Saturday, October 15, 2005


Tony LaRussa expects Noonie will make big money as a free agent this winter.


I'm listening to the Tracy clip from MLB radio on the Pirates' home page. Jim Tracy is a good talker.

A few quotes:

He and DePodesta had differences of philosophy that "could not be breached."

Starting around 2:40 into the clip: "Billy, I think that there's a lot of credence to what you are definitely saying, no question about it, I'm not going to avoid it."

The young stars in LA were "very special people."

Tracy, directed to speak about the difference of philosophy between himself and DePodesta: "I think what you're suggesting Billy I think it started to become very pronounced during the course of this past offseason (meaning the offseason of 2004 leading into 2005). And the way things played out this year, you know, I'm not saying there's anything wrong. But I feel very strongly as a manager that there's a philosophy that very definitely -- not only does it work, but it has worked, and it worked for four consecutive years. And some of the things that took place this past year weren't necessarily what i'm all about."

Tracy and Littlefield "know one another quite extensively" from their Montreal days. Both studied there under Felipe Alou.

Tracy compares the 2005 Pirates to the 2002 Dodgers. Beltre, Loduca, Izturis, Gagne: the initial reaction to these guys, he says, was "who are these guys"? The "ages are somewhat similar" with young nucleus in Pittsburgh.

I get the impression that he still has a lot to learn about our players. Which was to be expected. Here's how he defined the nucleus right off the top of his head: "Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, Craig Wilson, and some of the other kids you saw in the latter part of September, like McLouth and Duffy, and the pitching from the standpoint of an Oliver Perez, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Kip Wells, Mike Gonzalez."

Any truly knowledgeable Pirate person would have named Tike Redman. Seriously, pretty soon I expect Jose Castillo will come to mind more quickly.

He talks us through his resume in the second half. He also gets philosophical about how your baseball career will be defined by your biggest mistakes. It's long and he drones a bit like a college professor, but it is full of interesting stuff at a time when he's naturally candid.


Ken Macha found a good job.


Gerry Dulac reports on Polamalu's sudden voice in the San Diego game. He also reminds us of the last time the Jags played the Steelers. It will be physical.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Make picks for week 6

Still time to join the pool (see top link, left column). Remember you need 1/2 of all games - or 128 total picks at the end of the season - to qualify for the glory of the championship. You need 37 picks to qualify for the lead right now, or 44 picks after week 6 is finished. The YTD leader now appears to be allen1011, with four better records just below the half-of-all-games minimum.

All hail Mojo and LouCrandall for pacing us in week 5. It was something of a star week, with two-thirds of us picking 50% or better ATS.

Here are my square picks for y'all to fade. I like Atlanta (though I worry to see 90% of the website's public on this side), Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami, New York Giants, Washington, New England, San Diego, and Chicago. I may play on the MNF game come Monday; there St. Louis looks attractive.

...Saturday update. Now on the Lions, the Saints, the Raiders, and the Titans.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

NFL week 6

Looking at the non-Steeler games this week, the one I want to see is Miami at Tampa Bay. The way to beat a Buc defense has been to run right at them. I see Ricky Williams returning with fireworks. What do yinz think?


The Pirates need patience. I've seen enough immature aggression from the Pirates to last me several years, and I think all the varieties of patience would be most healthy for our young club.

Let's run through the definitions of this word:

1 : bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint 2 : manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain 3 : not hasty or impetuous 4 : steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

How can anyone deny that the Pirate players need all four kinds of patience described there? Pains and trials will surely come in 2005, and the Pirates need to not kick the proverbial laundry cart in response. Opposition and difficulty will surely meet the team throughout the season, and the Pirates need to remain steadfast and play consistently well to shorten the losing funks that have characterized the last dozen seasons.

I could pull a dozen examples from 2005 recaps, documenting how various hasty and impetuous Pirate hitters killed rallies by bailing out struggling pitchers with a first-pitch groundout. For example, from the September 27 recap:

The Pirates took a 2-0 lead on Nate McLouth's RBI single in the second and Ryan Doumit's bases-loaded walk in the third.

They could have had more in the latter, but Brad Eldred swung at the first pitch -- even though Los Angeles' erratic Edwin Jackson walked the three previous batters -- to pop up and end the inning.

Mackanin was asked if he or anyone instructed Eldred to take a pitch or two in that situation.

"You'd like to think they're aware of that," Mackanin replied. "You can do that, but you also know that, at some point, that pitcher's going to leave a ball out over the plate. You can blow a game wide open, especially someone like Eldred. I'm not saying he should have taken, but it comes with experience knowing when to do it."

The word today, when applied to baseball, often relates to a hitter drawing walks. There's no one way for all hitters to maximize their effectiveness, efficiency, and consistency at the plate, but this is surely good advice for young, impetuous hitters who are too eager to show off their childlike aggression: Festina lente. That's stoic Latin for "make haste slowly." The Pirates show little control of their aggression at the plate, and the results are losing, losing, and more losing.

Our problem with walks - the hasty, impetuous at-bats - is well documented. Brian O'Neill wrote last month about our death by a thousand walks.

As O'Neill's essay points out, our problems with patience abound outside the batter's box. Much of what's frustrated the long-suffering fans stems from the failures of hasty, impetuous pitchers. In addition to the laundry-kicking episode which well illustrates immature aggression, we also have pitchers whose attention spans are too short to pitch effectively.

On September 19, John Perrotto reported something for the Beaver County Times which I can no longer access because they've moved their archives behind a pay wall. Mackanin described Oliver Perez's struggles as the product of boredom. Remember the quote? He said that he was like a bowler who gets tired of throwing strikes over the same arrow. When Perez sticks to one thing and does it patiently, he's Johan Santana. But apparently this kind of winning provides too little stimulation for his beautiful mind, so he must change arm angles and engage in other kinds of "dipsy-doodle" stuff.

The walkin' ways of our impatient starters fail to command the limited attention spans of our young, impatient infielders. The infielders cannot bear the pain of concentrating on the at-bat for more than a few pitches. God knows what they are doing - making eyes at pretty ladies, perhaps - but time after time they looked unfocussed and ill-prepared when a batter finally puts the ball in play.

Dejan Kovacevic wrote about this in his September 27 notebook:

The Pirates seem to elevate their play behind Duke and Maholm, no doubt because of their efficiency. "When a pitcher's not going well, a defense sits back on its heels, as if they're saying, 'Come on, throw a strike!' " interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "These guys throw strikes."

My point is not that the Pirates need to become a group of sober, longsuffering stiffs. Animation, enthusiasm, passion for winning: all these things are good.

But let's hear no more bullshit from managers or players about how patience is "not such" a good thing. Why, for example, does Mackanin apologize for Eldred's horrendous gaffe described in the first quote, above? Had that first pitch been left out over the middle of the plate, Eldred would have crushed it. It's fine to be "contrarian" on the subject of patience, but it's absurd to deny that patience has great value -- especially when we're talking about how to improve the play of a team characterized by hasty, impetuous youngsters with too-short attention spans.

The current Pirates have gone overboard in their defense of being aggressive at the plate. They have their point, but they carry it too far. You need some patience to succeed consistently in this league, and whatever that "some" may be, it's clear that the current collection of players do not have enough.

Since they will be a little bit older, they will surely be a little bit more patient next year. I doubt a little bit more will do it, however.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Colborn named pitching coach

Read about it here.

"[Jim] and I feel we have unfinished business," Colborn told the Los Angeles Daily News. "Jim and I work together very well, and pitchers look good sometimes because a manager agrees with his pitching coach on how to use them ... He allows me to have my own program and supports me and makes me feel like I am appreciated and respected." In other news, another ex-Dodger coach, Jim Lett, has agreed to be bench coach. And Tracy wants the Pirates to play like the Cardinals:

"It's so intriguing to watch how [the Cardinals] go about their business. It's baseball the way it's supposed to be played. It's such a methodical beatdown if you allow it to happen."

Being a Pirates fan, I don't find methodical beatdowns very intriguing anymore. But all hail the new coaches.

Chad Tracy

New manager Jim Tracy has a son named Chad, who was born in '85, bats right, and catches. He'll be a junior at Pepperdine.

Not to be confused with D-back Chad Tracy, who was born in '80, bats left, and plays 3B/1B/OF. Rowdy and others (me too) think this guy would look good in black and gold. Wiggy put up some fearsome numbers in the second half this year, so I would give him another chance to compete for the 3B job. Despite DL's apparent lack of interest, I've still got a backup plan for Wiggy.

Big Ben could play this Sunday

Probably not, but it could happen.

Tommy's OK too:

"But there was a favorable medical report on Maddox, too; instead of being out 3-4 weeks, he could be ready as soon as Sunday, too. Still, to protect themselves, the Steelers signed former Pitt and Carolina Panthers quarterback Rod Rutherford to their practice squad."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All hail the O line

From today's TMQ:

Best Purist Drive After the Clock Struck Midnight: Trailing 22-21 at 12:07 a.m. Eastern, Pittsburgh took over on its 38 with 4:36 remaining. Rather than go pass-wacky, the Steelers staged a classic clock-management drive, running seven times and passing just thrice. The result was both the winning field goal and the scoreboard showing 10 seconds left, so the host Chargers could not reply. You just don't see many modern teams running up the middle when trailing late in the fourth quarter, and last night -- rather, this morning -- Pittsburgh did so to perfection.

Easterbrook is a blogger at heart, I think, for lots of reasons probably not worth going into.

Sometimes I love his writing, other times I hate it.

On the subject of football writing, I also say this: Man I miss Hunter S. Thompson.

Jim Tracy's first Pirate offseason

What will that be like? Let the speculation begin.

There are two parts to such discussions: first, what we think the team should do, and second, what we think the team will do.

We're sure to hear something more, for example, about the potential match between the once-homeless Jim Tracy and his somewhat-homeless (well, somewhat positionless) son, Chad Tracy. Should they acquire him? Could they acquire him? Will they acquire him?

On October 4, John Perrotto reported that Chad Tracy might be a target for Littlefield. Perrotto may have been inspired by this report from Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic. I've long thought Chad Tracy might appeal to the Pirates, and I suspect Littlefield has discussed trading him for him in the past.

Chad Tracy's a left-handed, younger, more consistent Craig Wilson, a 1B/shaky RF guy. The difference is that while Craig Wilson owns catching equipment, Chad Tracy owns a third baseman's glove. If Ty Wigginton can still be called a third baseman, third is surely an option for a black-and-gold Chad Tracy.

Chad Tracy generally contributes a steady .350 OBP with monthly slugging numbers in the .400-.600 range. I think he's pre-arb too, so it's hard to see how and why the D'backs would want to part with him. Chad Tracy player card.

I'd be all about a father-son team out there. They'd make a stronger team than the Bob Boone-Aaron Boone alliance that paced the amazing 2001-2003 Reds.

What other ideas do you have for Tracy's Pirate team? I thought up a pretty good marketing theme - not so bloody or murderous as my last idea - that I'll share sometime later, maybe.

Ben's MRI results in

Hyperextended knee with a bone bruise. That's fantastic news, his ACL is fine. “I think we all have a deep sigh of relief in regards to the prognosis.” said Cowher.

Oh happy day! All hail Ben's bone bruise!

Tracy hired

Welcome aboard, Captain Tracy. Best of luck to right our ship.