Saturday, August 12, 2006

Game 117: Cardinals at Pirates

Weaver and Snell at seven.

Commissioner Rowdy

This is my four-point plan for improving the game.

1. Add two more expansion teams. I'm not worried about the quality of starting pitching that would result because . . .

2. I'd abolish the DH. Get the geriatic and slothlike sluggers off the field. No DH would be good for the starting pitching for two reasons. One, fewer old sluggers making young starters look silly. Two, the loss of the DH would pressure teams to employ more versatile players for the bench. That's right, more utility men is what the league needs. Barry Bonds is out of work if he can't play the outfield. Jose Hernandez keeps his job. Young starters everywhere benefit.

3. Create eight four-team divisions defined roughly by geographical proximity. Here are my divisions:

A. Seattle, Oakland, San Fran, Las Vegas.
B. Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Arizona.
C. Colorado, San Antonio, Texas, Houston.
D. Minnesota, Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Louis.
E. Chicago, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto.
F. Cincinnati, Atlanta, Tampa, Miami.
G. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington.
H. Philadelphia, New York, New York, Boston.
4. No wild-card playoff berths. If the interleague play in the two-team cities is great, the division play--when only one of the two teams can advance to the playoffs--could only be better. Such a divisional arrangement may also end the need for a salary cap and revenue sharing. Finally, this playoff structure with these divisions guarantees that the playoffs and World Series have a multi-region appeal. It would be more like a World Cup of baseball. All eight regions would be represented in the opening round. I'd retain the "American League" and "National League" divisions with diverse geography for each (say, groups A, C, E, and G for the NL and groups B, D, F, and H for the AL.) Then four diverse regions would participate in the championship series, better drawing the entire country into the playoff excitement.

Teams closest to Pittsburgh

Got myself a map here. The four big-league ballparks closest to PNC Park are in Cleveland, Washington, Baltimore, and Toronto--in that order too. The parks in Washington and Baltimore are nearly the equidistant from PNC. So are the parks in Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

Maybe the Orioles or the Blue Jays could be the Pirates' designated Interleague Rival. Uh, maybe.

The distance between Cleveland and Cincinnati is about the same (225 miles) as the distance between Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Also somewhat interesting: Seattle is easily the most isolated of the major-league cities. There's at least a half-dozen teams playing within 800 miles of Coors Field; Seattle only has two rivals (both in the Bay area) within that distance. Colorado's all alone out there, but at least they are in the middle of things. Seattle might as well be on a different continent.

Friday, August 11, 2006

101-pitch complete game

Zach Duke pitched well, walking none and striking out seven in a nine-inning 7-1 Pirates victory. He gave up eight hits. Frodo went 2-for-4 with a triple and a homer in the leadoff spot. And Sam, batting eighth, went 2-for-3 with a walk.

Game 116: Cardinals at Pirates

Jeff Suppan and Zach Duke at seven.

Cleveland and Cincinnati and Pittsburgh

Dejan Kovacevic reports:

Kevin McClatchy, the Pirates' managing general partner, has pleaded with MLB for years to put the Pirates and Indians into MLB's natural-rival category so they can meet annually at each team's field, as happens with the New York Yankees and Mets, among others. But MLB continues to pair the Indians and Cincinnati Reds, while leaving the Pirates without a partner.

Ohio is a massive state without much coherence as cultural entity. Cincinnati is more like a southern city than a northern city, and Cleveland is more like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Detroit than Cincinnati. Cleveland to Cincinnati is about four and a half hours; Cleveland to Pittburgh, two and a half hours.

The problem for MLB might be finding an interleague rival for Cincinnati, which adjoins Indiana, and more or less faces toward Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. There's no big-league baseball that way.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Game 115: Pirates at Astros

The Pirates have never been good at Houston, especially lately, but the prospect of yet another sweep down there does not have to seem so inevitable. Today's it's Tom Gorzelanny and Roger Clemens. In his last regular-season start of 2005, Clemens was victimized by Tike Redman and others in a 7-0 loss at PNC Park.

Today the Pirates are thirty games under .500, or 42-72 according to the advanced metrics. They have lost four in a row and six of eight in August with a post-ASB record of 12-12. Since it's in the central time zone, the game begins at eight.

Big Ben Is In

Well, it appears as if all the lobbying Big Ben has done for playing time in this Saturday's upcoming preseason game againist the Cardinals has paid off. Cowher announced this morning at his press conference that Ben would get the start.

Also, Ward will be sitting this one out due to a sore hamstring. Look for 2nd year pro Nate Washington to get the start. Washington made 2 key 3rd down receptions to move the chains during last years post season. Watch this guy; he has been very impressive up to this point.

Exhibition football

I ignore it as much as possible.

Duffy dropped to eight spot

Lineups don't matter as much as people sometimes think, but batting first or batting eighth makes a difference. If young starters are your top priority, scoring early should be high on the to-do list. It should be somewhere above fielding a good defensive team; you have to give young guys a lead if you want to groom them as guys who win games. So this move, reported here by Dejan Kovacevic, was overdue.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

You've got to win, man. You've got to win.

The Yankees and the Yankees fans, they get it. I'm no expert on Yankee culture, but let's assume Jeff Passan is correct here:

To be accepted by New York's vox populi as a Yankee – a real Yankee – you need to win a World Series. And considering only four players on the current roster have rings with the Yankees – Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada – that leaves a healthy hankering for the days of Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill and Jeff Nelson.

By that definition – however dubious it may be – Jason Giambi still isn't a Yankee, nor are Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield and, least of all, Alex Rodriguez. While Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang seem to get free passes because they've spent their entire careers with the Yankees, imports are held to different standards.

"I have to win, and Bobby has to win, and Alex has to win, and I still think Jason has to win," Damon said. "That's the driving force in what we do."

Jason Bay is not a Pirate, Jack Wilson is not a Pirate, Dave Littlefield is not a Pirate, the Nuttings are not Pirates, and Jim Tracy is definitely not a Pirate.

That's more or less how I feel about it. Who are these clowns and imposters and incompetents wearing the uniform?

We're holding out for nothing more than a .500 season. And when that comes, it's going to be hollow and unsatisfying. Because it's not that hard to win half your games. Look at the Reds, the Padres, the D'Backs. They are not great teams.

Why can't the Pirates win? That has to be the standard. We've lowered our expectations far too much, and still these people struggle to meet them.

Game 114: Pirates at Astros

I better start this thread early because we're all excited about Pirates baseball. The team has 43 wins and 70 losses. That guy we got from the Yankees against Roy Oswalt! Eight o'clock eastern.

29 more days

til Steelers season starts. Meanwhile on the 14 year losing front, Rowdy has been consumed the last few days by his advanced metrics that make minor adjustments to the 2006 Bucs' actual W-L record. All I've got is links:

Chatty DK implies that Duffy will continue to leadoff for awhile.

Tracy justifies his complacency with losing and not arguing an obvious non-homer with the old "that's not what beat us." Jim diverts attention from his own inaction by praising Maholm for rectifying.

Billy of Romo Phone Home aptly mocks the recent Tracy quotes.

Best Pirates news of the day is that JVB is back, and had a no-hitter through 5 2/3rds in his GCL return. JVB will move up to start Monday for AA Altoona at Connecticut.

Okobi hurt

Worst news of training camp so far: current second-string and future starting C Chukky Okobi has a herniated disc in his neck, and could miss the season or the rest of his career. Get well, Chukky.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Game 113: Pirates at Astros

Paul Maholm and Brandon Backe at eight o'clock. The Pirates are 28 games under .500.

You're very hopeful for a very special month

Meyer delivers the Tracy quote of the week:

"Duke and Snell and Maholm have a legitimate shot to pitch 200 innings or more," Tracy said. "I'd like to see all three of them get that done so they know what that feels like. So they understand, 'Hey, I have to take a start in the mid to latter part of September and keep going and keep pushing'. You're very hopeful that September of 2007 is going to be a very special month for the Pirates."
Three kids with 200+ IP? How very special for you! (paging Dr. Andrews). Tracy is so hard to read, especially with the confusing use of the second person here. I guess getting nice and comfy next September to watch the Steelers start playing could be "very special" indeed.

All hail James Henry Smith

Speaking of getting nice and comfy to watch the Steelers, if you haven't seen them yet, the pictures from James Henry Smith's funeral are fascinating (link to Chowdaheads blog via Deadspin). Last year, Rowdy linked to the story about James, who was buried in his recliner decked out in Steelers gear and clutching his remote. All hail James and his funeral director, for the nice touches of the beer forever nearby and the Steelers clips looping on the TV in front of James' corpse.

Ben's green beanie

Not only did Ben complete all of his passes with his new green beanie, he's cracking jokes:

Roethlisberger praised the depth of his wide receivers, although he said, "I'd like to stack a couple of them on top of each other to get a little height out there, but they're doing good."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Zach Duke

Not so good in July?

Paul Meyer notes the problems come in Duke's first innings. Well, duh.

"They're not taking pitches. They're swinging at any fastball they see. They're putting it in play. They're not trying to do too much with it. They're just getting base hits up the middle and the other way."

Is it me, or has the Pirates' defense up the middle been pretty bad this year?

Ronny Paulino

This guy is pretty good. Maybe he could even start for another team in the National League.

Brad Lincoln

Got himself hurt at Hickory.

Barrett Brooks

After being chased through the South Side, Brooks was tackled by a cop.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Game 112: Cubs at Pirates

Snell and Hill at two. It's actually Saturday night and 7:23pm, but I can blogger the timestamp and make it look like I'm posting this tomorrow morning.

The Pirates are 43-69. Hey--that's not very good.