Monday, May 31, 2010

A Wonderful Memorial Day in Sports. Watch it.

In what would have been Pittsburgh Pirates news 2 years ago, it is now Memorial Day (wishing you and yours a happy one), and Jose Bautista is currently leading the majors in home runs.

No, I haven’t been drinking.

Bautista currently has 16 home runs. His previous career high? You guessed it, 16. At this pace, he’d hit 50 homers this year. And if that doesn’t make you want to blow your brains out, Pirates third baseman this year have hit a total of 4 home runs. Four big ones. That’s just sickening.

The Stanley Cup Final continues tonight with two teams that aren’t the Penguins. The summer of bummer continues. Should at least be an entertaining game, though. The Flyers will stick with Michael Leighton in net, and Antti Niemi will remain in goal for the Blackhawks.

Hossa watch: Game 1: 0 Goals, 2 Assists

Shutdown Corner over on Yahoo had a great story on Cincinnati Bengals star Chad Ochocinco. Chad had received a letter from a young, homeless fan who wrote about how Ochocinco was his favorite player, and his dream was to attend a football camp. Make the jump over to Shutdown Corner to read the rest and see the video. A kind gesture from what seems to be a good guy.

Happy Memorial Day, folks.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nothing going on, but updating anyways.

For Pittsburgh sports, it’s a quiet Memorial Day weekend.

The Pirates lost their 387th straight game. The kids will be called up in a couple of days, should be a lot of fun to watch them.

The Blackhawks beat the Flyers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. The inexperience and nerves of both young goalies were on display, as a total of 11 goals were allowed. If Game 1 were to be an indicator for the rest of the series, it’s going to be a damn entertaining one.

Unfortunately, continuing with sports news on the other side of the state, Phillies star Roy Halladay hurled a perfect game yesterday against the Florida Marlins. Perhaps even more amazingly, yesterday marked Halladay’s FIFTH complete game of the year. Oh, and by the way, it was just his 11th start of the year. Unreal. To put that into even more perspective, in 2010, Halladay now has pitched more complete games than any pitcher did in 2009, with the lone exceptions being Zach Grienke (6) and Halladay himself (9).

In other baseball news, Angels star Kendry Morales shows how quickly one can go from winning to losing.

Hope you get better soon, Kendry.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Most Damaging Loss in Sports History?

The day was October 14, 1992. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves faced a game 7 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. The Pirates had come back to tie the series after being in a 3-1 hole. The Pirates took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth off the strength of Andy Van Slyke and Orlando Merced RBI’s. Starting pitcher Doug Drabek shut out the Braves through 8 innings, and was showing no signs of slowing down.

What happened in the next 20 minutes would irreversibly change the dynamic of the Pirates franchise, and would perhaps be the most damaging 20 minutes to any particular team in sports history.

The inning started off with a Terry Pendelton double. The trouble was exacerbated by a muffed grounder by second baseman Jose Lind, leaving runners at the corners. Drabek, nearing in on the 130 pitch mark, issued a walk to Sid Bream, ending Drabek’s night. Reliable reliever Stan Belinda came in to try to stop the bleeding.

Belinda settles things down a bit, and gets slugger Ron Gant to hit a deep sacrifice fly to left, scoring Pendleton, but tallying the all-important first out. Belinda then walks catcher Damon Berryhill, loading the bases for the pinch hitter, Brian Hunter. Belinda was able to get Hunter to pop out harmlessly to Jose Lind. 2 outs. Bases still loaded.

And strolling up to the plate came the player that even today, the mere vocalization of his name conjures up memories of the painful moment, Francisco Cabrera. For Pirates fans, the memory comes back in pieces. Cabrera works the count to 2-1. Belinda gears up, looks to throw his sinker to induce the ground ball. Cabera connects. Left field. Justice scores. Bonds gets it. Bream rounds third. The throw. LaValliere and Bream dive for home.


The lasting image of David Justice wrapping his arms around a collapsed Sid Bream.

And here we sit. Nearly 18 years later.

Both the stadiums that held that series are now gone. For the Pirates, the memory has continued to haunt the new one.

The Pirates were never the same. After that 1992 season, many key players such as 1992 NL MVP Barry Bonds and game 7 starter Doug Drabek. 1993 began the teams current losing streak. One that doesn’t look to end anytime soon.

Who knows what would have happened had Bream been one step slower. Perhaps that core 1992 would have stayed. Perhaps nothing would have been different. We just don’t know. But what we do know is that 1992 was the last competitive team the Pirates have fielded. Those who graduate high school this year were not even alive to see it.

It is for the last 18 years that I would label the 1992 NLCS Game 7 the single most damaging moment to any particular team in sports history.

Much as we try to forget, the ghost of Francisco Cabrera continues to haunt us all.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Two Sides of the 2011 Winter Classic

In case you fell asleep at 6:30 last night and are just now waking up, the 2011 Winter Classic will be between the Pens and the Capitals at Heinz Field. This had been being discussed for some time now, and the decision shouldn’t really come as a surprise. As can be expected, not everyone is going to be happy about this decision, and rightfully so. In order to look at what the Pens v. Caps WC truly means, I will attempt to separate myself into a Penguin fan and a general hockey fan.

Pens Fan Kurt:

The NHL is the smartest league ever. 57,000+ screaming Pens fans? A once in a lifetime experience. I will do terrible, despicable things to get tickets to this game. The thought of watching Crosby v. Ovechkin in a driving snowstorm is so exciting that I may have to change my pants. This is going to be an instant classic, without a doubt the best and most competitive Winter Classic by far. The ratings and attendance will be through the roof. As a hockey fan, how can you not totally be in love with this idea?

To rebut, Hockey fan Kurt:

If I have to see one more nationally televised Pens-Caps game, I will hurl myself off the nearest building. I already have to deal with 3 of the 6 nationally televised games in February/March be the Pens-Caps, why do I have to watch one in January? How can this be the fourth Winter Classic and we’ve yet to see a Canadian team? Hockey fans would watch a Toronto-Montreal WC just the same. It’s unfortunate that the ratings have to define the teams that can play in the Winter Classic. The NHL is just beating the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry to death.

Truth be told, this is basically how I feel about the 2011 Winter Classic. Of course I want to go, or at least watch it. I think it’s great for the city of Pittsburgh. But I can also see that from the perspective of a hockey fan, it’s tiring to ALWAYS see the Pens v. Capitals. It’s not fair to the other hockey teams, fans and cities that deserve the opportunity to host the Winter Classic. It’s not fair that the Pens have played in two of the four.

All arguments aside though, who can forget this?

Pens for the win.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Black Hawk Down. The state of the 2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks

Marian Hossa is a major league screw-job. After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in the past two season, Hossa is hoping the third time is a charm. Even if Hossa were to raise Lord Stanley this year, at what cost does it come to the Blackhawks, who gave Hossa a 12-year, $60+ million deal. I’m sure that Hossa’s whopping goal total this playoff run- which currently stands at two- was not what Chicago had in mind when Hossa laid his pen to paper.

The Hossa contract, coupled with the contracts they gave Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith (Raise your hand if you knew that Campbell and Keith had more lucrative deals than Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews), helps put the Blackhawks in one of the worst positions in relation to the salary cap that I have ever seen. The Hawks are nearly a million dollars OVER next years salary cap, and they still have to re-sign 6 guys! With a salary cap that is unlikely to drastically change next year, here is a list of Blackhawks that have over a $5 million cap hit for 2010-11:

Brian Campbell ($7.1 mil.) – who ranked 27th among defenseman in scoring. Woof.
Jonathan Toews ($6.3 mil.)
Patrick Kane ($6.3 mil.)
Cristobal Huet ($5.6 mil.)
Duncan Keith ($5.5 mil.)
Marian Hossa ($5.3 mil.)

An image of a Blackhawks fan come July.

Mind you, the current starting goaltender, Antti Niemi is NOT under contract for next year, not to mention the 3 forwards and two other D-men. And who knows whether any team will want backup goalie Cristobal Huet and his massive contract here in the off-season.

And people around here thought the Pens salary cap was in bad shape after last season.

If you’ve gotten down to this point in the post and are wondering “What the hell does this have to do with Pittsburgh?” Well…

At least we know who we WON’T be playing in the Cup finals next year.

To end, I will leave you all with my reaction to the Pirates getting shut out last night.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Empire State of Blog

The NFL made an out of character move yesterday, opting to have Super Bowl XLVIII played in New York City. Personally, I feel the decision is far overdue. For football purists, it has endless possibilities. This wasn’t a move that the NFL made to please Fortune 500 executives, it was a move for the casual fan.

Think of the prospect of watching the Steelers march on a Super Bowl winning drive in the midst of a heavy snowstorm. Epic images that would become NFL lore in an instant. It may be cold and miserable, but it could be beautiful. The NFL is in no danger of not selling out the Super Bowl. People watched Super Bowl XVI in the middle of a monsoon, they can watch it in colder weather. Doubtful it will damper the pomp and circumstance of the Super Bowl because it’s still in New York City, where there is an endless amount to see and do.

All in all, good move by the NFL. It’s a shame we have to wait 3 years to see it.

In other news, the Buccos showed up last night, posting an impressive 2-1 win over the Reds. Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit must have read my last article while in the dugout (in which I said it made sense for Doumit to be traded and the starters were awful) because both had excellent games. Maholm threw 7 shutout innings, and Doumit blasted the game-winning home run in the top of the ninth.

Maybe before the game tonight, I’ll write a scathing article on Aki Iwamura just to see if I can wake him up.

Since we’re all still missing the Penguins, I’ll end with this video:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top 5 Reasons that the Pirates Should Trade Ryan Doumit

I was on my way home from the office the other day, listening to 93.7 The Fan radio, when I heard a suggestion that piqued my curiosity. The hosts brought up the idea of trading Ryan Doumit. At first, I laughed at how preposterous it was. Is that what the Pirates need? Really? Trade away MORE established players? I got home and put the debate out of my head.

For a while at least.

As I thought more about it, I realized that it is actually a far smarter idea than I had first given it credit for. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the top 5 reasons that the Pirates should trade Ryan Doumit.

1. The Pirates are in dire need of starting pitching.

Our starters suck. They’ve sucked since I was 5 years old. Doumit can fetch either a star pitching prospect or a consistent veteran starter (circa Jeff Suppan in 2004-05). Both of which would be satisfying a need for this team. The young starters do have some talent, and a veteran presence could help to develop them into legit major league pitchers.

2. He’s going to be 30, and is often injured.

The first part of that statement will surprise a lot of people. Doumit has only come into his own the past few years, so most people tend to think of him as a younger guy. Now by no means is 30 ancient in baseball terms, but it’s not young either. Especially given the second part of my statement; Doumit’s injuries. It’s hard to hold injuries against a guy, but here is the amount of games Doumit has played in the last 3 years:

2007: 83
2008: 116
2009: 75

Doumit would be infinitely harder to give up if he gave us 120 games/year. Given his penchant for missing games, it’s hard to truly calculate his value to the team.

3. Tony Sanchez

The Pirates didn’t draft Tony Sanchez with their first pick in 2009 for nothing. Sanchez has a live bat, a live arm, and great tenacity. Truly, Sanchez looks to be their long-term solution at catcher. He won’t be up in 2010 or probably 2011, but many would bet he’ll be the Pirates catcher in 2012. That being said…

4. The Pirates have short-term solutions (until Sanchez is ready)

Jason Jaramillo has proven that he can play in the Bigs. He was very solid while Doumit was injured in 2009, and showed that he can be a clutch hitter and a decent defensive catcher. Also, don’t forget, we do have the luxury of Neil Walker, who is a catcher by trade. Not like we’re gearing for a 2010 playoff run anyhow.

5. Doumit’s value may not get much higher.

Doumit is having a pretty good 2010. Plus, there would be a lot of teams in the market for a switch-hitting catcher with a powerful bat. It’s not like Doumit is a defensive liability either. He is a smart catcher who knows how to call a game for a pitcher. He would be very helpful to a team with young starters. It may be advantageous to trade Doumit while he is healthy and ready to contribute.

This is not a plea to trade Doumit, simply a justification for it if the situation arose. Also, Doumit has a $7 million option the year after next (I believe). The Pirates won’t want to pay him that money, no doubt. If someone were to dangle a good offer to the Pirates over the summer, don’t be surprised if they took it.

Nightmare Stanley Cup Final, Pirates do Nothing to Ease the Pain

Nights like last night make you wish you would have just stayed at the office.

We’ve got about the worst Stanley Cup (from a Pittsburgh perspective) that we could have asked for. The Flyers finished off the Habs last night, beating them 4-2. The Flyers just have that look. They’re getting hot at the right time, and at this point, it’s probably more about momentum than talent. And who do our most hated rivals play? One of our most hated former Penguins, Marian Hossa. To be fair, we all know how fun it can be to watch Hossa play, the guy is a Datsyuk-like defensive forward. But he still sucks.

So as Pens fans, our choices are to root for Chicago and Marian Hossa or the Flyers. Pens fans wouldn’t root for the Flyers if they were playing the Taliban. Honestly, the choice is easy. Though nobody wants to see Marian Hossa lift the Cup, nobody wants to see 26 Philadelphia Flyers lift it either. So we become Blackhawks fans this week, which in perspective, is not difficult to do. They’ve got a great core group that is a lot of fun to watch (Kane, Toews, Byfuglien, Keith, etc). If nothing else, it should at least be an entertaining Stanley Cup Final.

Alright, so one game last night didn’t go our way, that’s alright, we’ve still got the Pirates. Sweet Jesus, did I just write that sentence?

The Buccos jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a Ronny Cedeno home run, and Brian Burres was looking to be in control. Then, in the fourth, he decides to do his best Ryan Vogelsong impression; walk out to the mound, drop his drawers and just take a giant dump.

The look of utter defiance on his face makes it one of the greatest images ever.

Karstens comes in during the fourth to add his own creation to Burres’ pile.

The rest of the game consisted of the Pirates blue-balling their fans into thinking they could come back. False. Pittsburgh fans try to find something less painful to watch on tv, like The Hills.

Some notes:

-Delwyn Young was the best Pirate last night. He’s never really gotten consistent enough playing time to gain a lot of confidence, but the past two years, he’s shown flashes of brilliance.

-Aki Iwamura needs to be traded/deported. Don’t care which.

-Pirates are always going to have trouble winning a game when McCutchen and Garrett Jones combine to be 1 for 9.

-Should the Pirates trade Ryan Doumit? In a later post, I’ll tell you why it may not be the craziest thing.

-Bring on Pedro Alvarez.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Three People Arrested After Attempting to Break into Heinz Field- Genius.

In a move that defies all my previously held notions of human sanity, three men were arrested after attempting to break into Heinz Field. Their excuse?

They were looking for a wallet that one of them left at a game in December. By the way, in case you live in a bubble, it’s now May 24. This video shows what the attempted break-in was like:


Before I get sued, if you couldn’t tell, that is not the actual surveillance video.

Seriously though, I have several questions about all this. First, did they really think they wouldn’t get caught? It’s not like breaking into a mom-and-pop store, it’s Heinz Field, basically the holiest of chapels in Pittsburgh (at least that’s where most people end up on Sundays). Did they not think about the fact that Heinz Field has these new fangled instruments called security cameras? Flies don’t get into Heinz Field undetected.

Yet these geniuses built a “human ladder” to scale the confines of Heinz Field. Maybe if they’d realized that none of the concession stands were open, they would have simply gone to Primanti’s. But no, fries on a sandwich were simply not good enough for these three. If, as humans, this is what our brains evolve into, in 2020, we’ll probably elect a gopher president (early polls show that Gus, the 2nd most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania is the Democratic favorite).

Now back to their excuse, the reason for the break-in was that they were looking for a wallet one of them lost in December. Aside from the mind-numbing stupidity of waiting 6 months to start looking for a wallet, was that they clearly planned this, so that was the best excuse they could find? I just don’t buy it.

Next time I break into Heinz Field, I’ll just say one of my friends is trapped in a bathroom stall with Ben.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Corcoran's Conviction: Part One of a Three Part Epic

This is the first of three Sunday installments by our guest blogger, Patrick Corcoran. Pat is a law student at Duquesne University, and when he's not lawyering people, he's watching sports and drinking Johnnie Walker (especially when he watches the Pirates)

This year has been a tough one for me. For those out there who aren’t aware I just finished my first year as a 1E in Duquesne’s school of law. The past 8-9 months have been a living hell for me and my colleagues. The long days that turn into long nights and seemingly longer mornings have been some of the most trying times of my short 23 years on this earth, but yet I have encountered some of the warmest and most self-fulfilling experiences ever in my life. In other words, I have not had the time to properly reflect on what’s been happening in Pittsburgh sports these past few months

What the hell is this guy talking about Law School for? I came here to read about Kurt’s self proclaimed expert opinion on how the pirates are doing or what the Pens should do in the offseason not from some guy who’s been locked away like Thoreau or Rip Van Winkle?

If you don’t know Who Henry David Thoreau is please feel free to move to Cleveland, I hear GM is hiring.

Nay I say to you… Although busy, I have had some time to reflect and catch up to what has happened with the seemingly foreign world of professional sports these past few months. After some time to reflect on what I should babble on for this blog entry, the recurring fact that kept coming back to me is that sometimes sports fans and professional athletes get caught up in the stat race or as I like to call the “ME” factor. I’ll be honest I too get caught up in the mindset of fantasy leagues, or how many goals Sidney Crosby will end up with at the end of the season, and most of all how many wins our hometown teams have posted. However, while we may seem like we know what we are talking about, we are thoroughly disconnected from reality and we miss the other important factors, the so called intangibles or “hidden gems” that are associated with the games we have grown to love.

The fact is that watching and playing sports teach us more about ourselves then any professor or teacher could ever elicit; and while most are sadly stricken with hurt and grievances over the previously agonizing months that has transgressed in Pittsburgh related sports teams, I ask you the fan to dig deep and personally take some time to reevaluate whether you’ve been caught up in the stats race. I plead you to start looking at the other factors outside of the win loss column and behold the progress made for all three of our beloved Pittsburgh sports franchises. In other words, word to your mom’s cuz I’m came to drop bombs.

Let’s start from the bottom, the Pirates. The past years have been riddled with awful losing seasons, painful trades, and enough free give away nights that could have clothed the entire African population. All that aside when you really look at this team, you see one that is finally making an effort to compete with the scraps of funding which the Nutting family so graciously makes available. Dare I say it, Neil Huntingdon has been the best thing for this team since Bill Mazeroski. Who else would have the cajones to ship Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Nate McClouth off to big market teams for untested young prospects? Instead of signing big named players who’ve long passed their prime, i.e. Reggie Sanders, Jay Buhner, and Kenny Lofton just to entice people to come to the stadium, Huntingdon has gone to the mattresses and started building a team the way it should be done, through outstanding draft picks, minor league development, and a halfway decent pitching rotation.

Exhibit A, the franchise formerly known as the Devil Rays. Along with the Pirates they too were the laughing stock of Major League Baseball and have been since their meteoric rise to the top of baseball these past few years. Tampa Bay knows our pain, and has suffered through similar dismal seasons, however they steered clear of quick fixes and Brian Bullington’s and trudged through the troubled years while modeling their future through consistently good draft picks, superb minor league development, and a blue collar work ethic. They along with the A’s and others have laid the blueprint for how small market teams are to survive in the evil Steinbrenner era; Minor League Development is our only hope

Now the Rays are sitting on top of baseball with a good set of players who will undoubtedly challenge for the AL pennant race this year.

Taking a step back, It seems like the Pirates have finally got this thing right, or at least put themselves on a path in which they will be able to compete with the big dogs within the next few seasons. Guys like Alvarez, Tabitha, and Walker are owning kids in AAA Indianapolis and it’s only a matter of time till we see these guys fully emblazoned in a Pirates uniform. Combine those youngin’s with the likes of McCutcheon, Jones, and Milledge, we most likely will see a .500 season before I turn 25. Despite the losses now, and the dismal statistics that accompany them, the Pirates have finally put themselves in a position in which they too will be ready in the near future to make a charge through the awful NL central or hopefully compete with the best of baseball in the near future.

So while you may scoff at the fact of 17 straight losing seasons, or an 19-24 record, or the fact that the leading HR hitter on the team has only 5 home runs, take some time to reflect on where the Pirates will be in the next couple of years. I think you may surprise yourself…

I’ll be back soon with the Pens and Stillers… You can’t get rid of me that easy… As always, keep your head up Pittsburgh.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

McCutchen is More Than we Bargained For

Given the promises of Chad Hermansen, Kris Benson, and countless other Pittsburgh Pirates draft picks, fans have become hesitant on these “can’t-miss prospects”. For the past several years, while in the minors, Pirates fans have wondered, “Really, how good is Andrew McCutchen?” Since his call up last year, Pirates fans are now wondering, “How long can we keep him around?”

The answer to that one is, as long as Bob Nutting wants people to come to Pirate games.

Not since the early 90’s have Pirate fans fallen so head over heels for a player. Truthfully, we haven’t had anyone good enough to make us feel that way. When you go to Pirate games in 2010, there is a far different energy to them. Many people go to games simply for something to do, but people are starting to attend just to see Andrew McCutchen. His style of play, pure ability and work ethic are something Pittsburgh fans are used to seeing on the other two Pittsburgh teams. He’s the leader this club has needed for nearly 20 years.

His contributions aren’t limited to the field. McCutchen is very active in the community, and anytime you go to a Pirate game, rest assured that Andrew McCutchen will be the last guy in the dugout, as he’s usually signing autographs for as long as he can. He’s not a Derek Bell or a Raul Mondesi, the type of player who never wanted anything to do with Pittsburgh. He’s a Sidney Crosby, someone who understood the team situation that he was drafted into, and has a genuine desire to build it into a champion.

The Pirates have been a joke in Pittsburgh for far too long. If the current ownership lets Andrew McCutchen go, the Pirates will be far worse than a punchline.

They’ll be history.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Santonio Holmes continues his "Douche of the Year" campaign; Why the Steelers must start Dennis Dixon

Santonio Holmes is trying to distract Steeler Nation from the Ben Roethlisberger situation. It’s the only logical reason I can think of for how his off-season has progressed. By this point, we’re all aware of the “Ipod incident” on a plane here in Pittsburgh, in which Santonio refused to turn his Ipod off when asked by a flight attendant. He could have apologized and recognized his childish behavior, but that just wouldn’t be Santonio. Instead, he turns around and blames the flight attendant, saying she was just “trying to make a name for herself”. Yes, because I forgot about all of her Playboy shoots and Good Morning America appearances after the incident.

I’ll go ahead and give you a minute to digest the stupidity of that comment. In the mean time, look at this puppy.

Adorable, I know. On to other things.

One of the big questions for the Steelers going into the summer is who will be starting the first several games with Ben Roethlisberger suspended. The consensus is that it will be between Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich. In five short and unassailable statements, I will tell you why the opening day starter should be Dennis Dixon rather than Byron Leftwich.

1. Dixon’s pure playmaking ability.

All Dennis Dixon knows how to do is make plays, whether it is with his arm or his legs. Dixon offers mobility superior even to Roethlisberger, let alone Leftwich. Dixon can put a defense on their heels, as he proved last year against Baltimore. If Arians can design a package to suit Dixon’s strengths, he will have far more upside than Byron Leftwich.

2. Dixon’s mobility will open things up for Rashard Mendenhall

This is simply a product of reason. The more the defense is worried about Dennis Dixon, the less they are worried about Rashard Mendenhall. If Dixon can earn the respect of the defense, it will open holes for Mendenhall, who will have to shoulder the most offensive responsibility without Roethlisberger around.

3. Byron Leftwich looks like Gary Coleman.

I know this has nothing to do with football, but it had to be said.


4. He can actually throw, too.

Dixon is known mostly for what he can do as a running quarterback, but lost in the shuffle is his ability to be a dropback passer. Dixon is no slouch, he completed nearly 70% of his passes during his senior season at Oregon. He also had a TD to Interception ratio of 20/4. He’s a good decision maker who can make all of the necessary throws.

5. If not now, when?

This is truly a prime opportunity for Dixon. If the Steelers want Dixon to be the backup of the future (if you can call someone such a thing), he NEEDS experience. One game against Baltimore just isn’t enough. The one thing that you want a backup quarterback in this league to be is comfortable. Develop a game plan around Dixon, so that if Roethlisberger is injured at some point (and given his history, he will be), everyone already knows what we have in Dixon. He played well enough in his lone start last year that it should be his job to lose.

We all know that there are very few people who expect that the Steelers will have a successful season. Given the circumstances, there is no better time to test the guts of your young quarterback. Especially considering the Steelers don’t have the toughest first four games (Falcons, Titans, Buccaneers, Ravens). Just give him a shot.

And don’t forget to tell him to turn his Ipod off before going on the field.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Penguins Top 5 Prospects

As Penguin fans, we’re used to playing hockey deep into May/June, so admittedly, it’s hard to think about other sports. In conjunction with that, I present to you the Penguins top 5 prospects.

1. Eric Tangradi

This one is a no-doubter. He was the integral cog in the Anaheim-Pittsburgh trade in 2009 that sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim in exchange for Chris Kunitz and Tangradi. He projects to be the perfect winger for either Malkin or Crosby, as he provides great hands and a big body in front of the net that the Pens haven’t had since the departure of Ryan Malone. Depending on how the off-season shakes out, we could be seeing a lot of Tangradi next year, and I assure you that is a good thing.

2. Simon Despres

Given the lack of defensemen under contract for next year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could see Despres next year. The Penguins first-round pick last year, Despres hung around training camp far longer than expected, and had a sensational year at Saint John’s of the Quebec league. A 6 foot 4, 200 pound defenseman, Despres has remarkable puck movement skills. Despres could potentially take over Gonchar/Letang’s spot on the power play, and can also kill penalties, drawing rave reviews as an excellent shot blocker. Despres could be a regular sooner than most think.

3. Carl Sneep

Another defenseman flying up the Penguins system is Carl Sneep. Sneep is of a similar mold to Despres in size, and both play a strong two-way game. Sneep currently lacks the offensive prowess of Despres (though he’s showing improvement), but is currently a more consistent defensive player. Sneep has a tendency to play with an edge, and the organization loves his work ethic on and off the ice. Projects to be a potential shut-down defenseman.

4. Dustin Jeffrey

Hard not to put the leading scorer at Wilkes-Barre Scranton in 2009-10 on this list. He probably projects to be a third-line center, but could potentially move to wing one day. He’s one of those types of players where their greatest skill is simply finding the puck and making a play. He won’t dazzle you with moves, he simply finds his way around the net.

5. Philip Samuelsson

I just know that his dad, former Penguin Ulf Samuelsson, would find me and slaughter me if I didn’t put him on this list. Philip is a far more talented offensive player than his father was, and like the other two defenseman on this list, shows maturity beyond his age. Samuelsson has the most work to do of any of these prospects, but could see ice time in 2012. He knows his own game very well, has great positioning and is also a fine puck mover. Could be a real talent.

After writing this, I just can’t wait until next season. Four months.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Steelers May Be Smarter Than We Thought

Were the Steelers as crazy for drafting 3 linebackers in the 2010 draft as we thought they were? It’s looking more and more like they’re not.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one scratching my head on draft weekend when the Steelers, who have many positions ripe for improvement, drafted three players at arguably their strongest position. Especially 2nd round pick Jason Worilds, who was not on the radar of most fans. Even after the draft, pundits and writers all asked, “Why would they draft 3 linebackers?”

Well, we’re beginning to find out.

It looks as if the Steelers are miles away from an agreement with star LB LaMarr Woodley. Understandably so on both sides, because a clause in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the “30 percent” rule, has stymied discussion. By the 30% rule, a player cannot increase his salary by more than 30% in a given year. Woodley is in the last year of his contract, and making less than half a million dollars a year. This is a guy who would likely fetch between $7-9 million per year on the open market, and trust me, Woodley knows that. If there is no new Collective Bargaining Agreement, we could be looking at a Steeler team without LaMarr Woodley in 2011.

When a star player is nearing retirement, most teams have a contingency plan for that player’s departure. Prior to the 2010 draft, the Steelers had no such plan in place for James Farrior. Farrior, who has been the vocal leader and the stalwart of the Pittsburgh defense for the past 8 seasons, undeniably lost a step last season. He uncharacteristically missed tackles and had difficulty catching up to opposing running backs. Thaddeus Gibson will likely be groomed for the position, as he has a great ability to sniff out the ball carrier and cover the middle of the field.

I sincerely hope that we’re not seeing the last year for players like LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior.

But it’s good to have a contingency.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Who are the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates?

Who are the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates?

After last night’s debacle in Philadelphia, one glaring statistic was exacerbated:

The Pirates, in their 38 games, have given up 103 more runs than they scored. That means the opposition is scoring almost 3 more runs per game than the Pirates. To put that in perspective, the team with the worst record in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles, have a run differential of 56.

And yet the Pirates are in fourth place in the division, six games back of the Reds. It’s nearly implausible, but it’s true. History and reason should prove this to be unsustainable. You can’t give up that many more runs than you score and continue to win games. But exactly what part of the equation is unsustainable? Is it the Pirates continuing to win games, or the Pirates giving up almost twice as many runs as they score?

I’m a guy who thinks the answer is the latter part of that question.

Call me an optimist, a hopeless Pirate romantic, what have you. But there may be some truth to why I feel the way I do, and here’s why.

1. The pitching cannot get much worse. The Pirates have statistically the worst starting pitcher in the league, Charlie Morton, who’s ERA is only slightly under 10. The team ERA is barely 6.00, making it one of the worst in baseball. No starter has shown much consistency, and the bullpen, while it’s held the Pirates in a few games, still has 6 pitchers with ERA’s over 5.00.

2. The Pirates haven’t started to hit yet either, with the sole exception being Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is the only Pirate with a batting average over .274. Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit have not even begun hitting for power yet. Lastings Milledge hasn’t been swinging the bat well. The Buccos have also been dealing with the awful slumps of Jeff Clement and Aki Iwamura (who I think is like 3 for his last 23432 at-bats). The team batting average is a paltry .233.

3. They can’t field. The Pirates have the 5th worst fielding percentage in the league. I don’t even need to say anything more about this.

If an unbiased observer looked at these statistics, they would unequivocally say the Pirates were the worst team in baseball. No doubt.

But here’s the catch: they’re not. And that’s a reason to be hopeful. Like I mentioned, the Pirates are six games back, in fourth place. After all of this, all the awful statistics and lopsided games, we sit six games out of the division lead. I don’t honestly think the Pirates can win the division, but it just can’t get worse than it is right now. Most of the young hitters aren’t hitting and none of the young pitchers are doing well. Which means it could turn around. If one thing here and there starts to go differently, this is a team that could rattle off some wins. Not to mention what the team could be like if guys like Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata come up late in the year.

I know it’s a longshot, but if the Pirates can develop a couple of pitchers and keep this core together, we may see an end to the losing streak in the next couple of years.

All we can do is hope.

Monday, May 17, 2010

LeBron's Mom Getting Plowed by Delonte West?

Okay, first let me explain how as a Pittsburgh Sports blogger, I can get away with talking about this. As a Pittsburgh Sports fan, it is our duty from birth to hate all things about Cleveland (exceptions being the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and former Brown Bill Cowher). When things are bad in Pittsburgh, we must find mockery elsewhere. Hello Cleveland.

We all thought that Cleveland was going crazy enough after their Cavaliers lost to the Celtics, leaving LeBron James’ future with the team in doubt. Then this bombshell: Reports are that Cavalier forward Delonte West has been sleeping with LeBron’s mother, and that LeBron found out during their series with Boston. Outstanding.

Delonte looking like a cross between the Terminator and the dude that played Screech in Saved by the Bell.

Now this has yet to be proven, but is looking like it is by no means out of the realm of possibility, which would explain why LeBron’s head may have been elsewhere in games 4-6. How do you play on the same court as a guy who’s banging your mom? If it’s true, it speaks to Lebron’s character that he didn’t try to dunk Delonte West.

Not much really going on here in Pittsburgh, Pirates lost the final game of their series against the Cubs, and play out in Philadelphia tonight and tomorrow. It remains to be seen whether or not the Pirates can steady the ship and start playing some consistent baseball.

Appropriately, I will leave you all with this:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Malkin Makes Pittsburgh Sportswriters go Insane.

It really only lasted 24 hours. We got a 24 hour reprieve after game 7 before people started the “Trade Malkin” talk. As if having to watch game 7 wasn’t crappy enough.

Pure idiocy. I would love to be in the room when Ray Shero reads these BS articles where sportswriters say the GM will “seriously consider all options” in regards to Malkin. If the LA Kings were to offer Kopitar, Frolov, Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty and an In-N-Out location in Pittsburgh, Shero may consider it. Otherwise, Shero is just flipping them off. Plus, if we were to get rid of Malkin, we would have to get rid of his girlfriend.

A huge loss for males in Pittsburgh.

Everyone loves to say “Well, Sid needs wingers, trade Geno and move Staalsy to 2nd line center.” If you’ve ever said this, do not continue to read this blog. Sid will ALWAYS need better wingers, until Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Gaborik decide to play for the Pens for $1 mil a season. Till that day, Sid could always use “better wingers”, bite me.

Oh yeah, here’s another reason Malkin should remain a Penguin.


The Pirates go for the series sweep in Chicago today, continuing their extraordinarily (even by Bucco standards) enigmatic season. Most Pirate fans are now beginning to brace themselves for the July trade deadline to see what potentially great players the Pirates can get rid of this year. I’ve been a Pirate fan my whole life, and even I’m starting to lose hope.

That being said, this could be a fun end of the season once Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata make it up to the big squad.

Things remain quiet on the Steelers front, which is a very welcome sight after this hellish offseason. One of the big stories of this summer will be the Steelers draft class. Aside from Pouncey, who will start at guard and eventually become the every day center, there are a lot of question marks. Jonathan Dwyer could be a late-round steal, and there has been a lot said about the Steelers two receiver picks, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Hopefully there will be some positive news out of Steelers camp, news outside of Ben Roethlisberger.

Pirates play in 30 minutes.

Let’s go Pittsburgh

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Flyers Complete Epic Comeback

So maybe this has nothing to do with Pittsburgh sports, but we all collectively hate Philadelphia, so it indirectly does. Boston managed to blow a 3-0 lead in both the series and game 7 to send Philadelphia to play Montreal in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Hands up if you thought the first SIX seeds in the East would be out before the conference final.

Here are the highlights from last night's game:

In actual Pittsburgh sports news. the Pirates broke their losing streak in Chicago yesterday, beating the Cubs 10-6. Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen went off with five hits apiece, with Jones hitting the eventual game-winning 3-run homer. Pirates are still struggling to close on on .500.

For the last time at Mellon Arena, the Penguins cleared out their lockers today, some of them to meet a very uncertain fate. Reportedly, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar will report to Germany to play for Russia in the World Championships. Sidney Crosby declined the invitation to join team Canada. Given that the Penguins have played over 300 games in the past 3 years, a rest is well-deserved.

Ben Roethlisberger has completed his behavioral evaluation, and could rejoin the Steelers sooner than originally thought. The thought around Pittsburgh circles is that Tomlin will have his decision on who will replace Ben Roethlisberger for the first 4-6 games by training camp, and that the smart money would be on Dennis Dixon to start.

Let's go Montreal. We wouldn't root for the Flyers if they were playing Al-Qaeda.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 5 Penguins Moments from the 2009-10 Season

A fond look back on the year that was for the Pens.

5. Crosby Dominates the Rangers

You could really pick your poison here. In a year filled with great Crosby shows, this was probably the best. Crosby scored one of his two hat tricks on the year and added two assists as the Pens absolutely dismantled the Rangers two days after Thanksgiving.

4. Dupuis Beats Ottawa

What a year for Dupuis. The “throw-in” the Atlanta Thrashers sent over in the Hossa deal (don’t tell Shero he was a throw-in) had his best year since 2002-03, nearly cresting the 20 goal mark. His overtime goal to end the series against Ottawa capped a three-goal comeback by the Pens, and was the exclamation point on a great series from Dupuis.

3. Crosby Nets 50+, Ties for Rocket Richard Trophy

Alright, who honestly believed THIS would ever happen? We thought we knew the type of player that Sidney Crosby is, but Sid threw us for a loop on this one. He has the talent of a star athlete with the mentality of a fourth-liner, someone who has to look to improve his game every year just to make the team. As per Sid’s behavior, he brushed his accomplishment under the covers and focused on moving the team forward, but you have to believe that he’s quite proud of this one.

2. Bill Guerin Ties it with 0.4 seconds left/Dupuis beats the Bruins in OT

It’s usually not a good thing when the best game of your season is one that was played in mid-November, but not much can top this one. The Pens, in the midst of a four game losing streak, were playing a back-and-forth game with the Bruins, only to go down 5-4 in the waning moments of the third. The Pens, seemingly unable to get out of their own zone, lead a rush up ice that culminated with a Guerin’s shot of the year to beat Tim Thomas with 0.4 seconds left. The OT lasted only a minute and a half before Jordan Staal stole a puck from Tim Thomas and dished it out front to Pascal Dupuis who provided the game winner.

1. The Pens say goodbye to Mellon Arena

No matter how bad the outcome was, it’s hard not to put this at #1. The moment the Penguins all raised their sticks to their fans, and offered up the final toast to Mellon Arena. One of those rare moments where everyone, fans and players alike, got to say their goodbyes.

Let’s hope the #1 moment next year is a parade.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We'll Miss You, Lady Mellon

Ever have a dream where something terrible is happening, and whenever you try to scream, nothing comes out?

Welcome to last night’s game 7.

To say that the 5-2 schalacking last night was surreal is a gross understatement. The past few years, we haven’t really been used to seeing a team that wanted it more than the Penguins. For the first time in the Crosby/Malkin era, we saw it last night. Unfortunately, Fleury will be pegged in the media as the goat. It was inevitable if the Pens lost. However, to do that is unfair and irresponsible. It was the definition of a team loss. It seemed as if the team played as though it were a throw-away game in November for the first period and a half. By the time Halak had to make any difficult saves, the game was already out of control.

So it serves as an ignominious end to a glorious arena, and for the most part, a great season. However, when you’re able to step back and take a look at the Montreal series, it starts to make sense. No team (aside from maybe the Capitals) can out-gun the Penguins. The team that would dethrone them would be a team so comfortable in their own system that they never had to deviate from it. Enter the Montreal Canadiens. You could blame their run on them having a hot goaltender or a single dominant offensive force (Cammalleri), but they win because they function as one entity. There’s no reason to think they can’t win it all. Hats off to them.

Cue the start of a long off-season for the Pens, and the barrage of “What ifs?”

Come October, the Pens are likely to look a bit different. Smart money says that Gonchar, Fedotenko, Guerin, and Ponikarovsky will be long gone. Would have to believe the Pens will do whatever in their power to re-sign Matt Cooke and Mark Eaton.

Quick interjection: How great of a year/playoffs did Mark Eaton have?

What happens with McKee and Leopold remains to be seen. McKee was huge when he was called upon to fill in for Leopold, and it was clear upon Leopold’s return to the lineup against Montreal that he was not the same player. All of these things will make for an interesting off-season. Next year, I’m sure we’ll see plenty from guys like Mark Letestu, Chris Connor, Eric Tangradi, Nick Johnson and other young talent from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Should make it a lot of fun. Pens fans should still have a lot to be excited about.

Don’t waste your time comparing it to 1993 or 1996. The core of this team is all 25 or younger. There is much left in the tank, and I have faith that we will see a rejuvenated and re-motivated Penguins team in 2010-11.

Always keep the faith.

The Civic Arena will live forever in our hearts.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Walk to Remember. Game 7, Pens v. Habs

Best of luck to all who attempt to concentrate on work/school/unemployment today. It will probably be a futile effort.

Not many people expected the series to get this far. The Habs deserve a tremendous amount of credit. On paper it should have been a 4 or 5 game series, then again, so should have been their series with Washington. But nonetheless, we’re here today.

Putting personal biases aside, it’s a beautiful thing, one that will always be remembered regardless of the outcome. We’re fans because we crave memories. They bond us all, through commiseration or celebration. We don’t all know each other on a personal level, but it gives us something very tangible to hold on to. You may not know the person walking down the street next to you, but could talk for an hour about Darius Kasparaitis’ goal to beat Buffalo, or Fleury’s last second save against Detroit. Somewhere in there lies the greatest gift of sport, to unify us all in a common love.

Tonight will be another one of those moments. Be thankful for it.

I make no predictions as to what will happen. I don’t know if we’ll see Fedotenko or McKee, and I can’t say that I care. Given the ebb and flow of this series, the only thing that has proved predictable is its unpredictability. Let’s just leave it all on the ice.

You will surely have something to talk about with the stranger next to you tomorrow.

Let’s go Pens.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And Then There Was One.

So we’ve been able to sleep on it. Well, at least some of us have, if you weren’t busy dreaming about David Volek and Tom Fitzgerald. This could easily end up being one of the top 5 most important games the Igloo has ever seen. Whoever comes out on top will likely be the favorite to represent the East in the Cup, as both Boston and Philadelphia are being pummeled by injuries. Whoever goes home leaves with a tremendously bitter taste in their mouths.

Tons of people are jumping the ship. Let them. Keep their life jackets on board too. Last year, we had to play two game sevens. We also had to have a parade in June.

The next 24 hours of analysis will be sickening. Reasons why the Pens should/could/will lose will haunt your favorite websites, newspapers and adult bookstores. It will all be for naught. Nobody outside of both locker rooms can tell you exactly the gifts that momentum and experience can give. As hockey fans, and on a broader scale, sports fans; how can we ask for anything more than one game? One game that keeps us on the edge, one game that can send you jumping into a stranger’s arms, or leave you crying on their shoulder.

(Note: Given the last line I wrote, I should not be allowed in sports bars.)

It’ll be interesting to see what direction Bylsma goes tomorrow. Smart money says we see Fedotenko in for Letestu (you can argue his recent play but not his playoffs/game 7 experience). Talk is flying around about putting McKee in for Leopold. May not be an awful idea, McKee could potentially shut down Cammalleri. We’ll all find out more tomorrow.

Get some sleep. Tomorrow will be one for the ages.

Let's go Pens.

Monday, May 10, 2010

One of the Most Frustrating Playoff Series ever- Habs win to force Game 7

You could smell it after Letang's goal in the second. You felt as if the Pens could just get that elusive two-goal lead, the series would be completely in hand. No dice on that one. Utter frustration. The rest is history.

Entirely unnecessary recap:

First period was about what you would expect. You knew the Habs would come out on fire, and that they did. As seems to have been a theme in this series, Habs get a quick first goal by Cammalleri. More on that douche later. After the first goal, the play levels out until the Pens get out on the PP. It was just bound to happen. Crosby with a line drive that gets through Halak. Then came one of the more bizarre plays of the playoffs. Traffic around Halak, a Hab plays the puck into Halak, who barely even attempts to corral it, the puck squirts out to a waiting Geno Malkin who buries it top shelf.

But wait, some jackass blows a whistle because he lost sight of his balls.

That jackass was referee Marc Joanette, who hails from Verdun, Quebec. And Verdun happens to be a borough of?...Montreal. Just saying.

After you remove your splattered brains from your living room furniture, the period ends in a 1-1 tie.

For the most part, Pens fans will want to forget the second period ever happened. Letang rings one up on Halak a few minutes in, and the Pens are molesting Halak and all of his immediate family members for the first half of the period.

Then the walls caved in. As has been the case so often this series, the opportunistic Habs charge in on a 3 on 2, Talbot loses Cammalleri, who just unleashes a nasty backhand to beat Fleury far side. Series would be so over without that guy. The Habs come fast and furious, and bam, Spacek, who's been out all series with the clap, puts one by Fleury

Don't jump yet.

Second period mercifully ends, Habs get some crappy penalty that carries over.

Pens come out in the third with a successful kill. Doesn't matter, It just never shifted the momentum. Pens get a few opportunities, but never bury one. Maxim La-painintheass has an orgy out front and uncomfortably inserts one past Fleury. Barf City.

Time winds down, Pens pull Fleury. Gonch unleashes a shot from the point and Guerin does some ridiculous pirouette in front to knock it past Halak. Hope springs eternal.

Wait, did I say hope springs eternal? Well it doesn't. Pens lose.

If you think the series is over, you've never watched playoff hockey. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Go Pens.

Put the Nail in the Coffin- Pens/Habs- Game 6 Preview

Does anyone else get the feeling we could be in for an unbelievable game tonight?

The stage is set, actors are ready for their cue.

Nobody really wants this series to come back to Pittsburgh, the Pens have some banged-up bodies that could use a couple of days rest. That's the advantage of having a veteran team, knowing exactly what you need to do in order to survive in the playoffs.

Speaking of banged-up bodies, Montreal is starting to have some serious defensive issues. Hal Gill was cut by Chris Kunitz's skate Saturday night, and he will be a game-time decision. Jaroslav Spacek, who apparently has been out with an STD given to him by one of the Kostitsyn brothers, is also a game-time decision.

And astonishingly enough, defenseman Andrei Markov, who tore his ACL earlier in the series, skated yesterday, and there is rampant speculation that he may play tonight or if there is a game 7. I love hockey.

For the Penguins, the lineup should look similar to game 5. Bylsma has no reason to pull Ponikarovsky or Fedotenko off the bench. Especially with Mark Letestu playing as if the fate of his Canadian province depended on it.

Letestu channeling his inner Billy Guerin.

Alright, let's end it with a random prediction that will likely go horribly wrong:

Tonight's game winning goal will be scored by none other than Montreal's own Max Talbot

Let's go Pens.