Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Steelers' Draft Class of 2017

I can't believe that I am going to write a post about the Steelers Draft of 2017.  It seems to fly in the face of all my rantings about the over-hyping that the NFL Draft always receives, but what the hell, here I go (or should I say, "Here we go.."?).  This will not be one of those "How did they do in the Draft?" pieces with letter grades and all that garbage.  I am not qualified to evaluate players in such a manner, but  these are just some quick impressions of my own, and I add the disclaimer that it needs to be pointed out that none of the players drafted by the Steelers  (or any other team for that matter) over the last three days, have played a down in the NFL, and until they do, nothing that they have done up until now means diddly.  If you don't believe me, does the name Limas Sweed ring a bell for you?

Okay, here goes.

The Steelers story that overshadowed all others over the last three days was the selection of RB James Conner of Pitt in the third round.  I do not believe that sentiment played any part in this selection by the Steelers, and that they believe that he can give them what they truly need: quality depth at the position behind LeVeon Bell.   That said, this has to be one of the greatest "Feel-Good" stories in the recent history of Pittsburgh sports, and I can't remember any Steelers draft  pick ever that I want to see make it big with the team than James Conner.

For more on Conner, as if regular readers need such background, check this out from The Grandstander archives:

If familial DNA means anything, you have to love the selection of OLB T.J. Watt of Wisconsin as the team's #1 pick.  If he is as good as older brother J.J., then the Steelers have struck gold, and even if he possesses just a large fraction of J.J.'s talent, it will be a good pick.  What with the flameout that was Jarvis Jones, and with James Harrison approaching Social Security age, the need at the position is certainly there.  Let's hope it works out.

The Steelers selected a quarterback in the fourth round, Josh Dobbs of Tennessee.  It's always fun when they pick a QB.  Can't wait for the "they gotta put Dobbs in there" calls to The Fan when Ben has his first two interception game.  The kid has a degree in aerospace engineering from UT - he actually IS a rocket scientist! - so grasping Todd Hailey's playbook shouldn't be an issue.

The wonderfully named JuJu Smith-Schuster, a WR from USC, was the second round pick.  His selection set off a wonderful peeing contest on Twitter between current wideouts Sammie Coates and Martavis Bryant.  When last seen, Coates was dropping a pass on the first offensive series of the AFC Championship game against the Patriots that could have gone for a TD, and at the very least would have been a long gain for the Steelers.  It may not have changed the eventual outcome of the game, but it sort of set the tone for what was to follow that day.  When Bryant was last seen, well, it's hard to remember that far back, since Bryant spent the 2016 season on what the paper today called his "annual suspension" for the use of banned substances.

In other words, Coates and Bryant should keep their mouths shut, don't you think?

By contrast, Ben Roethlisberger sent a warm welcoming Tweet to Dobbs.  Of course, Dobbs is unlikely to supplant Ben at his position, whereas JuJu has a job for the taking if he can produce as is hoped.

They also drafted two corner backs, another linebacker, and, in a move sure to generate lots of pre-season buzz, a long snapper!

Let's hope all of these guys make it big for the Steelers.  After all, we've all been waiting too long for that seventh Lombardi Trophy to arrive at Heinz Field. 


Friday, April 28, 2017

"The Graduate" at 50

This past Sunday evening, we attended the TCM/Fathom Events theatrical showing of Mike Nichols' 1967 masterpiece, "The Graduate".  The movie is getting this special Big Screen showing to mark the Fiftieth (can you believe it?) Anniversary of its release.

Before I talk about seeing it again, a little background as to why this movie is so important to me.  

Back in the spring of 1968, my junior year in high school, I took my first paying job:  a movie usher at the beautiful Forum Theatre in Squirrel Hill.  Movies were distributed differently back then.  A movie would be released and would play on ONE screen in an area, it would run its course as a first run movie, and then get a wider release in secondary "neighborhood theaters".  The Forum was one of those theaters that would get first run releases, and it was fortunate to be given "The Graduate" to exhibit in Pittsburgh.  When I started at the Forum, "The Graduate" was already an established hit, and had been playing at the Forum for almost two months.  It would not leave The Forum until it had run for a total of six months.  I never tired of watching this movie, usually in bits an pieces, during a usual work shift.  I loved it, and when I say that I have seen this movie, literally, hundreds of times, trust me, that is a proper use of the word "literally".  Naturally, I own a DVD of this movie, which I pull out and watch every year or so, and I will tune it in when it shows up on TCM.  However, I had not seen it in a movie theater, on a big screen, for almost fifty years, until this past Sunday night.  

"The Graduate" is rightly praised as a seminal movie of the 1960's with it's depiction of youth alienation and the need of that generation to shed the constrictions and expectations of older generations.  There were many such movies made during that time period with similar themes.  Most of them do not hold up well when viewed forty and fifty years later (most prominent example: "Easy Rider".  An important and heavy movie in 1969; almost unwatchable in 2017).  Not so "The Graduate".  Still entertaining, funny, and relevant today, fifty years after it was released.

Why is that?  Good movies start with the writing, I believe, and screenwriters Calder Willingham and Buck Henry (who also played the desk clerk) produced a great script, including perhaps the movie's most memorable line:


Mike Nichols was already an award winning stage director, but he had only directed one movie before "The Graduate".  He would win an Oscar for this one.  He would go on to direct a total of twenty feature films, most of them good to very good, but "The Graduate" was to be his best.

Then there was the acting.  These were the first major roles for Dustin Hoffman as Ben Braddock and Katherine Ross as Elaine Robinson.

For Hoffman, it was a breakout role that would lead to a long, distinguished, two Oscar career that is still going on.  For Miss Ross, it led to a role in another classic, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".  She may never have been the star that Hoffman was to become, but to be a part of those two films, well, that is a damn nice resume.

And then there was Anne Bancroft.  She was already an Oscar winner when cast as the predatory Mrs. Robinson.

The next time you watch this movie, pay attention to Anne Bancroft's face, particularly, her eyes.  It is one of the more brilliant pieces of acting that you will ever see.

Of course, when discussing "The Graduate" you have to mention the music of Paul Simon as sung by Simon and Garfunkel.  Another piece of the movie-making puzzle that produced a brilliant movie when it was all put together.

And just to prove that no matter how many times you've seen a movie, you can still pick up something different or something that you may have missed before.  In this showing, that moment for me was the last spoken bit of dialog of the movie.  It's the scene in the church, right after Elaine's wedding, when she is about to leave her groom at the altar and run off with Ben.  Her mother, grabs her right before Ben does....

Mrs. Robinson: Elaine, it's too late.
Elaine: Not for me!

That scene, that bit of dialog, sums up the movie, and maybe the feelings of an entire generation.

As great as it was, "The Graduate" won only one Oscar, the one for Mike Nichols as Director.

It lost out for Best Picture to "In The Heat of the Night" another great movie that is still great, fifty years later.  The other nominees that year? "Bonnie and Clyde", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", and "Dr, Doolittle".  Fifty years later, only "Dr. Doolittle" appears to not belong among some pretty elite company.

Hoffman would go on to win two Oscars in the years ahead, but that year he lost out to Rod Steiger.  The other nominees that year were Paul Newman, Warren Beatty, and Spencer Tracy.  All five of those guys either had already or would go on to win Academy Awards.

Anne Bancroft lost out to Katherine Hepburn that year for Best Actress, a category that also included Faye Dunaway, Dame Edith Evans, and Audrey Hepburn that year.

Katherine Ross Lost out as Best Supporting Actress to Estelle Parsons of "Bonnie and Clyde".

Turns out that 1967 was quite a year for movies!


It is always fun to consider alternative history in such matters.  Also seriously considered for the main roles played by Bancroft, Hoffman, and Ross in "The Graduate" were these three:

Doris Day, Robert Redford, Candice Bergen

Of course, Hoffman, Bancroft, and Ross proved to be perfect in their roles, so it is almost unimaginable to picture anyone else as Ben Braddock, Mrs. Robinson, and Elaine Robinson.   Would it have been as good a movie with any or all of the either Day, Redford, or Bergen cast in it?  Maybe, maybe not, but the idea of Doris Day, by then typecast as the virginal heroine of romantic comedies of the era has always intrigued me.  Could she have pulled it off, and would the movie going public have ever accepted her in such a role?  We'll never know.


Let us end this post as the movie ended.  Wonder what became of Ben and Elaine at the end of that bus ride?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What's on Television?

I know that you have all been wondering, "What has The Grandstander been watching on television these days?", so it's time to tell you....
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins.  Yes, it is Stanley Cup playoffs time, so it's time for me to start watching NHL hockey.  I freely admit that my knowledge of hockey can fill two, maybe three, thimbles, but I know enough to know this...the Penguins are good, very good.  In the Columbus  series I was impressed by the Pens' ability to keep the puck inside the blue line for extended periods of time, thus keeping pressure on the opposing defense.  Of concern, though, was the fact that Columbus was able to register 51 shots on goal in that last game.  Can any team be expected to win twelve more games if the goalie has to make 49 saves a night?  Just askin'.  Looking forward to subsequent playoff rounds, and hearing Doc Emrick doing the play-by-play.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates.  Well, I am still going to wait unto about thirty games are in the books before making any extensive commentary, but, whoa, it is not looking good thus far, despite that sweep of the Cubs last weekend.  It is looking like there will be a lot of "Bob gets to bed early" type games when it comes to watching the Bucs this season.
  • "The Americans".  Marilyn and I both thought that this series stayed too long at the fair, so to speak, took a downward turn in quality this season.  It got to the point where we just didn't take time to watch it, and allowed three episodes to back up on our DVR.  However, our friend Mark told us that no, this series is better than ever, so based on that, we spent last evening binge watching those three episodes.  I will concede that the series has picked up a bit, however, it is not what it was in it's initial three seasons.  Too much staring and brooding by all of the actors involved.  And has any character or actor ever been as stiff as the guy playing FBI agent Stan Beaman.  What a dork!  And he's got two KGB agents living right across the street from him so he can't be much of an FBI agent either.  On the bright side, the producers are still delivering gratuitous nudity just about every week, including shots of Keri Russell's bare bum.  Must be in her contract,
  • "Feud: Bette and Joan".  I am saddened that this eight week series ends with tonight's episode. I have absolutely loved the show about actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, as played by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange.  As I put it in an earlier post, two terrific contemporary actresses chewing scenery as they portray two legendary actresses chewing scenery.  It has just been the textbook definition of a Guilty Pleasure.  Davis comes across as the better actress and person in this presentation, with Crawford as the villain and super-bitch. Both Sarandon and Lange are terrific, but I am guessing that the Emmy nomination will go to Lange once awards season rolls around.  In supporting roles, I love Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner, and who doesn't love Jackie Hoffman as Mamacita?  If you haven't been watching this, go to On Demand and watch it.  Now.

  • "Fargo".  FX kicked off Season Three of "Fargo" and it promises to be another oddball, quirky, and violent series set in the cold north of Minnesota with all the odd accents of the folks up there.  It started with a scene in an East German police office in 1988, before transitioning to Minnesota in 2010.  Not sure how that is going to tie in, but we'll see.  The story appears to involve two feuding brothers and their disputed inheritance, a female (of course) Minnesota police officer, some strange parolees, including a sexy tournament bridge player, and shadowy criminals horning in on a legitimate business. Oh, yah, it's going to be a good one, you betcha.
  • Sitcoms.  "The Big Bang Theory", "Modern Family" and "Life in Pieces" are three must see programs in out house.  Each continues to get better as the years roll on.  Big Bang, in it's tenth season, when shows can expect to be petering out, seems to have picked up a second wind this year and is as good as ever.  It has been picked up for two more seasons, and shows no sign of slowing down (unlike, say, "The Americans").
  • HGTV.  Nothing can fill up an evening when there's nothing else on like back-to-back-to-back episodes of shows like Fixer Upper (we LOVE Chip and Joanna!), House Hunters, Property Brothers, or Love It or List It.  One exception: Tiny Houses.  That one drives me nuts.  These dopes who are looking to "go tiny", get into one of the places and say things like "it's a little tight in here" or "aw, no full size refrigerator" or "there's no closet space" or "it'll be hard to have friends over and entertain in here".  It's a trailer with 300 square feet of space. What the hell did they think it was going to be like???  As I said...dopes! We'll stick with these folks:
Chip and Joanna Gaines

So there you go.  What have you all been watching?

Friday, April 14, 2017

To Absent Friends - Dan Rooney

Dan Rooney
1932 - 2017

Does The Grandstander really need to recite all of the facts and figures relating to the life of Pittsburgh Steelers Owner and Chairman Dan Rooney, who died yesterday at the age of 84?  If you grew up in Pittsburgh and are a Steelers fan, you certainly know the story.

When Dan took over the business and football operations of the Steelers from his father, Art, The Chief, sometime in the late 1960's, the team began to change from the stumbling, bumbling "Same Old Steelers".  His first major decision as Steelers' boss was to hire Chuck Noll as Head Coach in 1969, and the Steelers were off an running to become what they are today - one of the great teams of the NFL's "Super Bowl Era", a team almost always in the mix for playoff and championship contention, and a franchise that is considered one of the bell weathers of the NFL.  

Personally, I never had an encounter with Dan Rooney.  However, I do remember one afternoon back in the 1980's when the Pirates were having one of those weekday afternoon "Businessman Specials" games at Three Rivers Stadium.  I was meeting customer for the game that day, and as I was sitting in a field box before the game, I looked a few seats over and there was Dan Rooney, taking a break form his office duties, eating a hot dog, and loafing and B.S.'ing with a couple of stadium ushers.  A real regular guy.

If you want to read better tributes to Mr. Rooney, I would suggest the columns in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Ed Bouchette, Gene Collier, and Ron Cook.  They do him far greater justice than I could ever do. And I will even close my piece with some posts that appeared on Facebook in the last 24 hours from a couple of friends of mine.

The first is from sportswriter John Mehno:

One Dan Rooney story. A few years ago the Steelers were playing the Giants in New York. As was his custom, Dan wandered into the press room at halftime, looking for familiar faces. A security guard blocked his path and told him he couldn't come in without a media credential. Dan Rooney didn't yell at the guy, he didn't pull rank, he didn't snarl, "Do you know who I am?" He turned and walked back to his seat. He learned that from his father. Just because you have a lot of money, you don't act like a big shot. A fond farewell to a true Pittsburgh guy.

And my friend Fred Egler also reposted this comment that he made last December 26:

When you volunteer for something, you sometimes draw the short straw. Thus it was my fate to serve as lector at the 8 :15 AM mass this morning at St. Paul Cathedral after a Christmas holiday and Steeler extravaganza. We ministered to a small audience, but there was at least one other guy there who had been at the game the night before. The celebrant, Father Kris Stubna, made a point of thanking Dan Rooney for making everyone's Christmas merrier. After church I saw him helped into someone else's SUV while his wife drove away in their Chevy Impala. Think about that the next time you hear some talking head singing the praises of Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft.

Both of these stories, I think, say it all about the kind of person that Dan Rooney was.  

RIP Dan Rooney.  As it was with his father, the NFL will not see his like again.

Monday, April 10, 2017


I have seen the trailer for the movie "Going In Style" many times over the past few months, and realized that it starred three old pro actors, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, and Morgan Freeman, but it wasn't until I read the review on Friday that I knew that another old pro, Ann-Margret also co-starred in this new comedy caper flick.  I have long been a fan of Ann-Margret's, and, of course, I made the requisite piggish comments about how she is still "gettin' it done" at the age of 75, as the picture just to the left will verify.

Anyway, it prompted me to visit the Google Machine to do a bit of research on Miss Olsson, and, yes, this "research" did start out as looking for sexy pictures of her, but it did lead to more interesting information.  For example....
  • Next month, she and her husband, actor Roger Smith, will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  It is Ann-Margret's only marriage.  How about that?
  • She has won five Golden Globe Awards.
  • She has won an Emmy Award.
  • She has been nominated for a Grammy.
  • She has twice been nominated for a Motion Picture Academy Award.
  • I can also say that I once saw her perform live and in person in Pittsburgh when she played the lead in touring production of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas".
She will turn 76 later this month, and while her stunning beauty today may be largely attributable to Beverly Hills' finest plastic surgeons, I say, So what?  She looks fabulous after a show biz career now in it's sixth decade and, apparently, still going strong.

All in all, when it comes to Ann-Margret, what's not to like?

As "Annie" in "Going In Style"

With Elvis in "Viva Las Vegas"

Who can forget Ann-Margrock 
in "The Flintstones"?

In her younger days.

The Masters 2017

As Jim Nantz would say, "Hello, Friends", and here are some thoughts from The Grandstand on the 2017 Masters.....
  • It is amazing how, more often than not, The Masters is able to produce tremendous sporting drama on a regular basis.  In 2017, the Toon-a-mint evolved into a final round shootout between Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, and it was epic to be sure.
  • It did come down to a two man battle in large part because Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, playing in the next to last pairing, managed to totally soil the bed linens as they played terribly (a combined +7 on the day) and never challenged the final Rose-Garcia pairing.
  • Spieth took himself completely out of contention early, going +3 on the front, and, just to make the cheese more binding, when he dunked another one into Rae's Creek on the Par 3 twelfth hole, the one that did him in last year. Despite winning the Masters at the age of 21 in 2015, there now have to be a lot of demons in his head concerning Augusta National.  He is young and very talented, but if you made the case that he will never win another Masters, I don't think that I would argue against the point.
  • When it became apparent that the winner would come from the final group, I began to put my rooting interests behind Justin Rose, as I've never been a big fan of Garcia's.  Still, with the way both played all day yesterday, you knew that you were going to be happy for whichever guy won, and feel really bad for whichever guy came in  second.
  • As they came to the tee on the 72nd hole, my comment to Marilyn was that "I hope one guys wins it with a birdie, as opposed to one guy losing it by making a bogie."  Rose said pretty much the same thing after he bogied the playoff hole when he said that he was glad Sergio made his putt for a birdie, because then he'd have really felt bad if his bogie had cost him the Masters.  
  • Great sportsmanship by both Garcia and Rose throughout the day.
And then there was the CBS telecast....
  • We all know that the Green Jackets control the media that covers The Masters in a way that that not even the Kremlin controlled Pravda back in the day, but, honestly now, could Jim Nantz get any more reverential and obsequious?  He tops himself every year.  I honestly think he was about to begin to weep when he opened the Green Jacket ceremony in Butler Cabin last night.
  • CBS came on the air at 2:00 yesterday, and by about 2:20 I was already sick and tired of the "Can Sergio win on Seve's 60th birthday?" storyline.  It made Joe Buck's bromance with Kyle Schwarber during last year's World Series pale by comparison.
  • On the plus side, the camera work and coverage was excellent.  Is there sport more suited for High Def television than golf, and is there place more suited for it than Augusta National?  OMG, I'm staring to sound like Jim Nantz.  Somebody stop me.
  • I hope you all got to watch the one hour special that preceded the telecast about Arnold Palmer and his lifelong relationship with the Masters and Augusta National and that included Arnie's final recorded interview, one that Nantz conducted in the Butler Cabin during the 2016 Masters.  It was terrific show.
We close with a final salute to the 2017 Champion.  He certainly earned it.

The Weekend That Was.....

The recently concluded weekend included the following....
  • A three game sweep by the Pirates over the Braves in the home opening series of the year.  Bucs now stand at 3-2. Sorry, but The Grandstander will give no detailed analysis of the Pirates until the season is about thirty games old.
  • The Masters (A Tradition Like No Other).  More on that in a separate post, but, yes, I did wear an ass-groove in the sofa watching the entire fourth round yesterday.
  • A movie. In this case, "Going In Style"....

You would have had to have been living in a cave these last several months not to have seen a trailer for this one.  Three old guys, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, and Morgan Freeman, who have just had their pension funds liquidated by an Evil Corporation, and who are getting screwed by Big Banking decide to rob a bank.  It is a comic caper, and it's great fun to see three old pros like Caine, Arkin, and Freeman together on screen.  The movie also features another old pro, Ann-Margret, and she is still as lovely and sexy as ever, at least in this particular Old Guy's opinion.  

Ann-Margret in character as Annie
in "Going In Style"

"Going In Style" is not going to make anybody's Best Ten list, but it is fun, does have a message, has a bit of a twist in the end, and, as I said, it a treat to see four actors of this caliber together on the screen.

Two and one-half stars from The Grandstander.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Delayed Thoughts - NCAA Basketball Championships

Things have been a bit hectic here in The Grandstand of late, so I am a bit late in my thoughts on the recently concluded NCAA Basketball Championships, both Men's and Women's divisions, so before too much time passes, here we go.....
  • The men's tournament this year proved, for the most part, to be somewhat dramatic opening round David-over-Goliath upsets, no dramatic buzzer beaters.  In the end, though, it seemed that the two best teams over the course of the tournament met in the final game, North Carolina and Gonzaga.
  • Unfortunately, the final game was, shall we say, less than aesthetically pleasing.  Poor shooting by by both teams and overly officious officiating by the, er, officials combined to produce a pretty poorly played and sometimes painful game to watch.  
  • Well, as I always say, there are no guarantees as to what you might see when you watch a sporting event.  That is what makes sports so much fun to follow.
  • Marilyn Sproule, aka Mrs. Grandstander, was able to finish in a T-3 in a bracket pool that included 57 entries, MUCH better than both her husband and brother did in that same pool.  She also won the little sporting Proposition Pool that I ran for the Final Four.  After winning my Super Bowl Prop Pool, she is on a roll.
  • We are also happy for our niece Bonny  and her husband Michael, both UNC grads for being able to celebrate another championship.  We are also happy for their daughter, Sophie, who scored this bit of swag for her 15th  birthday on Thursday...
Happy birthday, Sophie!!

  • Perhaps the biggest college basketball story of all this tourney season was the defeat of the Connecticut women's team by Mississippi State in the semi-final game in overtime.  This ended a chance for UCONN to win a fifth consecutive championship, and it also ended an unbelievable streak of 111 consecutive wins for the Lady Huskies.

  • I was impressed by how well that UCONN handled the defeat, both the players and Coach Geno Auriemma. Geno was most gracious in defeat, and it almost seemed like a part of him was relieved that the streak was over.
  • I am sure that Geno is already working on starting another streak.  He may never win 111 straight again, or even come close to it, but would you bet against  UCONN being in the Final Four once again next year and winning it all?
  • In the end, Mississippi State couldn't sustain the effort they had against UCONN in the semis, and they fell to South Carolina in the Championship game.  While SC and their head coach Dawn Staley, who is certainly poised to become the next dominant coach in the women's game, are deserving champions, I am figuring that this tournament may be remembered more as not the one that South Carolina won, but the one where Connecticut lost and the record win streak ended.  That may not be fair to South Carolina, but there you are.
Dawn Staley and Her Champions
  • On a podcast I listen to a commentator mentioned that in perhaps the greatest sports upset ever, the 1980 USA victory over the USSR  in the Olympics, the team still had to beat Finland for the Gold medal.  Not many people remember that.  I suspect, though, that the young women on that Mississippi State team, who "couldn't beat Finland", will for the rest of their lives savor that UCONN victory more than they ever would have a championship victory over South Carolina.
  • So, here's a hypothetical question for you....Would that 1980 USA Olympic hockey team and its win over the mighty Soviets be remembered with such devotion today had they lost that Gold Medal game to Finland?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Gonna Need Some Angels In The Infield (and Not The Anaheim Kind of Angels)

Opening Day for the Pirates is tomorrow, so I can't put it off any longer - It's 2017 Prediction Time!

I have already missed on one prediction.  I said that Trevor Williams would nail down the all-important Fifth Starter role, and not Tyler Glasnow.  I believe that I DIDN'T have that, but it is of some comfort to me that my pal Joe Risacher didn't have that one either, so I'm in good company.

As you can tell from the title of this little monograph, my biggest concern with the Bucs this coming season is not with the Starting Pitching, although that is a concern, but, rather, with the state of the infield.  It all began with the ill-fated decision of Jung Ho Kang to get plastered, get behind the wheel of a car, and get arrested and subsequently convicted of this crime for either the third or fourth time of his life (details are fuzzy, much like Jung Ho's judgement). So, it is now unknown when or even if, Kang and his home run bat and third base defense will be available to the team in 2017 or ever again, and that causes a lot of dominos to fall.

So, who's on third?  It appears that some combination of David Freese, John Jaso, and Josh Harrison will man the hot corner.  But, wait, you say, isn't Harrison at second base?  Apparently not, because the team itself seems a bit tepid about Harrison as a second baseman.  Not sure when that discontent began, but it appears to be real, and Adam Frazier now seems to be the next Pirates second baseman.  Frazier came up from Indy last year and performed admirably as a utility guy and pinch hitter, and he has been tearing the cover off the ball throughout the Grapefruit League, so, who knows, he may be the second coming of Dave Cash.  However, the ever cautious Pirates front office had never touted Frazier as anything more than a utility/super-bench guy, so it is hard to see him as the guy you rely on for 140 or so games at a critical position.

First base will be manned by former super prospect Josh Bell.  Bell made a stunning debut when brought from Indy last year so one can be optimistic.  However, there was knee surgery in January, and a Grapefruit League batting average below .110 this spring.  And we are continually being cautioned that he is "still learning" to play first base.

The makes Jordy Mercer the beacon of infield stability at short stop.  Mercer is a nice ball player, but if he's your best and strongest infielder, that could be a sign that you might have troubles contending for post-season glory.

Two other infielders round out the roster, filling out the coveted, controversial, and always much talked about 24th and 25th spots on the roster.  Phil Gosselin, obtained in a minor deal with Arizona in the off-season, and one time hot shot prospect Alen Hanson.  Let the kvetching begin.

So, I will leave you with a couple of predictions for 2017:
  1. Gerritt Cole will have a bounce back season, and look more like the nineteen game winner/under 3.00 ERA guy he was in 2015.  He will be a true ace and will make the All-Star team.
  2. Sadly, the will be the last year for Andrew McCutchen in a Pirates uniform.  This has been much discussed since the end of last season - at times it seemed to be the ONLY thing that was discussed about team - and the only question is will he finish the season with the team, or be dealt at the July 31 deadline?  This is a topic sure to be written about as the season progresses.
  3. We will see Austin Meadows at some point in the season.
  4. And the big prediction..Wins and Losses.  I am going to be optimistic and say that the team will win more than it loses.  Let's call it 83 wins, which, alas and alack, will not be good enough to make the post-season.
  5. The Los Angles Dodgers will defeat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
As always, watch but don't bet, enjoy the season, and Let's Go Bucs!!!