## Tuesday, July 29, 2008

### Sepulveda Out For Year; Steelers sign Ernster

Daniel Sepulveda will miss the entire 2008 season with a torn ACL. Obviously, this is not good news. He had a so-so rookie season, but there's a reason he was drafted in the 4th round, and it's because he has a booming leg. There's no doubt he would have been better this season. In addition, he serves as Reed's holder. So we'll have to break in someone new there. All things considered, losing your punter for the season is bad, but it could be worse. Losing Reed would have been a bigger blow, in my opinion.

To replace Sepulveda, the Steelers signed ex-Lion, ex-Bronco, and ex-Brown Paul Ernster. The good news? Ernster handles kickoffs and could actually be an improvement over Reed in that area. The bad news? He's not that good as a punter... there's a reason he was available even as traning camps are in full swing.

And then there is this: I'm sure you all remember last year's opening day game against Cleveland, where the Browns committed four penalties on the same play:

http://www.fanhouse.com/2007/09/09/the-browns-are-who-we-thought-they-were-four-penalties-on-one-p/

Long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, one of the best in the game, hit Ernster in the hands with the snap. Apparently, that didn't matter because Ernster muffed it, somehow managed to pick it up, avoid a rushing Lawrence Timmons, and get off a 15-yard wobbler than went out of bounds just past the line of scrimmage. Awful,
right?

So, yeah... not the best start to training camp.

## Sunday, July 27, 2008

### Your 53-Man Roster Projection; Tying Loose Ends

Feels good, doesn't it? It's that time of year again. The start of a new NFL season, as the Steelers report to Latrobe for training camp. This is otherwise known as the unofficial end of the Pirates season.

What follows is a pre-training camp 53-man opening day roster projection. I'll do one more of these before the final cuts, after we see these guys play in some preseason games. Also, I've tied up a few loose ends regarding the Casey Hampton situation, as well as training camp previews for the offensive line, secondary, and wide receivers. Without further ado:

OFFENSE (25):

Quarterbacks (3): Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon

Runningbacks/Fullbacks (5): Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, Gary Russell, Carey Davis

Wide Receivers (5): Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Nate Washington, Limas Sweed, Willie Reid

Tight Ends (3): Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Jon Dekker

Offensive Line (9): Marvel Smith, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Kendall Simmons, Max Starks, Willie Colon, Jason Capizzi, Sean Mahan, Darnell Stapleton

DEFENSE (25):

Defensive Line (7): Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Kiesel, Travis Kirschke, Chris Hoke, Ryan McBean, Kyle Clement

Linebackers (9): James Harrison, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, Bruce Davis, Arnold Harrison, Keyaron Fox, Mike Humpal

Cornerbacks (5): Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, Deshea Townsend, William Gay, Travis Williams

Safeties (4): Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Anthony Smith, Ryan Mundy

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

- The Casey Hampton situation is a little disappointing. The conditioning test itself is not all that hard… it’s eight 100-yard runs that are much more like jogs than sprints. For an NFL player who had all offseason to get in shape and end up failing this test… well, it speaks to his dedication. It was easy to see that Hampton was overweight towards the end of last season, and he obviously hasn’t done much since then except play beer pong at a Penguins tailgate party. This isn’t the first time Hampton failed the conditioning test, either. He failed it in 2003, as well, but he turned in his usual fine season that year. So, the hope is that this failed test lights a fire under him to get his ass in shape

- The offensive line has the potential to be better this season, even with the loss of Faneca. A healthier left tackle (Marvel Smith), a young guard getting his first crack at a starting job (Kemoeatu), a new center who’s better equipped to handle bigger nose tackles (Hartwig), and a well-compensated and hopefully more motivated right tackle (Starks) could elevate this line to where they need to be, if they all pan out. Of course, you still have a piece of shit (Simmons) at right guard, and should any of the interior O-lineman go down, Sean Mahan waits in the wings. For some reason the team has refused to try Colon at guard, which I find disappointing. I maintain that the best line we could field would be, from left to right, Smith-Kemoeatu-Hartwig-Colon-Starks. Instead, we’ll probably get Smith-Kemoeatu-Hartwig-Simmons-Colon.

- The secondary shouldn’t have much turnover. This might finally be the year McFadden unseats Deshea, but in this day and age the #3 CB is almost considered a starter so we’ll need them both. Ike will continue to provide solid coverage to go along with stone hands. Gay will provide very good depth as the #4 CB. The #5 CB spot (should the team decide to carry five) is wide open. I like Travis Williams, an undrafted free agent from East Carolina, to get the nod as of now. He has reportedly shown solid return and coverage skills thus far. At safety, competition for the starting free safety spot will be waged between Clark and Smith. Give the nod to Clark, who’s more conservative approach and veteran savvy is a better fit when paired with Troy. But I’m not giving up on Smith, who will only be in his 3rd year. People want to remember the New England game, but forget that he was playing very solid ball before that. I like Ryan Mundy to beat out Tyrone Carter for the final safety spot. Mundy has the smarts for either safety position; his ability to line up the West Virginia defense in his first and only season with the Mountaineers after transferring from Michigan speaks to his ability to quickly pickup a playbook and learn a defense.

- The wideouts, like the secondary, shouldn’t have much turnover. It’s pretty cut and dry. The starters will be Holmes and Ward. It’s unknown right now who will be #3, but I’d put my money on Nate, at least until Sweed becomes more comfortable with the position. Wide receiver is one of the toughest positions to learn, so patience is needed with regards to Limas. Many are tabbing Dallas Baker as the #5 guy, but I’m not giving up on Willie Reid. I really like him as a receiver. He’s sure handed, and he is super-shifty. He just needs to stay healthy. I also still hold out hope he’ll flash some return ability. One darkhorse to keep an eye on: undrafted free agent Micah Rucker, a 6’6’’, 220-pounder who runs the 40-yard dash around the 4.5 mark and hails from tiny Eastern Illinois.

Nothing says denial like reshaping some images to fit your fancy. See! Casey Hampton isn't overweight! Now Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady...those bums were overweight. Glad we traded them.

By now every knows about the departure of Nady and Marte, although it took a solid 24 hours this weekend to figure out what exactly was headed to Pittsburgh in return. Buster Olney killed us at first, and it seems that the popular opinion is similar. I don't follow the minors as well as our other writers, so I will defer to them. What I do know, however, is that Dejan Kovacevic is giving Pirates fans some really unique insights at his new blog over the Post-Gazette. Scroll through and you will find some gems about what Nady was saying to him throughout the whole process. I stand by my continuing statement that I would like to see Dejan be our GM.

As for the Casey Hampton story that just broke this evening...well, Casey is fat. We all knew this. I hope you like this picture, cause EVERY SINGLE BLOG is going to be running it within 24 hours. I intend to do the opposite and shrink every picture of Casey so that he feels better about himself when he looks at his own Google Images page. The conspiracy theorist in me says that this is the start of a seismic shift away from the Cowher 3-4 to the new Tomlin 4-3. The rational fan will say that this is Mike Tomlin "sending a message". We all, naturally, await The Stache's take.

So for now, it is goodbye to Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady, and shape up or ship out to Casey Hampton. In Hampton's case, he is too good to be held out of the loop for very long. Nady? He will never play better than he is playing right now, plus he's injury prone - not a brutal loss. But Marte...who knows. If there is one thing I feel queasy about from the weekend, it is thinking that none of the pitchers we receiverd in return have anything close to the "stuff" Marte has, their ability to start games be damned.

## Monday, July 21, 2008

I thought I'd take some time to look into some of the rumored trades as the Pirates approach the trading deadline, while evaluating the talent (or lack thereof) the Pirates could be bringing in a week and a half from now.

I'll break it down player by player, including what I think about the player, while looking at the statistics of the prospects the Pirates have been rumored to be after.

JACK WILSON

I looked the 'Stache in the eye a few weeks back and told him that I wanted to Jack Wilson to retire as a Pirate, adding that his defense is the last thing this team could afford to lose.

During Jack Wilson's time on the DL, Brian Bixler failed to come up with ground ball after ground ball, those of which Jack Wilson easily would have played, I was assured that Wilson must be stay. At the same time, Jack Wilson could very well bring the best value.

Shortstop is a hot commodity in the major leagues and Wilson's stock could very well be worth trading at the deadline. Not to mention, as the Pirates longest tenured player, a fresh new start at shortstop could be what this team needs. Just imagine a Pirate's baseball club without Jack Wilson on the 25-man roster.

The Dodgers are Wilson's biggest suitor at this point in time, and rumored to be involved in a deal for Wilson are some not-so-bad prospects.

Chin-lung Hu| SS, 24: Hit a combined .325 in Double and Triple-A last year with 40 2Bs, 6 3Bs, 14 HRs, and 62 RBIs. Hu was also the MVP of last year's MLB Futures Game, while being named the best defensive infielder in the Dodgers system by Baseball America. Hu has spent time on the major league roster, but has yet to translate his success from the minors.

James McDonald| RHP, 23:
A 6'5'', 195 pound McDonald has started 20 games this year in Double-A Jacksonville, going 4-2 with a 3.01 ERA, and striking out 106 in 107.2 innings of work. In 2007, between Single and Double-A, McDonald struck out 168 in 134.2 innings.

Lucas May| C, 23: This dude is garbage. Hitting .244 this year in Double-A, May hit .256 with 25 HRs and 107 SOs in 128 games last year in Single-A, falling in line with exactly the type of player Dave Littlefield would covet at this time of year. Here at Doubt About It, we hate Dave Littlefield.

I Want To Fight Tom Brady's thoughts:
If the Pirates could get Hu and McDonald I would pull the trigger in a heartbeat. For all I'm concerned, Hu could hit .250, just as long as he can play defense, which according to Baseball America is one of his assets. McDonald is a live arm that the Pirates need to add to the system. If you go up and down the minor league ranks, it is rare to find a Pirates starter, let alone pitcher, to have strikeout numbers approaching their innings pitched, a barometer I like to use to measure a power pitcher.

Nady is intriguing. Even with Scott Boras as his agent, Nady has gone on the record to say he would like to sign long-term in Pittsburgh, mentioning that the Pirates have not contacted him about a new deal. "I enjoy this group of guys and these coaches. You spend eight or nine hours a day with the same people, it's important to enjoy that, and I do. I'd love to stay here a long time. I enjoy being part of the Pirates. But I also know there's nothing I can do about that," Nady said in the Post-Gazette.

First off Xavier, there is something you can do about that...you can contact Mr. Boras and tell him to contact the Pirates, or you could contact Neal Huntington yourself. Either way, Nady brings value. I love his strength and ability to put the bat on the ball to either field, but I also think he brings good trade value because he is locked up through 2009. The Yankees have apparently picked up interest in Nady, along with Jason Bay, and have been rumored to offer the following prospects.

Austin Jackson| CF, 21: Jackson is hitting .296 this year, with 26 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 9 HRs, and 15 SBs. The only downside to Jackson, and only a slight one at that, is his strikeout total. Jackson has 73 strikeouts in 96 games in 2008.

Jose Tabata| RF, 19: Tabata's numbers are not overwhelming, but for a 19-year old they can't be tabbed as awful. With 9 2Bs, 3 HRs, 36 RBIs, and a .248 average during 2008, no one would be blown away. However, hes from Venezuela, was named the Yankees 2nd best prospect by Baseball America, and "The Best Hitter for Average" in the Yankees Minor League System in 2007. Unfortunately the Yankees system isn't known to be stocked with talent.

Ian Kennedy| P, 23: Kennedy is 0-3 in the Major Leagues this year, with a 7.41 ERA over 8 starts. Ya, the ERA looks like a perfect fit for the Pirates, but truthfully Kennedy would be a great addition for the Pirates. Kennedy has dominated the minor-leagues and would make a good fit in Pittsburgh, where a combination of shitty starting pitching would once again make him feel like a stud.

I Want to Fight Tom Brady's thoughts: If the Pirates could get two of these prospects for Nady, I would be very happy. For Bay....well that's coming up.

JASON BAY

The Pirates won't trade Bay. IF hes traded, I do trust that the Pirates will bring back a plethora of prospects. I can realistically see the Pirates signing Bay to a 5 or 6 year extension this off season for about $11-13 million per. Lets remember, the Pirates paid Matt Morris$10 million. $11-13 is not unrealistic, and Bay is probably willing to take a discount. I also see Bay, unlike Nady, wanting to stay here a great deal more. If the Pirates do wander down the path of a trade, you can expect some of these names. Matt Kemp|23, RF: Kemp has cooled down a bit this year, compared to last, but still providing Bay like numbers, minus the power. Kemp has been rumored in a package deal from the Dodgers that would send Wilson and Bay to the west. The Pirates would of course receive some or all of the prospects listed above. Chris Duncan| 27, RF: Duncan has had a very off year compared to his previous two seasons with the Cardinals. Duncan hit .293 in 2006 with 11 2Bs, 22 HRs, and 43 RBIs, but only .259 in 2007 with 20 2Bs, 21 HRs, and 70 RBIs. His average has dropped to .249 this year, with only 6 HRs, but Duncan could be a good lefty-fit at PNC park. Anthony Reyes| 26, SP/RP: Reyes is rumored in a Pirates deal every year. If you don't know him by now, leave this blog and go read some archives. I Want to Fight Tom Brady's thoughts: The Pirates have been adamant about getting two top-level prospects and one second-tier prospect for Bay. I believe they will, and I believe that Huntington won't settle for less. The Wilson-Bay package to the Dodgers could be interesting, but I would only make that deal if we got every Dodger prospect listed in this post. The Cardinals have been said to be very interested in Jason Bay, but I don't see the Pirates trading within the division. See Aramis Ramirez DAMASO MARTE Imagine the Pirates bullpen without Marte. Imagine a bullpen without Marte, without Capps, now John Grabow is your best reliever... ...Oh, but what do you know, they want to trade Grabow too. So now you have Tyler Yates closing your games. Do the Pirates realize they don't have a bullpen? When healthy, with Capps, the bullpen is OK, not anywhere near great...but it can manage as long as the Starting Pitchers are carrying their weight. Unfortunately as we all know, the Pirate's starting pitchers suck. Simply put, I can't imagine the Pirates will get anything back for either of these relievers. They're smart to demand top-tier prospects, but I doubt it will happen. Marte is worth bringing back at$6 million per next season. If you haven't watched free agency these past few years then you may not have realized the silly kind of money that relievers are getting. Marte is our best reliever, even when Capps is healthy. He deserves $6 million per and I would hate to see the Pirates trade him for some rags like they did Torres this past off season. In the meantime, pitching help is on the way. The Pirates have Daniel Moskos waiting in the minors. He has a 6.15 ERA through 86.1 innings at Single-A Lynchburg. If that doesn't brighten your day, don't worry, the Single-A State College Spikes have a total of 7 out of their 15 pitchers with ERAs above 5. Jason Bay just hit a game-tying HR against Valverde...$11-13 million a year, I mean its more than Sidney Crosby! Hes gotta take it.

...and Adam Laroche goes deep. I'm going to bed. Trade Laroche while hes hot...

## Tuesday, July 15, 2008

### We Hope Jeter Enjoys His Drinks Straight Up

Even with the All-Star game last night the sports scene was rather dull. When this happens you get posts like these.

Back when we were still idealistic bloggers, posting at an unbelievable average of three posts/day, all four of us made a trip into NYC for the weekend to visit two buddies, known around here as Brittlebones and D-FENS, who were interning there for the summer. Pat wrote a short recap of the weekend last year, wherein he apologizes for not having any weekend posts. Clearly, our standards have dipped a bit.

Our two friends were employed in the financial district, working hellish hours but being compensated fairly well. When the trip was planned, rumors began circulating that they had decided to rent a table at a club called Marquee. To give you an idea of the generosity of this endeavor, a table at Marquee is roughly equivalent to a couple thousand Jagerbombs from Barry's on a Friday night.

The night started with Pat trying to pick a fight with a number of ivy league douchebags (Yes, even more douchey than a guy writing about a club in NYC and jagerbombs). It was a solid pregame. Once we arrived at the club we proceeded to do what any bloggers would do at a fancy club; look like we had no idea what the hell we were doing and get drunk.

Nearing the end of the night, I Want to Fight Tom Brady, when he was still known as Pirate in Search of Nuttings Chest, wasn't feeling too well and proceeded to throw up into the ice bucket. About 5 minutes later, rejuvenated from releasing those vile, expensive toxins from his body, he decided to make another mixed drink. He grabbed the ice bucket and began placing the puke-covered ice into the glass. Before he could finish making his drink, one of us realized the potentially life-altering event that was unfolding before us and stayed his hand before the true damage could be done.

I thought the story was over. Then I read this report from SPORTSbyBROOKS via Deadspin about a Jeter-Jordan joint party at Marquee that occurred earlier this week. Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan likely dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars each to rent out one of New York's finest clubs, complete with open bar.

Micheal Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all-time. Derek Jeter is a legend on the most fabled baseball team in history. Yet, with all this talent and money, they could very well have made drinks with IWtFTB's puke bucket. Who says bloggers can't make a splash in the sports world?

Pat, Brittlebones, and D-FENS

Pat, Brittlebones, and D-FENS crushed to death by the fat guy from Borat

### Hopefully You Are On Vacation

Welcome to the single worst stretch of the sports year. There is nothing going on today. Repeat: nothing. The Baseball All-Star Game represents two things in my mind: 1) baseball executives trying really hard to build a larger-than-life, over-dramatic, it's-getting-dusty-in-here procession of baseball greats before the game 2) flipping channels and realizing that there is NOTHING ON TV.

In honor of this horrid day, some "notes about nothing"...
- I just realized yesterday when I flipped past "Rookie of the Year" that Julie the Cat Gaffney (pictured in her Bangor, Maine glory above and to the right) also plays Henry Rowengartner's love interest "Becky" in RofY. Yes, it is THAT slow of a sports day. Amazingly, Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine didn't go on to much of a movie career, reminding me once again that all the movies from my childhood were actually quite terrible.
- I was planning on doing Mid-season report card on the Pirates, but Dejan's is already pretty spot on. I might bump Dumatrait up a notch or two simply because I expected him to be awful (and using the same logic, bump Duke down because I expected him to be somewhat better this year). In gerenal though, I love Dejan's honesty about the players who have sucked. If Huntington falters, I'm starting the "Dejan for GM" campaign.
- Just as a gerenal note: anytime your sports team is being talked about in the business section more than the sports section, it's never really a comfortable feeling. Here's hoping the Steelers ownership saga and Penguins casino drama go away as soon as possible (doubtful).
- Speaking of the Rooney's, I'm late on this, but Mondesis House had an interview with Art Jr. Long, but interesting. I'm a little surprised it took such a hit in the comments - there are obviously a lot of legal reasons that Art couldn't talk about the ownership dilemma.
- Faceoff Factor is doing what every good blog should do: getting reader feedback. Let em know what else they should add to their already stellar site.
- Lastly, we were contacted by http://www.laddergolf.com/ about 10 months ago because Sam had just written an article proclaiming Ladder Golf the best tailgating game. They sent us a free set and wanted us to write a review.
Whoops. Better late than never?
Anyways, we might have a "review" up soon, we might have a DAI Ladder Gold tournament. Who knows. We'll think of something. Point is, we haven't forgotten about you http://www.laddergolf.com/. In fact, for us, we're right on schedule.

## Sunday, July 13, 2008

### One of the Greatest Comebacks in Pirates History

Yes, this post is a little bit late, but it still needs to be put up.

Saturday night's game, with Jason Michaels' game-winning home run (which you can see above. I'd hurry up, because Major League Baseball may take that video down soon) will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Pittsburgh Pirates history. Greg Brown and Steve Blass going ballistic only adds to the greatness of the above video.

Myself and I Want To Fight Tom Brady were fortunate enough to be in the house, soaking it all in about 20 rows back from home plate. We saw horrible Pirates pitching and great Cardinals hitting (I guess those two kind of go hand in hand.) And we did not leave the game when it was 9-3, or 10-4, or 10-6. No, we stuck with this team because through the course of this season they have shown a propensity to fight back. This version of Buccos will battle until the end. That's what I like most about this team. They don't fold when adversity strikes. They rise up to the challenge. It's absolutely unfair that the starting pitching and bullpen put the offense in near impossible situations almost every night. But I can't say enough about how the offense has responded to those situations. Last night was only the latest case.

## Wednesday, July 9, 2008

### Training Camp Preview: Defensive Line and Linebackers

In the weeks leading up to training camp, I will be taking a position-by-position look at the roster. No firm roster projections will be made yet (that will have to wait until the first 53-man roster projection right before camp starts), but I hope to give you a general overview of how things stand at each position. Today, we'll look at the defensive line and linebackers.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Total Roster Spots: 7

Locks: 4 (Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Chris Hoke)

Spots Open/Candidates: 3 (Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason, Ryan McBean, Scott Paxson, a few undrafted free agents)

Overview: Opportunity abounds for some longshots to make the roster here. Locked into spots are Smith, Hampton, Keisel, and most likely Hoke. After that, though, you have two marginal veterans, a 2nd year player coming off a disappointing rookie season, a practice squader, and a handful of undrafted free agents fighting for three or so spots.

The problem with this group is not the starters. When healthy, Smith, Hampton, and Kiesel compromise one of the better 3-4 defensive lines in the business. However, each has their issues. Smith is recovering from a torn bicep. Towards the end of last season Hampton looked like he was pushing four bills and was severely out of shape. And I’ve always felt that Kiesel was a serviceable starter but a guy who is much better as a wave player to keep the other guys fresh. He needs to start closing the deal (he led the team with 31 quarterback pressures but only registered 2 sacks.) Beyond that, age is quickly catching up with all three of these guys.

Depth is the questionable area. Hoke is okay but is also getting up there in years. Many fans (myself included) wanted Kirschke and Eason pushed out the door, but the Steelers re-signed both. Both may do fine if they’re only asked to contribute 10-15 plays a game, but if they have to start the quality of the Steeler’s run defense takes a serious hit. McBean did little his rookie season and his development has been hampered by a fractured foot for most of this offseason. It would be foolish to expect much from him. Paxson is an intriguing guy who spent his rookie year on the practice squad. His history of legal troubles caused him to go undrafted last year, while his talent indicated he probably should have been chosen. He could make some noise. I won’t comment on the undrafted free agents since I haven’t seen any of them play. These UDFA’s are mostly longshots, but usually one or two will make the opening day roster (Russell and Stapleton last year), and they aren’t really facing stiff competition at this position. If one impresses, I doubt the Steelers would be hesitant to let go of either Kirschke or Eason. Both signed contracts for small amounts of money and their release would result in a minimal cap hit. One guy to keep an eye on is Northwood's Kyle Clement, who supposedly has been spending extra time with Aaron Smith after practice to work on his technique and has so far drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff.

LINEBACKERS

Total Roster Spots: 9

Locks: 6 (James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, Bruce Davis)

Spots Open/Candidates: 3 (Arnold Harrison, Keyaron Fox, Mike Humpal, Anthony Trucks, a few undrafted free agents)

Overview: This is one of the few positions where there will be competition for a starting spot. Foote and Timmons will battle for the starting inside linebacker spot beside Farrior. This will all hinge on how Timmons performs. He’s athletically superior to the Foote in every way, but he needs to understand his assignments in order to use that athletic ability to his benefit. If he has to think too much, the coaching staff will be loathe to replace Foote, who is sound, steady, but unspectacular. As for Farrior, he keeps chugging along at age 33. He’s the heart and soul of this defense. The starting outside linebackers should be even better this year. Harrison should increase his sack totals from last season because of the guy on the other side. Woodley had the same number of sacks Haggans did last season—except he got his while playing only 80 snaps the entire year. Let’s not forget that Woodley also chipped in two sacks in the playoff game against Jacksonville. He’ll command more attention than Haggans did, which should give big James more room to rush the passer. Woodley does need to work on playing in space, though. He’s probably a liability in coverage right now, and I still have vivid memories of him getting juked out of his jock strap on a touchdown by Steven Jackson in last year’s Rams game.

The depth at this position is pretty good. At outside linebacker, Arnold Harrison is likely the top backup until Davis proves his worth. I wouldn’t expect much from Davis this year. He probably needs to add some strength before he can become a serious pass rusher in the NFL, but his speed should help out on special teams. At inside linebacker, Fox and Humpal are both improvements over Clint Kriewaldt. Like Davis, their speed and youth should also help out the special teams. It seems Humpal also has the ability to become a 2-down run stuffer for us in the future, but for now he’s strictly a depth guy. As for Frazier and the undrafted rookies, I don’t see them making the team unless they really impress and Humpal and/or Fox fall flat on their faces. Trucks will probably be one of the first guys to be released in training camp.

## Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Lightning have signed Penguins' castoff Mark Recchi to a 1-year deal possibly worth $1.5M, bringing their total of recent ex-Penguins to five.(TSN) And if you believe the rumors hanging around Sydor, that total might rise to six. Even if that doesn't happen, the four games the Pens play against the Lightning will at best be bizarre and at worst an outlet for those who were not deemed to be a part of Crosby's kingdom to prove Shero wrong. Its cute that Roberts and Recchi will be back together. Hey, maybe Stamkos can live with one of them! -Something that sort of fell through the blogosphere net was the release of Plaxico Burress' autobiography Giant: The Road to the Super Bowl. The Steelyard was on top of it, though, pointing out a few choice quotations: "He also openly discusses his “six homeboys from Virginia Beach,” the posse he supported during his first few years in Pittsburgh: (“I’ve seen them guys pull guns and shoot at people,” he says. “I’ve seen them beat guys with bats and things like that….”) With all these distractions, it’s no wonder Plax failed to live up to expectations while he played for the Steelers. " My mom also caught something on the news about Plax claiming in the book that he introduced Cristal (My mom: "What's Cristal?") to Pittsburgh (I could go to Borders and get an exact quotation, but that would involve leaving the basement). So Plaxico's desired legacy in our city is the introduction of high class booze to the local party scene. Sounds about right. ## Monday, July 7, 2008 ### The Once-a-Year, Too-Long Tennis Post: Rafael Nadal as Tiger Woods It's a little strange to poke around the internet today and see so much blotter about...tennis. Real tennis. Not oh-look-what-she-was-wearing-DAMN! tennis, but real on-court tennis. As a tennis fan, I couldn't be happier. Will yesterday's epic Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer bring the sport more attention? Who knows. It was exciting to have so many people text and call yesterday, insanely and idiotically wondering are you seeing this wimbledon match?! Duh. I once wrote this. Of course I was watching. I watch any televised tennis. Hell, I spent all week watching Somdev Dev Varman win the Futures of Pittsburgh (correction: annihilate everyone in the field). For me, the effect the match has on the sport's popularity is minimally important. In some ways, it resembles Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals for Pens fans: yeah, sure it would be nice if such a great game brought the sport more notoriety, but the most important side effect was a Penguins win that would serve as one of your greatest sports memories. And yet beyond being a great personal sports memory, yesterday's Wimbledon Finals has the eerie potential to serve as one of those retrospective ground shifts within a sport. Such a shift is, I think, better understood by an observation my brother made a number of years ago at the Masters of Cincinnati ATP event. We arrived at the courts absurdly early that day, because one of our favorite things to observe about professional tennis players is their practice habits. So it is probably 7:30 or 8 a.m. (no matches until 11 or so...hard to remember, this was about five years ago) and only one other person is wandering around the facilities: a young, lean Rafael Nadal. He's jogging around the confines (we follow him) and eventually he winds up at the large grandstand court adjacent to the main stadium. We'd heard euphoric whispers about this 17 year old phenom, so we sat attentively as the only two people in the stands, watching Nadal put himself through a grueling early morning workout that would probably make other players too tired for their match. Halfway through, John McEnroe shows up to watch him practice, too. Our conjectures about his potential were validated by his presence. After watching him undergo a series of situps and pushups (after already playing and running), my brother dropped the bombshell: "he is the next Tiger Woods of tennis". Ludicrous, I said. We already have Federer. He is our transcendant figure. He is the sport's definitive talent. "I'm not talking talent," my brother says. "I'm talking fitness. Desire. Focus. No one on tour looks like this kid. No one is this muscular. It's just like how Tiger is a better athlete than every single player on the PGA. This guy is going to be just like that." Five years later, not only does my brother seem frighteningly insightful, but it seems impossible to think that this sort of evolution wasn't expected all along. Of course the best athlete will win. Of course the strongest and fastest shall overcome. For a sport draped in tradition and customs and antiquacy, it is a startling revelation. There is no clay-courter any more. There is no grass court specialist. There is only the exquisite talent of Roger Federer and the Tiger Woods-like shadow of physicality cast by Rafael Nadal. Everything in between must evolutionize as these two entities have done. All hail the post-modern era of professional tennis. ## Friday, July 4, 2008 ### Happy 4th... A couple newsworthy stories to report on our Day of Independence... First, The Penguins are apparently trying to sign Finish forward Janne Pesonen, FORMERLY of the Finnish Elite League. I don't know much about Janne, but hey, his numbers look good and in Shero We Trust. The 4th does bring some sad news for all you dreamers out there who thought the Penguins could still squeeze a deal with Jagr under the cap. Jags has apparently decided to sign with Avangard Omsk for 2-years,$35 million dollars. (The picture above also applies to this story)

So yeah...that's a lot of money for 2 seasons...I don't know how anyone at the end of their career could turn that down.

In the last part of today's happenings, the Pirates have designated Bryan Bullington for assignment. This matters very little to everyday Pirate life, but I really just had to show everyone this quote from the Post-Gazette.

Bullington, projected by the Pirates as a No. 3 starter when former general manager Dave Littlefield oversaw drafting him in 2002, is 4-6 with a 5.52 earned run average in 15 starts for Indianapolis this season.

Thank you Dave Littlefield for using the #1 overall pick in the 2002 MLB draft on projected #3 starter, you are the dumbest of them all, I hate you, you, and only you, you lousy piece of worthlessness.

...This just in, Dave Littlefield is now begging Chicago GM, Jim Hendry, to gobble Bullington up off of waivers, because as Littlefield put it, he could make a perfect #3 starter for the Pirates, AKA a perfect #29 starter for the Cubs.

While on the topic of first round pitching busts, does anyone else want to see John Van Benschoten become the next Rick Ankiel? ...The man can't pitch.
Van Benschoten is 1-10 with an 8.82 ERA in 16 major league starts.

Plus if anyone saw Benschoten's first AB against the Reds, the ball effortlessly rocketed off of his bat.

Hes a natural people...

## Thursday, July 3, 2008

### Exciting Free Agency...Only in the NHL

First off...the loss of Barry Melrose has really doomed Sportscenter and ESPN for the time being. Not only have I seen little to no hockey analysis, but I have seen way too much crap on NBA free agency. Sportscenter had an hour long countdown to the damn thing, and what do you know...like one or two guys signed after that. I mean I don't really know my NBA, but I watch a hell lot of the bottomline...I think I've seen Baron Davis and Gerald Green sign with other teams...

That isn't the only jack that is rubbing me the wrong way these days...What the (Expletive) was up with the ESPN bottomline mentioning "Former Penguin Marion Hossa signs 1 year deal with Detroit Red Wings"... normally, and with every other free agent signing I have seen this offseason, the ticker will simply state where a player signed... Not where he formerly played!!! Maybe if a player had been playing over in the Russian Superleague for a year or two I could understand, but lord...would you like to rub it in my face a little bit more ESPN?!?!

That brings up this douche bag that lived down the hall from me my freshmen year of college. Kid lived in Virginia his whole life, and he was a Redwings fans... It sours me to think douche bag's like this will get enjoyment out of the Marion Hossa signing.

On ward!! Thank god the Penguins signed Brooks Orpik. I had sort of come to terms that we could afford losing Orpik, but after Hossa signed with the Red Wings I feared for the worst. I remember hearing the Red Wings had a good deal of cap space...what if they signed Orpik too? What if the Lightening signed Orpik? What is the deal with multiple Penguins going to the same team? It's a little too scary for me. If Orpik went to either team, I would have went Pittsburgh Pirates on him and thrown something at the TV.

How bout the Pirates beating someone worse than them? Amazing. Thank god something is actually wrong with Matt Capps. I was beginning to really hate the man...and so was Stache', who probably has hated on Capps since well before steroids were introduced to baseball. HATE-HATE-HATE-HATE.

The Stache' aka Silky Johnson, on Pirates baseball.

Ok...so the Penguins signed Fedotenko and Satan. Both one year deals. Does anyone see the trend here? Hossa, Fedotenko, Satan...Conklin... People trying to play with the best, get their money, win a championship, then get out and get even more money because your teammates made you look so good. The Conklin signing was the smartest I have seen all year. That man obviously wasn't getting enough respect, so he signed with a winner...a winner who's 'starting' goalie is probably going to die next season.

Satan and Fedotenko are now part of the Sidney Crosby entourage, that of which can lead to money, women??, and of course...a cup.

I still feel have this feeling that Hossa is going to un-sign with the Red Wings and sign with the Penguins...anyone else feel like that?

Anyway, the games with the Red Wings are going to be heated next year. I will cheer wildly if Hossa gets hit.
"When I looked at it, I wanted to have the best chance to win the Stanley Cup, and I felt Detroit is that team,"

"I knew I could get more somewhere else. But of all the teams I could choose from, at the top there were two teams [Detroit and Pittsburgh], and at the end of the day I had to make a decision, and I felt best about Detroit." -Marian Hossa

Hossa...did you form any friendships while in Pittsburgh? If so, forget them.

Obviously Hossa is no American...yes, I just pulled that card. But seriously, an American player would fight adversity with the same team.

He wouldn't surrender and start fighting for the other side...the Penguins and Red Wings are not light and day. Yes...the Red Wings were very, very impressive. Did you ever think the Penguins are getting better, older, but not retirement home older...It's your choice Hossa.

Orpik will see you next year.

...and by the way, I still want to Fight Tom Brady.

### Penguins Sign Fleury, Satan, and Fedotenko

Finally some big news as the Penguins have brought in Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, and have signed Fleury to an extension.(TSN) Satan will be making $3.5M and Fedotenko$2.5M. Both deals are for 1-year, which fits perfectly into the Penguins' plans by allowing flexibility into the financially tight 09/10 season. Fleury has signed a 7 year $35M deal that will have an annual cap hit of$5M. We'll be updating with more news and opinions later in the day, but heres an idea of the Pens cap situation for anyone interested. We have 8 defensemen signed, not even counting Goligoski. Expect Sydor and possibly another to be shipped out within the next couple days to free up room to sign the rest of the needed forwards.

## Wednesday, July 2, 2008

### 7 Reasons Not to Freak Out Over Hossa Leaving

1. Evgeni Malkin is locked up as of today

2. We got Brooks Orpik on the cheap (6 years 22 mil is not bad, folks)

3. Admit it, you were getting tired of hearing Fiesta Mexicana.

4. Could be worse, he could have signed with the Flyers or Rangers. Yeah, we do play the Red Wings twice this year, but no one hated the Red Wings before this past spring.

5. A interesting trade could be brewing (Seth wondered this too over at EN). Between Orpik, Eaton, Gill, Letang, Gonchar, Sydor, Whitney, Scuderi, and Goligoski, that is 9 more-than-capabale defensemen. And with Hossa gone, there is some cap room to work with.

6. Michal Rozsival will be making as much money as Sergei Gonchar next year. Point being: you could be a Rangers fan.

7. Hossa was a Penguin for less than five months. For me, it was harder to see Colby Armstrong go, simply because he had come up through the Penguins system and, in my mind, you want to see guys like that succeed. I loved having Hossa on the team, but from day one you knew that he was a stand-in.

And if you think that because of this the trade was a failure, then go play NHL 08 and have fun trying to score goals with Christiansen and Armstrong. We would STILL be trying to move them for a big time scorer if we hadn't given them up for Hossa.

## Tuesday, July 1, 2008

### Penguins Sign Eric Godard

The Pens have finally made their first signing from another team, giving RW Eric Godard a three year deal for an undisclosed amount (TSN).

Godard, 6'4" 221, racked up an impressive 171 PIM, good for 11th in the league. The signing could signal the end of Laraque's run as the team enforcer.

Definitely not as graceful as BGL, but probably $0.5-$1M cheaper.

Seth at EN breaks the news that Adam Hall is going to Tampa, joining Roberts and Malone in the migration south. According to ESPN1250 the deal is 3-years at $600,000 per. Maybe Hall really wanted to go to Tampa, but I'm surprised the Pens didn't try and keep him for that type of money. He's a solid 4th liner who you can count on in penalty killing situations or to win a big face off. No one knows how it went down or if Shero offered him a contract, but that type of signing would have seemed to fit in the grand scheme of Shero's plan. Tampa Bay is officially being put on notice. ### Ty Conklin Now a Redwing Found at Kukla's Korner via TSN, the Redwings have signed Conklin to a 1-year deal at$750,000. Not surprising that he left, but kind of sad that he went to the wings. He's permanently etched himself into Penguins' lore, however, with such luminaries as Johan Hedberg and Patrick Lalime. You will be missed, Ty. Hopefully, not because Sabourin sees a lot of ice time.

At least there will be a bit of class in Detroit's net next season.

### Penguins Re-sign Eaton

According to the Post-Gazette(Molinari has been clutch so far), the Pens have re-signed Eaton for another 2 years at $1M/year. This gives the Penguins seven defensemen and likely signals the end of Orpik's time in Pittsburgh. Everyone knows what Eaton brings when healthy, and he would likely have commanded a higher payday had he not suffered two major injuries in the past two seasons. The team is rather deep with capable defensemen right now, and with Goligoski waiting in the wings the signing is low risk but with decent upside. If we were to sign Hossa (or Jagr) for$7M most role players, like Dupuis and Eaton, would need to make about $1-$1.25M/yr. So far so good. Even if the Penguins do not sign Hossa, these deals are setting Shero up to be aggressive with others such as Huselius. Nothing really shocking so far, but its tough to argue with the few deals that have been made.

### Dupuis and Malkin

According to the Post-Gazette the Penguins re-signed Pascal Dupuis to a three year deal averagin $1.4M and have come to terms with the major details of a contract for Malkin. Positives: We potentially have Malkin wrapped up for 5 years. Read that again. Feels good, doesn't it? The Malkin deal will essentially mirror Crosby's deal, at 5 years and$43.5M. No matter what happens today, we'll have two unselfish young superstars, with the chance to be the two greatest players in the game. Getting this out of the way will also be huge in allowing Shero to confidently make signings today that will have an impact on the financially tight 2009-2010 season. We'll need all the cap room we can get.

The Dupuis signing comes as a bit more of a surprise, but makes sense since the Pens already lost a top penalty killer in Malone. Plus, for a guy who could see significant minutes, \$1.4M is a bargain. Dupuis, as the 'stache likes to say, is an "energy guy" who can play on any of the top three lines, although I think most would prefer him on Staal's wing shutting down the opposition. At least this gives Shero some flexibility in finding some top line wingers.

Negatives:

We have to deal with 3 more seasons of "You, Me, and Dupuis" jokes.