Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Inherit the Wind"

Well, I took my own advice and watched "Inherit the Wind" on Monday night and am not sorry that I did.  What a terrific movie.  At the risk of giving in to Old Fogeyism, I will say that Hollywood just doesn't make 'em like Spencer Tracy and Fredric March any more.  Both of them turned in terrific performances, and I just can't imagine any contemporary actors doing nearly as well in these roles as these two did way back in 1960.

However, perhaps the thing that struck me most watching this is how relevant this movie still is in 2012, and I'm not so sure that that is a good thing.

Still sitting in the DVR bullpen from Monday night is "Judgement at Nuremberg".  Hope to get to that sometime this week.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Congratulations, Giants!

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the 2012 World Series in a sweep over the Detroit Tigers.

Despite a back-and-forth, fairly exciting extra innings Game Four, and Pablo Sandoval's three round trippers in Game One, I will maintain that unless you are a fan of both the Giants and Tigers, this World Series will go down as one of the most unmemorable Series, if not of all-time, certainly in my experiences in watching Fall Classics since 1959.  However, if you are a member of the Giants, and if you are a Giants fan, you don't particularly care what me, or anyone else might think.

Congratulations and enjoy the celebrations!

By the way, did you catch the reaction shot of Jim Leyland after Miguel Cabrera struck out to end the game and the Series?  Turned around and headed straight for the clubhouse.  That ought to be a fun post-game interview for the reporters.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Steelers Overpower RG3, Redskins

Some quick thoughts immediately after Steelers 27 - Redskins 13....

  • I think we can all agree that today was the best game the Steelers have put together this season on both sides of the ball, as the coaches say, or if you will as Mike Tomlin would say.
  • I think Ben Roethlisberger was making a point as to exactly who the best quarterback at Heinz Field was today.
  • I think the Steelers should stick with Jonathon Dwyer for the foreseeable future.
  • RG3 was pretty much neutralized today, and maybe more so by his own receivers, who dropped ten passes, than by the Steelers defense.
  • This might be considered a mortal sin by some, by I kind of liked Brian Billick as color analyst on the telecast.
  • Didn't hear Ike Taylor's name called once today.  I'm guessing that means he was playing a pretty nice game.
  • Again, I'll say that that was the Steelers best played game of the season.  Maybe it was the uniforms.  Maybe they should keep wearing them?

DVR Alert for Monday, October 29

Another in the Highly Popular series of DVR Alerts.

Monday, October 29 on Turner Classic Movies, two courtroom dramas both starring Spencer Tracy and directed by Stanley Kramer:

8:00 PM - "Inherit the Wind" (1960) Based on the famous Scopes "monkey trial". Also starring Fredric March and Gene Kelly in a non-singing, non-dancing dramatic role, and featuring Dick York. I never knew he did anything but "Bewitched".

10:15 PM - "Judgement at Nuremberg" (1961) What a cast in addition to Tracy: Marlene Dietrich, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, Richard Widmark, Werner "Col. Klink" Kemperer, and, oh, yeah, Maximilian Schell who won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Screenwriter Abby Mann also won the Oscar for this screenplay.

Good movies!!

SABR Meeting Summary, Fall 2012

Thirty-three members and guests attended the Fall Meeting of the Pittsburgh / Forbes Field Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

Our Special Guest Speaker was Alex Richert of KDKA-FM, 93-7 The Fan Radio.  Alex serves as the producer of the Pirates radio broadcasts, as well as a producer for many of The Fan’s talk shows.  Alex told us all about what goes into producing what we hear on the air, as well as providing us with some insights of not only the Pirates’ broadcasters, but of some The Fan’s other on-air personalities.

Member presentations included:

  • Larry DiNino on the history of the involvement of US Presidents with the game of baseball with an emphasis on Presidential First Pitches.  Very appropriate during an Election Year.
  • Craig Britcher and Emelia Boehm on Hall of Famer James “Pud” Galvin.
  • George Skornickel on Racial Integration of Baseball in Pittsburgh.
  • Joe Guzzardi on the 1952 Topps Baseball Card set.
  • Fifteen top-notch World Series Trivia questions from Jim Haller.

As always, the Pittsburgh Chapter is extremely grateful to the Senator John Heinz History Center for allowing us to use their facilities for our meetings.  I doubt that any SABR Chapter holds their meetings in a more appropriate setting.

Saturday's America *

* Title of this blog post shamelessly stolen from a terrific book about college football written by the great Dan Jenkins back in the early 1970's.

Some observations on a most interesting College Football Saturday......

  • Pitt needed a win yesterday and they got a most convincing one over Temple yesterday, 47-17.  Paul Chryst's Panthers are now at  .500.  Temple is better than it used to be, but, still, a win over Temple doesn't exactly stir the heartstrings.
  • Ohio State really thumped Penn State yesterday in what Gene Collier ingeniously called "The Battle of the Banned".  I fear that my praise of Matt McGloin last week may have jinxed him yesterday, as he showed some flaws yesterday.  On the other hand, Ohio State may simply be a better - much better, perhaps - team.  QB Braxton Miller sure was impressive.
  • If there were any doubts that Notre Dame was the real deal this season, the Irish put them to rest with that convincing win at Oklahoma last night.  The biggest test before them now seems to be USC in Los Angeles, and now even that seems to be becoming less and less of an impediment.
  • Looks like it is going to be a very long day for the Panthers in South Bend next week.
  • Will be interested to see how the BCS standings shake out after #2 Florida's defeat.  My guess is that it will be Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame.
  • I am guessing that ESPN would love to see an undefeated ND play in the BCS Championship game in January.  How will it that maneuvered if all four of those teams remain undefeated?
  • How about Rich Rodriguez' Arizona Wildcats beating USC yesterday?  Rodriguez seems to have regained his touch after that less than successful stint in Ann Arbor.
  •  Did you see where UCLA beat Arizona State yesterday.  As my buddy Dan Bonk says, ASU Coach Fraud Graham has no soul.
  • Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Brian Kelly all coach undefeated teams yet you watch them during a game and hear them interviewed after a game, and they all seem to be a grouchy and dyspeptic bunch, and this is not untypical of college football coaches.  Why is that?  They are at the very top of their professions.  Can't they be HAPPY about that?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Big Football Weekend Ahead

I am looking forward to a couple of big football games this weekend:
  • First, the so-called "Sanctions Bowl" between Penn State and Ohio State on Saturday.  We all know the story behind why THIS GAME is the biggest one of the season for both teams (well, maybe the Michigan game is bigger for OSU), so why rehash them.  Clearly, the job that Bill O'Brien and the Players Who Stayed at PSU in forging a 5-2 record is one of the more interesting ones in college football this season.  
  • Also on Saturday, undefeated Notre Dame faces its biggest test of the season, Oklahoma in Norman, OK.  This will be the acid test for the Irish, to be sure.
  • Finally, there is the Steelers and the Redskins on Sunday, and at 1:00 to boot!  First of all, the Steelers will be wearing those ridiculous throwbacks this week:
  • For this week only, it will be the Steelers, and not the Pirates, who will be the laughingstocks of their League.
  • More importantly, the Redskins will be bringing the most talked about and, arguably, the most exciting player in the NFL to town: Robert Griffin III, or RG III.  I listen to podcasts of Tony Kornheiser's Washington DC radio show, and as you can imagine, I hear an awful lot about RG III in the process.  I can't wait to see him, and, more to the point, how the Steelers deal with him.  Much has been made of the porous Redskins defense, and we know that the Steelers defense hasn't been so hot either when it comes to holding onto leads (until the met the Bengals, of course).  This has the earmarks of a 41-38 barn burner.  Should be fun!
  • Pitt beat Buffalo in what was a pretty crummy game, but in watching it, did anyone take note of the Buffalo sidelines?  The two back-up QB's, wearing red baseball caps, were continually motioning to the QB on the field, constantly waving their arms in multiple and oft-times opposite directions.  Could that have possibly meant ANYTHING to the QB out there on the field?
And in non-football news....
  • Did you catch the story about Lance Armstrong in last week's Sports Illustrated?  If not, you should take a gander at it.  Turns out that golden boy Lance was not only a drug cheat, but a bully as well, who let his teammates know in no uncertain terms that THEY had better juice up right along with him.
  • Of course, cycling may just be the dirtiest sport out there, PED-wise.  Not sure why we should care about it.
  • As for Game One of the World Series last night with Justin Verlander giving up five runs and getting knocked out after four innings.....I sure didn't see that coming.  Makes it pretty imperative for Detroit to take Game Two tonight, I should think.

Old Movie Review: "Five Graves to Cairo"

In my quest to see as many Billy Wilder movies as I can, yesterday I watched "Five Graves to Cairo" (1943).  The movie starred Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, and Erich von Stroheim.  Wilder wrote the screenplay with his frequent writing partner Charles Brackett, and it was only the second movie that he directed.

This is a World War II movie, but it takes place in a small space - a small hotel in an Egyptian desert oasis.  Tone is a shell-shocked British soldier who stumbles upon the place just before  the German tank troops, including Field Marshall Erwin Rommel himself, arrive to rest up before rolling on to conquer Cairo in the North African campaign.  Tone then goes "undercover" with the help of chambermaid Baxter in an effort to thwart the Nazis.  Of course, history tells us that that is indeed what happened, and this tense little drama offers an interesting speculation as to exactly how the Allies performed that task.  Fiction it may be, but fun and exciting fiction to be sure.

History and the movies have cast Rommel as a sort of "noble soldier", a brilliant military tactician, who just so happened to be doing his duty in service of the Wrong Side.  Not so in this movie.  Oh, Rommel is still the brilliant tactician, but noble...not so much.  As played by von Stroheim, he is an evil Nazi through-and-through, and he, von Stroheim, steals the movie.

As I mentioned, this was the second movie that Wilder directed.  A year after "Five Graves to Cairo", Wilder broke out big time with the terrific "Double Indemnity", and the roster of terrific Wilder hits continued to grow and grow from there.  Seven years later in 1950, Wilder and Brackett wrote and Wilder directed the classic "Sunset Boulevard".  In that movie, Wilder once again cast Erich von Stroheim as Max, the faithful butler to Norma Desmond.  In fact, von Stroheim was one of the great directors of the silent movie era, but is in the roll of Max von Meyerling that he is most remembered.

In the great body of work that Wilder produced, a movie like "Five Graves to Cairo" is easily overlooked, which is too bad.  It is one that movie lovers should make a point of seeing.  Be assured that it will be on my "DVR Alert" list when next it turns up on Turner Classic Movies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let's Talk About Neal - Part 3

Late last night Dejan Kovacevic posted his column that appeared in today's Pittsburgh Tribune.  I shared it among my Facebook friends, and also posted it to Pirate Chat, and it began to receive hits immediately.  For those of you who either are not on Facebook, do not get the Trib, or are out of town, I won't even try to restate what DK has written, but I urge you to read it.  Here is the link:

I am almost speechless in my outrage over what these guys - Huntington, Stark, Larry Broadway (who is a new member of this zany cast of characters) - are trying to do here.  This is a case, as my friend Brian O'Neill put it the other day, and I am paraphrasing here, of an employer saying to the employees "We are the Boss, and don't you insignificant little worms forget it!"

I know that minor league players are not part of the MLB Players Association, but surly the PA should step in here on something that verging on physical abuse and certainly has no relationship to developing baseball players (at which the NHR has proven itself to be pretty inept).  If ever a situation positively SCREAMED for a Marvin Miller Intervention, this is it.

By the way, over the course of 35 years in the corporate world, I have taken part in my share of "team building" days sponsored by my employers.  Some were better than others, and some were downright silly, but I recognize that they can serve a purpose.  What the Huntington, Stark and these other Loonies are doing is, as one Loyal Reader has stated "is a cross between fraternity hazing and corporate team-building gone amok."

And as a Pirates fan, isn't it nice to know that the rest of organized baseball considers your favorite team the "laughingstock" of the industry?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The World Series (and LCS) Thoughts

Well, my prediction of a Cardinals-Tigers World Series was only half right, so I will need to readjust my World Series prediction.  I am going to call for the Tigers to win, and I base that on the fact of their superior starting pitching, and by that I really mean, I base it on Justin Verlander.  He is pitching in another world right now, and I think that that gives Detroit the edge here.  Let's call it a six game series.

Both League Championship Series were interesting to say the least, and both featured one of the teams inexplicably forgetting how to hit.  Of the two teams that failed at the plate, the Yankees were the most mystifying.  The headlines and the focus was, of course, on Alex Rodriguez, but how about Cano, Texieria, Swisher, and just about every other guy on the team except Raul Ibanez, just not showing up?  Some times both teams and individual athletes can get "old" very quickly in professional sports, and for that Yankees, that aging process seemed to happen sometime between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs.  Watching what they do in the off-season, including how they handle what to do with A-Rod, will be an interesting mini-drama.  I only hope that ESPN will report on it for all of us out in the hinterlands.

As for the Cardinals, a funny thing happened between Games 4 and 5 of the NLCS: they turned into the Cardinals who were shutout back-to-back by the Pirates in late August.   And they ran into a resurrected Barry Zito (and, by the way, I think I enjoyed watching that game Zito pitched over almost any other this post-season) and that legendary ex-Bucco, Ryan Vogelsong (do the indignities of being a Pirates fan ever stop?).

Should be a fun World Series with some great pitching what with Verlander-Fister-Scherzer matching up against Cain-Zito-Vogelsong.  Somehow, though, I see the Tigers hurlers reigning (I mean, really, Ryan Vogelsong!?!?) and the Tigers claiming the title.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review: "Mad River" by John Sandford

John Sandford has delivered to us another book featuring Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Virgil Flowers, and, as always, Sandford has hit another solid extra base hit to his loyal readers.

In this book, three young rural Minnesota kids, two guys and girl, begin a spree of murder and robbery in rural Minnesota that has the press dubbing them a modern day Bonnie and Clyde.  BCA Chief Lucas Davenport (the star of Sandford's  other series) dispatches Virgil to track down these killers before the death toll gets higher.  

In "Mad River" we get to see Virgil interact with his parents, meet up with an old girl friend, do battle with the local police as well as the three punk killers, tries to find out just what started this killing spree in the first place, and makes some very interesting observations about how people turn out and deal with the lot in life that has been dealt them, often times from the moment of their birth.

Once again, if you like to read thrillers/mysteries/police stories but have never read John Sandford, I urge you to do so. There is a great body of work out their featuring Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers.  You will not be disappointed.

To Absent Friends: George McGovern

1972 Presidential candidate George McGovern died yesterday at the age of 90.  McGovern was the man for whom I cast my first presidential vote back in 1972.  Sadly, this fact will no doubt elicit raised eyebrows and "tsk, tsks" from many of my friends and family, but I make no apologies for it, nor do I wish to make a political statement over McGovern's passing.  I will only note the following fact that I read recently.  During their days serving in the US Senate, there were no more closer friends that George McGovern and Barry Goldwater.  Two more political opposites you cannot imagine, yet they worked together, sought compromise among their factions, and always tried to do, in the end, what was best for the country.  

I suppose that I would be hopelessly naive to think that politics was not always the blood sport that it is in 2012, but think about an alliance as unlikely as McGovern-Goldwater working together for the common good as we watch the commercials barraging us in these days leading up to Election Day 2012.

RIP George McGovern.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Children's Grief Awareness Day

Before they graduate from high school, one in twenty children in America will experience the death of a parent.  This number becomes even higher when you consider those children who will also experience the loss of brother or sister, close grandparent, aunt or uncle.  Such children can feel this loss forever.  They go back to school, they might resume their activities, and look "normal", but the grief that they feel is still inside them, and can only intensify at this time of the year as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach.

National Children's Grief Awareness Day was instituted in 2008 to raise awareness of and show support for grieving children.  This day is observed on the third Thursday in November each year.  In 2012, the Children's Grief Awareness Day will be four weeks from today, Thursday, November 15.  

Please go to the following site to see what YOU can do to observe Children's Grief Awareness Day in your school, church, social club, or just among your circle of friends.

Please also visit the Highmark Caring Place website - - to learn more about the work that this organization does to help grieving children and their families.

You can make a difference in the life of a grieving child.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bradshaw vs. Roethlisberger

As Steelers fans are no doubt aware, in last week's game against the Titans, Ben Roethlisberger surpassed Terry Bradshaw's Steeler team record for career passing yards.  The number is over 27,000 yards.

This made for lots of fun debate on the talk shows and in the papers as to who is/was the better quarterback, Terry or Ben.  As you might expect, much of this broke down on generational lines with, ahem, older Steelers fans favoring Bradshaw over Roethlisberger.  A strong case can be made for either one of them.  Comparing statistics might not be fair either because, and this was pointed out by many, the game played in the NFL in the 2010's is quite different than the one played in the 1970's.

Personally, I think that either player could switch eras and excel at the position.   Someone stated that if Roethlisberger played in the 1970's with his size and strength and with the Steelers defense to complement him, he would never lose a game.  Could very well be, but people forget that Bradshaw was a big guy at the time he played, and while he looks small compared to Ben, I have no doubt that if a 29 year old Terry Bradshaw was playing in the NFL today, he would be right up there with the Mannings, Rodgers, Bradys, and, yes, Roethlisbergers of today.  Personally, I'd have loved to see what Bradshaw could have done throwing it 40 time a game.

People will always point to Super Bowl Rings and give Terry with four an edge over Ben, who has two.  True enough, but we often forget that Super Bowls are won by teams, not individuals, so I don;t think this is a totally fair point of judgement.  

If forced to choose only one of them, my vote goes to Roethlisberger by a narrow margin, and here's why.  If you can remember, if Bradshaw started a game poorly, threw an interception or two, he almost never was able to turn it around in mid-game and change a poor start into a good game.  Roethlisberger has shown the ability over time to be able to shrug off a bad play or a poor start and turn what looked like a bad game into a good one, often resulting in a Steelers win.  That is completely subjective and intangible, but that's how I'm going.

No More Geezer Rock at the Super Bowl

The news hit today that Beyonce Knowles, best known by the single name of Beyonce, will be the halftime show at this year's Super Bowl.  This represents a major step for the NFL as they have chosen a performer whose entire career has taken place in only the 21st century.  And at age 31, Beyonce is less than half the age of everyone else who has appeared at the Super Bowl in the last ten years or so.

My thinking is that those sponsors who are ponying up multi-millions of dollars to the NFL let the starchy Bigdomes on Park Avenue that they do not want to be associated with a halftime show that will be widely ridiculed on Monday morning after the Super Bowl. (Remember that god-awful show by The Who a few years ago.  Ugh!) 

"Put a ring on it!!!"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Movie Review: "Argo"

Today we went to see the new Ben Affleck movie, "Argo", and all we both can say is...."Wow!!"

Tremendous movie about the involvement of the CIA in extracting six American embassy workers from Iran during the Hostage Crisis in 1980.  Affleck, who directed the movie, stars as CIA agent Tony Mendez, who comes up with the idea to get these people out of Iran by....well, I'm not going to try to describe it, JUST GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!  I don't think I was able to breath for about the last 20 minutes of the movie.

And remember - this is a true story!  The old maxim of truth being stranger than fiction holds up once again.

Also starring in this movie as a Hollywood producer and a movie make-up artist/CIA "helper" are Alan Arkin and John Goodman, respectively.  Both are great, and old pro Arkin steals every scene he's in.

A word about Ben Affleck.  IMBD lists him as the Director on three feature length movies:  Gone, Baby, Gone (2007), The Town (2010), and now Argo.  Each of these movies have been not just good, but great.  That, movie lovers, is a track record!  From now on, when I see his name on a movie, I'm going to go see it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Burning the Midnight Oil

The Playoff baseball games this past week, culminating in the Cards-Nats game on Friday and the Tigers-Yankees game last night, have been nothing short of fantastic.  I am dying to go to bed each night, but simply cannot tear myself away form the TV set until the games end.

As for the Derek Jeter awful thing to have happen to anyone, let alone one of the Good Guys in the game.  And when you watched it happen, it really didn't look like anything bad happened, did it?  After watching Joe Girardi's press conference after the game, I really came away with a lot of respect for the Yankee manager in seeing how he handled the whole thing.

One unintended consequence of the Jeter injury is that should the Tigers go on to win the ALCS, the Buster Olneys and Mike Lupicas of the world will attach an asterisk to their victory.  Can't you just hear Yankee mouthpiece Michael Kaye saying "yeah, the Tigers won, but Derek wasn't playing..."

Some other quickie observations:

  • I loved watching Doug Fister pitch last night.  Catch the ball, get the sign, throw the pitch.  All within the space of about five seconds.  He is the Anti-Eric Bedard (in more ways than one).  Why can't EVERY pitcher operate like this?
  • Do we really need to see the "pitch tracker" on the screen all the time?
  • Three men in a baseball booth is one too many.  In fact, if you have the right guy doing play-by-play, it's actually two too many.
  • That said, I really like Ron Darling as a color guy.
  • The NLCS is on Fox, and you know what that means, don't you?  Tim McCarver is back!! Oh, baby, I love it!
  • Jim Leyland is ONLY 68 years old! He looks at least ten years older.  Stay away from the cigarettes, kids.
  • I'm thinking that Bruce Springsteen has made more in royalties from the TBS promos in the past week than he did for the entire life of the "Born in the USA" album.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Cardinals Do It AGAIN!!!...and Some Predictions

Okay, before I give my LCS and World Series predictions, and word or two on that Cardinals-Nationals game last night:

Unbelievable.....Are you kidding me?....Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma????.....Wow!

If you care enough to be reading this, you already know what happened, so I won't recount the sequence of events, but I ask you, is there anything in sports better than October baseball?

While watching the game, I was also on Facebook and Twitter and  when the eight inning began, I stated that I was giving the Cardinals "a 40% chance of pulling this one out".  After Descalso's home run I raised it to 50%.  In the top of ninth after Beltran doubled, I said that if Holliday got a hit the Cards would win.  That didn't happen, but when Freese walked, I then said 70%.  When Descalso's hit tied the game I stopped setting odds.  I knew, everyone knew, that the Nats were now dead.  Kozma's two RBI's just  made it official.

You know all the cliches, but it is so, so true:  you can't hold the ball and let the clock run out; you have to get 27 outs.  Plain and simple.  It's beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

As I looked at the crowd shots. my mind flashed on three such moments:

1972 - Bob Moose's wild pitch in LCS.  Reds win.

1992 - Francisco Cabrera and Sid Bream.  Need I say More?

1994 -  In the final seconds of the AFC Championship game, Neil O'Donnell's fourth down pass at the goal line falls incomplete.  Steelers lose, Chargers go to the Super Bowl.  I was at that one, and I will never forget how quiet 60,000 people can become in an instant.

Now, what happens next.

NLCS - Cardinals over the Giants.  Not going to go into a lot of analysis here.  After last year's World Series and then last night's game, somebody is going to actually have to drive a stake through Gussie Busch's heart before I'll pick against the Cardinals again.

ALCS - Those were two pretty dramatic division series staged by the American League, weren't they?  The Yankees are the Yankees, and it's hard to pick against them, but I'm going to pick the Tigers on the hunch that they will be carried by Justin Verlander, and that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will come to life and overcome the pinstripers.  I only hope that the pitching rotations for each team will set up so that we will see at least one Verlander-Sabbathia match up.

On the subject of the Yankees, what Joe Girardi did with Alex Rodriguez took a real set of managerial cujones.  Pinch hitting for him not once, but twice, with games and the season on the line, and then outright benching him in Game Five.  Wow.  The NYC tabloids are going to have a field day over the off season with this new chapter in the A-Rod Soap Opera.

World Series - A rematch of the 1934 and 1968 Fall Classics, both won by the Cardinals in seven games.   As I said above, I'm not going to go against the Cardinals again.  Justin Verlander will get two starts and two wins, but St. Louis wins Game Seven, probably in improbable fashion, and get back-to-back Series' titles.

One final observation.  When the TBS cameras zeroed in on Wolf Blitzer sitting in a luxury box, my mind flashed forward to the Nats in the World Series and how the Fox cameras would be giving us crowd shots of every Inside-the-Beltway punjab imaginable.  I'm picturing a scene of John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid sitting together while Joe Buck sappily tells the world how "baseball unites everyone"....Cabinet officers, Supreme Court Justices, not to mention  all the Fox News talking heads.  At least we will be spared of that.  Instead, we'll see the usual - stars of Fox's lame sitcoms bundled up in the cold and pretending to be baseball fans. 

Bring it on!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Central vs. North Allegheny

Tonight is the football game between North Allegheny and Central Catholic. Marilyn (NA '70) and I (CC '69) will have our traditional $10,000 bet on the outcome. Over the years, I think that she is about $30,000 up on me. We have agreed that we will not settle up on this bet until our 50th wedding anniversary. It could, however, become a HUGE bone of contention if we ever decide to get divorced. 

Yet another good reason to stay married :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

To Absent Friends: Beano Cook

How can you even begin to write a remembrance of the great Beano Cook, who died today at the age of 81?

People across the country know him as ESPN's resident expert on college football, and he certainly was that.  Pittsburghers knew of Beano long before the rest of the country did when he served as Sports Information Director at Pitt.  One of the great stories from his Pitt days was when he wanted to get publicity pictures of polio researcher Dr. Jonas Salk and basketball player Don Hennon together and send them across the country with the heading "Pitt has the two greatest shot-makers in the country."

Beano went on to fame by working at ABC and then ESPN, but he always remained a Pittsburgh guy.  I used to love hearing him on Stan Savran's radio show every Thursday afternoon when I was driving home from work.  How can you not love a guy who wanted to be introduced by the playing of Yale University's fight song, "Bulldog, Bulldog" because it was the only college fight song written by Cole Porter?

I have to close with the story of what was perhaps Beano's greatest line.  Beano was not a baseball fan.  He followed the Pirates, but didn't much care for the game itself.  When Iran released the American hostages after their 444 days in captivity, Major League Baseball announced that it would provide each hostage with a lifetime pass to any and all MLB games.  When Beano heard that, he uttered the now classic line, "Haven't they suffered enough?"

There will for sure never be another one like him.

RIP Beano Cook.

Do You Feel Sorry for Either Party Here?

Interesting story in the Post-Gazette this morning about the Steelers' planned addition of 3,000 seats to Heinz Field for the 2013 season.  

My own feeling on this is that adding these seats will take away the one design feature of Heinz Field that makes it unique - the open ended south end of the Stadium that gives one a view of the riverfront and the city.  The Steelers say that that will not be lost in the redesign. We'll see.

Anyway, it seems that the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) has not given the final rubber stamp on this that would enable construction to begin and be completed by the opening of the 2013 season.  The SEA is saying financing has not been finalized.  One financing feature being proposed is a $2 or $3 surcharge for parking at the Heinz Field lots.  Parking czar Merrill Stabile says that this is "unfair" to the public.  Oh, by the way, Stabile also mentioned that he is considering an increase in the parking price for Steelers game anyway.  Last time I heard, it already cost $35 to park for a Steelers game.

The Steelers have also proposed that they, the team, will finance the construction.  How are they going to do this?  You guessed it - seat licenses and an additional surcharge on all tickets.  In other words, the ticket buyers, not the Steelers, are paying for this.  The Steelers will also tell you that they want to add these seats for "the fans", especially those people who have been on the waiting list for so long.  The fact that these seats will bring in another $2.4 million a year (and that includes the two practice games that they force on you) has little to do with it as far as the altruistic Art Rooney II is concerned.

So who do you sympathize with the most here?  Art II or Merrill Stabile?  I'm just gald that they both have the public's interest at heart here.

Saluting Miggy

I do not want to let the regular season recede too far in the rear view mirror without noting the  positively fantastic season of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown in the American League this year.  (I don't have to explain what that means, do I?)  This feat has been accomplished in the modern era of major league baseball only 13 times before this season, and was last accomplished in 1967 - FORTY-FIVE YEARS AGO!

By contrast, there have been 276 no-hitters pitched in the modern era.  While true greats like  Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, Warren Spahn and others have pitched no-hitters, so have journeymen and scrubinis like Bobo Holloman, Bo Belinsky, Don Larsen, Bob Moose, and Francisco Cordova.  A no-hitter is a great accomplishment, but history has proven that almost anyone can throw one.

By contrast, here are the guys who have won a Triple Crown:

Nap Lajoie
Ty Cobb
Rogers Hornsby (twice!)
Chuck Klein
Jimmy Foxx
Lou Gehrig
Joe Medwick
Ted Williams
Mickey Mantle
Frank Robinson
Carl Yastrzemski

That's it.  That's the list.  What else do these guys have in common besides winning the Triple Crown?  They are all, each one of them, in the Hall of Fame.

Miguel Cabrera has truly joined Baseball Royalty in 2012.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Let's Talk About Neal - Part 2

We all know that perhaps the main goal of the NHR (Neal Huntington Regime) was to build a "strong farm system" that would allow for "sustained success" on the major league level.  One of the things that would accomplish would be to give GM Neal the ability to deal for strength and be able to make trades with all the surplus talent that the NHR would be developing.

Last off season, one of the more significant trades made in MLB was the one between the Oakland A's and the Washington Nationals that sent pitcher Gio Gonzalez to the Nats in exchange for four of the Nats' top minor league prospects.  None of those four prospects was a number one draft pick of the Nats, and one of them was a 10th round choice.  As we all know, the Nats had the best record in the National League this year, and Gonzalez is a strong candidate for the Cy Young Award.  The A's are also in the playoffs, and while I don't know if any of those four guys they received from the Nats played a hand in their 2012 success, we can assume that the A's are satisfied with their end of the deal.

From what we read all summer, especially at the trade deadline, the only prospects that the other teams wanted from the Pirates were either Starling Marte, Jameson Taillon, or Gerritt Cole.  In other words, no team is willing to take on Pirates prospects that were drafted lower than the first round.  Again in other words, Billy Beane would probably not even taken Neal's phone call for a package of Pirates prospects drafted in the same rounds as what the Nats offered.  What does this say about the scouting and development of the NHR over the last five years, as compared to that of the Nationals, a team that was every bit as bad as the Pirates were five years ago?

Full disclosure:  This is not an original observation.  Many of you may have read this in some of Dejan Kovacevic's writings in recent weeks, so I admit to stealing form him.  Also, I will give Neal full props for sending some minor league prospects (Owens, Cain, and Grossman) away in obtaining Travis Snider and Wandy Rodriguez.  However, I do believe that after five years, the minor league system has not produced much of anything after the first round - and  Taillon and Cole have still not made it to Pittsburgh yet.

After five years, the Pirates should be seeing more from the NHR's scouting and development  efforts than Pedro Alvarez (and everyone knew to draft him when the Pirates did), Jordy Mercer, and Brock Holt.

If I Was Bob Nutting.... is the VERY FIRST question that I would ask Frank, Neal, and Clint as I begin my "investigation" into the second half collapse of 2012 that not only duplicated, but eclipsed the second half collapse of 2011.

"Well, FrankNealClint," I would begin, "you know how we are always bragging about how we have built up the farm system, how we have established that baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, and, most of all, how we have been so aggressive in paying above slot signing bonuses for our draft choices?  Tell me, please, what have I, Bob Nutting, and it is MY  money that you have been spending here on MY team, gotten for all this money of MINE that YOU have spent?"

We can bitch all we want about Bob Nutting, but I think that he does have a right to ask that question, don't you?

Of course, if FrankNealClint point out the ever increasing amounts of cash coming into Nutting's coffers, maybe that will be OK for old Bob.  If he cares about winning as much as he says he does, then maybe the answer to that question might lead to something, anything, happening that might improve the lot of this ball club.

Or, maybe not.

I Discover a New Author

I am always happy to "find" an author whom I have never read before, happier when I enjoy the book, and happier still when I realize that this author has a whole series of books that are there for my future reading pleasure.

Such was the case a few weeks back when I found the book you see above, "I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason" by Susan Kandel while scanning the Northland Library stacks.  This was the first in a series of books written by Ms. Kandel featuring a character named CeCe Caruso.  The gimmick is that CeCe is an author herself who specializes in writing biographies of famous mystery writers.  In this book, as you no doubt have guessed, she is writing a book about Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason.  Naturally, CeCe finds out about a 50 year old murder in which Gardner may or may not have become involved, she investigates it herself, and, as always happens in such stories, opens up a fifty year old can of worms and places her own life in danger.  Oh, and you do learn a lot about Erle Stanley Gardner in the process.

Along the way we learn that CeCe is forty-ish, divorced, has a 21 year old married daughter, a mother with whom she butts heads, an oddball friend named Lael, a passion for vintage clothing, and an on-again/off-again romance with a local police detective.  All the ingredients for you basic popular fictional amateur sleuth.  Is this great literature?  No, but it's light, fun, and entertaining reading.  Not to be sexist, but this series is probably targeted to female readers (think Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series), but, hey, I liked it.  What can I say?

"I Dreamed...." was published in 2004, and some Internet research tells me that  Kandel has published four subsequent novels that feature CeCe doing biograpies on Carolyn Keene,  Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, and Alfred Hitchcock.  I shall be checking them out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Football Weekend, with Some Baseball on the Side

Well, the last few evenings were nights for which the TV remote was invented.  Friday featured two Wild Card Playoff baseball games and Pitt-Syracuse football, and last night was incredible: two playoff baseball games, WVU-Texas, Notre Dame-Miami, Ohio-Nebraska, Georgia-South Carolina all on at the same time.  Unbelievable, though, that at any given time during all of those games, at least four of the five events would be in a commercial break at the same time.  Maddening!

I found myself glued to the West Virginia's 48-45 win over Texas.  The Mountaineers are certainly making their presence known in their debut season in the Big 12, and "explosive" doesn't even begin to describe them.  Quarterback Geno Smith, deservedly, gets all the attention and hype, but I was equally impressed with RB Andrew Buie.  They are certainly entertaining, but Smith and Co. will need to stay on top of their games because the WVU defense appears to have a lot of shortcomings.  Still, they are an entertaining bunch to watch.

And a shout out to Bill O'Brien's Penn State squad in defeating previously undefeated Northwestern.

The Steelers face what might be termed a critical game with the Eagles today.  Lose, and they fall to 1-3 in a division where both the Ravens and Bengals could be 4-1 by the close of business today.  James Harrison and Troy Polamalu return to a defense that sorely needs their presence.   I'll call for a Steelers win today, but I don't think it will be easy.

Different Ways To Run a Railroad

News items:

  • After a strong start to their season, the Cleveland Indians collapse in the final months of the season, fire their manager, and then waste no time in hiring two time World Series winning manager Terry Francona.
  • After a disaster of a season wherein the lost over 90 games, the Boston Red Sox acknowledge their mistake and fire manager Bobby Valentine.
  • The Pirates, after collapsing in the final two months of the season for the second season in a row (and this season's collapse was one of historic proportions) announce that they are going to "study" what went wrong and work to a solution.  They also announce that all key members of the NHR (Neal Huntington Regime) will return, and the manager announces that the team is pretty much set at most positions for 2013, including short stop, where it can be demonstrated that Clint Barmes was one of the worst hitters in the National League. 
Need I remind anyone that since the Pirates last had a winning season, the Indians have played in the World Series twice and the Red Sox have played in and won the World Series twice?

And before you point it out to me, yes, I know that the Red Sox have all kinds of money and can afford to fire a manager after one year, and yes, we will see just how good a manager Francona will be without the Red Sox' money to provide him players.  

Still, some teams take ACTION when they see problems, and some teams just STUDY the problems.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The OGWCP Games

Something new begins today in Major League Baseball - the One Game Wild Card Playoff games.  OGWCP for short.

Purists will no doubt decry these while they long for the days of train travel, Ebbets Field, no DH, and no teams west of the Mississippi, but I think it's a great idea, and have said so from the start (

I am very much looking forward to the O's - Rangers and Cardinals - Braves on the tube tonight.  How pressure packed are those games going to be?  Off the charts, I would think.

Oh, and Pitt-Syracuse football is on tonight as well.  What a night for the remote control!

For the record, I'll go with the Orioles, Braves, and Orange in those three games tonight.  Watch, but don't bet!

Let's Talk About Neal - Part 1

As you can tell from the title, I expect to be writing a lot about GM Neal in the next several days and weeks, and have even coined a new bit of shorthand, NHR (Neal Huntington Regime) when discussing Neal and his Minions.  It is a most fertile field, but let's start by taking a slightly different tack by listing five names:

Andrew Heaney, LHP
David Dahl, OF
Addison Russell, SS
Gavin Cecchini, SS
Courtney Hawkins, OF

Do the names mean anything to you?  If they do, then you are a certifiable Baseball Geek, because they are the five players who were selected in June's Major League Entry Draft immediately after the Pirates  used the #8 overall pick in the draft to select Stanford pitcher Mark Appel.  If you've forgotten the circumstances, Appel had been seen as one of top two or three players in the draft, but he was passed over by teams because of sign-ability concerns.  Nevertheless, Neal selected him anyway because he was the "best guy out there".  If he did sign, then the Bucs would be set with three stud top-of-the-rotation guys with Jameson Taillon, Gerritt Cole, and Appel.  If he didn't sign, well, we still had Taillon and Cole, and what the heck, why wouldn't Appel sign because who knows what his value will be come 2013?

Well, Appel did call the Pirates bluff and did not sign.  In fact, he was the ONLY first round draft pick that did not sign with his team in 2012.  At the time the signing deadline passed in mid-July, the Pirates were flying high, so this non-signing, if it was noted at all, was usually accompanied by a "well-who-needs-him" attitude.  

Right now, the lack of depth in the Pirates system as assembled by the NHR has been well documented, and wouldn't it be nice to know that there was a #1 draft pick toiling on the farm, maybe a nice catcher, short stop, or stud corner outfielder, who might help the Pirates some day?  It will be interesting to see how those five guys listed above develop over the next few years.  Heck, there were 23 players drafted in the first round after the Pirates took Appel, I just listed the first five to be brief.  For sure, you can bank on the fact that at least ONE of those 23 players will be contributing - big time - to their team by as soon as 2014, while the Neal and the Pirates will be holding a hatfull of rain as their #1 from 2012.

Book Review: "Game Over" by Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak

I just finished reading this very excellent book by former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak.  This was the first of what will no doubt be many, many books to be written about the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State its aftermath.  Moushey and Dvorchak began work on this book almost as soon as Sandusky was arrested, and it was published in the Spring of this year, before the trial that convicted Sandusky, before the Freeh Report, and before the NCAA and Big Ten sanctions were handed down.  As a result of that timing, if you read this book now, as I did, you may not find anything that has not already been made public knowledge as a result of those very public on-the-record events, but that is the value in reading this book now, I think. 

The research and the reporting done by Moushey and Dvorchak on such a short deadline is astounding.  When the book was published, it was assailed by many of the Penn State loyalists, and its chief critics were, not surprisingly, the Paterno Family, none of whom, it should be noted, were willing to be interviewed for the book, despite requests from the authors.  At the time, the authors merely stated that they stood by their reporting as documented in the book.  Both the trial and conviction of Sandusky and the findings in the Freeh report validate everything that Moushey and Dvorchak had written,  Nothing in "Game Over" has been proven to be false or inaccurate.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Dvorchak recently, and it was fascinating hearing him talk about the writing of the book.  A paperback edition is scheduled to be released soon, and while Bob didn't mention it, I imagine that there will be an "Afterword" to that edition.  I will be most anxious to read that as well.

I will leave you with a quote from Bob Dvorchak that I though most interesting, and I hope that he will not mind me quoting him.  We asked about the position that Franco Harris (who also declined several requests to be interviewed for the book) has taken as Joe Paterno's most vigorous public defender.  One of us said that, well, I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  Yes, Dvorchak said, you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own set of facts.

I thought it an interesting statement that can be applied in all walks of life.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday Night Television

Thursday night television is big in our house.  

Last week, season two of "Person of Interest" came back.  Mr. Finch has been abducted, Mr. Reese is looking for him with a single-minded determination that is frightening, it is still unbelievably violent, and Jim Caviezel is still so good looking as to be almost illegal, at least according to Mrs. Grandstander.  The show is also unbelievably confusing.  For the life of me, I have only the vaguest idea as to why this chick has kidnapped Finch, and what happened to all those crooked cops from last season who are threatening to kill Carter and Fusco?  My advice is to not even try to keep all that crap straight, just take each episode as it comes and enjoy the ride.  In fact, the convoluted back story to this show is probably what will eventually kill it, but until then, as Bette Davis might say, buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride!  Enjoy it.

The show "Elementary" debuted last week.  This is a reworking of the Sherlock Holmes story, but in a contemporary New York City setting.  Some Brit named Jonny Lee Miller (close your eyes and he sounds exactly like Pierce Brosnan) plays Holmes, and Dr. Watson is a woman, played by Lucy Liu.  I liked this shows first episode last week, thought it was fun and shows promise to be a good series.  Check it out.

2012 Pirates Postmortem

Early in September, I was playing golf with a former co-worker whom I hadn't seen all summer, and he asked what my thoughts were about the Pirates thus far in the season.  At the time the question was asked, the Pirates had just taken two of three from the Astros, and were ready to open what was to be a disastrous three game series with the Cubs, a series that the Cubs would sweep and, effectively, end all post-season and +.500 season hopes for the Pirates.  Anyway, my friend asked if I thought the team had "over-achieved" in 2012.

Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to look at where the team was and what my thoughts were when the season began.  I looked at the post I made on April 4, Opening Day, to try and frame what took place over the next six months.  I broke it down position-by-position.  Quotes from that April 4 post are in red.

Catcher  The team is pinning it's hopes on 36 year old free agent signee Rod Barajas.  Barajas has shown that he can hit for power, and not for average, over the course of his career..... His back up is Mike McKenry,....

Well, we know that that didn't work out so hot.  Barajas and McKenry combined for 23 HR and 70 RBI, but hit only .206 and .233 respectively.  The HR and RBI totals sound  good, but if you watched the team all year, you know that the two of them, especially Barajas, pretty much stunk at the plate, and the fact that opposing teams stole bases pretty much at will against the Pirates all season speaks volumes about these guys (as well as the Pirates pitchers).  The fact that the Neal Huntington Regime (hereafter referred to as the "NHR") has been unable to produce even an adequate major league catcher is one of the many failings of the NHR.

First Base  The Bucs are going with a platoon of Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee.  This combo......could, possibly, work well for this team.

One of the brightest spots of 2012 was the emergence of Garrett Jones who hit .274 with 27 HR, 86 RBI and a .832 OPS. Used as a platoon player - only 74 of his 475 AB were against lefties - Jones had a career year.  I know that players want to play every day, but some guys are just born to be platoon guys and there's nothing wrong with that.  As for McGehee, there are some people who say that McGehee's trade at the deadline messed with the Pirates team chemistry, but, really, how many good things did people have to say about him when he was actually here?

Second Base  Neil Walker, the Pittsburgh Kid (with apologies to Billy Conn).  Lots and lots to like about Walker, but his decline in power over the last half of last season has been well documented..... Many have asked why the team hasn't stepped forward to extend Walker's contract as that did for Andrew McCutchen, but I think that the Pirates are, justifiably, waiting to see how Neil performs this year.  

After a slow start, Walker began to produce big time for the Pirates, and you have to ask if it was a coincidence that the Pirates decline dovetailed with Walker's extended absences from the lineup due to his back injury.  Walker may never be a superstar, but he has proven to be a solid major league second baseman and a clutch hitter, however one defines that term, perhaps the best clutch hitter on the team.  How management approaches Walker's contract situation this off season will tell us a lot about Bob Nutting and the NHR.

Short Stop  Clint Barmes takes over from Ronny Cedeno so there is really nowhere to go but  up for the Bucs at short.

OK, I'll give you that Barmes was an improvement over Cedeno, but talk abut damning with faint praise!  His .593 OPS included 106 strikeouts and only 20 walks.  Like the situation at catcher, the failure of the NHR to develop a major league quality short stop over the last five years is a major failing of the organization.

Third Base  Pedro Alvarez......No doubt he will continue to be the most watched and talked about player as the season begins.....No doubt this is the fish-or-cut-bait season for Pedro. If he gets untracked and begins to hit like he showed he could do in his 2010 rookie campaign, great.  If he doesn't, then it is going to be excruciating to watch as he marches toward becoming  a $6 million bust. 

At a game in early May, Len Martin and I were having a conversation where we were saying that it was quite possible that Alvarez could end up being a bust.  Obviously that didn't happen as his 30 HR and 85 RBI proved that he will NOT be a bust as a major league ballplayer.  Still, he can be maddening player to watch, as proven by 180 strike outs, and the fact that he almost disappeared for long stretches of time during the season.  He can make you jaw drop when he hits some unbelievably long home runs, sometimes five or six if them in the space of a dozen or so games.  Then, he drives you nuts by going into 3-for-40 stretches with 22 K's.  He - or someone in the organization - needs to figure out how to eliminate those deep valleys that crop up between the amazing peaks of which he is clearly capable. 

Outfield  The strong point of the team.  Andrew McCutchen could be poised to really bust out and become a breakout star in the National League.  Jose Tabata needs to stay healthy, and Alex Presley needs to show that he is not a Chris Duffy-like one hit wonder....Nate McLouth returns to the Bucs and should fill the role of fourth outfielder very well.  And if a long term injury occurs, we all know that Starling Marte is getting his experience in Indianapolis.

McCutchen did indeed become a breakout star.  He also, for the second year in a row, went into a slide in the second half of the season (1.039 OPS before the All-Star Game; .860 after).  To be fair, the 2012 drop-off was not like the one in 2011.  He played at an almost super human level in June and July (he hit.446 with a 1.249 OPS in July; who does that?)  so some drop-off was expected, and he ended the season at .327/31/96/.953.  As for the rest of the OF, Tabata and Presley both were sent down for stints in Indianapolis, and have the look of career fourth outfielders, McLouth stunk and was released early on. Marte made it to the Pirates, showed flashes of, if not greatness, then very-goodness, but is still unpolished, and Travis Snider, acquired at the deadline, has the look of possibly being a pretty good hitter.  However, as it now stands, when Spring Training opens next year, there are still two big question marks flanking Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.

Pitching  It always comes down to this, doesn't it?  Lots of questions.  Can A.J. Burnett return from his eye injury quickly and return to his pre-Yankee form?  Can Eric Bedard stay of off the DL?  Can Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, and James McDonald continue to improve as they did in 2011, or will they flatten out?  Can Kevin Correia avoid disappearing as he did after the All-Star break last year?  In the bullpen, can Joel Hanrahan dominate as he did last year, and if he does, will the team be playing well enough at mid-season so that the front office doesn't elect to move him to dump salary come July 31?

Burnett did everything and more that was asked and expected of him.  Bedard was pretty bad and was released. Karstens seemed to be hurt more than he wasn't. Morton had Tommy John surgery.  McDonald was one of the best pitchers in the League prior to the All Star Game, after which he became one of the worst and ended the season in the bullpen.  Correia was demoted to the bullpen after the team acquired Wandy Rodrigeuz at the deadline, bitched about it and talked about wanting to be traded (while the Bucs were very much in the pennant race), then returned to the rotation, where he accredited himself well, and finished with a 12-11 record.  Hanrahan was once again a dominant closer with 36 saves.

Some people point to McDonald's implosion as the development that turned the season around negatively for the Pirates.  Others have said that Correia's demand to be traded in the midst of a pennant race, upset the apple cart and damaged the chemistry of the team.  Correia's attitude may have been unprofessional, but I don't think it was that significant, especially in light of how he continued to pitch thereafter.  As for the JMac meltdown, when the history of the season is written, I do think that this was one of the key factors of how the team ended up.

Hanrahan, by the way, is eligible for salary arbitration this off-season.  How Bob Nutting and the NHR handle this will speak volumes.  I won't say for certain that Hanrahan will be cut loose by the Pirates, but I wouldn't bet against it, either.


I was going to reprint what I wrote back in April but why bother?  Names like Nate McLouth, Jeff Clement, Matt Hague, Jordy Mercer - do I have to go on? - tell you all you need to know.  The bench pretty much stunk and this lack of depth is another black mark that can go on the record of the NHR.

I then concluded as follows:

So, where does this leave us?  Despite the gloom and doom above, I would like to think that this team will be better than last year's squad for the following reasons: 1) the starting pitching will improve and not implode as it did last year in August and September, (Well, it did improve, but then it did implode, so I went 50/50 on that one.)  2) McCutchen will break out big time in leading a strong outfield unit, (McCutchen certainly did break out, but as for a "strong outfield" - not so much) 3) Alvarez will somehow, some way find his hitting stroke and give the offense a needed lift over last year's punchless line-up, (that did happen, although the bottom third of that batting order was pretty much punchless over the course of the entire season) and 4) Clint Hurdle is definitely the right guy in the dugout to lead this team out of the desert of 19-and-counting losing seasons.

(A word about Hurdle.  There is one school of thought that says who the manager of any given team is matters little; that it's all about the players.  John McGraw could have managed the 2010 Pirates and they still would have lost over 100 games.  John Russell, on the other hand, could have managed the '27 Yankees and they still would have been Murderer's Row.  At the other end of the spectrum, I have a buddy who positively loathes Hurdle, thinks he's the worst manager of all time, and should be fired immediately.  Me, well I fall somewhere in the middle.  I think a manager can make a difference, and I think that there is a lot more to like than not like about Hurdle.  Still, the Pirates have had second half collapses two seasons in a row under Hurdle, and that should give somebody reason for concern.)

Will they better last year's 72 win team?  Sure, why not.  Will the 19 year losing streak end?  I really, really hope I'm wrong, but I'm afraid not.  A slight improvement, and 77 wins in 2012.

Hey, they ended up with 79 wins, two more than predicted!  This is good, right?  Afraid not.  When the team peaked at 16 games over .500 and were in the hunt not only for a wild card spot but the division title two-thirds of the way into the season, the final third of the season and a 79-83 record can only be seen as a disappointment, and, in the words on friends Dave Jones and Joe Elinich, a lost opportunity, and opportunity that they had in their grasp and kicked away.

As to the question of "did they over-achieve?", it is obvious now that they most certainly did for those magical months of June and July, and maybe that is what makes this season all the more disappointing. Maybe they will grow from this.  Maybe August and September of 2012 are the steps backward that will allow the Pirates to take some giant steps forward in 2013.  One thing for sure, this season not only was exciting and fun for much of the way, but the way it ended brought not only sadness to Pirates fans but anger at a front office that seems to care more for profits than winning, that has no understanding of the Pirates fans and little respect for them.  Bob Nutting has promised that he will "personally investigate everything" that went into this second half collapse.  We'll see what happens, but I, for one, am not putting a lot of credibility into anything that Bob Nutting has to say at this point.

Sorry that this post went so long, but, hey, we are dealing with 162 games here!  Enjoy the off-season, and I know that The Grandstander will continue to have lots more to say about the '12 season as time passes and the off-season machinations begin.