Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ron Cook on GM Neal

As those of you who know me know, I am not a big fan of PG columnist Ron Cook, but he has a good column in the Sunday paper today, wherein he really puts the wood to Bucco GM Neal A. Huntington. In case you missed it....

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Sex and the City 2"

Well, Mrs. Grandstander and I made our way to the dumpy Showcase North Cinema tonight to catch the new "Sex and the City Movie." the theater was fairly crowded for a late afternoon showing, and I think I spotted one - count him - one other guy in the audience! That's OK, though. I am secure enough in my masculinity to pull this one off!

I was a fan of the HBO series, and enjoyed the first SATC movie two years ago, but I gotta tell you folks, with this money-grab of a movie, Sarah Jessica Parker and Company have definitely jumped the shark.

I will only tell you not to waste your money at the theater on this one. If you REALLY feel the need to see it, wait a few months until it hits the Redbox and rent it for a buck a night.

Only a few observations to share with you:

** It hurt the movie by having the bulk of it movie take place in Abu Dabi. They should have kept the setting in New York City.

** The climactic scene of the movie with the girls getting out of Abu Dabi was ridiculous. Lucille Ball was doing this schtick - and doing it a lot better - 55 years ago on "I Love Lucy."

** The four stars should fight at all costs this movie EVER being released on Blue Ray disk or being shown on HD television. All four of them looked really bad. It has only been two years since the last movie, but it looks they all aged about thirty years. What was with Cynthia Nixon's hair color?????

Morton and Russell Strike Again

Reds 8 - Pirates 2. Reds bat around in an inning not once, but twice, against Charlie Morton. Morton goes to 1-9 with a 9.35 ERA. In a radio sound bite heard this morning, John Russell states that Morton "continues to make progress" and that, yes, he will continue to stay in the rotation.

First observation: If Morton is going to be an effective pitcher one day - and we all know he has "great stuff" - what is accomplished by having him serve up batting practice to the National League start after start? I fear that his confidence will be completely shattered by what he is going through to the point that he may never recover. Forget about how Morton is killing the Pirates right now, and consider the fact that the Pirates might be killing him.

Second observation: Whatever credibility that John Russell and by extension, Neal Huntington, had with he Pirates fan base erodes further and further every time Morton starts a game, and every time JR makes an inane comment such as the one cited above.

Third observation: Why are Aki Iwamura and Jeff Clement still on the roster, much less playing in games on a regular basis? (See above comment re "credibility.")

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Gem from GM Neal....

According to this morning's PG, GM Neal says that newly recalled Neil Walker "will see playing time off the bench and in spot starts." I guess this means that Walker's hot .320+ average in the minors will be allowed to cool off on the major league bench while we still get large doses of the pathetic Aki Iwamura batting lead off and playing second base. I am waiting for GM Neal to next tell us that Aki is ready to turn it around based on hitting a triple last night. (For those of you who didn't see the game last night, Iwamura's triple was a lazy can of corn the center that the center fielder lost in the lights.)

For a humorous and better written view of the current Buccos, I refer you to Gene Collier's column from this morning, which features commentary on Pirate standouts, Iwamura, Charlie Morton, Jeff Clement, and Lastings Milledge:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Welcome Neil Walker

A nice win for the Pirates tonight, an newcomer Neil Walker gets a double and his first career RBI. Well done! He also gets picked off of second base. Ouch! Let's give the kid a pass on this one rather than chalk it up to "Sam Old Pirates" base running. After all, it was nice play by the Reds' catcher and to paraphrase Beano Cook, the other team gets paid too.

The Future is Starting to Arrive

So, Steve Pearce goes on the DL and Neil Walker, or, as he is constantly referred to in the media, "Pine Richland's Neil Walker", is recalled to replace him on the roster. Now, let's just hope that PRNW actually plays when he arrives. Sit Aki's ass on the bench and make PRNW your second baseman. Period. Give Walker the same chance that has been given to Jeff Clement.

Speaking of Clement, Walker's arrival and Pearce's disabling only gives Clement more opportunity to raise his batting average above .200. How about Jose Tabata in RF and Garrett Jones at 1B? (At least until Pearce gets back.)

If I turn on the game tonight and Russell has Iwamura playing 2B, I'll scream.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Some Stats....

A Tale of Two Second Basemen:

Aki Iwamura, PGH: .161 BA (137 AB), 2 HR, 8 RBI, 15 R
Neil Walker, INDY: .323 BA (164 AB), 6 HR, 28 RBI, 24 R

A Tale of Two Pitchers:

Charlie Morton, PGH: 1-8, 8.71 ERA (41.1 IP), 13 BB, 33 K
Brad Lincoln, INDY: 5-2, 3.77 ERA (57.1 IP), 23 BB, 41 K

And for good measure, we'll throw in Pirate 1B Jeff Clement: .180 BA (100 AB), 4 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R.

From reading Dejon's PBC Blog this morning, it sounds like moves from Indy are coming soon.

And to wrap up one other statistical story, presumptive NL Rookie of the Year Jason Heyward finished the series against the Pirates by batting .500 (4-for-8) with a HR, 3 RBI and 3 walks. He would be playing in Altoona this year if he were Pirates property.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

From GM Neal...

In this morning's Post-Gazette, Pirates GM Neal Huntington cites some arcane SABRmetric stat called "xFIP" to prove that Charlie Morton (1-8, 8.79 ERA) is a really good pitcher. He also states that in Monday's loss to the Phillies, Morton was just "five feet worth of groundballs away" (what does that mean, anyway?) from having a quality start against the defending NL champs. This in a game, by the way, that the Phillies squeaked by with a 12-2 victory over the Bucs.

And speaking of another of Neal's guys, it is nice that Aki Iwamura (.154) is causing all of us to remember the "glory years" when Mario Mendoza patrolled the middle infield for the Pirates.

And in the "Man Bites Dog" category of journalism, the PG printed a picture of John Russell actually arguing with an umpire from last night's game. Stop the presses, indeed.

I can't stand it!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sports Talk Radio

An interesting perspective on sports talk radio form writer John Feinstein...

Jason Heyward and the Pirates

If you are at all familiar with the modus operandi of Pittsburgh Pirates management, you know that they do not believe in rushing their minor league prospects to the majors. There is no doubt great value in that philosophy as we all know that minor league stats don't always equate to said player's readiness for Major League competition or even if that player will ever even be a quality major leaguer (see Brad Eldred, Chad Hermanson, J.J. Davis, John VanBenschotten - it's a long an painful list). Still, the philosophy can be frustrating when comparing the numbers of Neil Walker and Brad Lincoln at Indy to those of Aki Iwamura and Charlie Morton in Pittsburgh.

With these thoughts in mind, Frank Coonelly was asked at the SABR meeting two weeks ago where would 20-year old Atlanta Brave Jason Heyward, on his way to Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the NL, be if he were in the Pirates organization. Expecting an answer along the lines that Heyward-is-the-exception-to-the-rule, I was surprised, if not stunned, when Coonelly answered that Heyward is striking out a lot and the Pirates organization would be addressing that by having Heyward playing in Altoona this season with the hope of getting him to Triple-A Indy sometime later in the year.

Last night, Heyward lit up the Pirates for a single, a double, and a home run, a walk, a run scored, and 3 RBI's. Of course, Pirates pitching did get this should be minor leaguer to fly out to center in the sixth inning.

Wonder what Heyward will do in the next two games of this series? The Grandstander will be watching.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Classic Scene - "On The Waterfront"

At the request of a Loyal Reader, another classic movie scene. Rod Steiger and the great Marlon Brando (he won the Oscar for this role) in "On The Waterfront."

There is a good chance that you may have all seen this particular scene, but if that is ALL you've seen from this movie, you're shortchanging yourself.

Check this one out soon.


Just witnessed an inning where a Pirate baserunner on second broke for third in a groundball to the left side of the infield. Runner thrown out at third.

Stuff happens, you say? Well, just to prove how easily such "stuff" can happen with this team, a second Pirate baserunner on second base did EXACTLY THE SAME THING IN THE SAME INNING!!!!

Please tell me how often you've seen a team do such dumbass baserunning twice in the same inning.

To my brother Jim, who is a Yankees fan, I repeat what I often say: It's nice to be a fan of great teams like the Yankees put on the field every year; it's really hard to be a Pirates fan.

FYI, the perpetrators of these gaffes were Lastings Milledge and Bobby Crosby.

John Russell's Future and Observations On a Pirates Victory

We all might agree that Pirates skipper John Russell is a hard guy to warm up to, but in today's Post-Gazette, Gene Collier makes a somewhat compelling argument for keeping JR least until the saviours from the minor leagues arrive:

Speaking of those saviours, they all seemed to lay an egg yesterday when they had a chance to shine on the MLB Network's telecast of the Indianopolis game (as promoted by Yours Truly). Oh, well, as someone (might have been Connie Mack or John McGraw or Lloyd McLendon) once said "That's baseball."

Was in attendance last night as the Pirates defeated the Hated Brewers, 6-4. It was a very entertaining ball game, although the Local Nine did have a few ragged moments. It was particualry satisfying to see Pirate-Killer Cryin' Ryan Braun get tagged out in a baserunning blunder in the ninth. It was also satisfying to hear the group of Brewers fans become silent when the Bucs pushed three across in the seventh inning to take the lead, and to hear them become even more silent when Braun was put out in the ninth. This, by the way, is said in the spirit of good sportsmanship. The Brewers fans in question were a) having a fun night rooting for their team, b) were not drunk, c) were not obscene, and d) were not obnoxious. Can you imagine saying the same thing in similar circumstances if this were a Steelers game at Heinz Field? I don't think so.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Chance to See Pedro Alvarez

Programming note:

The MLB Network will be televising the Indianapolis Indians game tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 11:00 AM. This will be a chance to see Pedro Alvarez play without having to wait the two or three years it will be before Neal A. Huntington deems Alvarez "ready" to be brought up to the Pirates.

Monday, May 17, 2010

For Your Listening and Viewing Pleasure

Want to listen to some good music? And get a great concert on DVD to go with it? Pick up the newly released CD/DVD package "Carole King and James Taylor, Live at the Troubadour."

Great stuff!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Enjoy a Classic...."Who's On First?

You may have heard this one a million times, but it's always funny. From Abbot and Costello, "Who's On First?"

On Neil Walker....

I'm gonna steal from the Beaver County Times John Perrotto once again this week:

I love the line about the Pirates doing what they do best: take something positive and douse it with a wet blanket.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday Night at the Movies: "Double Indemnity"

We decided to go into the DVD basket tonight and pull out a classic: Billy Wilder's masterpiece from 1944, "Double Indemnity."

This movie is considered a classic early example of film noir. In fact, many will say that it set the standard for the genre in all the years to follow. The story involves and insurance salesman, Fred McMurray, who meets up with the wife, Barbara Stanwyck, of a client, and the two of them concoct a plot to murder her husband and collect the double indemnity amount from the old man's insurance policy. But will they pull it off? Can they get past the wily insurance claims investigator, Edward G. Robinson? And will there be any unforeseen twists and double crosses?

The answers to all of these questions is what makes "Double Indemnity" so good and so much fun to watch.

Some of the themes of this movie - such as adultery and murder for profit - were taboo in Hollywood when this movie was made. Wilder and his co-screenwriter, Raymond Chandler, pulled it off with some classic dialog and suggestive direction. The acting is top notch: McMurray played against type as the plotting salesman taken in by Stanwyck's charms, and Stanwyck was a marvel as the slutty, conniving wife, but Robinson virtually steals the show as the the investigator who senses that something isn't right and just won't let go until he figures it out. Robinson has some of the best lines of dialog in the entire movie.

If you've never seen this classic, or if it's been a long time since you have seen it, get it on your Netflix queue ASAP.

If you are a fan of the Kathleen Turner / William Hurt movie, "Body Heat", what I have described above may sound familiar. Director Lawrence Kasden has never denied that "Body Heat" was inspired by and is a tribute to Wilder's "Double Indemnity."

Wrong Column on Aki

I just noted that my earlier post had an incorrect link for the John Perrotto column on Aki Iwamura. Here is the correct link:

On Aki Iwamura

John Perrotto really nails it with this column on the Bucs' second sacker...

(Couldn't find a picture of Aki in a Pirates uniform. Probably a good thing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Meanwhile, Down in Indianopolis....

Neal Walker: .338 (133 AB), 5 HR, 24 RBI, 21 R; 23 K, 9 BB
Jose Tabata: .326 (132 AB), 2 HR, 11 RBI, 25 R; 21 K, 17 BB
Pedro Alvarez: .256 (129 AB), 8 HR, 33 RBI, 19 R; 38 K, 16 BB

Brad Lincoln: 4-1; 3.83 ERA; 42.1 IP; 29 K, 11 BB

The K/BB ratios for the hitters aren't great. Don't think we'll see Alvarez until September, if that. Tabata will be here in June. Who knows what the deal with Walker is.

I won't make this even more painful by listing the current Bucco stats. Check Bob Smizik's blog today for those painful stats.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Trip to Baltimore

We took advantage of our "not working" status this week to take a little two night jaunt to Baltimore, MD. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Inner Harbor, which, as the name implies, is a short walk to Baltimore's Inner Harbor area/ More importantly, it is even a shorter walk to Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

The trip did not start promisingly, as we arrived on Tuesday to pouring rain, winds, and temperatures in the low 40's. Definitely NOT a night to go to a baseball game. We did make it down to the Inner Harbor for dinner, however.

Wednesday was a nice day and we took the water taxi through the harbor to an area of the city called Fell's Point. As I understand it, this was a particularly rowdy district back in the 19th century. Lots of sailors and tradesmen and, ahem, bawdy houses. Today, it is a really cool area - art galleries and lots and lots of neat bars and restaurants, as well as restored and gentrified (i.e., very expensive) homes. We found a place called Riptide by the Bay and had a great lunch.

We also walked through the ball park in the morning. Not the ball park itself, but the area between the stadium and the brick warehouse that stands beyond the outfield walls. This a great area (much like PNC Park's River Walk). Later in the day, when it came time to head out to the ball yard, the rains came. We entered Orioles Park and saw a tarp covered field and rain pouring down. However, the rains slowed down enough - it never actually stopped - and the game got underway at 7:25.

During the rain delay, the Orioles showed the World Series highlight film from 1970, Orioles defeat the Reds. I was hoping they'd have showed the Orioles in the '71 or '79 Series, but what the heck. Interestingly, the '70 Series highlight movie mentioned how the Series was being played in the newly opened, state-of-the-art Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Hearing this while sitting in Camden Yards, the ballpark that was in the vanguard of ball park architecture that eventually led to the demise of stadiums such as Riverfront and Three Rivers Stadium was, I thought, very ironic.

Anyway, our seats were under cover so we we enjoyed watching the Orioles storm to their tenth victory of the season, a 5-2 trouncing of the Seattle Mariners. We were disappointed to learn that the Mariners had just placed Jack Wilson on the DL, so we didn't get to see him play, but we did get to see Ian Snell pitch a couple of innings in long relief. Perhaps more significantly, it was neat to see the great Ichiro play.

Camden Yards is a great ball park, worthy of all the accolades, I believe. The Orioles have fallen on hard times, and the ball park is fairly empty for most games these days (sound familiar?), and the crummy weather didn't help the atmosphere on Wednesday, but you can picture what a fun place it would be on a nice warm summer night with 30,000+ people in attendance.

I have included some pictures of our night at Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saurday Night, Pirates and Penguins

Some idle thoughts while flipping between the Pirates and Penguins games....

** SABR meeting was today, and it went well, if the comments I heard from the attendees are to be believed. We had three visiting authors visit to talk about their latest books, Pirates Prez Frank Coonelly was our Special Guest and he gave a "State of the Pirates" talk, and some good presentations by some of the members. The time from 8:45 to 3:00 just flew by.

** Pirates just went up 1-0 in the second; Pens scoreless in the first.

** Went to the Franklin Park VFD annual spaghetti dinner tonight. Spaghetti dinners are almost as good as fish fries in Lent. And they sold 50/50 tickets to boot!

** Speaking of 50/50 raffles, we tried one at the SABR meeting today and raised $41. Not bad.

** One of our visiting authors was Colleen Hroncich who has just written "The Whistling Irishman", a book about her grandfather, Danny Murtaugh. She was only two years old when Danny died, and her talking about getting to "know" her grandfather while researching the book was touching. Looking forward to reading the book.

** If you like good mystery novels, I recommend the Alex Delaware novels by Jonathan Kellerman. They guy writes great dialog.

** Kris Letang SCORES!!! 1-0 Pens with 1:26 to play in the first.

** Doc Emerick has to be the best play-by-play guy, any sport, on TV.

** Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there.

** Signing off. Bucs still lead, 1-0, but Albert is on second for the Cards with one out.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Idle Thoughts

** A 3-7 road trip for the Pirates, no matter what kind of spin you put on it, is not good.

** Jose Tabata continues to tear up International League pitching.

** In this morning's PG, Neal A. Huntington is quoted today as saying (and I'm paraphrasing here) that baseball today is not the same game as it was in the 1970's. Speaking as a Pirates fan who can remember the 1970's with its six division titles, two pennants, two World Series wins, and players like Stargell, Clemente, Parker, Oliver, Hebner, Cash, Sanguillen, Ellis, Blass, Candelaria, Guisti, and Tekulve (and I just KNOW) that I'm leaving a bunch of other guys out), I can tell you that GM Neal really nailed it with that quote!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"City Island"

We took int he movie "City Island" this afternoon. It stars Andy Garcia and Juliana Marguiles and it is a small little sleeper of a movie, but we loved it.

Well worth seeing.

And to get off track a bit, a medium popcorn and a medium Coke at the theater set us back $10.25. I am guessing that the theater's cost of these two items came in a less than a buck. Pro sports venues aren't the only place that market overpriced foodstuffs!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Big Sports Night on TV

Spent Friday night watching a little hockey (Pens win!), baseball (Pirates losing in the ninth), looked in on some basketball (Lakers-Thunder), and even caught one At Bat in a Georgia-LSU women's softball game.

I didn't think to check in on the NFL Network. Might have been able to catch a replay of some game from 1971!