Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Technical Difficulties

The Grandstander is experiencing technical difficulties these days. Not sure what happened, but I clicked on something and the formatting has been all shot to hell.

I may need to call in a technical expert. (Dave Jones - do you make house calls?)

Bear with me. While the presentation may not be so hot right now, you will continue to receive the same excellent and sterling content!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


this is a test

Back From Hiatus

Well, have you all missed The Grandstander? We returned Saturday afternoon after a week in one of the world's greatest places, North Carolina's Outer Banks, more specifically, the beach in Corolla, Currituck County, NC. I have included a picture of my lovely Bride and me on the last night of vacation with the Atlantic in the background. Have also included pics from the theme night that Marilyn and I hosted, "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay." If I must say, the playlist that I put together on the iPod for a soundtrack was dynamite!

We had one of our best weather weeks ever in 25+ years of traveling to the OBX. Very hot. I mean EXTREMELY HOT.

Note to Loyal Reader Big Poppy: please be sure to check out the logo on the green t-shirt that I am wearing. I know you'll just love it!

Some quick comments on some other topics:

** A belated 4oth Anniversary to Brother Jim and Lovely Bride Nancy. Forty Years is something to be proud of, indeed!

** As many of you may know by now, in the 2-3 weeks prior to leaving on vacation, Marilyn and I bought a new home, sold our current home (although our realtor tells us that never count on anything until you walk out of the closing with the keys in your hand; in other words, "it ain't over 'til its over." Yogi Berra really is a genius!), and now must pack up and move in the next four weeks. In other words, it's gonna be really hectic and Grandstander postings may be few and far between until after July 26. Be patient and understanding all you Loyal Readers.

** Welcome back from Florida to Bill, Ann, Kids and Grandkids. Hope it was a great week for all of you.

** Through the magic of XM Radio, I was able to keep up with the Pirates games. Lucky me. I am running out of words to describe just how bad the Pirates really are. Can this version eclipse the 112 losses of the 1952 squad, generally regarded as one of the worst teams in baseball history?

** I learned today that Dana Eveland was released while I was gone. At least GM Neal cut the cord on that disaster quickly.

** Glad to see that while GM Neal and Skipper JR have been renewed for 2011, the Buc management wasted no time in firing an insubordinate pirogi. Ungrateful bastard!!

** Speaking of the aforementioned contract renewals for GM Opie and Mr. Excitement JR, that news broke just as we were finalizing our house sale and packing for vacation, so I couldn't comment upon it. It is somewhat old news now, so I won't rehash it, but I will say this. Full disclosure: over the last few years, I have gotten to know Frank Coonelly, consider him a quasi-friend, and a good guy. So, it pains me to see him come up with such an implausible (to put the best light on it) story. As eloquent former skipper Lloyd McLendon might have put it, the whole episode flummoxes me!

** Neilspeil for today: I heard GM Opie say on his Sunday pre-game radio show, and I may not have the quote exactly here, that he and his team have achieved all of their short and long term goals that they set for themselves except for "wins and losses" on the major league level. Guess that's like the CEO of the White Star Line saying that except for the pesky little problem with icebergs, the TITANIC was one terrific ship!

** Am truly sorry to see the USA bounced from the World Cup by Ghana yesterday. I watched all of the second half and the overtime, and saw a total of three - count 'em - three shots on goal by both teams. Am getting used to the vuvazelas, though!

Good to be home!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Alvarez Arrives

Well, we can all (and I include myself here) stop griping. Pedro Alvarez arrives in Pittsburgh today. Now the future is here. McCutcheon, Walker, Pearce, Lincoln, Tabata, and now Alvarez. All the minor league superstars are here.

Of course, the Pirates will now not become a team that will win at a .600 pace. In fact, I don't expect that the team, in terms of wins and losses will improve all that much, but at least now we are seeing guys who are expected to be the core of a winning enterprise down the road. No more has beens filling out the line-up.

The 2010 version of the Pirates may still lose 100 games, but at least now there is hope.

We hope.

Monday, June 14, 2010

More World Cup

In a post on Saturday, I made mention of typical "smart-ass" comments of some American sports writers and talking heads about soccer. The attached commentary from NPR frames it far better than I.


And to again clarify my position, while the sport itself may not be my particular cup of tea, I will be tuning in over the next few weeks, especially when the USA takes to the pitch, and hope that every afficionado of the Beautiful Game enjoys it to the fullest.

Tony Awards

A Loyal Reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, I think, hit a trifecta in handicapping last night's Tony Awards. He called it spot on in calling for wins for "Fences", "Memphis", and "La Cage aux Folles" as big winners in the Plays categories. He also made the call on Denzell Washington for his performance in "Fences."

Mucho congrats to our Loyal Reader back east for his erudite insights to what's happening on the Great White Way.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup

The whole world is abuzz now that the 2010 World Cup Tournament is underway in South Africa. I will refrain from making the usual smart-ass comments that most Americans make when discussing soccer, but will instead wish for an exciting and enjoyable event over the next few weeks for those interested.

My interest in the event will be limited to following the USA and jumping on the bandwagon (yes, I will admit to being a bandwagon jumper) should the Red, White and Blue do well. My interest will also be tempered due to the fact that I no longer work in an office environment. During the '98, '02, and '06 World Cups, I was involved in promoting and participating in an Office Pool for the World Cup. Nothing like having a little cash on the line to make you become a passionate fan of Peruvian footballers. This year...no office = no office pool = little interest.

And by the way, speaking of being "abuzz", if you have happened to see any of the ESPN coverage of the matches so far, how do you like that constant buzzing noise produced by thousands of people blowing on those plastic horns? That would drive you crazy! Hope those don't carry over into American baseball parks and football stadiums.

Friday, June 11, 2010

In Response to "Harveynuts," a Loyal Reader

In recent days, I have been receiving emails from friend, NPL colleague, Fantasy Football Legend (he is known as "Mr. NFL" in some circles), and Loyal Reader Bill Harvey, sometimes known as Harveynuts, but always referred to as Harv, that have been critical of my recent criticisms of the Pirates, particularly GM Neal A. Huntington. With all due respect, let me answer some of Harv's criticisms for all the read and, I hope, comment upon.

Criticism #1: Why am I always so critical of the Pirates?

I had to laugh at this one, because for most of the past 17 long years, people I know have accused me of being a Pirates apologist who needs to get rid of his rose colored glasses. I have cared about the Pirates ever since I went to my first game in 1959, and I always have tried to see the positive in what the team has done over the years. However, spending two months watching Aki Iwamura, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Clement do absolutely nothing, while guys in the minors were lighting it up made me reach a breaking point. You know, the old "mad as hell and I'm not going to take in any more" syndrome.

However, Aki has been benched, Morton is in the minors with some phantom injury, and Clement has been sent down, and Walker, Linclon, and Tabata are now in Pittsburgh, so perhaps my incessant criticisms were out of line, or maybe GM Neal has been reading The Grandstander and saw the light (probably not). In any event, score one for GM Neal.

Criticism #2: How about all the good minor leaguers that Neal has brought in to restock the farm system?

Good point. It looks like both Brian Morris and Tim Alderson are starting to come around. If these guys are the real deal, then both the Jason Bay and the Freddy Sanchez trades start to look, if not real good, then at least better deals for the Pirates. On the other hand, if Morris washes out, then the Bay trade becomes a near total bust from the Bucco point of view.

And on the subject of trades, let's give GM Neal good grades on the trade that sent Xavier Nady to the Yankees in '08. The jury is out on Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens looks like a serviceable long relief guy and spot starter, Ross Ohlendorf could be a pretty good starting pitcher, and Jose Tabata has finally arrived. He alone could make this trade the best the Pirates have made since Syd Thrift pried Andy Van Slyke and Mike Lavalliere from St. Louis for Tony Pena.

Criticism #3: Shut up about having Brad Lincoln start against Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday. It would have been too much pressure.

Huh? You have to hope that Brad Lincoln might start a World Series game for the Pirates some day (there's those rose colored glasses again). Starting against the Nationals on a Tuesday night in June, regardless of who was pitching against him, shouldn't be too much pressure for any major league pitcher. Besides it would have been compelling baseball drama - at least from a Pirates fan point of view - and it was chickens**t for the Pirates to wait until the next day for Lincoln's debut.

Criticism #4: How about giving GM Neal credit for building up the system since he has been in charge?

I will be the first to praise GM Neal when these guys start to arrive and, we all hope, start winning a lot of ballgames. However, when the Nealspeil is that Charlie Morton is only a "few feet of ground balls away" from having a really good season, well, my teeth will still be grinding on that kind of front office b.s.

Criticism #5: Why don't I unload on the front office for not spending money and bringing in free agents to help the team?

Interestingly enough, here is where I will NOT be critical of the front office. Free agents? Really? What FA should the Pirates have signed this winter that would have made them a winner in 2010? Jason Bay? Johnny Damon?

If "The Plan" that the Coonelly-Huntington Team has talked about is to work, then let's build up the farm system through trades and the draft. Then, instead of spending wads of cash on washed up free agents, sign the players that have been developed to long term deals. We will find out in a year or so just how sincere the Front Office is about their plan. It would make me feel a lot better about the future to see Andrew McCutchen signed to a long term deal after the 2010 season, than to see them spend eight figures on some free agent way past his prime.

I do like how the Pirates have spent money on the draft in the last few years, and will be interested to see if they can get Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie under contract in time for them to pitch this summer in the system. That is how the Pirates are going to become a good team again.

Many thanks to Harv for being a Loyal Reader and raising these points and giving me the opportunity to respond in kind.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Well, by now you are all aware of Stephen Strasburg's amazing debut for the Nationals last night against the Pirates. A truly amazing performance. He more than lived up to the hype and didn't succumb to the hysteria surrounding the event.

I watched the Pirates telecast on FSN last night rather than the MLB Network broadcast, and was glad that I did when I switched to the MLB post-game coverage and heard Bob Costas ask Strasburg to compare himself to Walter Johnson. What? Are you being just a bit premature there, Bob?

Generally speaking, I like Bob Costas. He obviously loves baseball, but he does tend to get very self-important when he speaks on the subject. Apparently, the references to Walter Johnson were frequent during last night's MLB telecast. I refer you to this article from deadspin.com today:

Well, I certainly wish the kid well in his major league career, although I was tickled to think that the Pirates just might beat him last night when they grabbed that 2-1 lead. Interestingly enough, Strasburg did not appear to know who Walter Johnson was. The lack of historical knowledge of the game of today's players is another subject for another day.

Today, some less heralded, but no less important, from a Pirates point of view, debuts will take place when both Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata will join the Pirates. Somehow, I don't think that Bob Sheiffer and David Gregory will be on hand at Nationals Park tonight for the occasion, nor do I think Bob Costas will be there to ask Brad Lincoln if he considers himself the second coming of Babe Adams.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cleaning Out the Mental Inbox

I'm trying to come up with my own version of a "notes column." Not sure if a "Mental Inbox" compares well with "shirt pocket notes" or "nobody asked me, but...", but let's give it a whirl for now. In this version , I will try desperately to avoid comments about baseball uniforms and Joe West.

** So, the Pirates go for a high school pitcher in selecting Jameson Taillon with the number two overall pick. As you may know from reading draft stories in recent days, selecting a high school pitcher with a high selection is an enormously risky proposition. Let's hope that the Pirates get lucky with young Mr. Taillon. At 6'7", 225 pounds, the young man sure seems to have the physical goods. Let's hope he stays healthy and becomes Josh Beckett and not Bobby Bradley.

** In responding to my earlier post about Brad Lincoln's proposed debut this coming Wednesday, Brother Bill Sproule makes an astute observation about the Bucs failure to sign Dominican phee-nom Miguel Sano last year. Check it out. The comment would have been even more astute had the Bucs selected Manny Machado tonight, but still a good observation.

** On Mike & Mike this morning, Greenie was going on and on about whether or not Michael Jordan attending the Black Hawks Stanley Cup game this weekend was wrong in light of the fact that the NBA Finals are taking place at the same time. I present this as evidence that perhaps there is too much sports talk on the radio these days.

** The Gallaraga perfect game. I understand when people make the case for having Bud Selig reverse the call on the 27th out and award Armando Gallaraga a perfect game, but there is something that tells me that Bud did the right thing in not doing it. The fact that it was in fact the 27th out is the biggest point to be made in favor of making a special ruling. If the same bad call happened in the third inning, I wonder if the hue and cry would have been raised?

** All that said, kudos all around to both Gallaraga and Jim Joyce for how they handled the whole deal.

** Five years from now, we'll still remember Armando Gallaraga and this game. Chances are, only diehard Oakland A's fans will remember Dallas Braden.

** On the subject of imperfect perfect games, I read in the paper the other day about a letter Harvey Haddix received after his 12 inning perfecto in 1959 from a college fraternity in Texas. It was brief: "Dear Harvey: Tough shit!" Haddix always said that this was one of his favorite mementos of that May 26, 1959 game.

** Even though I said I would mention him: wonder what the reaction would have been if it was Joe West who made that bad call on the 27th out. How fun would THAT have been?

** Have you caught the morning Alexander, Burton, and Colony ("ABC") morning talk show on 93.7 The Fan? You can be assured of one guaranteed set piece at least once a day on this show: Jon Burton talking in an exaggerated Pittsburgh accent. This is then followed by Burton laughing uproariously at himself. Rege Cordic & Company was doing this, and doing it better, on morning radio 50 years ago.

** I will give Burton his due one thing: he did a pretty good imitation of former Buc skipper Jim Tracy the other morning.

** I think the best part of the 93.7 lineup is the afternoon drive team of Joe Starkey and John Siebel.

** If one thing can come out of the sordid Ben Roethlisberger melodrama, let it be the putting to rest the fiction that Steelers and the Rooney Family somehow operate on a different plane and moral high ground than the rest of the NFL. Art Sr. is a well deserved beloved figure in Pittsburgh lore, but he pulled some major strings that enabled Ernie Holmes to never miss a game after his run in on the Ohio Turnpike back in the 70's, and the Cedric Wilson/James Harrison double standard a few years told us a lot about Dan and Art II.

** The current issue of the Baseball Hall of Fame's magazine, Memories and Dreams, highlights baseball literature, and includes and article on the poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon" by Franklin Adams. This is the famous "Tinker to Evers to Chance" poem. (You can google it: I won't restate it here.) Interestingly enough, Tinker and Evers hated each other and never spoke. Chance once said that he wished he were an outfielder so he didn't have to listen to Evers in the field all the time. In any event, the three players went in the Hall of Fame in the same year, 1946, and are often cited as HOF ringers, enshrined because of a poem rather than great play. However, in the years that the three played together (1904-1913), the Cubs won more games than Yankees teams that featured Ruth and Gehrig, Dodgers teams that featured Robinson, Reese, Snider, and Campanella, and Reds teams that featured Bench, Morgan, Rose, and Concepcion. So, there must have been more than a snappy little poem to Tinker, Evers and chance.

** My source on the above is The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (2001). Check it out.

** Speaking of baseball books, you'll have a lot of fun reading "The Baseball Fan's Bucket List, 162 Things to See, Do, Get, and Experience Before You Die" by Robert and Jenna Santelli.

** I watched the 1968 movie "The Thomas Crown Affair" on TCM the other night. Bad movie that does NOT hold up after 40 plus years. Steve McQueen may have been the epitome of cool back in the day, but he was pretty ridiculous in this flick. Faye Dunaway co-starred and it is a good thing for her career that she did "Bonnie and Clyde" before she did Thomas Crown, otherwise, she might never have been heard from again.

** I know that we cannot ignore history, nor should every artifact be thrown in a trash bin, but I can't take sides with the preservationists who think that Mellon Arena should be preserved. These are the same folks who halted Tom Murphy's hopes of revitalizing the Fifth Avenue area downtown in order to "save" Candy-Rama.

Looks like the mental in-box is empty for the time being. Thanks for reading.

Lincoln's Debut

So, now it appears that Brad Lincoln will make his highly anticipated debut with the Pirates on Wednesday against the Nationals. I guess that Lincoln was not "ready" to make his debut on Tuesday against Stephen Strasburg, a game matchup that would have created much excitement amongst the Pirates' fan base, but he will be "ready" on Wednesday. I guess those 24 hours will make a HUGE difference.

There will be some who will say that at this point, if you don't opt for a Lincoln-Strausburg match-up, why not wait another week and let Lincoln make his first appearance before the home folks at PNC Park? I am sure that GM Neal (should we begin calling him "GM Opie"? There is a resemblance) will have rafts of stats and will justify it in his own nerdy way as to why it's not a good idea to have Lincoln start in Pittsburgh. At this point, I'm just glad to see the kid finally make it to Pittsburgh. I throw my hands up in despair trying to figure the logic of what Pirates management does.

Speaking of GM Opie, I can't wait to hear the Nealspeil (a word I just invented) about whatever future Hall of Famer the Pirates draft in Round One tonight. I'll put the over/under on the word "upside" at 3 and 1/2.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

To Absent Friends - John Wooden

Far be it for me to try to summarize John Wooden. Rather, read the column from Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke...


Friday, June 4, 2010

Why Not Lincoln?

Full disclosure: I have blatantly stolen both the title and the idea for this post from Dejan Kovacevic's PBC Blog from this morning's PG+, because it is just too good to pass up.

In case you missed it, Brad Lincoln pitched six more shut out innings for Indianapolis last night, raising his record to 6-2 and lowering his ERA to 3.16. And I am sure that you have not missed the fact that Stephen Strasburg makes his much anticipated MLB debut for the Nats this coming Tuesday against the Pirates.

So, the question is, why not bring Lincoln up to make HIS much anticipated debut (at least among Pirates fans) against Strasburg? There is nothing in Lincoln's make-up to indicate that he will shrivel up and die from anticipation of such a start. In fact, just the opposite appears to be the case. So, again, why not? The whole baseball world is fully expecting the Pirates to play Red Klotz to Strasburg's Meadowlark Lemon on Tuesday, so why not put YOUR big hot shot prospect against THEIR big hot shot prospect? At this point, what is to be gained (other than the all important service time issues) by giving Lincoln another start or two in Indy?

I am sure that GM Neal will trot out a raft of arcane statistics that will show why Brian Burres or Dane Eveland would be the better choice to go against Strasburg. I can't wait to hear it.

While we are on this topic, I wonder what the mood of the Pirates is knowing that it was no accident that THEY were selected to be the team to face Strasburg in his initial outing? Of course, I know that their immediate concerns are the games that they are playing currently, not five days from now, but shouldn't it rankle them to know that the entire baseball world is viewing them as MLB's version of the Washington Generals? (see Red Klotz reference above) I am certain that the Skipper is playing upon this and will be making motivational speech after motivational speech to whip the team into a frenzy as they head to the Nation's Capital intent on spoiling Strasburg's first game. Oh, wait. John Russell is the Skipper.

Never mind.

(Again, thanks to Dejan Kovacevic for inspiring this post.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More on GM Neal and the Trade

Here is the gobbledy-gook that we have come to expect from GM Neal. In speaking about newly acquired Dana Eveland, GM Neal tells us that Eveland "has shown the ability to be an effective major-league starting pitcher. He has an interesting four-pitch mix, and we feel this acquisition is a potential upgrade for our current rotation with the upside of years of control and improved production."

A "couple if years of control" means that Eveland will come cheap.

Don't you just love it?

No word on whether or not Eveland's xFIP stats show him to be just a "couple of feet of ground balls" away from being as good a pitcher as Roy Halladay or Walter Johnson.

Pirates Trade for Pitcher

In case you missed it, the Pirates today traded Double-A reliever Ronald Uviedo to the Blue Jays for lefthander Dana Eveland, who will immediately become a part of the starting rotation. The 26 year old Eveland is 3-4 with a 6.45 ERA so far in 2010 (16-21; 5.66 career), which perfectly fits the profile for a Bucco starter in 2010. Fear not, though, for GM Neal tells us that Eveland does have great "upside."

Obviously, Brad Lincoln is still not ready for the majors. Maybe by 2013 or so.

Also, expect to hear big things for Uviedo in the near future.