Monday, May 30, 2011


Towards the end of the classic musical, "The Music Man", Mayor Shinn announces that the "hand of justice has finally struck down Professor Harold Hill." Well, yesterday, Lady Justice arrived in
Columbus and THE Ohio State University and struck down Coach Jim Tressel.

As I have often said, I take no pleasure in seeing a person lose their job, but in this case, when a hypocritical dude like Tressel, who has made millions over the years, is sent packing, I'm not going to feel sorry for him.

And of course in "The Music Man", we all know what happened. The River City Boys Band actually could play the Minuet in G, and Professor Hill settled happily in River City with Marion the Librarian. In the case of Tressel, I suspect that this will play out as follows:

First, he will be hired by ESPN, where he will show up on the studio shows, complete with ESPN sweater vest, and all the ESPN lapdogs will fawn all over him and continually refer to him as "Coach." (On the bright side, this could mean that mush-mouthed Lou Holtz will be put out to pasture.)

Secondly, after one or two seasons, three at the most, some other win-at-all-cost university will hire Tressel, and the cycle will begin all over again.

Cynicism, thy name is NCAA D-I Football.

Memorial Day at Stonebrook Village

With thanks to all who served and made the Ultimate Sacriface....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trouble in Morgantown?

Have you been reading the reports about WVU Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach-in-Waiting Dana Holgorsen? Seems that Holgorson has a couple of weaknesses: an affinity for going to casinos, and an affinity for drinking. Drinking too much. Drinking way too much.

Reports are that Holgorsen has had at least six such alcohol related "disturbances" since his appointment as Head Coach-in-Waiting (a ridiculous practice that has somehow come into vogue in the NCAA in recent years). The first five such incidents were covered up, but the last one hit the newspapers and now AD Oliver Luck and the WVU administration has gone into full damage control mode.

Let's see now....Mike Haywood, Jim Tressel, Dana Holgorsen, Bruce Pearl, and I am sure that with a little bit of thinking, we could all come up with about a dozen more examples.

Ain't college coaches a wonderful bunch of role models?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bieml to DL; Moskos Returns

Yesterday afternoon after the Pirates 4-2 win in Chicago, I posted a question on Facebook asking why was Joe Bieml on the team. I could not recall seeing Bieml have an effective appearance this season, at least not in games that I had seen either in person or on TV. On clever response suggested that he was there to take non-save situations and turn them into save situations for Joel Hanrahan, as he did yesterday.

Anyway, today the team places Bieml on the DL and recalls Daniel Moskos, who pitched very well in a few non-pressure situations earlier in the month.

Another question I posed asked how would you feel if you were a Cubs fan and watched your team getting is collective butt whipped by the Pirates for the last year-and-a-half? Yes, the Bucs, the lowly Pirates, are 16-6 against the Cubs since September 2009. Gotta really be galling for the Bleacher Scums in Wrigleyville.

Friday, May 27, 2011

On Girl Groups, Golf Outings, Harrison, Hines, Haddix, Virtual Chips and Other Matters

Cleaning out the Mental In-Box....

  • Marilyn and I took in the show, "The Marvelous Wonderettes" at the CLO Cabaret yesterday. A terrific and fun show that featured much of the "girl group" music of the 1950's and 60's. The four young actresses who played the leads were delightful. It's amazing to see such talented people, especially when you have no such musical talent yourself!

  • The show began as an Off-Broadway production, and as I understand it, has been and is being performed all over the country. I wonder if Loyal Reader and musical aficionado Big Poppy has seen a production. I know that he would enjoy it.

  • Anyone can get a flavor for the show by going to YouTube and searching out "Marvelous Wonderettes."

  • It has been a crazy eight days: I have driven into downtown Pittsburgh six of those eight days, including the last four days in a row. It's like I'm working again. Yikes!!

  • But, of course, it's not like work at all. Four of those six days were comprised of two Pirates games, a trip to the Rivers Casino, and the Wonderettes show.

  • Back in the Fall, I mentioned that if James Harrison played for any other team in the NFL, he would be one of the most despised men in Pittsburgh. Harrison's inane tweets this week over the NFL rules changes only further prove my point.

  • And to all of the blind Steelers loyalists out there, if the NFL was really out to get the Steelers, then how go you explain Ben Roethlisberger's fumble-that-wasn't-a-fumble that enabled the Steelers to beat the Dolphins last season?

  • Speaking of the Steelers, congrats to Hines Ward for winning the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on Dancing with the Stars this week. Ward is one of my all-time favorite Steelers, but I confess to watching not a single minute of the show.

  • Speaking of Ben Roethlisberger, assuming that they are invited, will King of All Creation Roger Goodell allow Steelers front office officials and members of the coaching staff to attend Big Ben's July wedding? Can't just see Roger hitting Dan Rooney with a $100,000 fine for going to his locked-out QB's wedding?

  • Hope that all long-time Pirates fans paused to remember Harvey Haddix' 12 innings of perfect pitching on the 52nd anniversary of the event yesterday. SABR and Facebook friend Jim Haller admits to this being his biggest disappointment in the history of his Pirates Fandom. Yes, even more disappointing that Bob Moose's wild pitch or Francesco Cabrera's pinch hit.

  • People will also recall that yesterday was also the 52nd Anniversary of the Minadeo Rodeo (pronounced row-day-o). (This is an inside joke among certain family members.)

  • Great story by Dejan Kovacevic in the PG today about how the Pirates pitching staff has turned it around in comparison to last season.

  • Now, when are these guys going to start hitting? Lots of great pitching going to waste due to guys who, in the immortal words of Munhall's Bill Madden, "can't hit an elephant in the ass with a handful of rice."

  • The first St. John Neumann Golf Outing this past Monday was a huge success. So much so that I think we are safe in saying that it can be called the First Annual such outing. By some miracle, we avoided the rain that seemed like such a sure thing that day. We had 106 golfers play in the event. The final tally has not been completed but it looks like funds in the neighborhood of $13,000 were raised to benefit the parish's Youth Ministry programs.

  • So, the Miami Lebrons will take on the Dallas Dirks in the NBA Finals this year. Yes, yet another set of predictions that I had wrong this year.

  • Played blackjack at the Rivers on Tuesday night at a table that featured a video screen at each spot on the table. There was a scanner in the shoe that reads the card as it was dealt. You tapped the screen to indicate your bet, whether you wanted to stand, hit, double down etc. You were given real chips only when you cashed out; the only chips you got were virtual chips that appeared on your screen. I didn't like it. Half the fun of playing is experiencing the tactile feel of your chips and you stack them, play with them, and watch them grow when you win a hand.

  • Only a few tables use these video screens, but I was told that the dealer can deal 30% more hands per hour under this system, so how long until ALL of the tables have this feature?

  • For the record, I dropped fifty bucks playing that night.

Best wishes to all for a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!!

Happy Birthday today to Bob Dylan, 70 years young today.

Now, treat yourself to a live version of a Dylan classic:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

SABR Night with the Pirates

Fifty members and guests of the Pittsburgh SABR had a positively fun evening at PNC Park last night as guests of the Pirates. A pre-game program included a Q & A session with GM Neal Huntington, a look at Pirates history from their second longest tenured employee, Patti Mistick. and a review of the statistical analysis the team does from its Statistical Analysis Guru, Dan Fox.

Before he began, GM Neal asked for assurances that what was said in the room stayed in the room so that he could be as frank as possible with us. To that end, I will respect that requested confidence and not go into in depth detail of his answers to our questions. I will say that his answers were more strait forward and honest than the rambling sound bites that we often hear from him when quoted in the papers or in radio sound bites. While I have been critical in the past (and he did answer a point that I have often been critical of when discussing him), I have to say that he came across as very honest and open with the group. So, kudos to Neal.

Dan Fox discussed the process of data collection and collation when scouting players on the major league, minor league, and amateur levels. It makes your head spin. Trust me, no matter how much you think you know when you watch a guy play baseball, you can't even begin to imagine all that these guys look at. Yet, as I have often said, and Huntington agreed, it is still an inexact science. Which is why so many first round draft picks wash out.

Anyway, it was delightful evening, and the Pirates gave us first class treatment all the way, including the buffet spread that laid out for us!

And then the team itself put the cherry on the sundae with that great 6-2 win before a sellout crowd on a gorgeous night.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Ross Ohlendorf Dilemma

Bloggin' Bob Smizik raises the question this morning about what will the Pirates do when Ross Ohlendorf comes off of the disabled list. Do you put him back in the rotation and send his replacement, Jeff Karstens, back to the bullpen? Not after how well Karstens has pitched, you don't. Also, what about former #1 pick Brad Lincoln. Yes, Lincoln bombed in Pittsburgh last season, but he IS a #1 draft pick, and he has been pitching very well in Indy after a rocky start this season.

Nice problems to have, to be sure, but it also reinforces what I said earlier in the year, and that is that after he beat the team in arbitration this winter, Ohlendorf was a prime candidate for the Pirates Traditional Salary Dump Deadline Trade, or get the Zach Duke "DFA" treatment come November.

And speaking of Karstens, how his effectiveness drops off after 75 pitches is downright spooky, don't you think?

Friday, May 20, 2011

To Absent Friends - Harmon Killebrew

As they say on PTI, a melancholy (and belated) Happy Trails to Baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, who passed away - very bravely, I might add - earlier this week.

Growing up in a National League city in the days before interleague play, ESPN, and the MLB Network, Harmon Killebrew, a career American Leaguer, was someone that you never got to see play very much, save for the All-Star Game and the 1965 World Series, but there can be no doubt that he was a giant among ballplayers. When he retired in the early 1970's, only three players had more career home runs than he - Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. That's it; that's the list.

I loved seeing that the Twins embedded a picture of Killebrew beneath home plate at Target Field as part of their tribute to Killer.

RIP Harmon Killebrew.

In a related note, I saw nary a reference to Killebrew's passing among my various Facebook Friends this week. Only SABR and the Hall of Fame noted it on my page, yet today I have already seen four separate references to the death of Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Not sure what to say about that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Perrotto on Overbay

Great line today from John Perrotto on Lyle Overbay:

He (Overbay) is the latest in a long line of veteran free agents who have signed with the Pirates and stunk up the joint.

The Pirates can never stay away from players like Overbay. It’s an addiction for all Pirates’ general managers.

Couldn't resist sharing that one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Losing Streak Ends

Lots to love as the Bucs end their six game losing streak in the Rhineland tonight....

  • Pedro Alvarez crushes a three run dinger. He now has a modest three game hitting streak wherein he has gone 4-for-12. I know, I know..I sound like the Pirates announcers grasping at anything in hopes that Alvarez starts to hit, but did you see how he mashed that HR tonight?

  • Andrew McCutchen blasts a two run homer to take the team lead in both HR and RBI.

  • But most of all, Charlie Morton does a dead on imitation of Greg Maddux and throws a CG shutout tonight. He looked absolutely amazing out there tonight. The guy who was quite possibly the worst starting pitcher in baseball last year at this time is now 5-1 with two complete games and a 2.62 ERA.

Cook on Huntington

All Neal Huntington fans need to check out Ron Cook's column in today's PG. "Cookie" really lays the wood on the GM, and it sure is hard to dispute what he says.

Cook states that the one big positive for the Bucs at the quarter pole of the season has been Neil Walker, the guy that Huntington tried to sell as maybe a utility guy in the Pirates long term plans.

Read the column here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Pirates Play Some Hardball

While the Pirates struggle to score runs and amidst a five game losing streak, they prove that they can still kick some ass at a Kennedy Township neighborhood tavern.

I guess that they are protecting their brand here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Movie Review: "Bridesmaids"

OK, I saw "Bridesmaids" today. I am not going to give away any of the "bits" of this movie, because I don't want to spoil it for you, but I will tell you the following:

  1. It is hysterically funny. Both Marilyn and I were laughing out loud throughout the movie.

  2. Yes, it is about a bridesmaids and a wedding, but it is most definitely NOT your standard chick-flick, romantic comedy.

  3. It is rated R, and it is a hard R, so be prepared for that.

  4. It proves that groups of women together talk just like groups of guys.

  5. Once this comes out on DVD, we will buy it. This is one you want to see again.

  6. Go to a matinee when it isn't so crowded. If you go when the theater is full, you'll miss half the lines from people laughing so loudly.

  7. It's really, REALLY funny.

There you are, don't miss this one.

Three Rivers Stadium

I give full credit to my friend Dan Bonk, whose idea I am shamelessly stealing for this blog post.

Dan posted the above picture on Facebook yesterday, and it generated quite a bit of comment there. Pittsburghers of a certain age will recognize this picture as the original architectural rendering of the North Side Stadium that was to built for the Pirates and Steelers in the 1960's. It had an open-ended design with a view on to the Point and downtown Pittsburgh. We may also remember what happened: the bids came in over budget, the stadium was redesigned, and Three Rivers Stadium became what came to be known as a generic concrete, cookie-cutter stadium.

Dan asked the question: if Three Rivers Stadium was built as originally designed, would the Pirates and Steelers still be playing there today? This is one of those "what if?" kinds of questions that are fun to consider.

My own thought is that if historical events happened as they did, especially the success of the Steelers in the 1970's, that the Steelers would have lobbied to have the stadium capacity increased (as they eventually did at Three Rivers) and that the open end of the Stadium would have been closed (as happened at Candlestick Park), and we would have ended up with a concrete bowl of a stadium anyway. This Stadium would have been considered outmoded as a baseball park as the Camden Yards of the world were built, and we would probably have been forced to abandon it and build PNC Park and Heinz Field anyway.

As I said, this generated lots of comments on Facebook, and one of the things I said was that, although Three Rivers Stadium was disparaged in its final years, we all seem to forget how mind boggling and magnificent it was when it first opened. It was a product of the era in which it was built, and because of that, it gets a bad rap in hindsight.

Again, thanks to Dan Bonk for providing the inspiration and the picture for this blog post.

Rainy Days and Mondays....

With the strains Karen Carpenter's angelic voice drifting through my head, I take a crack at cleaning out the Mental In-Box.....

  • We spent a rainy Sunday yesterday catching up on some movies we had missed. It sure beat watching the Pirates play in their personal Hell that is Miller Park.

  • First movie was "Morning Glory", a harmless piece of romantic comedy fluff that starred Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, and Diane Keaton. Cute and a pleasant way to pass two hours.

  • Of course, I admit to being HUGE fan of Diane Keaton, even though she really didn't play big role in this flick.

  • Second movie was the Natalie Portman Oscar-winning movie "Black Swan." This was, to put it mildly, a very strange movie. Very strange. Did Portman deserve an Oscar for her performance? Well, she certainly emoted a lot throughout, and I guess that this resonated with the voters.

  • Natalie Portman is beautiful (although way too thin in this movie), and I guess she's a pretty good actress, but to me, anyway, she's no Diane Keaton!

  • Have been having a tough run on books lately. Bought baseball historian John Thorn's book "Baseball in the Garden of Eden" about the early, early days of baseball and how the game developed. Deadly, and a sure cure for insomnia. Couldn't get out of the third chapter. It's sitting on the Kindle, and I might go back to it, but it is not a page turner.

  • Next was an English mystery story called "Left Early, Took My Dog" that received a great review in Time Magazine. I quit about a third of the way in. Can't remember the author's name, but Agatha Christie's legacy is safe.

  • I did finish a book called "Guilt by Association" by former Los Angeles assistant district attorney Marcia Clark. As a mystery writer, Clark makes a great prosecutor, and we all remember that she LOST her most famous case. Dreadfully written.

  • OK, the Pirates. After reaching what could turn out to be the high water mark of the season, 18-17, on Monday night, they have lost five straight, including dropping three in a row to the Brewers. They are now 3-33 at Miller Park since 2007. That is unbelievable!

  • I admit to giving myself a break and watching very little of the Brewers series this weekend. Why put myself through the frustration? And are you like me in that there is something about that Brewers team that just bothers the hell out of you?

  • Now I did see that Rickie Weeks got a little chippy with Ronny Cedeno when Cedeno tagged him out in a run down on Friday. Both benches cleared but nothing happened other than the umps warning both managers about retaliation. Wouldn't it have been worth something if Cedeno had just hauled off and belted Weeks in the mouth? Even if it brought a suspension, it's not like the Pirates would have lost Honus Wagner for the three or so games he'd have drawn.

  • And on the same line, have Pirates pitchers ever considered just drilling a fast ball into Ryan Braun's ass sometime? The Pirates are Cryin' Ryan's personal punching bag, so why not give him close shave once or twice with a high and tight fastball?

  • It becomes increasingly frustrating watching a Pirate lineup that is, with the exception of Neil Walker and maybe Andrew McCutchen, completely impotent at the plate.

  • And what do you do about Pedro Alvarez? The kid is far beyond a slump at this point. I suppose that the Pirates have to keep sending him up to the plate and hope he comes out of it.

  • It is laughable to hear the Pirate announcers grasping at anything even slightly positive that Alvarez does as a sign that he's "starting to come around." In one of the Dodger games this week, they were beside themselves at a foul ball that he hit. Honest, a foul ball!

  • One thing is sure, if Alvarez bats seventh, he will NEVER see a good pitch to hit with Cedeno and the pitcher following him in the order.

  • On a somewhat promising note, Daniel Moskos has an ERA of 0.00 in 5 appearances and 4.2 IP since his recall. The team has not yet used him in what you would call pressure relief situations as yet. Perhaps they should consider that since Chris Resop has crashed and burned in recent appearances.

  • The Pirates are currently on pace to win 73 games in 2011.

  • And in minor league news, Jameson Taillon is sporting a 1-0, 1.80 ERA record at Class A West Virginia. He has pitched in four games and 15 IP, he as 14 K, and only 3 BB. At this rate, the Pirates may have him in Pittsburgh sometime in this decade.

  • Watched the Players Championship conclude on Sunday afternoon. A great birdie by David Toms on 18 to force a playoff that K.J. Choi won on the first extra hole. Good stuff, but I question the PGA Tour using the island green 17th at Sawgrass as their first playoff hole. If the Tour touts this as the "fifth major", should a playoff for the Championship be decided on what is essentially a gimmick hole?

  • And isn't PGA Tour Commish a ball of fire? Watching him at the NBC mike at the close of the tournament made you wish that Bud Selig was the Tour Commish.

  • We are off to see "Bridesmaids" this afternoon. This R-rated comedy has gotten some great reviews, and I will give you mine later tonight.

  • Speaking of Karen Carpenter, when she died her brother Richard's career sure died with her, didn't it?

  • Oh, some NBA talk. Looks like the Miami Heat thought they won the championship when they ousted the Celtics, but looks like the Bulls had other ideas. Remember, I called for a Bulls-Lakers Finals back when the season began. I could still be half right.

  • The St. John Neumann Golf Outing will be one week from today, May 23, at Shannopin Country Club. Spots are open at $150 per golfer. This includes 18 holes, a box lunch, and buffet dinner, and it benefits a great cause - the Parish's Youth Ministry programs. Contact me ASAP if interested.

Have a great week, everybody!!

DK on Jose Bautista

A great piece from the PG's Dejan Kovacevic today on the Pirates' trade of Jose Bautista, who continues to do his Babe Ruth imitation up in Toronto. Yes, no one knew Joey Bats would be THIS good, but the Bautista that they had wasn't all that bad, and was certainly better than a third string catcher who would be released a few months later.

Read on....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

As they have done in the past, the editors of Rolling Stone Magazine have come out with another "Special Collectors Edition", this one featuring the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time." Regular readers will remember that Rolling Stone did one of these issues earlier in the year on the 100 Greatest Beatles's Songs, and that I wrote about it in my post of January 6 (see Readers also know that I love this kind of stuff because they are so subjective, because they create arguments, and, most importantly, can cause you to pull out the iPod, CD's, cassettes, and vinyl LP's to listen to some great music that you may not have listened to for awhile.

This newest magazine is based on a poll that Rolling Stone did in 2004 (fifty years after Elvis' first recordings at Sun Studios) and that they recently updated. The articles on each artist are written by other artists (Bono on Elvis Presley, Paul Simon on the Everly Brothers, for example), and the illustrations are not photos, but really neat paintings of the artists (except for the one of Bruce Springsteen, which doesn't look at all like The Boss).

Anyway, here is Rolling Stone's Top Ten, and note that these are presented as the Greatest Artists of the Rock & Roll Era, not the Greatest Rock & Roll Artists. This is not an insignificant distinction, I believe. Here we go...

  1. The Beatles

  2. Bob Dylan

  3. Elvis Presley

  4. The Rolling Stones

  5. Chuck Berry

  6. Jimi Hendrix

  7. James Brown

  8. Little Richard

  9. Aretha Franklin

  10. Ray Charles

Okay, hard to argue with any of those, right? I might put Elvis at #1 because he was the first mainstream rock & roller, but how can you argue that anyone should be ahead of The Beatles? Heck, if you consider who influenced whom, you could probably make a case for Chuck Berry being #1, but, still, a pretty good list.

Where it gets fun is when you start going down the list and seeing other names and start to think "how can this guy/lady/group NOT be in the Top Ten, or at least rated higher on the list?" For example:

  • The Beach Boys #12

  • Buddy Holly #13

  • Bo Diddley #20

  • U2 #22

  • Bruce Springsteen #23

  • Johnny Cash #31

  • Smokey Robinson #32

  • The Everly Brothers #33

  • Michael Jackson #35

  • Simon & Garfunkel #40

  • The Grateful Dead #57

  • Creedence Clearwater Revival #82

  • Diana Ross and the Supremes #96

Shouldn't some of these people be higher on the list? Why is John Lennon (#38) recognized as solo artist, and not Paul McCartney? And are you serious that there are 95 artisits greater than The Supremes? There are artists on there about whom I could not care less (rappers, heavy metal etc.), but that is a matter of taste, of course. Also, I am sure that if I put my mind to it, I could probably come up with who are not even in the Top 100 who should be (Ricky Nelson).

Fun stuff and I am sure that you would enjoy the magazine if you picked it up and paged through it.

Oh, and as to the title of this blog post, one of Rock & Roll's ultimate ironies is the fact that Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show never appeared On the Cover of the Rolling Stone.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

To Absent Friends - Kenny, the Lemonade Guy

At the risk of sounding like a total Yinzer, only in Pittsburgh does a stadium vendor receive celebrity status. So, it was very sad to hear of the sudden death today of Kenny Geidel, the vendor with the oh-so-distinctively shrill cry of "lemonade here" has echoed throughout PNC Park, Heinz Field, Consol Energy Center, the Civic Arena, and Three Rivers Stadium since 1985. when I was at Friday night's Pirate game and saw Kenny, and more to the point, heard Kenny's lemonade call, I thought, "well, this makes the 2011 season official."

I feel very bad about this very sudden death. It really won't be the same not hearing that voice at PNC Park anymore.

RIP Kenny.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Robert Morris News

The news arrives today that Robert Morris University has suspended junior guard Karon Abraham for the 2011-12 basketball season. Abraham is the Colonials best player, but he has had several incidents with alcohol related run-ins with local law enforcement, including two within the last three weeks. The University has applied the disciplinary action that they would apply to any RMU student.

I wonder what would have happened had similar circumstances surrounded the best player at a school like Kentucky, Auburn, or Ohio State? I mean, What Would Jim Tressel Do in a case like this?

Anyway, good for my alma mater for setting priorities correctly, and here's hoping that Karon Abraham can get his problems under control and his life straightened out before it careens out of control.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

.500!!!!....and other thoughts

Today the Pirates achieved what has seemed to be the Holy Grail for lo these past 18-going-on-19 seasons: a .500 record. Today's win over the Astros was a most dramatic one, a come from behind effort thanks to a three run, eighth inning home run by Ryan Doumit. Doumit's blast rescued the team from what would have been a most frustrating defeat.

Of course, a .500 record 34 games into the season means very little, and over the course of a full season, a .500 record means only that you are a mediocre team. The Pirates from the Bob Nutting on down to the clubhouse guy who rinses out the jock straps have proclaimed as nauseum that ".500 is not the goal; championships are." An admirable sentiment, to be sure, but we all know what these last 19 seasons have been like, so the possibility of the team actually winning more games than they lose should not be dismissed as being not worth talking about. I was at PNC on Friday night when the team could have hit the .500 mark, and didn't, and this afternoon, when they did, and I can tell you that seeing the team play to this level, and, yes, I know that it is only May 8, meant an awful lot to the paying customers. The team should not dismiss this sentiment so lightly.


It came to my attention over the weekend that one of The Grandstander's Loyal Readers, Mike J. of Robinson Township, has accused me of going a bit too heavy with what he terms "Neal Huntington bashing." OK, so let's give Neal a little dap this evening for the following:

Kevin Correia - See my post of May 2. If you tell me that you saw a 5-2, sub-3.00 ERA on Mother's Day for this guy, I won't believe you.

James McDonald - After a shaky start to the season, J-Mac turns in a solid start for the third straight time today. Sending Octavio Dotel to McCort-land for this guy is starting to look like a steal.

Charlie Morton - 4-1 so far after that train wreck of a 2010 season? Again, who saw that coming? If Morton keeps this up, we'll soon be asking "Nate Who?"

Ryan Doumit - Huntington made no secret of wanting to trade Doumit this off-season, and such a trade could still happen, but Neal didn't just make a fire sale deal and dump him, and Doumit has been hitting well as a spot starter, even before today's heroics. Sometimes, the best traders are the ones you don't make.

The Bullpen - Even though Chris Resop has fallen to earth a bit in this Astros series, it appears that GM Neal has cobbled together a pretty good bullpen thus far in 2011.

Clint Hurdle - The GM is the guy who hires the manager, theoretically, anyway, so give Neal the credit for bringing in Hurdle, who certainly appears to be a good manager so far. (Using this same logic, Neal also gets the credit for hiring John Russell three years ago, but we come here today to praise Neal, not to bury him.)

OK, Mike, how does THAT sit with you?


I suppose I can't let another day pass without commenting on Rashard Mendenhall and his tweets. In the highest tradition of Sports Talk Radio Culture, this topic has been thoroughly beaten into the ground, not only in Pittsburgh, but all across the USA. The best observation that I heard came from PTI's Michael Wilbon, who said, essentially, that Mendenhall is a 23 year old kid, who has shown a moderate ability to run with a football in the NFL, and how does this give him a platform that deserves all the attention that his insipid tweeting has given him? In other words, who cares what Rashard Mendenhall thinks? I don't. Nor do I really care, one way or another, if the Steelers choose to keep him or cut him. I suspect that he will not be released, but I also think he won't get many second chances if his performance starts to fall off.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Enough Already"

While chatting with an old Highmark buddy, Al Bernardo, this week, he told me of an imaginary "club" that he and a co-worker have called the "EA Club." "EA" stands for "enough already" and the club is for people, places, things, or events that need to go away, because every time you hear of them you want to scream "enough already!!!!"

Now, I never will hesitate to steal someone else's good idea, so today I am instituting The Grandstander's version of the "Enough Already Club." I present a few early entrants into the EA Club, and I welcome all of your nominations and suggestions as well:

  • Cyril Wecht. Recent word is that Cyril wants his old job of county medical examiner back. How old is he now? Gotta be well into his 70's. Enough already, Dr. W.

  • Donald Trump. And I felt this way BEFORE this megalomaniac began flirting with running for President.

  • All celebrations involving the 1960 Pirates.

  • Come to think of it, any celebration or commemoration of any Pirates team that predates the 21st Century. Win something NOW, before we start resurrecting success from multiple generations past.

  • Mel Kiper, Jr.

  • Civic hand-wringing over what to do with the Civic Arena.

  • Referring to the City of Pittsburgh as "The 'burgh."

  • NFL Pre-Game shows featuring desk anchors who are constantly yukking it up.

Okay, these are a few early enshrinees into The Grandstander's EA Club. Your nominations are encouraged and welcomed. And thanks again to Al B. for the inspiration!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Thought...

When you are having trouble falling asleep at night, nothing beats a Pirates game on the West Coast, an HD TV, and not having to get up to go to work in the morning.

And the Bucs, won, too!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Something to Think About Today

My SABR and Facebook friend, Father John Hissrich, made the following post on Facebook this morning. He titled it "Thankful, if not Jubilant", and I think it worth sharing:

Please pardon me if I don't join in the general rejoicing and the festivities. I'm glad bin Laden is gone from the scene, and I pray that the world may now be somewhat safer. At the same time, any situation which brings us to the state of rejoicing over the death of a human being is a tragedy. Bloodshed may at times be unavoidable, but it is still tragic. We can be thankful for the brave military who defend us and can congratulate them on doing a difficult job well. But let us be careful not to lose our own humanity.

Thanks, Fr. John.

The Pirates - One Month In

Okay, if on Opening Day someone said to you that the Pirates would be 13-15 at the end of the first month of the season, I'm guessing that you would have signed up for that, right? Of course, some spoilsports have already pointed out that the team also stood at 13-15 in 2007 (lost 94 games) and 2010 (lost 105 games). Still, the 13-15 record of today somehow feels a bit different than those years.

Two positive surprises thus far are the Pirates ability to win on the road, and the performance of the pitching staff. after winning all of 16 road games last year, they are now 9-7 when wearing gray uniforms. Of course the corollary to this has been a disappointing 4-8 record at PNC Park. Even last year's 105 loss team managed to go 40-41 at home, so you hope that that will turn around for this team.

As for the pitching, who could have foreseen this:

Kevin Correia 4-2, 2.90
Charlie Morton 3-1, 3.52 (yes, this is THAT Charlie Morton!!)
Jeff Karstens 2-1, 3.57

James McDonald (1-2, 7.66) had a terrible start, but his last outing produced a win and six shutout innings, so who knows? Only Paul Maholm, 1-4, 4.14 can be considered a strong disappointment among the starters.

And the bullpen has really shone. Joel Hanrahan is 8-for-8 in save opportunities and sports and 1.80 ERA, and Chris Resop has been the real surprise at 1-0, 1.26 with 16 K, and only 5 BB.

It has been the offensive production that has been a disappointment so far. Neil Walker has probably been the best offensive player thus far (.287, 17R, 3HR, 14 RBI, .779 OPS), followed closely by Andrew McCutchen (.225, 14R, 5HR, 13RBI, .743 OPS). The biggest disappointment and concern has been the terrible start of Pedro Alvarez. There is no other way to put it, but Alvarez has been terrible: .213, 9R, 1HR, 7RBI, .562 OPS, and 32K and only 7BB). Simply put, for the Pirates to go anywhere, Alvarez HAS to hit and hit with power, as he showed he could do last year. Would a 10-12 game stint in Indianapolis be helpful, or do you let him play through it in the major leagues? Looks like the Pirates are opting to let him work it out on the major league level. Pirates fans will keep their fingers crossed.

One interesting set of statistics belong to outfielder Garrett Jones. Jones was seemingly marginalized over the off season, and didn't play well in spring training, but so far, he's turning in some nice numbers: .278, 9R, 5HR, 10 RBI in only 78 at bats, and his OPS of .902 is far and away the best on the team.

How are GM Neal's off-season free agent signings doing so far:

Correia - see numbers above. Give Neal a solid "A" for this one. I didn't see it coming, did you?
Lyle Overbay - .232, 11R, 1 HR, 11 RBI, .743 OPS. A good glove, but offensive numbers not close to the guy he replaced, Garrett Jones. A lukewarm "C" grade here.
Mike Daiz - .204, 3 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .480 OPS. A "D" grade here, but he has had only 49 at bats.
Scott Olsen - bitched in Spring Training about the possibility of being a bullpen guy, and then went on the 60 day DL. Give Neal an "Incomplete" on this one, but it has all the earmarks of being an "F."

The other frustrating part of this team is the - at best - inconsistent play at short stop. Actually, "inconsistent" is being kind. I have ranted much in recent weeks about the Pirates' inability over the last four plus seasons to develop or acquire a decent major league quality short stop, so I won't kick the Ronny Cedeno dead horse again, and I'll give Huntington credit for this much: he obviously recognizes the problem. Why else dumpster dive for a guy like Brandon Wood and his .168 career batting average? Maybe they'll catch lightning in a bottle with Wood. One thing for sure, the guys playing short in Indy aren't any better (check out the stats) or else they would be in Pittsburgh.

However, the best off-season signing thus far, and the reason why this 13-15 record feels different from last year's 13-15, is Manager Clint Hurdle. It is nice to have a manager with a personality and the ability to talk coherently, but more to the point, you have to like what Hurdle has done with the team so far. Some examples:

  • Yanking an ineffective Evan Meek in a game and bringing Joel Hanrahan in the eighth inning of a game.

  • Chewing out and then benching Cedeno after he failed to run out a ground ball in a game last week,

  • Bypassing Meek as his 8th inning set-up guy for Resop, who has clearly been a superior pitcher so far (although perhaps Meek, now on the DL, has been having some physical issues)

  • Standing up for his players by actually, you know, arguing with umpires

  • Not being afraid to tinker with his batting order to move up more effective hitters (Tabata, Walker) and move down ineffective ones (Alvarez).

A 13-15 record projects out to 75 wins in a season (we know how THAT played out in 2010), and 75 wins would be an 18 game improvement over 2010. A HUGE jump by any measure, and difficult to pull off. I said when he was hired that if Hurdle got 70 wins from this team, he should be Manager of the Year.

We'll see if this all plays out, of course, but I am sure that you will agree that THIS 13-15 Pirates team is giving you more reason to follow them than last year's John Russell-led 13-15 bunch.

Oh, and the Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates may be in negotiations with Andrew McCutchen to sign a long term deal. This, of course, is the "plan" that Nutting/Coonelly/Huntington have been giving lip service to for the last several years. Let's see if this actually comes to fruition with, arguably, their best player.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Welcome, Daniel Moskos

Daniel Moskos made his major league debut for the Pirates last night with one scoreless, 14 pitch, three-up-three-down inning of relief in the Bucs 4-1 loss to the Rockies last night. Here's hoping that this will be the beginning of a long and productive big league career for Moskos.

Unfortunately, Moskos, through absolutely no fault of his own, will always be a symbol of the inept Dave Littlefield Regime as Pirates' GM as well as a symbol of the long established and well known penury of the Pirates Management. You will all recall that in 2007, the Pirates had the 4th overall pick in the Entry Draft that year, and everyone speculated that the Bucs would use that pick to select catcher Matt Weiters. The Pirates bypassed Weiters, who they knew would command a big signing bonus, and went for Moskos, who signed very quickly and, relatively speaking, cheaply. Littlefield went on to say that the Pirates had rated Moskos very highly when no other pre-draft source had even rated him as a top ten pitcher in the draft, much less the #4 overall pick. Littlefield was pretty much ridiculed over the entire Moskos-over-Weiters selection.

The Orioles, as most of you know, snapped up Weiters with the next pick, and he made it to Baltimore in 2009 where he has been ever since.

Another way to look at the Moskos selection is to see it as the beginning of the end of Dave Littlefield, and the marking of a change in Pirates philosophy. Before the 2007 season ended, Littlefield was fired, Bob Nutting hired Frank Coonelly as team president, and shortly after the season, Coonelly hired Neal Huntington as GM. The new management team's goal, as we have been told over and over, was to spend money on the draft and build from the ground up. The team has not shied away from drafting the big name prospects (Alavarez, Taillon) and spending "above slot" to sign the other players that they did draft. This has produced, according to Huntington, complete success on every level except for that pesky little area of "wins and losses on the major league level." Oh well.

In case you are curious, the players selected ahead of Moskos and Weiters that year were: 1. David Price, Rays. 2. Matt Moustakas, Royals. 3. Josh Vitters, Cubs. Other players of note in that first round were 2010 World Series hero Madison Bumgarner at #10, the Braves' Jason Heyward at #14, and the Tigers' Rick Porcello at #23. Another interesting selection was #22 pick Tim Alderson by the Giants, who came to the Pirates in the Freddy Sanchez trade and who now toils in the Pirates minor league system.

On the other hand, maybe Littlefield wasn't so stupid. Seventeen pitchers were taken in that first round of 2007, and, without doing any real in depth research, I can say that only Price, Bumgarner, and Porcello have had any impact in the majors thus far. If any of the 13 pitchers other than these three and Moskos have made it to the Bigs, their impact has been insignificant as yet.

As I have said before, there is no more inexact science than scouting for major league baseball talent. It may well be that when we look back on the 2007 entry draft in ten or fifteen years, the very best player may turn out to be some guy who was selected in the 22nd round.