Thursday, July 29, 2010

What do Penguins do in the Off-Season?

Now that I've sucked you in with the title:

Way too cute. I'll write something about sports tonight.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pittsburgh Pirates Annual Fire Sale This Weekend!

In honor of the 18th annual Pittsburgh Pirates fire sale (or as some call it, the MLB trade deadline), I've decided to take a closer look at who may soon be former Pirates...

Starting Pitchers:

Paul Maholm: Paul’s making $5 million this year, which equates to nearly 1/6th of the Pirates entire payroll. Given the Pirates past nature of contract dumping, Maholm will be high on the list. It’s unfortunate. He’s a bit of a fan favorite, and at least offers some kind of stabilizing force in the rotation. Dodgers have shown interest, and other teams will likely follow suit before Saturday’s deadline. I’d expect him to be gone shortly.

Zach Duke: Haven’t heard about anyone knocking down the door to make a deal for Duke. No doubt that Duke hasn’t turned out quite like the organization had hoped.

Ross Ohlendorf: Too much raw talent. He’ll stay.

Jeff Karstens: Inconsistent, yet still serviceable. Just the type of pitcher the Pirates love. He’ll be here.


One of the few bright spots for the Buccos, the bullpen has been sensational at times…which means it should be ripe for the picking for big-money organizations.

Evan Meek: The star of the bullpen. Meek has developed into an excellent reliever, and I would have to believe the Pirates would someday give him the opportunity to start. How that will play out? Who knows. But rest assured, the Pirates asking price on Evan Meek will be scoffed at by his potential suitors, which is fine by me. Meek stays a Bucco, no doubt.

Octavio Dotel: With the exception of some early season struggles, Dotel has been a solid closer for the Pirates (on the rare occasions they’ve had save opportunities). Dotel is actively being shopped, and remains the most likely Pirates reliever to end up on another team by next week. Dotel is making $3.5 million. He’s in his mid-thirties, so he doesn’t truly fit into the Pirates future anyhow.

D.J. Carrasco: The second most likely pitcher to be sent packing. Carrasco, who has been a steady cog in the ‘pen since coming to Pittsburgh, is considered one of the better options in a relatively weak reliever market.

Joel Hanrahan: They better not. That’s all I’m going to say.

Javier Lopez: Pretty valuable guy. Could go either way, but I think he’ll stick around.

Position Players:

Ryan Doumit: Probably the most intriguing of the trade possibilities. I don’t think many Pirate fans want to see Doumit gone (myself included), but given the fact that he’s very injury prone, and is due a sizable raise – by Pirates standards - in 2010. Offensively minded catchers are a rare breed, and Doumit is one of them, which makes him look awfully interesting to contending teams looking for a power bat behind the plate. He won’t dazzle you with his defense, but he’s serviceable. I would think some team may make an offer for Doumit that the Pirates can’t refuse

Garrett Jones: Nope, he’s cheap and the asking price is too high for other teams. Jones won’t be jumping ship.

Neil Walker: Fat chance.

Andy LaRoche: Damnit. I don’t want to see LaRoche go. At all. I don’t think the Pirates want to either, he’s an excellent locker room guy, and great insurance if Pedro Alvarez decides to go into Derek Bell mode for some reason. Please stay, Andy.

Andrew McCutchen: If the Pirates were to trade McCutchen, an angry mob would storm across the street from Finnegan’s Wake and Mullen’s to burn PNC Park to the ground. They would then Google Map the homes of Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntingdon and Bob Nutting, and through tear-soaked eyes and wretched beer breath, would proceed to throw Molotov Cocktails through the windows, killing all inside.

Delwyn Young: When was the last time we had a bench player who was this valuable? He continues to wear the black and gold.

Bobby Crosby: We pay him over a million and he sucks, why keep him? He stays.

Ronny Cedeno: We just don’t have anyone else, he’ll stick around.

Lastings Milledge: Oh, Lastings. Why can’t you quite live up to that potential? Sometimes you look like Willie Mays, sometimes you look like Chad Hermansen. Just pick one and play like them. Stop toying with my emotions.

Pedro Alvarez: See Andrew McCutchen.

Ryan Church: Who cares?

Jose Tabata: Unless his estranged wife kidnaps him too, he remains in Pittsburgh.

If the Pirates trade Andrew McCutchen, you know where to find me this weekend.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Gospel According to Max- Doucheronomy 25:8

Pittsburgh didn't need any more reasons to love Max Talbot. Scoring both goals of a 2-1 win in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals will do that. In an interview with 105.9 the X radio station, he had some choice words about Alex Ovechkin. He's already an immortal icon in this city. Now he's giving us verbal treats like this.

"I just hate the guy," Talbot told Pittsburgh's 105.9 The X. "I can't lie. Sorry. Even more so for a guy like Ovechkin. Like, seriously, OK ... yeah. I don't like him. The first time I met him, let's say he didn't give the best impression to me, so better reason to hate him even more."

"Malkin knew Ovechkin and introduced me to him and the first impression wasn't great. I'm not really gonna say what happened but I'm like, 'OK, this guy is a real douche.'"

Wow. If Max Talbot thinks you're a douche, you might just be a douche. We all know that Max doesn't sugarcoat his feelings. What I want to know is what Ovechkin did to repulse Talbot so badly? Did he beat a girl? Steal Max's Primanti Brothers Capicola and Egg sandwich? Punt a kitten? Max seems the type to find something positive to say about everyone. Not Ovie though.

I can't wait to hear the rest of the NHL speak on Max's slamming of Ovechkin. Talk about how Talbot is a talented enough player himself to be spouting off about Ovechkin; Ovechkin can score more goals in a season that Talbot will in his career, blah blah blah.

To them, I say:

And the battle raged on.

Before I conclude, I must make special note of two people who left us this past week.

Kaye Cowher, the wife of former Steelers Coach Bill Cowher, who passed away from cancer late Friday at age 54. A very humble, generous woman who was a tremendous athlete in her own right, Kaye endeared herself to the Pittsburgh community through her charitable work for abused children, among others. All prayers go out to Bill and his three daughters: Meagan, Lauren and Lindsay.

And also, Penguins PA Announcer John Barbaro, who passed away yesterday also from a battle with cancer. Barbaro was the arena voice of the Penguins for 36 years. If you ever attended a Pens game during those 36 years, you will hear his voice forever. Barbaro was 65.

When Will the NFL Wake Up?

One of the biggest issues that has faced the NFL this summer was the examination that concluded that deceased Bengals WR Chris Henry had suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which was only previously found in players who had long since retired. I had expanded on this last month.

As the NFL season rapidly approches, the NFL has addressed this problem. How, you may ask? With a poster.

Some sportswriters are coming out in praise of the NFL, saying that it is a significant step in the right direction.

I'm not one of them.

Imagine you worked in an office building. You've begun to notice a few of your colleagues getting sick, the number growing larger and larger as time passes. Now imagine that an outside source has discovered that the office building is absolutely laced with asbestos, and that is the reason for the rampant illness.

Imagine still, that your bosses caught wind of the situation. You come into work one day and you see a poster at your desk which states, "This office building has asbestos everywhere. You might get sick. Please go back to work".

Would any of us want to work there? Probably not. That's the situation that NFL players are now in. The NFL has taken the stance of "There is a problem" rather than "There is a problem, and here is our plan to attempt to fix it".

In the wake of recent events, the NFL has been given a golden opportunity to firmly establish itself on the cutting edge of sports; to take a problem that has existed throughout its own sport and others, and stand up to it. When seen through that scope, the NFL's response is paltry at best. Criminally negligent at worst. The NFL is scoffing at its responsibility to the safety of their employees. It's not my nature to defend people who make millions for playing a game, but in a case where their overseers care more about profits than people, I make an exception. A racecar driver wouldn't step into a car unless it was of the highest safety quality, so why should an NFL player step foot on the field without being guaranteed the same?

This is not simply a scathing critique. It is a call to arms. Until both fans and players unite in common cause, the NFL will continue to treat this issue passively. The time has come for the NFL to both accept responsibility for it's lack of action and to prove to all who love football that the league cares about safety and honor above all else.

If only safety and honor were profitable.

Note: Expect another post (actually a Pittsburgh related one! shocking!) later tonight.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Steve Breaston Gives Back Through Both Words and Action

When Arizona Cardinals (and former Woodland Hills star) Wide Receiver Steve Breaston isn’t evading tackles on the field, he’s helping North Braddock youths evade the streets. Breaston has teamed up with I Miss You, Inc. to create the “I am What it Is” t-shirt, which all proceeds from go to the Steven Breaston Foundation. Breaston’s goal for the foundation is to create a center for the children of North Braddock to use for both study and play. The “I am What it Is” shirt is based off of a poem that Breaston wrote about how the people of North Braddock have helped him grow as a person. Breaston, who off the field has always had an interest in poetry, decided to use the poem as a vehicle to help those who he feels have enriched his life.

Breaston’s desire not only to stick to his roots, but rather to reinforce them, is a refreshing chorus from a league whose off-season has been a refrain of missteps and unwanted publicity. You won’t see this story in the headlines next to the latest on Ben Roethlisberger or Lawrence Taylor, but you better believe the people of North Braddock know that this is front-page material.

Pittsburgh should be as proud of Steve Breaston as he is of us.

If you are interested in helping out the citizens of North Braddock via the Steven Breaston Foundation and I Miss You, Inc., here is a link to the Steve Breaston “I Am What It Is” t-shirt.

Also, here is the poem that inspired the shirt:

"I Am What It Is"
I don't regret what I did and I'm not shameful for where I've lived. Remembering how I took cookies from under the babysitter's lid.

I am what it is, a product of Red Nerds and overflowing pop fizz, red stains on my shirt as I played games around the church... Wiffle balls in the lots where I slid in rocks instead of dirt, for this felt good it never hurt... Grilled government cheese is how my parents made it work, with these memories I go to work...

Or Zips' corner store, where a bag of fish was 25 cents and not a nickel more, add a quarter and that's what you can get a pickle for, and sure there were a few pickles I got into... But few questioned the things that I might do...

Even if I did, but I fight through because they reminded me that I was in reach of what's under my eyelids...

My dreams, the reason there are more than eleven on my team. For my little league friends in heaven know what I mean, and by any means, I will show the light of my birthplace, the community that showed me that victor is not always the one who stands in the first place, the basis on why I'm here in the first place... 

For these memories are what I'm worth,

And for what it's worth, I think about them first.

-Steve Breaston

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

British Open Commences with an Old Friend Rising

Is it an apparition, a mere illusion? Or is ever-so-volatile John Daly tied (one stroke ahead of Tiger Woods) in second place during the first round of the British Open, at a course where he raised the Claret Jug fifteen years ago? In the wee hours of the morning here on the east coast, while most were asleep, John Daly was putting together one of his best rounds in years, putting up 7 birdies next to just one bogey. Daly casts an complex and convoluted shadow across the golf course, being equally revered and reviled by golf fans (getting taken into custody for being drunk outside of a Hooters one minute, and doing wonderful work for Make-a-Wish the next). Golf's most notorious bad boy is now 44 and struggling to hold on to relevancy, which would truly make this a compelling story if Daly were able to repeat his performance over the weekend. A year ago, Daly shot an 88 in the Buick Open, a laughable number that would have crushed most golfers attempting to resurrect their career. Yet here we are, one year and a 22 stroke difference later, looking at John Daly's name towards the top of the leaderboard.

St. Andrews Links in Fife, Scotland has played host now to 27 British Opens. Were I to pick a favorite for number 28, I would have to go with:

Zane Scotland.

Come on. That's like Bill America winning the US Open. It's just too good. (Side note, Scotland is 2 under through 12)

The ESPY Awards were hosted on ESPN last night, with the big winners being Drew Brees and the Saints, Landon Donovan, and Shaun White. It was an enjoyable evening except for one moment: Best Play.

The winner was Brett Favre's last second touchdown pass to Greg Lewis.


In a year where we saw a kid leap over the catcher to nab home plate, Mark Buehrle making the greatest defensive play ever by a pitcher, Patrick Kane win the Stanley Cup in overtime, and Landon Donovan score the most important goal in US Soccer history, the award went to a regular season NFL touchdown pass. That's what happens when your balloting is purely fan-driven (most fans are idiots, myself included).

If they would have had a Dick of the Year ESPY, they would have given it to LeBron James during an hour long special.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mike Tomlin and Omar Epps: Brothers; Ben Pees in Trees?

The MLB All Star Game is tonight. Nobody from Pittsburgh even cares.

Except Evan Meek. Bless his heart. Seems like a really good guy who's worked hard to get where he is. His ERA is still higher than Barry Bonds' sperm count.

Coach Tomlin signed a three year extension today, marking the first positive move that the Steelers made all offseason. Funny how a lot of people were saying that Tomlin wasn't going to get extended. Did these people know the Rooney's at all? Any Pittsburgh Steeler fan knew that Tomlin wasn't going to be ousted after 3 seasons, especially with one of those years culminating in a Super Bowl win. Idiots.

By the way, if they ever make a movie about Mike Tomlin, he'll totally be played by Omar Epps. Unbelievable.

In more typical Steeler offseason news. Ben Roethlisberger was named in an investigation at a golf course in Columbus, OH. It was alleged that Roethlisberger peed in the woods between the 17th green and 18th tee. Sources close to Roethlisberger claim that it was another man in his foursome that watered the grass. Under normal circumstances, it would be the epitome of all that is not news (I even went as far as to ask Jason LaCanfora via Twitter, who agreed that there was nothing to it).

Big Ben practices his pee form.

However, I will slightly disagree with Jason. Were it to be just about any other NFL player, it would be nothing more than a humorous footnote. But because the accused is already facing a suspension, it becomes a more significant issue. Commissioner Goodell stated that he would reduce Roethlisberger's suspension from six to four games with good behavior. By "good behavior", Goodell essentially told Roethlisberger to lay low and stay out of the news. It seems unfortunate, especially if Roethlisberger wasn't doing the whizzing, but Goodell has made it abundantly clear during his tenure that he puts up with NOTHING. Time will tell whether or not Goodell will discuss this situation with Ben.

What an offseason.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LeBron Feeling the Heat

I'm from Pittsburgh. I feel a fierce loyalty to my sports teams. One of the things that comes with that loyalty is a pure hatred of all things Cleveland sports. We take almost a perverse pleasure out of hating Cleveland. It's what we do.

I can't do it tonight.

I told myself I wouldn't watch the LeBron's Prime Time Emancipation Proclamation. I really didn't want to. But alas, I'm human, and I have urges. My eyes were glued when he said "Miami Heat".

Were I to be a Cavs fan, the only thing I could compare this debacle to is to come home one day and find your wife banging an illegal immigrant. Oh, and it's being televised on ESPN for an hour.

I never had anything against LeBron. A little showy, but stayed out of trouble, and seemed like a pretty genuine ambassador to the game of basketball. This changes everything. What happened to the 18 year old kid that was so concerned about his financial well-being that he befriended Warren Buffet, one of the most respected investors in the world? The kid who looked like he was living out his dream every time he stepped on the court in Cleveland? He's been replaced by a complete egomaniac. Someone who knows nothing outside of himself. And who is perfectly happy with it. What other explanation is there? Would a humble person think he deserved an hour of television time in order to tell people what city he's going to be shooting basketballs in?

Back to Cleveland. This is a city that knows heartbreak above all else. From Earnest Byner's fumble to Jordan's shot over Craig Ehlo. This is different. This was a script. A carefully crafted backstabbing of the city that loved him unconditionally, poised for all the world to see.

Let this be an open letter to the city of Cleveland. Your turnpike neighbors aren't laughing at you. We're commiserating with you tonight.

You've been through enough. You didn't deserve this.

Hopefully Delonte West is sticking it to LeBron's mom as hard as LeBron gave it to Cleveland.

Why is there even an NBA Salary Cap?

After sifting through the hubbub surrounding NHL free agency last week, and now being faced with the LeBron James show tonight on ESPN, I realized something.


This isn't coming from a Pittsburgh-homer perspective, just a sports fans. I love both hockey and basketball (particularly college). Both sports are by nature physical, fast-paced and flat out fun.

But when it comes to the way these leagues are run, it's not even close.

The NHL has a salary cap. PERIOD. There's no getting around it. Free agency in the NHL is more about doing the salary cap dance and signing the best players with your available money. The NBA? Forget it. The salary cap is just a number, not a law. Here's the breakdown:

2010-11 NBA "Salary Cap" = $58 million.

At first glance, you think, "Oh, well that's right where the NHL salary cap is! But wait, why are there so many $20+ million/year contracts in basketball?" Well, readers, here's why.

The NBA has a "luxury tax line", which is really just an excuse for teams to be able to spend more money. The 2010-11 Luxury Tax Line = $70 million.

And THEN, NBA rules state that teams have to pay an additional tax if they go over the luxury tax line, of $1 for every $1 they spend. To use an example, last year, the champion LA Lakers went $21.4 MILLION over the luxury tax line. Which means while the NBA "salary cap" was at $56 million last year, the "champion" LA Lakers spent a grand total of:

$90 million

Not to place the blame solely on one team. 11 of the 30 NBA teams went over the luxury tax line. To make things even more screwy, each team that doesn't go over the luxury tax line receives a $3.7 million rebate. That's not a typo. By not going $12 million OVER the salary cap, NBA owners make $3.7 million.

With the recent craze over where LeBron goes, and now that indicators are pointing to Miami, where Chris Bosh yesterday signed a monster deal, and Dwayne Wade is about to as well. Throw LeBron and his $20 million plus deal into the mix, and you've got a team that's turned the NBA salary cap into a Dane Cook joke (all show, no substance).

People can complain about the way the NHL has addressed the head shot issue, the fact that Gary Bettman looks like a troll, whatever.

The facts are that the NHL gets the basics right. They have rules that must be abided by, no loopholes, no exemptions. The NBA is anarchic, the rulebook serving only as a paperweight to $25 million contracts. It's why the appeal of the NBA is on the decline, and the NHL is on the rise. The general populous can relate to hockey players, they have an air of humanity about them. The mega-deal NBA fosters no such connection.

So ESPN, you can spare me the details. I will not be watching your LeBron James Contract Special. For as much of a joke as the NBA is, it should probably be broadcast on Comedy Central.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

NHL Free Agency Update Post

Will use this post for all pertinent Penguins Free Agency updates. Keep checking.

12:20 PM: First and maybe biggest news of the day. Gonchar to Ottawa Senators. 3 years at about $5.5 mil/per. Who wouldn't go for that raise. We'll miss you, Gonch.

1:20 PM: Pens sign D Zybnek Michalek to a 5 year, $20 million deal. Less than what Hamhuis, Gonchar, Volchenkov have/will go for, so a good sign for Shero and the Pens

2:40 PM: Conflicting reports on whether or not D Paul Martin is a Penguin. ESPN says yes, Rob Rossi says not yet. Wait and see.

2:45 PM: Looks like ESPN was right. 5 years at $5 million per year. Shero leaving very little cap room here. Quite a surprise after the Michalek signing.

NHL Free Agency. Bring it.

Today, we will begin to get a far better picture of what the Penguins will look like come October. As of 10AM, it appears that Gonchar, Hamhuis, Eaton, Guerin, Ponikarovsky, Fedotenko, McKee and Leopold will all test the open market. Not that we ever truly expected one of the last four names I mentioned to sign. I would have to believe that Shero is trying valiently to ink Hamhuis before noon eastern. Probably not going to happen.

There are a bunch of names that can be thrown around, especially when it comes to defensemen, which are undoubtedly Shero's first priority. I'm not going to waste my time espousing any particular theories I have as to who the Pens will sign. The only thing that I do know is that Shero is not going to overpay for anyone, which is just fine.

If Shero is able to get a d-man to sign on the dotted line, he'll probably go hot after a mid-range winger (Colby Armstrong? Eh, maybe!). All I know is that it promises to be an eventful few days.

Here's a guy who thankfully isn't going anywhere. It seems like so long ago that this feat of awesome happened. Enjoy.