a good pitcher, who just has a big injury problem. In fact, that's why the Chicago Cubs DFA'd him earlier this year. If he can pitch well in AAA, he can possibly be called up in September, especially if there is an injury.

              For Anderson, he's able to get a job, which is obviously good for him. It seemed unlikely he'd get one this year, but he was able to get one.

               Anderson, 29, allowed a horrid 20 runs in 22 innings (8.18 ERA), plus a 2.09 WHIP and 16 strikeouts for the Cubs this year. In his nine year MLB career for the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies and Oakland Athletics, Anderson has a 3.99 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 523 strikeouts in 707.2 innings.