Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Free Agency Looms; The Great Ham-bino's Decision Waits

Ray Shero is a beast. Somehow, he’s juggling talks with Dan Hamhuis and Sergei Gonchar, while also holding contract discussions with Mark Eaton and Bill Guerin. Still, the most likely scenario has Gonchar leaving town, as he likely won’t budge on his desire for a three year deal. Hamhuis would likely cost the Pens about $4-4.5 million per year for the duration of his deal. Even though the Pens main focus of the offseason has been on defense, they’re likely still in the market for a winger. They’ve got about $12 million to work with this year, but will probably leave $1 mil to play around with during the season.

In regards to the Hamhuis talks, as time goes on, it looks worse and worse. Hamhuis truly seems to want to play near his home (western Canada), and doesn’t seem overly interested in playing for the GM that drafted him. Today is the day however, and we all know that sometimes deals get done when it seems least likely.

In Rejean we trust.

Willie Colon tore his Achilles, making a bad offensive line even worse. The Steelers are exploring free agency, and yesterday brought in former Pro Bowler Flozell Adams for a workout.

Pro Bowler is an odd term. I want Jerome Bettis and his bowling skill to go pro, that way he’ll be the first Pro Bowler Pro Bowler. It’s weird where my mind will go when I let it.

The Buccos are on track for one of the worst months in the history of the franchise. It’s not shocking, but still upsetting as a fan. It always hurts to watch good people, which I think most fans would agree that the Pirates players are, go through hard times. Especially when they’re 110% constrained by management. The Pirates are so bad, that I think they should just let Andrew McCutchen go to a team that can actually utilize his massive amounts of talent. It will be very interesting to see what the Pirates will do before the trade deadline next month.

What a beautiful Wednesday in Pittsburgh. In honor of it, let’s have a look at (hopefully) a future Pens D-Man.

Edit: Sad news just coming out. The two year old son of former Eagles QB Randall Cunningham drowned in the family hot tub. Condolences go out to Randall and his family. It's a shame to see such tragedy befall a good person.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chris Henry's Brain Offers Reprimand of NFL Complicity

Just over six months ago, tragedy struck the NFL when troubled Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was thrown from the back of a pickup truck and killed after an altercation with his fiancĂ©e. Friends and colleagues noted Henry’s sincere attempts to change his previous ways.

Today we understand more about Henry’s behaviors.

In a sensational article by the Post-Gazette’s Chuck Finder, we’re offered a look inside the brain of Chris Henry and a scathing critique of safety in the NFL.

It’s a lengthy and in-depth read, so you’re pressed for time, the article simply discusses how Henry likely suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the same disease attributed to the depression and eventual deaths of former Steelers Mike Webster and Justin Strzelczyk. People who suffer from CTE have similar behaviors to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. According to doctors, the tissue in Henry’s brain was very similar to someone eighty or ninety years old. According to Finder, Henry is the first active player to be diagnosed with CTE.

Taken alone, the article is disturbing enough. However, when all things are considered, it becomes shocking. Food for thought:

1. Henry was NEVER diagnosed with a concussion through high school, college or pro football.

2. Henry is by far the youngest football player (he was 26 at the time of his death) to ever be diagnosed with CTE. Mike Webster and Justin Strzelczyk were both long retired before experiencing serious troubles.

3. In comparison to Webster and Strzelczyk (both offensive lineman), Henry played a fairly docile position (wide receiver). While Webster and Strzelczyk were getting hit on every play, Henry was not.

When most people think about head injuries in the NFL, they think of the lineman or linebackers. Large men in the trenches putting their bodies on the line every single play. Outside of a kicker, the position of wide receiver is the least punishing. However, here is a wide receiver that was clearly suffering from severe trauma.

Let this situation serve as an indictment of the NFL’s lack of concern about the safety of their sport. I consider myself to be a typical football fan. What has always attracted me to the game is the passion and physical play. However, when that physicality begins to put people’s lives at risk; and Finder’s article DOES attribute many of Henry’s behaviors to the injuries he sustained, the NFL must re-evaluate its priorities. If a 26 year old wide receiver with no concussion history has the brain tissue of an 80 year old, something is drastically askew.

As players get bigger and stronger, the problem will get worse. Action needs to be taken now. If you have to outlaw head shots, do it. The sport and its fans will adapt. If they don’t, they were never fans to begin with.

Men like Chris Henry, Mike Webster, Justin Strzelczyk and many others cannot have died in vain. If this type of damage happened to Henry, it can happen to everybody and anybody in football.

In what has already been an extremely tumultuous offseason for the National Football League, this story will be overshadowed by the Roethlisberger situation, among others. Don’t be fooled. This is the most important thing that’s happened involving the NFL this year.

Don’t be afraid to stand up and hold the NFL responsible.

Note: I’ll update later tonight about the other happenings of the past weekend in sports. This was simply to important to skim over.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

NHL Awards Ceremony; The Most Epic Picture in Blog History

If you haven’t been paying attention to the John Isner/Nikolas Mahut match at Wimbledon, shame on you. The two resume play today for the THIRD day, attempting to break their 5th set tie, at 59-59. That’s not a typo. The match has gone on for 10 hours. Just the fifth set alone hast taken over 7 hours, which ALONE would make it the longest match in history. Really an unbelievable performance by these two.

Ben Roethlisberger made a surprise visit to his kids camp yesterday. No word on whether or not any of the kids had a chance bathroom encounter with him.

The NHL Awards Ceremony took place in Las Vegas last night. The only Penguin hardware went to Captain Crosby, who took home the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.

I swear to all major and minor deities that this picture is NOT photoshopped. Not sure what's going on, but it's incredible.

Jordan Staal, as predicted, lost out on the Selke Award to Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings. Not truly a surprise, first time nominees seldom are awarded the Selke. The smart money says Staal won’t retire without a few of those on his mantle.

Crosby lost out on both the Lindsay Award and Hart Trophy (MVP). Alex Ovechkin walked away with the Lindsay, while Henrik Sedin of Vancouver won the Hart, with Crosby finishing third in the voting. Who cares? Couldn’t find Ovechkin or Sedin’s name on the Stanley Cup, so whatever.

Still no word on Gonchar’s potential departure.

The Pirates got crushed by the Texas Rangers last night. Bob Nutting and his cronies still won’t open their wallets, so it’s not like we should expect anything different.

The US will play Ghana in their second round matchup. 95% of the US didn’t even realize Ghana was a country.

Enjoy this wonderful Thursday while watching part 4 of the Pittsburgh Sports-gasm:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

They Couldn't Take it From U.S.

For the better part of ninety minutes, it unfolded like a nightmare for United States soccer. England beats Slovenia, and the toxic mix of horrid officiating and missed opportunities had the U.S. on their deathbed as penalty time approached. Most newsmen were already writing their stories; the pundits preparing their condemnation of the referees. As it often does, it happened quickly. An Algerian odd man break denied by U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who launched a rush the other way. The next few seconds prove to be a blur, Jozy Altidore throws it in front. The ball squirts away from the Algerian goalie out to the waiting right foot of U.S. star Landon Donovan. What followed was perhaps the most dramatic moment in U.S. World Cup history:

What a moment for the United States. The U.S. wins their group for the first time since 1930, and advance to the round of 16.

On to other things. That Stephen Strasburg card is still through the roof.

Great read from Dejan Kovacevic at the Post-Gazette, chronicling the rise of Pirates reliever Evan Meek, who continues to have an outstanding season for the Buccos.

Rumors are continuing to swirl about the Penguins trading away the rights to defenseman Sergei Gonchar. If the Pens and Gonchar are as far away on contract talks as they seem to be, this would be a move that would definitely make sense for the Penguins. We're probably seeing the last moments of Sergei Gonchar as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

I give you part three of the Pittsburgh Sports-gasm. Raise a beer to U.S. soccer tonight.

Strasburg Madness, Full Update Tonight

Yesterday I wrote about the Stephen Strasburg 1/1 Autographed Rookie Card selling on eBay for about the price of a decent car. Well the stakes have been raised.

That is not a joke. The card has seriously been bid up over $100,000. And it still has five days left. This is getting insane quickly.

Full update on this and other things tonight. Just wanted to pass along the craziness

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Return of Cookie Monster, Heath Miller Needs a Bodyguard

Matt Cooke has just signed a three year deal worth about $2 million per year (According to the Post-Gazette, a cap hit of $1.8 million/year) to stay with the Pens. Cooke, who had a career high in goals last year, potentially took a bit of a hometown discount, as his value would have likely been higher on the open market after July 1. The decision is not that surprising either way. Shero and the Pens needed Cooke’s grittiness and penalty killing ability, and Cooke, a player that has done his fair share of bouncing from team to team, has settled with his family in Pittsburgh, and wanted very much to stay. Pens faithful, rejoice!

Finally some humor arose out of the Ben Roethlisberger saga. Roethlisberger’s football camp for kids has been taken over by Mike Tomlin in the wake of the Roethlisberger accusations, and during a Q and A, Steelers tight end Heath Miller was asked if he too, had a bodyguard.

Miller’s response?

“No, but are you looking to help me out?”

Solid response from a classy human being.

In other crazy news, a Stephen Strasburg rookie card can be all yours!...For the low, low price of $36,000. That’s right, a Stephen Strasburg Bowman 1/1 Rookie Autograph is currently selling on eBay, with the bidding up to over $36K with nearly a week left. I’m a card collector, always have been, always will be, but I could buy a Lexus for that much. Absolutely incredible stuff.

To make this rainy, gray Tuesday a little better, Part 2 of the Pittsburgh Sports-gasm:

It's been 18 years, and I still can't figure out how they left him that open.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Late June: Where Sports Go to Die

In what can only be described as a tournament in which almost nobody deserved to win, Graeme McDowell became the first Northern Irishman to win the U.S. Open, besting the ultimate underdog, Gregory Havret by one stroke. McDowell held the lead for most of the final round, as 54 hole leader Dustin Johnson collapsed early, going 6 over through his first 4 holes. Three of the big guns were lurking all day: Els, Woods and Mickelson, but none could match the poise and consistency shown by McDowell. Hard not to root for the guy, he has become one of the most well-liked golfers on the PGA Tour with his calm demeanor and wonderful Irish sense of humor. Congrats to the new U.S. Open champ.

In unrelated news, Guinness sales rocketed up 113% yesterday.

The Pirates started something called a “winning streak” this weekend, taking two of three from the lowly Cleveland Indians. The one sport Cleveland should be able to beat Pittsburgh at, and they still can’t. God, they suck. Pedro Alvarez’s struggles continued, going 0 for 3 with an RBI. He clearly feels as if there is a lot of pressure on him, and there is. But, everything in due time. Pedro is as talented as they come, and he’ll eventually start hitting.

The NHL draft begins on Friday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Penguins will draft players, I will talk about them.

Welcome to late June, the sports coma of the year. Nothing much happens.

Stay tuned this week or early next week, as I will be writing a 2010 fantasy football preview.

This week will also be the week of the Pittsburgh sports-gasm, so every post will end with an awesome moment in Pittsburgh sports history.

Is there a better way to start a Monday than with this? Nope.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ron Artest is Awesome

The Lakers won some kind of championship last night. Nobody from Pittsburgh gives a crap. Ron Artest did give 2 epic interviews though. Not gonna lie, I don’t care that he beat the crap out of some fans a few years ago, I think I love the guy. Really incredible stuff here.

Absolutely awesome.

The Pirates lost their 11th straight game. It’s starting to get tough to watch. The Tribe come into town tonight for a three game set.

Somehow Mike Yeo leaving to take an AHL job evaded me. Penguins will have to find another bald guy to run the power play.

Here’s a suggestion:

The NHL Salary Cap is looking to go up by about 2 million, which bodes well for the re-signing of players like Matt Cooke and Mark Eaton. The Penguins are in talks with Cooke, and will look to ink him before July 1st.

Now do like I told you yesterday and go watch soccer and golf.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jaroslav Halak Traded to St. Louis Blues

I don't normally update for this type of thing, but it seemed to come out of the woodwork.

Per TSN's Bob McKenzie, the Montreal Canadiens have traded the brick wall of a goaltender that beat the Penguins, Jaroslav Halak, to the St. Louis Blues for compensation yet to be determined. It's not a total surprise that Halak was traded, but the news popped out of nowhere.

Montreal Candiens fans should start rioting....NOW!

Edit: The players heading to Montreal are C Lars Eller and winger Ian Schultz. SHOCKED that St. Louis didn't even have to give up a roster player for Halak. Eller was the 13th pick in 2007, while Ian Schultz is a Matt Cooke type. What a deal for St. Louis.

Alvarez Debut Ruined, but Hooray Golf!

The much heralded Pirates prospect Pedro Alvarez made his MLB debut last night, and apparently nobody cared, which shows how most Pittsburghers truly feel about the Pirates. Ticket sales to last night’s game experienced a mini-spike, but still were not out of the ordinary for a weekday night game. No matter the ticket sales, Pedro’s debut was all for naught, as the Pirates were soundly defeated by the White Sox 7-2, marking their 10th straight loss. Pedro went 0-2 with a walk and committed one of the Pirates SIX errors. Jose Tabata also hit his first major league home run last night.

I think now is the point that we can start talking about Manager John Russell’s job being in jeopardy.

The Buccos finish up their series against the White Sox tonight, with Ross Ohlendorf on the hill.

And holy sweet Touchdown Jesus! The U.S. Open starts today! The long bridge between the Masters and the Open has officially been crossed. Phil Mickelson will look to win his second major of the year while Tiger Woods looks to rekindle the magic that he experienced 10 years ago at Pebble Beach.

Even if you’re not an avid golf fan, this is a U.S. Open that should be watched, if for nothing else, the beauty that is Pebble Beach. The rocky shores and beautiful ocean view make Pebble Beach a sight to behold. What a wonderful, wonderful course.

So skip work tomorrow and flip back and forth between the U.S. Open and the US-Slovenia World Cup game. You won’t be sorry.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pedro Alvarez Debuts Tonight

This was long overdue. More on how it went tonight after the game or tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Tragic Day in the World of Sports

There are certain days where sports take a back seat. It is so easy to forget that these are just games, certainly not a matter of life and death. Sports are like anything else in life, given to trials and tribulations, never immune from pain and tragedy. It is unfortunate that it takes days like this for many sports fans to step back and gain perspective.

Yes, the news is that the famed “Touchdown Jesus” that stood for years just off of I-75 around Cincinnati was destroyed by lightning during a storm last night. The landmark that many Bengals passed on the way home after a defeat at the hands of the Steelers is gone. Touchdown Jesus burned to the ground after the strike, leaving only the steel frame standing.

It was Touchdown Jesus’ dream to see a Bengals Super Bowl victory. After their 2005 Wild Card home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Touchdown Jesus was inconsolable, his tears flooding the interstate. It took a visit from Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer to cheer up Touchdown Jesus.

Palmer and Ochocinco discuss their upcoming visit to TDJ

Touchdown Jesus was quoted after that meeting as saying, “Yay, my faith in the Bengals has been restored. May eternal light guide them. Especially since they brought me some Five Guys, shit’s crazy good.”

But that Super Bowl was never to be. The team toiled in mediocrity for the rest of Touchdown Jesus’ days. But TDJ never lost faith in his beloved Bengals, and will take his fandom with him to the grave.

There has been no word yet on a funeral service. The rumor is that the Bengals will don an emblem honoring Touchdown Jesus on their jersey’s during the 2010 season, and that he will also be inducted into the Bengals’ Ring of Honor. May you rest in peace, Touchdown Jesus. You are undoubtedly in a better place, soaring towards the uprights of the sky.

RIP Touchdown Jesus 2004-2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Pirates Have Been Plundered

Even the Pittsburgh Pirate himself is pained by watching the games.

At some point, you have to feel bad for Pirates players. The recent eight game losing streak certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying on their part. It is merely a reflection of ownership’s unwillingness to spend the money it would take to make this team competitive on a yearly basis. Three years ago, when previous owner Kevin McClatchy left Pittsburgh, there was a sense that the new ownership may break the spell and begin to take the team in a different direction.

But in the words of the great author George Orwell, “This new version is the past, and no different past can ever have existed.”

New ownership, same tactics. You can tell how bad things are when you start to feel bad for players who are drafted by the Pirates (sorry, Jameson Taillon). It’s simply unfair. It’s unfair to the fans, those who knew better days for the Pirates, and those who didn’t. It’s unfair to the players, many of whom work extremely hard on the field and do many great things in the community. It’s not fair to the city of Pittsburgh, which deserves a baseball team worthy of the beautiful complex the city provided.

If you are fan enough to watch Bucco games with any consistency, I’m sure you feel the same. It’s one of those rare instances when players can’t truly be blamed for the team’s performance. They have been handcuffed and blindfolded by those above them. There are some good major league players on the Pirates, one of whom is a budding superstar. But the vast majority of the Pirates are players with more heart than talent. Having heart is valuable, I don’t want to take that away. But you don’t win baseball games without talent, and if you watch a Pirates win, you get the sense that it wasn’t because they were better than the opposition, it was because they just wanted it more.

It is to that point that leads us to wonder, where is Pedro Alvarez? I know that there are no quick fixes for this team; no saviors. But why bring up Lincoln and Tabata without Alvarez? It certainly wasn’t for lack of production, as Alvarez leads the Indianapolis Indians in home runs and RBI’s by far. At this point, every day that Alvarez spends in AAA ball hurts the Pirates. Alvarez is not a raw 19 or 20 year old (Note: Tabata, who is with the big squad, is merely 21), he’s a 23 year old who has spent significant time in both college ball and the minor leagues. Alvarez needs to be up sooner rather than later.

I’m not entirely pessimistic about the future of the Pirates. They have young talent with McCutchen, Brad Lincoln, Tabata and Alvarez. But until management ponies up the money to spend on these players, they will face the same fate as players such as Nate McLouth and Jason Bay, gone before their time.

The cards have been dealt. Will management ante up? Or will they fold once again?

A quick note to Pirates players:

Additional note: My good friend Pat has started a blog. He is an exemplary writer and human, and you would be doing your brain a disservice by not reading.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ben Roethlisberger Speaks Out, Ilya Kovalchuk to Russia?

For the first time since the incident, Ben Roethlisberger agreed to sit down for interviews with some of the local media. The interviews were merely the first step in what will be a long and difficult image rehabilitation. One of the interviews was with local television reporter Sally Wiggin. Before even seeing the Roethlisberger interview, Wiggin was on the radio discussing her time with Ben. She said that he seemed genuinely distraught at the harm he has caused his teammates, family and Steeler fans.

Go to WTAE to watch the interview with Ben.

Only time will tell whether or not Roethlisberger is sincere or not. The one thing that was made apparent to me throughout the interview is that Ben knows that his every move will be analyzed and scrutinized. Were he to have one more incident, he would be off of the Steelers and perhaps out of the NFL entirely. Roethlisberger could learn from how Michael Vick has conducted himself upon his return to the NFL (Good lord, did I just say that?). Vick has worked hard to repair not only his image, but his life in general. Ben will certainly have to do the same if he truly cares about playing for this team.

Word is now coming out that New Jersey Devils star winger Ilya Kovalchuk wants to play in Russia next year. It’s difficult to say whether or not this is a ploy to get a significant offer from an NHL squad, but I would have to believe he is serious. The KHL pays tax-free and heartily. Were Kovalchuk to depart to Russia, it sets a very significant precedent for Russian players leaving the NHL. Most that go from the NHL to the KHL are either older or young, unproven players that didn’t want to play in the US. Someone in his prime, with the star power that Kovalchuk has would continue to legitimize the KHL as a true rival of the NHL.

Definitely more on both of these stories as events warrant.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2009-10 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks

It was a truly strange moment in hockey history.

For a span of two seconds, Patrick Kane was the only person in the world who knew the outcome of the Stanley Cup.

It seemed a harmless play. Kane took the puck from Brian Campbell, shook a defender and let go a delicate, bad angle shot that simply got caught up in Michael Leighton’s paraphernalia, deflecting to the top right corner of the net.

And Kane was the only one that knew it.

Not to be petty, but if you weren’t a Blackhawks or Flyers fan, and simply watching the game for the love of hockey, you felt a little cheated by the overtime winner. I don’t mean to take anything away from Chicago, but the ending was not befitting of the game itself. It was a hard-fought, well-played game the whole way through. And as you were getting prepped for overtime, you knew that something dramatic would await you, no matter who won the game.

And then Patrick Kane provided perhaps the most awkward Stanley Cup game-winning goal in history. There was no goal light, no referee signal, no high-pitched call from announcer Doc Emrick. For that moment, there was only confusion. No eruption from the fans or the benches. Just a puck that had cozied up in the embrace of a net, tucked comfortably away from view.

No matter how bizarre the final moments were, the end result is the same. A well-deserved team and city took home the most hallowed trophy in sports. Jonathan Toews will fly home with the Conn Smythe trophy in his lap (He should be sure to hand it off to Patrick Sharp and Nicklas Hjalmersson, both who were outstanding the past two months). The Hawks await what is sure to be a raucous return home, and a truly unforgettable summer.

Hossa Watch: 2009-10 Stanley Cup Champion. Don’t act like you didn’t crack a bit of a smile watching Hossa lift that cup.

Congratulations to the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks. Your defense begins now.

Oh, and before I go, be sure to thank Jeremy Roenick for providing a truly uncomfortable television moment:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Ben Roethlisberger Accuser Tapes

Tapes were released today in the Ben Roethlisberger situation in Milledgeville, GA. The accuser (who appears in the video, but has her face blurred for privacy reasons) states that she did not fight back against Ben, as she was afraid that he may hurt her further.

TMZ has the tapes.

This just adds to the list of things that Roethlisberger will have to soon address. It truly doesn’t seem like this was a girl who was out for money, she’s had to drop out of college, and has received absolutely zero notoriety from this incident (see: Andrea McNulty). We may never know exactly what happened that night, but it will take a long time before Ben is able to repair his image, if ever.

What will 2010-11 Bring to the Pittsburgh Penguins- 5 Predictions

It’s been just over a month since the Penguins were ousted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a truly painful game 7 against Montreal. If you haven’t had nightmares about that game by now, you might be dead.

That loss has sent us spiraling into the summer of uncertainty. The Penguins could look substantially different come October, thanks to the glory of the salary cap era. So while it’s the offseason and the Pirates are getting torched by Stephen Strasburg (kid has nastier stuff than a back alley whore), I thought it may be fun to take a few guesses as to what the 2010-11 Penguins opener will hold.

1. No Sergei Gonchar

This is a pretty easy one. Gonchar still thinks he has a multi-year deal left, we all know he doesn’t. Shero showed where his priorities lay when he re-signed Letang. Especially now that there has been an expensive precedent set for this offseason on defensemen (thanks, Dennis Seidenburg). His rifle from the point will be sorely missed, and one would have to believe that Letang and Goligoski will struggle to replace what Gonchar brought to the table, particularly in the first part of the season.

2. Number 1 being said, the Penguins will have a new winger on Sid’s line.

Will we have a welcome back party for Colby Armstrong? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Sid will definitely push for the return of his old best friend. This spot could also be wide open for a guy like Lee Stempniak or Tomas Plekanec. All three of these guys would have cap hits between $2.5-$4M, which would easily be covered once Gonchar was gone. Come on, who from Pittsburgh wouldn’t LOVE to pull that dusty Colby Armstrong jersey out of the closet?

3. No Eric Tangradi….Yet.

Tangradi will absolutely be up for significant time next year, just not in October. The Pens will likely fill the bottom lines with guys like Nick Johnson, Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey. But it won’t take long before Tangradi will just be too beastly for the Baby Pens. Those who have been looking for a Ryan Malone replacement, let me introduce you to Big Dog Tangradi.

4. Unfortunately, no Anton Volchenkov.

Just can’t see it happening at this point. If the Pens can somehow, someway come up with a deal to sign Volchenkov at a reasonable price, I will turn tricks outside of Consol Energy Center just to get tickets.

5. Matt Cooke will beat the bejesus out of somebody

Cooke will celebrate his new 2 year contract by punching the first person who steps in the crease in front of Fleury. Everyone will still love him in Pittsburgh, which is why he’ll stay here. If you ever see Cooke and his family around town, you get the sense that they all really feel at home in Pittsburgh. If Shero offers him a deal slightly higher than what Cooke makes now, he’d immediately sign on that dotted line.

Feel free to tell me how wrong/awesome I am.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Super Mario Golf and the Stephen Strasburg Phenomenon

Mario Lemieux continued his domination of all things sports this past weekend by nailing a hole-in-one at Oakmont Country Club. The guys from The Pensblog will probably make some “66 Buries It” joke that will be funnier than anything I’d come up with.

The big news around Pittsburgh sports tonight truly has very little to do with Pittsburgh sports, and that is the MLB debut of Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg against the Pirates. Strasburg is the most hyped pitching prospect of the last decade (maybe longer), and recently made news by having a rookie card of his sell for over $16,000.

There is an inherent danger in this amount of hype for a youngster: he may believe it. If Strasburg has a level head, which most around him say he does, he’ll simply think of himself as another guy trying to make it in the major leagues. All Strasburg would need to do to gain perspective is to call guys like Ben McDonald and Todd Van Poppel. Guys who were “can’t miss prospects” who, well, missed. It’s no accident that they’re letting him debut against the Pirates, who don’t exactly have the most intimidating lineup.

Tonight will be a very interesting game, and will garner the most viewers of any Pirate game this year. Let’s hope the Buccos can rattle him early and often.

In universal sports news, the World Cup begins on Friday in South Africa, amid much fanfare. I don’t fashion myself as any kind of soccer aficionado, but I do watch the World Cup matches. It’s undoubtedly the biggest sporting event in the world, and its intensity is infectious. It’ll be a lot of fun, and certain to have matches that are just full of drama. Gotta love it.


Monday, June 7, 2010

The Blog Easy: Notes from a Triumphant Return

An opening homage to the wonderful city of New Orleans: great people, great city, great fun.

In fact, so much fun that it can actually keep me from watching sports (kind of).

A bit of catch up news:

The Penguins re-signed young forward Nick Johnson, who was impressive in his short time up with the big club this year.

The Blackhawks took a 3-2 lead last night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals last night, beating the Flyers 7-4. I’ve decided that if the Blackhawks win, they should give the Conn Smythe to Patrick Sharp. With all due respect to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the best player on the ice for the Hawks night in and night out has been Sharp. He may end up being a cap casualty after the season, and it would be a damn shame. Seems to be a good character guy and someone who is very deserving of his success.

Hossa Watch (through game 5): 1 Goal, 3 Assists.

The Pirates drafted high school pitcher Jameson Taillon with the 2nd overall pick in the MLB Draft tonight. Kid is a giant. 18 years old, 6’6”, 220 pounds, 98 MPH fastball, and now a doomed career since he was drafted by the Buccos.

Did they even win a game while I was gone?

Ben Roethlisberger came out and talked to the media for the first time after rejoining the squad. He answered a couple questions and moved on. It was really no big deal either way. I’ll hold my judgment for when he does an interview with the ladies from “The View”.

I know it’s now water under the bridge, but I feel obligated to address the Armando Galarraga/Jim Joyce perfect game scandal. Joyce has sincerely apologized to Galarraga and admitted that he made the wrong call. Many nasty things were said in the game’s aftermath about Joyce, in the media and by schmucks on the internet like me. Joyce seemed genuinely devastated by his mistake, and the guy deserves a break.

Honestly, what Joyce has done has elevated that moment to another level. In ten years, not too many people will remember the perfect games hurled by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay, but all baseball fans will remember Joyce’s blown call. Inadvertently, Jim Joyce has immortalized the game that Galarraga threw.

It was, simply put, imperfect perfection.

More stuff tomorrow.

Edit: Shame on me for not mentioning the passing of former UCLA coach and basketball legend John Wooden. One of the most humble men the game has ever known passed away this weekend at age 99. He'll be sorely missed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


It was history.

When Armando Galarraga stepped on first with the final out in his glove, it marked a tremendous personal comeback for a man who three weeks ago was pitching in the minors.

And then umpire James Joyce stepped in.

In what would likely be a top two or three "awful call of the year" regardless of the situation, Joyce called Cleveland Indian batter Jason Donald safe at first, although it was perfectly clear that Galarraga had beaten Donald to the bag by at WORST a half-step.

Galarraga's accomplishment would have been the third perfect game of the MLB season, a feat that has never been done. Now, it becomes a tragedy. A struggling pitcher who pitched the game of his life, and still couldn't catch a break. With one emphatic gesture, Jim Joyce put all celebrations aside, leaving Tiger Stadium in a state of incredulity. Even Jason Donald put his hands on his head in shock.

It is an utterly shameful night in baseball. An ignominious shadow has been cast over what should have been a beautiful moment. Even if Major League Baseball would overturn the umpires ruling (unlikely), it would still never be the same.

Galarraga deserved his moment. Jim Joyce made it his own.

Steelers OTA Fight, Penguins offer Student Flush!

As if the Steelers needed any more bad publicity, a fight broke out between rookie receiver Antonio Brown and second-year corner Keenan Lewis at OTA’s yesterday. Apparently these two brainiacs exchanged punches while wearing their helmets. Definitely not the smartest idea I’ve ever heard. This stuff really shouldn’t be blown out of proportion though, it’s a very common thing. This time in the summer, it’s hot, tempers flare, things happen. I would bet that more teams have fights during OTA’s and training camp than don’t. Regardless, it brings the Steelers back into the spotlight, if only momentarily.

Much was made about Ben Roethlisberger’s return to the Steelers, but as was expected, it was a quiet one. Neither Ben nor Coach Tomlin talked with the media afterwards, and it is proving difficult to gauge when Ben will let himself be open to questions.

In much more awesome news, the Penguins will be hosting the “Student flush”, which is a play off of the popular Student rush program. 250 lucky fans will be invited to come down to Consol Energy Center next Tuesday and join in the ceremonial first flush of all of the toilets in order to ensure that they are working properly.

Here is my guarantee. If I am one of the people lucky enough to be chosen to participate, I will make, ahem, very good use of my flush. I think you can “de-deuce” what I mean.

I want to use this picture in every blog entry.

In Pirates news, the Cubs continue to be the only team the Pirates can beat. The Buccos had a 3-2 comeback win yesterday, thanks in part to Neil Walker’s game-winning 2 run home run in the bottom of the 8th. The blast was Neil’s first career homer. Jeff Karstens pitched a very solid game, never letting it get out of hand after the Cubs went up 2-0 on a rocket off the bat of former Bucco Xavier Nady. Garrett Jones also homered for his second consecutive night.

The Pirates look to sweep the Cubbies tonight at 7:05.

Also at 7, Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Flyers and the Blackhawks. The series shifts to Philadelphia, after Chicago took both games at home. The Blackhawks look to get Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back on track, as both have been held point-less thus far.

If you don’t watch sports tonight, this will happen to you.

PS- I will be in New Orleans until Monday. You may just have to suffice for a few days without updates. Go check out Pensblog, Penguin Poop, Mondesi's House and other great reads. I may update while I'm down there, especially if the Stanley Cup Final begins to tighten. I'll be sure to send a postcard.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Your Daily Sports Breakfast Buffet: the Return of Pig Ben, Benedict Hossa

For the first time since Goodell’s suspension, Ben Roethlisberger will rejoin his teammates at the South Side complex for OTA’s today. What will be interesting is whether or not Ben will talk to the media. He has been very silent since Goodell’s suspension, even asking Coach Tomlin to take over his football camp for children. Clearly, Ben has been very careful to stay out of the public eye, lying as low as humanly possible. Perhaps he has finally been humbled, perhaps he’s just trying to save his ass. Only Ben knows that at this point. This story has still got a long way to go.

Most Pens fans rejoiced as Chicago took a 2-0 series lead over Philadelphia, beating the Flyers 2-1. Given the ridiculous action of Game One, the puck must have looked like a deep-dish pizza to goalies Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton in Game 2. Last night was a “hockey purist” game, with few mistakes, good physical play and some solid goaltending. The scary part about all of this for the Flyers? They’re down 2-0 with nary a peep from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. If those two get hot, this series could be over very quickly.

Hossa Watch: 1 Goal, 0 Assists- still a tool.

The Pirates awoke from their week-long slumber to come back and beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1. Before Sunday’s game, GM Neal Huntington attempted to quell the rumors that a youthful infusion was on the way this month. He was quoted as saying pitcher Brad Lincoln was still “a ways away” from being called up. He also stated that Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez had work remaining in Indianapolis. However, for unknown reasons, Jose Tabata was not in the lineup for Indianapolis yesterday. Maybe he’s on a plane to Pittsburgh? We’ll find out soon enough.

The Pirates will play the Cubs at 7:05 tonight at PNC Park. Tonight marks the return of Jeff Karstens to the rotation. Does anyone know why on God’s green Earth Ryan Doumit continues to hit 6th? Here, John Russell, if you’re reading this, this should be your lineup tonight:

1. Andrew McCutchen
2. Neil Walker
3. Ryan Doumit
4. Garrett Jones
5. Delwyn Young (screw Ryan Church)
6. Andy LaRoche
7. Jeff Clement
8. Ronny Cedeno
9. Jeff Karstens

See? It’s easy!

Why are the hockey and football seasons so far away?