Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pirates Acquire Matt Morris

In a move that nobody saw coming, the Pirates sent centerfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named later to the Giants in exchange for Matt Morris. The former 20 game winner has amassed a 4.35 ERA and a 7-7 record this year. While certainly not the same pitcher as his early days, Morris still provides veteran leadership and a steady presence in the 3rd or 4th spot in the rotation. Morris is in the middle of a 3 year, 27 million dollar contract, 9.5 million of which he is making this year with around 9.5 million next year, and a club option for 2009. A surprising move to say the least, simply for the large salary. Is this a desperate move by Littlefield to save his job? A sign from the Nuttings that they're willing to spend money? The loss of Davis is not significant for the Pirates, who have 2 other speedy centerfielders in Duffy and McClouth who can't hit. With the anticipation of McCutchen arriving in the near future, a centerfielder was expendable.

In other news Jack Wilson was not traded to Detroit as expected, but with his large contract a waiver wire deal is still a possibility.

Expect more analysis on the Morris deal tomorrow as we try and sort out the reasoning for the trade and listen to Littlefield's remarks. Definitely made this day a whole lot more interesting.

Tip: Post-Gazette

End of Post

Slow News Day, So How 'Bout a Video?

It's been a slow sports news day in the 'Burgh. What was going to be a flurry of Pirate trades never materialized (at least as of yet... maybe the announcements have been delayed). Steelers training camp is still in full swing, but the novelty of it has kind of worn off, and most of us just want to see a pre-season game (that's Sunday, 8 PM EST, on NFL Network).

So here's another great video from the Steelers Super Bowl run from two seasons ago. It's the post-game locker room celebration following the pummeling of the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. Hey, look, it's Sean Morey!

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The Obligatory Morning Post

Some interesting things going on in the Pittsburgh sports world today, none of which truly generate buzz for a full length article, so I'll try and tackle a few things at once.

::Jack Wilson, the leader of this decrepit Pirates' team, looks like he may be reunited with Lloyd McClendon. The Tigers' coaching staff contains the Pirates' three managers before Tracy (minus Mackanin) and their last outfielder who had talent and an inkling of desire to win. The Jack Wilson trade, if it comes to fruition, will be the beginning of the second stage in Detroits' plan to steal the identity of the Pirates. Why, you ask? While the Pirates are equivalent to the moldy grime growing in your shower in the eyes of baseball people everywhere, I suspect Bob Nutting is looked upon as a progressive mind by owners. While he spends little money he still manages to line his pockets. Just don't be surprised if you see Kevin Young pop up in a Detroit uniform sooner rather than later.

::It appears that Willie Reid and Santonio Holmes will be vying for the job of punt returner. It's a great problem to have, considering Holmes finished 9th in punt return average last year while Reid is said to have the more natural ability for the position. No matter what, at least we won't be seeing Najeh Davenport rumble straight ahead to the 24 yard line on kick returns anymore.

::From the Tribune-Review, Penn State has been "shutout" of the preseason Big Ten Poll, which gives selections on who will finish in the top 3. The order: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. Not surprising, but I wouldn't have been shocked to see them third, either. Mike Hart was tabbed preseason offensive player of the year, while James Laurinaitis took home the defensive honors. Is there anything more inane then picking individual players, especially in college, to preseason All-American or All-Conference teams? Isn't pretty much everything based upon the previous year? You pick all the returning players who won, or came closest to winning, postseason awards from the year before and you have your list.

::In much older news, but in the same vein, Pitt was selected to finish 6th in the Big East, just ahead of UConn and Syracuse. I think Pitt will surprise people this year. Since I mentioned Pitt and Penn State in the same article, however, I feel obligated to let those who care know that I support the 3 for 2 deal. Pitt has a lot more to gain in both attendance and general support, that can't be argued. Penn State would be a huge boost. Pitt just needs to give a little bit to get something back. I would even support a winner getting homefield advantage until taken from them policy.

It will return...one day

End of Post

Sunday, July 29, 2007

With the trade deadline approaching, the Pirates have a little over a day to come back into the spotlight of the Pittsburgh sports community for the last time this season. Less than a month ago there was still a small bit of hope for a .500 season. Following the abysmal 2-13 stretch after the All-Star break, it appears that the Pirates will once again be unloading their wealth of talent to any and all willing. With his job on the line, Littlefield will undoubtedly try and shake things up with some trades to prove to the eventual new CEO that he has what it takes to lead the Pirates out of this mess. What follows is my best prediction for some guys who appear to be on the block.

Jack Wilson

The only reason I left 10% off the probability is because I'm not sure who is going to want him. If Littlefield can simply get the other team to pay the rest of his contract, it has to be considered a huge victory.

Best Return:
A bottle of Vladimir vodka and no longer having his contract on the books.

Yum.

Worst Return: We don't trade him and have to pay him 7 million dollars next year to bat .250 and regress further into defensive mediocrity.

Salomon Torres
Coming into the year, the general consensus was that Torres could be a serviceable closer, and if not Capps could fill that role and Torres would be a great set up man. Possibly distracted by his anger over what he deemed to be an unfair contract, he did not live up to either expectation. With his value as low as it has been in the last two years, Littlefield will figure this is the time to make a deal.

Best Return:
Everyone was saying Torres would be going to the Red Sox for Wily Mo Pena, he of considerable talent but little to show for it. I would be elated with this. Pena would have plenty of at bats near the end of the year, something he would not get in Boston, while it would be the type of trade the radio shows would love. The actual ramifications for the next few years are a big unknown, but the potential is there.

Worst Return:
Get a couple AA relievers in return, with only 1 being projected to make the majors.

Ian Snell/Young starting pitcher
Why is he up here? A report I saw on The Sports Network says there are "rumblings" that Ian could be traded, which I took as a grain of salt, but it allowed me to imagine what we could get for a young pitcher such as Snell. At first, it seemed ridiculous considering the lack of great right hand pitching on the staff other than Snell, but his public outbursts may also have an effect on his availability. Littlefield, though, has also been adament that he does not want to break up the young core of players, a group that Snell and most of the starting pitchers fall in to.

Best Return:
He doesn't get traded. But if he does he would demand an impressive return. A high end position prospect combined with a young starting pitcher would be the minimum. There is no way this happens though, as Littlefield could not withstand the public outcry.

Worst Return:
Littlefield, in an act of defiance, trades Snell to the Cubs for an Aramis Rameriz bobblehead, and immedietly skips town.

Others that could be traded: Any reliever, Jose Castillo

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Hines Ward Would Like You to Tone it Down a Notch

Many things appear to be coming to fruition in Steelers training camp. Mike Tomlin has been touted as a hard-nosed coach. He is. Hines Ward has been criticized (at times fairly, at times too harshly) for being a bit of a Debbie Downer since XL. He has been.

Well, miniscule as it may be, small pieces of shit are hitting the fan.

It's kind of a tough call. I mean, yes, I like that Ward is sticking up for his fellow wideouts, especially the young guys. But for a guy who clamored for a larger paycheck because of the physicality he brought to the WR position, it seems a little lame to be calling out people for being overly physical. And besides, what is Tomlin going to say - stop hitting so hard? Yeah, that would go over well in this town.

End of Post

Friday, July 27, 2007

Maybe I can get a Phd in Crappy College Football Viewing

In today's Post-Gazette, Smizik had an article about Pitt ticket sales that brought this to my attention: Pitt plays, at home, Eastern Michigan, Grambling, Connecticut, Navy, Cincinnati, Syracuse and South Florida. What a joke. This is probably the NFL-equivalent of the Steelers having five home games against the Browns.

Shortly after this realization, I was perusing James Howell's lauded football rankings and noted a striking similarity in the bottom three teams: they are all on Penn State's schedule this year. Buffalo, Florida International, and Temple all play PSU this year, in what will surely be legendary bouts that make their way instantly onto ESPN Classic.

And just for good measure, Ohio State plays three good teams all year. Nice try, but substituting Washington for Texas doesn't exactly reaffirm your manliness.

Was this post fueled by a desire to piss off DAI's other writers and by a general lack of appreciation for college football? Yup. Nevertheless, not exactly an intriguing schedule for college football in the area, outside of the old stand-by rivalries.
End of Post

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kevan Barlow, Not Making a Good Impression

If you don't do so already, I urge you to check out Dale Lolley's training camp blog. Lolley writes for the Observer Reporter, and he files a report for pretty much every training camp practice. It's a good source of information to see what occurred during practice.

With that said, one tidbit stood out in his report from this morning's practice:

Also of note is that sources tell me that running back Kevan Barlow, signed as a possible backup to Willie Parker, is the worst character guy the Steelers have had since this source has been here. That dates back nearly 10 years.

So I guess that's how not to make a first impression. I'm trying to think of what he may have done to warrant such accusations. We'll see what happens during the pre-season, but it seems like Barlow is off to a bad start in his Steelers career.

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- Reader Michael informs us that we missed Doug Drabek's birthday yesterday. I wonder if Drabek came out of the womb with a moustchae back in 1962.

Happy Birthday, Big Guy

- Terrelle Pryor gets some love from SI. He's a standout athlete from Jeannette, if you weren't already aware of him. Beware the epilepsy-inducing Gatorade ad on the page.

- Pitt grad and Steelers killer Curtis Martin retires. Don't believe me that he was a Steelers killer? How about 166 yards and 3 TDs in a '97 divisional round rout. I can still hear Marv Albert gushing about Martin tearing through the fog.

- I normally don't steal from Deadspin of FanHouse (this is from both) simply because I figure everyone has already read that stuff. But this article from Deion Sanders is just unfathomable for so many reasons. Aside from the fact that he essentially defends dog fighting, the most surprising thing is that Deion Sanders actually has his own article. To say whatever he wants. However he wants. Frightening times.

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Jordan Staal Drunk Photos! (Not Really.)

Well we have them. Two photos of the Staal Brothers' massive bachelor party blowout. The first one is rather innocent, yet still impressive.

While 60 cases of beer made into a throan is remarkable, you knew the night would go awry simply from their choice of beer. Just because you're in America, boys, doesn't mean you have to drink our swill. As you can guess, though, things got a bit out of hand with that much alcohol, and before long the Staal brothers were dipping into other types of sports than hockey. Most notably shopping cart launching.

When being launched into Lake Superior, it is always a good idea to keep your helmet on.

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The Nookie Monster Revealed

Yes, that is him. The one who provides nookies for the entire State College Spikes' team. My brother and I approached him last night, figuring it would be a high school student, only to find the man under the mask was a bit older. I thought he would be displeased with us annoying him, but he couldn't have been happier. Honestly, he was probably the biggest fan the Spikes have. He sits back there all game, listening to the radio crew give him the play by play, not able to leave his cage.

I suppose they are afraid if unleashed onto the general public, he would start doling out nookies left and right. Can you imagine the horror? In order to keep him calm and satisfied, they allow him to emerge from his nook every time the Spikes score. I caught the sultry dance on tape.

I apologize for the shaky camera...it was rather difficult to keep myself composed. It was soon revealed over the PA system that all women in section 107 were now pregnant due to the Nookie Monster's dance, a promotion the Spikes run every Wednesday night.

As for the Spikes, they split a double-header. But the real reason everyone came to the game was a chance to see the Nookie Monster. And also for the free loaf of bread they gave to everyone exiting the game. Ok, mostly for the bread.

End of Post

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jordan Staal: Short-handed goal scoring phenom, underage drinking extraordinaire

He was not held overnight like his brother Eric, but Jordan Staal was arrested this past Saturday night at his aforementioned brother's bachelor party. The story has just come out now, so seeing as it took four days to make the news, I'm guessing it isn't that big a deal. He also got charged with underage drinking, which, not to belittle the crime, seems rather funny. Just think - if the Pens win the cup, Malkin, Crosby, and Staal can't technically enjoy any post-game champagne. Only in America.

A Night at Shea

I realize that no one really cares about the Pirates anymore. But since Ian Snell is now trademarking post-game explosions (gee, he really seems to be angry when he pitches games and loses, but doesnt say much after any other loss) and I happened to be in attendance at Shea last night, I thought I would share a few notes from the live action.

- All you really need to know about the game: John Maine (the Mets pitcher) hit a two run jack and got a standing ovation. I laughed through the whole thing out of disbelief.

-Shea is a dump. I say this not as a desperate Pirates fan (ya, ok, our team sucks...but our ballpark is better than yours!) but as a rational human being. I think the only way I can describe the feel of the stadium is that it is an old stadium without the nostalgic feel. Most older stadiums (Fewnway, Yankee, Old Comiskey when I was there) are obviously old and lacking newer facilities, but they smell and feel and look like they have seen great baseball. Shea just looks like it once saw a flying saucer float by in Men in Black.

- I've been meaning to say this for a long time, and I know he's changed his ways since, but: the 7 train to Shea is nowhere near anything described by John Rocker, in my own limited opinion.

- When I attended the Pirates-Yankees game on June 10th, Kuwata came in and immediately gave up a homer to A-Rod. Last night, Kuwata came in and immediately gave up a homer to Lastings Milledge. There are only two explanations: 1) I am bad luck for Kuwata, or 2) Kuwata sucks. I think everyone knows what the answer is.

- I would love to see how Jason Bay would perform on a team where he didnt have to be the alpha dog. He straight up yoked two homers last night and I just couldnt help but feel for the guy - good baseball player, not great, but he's always expected to play like a great one.

- Ian Snell got absolutely rocked. The score could have been worse. The Mets were scorching balls intot he outfield.

- Jose Reyes has his own Jumbotron segment where he tries to teach Spanish to Mets fans. It's funny because they pick old white people who can't pronounce the words. It's even funnier because a remarkable portion of the fan base speaks Spanish is laughs at the white people on the screen.

- Nady, Doumit, Kata, Laroche...man, how did those guys ever manage to lose to Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Delgado, and Lo Duca?

-I had seats a few rows back from third base, so I really got to watch some guys up close. The Mets are loaded with stars, but I was absolutely stunned by one guy: Jose Reyes. David Wright and Delgado dont wow you consistently, Beltran seems to have slipped since his historic playoff homerun barrage with the Astros, but good lord, Jose Reyes is just unbelievable to watch. I could watch him run from home to first all day long. He charges balls so hard and fast that is eems impossible he will be able to scoop and throw in one motion, yet he does every time. He charged so hard on one ground ball that after he threw it he literally ran all the awy through the first base line. If you get the chance, go see Jose Reyes play. He's the real deal.

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Hey, You're Not Big Ben...

Remember the Big Ben impersonator? The guy who had a beer gut but still managed to convince a few women that he was a quarterback for the Steelers in order to date them? Well after he was sentenced in 2005 to 30 days in jail he got back at it again, shooting a bit more reasonably for Steelers' tight end Jerame Tuman. He managed to convince a woman to let him borrow a few thousand dollars from her, a surprisingly effective con. He was still caught, however, when the woman wrote the actual Tuman asking for her money back. Oops.

Well today he was sentenced to 90 days in jail with 5 years of probation. While in jail it may be tough to pull off his act, I wonder what Steeler he will pick next once he gets out. My best guesses:

Bam Morris: He now has an extended history in jail, giving his character more depth and ability to describe Bam's real life. Since Bam has also been out of the league for so long, his physical appearance carries much less weight. His troubles also guarantee a lot more pity. And more money.

Greg Warren: When is the last time you've seen Warren's face during the game other than when he botches a snap? The mistakes are few and far between enough that he could keep up the act for potentially the entire year. Also, the body types seem to fit a bit more.

Chris Gardocki: Recently released, the fake Gardocki would have every reason in the world to need money. Plus, his punts without a block streak would make any woman blush with anticipation.

End of Post

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Can't Figure This One Out

Profootballtalk.com is reporting that the Steelers have a keen interest in free agent QB Aaron Brooks. John Clayton of ESPN.com takes it one step further and says Brooks has already visited with the team. From Profootballtalk.com:

While the Steelers have not yet signed Brooks, John Clayton of ESPN.com reports (by way of KFFL) that the Steelers have visited with Brooks.

Presumably, Brooks would compete with Charlie Batch to serve as the primary backup to Ben Roethlisberger

The tipster who pointed the story out to us last week explained that new coach Mike is driving the bus on this one, and that Tomlin likes Brooks in part because they both are from the same general area in Virginia. (We have yet to purchase any of the available online "make me into a football scout" training programs, but we have a feeling that "real" NFL scouts base decisions on ability, not geography.)

Brooks had a couple of decent years with the Saints, but thereafter regressed badly. He was not good at all last season in Oakland.

I don't understand this one. Batch filled in very well when needed last year, and Brooks would be a major downgrade. Brooks is wildly inconsistent. He'll drive Steeler fans nuts, much like Kordell Stewart.

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Ode to Pittsburgh Sports Blogs: A Symposium

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then the three bloggers mentioned here should hopefully come away feeling flatter (no, wait, we said that wrong). We picked these three because we read them the most, know their style the best, and have and simply love reading each blog. We’ll do this again in the future, so let us know if we should start reading your blog more carefully. We would have loved to actually do this in person (you know, for real), but seeing as we can barely get the staff of DoubtAboutIt on the same page, we figured it was better to fabricate a Pittsburgh Sports Blog Symposium rather than do a real one. Certain characteristics of the bloggers are, obviously, blown out of proportion.

DoubtAboutIt: Ladies and gentleman, Littlefields and Shero’s, welcome to the first annual Pittsburgh Sports Blog Symposium hosted by us, the contributors of Doubt About It! Today we are joined by some of Pittsburgh’s finest sports bloggers to investigate, debate, and jabber about the most pressing sports-related issues in the ‘Burgh. Lets throw it down to the lovely Trenni Kusnerik, who is at the red carpet watching the star bloggers arrive.

Trenni: Thanks guys! I'm so excited to be here, it's my chance to leave Potash and Harris lagging behind, doing the bitch work for Greg Brown. Alright, we have our first arrival, and it's Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson from Pittsburgh Sports and MiniPonies, arriving on an actual minipony!

Trenni: Next up are the writers of thePensblog, who are arriving via Zamboni...wait...what's this... the zamboni is literally being carried in by Sidney Crosby! The offseason workout plan appears to be working...

Trenni: Last, but certainly not least, Raul from Mondesi's House is being crowd surfed in by hoardes of his loyal supporters. Truly a site to behold.

Trenni: I have not had this much fun since I got plastered with the Pirates' pitching staff in 2003. Thanks for joining us today, guys. Let's send it back to DoubtAboutIt in the convention center!

DoubtAboutIt: Thanks Trenni. As agreed upon, Wannstache is yours for the night. Welcome everybody, lets get started! As we all know, there is only one thing on the mind of most Pittsburghers today, and that is Steeler’s training camp.

PSAMP: Actually, I think the Pittsburgh Passion have captured the hearts and minds of Pittsburghers to the point that they have forgotten about the Steelers, but I suppose that is debatable.

DAI: Yes, you certainly seem to have carved a small niche for yourself with the coverage of the Passion. Our writer Pat tries to do this often, trying to carve a niche for himself in the Pittsburgh blog scene by discussing random things like tennis or basketball, but it never works. Well done, Tecmo Bowl.

PSAMP: Thank you.

DAI: But back to Steelers training camp. We’ll start with a simple question – what are you most excited about?

Mondesi’s House: Mike Tomlin, Mike Tomlin, Mike Tomlin. If he falls flat on his face, then I can’t really keep using “The News” as my bread and butter, can I?

DAI: No, suppose you couldn’t. But hey, it would still be better than “Grim’s Gossip”, wouldn’t it?

ThePensBlog:
It should just be called
“The Gary Roberts Report: I’m not telling a story, I’m just breaking people’s noses in the corners”.

DAI: Ah, the fellas from the PensBlog! We knew you would manage to find your way into a Steelers discussion somehow!

PensBlog:
Yeah, that was a nifty little move we pulled there.
It was a beautiful harmony of motion…it was the dance…of champions.

DAI: Wow, break out the “One from the Heart” and “Against the Odds” videos kids, cause The Pens Blog are playing like champs today.

PensBlog:
But in order to truly be considered champions, they would have to do it…again.

DAI: Wow, consider our minds blown. You just used a quote from “Against the Odds” that doubled as your second quote and an affirmation of your champion-status. Surreal.

PensBlog:
We know.

DAI: But ok, really, Steelers Training Camp. Mondesi’s House wants to see how Mike Tomlin does. Any other thoughts?

PSAMP: I don’t know, I mean, how can you really top last summer? Joey Porter’s pit bulls killed a minipony. I mean…hello? That’s why I exist!

DAI: Hmm, fair point. Any interest in the Faneca thing? Big Ben’s theoretical senior year in the NFL? The always important picks for the practice squad?

MH: I was feeling ok about Roethlisberger until I saw this photo that a reader sent me.

PSAMP: Wow, that is a nice little minipony right there.

PensBlog:
Ben Roethlisberger. Un-Championlike.

DAI: Wow Mondesi, that certainly is shocking to see those two together. They are supposed to be feuding after all.

MH: Yeah, I was forwarded this photo from a mysterious character named Leonard Glenn. I’ve decided to call him LenGlen from now on. Hopefully he’ll provide the Pittsburgh sports blog scene with many more such gems in the future.

PensBlog:
Sounds like a jobber to us.

MH: A what?

PensBlog:
A jobber.

Jobbed

PSAMP: And so who all is a jobber?

PensBlog:
Everyone, including us, except Luke Ravenstahl.

DAI: And Pens Blog, that is why we love you. Now does anyone even want to talk about the Pirates today? We’ve got to admit, Pittsburgh sports blogs have done a damn good job of keeping up with the Pirates all summer when there wasn’t much else going on in the sports world. Mondesi, as always we enjoyed your Pirates movie.

PensBlog:
The one with that jobber Johnny Depp?

Not worth the time

DAI: No, the Pittsburgh Pirates: The Movie II.

MH: Thanks guys, I really appreciate it. You guys know as well as anyone that it has been hard to keep things fresh this summer with the Buccos. If it wasn’t for Ronnie Florian, I don’t know what I would have done there in the early going.

DAI: Yes, you created nothing short of a cultural phenomenon with your campaign to dig to the bottom of the genius that is Ronnie Florian.

PensBlog:
Ronnie Francis?

Euphoria in motion

DAI: No, Ronnie Florian – a man so committed to the Pirates that he believes any trip to the ball park could result in witnessing someone’s 3,000th hit.

PensBlog: Prediction: Gary Roberts will dole out 3,000 hits this year.

PSAMP: The Pittsburgh Passion lay 3,000 smack-downs a game!

MH: Ronnie Florian gave me 3,000 page views per hour!

PensBlog:
Gary Roberts is a war horse, with hands
of silk.

Smooth

DAI: Woah there, guys! Settle down! Wait…PensBlog, did you really just pull out another “Against the Odds” quote and substitute Gary Roberts in for Kevin Stevens? Wow. You always deliver.

PensBlog:

always on time

DAI: But we need to at least address them somehow. Ok, real quickly, what do you think was their most embarrassing moment of the season so far?

MH: I can give you a list of 15 moments, since that’s the number of years we’ve been in this mess:
1. That the only national coverage they have received was the Sopranos parody.
2. Their We Will ad campaign has been lampooned by everybody
3. Jason Bay. Called strike three.
4. Salomon Torres calls out the management
5. Hans Klopek, I mean Adam LaRoche starting off the year as a bust

6. ...[Editors note: This is a lot tougher than we thought]

PensBlog:
That they attended a Pens game in Florida thinking they would feed off the young energy.

PSAMP: Any segment of the David Littlefield radio show could serve as the most embarrassing moment…or how about when I lost in the hot blogger bracket to a 40 year old dad?

DAI: See? Not so hard to talk about the Pirates! We personally would choose Oliver Perez appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated…ugh. But before PensBlog goes crazy, let’s get some hockey talk going. Is there any doubt that the Penguins are going to be the most exciting team in the NHL next year?

MH: Couldn’t be any more excited. You just have to marvel at the job Ray Shero has done. Crosby, Talbot, Christiansen, Armstrong, Sykora, Sydor, Therrien – all signed within a month! We should just let this world-class architect build the new arena himself.

Pensblog:
Game Number:
-

Jordan Staal Hat-trick.
Thats when the dynasty started to form.
Sick.

PSAMP: Can you imagine the child of Sidney Crosby and the Passions’ Lisa Horton dominating in every sport imaginable? So no, there is no doubt about it – the Pens will be hoisting Lord MiniPo…er, uhh…Stanley’s Cup in no time.

DAI: Not to play devil’s advocate here, but let’s say...

PensBlog:
The Devils are evil jobbers.

Whatever

MH: I’m starting to like this jobbers thing. I might run a contest where readers can send in a picture of their favorite jobber, with the winner getting a signed football from Chris Gardocki.

PSAMP: I wish the pit bulls had attacked Gardocki instead of the poor minipony.

MH: I know, but it is better than giving away anything Pirates-related.

PSAMP: You could have the winner take over Littlefield’s position - that would be a sweet giveaway.

DAI: One of our writers has already tried to infiltrate the Pirates organization. It is harder than it looks.

PensBlog:
You cannot penetrate the Penguins upper management, not without...

DAI: The brass of a riverboat gambler?

PensBlog:
But of course. This entire Pens season will be as if the civic arena roof had opened, and the hockey gods smiled down on Pittsburgh.

DAI: Damn, I could do this all day.

PensBlog: We mutter the lines in our sleep.

DAI: So does our staff writer Pat. But ok, real quick, before we close up, your favorite Ray Shero move of the off-season.

PSAMP: Hiring Fitzgerald, because Shero couldn’t give a crap that he once decimated the Pens as a member of the rat-throwing Florida Panthers – his bad karma will succumb to the will of the Shero.

MH: Its gotta be signing Crosby.

PensBlog:
Resigning G.R., aka God’s Robot, aka Gary Roberts.

DAI: Good choices all around! Let’s end on that Penguins-related high note and say thanks to Mondesi’s House, Pittsburgh Sports and MiniPonies, and ThePensBlog for participating in today’s symposium. Make sure to check out their blogs and don’t forget to check back soon where another Pittsburgh Sports Blog Symposium could spring up at any time. Who knows, it might even be a real one.

End of Post

No, Don't Go!

Sorry for the lack of posting today. We're working on a big project that we'll hopefully get up this afternoon. Feel free to sift through the archives.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Polamalu Signs Long Term Extension

Breaking news just in, as Troy Polamalu has signed a long term extension with the Steelers.

According to Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette, the deal is 5 years for $33 million, and a team record of approximately$15 million in bonuses. This is close to Ed Reed's 6 year, $44 million deal with$15 million up front signed with the Ravens last summer.

It's a big commitment, but I'd rather them drop this kind of cash on a 26 year old stud safety than a guard over the age of 30.

SPECIAL UPDATE: Tomlin's Run Test Revealed

First of all, the stache's 53 man roster prediction article is fantastic. Go read it. Then call him out on it.

But as the title indicates, it has now been made public knowledge of what is occuring today at 4 p.m. at Latrobe. I had wondered what would replace Cowher's infamous fourteen 40 yard dashses, thinking that not much could be worse than running 14 sprints on a hot July day.

Well, try sixteen 110 yard dashes on for size.

I have no concrete link seeing as I just heard it on the radio, so perahps I could be wrong. But I am hearing sixteen 110 yard springs. If a player went to something like 50 of the 55 optional workouts in the offseason, he is excused. Only a handful did.

Sixteen 110 yard sprints. Welcome to Camp Tomlin, boys.

End of Post

Camp Tomlin Begins Today

The ‘Stache has returned from vacation. Unfortunately, he was unable to communicate with his fellow Doubt About It contributors about how much the Pirates stink, because, let’s just say, his phone got a little wet at the beach. Still, the Pirates really do stink. I went on vacation 11 days ago, and at that time the Pirates were in possession of 40 wins. Today, they have 41. One measly win in 11 days.

Luckily, Steelers training camp starts today, so we can focus on a team that actually has a chance at winning a championship in the near future. Due to time constraints, I never got to finish my “Training Camp Battles” series before the start of camp today, so in its place I’ve decided to go ahead and make my pre-camp prediction of what the Steelers 53 man roster will look like on opening day. Sometime close to the start of the season, before the major roster cutdowns, I’ll do a revised roster based on what I’ve seen in the pre-season games. Short notes are included for each position. Rookies are in bold.

OFFENSE (25):

QB (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Brian St. Pierre

Ben and Batch’s injury history makes a 3rd QB a necessity.

RB (3): Willie Parker, Najeh Davenport, Verron Haynes

Covered in previous “Training Camp Battles” piece. Najeh #2, Haynes 3rd down back.

FB (1): Dan Kreider

Nothing major.

WR (6): Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington, Cedrick Wilson, Willie Reid, Dallas Baker

I’ve changed my stance a bit. The more I think about it, the more I think 6 WR’s stick. This will allow Arians to have the ammo to keep using 4 WR sets during the season, even with injuries to the position.

TE (3): Heath Miller, Jerame Tuman, Matt Spaeth

I almost made Tuman a cap casualty. His salary relative to his ability doesn’t match. But there isn’t enough experience behind Miller for this to happen.

OT (3): Marvel Smith, Max Starks, Trai Essex

I don’t like Essex much. Luckily, Colon can fill in at tackle, if needed. Colon is listed as a tackle, but I think his better fit is at RG.

OG (4): Alan Faneca, Willie Colon, Kendall Simmons, Chris Kemoeatu

I can only hope Colon outduels Simmons for the RG spot. Tomlin has stated Colon is in competition for the RT spot, where he definitely could beat out Starks. But Tomlin also said that Colon can play guard and that if he shows he is one of the top 5 offensive lineman on the team, they’ll find a spot for him in the starting lineup.

C (2): Sean Mahan, Marvin Philip

Mahan makes a successful transition from guard to center. He’s more of a finesse than power guy, and he has the ability to pull, which is a necessity for any center in the Steelers system. If Mahan wins the center position, as I believe he will, Chukky Okobi’s salary is too hefty to keep him as a backup. Thus, he becomes a cap casualty.

DEFENSE (25):

DE (5): Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Ryan McBean, Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason

McBean, Kirschke, and Eason need to be effective wave players in order to keep Smith and Keisel fresh.

DT (2): Casey Hampton, Chris Hoke

Status quo, here.

OLB (5): James Harrison, Clark Haggans, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Arnold Harrison

Ultimately, Timmons size may lend himself to be a better fit at ILB. Personally, I think he might be a little small to be an OLB in the Steelers system, but Greg Lloyd was similar in stature to Timmons and he turned out okay. Then again, I don’t think Timmons has the same intensity as Lloyd. For now, he’ll be used primarily at OLB. Woodley might be more ready to make an impact this year. He was said to be impressive in OTA’s, and based on college playing time is the more seasoned of the two.

ILB (4): James Farrior, Larry Foote, Clint Kriewaldt, Rian Wallace

Kriewaldt is a good special teamer. I think Foote was one of “Cowher’s boys.” If Wallace has a good camp, he could unseat Foote.

CB (5): Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, Deshea Townsend, Ricardo Colclough, William Gay

I don’t particularly like the depth here at CB. I’m fine with Ike and B-Mac as the starters. I think Ike will have a bounce back year, and his bad play last year was a bit overblown. Deshea is neither fast nor big, and age is quickly catching up with him. He declined markedly last year. Colclough has the tools but doesn’t seem to have the instincts. Louisville copied many defensive packages from the Steelers, so Gay knows the system a little bit. He'll make the roster over Chidi Iuwoma as long as Gay shows he can play special teams.

S (4): Troy Polamalu, Anthony Smith, Ryan Clark, Tyrone Carter

I like this group. Troy and Smith make up a formidable safety tandem, and Clark can fill in capably should Smith go down. Carter is a madman who will hit anything in his path.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Jeff Reed, Daniel Sepulveda, Greg Warren

In between appearances on Deadspin, Jeff Reed finds time to kick field goals and extra points for the Steelers. Sepulveda should be an improvement over Gardocki, and as an added bonus we won’t have to hear that Gardocki “has never had a punt blocked.” No one will ever hear about Greg Warren unless he makes a mistake.

With the first day of training camp upon us, all the Steelers' draft picks have been signed. Lawrence Timmons was the last to fall, signing a 5 year deal that could be worth as much as $15 million if he can earn all of the bonuses. With enough story lines from the transition from Cowher to Tomlin and the Alan Faneca business, it was key to stop any rookie holdouts from being a distraction, and the Steelers accomplished that. If there is one person though, who was unhappy to hear the news about Timmons' signing, I'm betting it was this guy: In other Steelers' news, defensive line coach John Mitchell was appointed assistant head coach, the position last held by Russ Grimm. Or was it assistant to the head coach, ala Dwight Shrute? Either way, I'm not sure how his responsibilities change. I suppose he dons the headset in case Tomlin can not perform his duties or maybe is just the guy who has to get him coffee every morning. Looking at his career though, you have to like the move. Lets just hope he has more success than the last John Mitchell to be appointed to such a high position. Links: Timmons signs John Mitchell promotion [Post-Gazette] End of Post Friday, July 20, 2007 For The Glory Steelers' fans after SB Win in State College The reason I’m writing this post is because of the article and subsequent comments that Don over at Mondesi’s House brought to my attention in one of his “News” segments. (Sidenote: “The News” is slowly replacing The Daily Show as the source of most of my need to know information.) The article was about as anti-Penn State as you can get, and entirely based upon opinions on message boards and blogs. In other words, the ND homer took whatever he felt like off the web and said this represents Nittany Lion nation. Adam the Penn State Fan wrote an effective rebuttal which washed away most of the arguments in my eyes, other than one major error. Contrary to his report that the student section did not turn their back to the dotting of the “I” in the game against Ohio State in 2005, we actually did. Many while extending their middle finger. I was in the student section that game, and looking back I am not exactly proud of that moment, although I don’t find it all that embarrassing either. The fans overwhelmingly made up for it the rest of the game, as even the Buckeyes were talking about how the student section took them out of their game. It was easily the greatest game I have ever attended, in terms of the energy from the fans and they way we willed the team to victory. I still get chills just thinking about certain moments. During my freshman year at Penn State a few years back, I remember walking past Canyon Pizza, ground zero for drunkards by around midnight every Friday and Saturday night, and listening to the battling "Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!" and the disgusting "E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!". One of the members of the Steelers' contingent just walked up to an Eagles' fan and dropped him. The police, who watch that area like a hawk, came running in and stopped the fighting before it got out of hand. At that moment, I was never more proud to be from Pittsburgh. Which (finally) brings me to why I wrote this article... I don't mind at all when Pittsburghers criticize the football team. The play book is antiquated, JoePa doesn't really coach, the past ten years has been pathetic, etc... All of those arguments have some validity, the amount of which I'm sure we'd disagree on. No, what bothers me is the attacks on State College or the Penn State faithful by other Pittsburghers. While there have been a few (1 2) comments in posts on Mondesi's house that attacked the fans or community, mostly I have to say that the commenters there keep to football, or just try to get a rise out of Adam. The most blatant hate came from the article and subsequent comments on PittBlather a few months ago. Why does this irk me so much? Because if there is one other area and fan base that has the most similarities to the relationship between State College and PSU football, it's the Steelers and Pittsburgh. There are few areas more proud of their traditions and blue collar culture, more willing to take it personally when they feel like they've been slighted or insulted, or more ardent in their belief that the team is going all the way this year, no matter what the circumstances. I know that people can find many instances of Penn State fans overreacting (this article being one of them), but look at how Pittsburgh reacted to a B-list celebrity calling our city a derogatory name, or when a no-name cartoonist said we smelled. Go ahead and ask Pete Prisco where most of his hate mail comes from. And in terms of devotion of the fans, does this look familiar? 50,000 out of the 77,000 in attendance for the Orange Bowl were wearing blue and white, and this at a stadium just down the road from the competition. I never thought I would find anything like Steeler Nation, but I did. Go ahead and bash the team, say our players suck, and that we'd be better of without JoePa. But leave the fans and the town out of it, because if you're a Steelers' or city of Pittsburgh fan, you're only really making fun of yourself. Am I wrong here? Do you really think that Penn State fans are crazier and more willing to jump all over a negative comment than Steelers' fans? That there is a cow walking down College Avenue right now? Please, explain, because I don't get it. NBA haters rejoice First of all, I apologize for the lack of posting from the New York branch of DoubtAboutIt. That pesky little steam burst has made the end of my week an interesting one, to say ther least. Although, it has given me time to flip through the New York Post, which is reporting (or fabricating, it is the Post) that an NBA referee has been fixing games. And for the mob, no less. Um, wow. That is nothing small, cats and kittens, particularly since NBA referees have probably been the most villified whistle-blowers in all of sports. This will likely be the last we write about it since a certain acitivity that rhymes with "raining cramps" commences Monday, but just wanted to bring it to everyone's attention. End of Post Thursday, July 19, 2007 Jeter and A-Rod on the Same Team? Where Will We Put Them? The Pittsburgh Pirates announced today that they have traded a player to be named later for Cesar Izturis. Personally I think this is just a continuation of the Aramis Ramirez deal. Chicago General Manager, Jim Hendry, is simply looking out for a fellow GM who is about to lose his job. In all likelihood this is how the trade went down... Dave Littlefield; plays drunk, depressed, General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jim Hendry: plays Chicago Cubs GM. Dave Littlefield: Jimmmmmmm, it's me Dave...I'm not doing well man. Jim Hendry: Have you considered Ian Snell for a goat yet? Dave: Come on man, I'm in a bad spot. This isn't time to talk minor transactions. Jim: What's a matter Dave? Dave: I'm in a bad spot mannn...(Crying), they're calling for my job man... Jim: I'll tell you what Dave, I realize we pretty much gave you nothing for Aramis Ramirez. How bout I send you Cesar Izturis. This time I'll take the player to be named later. Dave: Who's that? Jim: Just trust me, he doesn't think hes the Willie Mays of shortstop. Hes been demoted to bench duty for us, but he'll fit right into your lineup. Dave: Are you sure hes major league ready? Jim: Yes Dave, remember what we talked about before...fellow GM's must always watch each others backs in times of need. Right now is your time of need. Dave: I can't thank you enough Jim. Jim: Just don't forget about my proposal for that Snelling kid you got. Dave: Can we still get the goat? Jim: You bet. Dave: Nice... (hangs up phone) So luckily Dave Littlefield still has friends.... and they obviously feel bad for him. When all is said and done, however, I still fear the player to be named later. Izturis is at the end of an expensive contract, with a 5 million dollar club option for next year. Hopefully Dave Little"League" didn't waste our only true trading piece in Sean Burnett. I still believe Sean Burnett could provide healthy competition for next years starting rotation. A starting rotation that is unfortunately, and prematurely, written into stone year after year. PIRATES FANS BEWARE: Don't be surprised if Izturis (A-Rod) plays 3B for the Pirates on Friday as Jack Wilson (Jeter) is given one last chance to hold down his Shortstop spot. I doubt I'm the only person who feels this coming on, but I really feel that this "Your job is in jeopardy" thing is going to inspire Jack Wilson. My Prediction: Jack Wilson hits for the cycle in his first game following the trade and continues his tear, batting .350 for the rest of the season. End of Post SI drops the gloves with ESPN I never felt a need to comment on the ESPN non-phenomenon "Who's Now?" simply because everyone had already verbalized my thoughts. But it appears that S.I. has decided to join the fray, in more ways than one. It has been rumored now for some time that S.I. has been lagging far behind the WorldWide Leader, as evidenced by their inability to attract certain writers (J.A. Adande comes to mind). My attitude has always been: S.I. should go the complete opposite direction and just start covering sports on a bare-bones basis without all the extra frill that ESPN dresses them with so as to provide a definitively separate option. Well, I wouldnt say they exactly followed by advice, but they certainly arent holding back any punches. Frank DeFord has an article on Si.com today about the irritating fusion of the sports and celebrity worlds. An if you turn to page 20 of your latest Sports Illustrated, you can see a scathing satirical piece by Charlie Leerhsen that just rips ESPN to no end. I can't even pick one quote to pick out because the whole thing is just a beautiful hatchet job. Pick up a copy and see how SI is fighting the good fight for everyone concerning Who's Now. End of Post Comedy Central Report, 7/19 Borrowing from the media’s name for the National League Central, the Comedy Central Report is a daily feature which recaps all the previous day’s games in which a central team played. Keep track of all six teams vying for the most mediocre division title in baseball. Lost Faith Pirates drop 6th in a row, lose to Rockies 6-3 Recap: Ian Snell is a pissed off Pirate. After having another tough outing since coming back from the break, Snell accused the Rockies of stealing signs. Jack Wilson and Jim Colburn were seen arguing with each other in the dugout. Times are not good to be a Pirate. All You Need to Know: At least Freddy is displaying a little pop in his bat, as he hit his second home run since the All-star break. The complete loss of Jason Bay's bat has defined the season for me, as I'm sure for many others. D'backs stop Brewers 5-2 Recap: Mark Reynolds hit a 3 run shot in the 8th inning to stop their 7 game losing streak. Tony Pena picked up the win in relief. Even with the loss, the injury to Sheets has been mostly overcome so far. All You Need to Know: Accompanying this latest Pirates' losing streak, I have been hit with some rather nasty writers block. I think it stems from the fact that you can only complain so much about the team before you even find yourself being repetitive. Who here is tired of not only the losing but talking about it as well? Leave a comment if you have hit the tipping point of Pirates talk. Cubs demolish Giants 12-1 Recap: While only pitching 5 inning, Carlos Zambrano picked up his 12th win of the season, the first pitcher in the NL to do so. Kendall did not get to play. All You Need to Know: Daryle Ward is batting .323, although only with 68 at-bats. I'd still rather have that on the Pirates' bench. Cardinals Shut Out Marlins 6-0 Recap: Kip Wells (!!) Went 8 strong innings, only giving up 2 hits. Looks like the Pirates are not the only team that can make him look good. All You Need to Know: Amazingly, Kip lowered his ERA by .5 points, from 6.25 to 5.75. In just one game at this late stage in the season that is remarkable. Astros lost to Nationals 7-6 Hunter Pence Watch: Went 1-5, lowering his BA to .332.Other than Hunter Pence, I find the Astros to be the most uncompelling team in the Central. At least with the Reds there is that whole Pete Mackanin storyline. I'm sure somewhere in the Astros blogosphere, someone is saying the exact same thing about the Pirates. Reds beat Braves 5-4 in 15th inning Recap: Brandon Phillips hit a pinch hit 2 run single in the Top of the 15th, and the Reds managed to hold on for the win and the sweep. All You Need to Know: The Braves compiled 18 hits but could only score 4 runs. The Pirates' poor play might just be contagious. Your Comedy Central Standings on July 19th, 2007: End of Post Wednesday, July 18, 2007 Faneca to Report, Sans-Bells Pittsburgh's favorite #66 (I kid, I kid) will report, claiming this is his last camp and that he will not report "with bells on". I was just wondering earlier today in my Buy Sam a Drink article why we havent heard about Faneca in a while, and apparently Alan reads the website. Welcome back to the news, Mr. Faneca. I suspect we will be hearing a good bit more from you. End of Post Afternoon Links • If you are tired of reading through endless stuff about Michael Vick to try and get the details and implications right, you should probably just read Michael Wilbon's article in the Washington Post. It's the best peice I've seen so far on the issue. Plus, you get the following quote from lawyer David Cornwell. "But is it 'keeping it real' to put a$100 million business at risk?"
If only Chappelle were around to do a Michael Vick skit.
• If you are into these types of things, here are some NFL position rankings via CBS. Not too disagreeable - Troy is a little low, where's Casey Hampton, and I'm finally glad somewhat brought up Faneca's poor pass blocking.
• Scroll down a little bit to see the picture and stats that the ThePensBlog dug up for the 1996 Pens team. Amazing stats, and maybe an even better picture.
• This is old, but it is one of my favorite pieces of sports writing ever: David Foster Wallace conceptualizes Roger Federer. If you appreciate athletic greatness and have an eye for superb writing, this is a must-read.
• The fellas at BlogNGold have some great burning questions about the upcoming Steelers season.

End of Post

Buy Sam a Drink: 2007 Pens vs. 2007 Steelers

Welcome back to the new hit series that is breaking through across the country like it was being blocked by Kendall Simmons circa late last year: Buy Sam a Drink! A big thanks to the Post Gazette Blog ‘N Gold for linking to last week’s edition, and I ought to mention that Mondesi’s House beat me to the punch a little bit by mentioning today’s debate in his notes yesterday. I have been grappling with this issue for a few weeks now, and while it is perhaps pointless to declare a winner, it gets me punching the keyboard with a little more excitement just thinking about.

Summer is nice and all, but we all know that Dave Wannstache has been praying for an Alan Faneca headline while Sam has been busy creating Angelo Esposito on NHL ’94. Thus, it is time to decide…

WHICH UPCOMING SEASON ARE YOU MORE EXCITED FOR: THE PENS OR STEELERS?
Winter clothes are needed after the jump.

This article is not meant simply as an escape from talking about the Pirates (on some levels, maybe it is. Actually, hmm, my archive says I have talked about the Pirates, like, twice all summer). Rather, it is genuine expression of how unbelievably excited I am for the upcoming Steelers and Penguins seasons. On the surface, it appears that the Pens season would be the easy choice here, particularly since I have a noted bias towards all things hockey. However, loads of sagacious front office moves will not assure the Pens victory in this debate.

It seems impossible, but the Steelers did actually win the Super Bowl 17 some months ago. Sure, perhaps success is more fleeting in the NFL than in any other league, but virtually every player on the team has a Super Bowl ring, took their lumps last year, and is hopefully ready to rev it up for the fall.

There are, of course, many, MANY questions concerning the 2007 squad. Willie Parker was probably the most under-appreciated player on the team last year, and yet people once again wonder if he can put up big numbers. Ike Taylor got Paid and then (nearly) Laid (off), and you can bet that I will have my eyes shut for the first fade route to the right corner. The offensive line struggled mightilyat times last year, there is a lack of experienced depth at linebacker…and for the sake of everyone’s sanity, I won’t even get started about what Roethlisberger has at stake this year.

And yet one change overshadows them all, a change that has been written about endlessly but one that will not be fully realized until Pittsburghers look to the sideline and see a different man wearing the headset. The Mike Tomlin storyline has had an interesting story arch, to be sure. Much like the “Jerome is from Detroit” storyline, the Cowher saga was so intensely covered that the whole process became a running joke. Eventually the stories about Cowher stopped, the pieces on Tomlin began, and everyone appeared to be coming to their senses about the whole thing.

But it will certainly be undeniably weird to see someone other than Cowher striding along the chalk. For me, I know there will be a “holy hell Bill isn’t on the sidelines” moment. I’m sure there will be one for everyone. After it passes, though, there will only be the same sentiment as always: the Steelers better freaking win.

As has been covered by us and virtually everybody in town, Mike Tomlin appears to be, on paper at least, a perfect fit for the no non-sense, maximum effort – alright, I’ll say it – blue-collar brand of football that Pittsburghers love. I almost wish Joey Porter was still around just so he had someone to answer to. Almost.

Thus, with the Steelers, there is an anxious type of uncertainty surrounding the team, almost guaranteeing an intriguing season. For the Penguins, the only uncertainty seems to be just how high their ceiling is. I have really tried to not get carried away with Ray Shero and his wheeling and dealing. I have tried to remember that it is summertime and that hockey teams are made and truly brought together on the ice in the winter and early spring. But I can’t help it. Everything just seems to good to be true. The man uses a system, sticks to his system, and with the help of Sidney Crosby, has almost instantaneously created an environment of winning for hockey in Pittsburgh. It is practically unheard of. Crosby is calling teammates to congratulate them on signing deals to stay in Pittsburgh. Therrien is having the team up to Montreal. Veterans like Sykora and Sydor are coming in. Gary Roberts has been mythologized to the point of obsession over at The Pens Blog, and I love it all.

Throw in a new arena, a nice little young core of Malkin-Staal-Fluery-Whitney, some goofball role players like Armstrong-Talbot-Christiansen, the best fighter in the league, the best player in the league, and I am pretty sure you have the most entertaining team in hockey, if not best team.

And you know what might be the best part? The window is wide open. Yes, some of the veterans obviously won’t be around much longer, and the young guys are going to start making bank soon. But as proved this past spring, this is a team with a future, a team that is learning, will continue to learn, and is eventually going to combine talent with experience to become a formidable, formidable foe for other NHL teams.

The Steelers don’t have as much to learn, they just have something to prove. I was skeptical at first – skeptical of how veterans that had become accustomed to and perhaps even softened by Cowher’s ways would respond to a new sheriff in town. But I think they will respond, and I am ecstatic to see how they do. I wasn’t able to really watch the Steelers last season because I was overseas, and it is safe to say that I am long overdue for some Steelers football. Fortunately I came back in time to see the Pens go on a surge and make the playoffs, and I think it is safe to say that if it wasn’t for my lack of Steelers-watching over the past year, the Pens might have an easier time winning this debate.

But as it stands now, the Pens have a seemingly uninhibited ceiling while the Steelers have a definitive pedestal to return to. The Pens have places to go, while the Steelers have something to prove. The two franchises are in somewhat different places, but they are both irrevocably committed to winning. I love watching teams with such high levels of promise, and I love watching teams with chips on their shoulder. This fall, we get both.

So you know what? For the first time ever, I am calling a draw. I am just too damned excited about both seasons.

So hey Pens and Steelers!

BUY SAM A DRINK AND GET THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH A CHAMPIONSHIP TOO!

Comedy Central Report, 7/18

Borrowing from the media’s name for the National League Central, the Comedy Central Report is a daily feature which recaps all the previous day’s games in which a central team played. Keep track of all six teams vying for the most mediocre division title in baseball.

I'd rather put my faith in this man

Pirates drop 5th in a row, lose to Rockies 6-2

Recap: Josh Fogg held the Pirates to 2 runs over 7 innings. Josh Fogg. Just when the Pirates act like they might give you a reason to watch until Steelers' training camp, they go and pull this. Training camp is early this year, too! They just needed one more week! Alas, the offense could not find a spark and Shane Youman had a rough 2nd inning, giving up 4 runs.

All You Need to Know: The only redeeming quality of the game was watching Nate McClouth park one into the grandstands off of Fogg. It brought back fuzzy memories of the better days in 2003, when Fogg allowed 28 home runs and the Pirates stood at 43-50 at this point in the season. Glad we're making progress.

Brewers defeat Arizona 3-2

Recap: Claudio Vargas got the win, only pitching 5 strong innings. With this start he continues his season long trend of short outings. He's now 7-2 with a 4.47 ERA and has never pitched past the 6th inning.

All You Need to Know: Arizona lost its 7th game in a row, so at least we can feel better about ourselves by enjoying their misery, right?....right??

Cubs lose to Giants, 4-2

Recap:
Poor Jason Kendall. On the night he returns to the Comedy Central he goes 0-3. On his first game back since the All-Star Break, Barry Zito pitched 7 strong innings for the win.

All You Need to Know
: 25 games until the Giants come back to the 'Burgh, and with each passing day without a home run for Barry, the likelihood of him breaking it here increases by a little bit. Considering its a one day double-header, and then the Giants head to Atlanta, I completely see this turning ugly if Barry is 1 HR away from tying or breaking the record, but skips the game and goes straight to Atlanta.

Marlins shutout Cardinals
4-0

Recap:
Triple A pitcher Vanden Hurk came up for a spot start for the fish and shut down the cardinals for 5 innings.

All You Need to Know: No Cardinals stat of the day, just a follow up on the dandy-house ads behind home plate when Kuwata pitches, as mentioned in PiSoNC's article. Not sure if every had already done their own research, but it looks as though its just a day spa for men. I was really hoping for something a bit more japanese.

Astros prevail over Nationals 4-2

Reds beat Braves 6-5

Recap: The Reds won and the Astros won.

All You Need to Know: I apologize for the crummy post today. It's tough to get excited about baseball right now with the way the Pirates are playing and the lack of what I feel to be any compelling story lines. What's the baseball equivalent of Paxil?

Your Comedy Central Standings on July 18th, 2007:

End of Post

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Doubt About It: Praises its Employees more than ESPN

If you haven't seen it yet, Deadspin got ahold of an ESPN complaint memorandum. It is pretty hilarious for numerous reasons, the two main ones being that 1) some of the questions are just bizarre and 2) some have to be jokes. It's pretty damn long, so for a brief overview, check out my favorite questions after the jump.
Some highlights from the questions...

"Why did it take so long to get Kenny Mayne back in the SportsCenter rotation? For a while there, I thought he was employed by Progressive Auto Insurance."
Great question, indeed. The world needs more Kenny Mayne.

"Is there or could there be an option to receive a pay check once a week instead of every other Thursday? Many of us live pay check to pay check. Being able to be paid every week would help tremendously." I'm thinking this was Chris Berman. With the amount of dough he throws around at women, he would live paycheck to paycheck.

"What qualities do you feel a Leader should possess?" No comment necessary. Just rather strange.

"Can we get an option for pet health insurance?" Probably Linda Cohn.

"Can ESPN put an espresso machine in the cafe for lattes and cappuccinos, (not the ones we have in our break room - an actual manned machine like at Starbucks)?"
Had to be Stephen A. Smith. He needs to keep his energy level up, and he is probably fruity enough to sip on a cappuccino.

"I know that it is human nature to find fault and seldom praise staff members. Everyone knows this is counter-productive. I would like to see improvements here. Do you agree everyone should be praised when they do a good job? Catch people doing something right?" Sounds like Neil Everett wants a little more credit for his home-run calls.

"Are Mike & Mike or is Bristol planning on hosting any major events like the wedding last May?" This absolutely had to be a joke, right? Right? They already host everything outside of the State of the Union. I can only imagine what that wedding was like.

Kuwata Economics

I'll admit the first time Masumi Kuwata made his major league debut, I was excited. I've prayed at my bedside day and night, year in and year out, hoping that someday the Pirates would tap the Land of the Rising Sun for some baseball talent.

I kind of hoped for a blooming star, but screw it...I'll take whatever I can get from the Pirates.

An inning into Kuwata's major league debut Alex Rodriguez had taken him deep and immediately I knew, at that historic moment in time, we had found our future batting practice pitcher.

The answer to why he was signed is after the jump.

OK ...OK....so he was doing pretty well for himself ( 2.53 era through nine games) up until a seven-run inning against Milwaukee on July 2nd. If you managed to see his performance against Seattle, where he managed to strike out four (even Ichiro(why didn't we just sign him)) you would understand he has some ability. (Incase you missed it)

Kuwata's performance, however, isn't what I'm concerned about. My curiosity strikes a bit deeper...

Something seemed fishy to me when the Pirates signed Kuwata this off-season.

Had they been competing with the Nationals and Marlins rather than the Yankees and Dodgers I wouldn't be so intrigued, but something just wasn't right here.

What is it about a 39 year-old pitcher, near the end of his career, that is intriguing to the Pirates?

Ok Littlefield, lemme here it again.... "We feel he will be a mentor to our young guys"...

....the man can barely speak English!

It took me until mid-season, when the Japanese advertisement "www.dandy-house.co.jp" had popped up behind home plate, to finally realize that Kuwata's signing was more than a baseball move.

With Kuwata not only came that "mentor" we've been searching for, but international attention to the "small-market" Pirates as described by Yasuko Yanagita of the Hochi Shimbun newspaper.

"If he does well for the Pirates, it's front page every time. All of the Pirates' games are on TV now, too. And it's kind of crazy, really. Nobody thought he would come to the majors with his 86 (mph) fastball and just walk right in. Everybody was interested before just to see if he would make it. Now, it is just ... amazing."

Yeah well even though 86 mph looks like 96 mph to Dave Littlefield, it wasn't the fastball that brought Kuwata into Pittsburgh. Someone in the Pirate's marketing department (probably Bob "Profit" Nutting) had done their homework.

As stated by the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing:

American baseball's popularity in Japan has reached an all time high and...
"This popularity has resulted in increased MLB TV ratings, sales of MLB licensed merchandise and sponsorships, and event business in Japan. This study identified three primary spectator motives for Japanese interest in MLB: overall interest in baseball; interest in players; quality of games."

First off.... wouldn't it be funny if the Japanese were watching Bucco games due to the "quality of games"......ya ....ya it would.

My real point, however, is that Masumi Kuwata is increasing revenue for the Pirates. While I've yet to see any Kuwata merchandise floating around the U.S., I'm hard pressed to believe it isn't in Japan. And who isn't to say the Pirates profit off of Japanese ratings...We all see that ad behind home plate...I truly believe the Pirates are tapping revenue in a foreign market, unbeknown to the common eye.

There is a very large audience out there wanting to see Masumi Kuwata and I think when the books close on 2007 we should expect international revenue to be higher. Just don't be surprised if every dime silently ends up in a Nutting pocket.

Your next Ronny Paulino. Don't worry...Nutting will profit

A Visit to the State College Spikes

Living in State College for the summer, I have not been privy to attending many games at PNC Park this season. Although not seeing the Pirates underperform in person on a regular basis was almost unbearable, I was pleasantly surprised to hear last fall that the Pirates were planning on moving one of their single A teams to the area. I attended one of their games for the first time last night, full bent on trying to scout and learn about the future of the Pirates' organization, and maybe yell a few choice words at Brian Tracy to relay to his dad. My experience with the farm hands is after the jump...

First off, I'll give a little recap on where the team came from, for those who don't religiously follow the superb minor league system the Buccos possess. Last year the Pirates moved their short-season single A affiliate from Williamsport to State College, in a move designed most likely to try and gain some fans of the major league club in the middle of PA. The team was formerly part of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and called themselves the Spikes, a name the team kept through the transition. One of the many definitions for the word "spike", according to Websters, is "an unbranched antler of a young deer." The name was obviously chosen to commemorate not only the rich tradition of hunting in Central and Western PA, but also for the growth and developmental connotations, while not sounding as childish as, say, the Baby Penguins. From my own experience, it seems that the locals (aka non-PSU students) are generally excited about the team, as many houses proudly display signs in their yards usually reserved for political campaigns that has a slogan for the Spikes. Even so, there seems to be a small underswell of disappointment with the transition from the Cards to the Bucs, as the farm systems vary significantly in terms of impact prospects.

The Spikes stadium, Medlar Field at Lumbrano Park, is in the shadow of Beaver Stadium named after an old coach (Medlar) and, naturally, a donating alumnus (Lumbrano). The first feeling you'll have almost immediately after entering the park is a sense that you've been here before. That's because the actual field is modeled after PNC Park, a good choice if you ask me.

The most striking similarity is the right field wall, which is 320 feet from home plate and 18.55 feet tall, in honor of the year Penn State was founded. The Spikes also have a fun deck, which didn't look that fun until the 7th inning when attendants started passing out Spikes' mouse pads to all those watching from the deck. I was not lucky enough to acquire one. Medlar Field even has the crazy nook in left center field:

The Spikes utilize the nook more than the Pirates for promotions. Every time the Spikes score a run the Nookie Monster, a mascot with a bad cookie monster outfit, pops out of a trap door which is barely visible in the above picture on the Nittany Bank advertisement (the bottom-right corner of the door is part of the N in Nook). Yes, that's right, the Nookie Monster. According to Urban Dictionary, a Nookie Monster is, "a pet name for someone you have a sexual relationship with". Obviously, the Spikes try to maintain a family environment. The best part about the monster though, as I said before, is that he pops out and does a little dance every time the Spikes score a run, which means the mascot sits behind the left field wall the entire game. It could emerge with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, apparently. I'm sure the left fielder has to love that.

Sadly, I had no idea about the Nookie Monster until he came out in the 2nd inning when the Spikes scored their two runs, and I was too slow on the camera to get a shot of him before he disappeared. I also was unaware of the rules for his emergence, so I waited in vain every time the Spikes were up, camera ready, not realizing he only came out when they scored. After the second inning there was no more Nookie Monster, as the Spikes were shutout from then on, which brings me to my observations of the actual game.

Before last night, the Spikes stood a respectable 13-12 which encompassed a 9 game winning streak, a 1-5 stretch at the beginning of the year and a 1-6 stretch they had coming into the game. They played the Brooklyn Cyclones, a part of the Mets organization, with the starting pitcher being Duke Welker, the Pirates' 2nd round pick of this years' draft. Considering this is the highest draft pick we have signed (nice work on Moskos, fellas, turned out to be a real easy signing), I was excited to see his stuff. Welker's line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. Welker is a big dude at 6'7", so I expected to see an above average fastball, but it topped out at 93 MPH (I was sporadically watching the speed, however). To sum up the pitching in the game, I have one stat: 5 batters were hit by pitches (Spikes 3, Cyclones 2). None of the pitchers were thrown out of the game, although Spikes' firstbaseman Justin Byler was thrown out for arguing with the Ump. He was hit on two occasions.

The Spikes' position players impressed me though, as they put up 9 hits. They seemed to fit right in the Pirates' system too, as they could only generate 2 runs and swung on a ton of first pitches. The player that stuck out to me the most due his play was Marcus Davis, a 22 year old left fielder who went 1-3 with a triple and a walk. Other than the triple, he also made a nice, although awkward, sliding catch which he then tuned into 2 outs by doubling off a Cyclone that didn't tag up. Sadly his night didn't continue as well as it started, as he misjudged a ball, tried to recover by diving for it only to have the ball bounce and, what looked like to me, hit him in the face. By the end of the game, the Spikes had lost 4-2. In the 8th inning they loaded the bases, but could not score, and in the 9th they got 2 people on, but again could not score. Call these guys up, they'll fit right in at the major league level.

The pitching wildness, baserunning errors, and mistakes in the field I expected to see. This is single A after all, and the kids are just starting to develop. What I couldn't excuse was the lack of plate discipline. One game is a ridiculously small sample, but nonetheless it would have been nice to see the players wait on a few more balls. At this point plate disicpline has to be taught to them or they'll never learn it, especially when the pitchers they face are so wild anyway. At this rate, the Pirates will continue to make bad pitchers look good for the next 5-7 years.

Overall, the experience was a good one, the promotions were as goofy as I anticipated for a minor league team, and the view of Mount Nittany in the background, although not as stunning as downtown Pittsburgh, was still rather surreal and beautiful. I plan on going back later this week in search of the Nookie Monster. Expect video in the next few days.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oakland is Burning

More news out of Oakland as one of Pittsburgh's finest will be returning to the NL Central. No... not Kevin Young (hes still locked in on a 5 year \$50 million dollar as Swan Lake's split specialist)...but the one and only Jason Kendall has been acquired by the Chicago Cubs. Yep, Mr. Skoal Man himself will once again be fertilizing the grass at PNC Park with what seems to be a never-ending supply of dip. I wonder where he got all that disposable income?

End of Post

BALCO Selling Roids to Reporters

BALCO must have also sold some juice to the Contra Costa Times....

Joe Stiglich, an obvious user of the cream, gives his roid ragin' opinion on who the A's should buy at the deadline....roid rage anyone?

End of Post

This simply had to be passed along: Adam LaRoche is quite the prankster , apparently. I wont spoil it for you, but do yourself a favor and read the short piece. (Via 100% Injury Rate)

End of Post

Chanting "Here we Go Steelers" at a Dispatch Concert in MSG: an experiment.

Regardless of your feelings towards the band Dispatch, they put on one hell of a benefit concert last night at Madison Square Garden - truly one of the top 5 concerts I have ever attended if just because of the circumstances surrounding the show. After going to the show I feel obligated to try and help their cause (their cause) and relay a few sports-related tidibits from the house that Ali built. Or maybe the house that Willis Reed built. Walt Frazier? Who did build the Garden anyways?

I have the answer to this question and more after the jump.

- Who "built the Garden", you ask? The decorators at the joint would like you to think that the New York Liberty did. That's the WNBA team, although I'm sure you all knew that. MSG does a great job constructing a nostalgic feel in the atrium, with huge pictures of Ali-Frazier, Willis Reed coming into the game, John Starks' infamous dunk over a couple Bulls, and that picture where Messier is holding the Cup and looks like the Joker. Yeah, that one

But among these famous, chilling, larger than life images are shots of the WNBA's Liberty celebrating their victories over, umm, whoever it was that they were beating at the time. I realize that MSG must pay respect to all its teams, but imagine if the Great Hall at Heinz Field contained a bronze bust of Walt Harris - yeah, Walt worked here, but does anyone want to remember that?

- The Garden is not that big. Feels more like the Pete than the Civic Arena (I know it is Mellon, but I never voted on the change).

- This whole Yankees-Red Sox thing is getting to the point where the United States should ask both cities to secede so that they can just annoy each other without engulfing the rest of the country in a rivalry that gets more irritating with each passing day. Any public event in NYC goes pretty much like this nowadays: a group of rebellious Red Sox fans starts a "Let's Go Red Sox" chant. Yankees fans retaliate with "Let's Go Yankees". Then it's "Yankees Suck", then "Boston sucks", then "Jeter's gay", and so on and so forth. I've yet to see a fight, or even any real "mano y mano" trash talking. Instead, both fan bases are large enough that you can comfortably nestle into the mob, launch some group chants, and essentially avoid any sort of confrontation whatsoever. Real tough guys, those Yankees and Red Sox fans.

- We tried to insert Pirates for Yankees and Red Sox here and there. Not much of a response.

- HOWEVER, after the concert, when Bostonians and New Yorkers couldnt figure out any more permutations of the words "Boston/New York, Red Sox/Yankees, Let's Go/Sucks", there was a brief moment of silence coming down the escalators. Our contingency banded together and belted out a hellacious...

HERE WE GO STEELERS HERE WE GO (CLAP, CLAP)

A few joined in, it last a few rounds, and it died. I was content with this.

Some non-sports related tidbits (and one NBA joke)...

- One section started chanting "U-S-A!" during a montage of people suffering from poverty in Zimbabwe. Classy. Thanks for coming out. Drive home unsafely, please.

- On a Sunday night, the place was just flooded with high school kids that didnt have to work the next day. We grappled the whole time with complaining about these kids vs. wanting to be them.

- The New York City African Kids Choir came out and helped with some songs, as did some other hand drummers from Zimbabwe. Unbelievably cool. They took Flying Horses, Out Loud, and The General to a whole different stratosphere.

- As they closed with The General, the African Choir kids were not simply jumping up and down, they were leaping up and down. This one little kid in the middle was absolutely skying. He is like 8 and the kid has twice the vertical I do. I look at my friend, who is pulling his cell phone out. It is the last freaking song, everyone is ROCKING out, and he is pulling out his cell phone. I say "what the hell are you doing?". My Cavaliers-supporting friend says "Calling Jim Paxson. He's gotta gets scouts on this kid".