Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
What a relief.
Still in sights, however, is the 112 losses of the 1952 Pirates (who managed the feat in a 154 game schedule, it must be noted). To avoid that, this bunch must go a mere 8-27 (.229) over their last 35 games. Others may disagree with me, but I think that they will avoid the dreaded 112 losses. Watch, but don't bet.
By the way,how about the way Neil Walker has been playing, not only in the last two games (6 RBI's), but ever since his recall? This is the guy, remember, that Huntington and Russell had ticketed to be a utility guy in spring training.
As I said, I don't know if this is true, and I have no inclination to research it, but that is pretty cool if true.
- Monticello is a beautiful building, but surprisingly, to us at least, small when you actually see it.
- Amazing the innovations that Jefferson designed into the building - a clock that told day, hour, minute, and second that worked on a system of counterweights (and that still functions today), pneumatic-like doors that also still function today, and indoor privies.
- The gardens that Jefferson laid out atop his mountain are still being planted and producing to this day.
- You can see the Jefferson grave site on the property. It is an awesome feeling to be standing at the grave of Thomas Jefferson. The cemetery is privately owned and is still being used to bury Jefferson's descendants.
- Jefferson was widowed after only ten years of marriage, and was a widower throughout much of his public life, including his presidency.
- We know know that Jefferson did not lack for female companionship, including his relationship with slave Sally Hemmings.
- Tours of Monticello do not gloss over the Jefferson-Hemmings relationship, nor do they gloss over the fact that the man who stated that "all men are created equal" was a slaveholder. It is truly a conundrum when you consider Jefferson's life and body of work to realize that he owned slaves. It is clear, though, that Jefferson recognized the moral quandary that this presented, and it is also clear that he struggled with the quandary up until his death.
- Amazingly, as we were walking the grounds of Monticello, who do we run into but our nephew Bill Sproule, who was in town for a business meeting. Talk about a shock! This was one trip where we couldn't say "we never run into anyone we know."
- Our current political leaders, who feel the necessity of placing a fundamentalist Christian litmus test up to all other candidates and officeholders, would do well to go back and read up on some of Jefferson's thoughts regarding religious freedoms and state-sanctioned religions.
- About two miles down the road from Monticello sits Ash Lawn Highland, the home of James Monroe, Fifth President of the United States. We also toured Ash Lawn Highland as well. Now, this estate is no Monticello, not by a long shot, but it was an interesting tour nonetheless.
- James Monroe gets kind of lost in the shuffle of history, but he has a story to tell as well. Did you know that he was the Secretary of State under Jefferson who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon of France? I didn't. He also was a fairly wealthy guy for the times.
- President's back in those days were paid a salary of $25,000 a year. Seems to me like that is a whole lot more, comparatively, to what Presidents make today (which I think is $400,000). Presidents then, however, had to operate the White House out of their own salary. There was no government budget for operation of the Executive Mansion.
- There is a massive oak tree at Ash Lawn Highland that is estimated to be over 400 years old, which means it was already over 200 years old when Monroe lived there. For some reason, that little fact fascinates me.
- Like Jefferson, Monroe was a slaveholder. Unlike Jefferson, he had no moral struggle with the issue.
- If you ever make a similar trip, and I strongly recommend that you do, do not, under any circumstances, eat lunch at a place called Michie's Tavern. It advertises itself as an "authentic, Jefferson-era tavern," but what it really is is an tourist trap and a rip-off joint. The fact that we got sucked into it represents the only bad part of our trip.
- About 20 miles from Monticello is an estate called Montepellier, which is the home of President James Madison. We didn't make the trip there, but think of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all living within 20 miles of each other. Some neighborhood!
- We enjoyed the town of Charlottesville. It is a college town, but it is not like Pitt in Oakland which is within a large city, nor is it like Penn State which is the only thing in State College. Something in between, and it was quite pleasant. The central part of the downtown district is a closed off pedestrian only mall that runs about five blocks and consists of a nice variety of restaurants, theaters, retail businesses, and four, count 'em, four independent bookstores. We really liked it.
Oh, I hinted that there was a connection between Thomas Jefferson and our own friend Fred Shugars. Residing at Monticello was Jefferson's daughter and her 11 children. How to entertain kids? You play games, of course. It seems that Jefferson enjoyed the mental stimulation of playing games. He was in inveterate chess player, and one of the parlors at Monticello was devoted to games playing. A very popular one was something called the "Royal Game of Goose" and a board of this game is on display in the Monticello parlor. It appears to be some sort of Parcheesi-like roll the dice and chase along a trail game. One of the folks on the tour with us said that she, in fact, had this game and played it regularly with her grandchildren. Of course, I figured that the Royal Game of Goose would be on sale in the Monticello gift shop and I planned on purchasing it as a gift to present to Fred for use at GamesFest 2011, but would you believe that they do NOT sell this. I was quite disappointed.
So we can add one more distinction to the long list that is Jefferson's legacy: A Founding Father of GamesFest!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
After a Chinese torture of a top of the first inning that took 22 minutes and over 35 pitches for Jeff Karstens to complete, wherein the Mets scored three runs on four bleeding banjo hits, the score worked its way to 7-2 Mets when in the bottom of the fourth, the Pirates managed to put men on second and third with two outs with middle reliever Sean Gallagher due to bat. What would you do? Of course, you would pinch hit with Garrett Jones or Delwyn Young since you now had a chance to get back into the ballgame. What did John Russell do? He waved an enormous white flag and sent Gallagher up to bat. Inning over. Ballgame over. To paraphrase the late, great Jack Buck, I did not believe what I just saw. Russell's "defense" of this strategy ran six sentences long in this morning's game story in the Post-Gazette. This surprised me only in that I never knew that John Russell could string six sentences together.
Seriously now, if the Pirates even consider bringing Russell (who will own over 300 losses as the Bucs skipper once this dreadful season runs it course) back as manager for next season, what would make the fan base and the ticket buyers think that team management cares even a little bit about putting out a winning team. All the teen-aged multi-million dollar bonus pitchers in the world won't make up for seeing John Russell back in a Pirates dugout in 2011. And, yes, I know that John McGraw and Casey Stengel combined couldn't win with this team, but when you got a guy with Russell's record and dreadful personality in charge, you really HAVE to make a change, if only to show the customers that you care.
My Dad and my brothers ingrained in me that you never leave a game early and that has been my philosophy for over 50 years of attending sports events, but last night we left after the sixth inning. Not that I'm anything special, but when fans like me start bailing out like that, the Pirates really have a problem.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Certainly, in the days since Brown left the front office, only two GM's have met with much success, Harding Peterson (a Brown disciple) and , briefly, Syd Thrift. Neal Huntington certainly doesn't appear to be the guy who will make us forget Joe Brown.
And do you remember "The Joe L. Brown Show" every Sunday afternoon on KDKA Radio at 12:15 (30 minutes in season and 15 minutes in the off-season)? Brown would field questions that listeners had sent in the mail that would be read to him by Tom "Ace" Bender. This was in the pre-phone-in era of radio, and it also assured that Bender would only be lobbing softballs for the GM to belt over the fence. Still, for the avid Pirates fan, it was a show you never missed. And the writers of all letters read on the air received "two reserved seat tickets for a future Pirate home game of their choice."
RIP Joe L. Brown.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
- Who out there remembers the political satire show from the '60's, "That Was The Week That Was"?
- Extra points if you can name the blonde singer who sang the theme song each week. (I'm counting on Jim Haller to get this one!)
- Weekend began with the First (we hope) Annual Game Room Olympics, hosted by John Frissora. Sixteen players competing in Pool, Darts, Table Hockey, Texas Hold 'em, and Slot Car Racing. It was terrific day. Lots of fun throughout, and I even managed to take home some hardware - trophies for finishing third in Texas Hold 'em and Slot Car Racing. Am looking forward to the second Friday in August, 2011 to do it all again.
- Kudos and a million THANK YOUS to John for dreaming up and hosting this event.
- Enjoyed seeing a lot of old Highmark friends and co-workers at the GRO.
- The Steelers kicked off the exhibition (yawn) season last night. I never usually make it to the second half of this game each year, and that rain delay assured that I saw even less of the game this year.
- Heard many breathless callers to The Fan this morning clamoring for Dennis Dixon to be the QB this season. So it begins.
- I did hear enough of the game to become convinced that no bigger homer exists in local sports broadcasting than Bob Pompeani. Guys in the Steelers PR Department couldn't be more gung-ho than this guy. He makes Bob Prince's Pirates broadcasts appear to be the epitome of objective broadcasting.
- The Pirates drop three to the Astros this weekend. That concludes an 0-6 road trip. The Saturday game featured 17 Bucs going down on strikes. Just when you think that have bottomed out, it gets worse.
- Reports are that the Pirates are "close" to signing their #1 and #2 draft picks, high school pitchers Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, by tomorrow's midnight deadline. Let's hope that this is the case. Failure to sign these two will cause any credibility that this team might still have to completely disappear.
- You all know that the odds of high school pitchers making it big are long, but I sure hope that Stetson Allie makes it BIG. That is one terrific name, don't you think?
- Big news on the home front on Saturday was the delivery of our new sofa. After three weeks in the new abode, we can finally watch TV comfortably in our Living Room.
- While watching the PGA Championship on CBS this weekend, saw several commercials for CBS "new" series this fall, the revival of "Hawaii Five-O." Can't wait to renew acquaintances with 21st century versions of Steve McGarrett, Danny Williams, Chin-Ho Kelly, Kono, and Che Fong. Here's hoping the famous catch phrases of "Book 'em, Danno," "What have you got for me, Che?", and "Be here. Aloha," will still be a part of the show.
- Will Wo Fat also be reprised?
- Now a confession: in recent months, I have been watching a DVD box set of Season One of the original "Hawaii Five-O." I loved this show back in the late 60's/early 70's, but I've got to tell you, these DVD's are great as an example of high camp and bad over-acting. We laugh our way through every episode of Jack Lord chewing the scenery!
- Golfed this morning with some old Highmark buddies - Fred Shugars, John Coley, and Duane Lukitch. A fun morning.
- Tomorrow, August 16, marks the 62nd anniversary of the death of Babe Ruth and the 33rd anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Observe these occasions by going out and grabbing yourself a-hunk, a-hunk of burning love.
Hope everyone has a great week!!
Friday, August 13, 2010
I look forward to a fun afternoon of intense competition, and will report in later in the weekend.
Through the games of August 12, the Pirates now stand at 39-75 (,342). They are on pace to finish with an incredible 107 losses. The "second season" that began on July 1 and that I naively had such hopes for back in my July 5 post is even worse: the team is 12-24 (.333) since July 1.
With 48 games remaining, the team will have to play at a .500 pace, 24-24, to merely avoid 100 losses. Bristol and Levi will become the Ozzie and Harriett of Alaska before that happens.
No, the only race of any import for this crummy team now becomes the race against their 1952 counterparts, the team that lost 112 games. To avoid that ignominy, they will have to go 12-36 over the final 48 games of the season. Can they do it? I think they can, but it's a going to be a close call. Here's how it can be done:
The team has played (relatively) well at home, 26-30. If they play at that same pace over their remaining 25 home games, that's 11 wins. This means that they will have to eek out just one win of their remaining 23 road games. Surely they can do that, right?
Surely someone in Vegas is setting odds on this.
Oh, one other race of note. It has been documented that the Buck Showalter led surge of the Orioles has dropped the Bucs into last place in all of MLB. As of this morning, they are 1/2 game behind the 29th place O's. This race bears watching as well. I'm thinking that the jump start Showalter gave the Orioles will level off soon, and that this one could go right down to the wire.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Until now, when I think of Jim Gray, I think of two things.
One, his antagonistic interview with Pete Rose a few years back that did the seemingly impossible: it made Pete Rose a sympathetic figure.
Two, his pimping "interview" of LeBron James last month on that ESPN "news" show wherein James announced his move to Miami. After that shameless exhibition, the words "journalist" and "Jim Gray" should never be mentioned in the same sentence again.
Now, he gets into it and threatens to take down and 50-something year old golfer? I guess we next see him with Vince McMahon on some WWE Extravaganza.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Player A is Neil Walker, or Pine Richland's Neil Walker as he is often referred to in the local media. The one thing these numbers do not show is how well he is playing second base, a position where he had virtually no experience prior to coming to the big leagues. Walker seems to be showing he was worth that #1 draft slot, despite the fact that the current Bucco Brain Trust were projecting him as utility guy in spring training.
Player B is Jose Tabata. His low HR and RBI totals reflect that he has been batting lead off most of his time with the Pirates. He has also shown to be a pretty good glove guy in left field. He is making the Xavier Nady trade look pretty good.
Player C is Pedro Alvarez. The batting average is poor, but getting better, and is actually following a pattern of his previous stops up the ladder of the organization. He does strike out a lot, and perhaps that is something that we will have to just accept (like we did with Willie Stargell), but can he launch the ball! I have been on hand at PNC Park for three of his HR's and they are rockets. This is another guy who, based on very early returns, appears to be well worth the #1 draft choice.
Player D is the Braves' Jason Heyward, the "Jay-Hey Kid" and the subject of posts in The Grandstander earlier in the season. Heyward has been the presumptive NL Rookie-of-the-Year since spring training. Hey, if the talking heads at ESPN decree it, it must be so, right? Anyway, Heyward will probably win the award, and he is not undeserving, but I suggest to you that perhaps he should not be the runaway winner that he probably will be. If you project Walker's numbers out over a similar number of at bats, Heyward's numbers aren't all that much better. I will also bet anyone who is interested a dinner at McDonald's that Alvarez will finish with more home runs than Heyward when the season is over. And it should be noted that Heyward also will strike out well over 100 times this season, so Alvarez is not the only rookie slugger prone to the dreaded K.
Makes you wonder what kind of props Walker, Tabata, and Alvaraz would be getting if they (a) played for a good team, and (b) played anywhere else but Pittsburgh.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
In case you missed it, early evening host Greg Gionotti is being shifted to the 6:00 AM - 10:00 AM slot with Paul Alexander and Jim Colony, and Jon Burton is being demoted to the evening news reporter. Yes, JB will no longer man a talk show, no longer laugh uproariously at everything that everyone, especially he himself, says, will no longer do his patented shtick of speaking in an exaggerated Pittsburgh Yinzer accent.
What little I have heard of Gionotti, I like, although he faces a couple of obstacles. One, he is young, less than 30, I believe, and two, he is not from Pittsburgh. This will not sit well with the Yinzer crowd, because "what can some punk kid aht-a-tahner tell me about the Stillers n'at."
I say, however, that this is a good move on the part of 93.7. Burton just didn't cut it, and while were at it, I'm not all that crazy about Paul Alexander, who is a lifelong Pittsburgher, by the way. It will be interesting to see who becomes the dominant buck on this show, Alexander or Gionotti.
Which player should be Rookie of the Year?
I will tell you who these players are tomorrow, but would like to hear some of your thoughts before I do.
Can't say I buy into his viewpoint 100% this morning, but thought-provoking nontheless.
- The game last night was an amazing piece of work. The newly reconstituted bullpen blows a three run lead in the ninth, gives up two in the top of the tenth, but the team wins in the bottom of the 10th in most dramatic fashion: A three-run dinger by Pedro Alvarez. Talk about emotional swings. It was fantastic watching that one.
- We should all know by now NOT to get too excited about anything the Pirates do, but you have to wonder if someday will we look back on THAT game last night, that 8-7 win over the Rockies, and say that that was the ground floor of something good? (Probably not.)
- Now for the peculiar news. The team announces on Sunday morning that pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho are fired. Strange timing. The announcement says that this was John Russell's call, and that there were questions of "loyalty" involved in the firings.
- Judging from the performances of Pirates starting pitchers, you can say that Kerrigan lost his job on merit. As for Varsho, well, what exactly does a bench coach do anyway? Could he have been undermining JR among the players? Is this where the loyalty question comes into play?
- Speaking of coaches, in the 8th inning of the game on Friday night, with Pirates down by one run, Jose Tabata was frozen off of first base when a pitched ball got away from the catcher. You could almost read his mind: should I go to second, or get back to first? He froze for a fraction a second too long, and Chris Ianetta picked him off of first base. My question: Was first base coach Carlos Garcia yelling at him what to do, and, if not, why not?
- Also on the subject of pitching coaches, I remember reading - I think it was in Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" - that on a ten man pitching staff, a pitching coach will help two guys, hurt two guys, and make not a bit of difference to the other six.
- In Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, and Padro Alvarez, the Pirates sure appear to have four guys around who you can build a nice everyday line-up. Now, if they could only come up with one or two or three pitchers who are their equivalents.
- Pedro Alvarez does not hit cheap home runs. To use the catch phrase of Lanny Frattare, when Pedro gets hold of one, there is nooooooo doubt about it.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Sorry I didn't have a better camera with a super zoom lens.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
As for the trades....
- Seems to me that for the second year in a row, injuries have prevented the Pirates from dumping Ryan Doumit. The Chris Snyder acquisition, the comments surrounding it, and the fact that Doumit is due to make $5+ million in 2011 make it clear that there isn't a future for Doumit in Pittsburgh.
- The rest of the deals fall in the "Ho-Hum" category. Who knows if these guys will amount to anything, and with the possible exception of Octavio Dotel, what did the Pirates really give up?
- That said, wouldn't it have been nice to get a starting pitcher who could help the team now?
- After reading the Nealspeil in the PG yesterday morning, I am stunned that Paul Maholm is still on the team. When you cut through the GM's comments, it seemed that what he was saying was, "We really want to get Maholm's salary off the books for 2011."
More Pirates. Remember my "Numbers Crunching" post of July 5, wherein I proposed that we track a "Second Season" for the Bucs, beginning July 1? Well, the results aren't so promising.
- On June 30, the team was 27-51 (.346), on pace for 106 losses.
- In the Second Season, the team is 9-16 (.360), a rate that would produce 104 losses over a 162 game season.
- Aside from that homestand with the Astros and Brewers last week, not much of an improvement.
The good news is that the 1952 Pirates 112 loss season is not in danger of being surpassed. To lose 112 games, the current squad would have to go 14-45 the rest of the way. I think - I hope - that this bunch can play at better than a .267 clip for 59 games, but you can never underestimate what the loss of Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby will mean.