Saturday, November 13, 2004

Sanchez: I feel so good

Cue the J.B. Lenoir:

Saguaros second baseman Freddy Sanchez (Pirates) is having a banner fall after fully recovering from foot and leg injuries that hampered him all season at Triple-A Nashville. Sanchez is hitting .353 in 85 at-bats and has shown some pop with three homers and 16 RBIs. “This is the best I’ve felt probably in two years,” Sanchez said. “I feel better at the plate with using my lower half again and that’s allowing me to drive balls better. And that’s giving me more confidence in the field. Honestly, I’m just feeling great about the way things are coming together after being frustrated for so long. In a way, it’s just this feeling of relief—like finally things are falling into place again.”

That's Chris Kline's paragraph from his AFL notebook at Baseball America. I found it copied at Rotowire.

Free agent prediction contest

There is one at Primer. So far, folks have guessed the following players will sign with Pittsburgh:

Castilla, Vinny
Nelson, Jeff
Counsell, Craig
Sexson, Richie
Burnitz, Jeremy
Alomar, Roberto
Dye, Jermaine
Larkin, Barry
Valentin, Jose
Glaus, Troy
Halama, John
Randa, Joe
Gonzalez, Juan
Koskie, Corey
Mabry, John
Nomo, Hideo
Finley, Steve
Reese, Pokey
Lieber, Jon
Perez, Odalis
Kent, Jeff
Alfonseca, Antonio

Some of that is crazy talk. Burnitz is cheap left-handed power so that could make sense. A lefthanded starter like Odalis or Halama would also fit an obvious immediate need. My guess is the Pirates don't sign a third baseman and just go with Wigginton for a year.

Charlie wrote about the Klesko-for-Kendall rumors a few days ago. I've been thinking about it and this could work for the Bucs. As much as I'd hate to lose Kendall, it's probably not right to have one guy making a whole shitload more than everyone else. We saw what happened in Texas when they unloaded Alex Rodriguez. And we have a number of very good catching prospects who are worth a look.

Hot Boy

He can run, but can he block?

Ed Bouchette writes up "Hot Boy" Parker as he gets set to see his first big dose of PT.

I could be wrong about this, but I see the decision/need to rest Staley and/or Bettis even mid-season in the context of those years when the Steelers would plow through the regular season and enter the playoffs with a torn groin or something like that on Bettis. In my mind, it's pretty clear that the power running game is good for the offensive line. All they gotta do is push and the play is over. But of course the ball carriers pay a price. Fu and Zereoue were solid backups, but I prefer the current arrangement with solid backups and two number one guys.

some GM meetings gossip

Ken Rosenthal has some. How well would Adam Dunn fit into PNC Park?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Deshea Townsend getting respect

Gerry Dulac writes up the evident improvement in Deshea Townsend's game. Pro Football Weekly also reported his improvement this week (last whisper on the page).

Big Money, Big Mouth

Gerard Warren is a real moron.

Pirates re-sign Mesa, Torres

Ed Eagle reports. Mesa got more money than I expected. Littlefield acknowledges that the 58-year-old Mesa's career may be winding down. He and Mac both credit Mesa's ability to mentor the young guys as a reason for wanting him back.

This is something of a high-risk, low-reward situation for Littlefield. If Mesa pitches like he did last year, then he's a genius, again. If Mesa falters and someone else steps in and pitches great, then Littlefield will be mocked. Heck, I'll bet he'll be mocked for this today. If that someone else pitches great in part because he's been emulating Mesa, few fans will see that, and everyone will think the Pirates could have saved the money and just begun the year with the younger guy.

A team that builds around young pitching has to have a strong bullpen. And I'm a believer in the team having some veterans. Looks to me like Littlefield's strategy is this: if it isn't broke, don't fix it; if it works, don't mess with it. The bullpen was good last year and the team will return it intact. Makes sense to me.

The most significant long-term danger to the team is the loss of a prospect who could have filled Mesa's roster spot. It will take a few years to find out.

Speaking of the prospects, that deadline for getting guy on the 40-man roster is coming up next I think.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Better SI cover

Dr. Bones: Yeah, that new SI cover sucks. Where are Plax's legs? All the clutter makes it even worse. And the yellow is awful, looks like a frigging National Geographic issue on siamese twin athletes. Now THIS SI cover ruled. I put this up on the wall of Bones and Rowdy's room when we were kids and still think it epitomizes everything Good in this universe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Honest Wagner NFL pick 'em: week 10

VIS SPRD HME SCOOP BONES ROWDY
ksc -4.5 NWO ..NWO ..ksc ..NWO
bal -1.5 NYJ ..NYJ ..bal ..bal
det 03.5 JAX ..det ..det ..JAX
tab 03.5 ATL ..tab ..tab .ATL*
pit -4.5 CLE ..pit .pit* .pit*
sea 00.5 STL ..sea .STL* ..sea
chi 01.5 TEN ..TEN ..chi .TEN*
hou 09.5 IND ..hou .IND* ..hou
cin 03.5 WAS ..cin ..cin ..WAS
min 03.5 GNB .GNB* .GNB* .min*
nyg -2.5 ARZ ..nyg ..nyg ..ARZ
car 00.5 SNF ..SNF .SNF* ..SNF
buf 08.5 NWE ..buf ..buf ..NWE
phl -6.5 DAL ..phl ..DAL ..phl

Asterisks indicate best bets.

Season to date
Scoop 74-56 .569
Bones 73-57 .561
Rowdy 66-64 .508

Best bets
Bones 22-18 .550
Rowdy 27-23 .540
Scoop 13-12 .520

Comments:

Nothing from Scoop as he plays this hand.

Dr. Bones is having fever dreams of the sieve-like and ragged Cleveland OL introducing Garcia to a world of pain. Back-up Kelly enters but proves ineffectual. Steelers 27, Browns 9.

Speaking of dreams, Rowdy needs sleep. Little Rowdietta, bless her heart, has been playing rooster for about ten days running. And when the two-year-old says, "Time to get up," she means now. Dawn is a beautiful thing but it's getting old. A few days back she got up and started grabbing at the usually-off-limits TV/stereo setup. "I want to see football," she said. "Rowdietta," I said, "It's seven in the morning and Tuesday. When is football on?" She stopped mussing with the third-floor Marantz and looked at me. "Sunday," she said.

Regarding the Steelers, Rowdy had a long conversation around the water cooler today with Steeler fan expressing his hope that the Steelers lose one before the playoffs "so they get that out of the way." Rowdy abused said fan at length. Losing leads to more losing. Only winning leads to more winning. Like Bones, I can't see this being very close at the end. Go other Rowdy I mean Rotty.

Roethlisberger has a blog

I kid you not. Part of a whole big website thinger.

Steelers on cover of SI

Image here. I'll get mine in the mail tomorrow.

I'm not thrilled about this cover. That's a weird two-headed, three-armed Hines Ward picture. Slapped-on ad for Dr. Z's amazingly wrong (well, recently) SU picks. The whole thing is too crowded. The yellow border is an eyesore. And wtf is up with Kobe on the top there? Or the you're-kids-are-fat thing in the lower right? I can't hang that thing on the wall of the drinking room.

Shame on SI for botching this opportunity to elevate the quality of their magazine with a cover that better expresses pure Steeler greatness.

Steagle matchup is Game of Week

For those who receive the NFL channel (I think only Directv carries this channel), last Sunday's Steagles matchup is the featured Game of the Week, airing at 9 pm Eastern tonight. The Pats game was last week's GOW. If you haven't seen one of these productions they are pretty sweet, esp. when the Stillers are featured pummelling the opposition. GOW are hour-long productions, so if you weren't able to see the game you get a feel for the actual game's progression and not just highlights. These are edited in NFL-Films style, with slo mo analysis, coach tirades, and players whooping it up, all in jacked-up stereo. Enjoy.

need help with Chicago at Tennessee line

I can't find a line anywhere, probably because of McNair. We use Wednesday AM lines to make picks by Thursday noon. Looking at the Sagarin ratings, where Chicago is ahead by about two points, I guess a good line would be Da Bears plus one-five. Any better ideas?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Double Yoi!

Get well, Myron Cope. They should add him to the official injury report.

Let us praise Dan Rooney

Remember this little bit of offseason muckraking?

Honestwags blasted normally clearheaded Ed Bouchette for this phantom controversy, which ended in a 2 year contract extension for the Tower of Cowher. So how good was this move? Think Cowher's price might have gone up a little next offseason?

Take a step back from this exciting season and consider the wisdom of this signing. Show me one organization in professional football that has shown such a willingness to buy low on good talent, even after a celebrated burn (i.e. Kordell, which wasn't as bad as you think (he did lead us to a 13-3 record and the AFC championship game after all, though having to put up with 3+ other years of bounce passes not to mention The Crying Game makes it about a wash)). This shrewdness also extends to free agents -- Farrior, Staley, even the Bus were all guys gobbled up under market value because of clashes with inferior organizations. Is it surprising good players clash with inferior organizations?

For me, it's not the black and gold or the You're in Steeler Country sign or Cowher's jaw that makes this franchise special. All of that is fun, but Mr. Rooney is why I love the steelers.

Honest Wagner NFL pick 'em: week 9 results

I got beat like an Ohio Democrat in Week 9. The Steelers crushed Philadelphia, as expected, in one of the first 1pm games to end. As the other early games ended, favorable returns poured in for me. Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay were all handing it to their opponents. Miami had gone ahead and needed only a defensive stop to ice a six-point victory over the Arizona team. I was poised to make up some ground on Scoop. The 4pm exit polls showed Rowdy with a clear lead.

Then I suffered a 1-for-6 run. Not much went even close to right in the late afternoon games. And the later I stayed up, the worse it got. In the wee hours of the next day, all eyes were on the team from northeast Ohio, which was still playing and striving to overcome a slim deficit with less than a minute to play in the game. And at the end of the Sunday night game, Jeff Garcia, Cleveland's "San Francisco" quarterback, threw a sure-touchdown pass from five yards out to some scrubby Brown. The Browns had outplayed the Ravens for most of the night. A tie was imminent. I liked their chances in overtime. My best bet would come through. But said scrubby Brown was mugged by Ray Lewis. Oh no! he gave up the ball. Some random Raven caught it and ran 106 yards for a game-ending interception return. Despite the fact that the Browns played better than most expected, the scoreboard indicated a clear mandate for the Baltimore team. I picked up my eighth pick 'em loss of the day and thus ended my bid for a majority in the contest.

Looking ahead at week 10, two things come to mind. First of all, it's mid-November. It's giving up time. I'll declare all of these teams hopelessly back in the playoff picture: Buffalo, Miami, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Washington, Carolina, and San Francisco. I don't expect them to show much the rest of the way. Buffalo has won two but they are already three games out of the wild card. Denver, San Diego, and New York have much better points scored vs. points allowed ratios and look far more likely to win nine.

The second thing in my mind this afternoon as I look at week ten is the Steelers' game at Cleveland. Election night was a huge frustration and disappointment for Clevelanders and so was Sunday Night Football. The current coverage of the Browns is pretty comical. (The shank headlines are especially good.)

These guys are down but not out. I expect everyone will continue to mock the Browns for the rest of the week. The Steelers will go in as a huge favorite. The Browns injury report will be especially encouraging for Steeler fans - the Browns lost yet another starting offensive lineman and may only have one or two wideouts healthy enough to play. All signs point to further Brownie meltdown.

Have fun laughing at them, but don't believe they'll be so sorry come Sunday. Browns stadium will fill up. There will be a lot of Steelers fans there, but I don't think the Steelers minority will have as easy a time overwhelming the hometown fans as they did in Dallas. About an hour before kickoff, the Brownies will dry their cryin' eyes. When the game starts, they'll play sloppy and sorry but scrappy and desperate. The Steelers better be ready. There's nothing more dangerous than a desperate opponent. If anything can salvage the Brownies' season right now, it's a big upset win over the Steelers. We all know better than to take any of the division games for granted and this week, I hope Coach Cowher can persuade the team to take these guys seriously. Every division win is huge and we need them all if we expect to send Baltimore home early or to a first-round wild-card playoff game.

P.S. The final numbers were Bones 7-7, Scoop and Rowdy 6-8, and in best bets, Bones 3-2, Scoop 2-2, and Rowdy 3-3.

The 2005 Ford C. Frick award

The Baseball Hall of Fame invites fans to participate in the selection process for the 2005 Ford C. Frick award, which is something they give to broadcasters. The ballot is here.

MLB.com has more information about the eligible Bucs here.

Monday, November 08, 2004

All Hail Jason Bay

National League Rookie of the Year.

Congratulations to him!

...I recommend the Ed Eagle audio link under the headline on that page.

ROY awards announced today

Sometime around 2pm we'll find out if Jason Bay won the NL Rookie of the Year award from the baseball writers.

Bay sounds confident in this Canadian article. We've been over this a zillion times at Honest Wagner. We think Bay deserves it hands-down. If the nod goes to Greene, though, so be it. That's the last we'll say about it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The wheels on the Bus

Oh my goodness. Hats off to the Stillers for stomping a great big mudhole into the Eagles today. Yikes. I listened to the first half of Total Domination at the park today while Bones Jr. spun the jungle gym's steering wheel, appropriately chanting "round and round, round and round." Inspection of the boxscore makes this win even more impressive. Steeler time-of-possession = 41:49. Rushing yards 252-23. Eagles 0 for 9 on 3rd and 4th down. Eagles punted 6 times, Steelers zero. A veritable pistol-whipping.

Eagles at Steelers

Thoughts? Comments about the game?

Plax and Ben

One of the more (maybe the only?) interesting things to come out of the Ben Roethlisberger profile in this week's Sports Illustrated is the revelation of Ben's friendship with Plaxico. Plax is Ben's best friend on the team. When Ben's cellphone goes off in the middle of the interview, it's Plax calling.

Remember, Plax was the guy who, while AWOL from spring practice, no one had a cellphone number for. Indeed, the dark days of April seem to have passed entirely. Maybe they connected over being high-pick underclassmen with the pressure that comes with it. Plax has always struck me as a guy who was more emotionally needy than your average NFLer (let alone your average adult), and when those needs weren't met he would react badly. Funny that a rookie should be the one to provide that support.

It also helps if your friend can throw a fade route.