Saturday, September 18, 2004

Slash is coming back

Brent Jones at the Baltimore Sun reports that Kordell is smiling and the Ravens are hinting he might play tomorrow:

There have been subtle hints this week that backup quarterback Kordell Stewart might get a chance to make something happen against the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow.

Stewart, who became one of the league's best multi-dimensional threats in his eight years with the Steelers, will face his old team for the first time since he left after the 2002 season.

If the Ravens use Stewart, the plays will probably be specifically designed for him, possibly near the end zone.

"Slash is coming back, so get ready," Stewart said smiling.

The Ravens are short on wideouts.

Hale enough

Chuck Finder says most of the team is hale enough to go tomorrow.

I'm more than comfortable seeing Larry Foote starting in Bell's spot.

I'd rather see Travis Taylor gimping down the field, though, then any no-name backups. He was useless against the Browns.

Merrill Stabile, Super-Jackass

What's gotten into the people at Alco Parking Corp.?

This Merrill Stabile is the same guy who wants to build a casino across the street from PNC Park on the North Side. The Steelers, of course, like the Pirates, don't want gambling palaces so close to the stadiums the taxpayers built for them. Stabile claims Alco needs the new parking policies to insure a more orderly filling of parking lots. To that I respond with the big F U. This isn't church we're attending on Sunday. When fans wait forever and pay a sizable fortune for tickets, they expect to enjoy themselves as they see fit before and after the game. With all the taxpayer money that has gone into the redevelopment of the North Shore, no one should be telling the fans they can only visit and spend a month's worth of disposable income in some "orderly" fashion designed to maximize the profit of some parking czar who cares not for the cause that gathers the fans.

Perhaps Merrill Stabile antagonizes the fans to annoy the Steelers, who oppose his plan to make a fortune off mindless gamblers. Either way, it's plain that he has neither respect nor sympathy for the fans who make him rich. How many businesses succeed with such contempt for their customers? Mr. Stabile should moderate the paternalist and dictatorial tone when it comes to telling the fans how they can best enjoy themselves.

Send peaceful letters questioning their policies about tailgating to customerservice@alcoparking.com

If email doesn't do it for you, you can call them at 412-323-4455

Bobby Bradley bio

Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports on the season Bradley had. I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Arizona Fall League.

All hail Hickory

Sally champs.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Joe Beimel

He's back, pitching for the Twins. Ron Gardenhire likes him because he's left-handed.

Sixth home rainout

What's the record for home rainouts? Lousy weather this year.

Another 3-4 article

There's nothing new here, but still I enjoy reading this stuff.

Centerfield 2005: Redman, Bay, McLouth?

Is now "up" to .310. He's inching closer toward season-ending numbers that might make him look like a real, if not so great, big-league hitter.

All in favor of a Nate McLouth experiment next season, or a Jason Bay in center experiment, raise your hands. Brian Giles played a lot of center for the Bucs. Why not Bay? We know he can do it.

Tike looks like a decent fourth outfielder.

Resounding thud

He's not going to be a factor this week, yet most of the coverage and writing I find about the game devotes about a quarter of the word count to Deion Sanders.

One of my all-time favorite Steelers games was this 1992 playoff game. More like that please.

The Ravens get Jonathan Ogden back so their o-line will be much improved this week. I still think the Steelers will get to Boller and force him to make mistakes.

Mac on his team

Me, I mainly agree with the bitching of Mac in Ed Eagle's latest notebook. I admit it's hard to watch the team when the losses are rolling in fast and furious, but I don't think they have thrown in the towel. A better explanation? They're not that good. Yet.

Home Sweet Home

The team has to win at home before they're going to have a .500 season. As Robert Dvorchak reports today:

Open final homestand of the season needing to go 5-4 to secure their first winning season at PNC Park. They are 27-16 in their past 43 home games after starting the season 9-19 at home.
Some wins are in order; we're due.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Honest Wagner pick 'em: Week 2

VIS SPRD HME SCOOP BONES ROWDY
snf 07.5 NWO ..snf (snf) ..NWO
was -2.5 NYG (was) ..was (was)
den -2.5 JAX ..den ..JAX (den)
pit 03.5 BAL (pit) (pit) (pit)
stl 02.5 ATL ..ATL ..ATL ..stl
hou 02.5 DET ..DET ..DET ..DET
chi 08.5 GNB ..GNB (chi) ..GNB
ind 01.5 TEN ..ind ..TEN ..TEN
car 06.5 KSC ..car ..KSC ..car
sea -2.5 TAB (sea) ..sea (sea)
cle 04.5 DAL ..DAL ..cle (DAL)
buf 03.5 OAK ..OAK ..buf ..OAK
nwe -8.5 ARZ ..nwe ..ARZ ..ARZ
nyj -2.5 SND ..nyj ..SND (nyj)
mia 04.5 CIN ..CIN ..CIN ..mia

min 03.5 PHL ..PHL ..min ..PHL

No comments from Bones this week. Scoop says he has a "talking horse" who makes his picks. The horse watches the games through the living room window and reads the paper all week in his stall. They "discuss" the games each morning as Scoop shovels horseshit. Scoop has learned to listen to the horse's advice and this week all the picks come from the horse. Or so I'm told.

A horse that watches TV ... yeah, right, Scoop. Have another glass before you return to the stalls this afternoon.

The picks in parens are best bets. I see a lot of low-hanging fruit, so I have six this week. The lines are a mix of Danny Sheridan's and some major sportsbooks. When no half-point lines are available, as this week, when there are many round threes, then we move a half-point closer to zero.

Ray Charles time

It's easy to ignore the Pirates when you just had a baby. I just looked at last night's box score and all I can say is we'll have a bottle of the Glenlivet and plenty of Ray Charles and head down to the river before I think about the Pirates again today.

Jason Bay and Tony Bruno

This morning on the radio I heard Tony Bruno touting Khalil Greene as "a lock" for the Rookie of the Year award. A fan called in and said, "What about Jason Bay? I keep hearing that Khalil Greene is a lock but no one seems to be paying attention to Jason Bay of Pittsburgh."

Bruno and Mike Gubicza tag-teamed on the caller and put him down pretty harshly (though Bruno did concede that the Pirates have some great young players and fans should be excited about next year).

They argued that Bay and Greene's offensive production is "close enough" that it's a wash. After all, Greene plays shortstop. The caller emphasized the fact that Bay's defense has been great (LF in PNC is much harder to play than RF). But they pooh-poohed that with "we've all seen Khalil Greene in the highlight films so many times." Further, they argued that the fact that Greene plays for a team in the chase for a playoff spot "will weigh heavily on the writer's minds." Yet they ridiculed the caller's suggestion that Bay is being overlooked. "Usually it's the West Coast teams that are overlooked," Bruno said, from his studio in Los Angeles, "because the games begin at 10pm."

So on one hand he admits that Greene's greater exposure from playing in more meaningful games will "weigh heavily" on the writers, but then he denies that Bay has been overlooked because, after all, he plays for Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh is on the east coast. Seriously, how many people get the Pirates on television? How far does KDKA travel in this landscape of hills and mountains and valleys? How much attention do the Pirates get in publications like Sports Illustrated or USA Today's Sports Weekly? And how often do the good people at Baseball Tonight open the show with that meaningful game between the Pirates and the Brewers? (If that makes you laugh, consider that every game is the most meaningful game of the season for someone, somewhere, whether it's the 12-year-old fan who attends only one game a season or the family of the starting pitcher. If you want to laugh at that 12-year-old kid go ahead, be a jackass; just because the Pirates games don't appear significant to fans outside the region doesn't mean they don't matter to fans inside the region.)

Jason Bay sure seems overlooked to me because we've been regarding him as a ROY candidate since early July. At the All-Star break, he garnered no attention when people talked about the ROY. They said Ryan Madson, Antinori Otsuka, Kaz Matsui. In August, we were even more sure Bay was the likely ROY because his steady and outstanding production, offensively and defensively, created a lot of distance between him and the other names mentioned as candidates in the mid-year speculation articles (note all those other candidates played for huge markets or winning teams). We've been saying Bay all the way and his candidacy never gained traction in national media outlets. Then, around mid-to-late August, Greene got hot and now it's September and he's being touted as a lock. Where was Khalil Greene before the All-Star break? How did Jason Bay fail to be considered as in the lead for the award at any point in the season? Don't tell us Jason Bay has not been overlooked; he's deserved attention since early July and he's still waiting for it. Don't tell us that outfielders don't deserve consideration; we know at the All-Star break that national writers who pay no attention to the Pirates were considering a setup guy and a middle reliever before our steady Canadian outfielder.

None of this would bother me if the California-based Greene partisans would back off the smug and hyperbolic gloating that their boy is a "lock." If Bruno wants to rant like this to a Southern California audience, that's all fine and good, but I'm driving around in Pirates country and I have to listen these ill-informed pundits acting like they know more about the Pirates than the caller defending Jason Bay?

The good news is that Tony Bruno and Mike Gubicza won't have votes. And, I doubt too many baseball writers spend a lot of time listening to these blowhards.

The national baseball people should be a little less cocksure about what they know and what they don't know about teams like the Pirates if they give a damn about being respected all over the country. Sports is sports and yeah, lives don't hang in the balance. But as Pirate fans I think we have good reasons to complain when the national media shows step on our feet and tell us to like it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Heels, Sox & Steelers

I admit I'm suspicious of anyone who puts the White Bitch Red? Sox and the Steelers next to one another in their heart of hearts. I will happily admit, however, that Ryan has been producing great reading material at his blog, Heels, Sox & Steelers.

Larry Foote and Kendrell Bell

Count me as one of the people who think Kendrell Bell was a one-year wonder. Fortunately for us, Larry Foote has been great, as Ed Bouchette reports for the PG.

Mesa met all incentives

This one is a few days old, but it's still worth reading if you missed it. Joe Rutter reports that Mesa met all the incentives in his contract. Fans and other people who think a certain cheapness trumps other principles in the organization should concede that there's evidence to the contrary. Why would a team deny Mark Corey $50K and let Jose Mesa earn $465K that could have been easily saved one way or another? The answer is pretty obvious.

Manager of the Year

Mac voted for La Russa, as Bob Dvorchak reports.

Ouch

Sean Burnett, meet Dr. James Andrews.

TJ is not career-ending surgery any more - far from it - but we probably won't see Burnett until 2006.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Honest Wagner pick 'em: week 1 results

Scoop 11-5, Bones 10-6, Rowdy 9-7 overall. Rowdy 2-1, Scoop 1-2, Bones 1-2 best bets. Nice overall weeks from Scoop and Bones but you have to nail your best bets to look like you knew what you were talking about.

Picks were here.

Jason Bay for Rookie of the Year

John Perotto, a level-headed non-homer reporter, looks at the candidates and says Bay is the clear winner to date.

Resting Oliver

Smart decision, I think. Any news about his plans to pitch or not to pitch for the Tomato Growers?

Craig Wilson going for 30-homer, 30-HBP club

Would be in elite company, Robert Dvorchak reports.

Double plays

It's Tuesday, so Brian O'Neill has something to say. This week he writes about the great double play.

It's the secondary, stupid

Uh, duh. Everyone sees the glaring weakness in this team. I could link another half-dozen stories but why bother?

With Kyle Boller's rag arm, Baltimore's a depleted O-line (Jonathan Ogden was out), and Travis Taylor's injuries, last Sunday the Ravens didn't and couldn't throw the ball downfield. Unless the Ravens manage to correct those three problems this week, I doubt the Ravens can make the secondary look bad.

None of the major publications predicted a posteseason spot for the Steelers. As Scoop said before, Cowher's teams have always exceeded low expectations and failed to meet high expectations. No doubt that could be said about a lot of teams, but outside of the now-too-usual secondary woes, the team looks pretty good to me, and I don't see anything in the AFC North striking fear in the heart of Steeler fans.

AAA in Indy

Congratulations, minor-league guys. Story by Ed Eagle, with photo, here. Sounds like a good move for the Pirates all around.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Dave Williams looks good

Was that a three-pitch fifth inning? One-two-three pretty quick there.

All hail the 3-4

This is my favorite kind of football article, one that talks schemes and theories and so forth. One of the evils of fantasy football is that the game forces the fans to see more individualism on the field. Overall that's balanced only by the good of video-game football: Madden players learn the different schemes and theories and so forth. Or so I guess. I haven't played Madden since 1991. Can you still score every time with the screen pass?

A few paragraphs for the scrapbook:

It was the Patriots who helped spawn the 3-4 comeback by using it last season on the way to a Super Bowl victory. But no one has had more continued success with the 3-4 defense than Bill Cowher, who installed it when he became Steelers coach in 1992, carrying on a tradition that Chuck Noll started when he broke up his old Steel Curtain and switched to the 3-4 in 1983.

"Obviously Pittsburgh has played it forever," Turner said. "It takes some pressure off your defensive line. You can create more problems for an offensive football team and you can present more looks, which Pittsburgh has done to people forever."

Cowher's defenses ranked in the league's top 10 nine times in the past 11 seasons, including No. 1 in 2001 when the Steelers went 13-3 and reached the AFC championship game. Besides Cowher, no coach embraces the defense more enthusiastically than his coordinator, Dick LeBeau.

"It gives you more team speed and gives you four 240-pound men who can run who are in 2-point stances," LeBeau said. "And they can also see, so you can do a few more things with them, you can make more adjustments because they're standing up and watching, as opposed to the four down linemen in a 3-point stance and you have to convey all the changes to him down there."

In a semi-related note, what do you think, should I shell out 20 bucks for the PG's Insider package?

Paper champions

Warren Sapp knows all about that expression:

"They don't play the game on paper," Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp says. "Jimmy (Johnson) likes to say, 'The best team never wins. It's the team that plays the best.' That's what this game is built on. It will be like this for forever and a day."

As anyone who has read a lot of the preseason coverage can tell you, the Steelers don't look so good on paper, either.

Those wins in Tampa rank up there among the great games of the last few years.