Saturday, September 09, 2006

Game 143: Pirates at Reds

Maholm vs. Harang underway. Bucs are up 2-1 in the top of the fourth. Bay hit his 32nd jack.

Najeh Davenport

Steelers sign Najeh. RB Patrick Cobbs released one week after being acquired to make room. I've been hoping for a Najeh signing all week. Najeh is a large (6'1", 247), yard-gaining machine (averaged 4.9 yds/carry in 217 carries) who just might defecate in your closet. (link via Mondesi's house). All hail Najeh!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Game 142: Pirates at Reds

Snell and Lohse at seven. The Reds are two games under .500 and five games back in the wild-card race.

Do not expect Chacon to return

This and a Michelob Ultra in Kovacevic's Q & A.

... as for the hipness of Piracy (see closing comment), the Pirates need to win for that to change. There is no substitute for winning. Youth and promise and fireworks are nothing in comparison.

Charlie Batch

Charlie Batch played real well last night for a backup. Teams can go to the second-string quarterback for a game or two and suffer little drop-off, so it was not too surprising to see the Steelers drive on the Miami defense with Batch as the QB.

He looked better than the average back-up, however. He reminded me of Mike Tomczak when he would play only a game here or there.

I could not evaluate Batch's ability to start many games in a row without seeing him play many games in a row. For now, however, he's a huge asset for the team. Any time Ben needs a week off, Batch looks more than capable of leading the team.

Steelers are not old

The Steelers impressed me last night. One impressive thing is they are not old. Nate Washington made a play, Heath Miller made a play, Ike Taylor was described as one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

Who's the next important player to retire? Gardocki? Punters are not so important. Hartings? He'd be my first guess just because of the mileage on his tires.

Hines Ward is in his tenth ninth year. Not many players put in more than ten seasons, but Ward does not look ready to retire any time soon. Alan Faneca is another service-time leader, and he also looks good.

Al Michaels works the ref

John Madden did good work last night, I thought.

Al Michaels, on the other hand, was just disgraceful. More and more I cannot stand the man. He better understands make-up for television lighting than he does NFL rules and strategy, and there are long stretches of time when he literally has nothing of value to offer.

He has a good voice and I like to hear it when he's recapping the facts, as play-by-play men are tasked to do. But the more he strays from straight-up summary of the action on the field, the more he embarrasses himself. He opens his mouth to say all kinds of immature, pointless, and stupidly inflammatory comments about the role of the officiating in the NFL game. The play-by-play guy, especially one working for a national audience, should be more detached and wise; Michaels has turned into an evil hybrid of Robin Leach and any loudmouth partisan talk-show radio host.

There was about 120 plays in the game and 7 penalties, and he talks and talks and talks about the penalties. The Dolphins bungle a probably pointless request for review, and he immediately flames up into indignation like this decides the outcome of the game and it's all the fault of the zebras. This approach to the game is more simple-minded than blaming a loss on the placekicker who shanks a hail-mary 50-yard field goal with time expiring. He peddles cheap outrage, and it's a terrible education he's providing for young fans.

It's one thing to comment on calls as they are made. But once the players and coaches move onto the next play, Michaels should restrain himself from babbling on like a whiny tit with such pompous certainty that he best understands how exactly the outcome of the game was or will be decided by this or that made or blown call. He pretends to know things that he can't know -- how, for example, the referees would rule on this or that replay, or how, for example, the referees would flag or not flag that play in some hypothetical other reality.

Silence is golden, Al, when you have no intelligent comment to offer. Working the refs is bush league, and people need to tell him this.

... Clay brings up another valid criticism of Michaels' work. Every game he makes some kind of not-sly allusion to the Vegas point spread on the game, and he always does this with the greatest naivete and gullibility, like the point spread is God's measure of the relative value of teams. I'll spare confused novices my lecture about what the point spread is and what the point spread is not, since, while Michaels' great respect for the spread is supremely annoying, the stupidity of it detracts from the professional/ethical questions it raises: here one of the NFL's #1 representatives routinely encourages gambling on the game. He routinely "handicaps" the match-up with the bait of bookies. Where there is smoke, there is often fire: people who know so much about the movement of the point spread sure sound like people who itch to place wagers. Does the NFL want one of the top primetime play-by-play jobs occupied by someone who gambles, appears to gamble, or (at least) encourages gambling on the outcome of the game he calls?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

NFL Week 1: Dolphins at Steelers

Super Bowl teams usually have their off-season doubters and come into the year "with question marks." And they usually trounce their opponents in the first game. At some point in the first half of the season, a five-game malaise would not be uncommon, in which the team does not do as well as everyone expects. But rarely do we see it, if memory serves, in the first game.

Anyone picking the Dolphins tonight as a trendy upset special is a Sucker, I say. I foretell an overwhelming performance from the Steelers defense and something like a 14-3 Steeler win. It may not be pretty, but the occasional ugliness of Steeler football is a big part of what makes it such a beautiful thing.

Football starts now

Big game tonight. Oregon State at Boise State.

Game 141: Pirates at Cubs

Here we go . . . here we go.

Another cellar-dweller cage match. Chacon and Marshall at two.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Happy Roberto Clemente Day

Still half an hour to celebrate and more for you west-coasters.

Game 139: Pirates at Cubs

Duke and Hill at eight. Loser gets voted off the island.

Ed Bouchette Q & A

The movie star speaks. Hmm, football.

Honest Wagner NFL pick 'em pool

Get in the pool while the water's still warm.

Rowdy has invited you to join a FREE PigPool at the FREE ( If you are a member of, click the following link to join the pool: and enter poolname: "Honest Wagner Pick 'em Pool" and password: "51yardparker". If you are not yet a member click here to sign up:, then go to the pool sign up page (

It's all free at Bones and I have used the site for years, and we've never had a problem that some consideration of the fee (FREE) did not make better. FWIW, I've been under the impression that it's a one-man show over there. Whatever fella runs the site makes a data-entry mistake once or twice a season, but he always corrects it within a day or two. All hail!

If you were in the pool last year, when you sign in you will see you are already in the pool this year. No need to join again, unless of course you want to create a new account and play under a different nom de plume. There are 57 players in the pool right now. Don't worry, we have plenty of chlorine.

Winner gets the satisfaction of some kind of bragging rights. And a FREE year's subscription to Honest Wagner! Woo hoo!

Bones and I are historically good to not bad at this game, but we were both pretty terrible last year. IIRC (it's all a drunken haze right now), Bones was less terrible than me. I dunno what happened.

Sully happy and quiet

Fifth place is nothing to celebrate. DK reports:

Even Salomon Torres, who seemed to irk some of the Cubs with a demonstrative celebration to his save the previous night, played it cool when he closed this one.

"I guess they don't like to see Sully happy," he said. "That's OK. I can be quiet, too."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Game 139: Pirates at Cubs

Victor Santos vs. Juan Mateo starting soon. The Bucs are now a half game back of the craptastic Cubs. A win tonight would propel the Bucs out of the basement and over .400, and also secure their first winning record against the Cubs in 6 years. The players are clawing at the cellar door: "We want to get out of the cellar," Maholm said.

Steelers Deadspin preview

The much anticipated Steelers preview at Deadspin is finally out. If you haven't been reading these, they're not exactly previews. Rather, short pieces by fans on their teams. My favorites so far have been the previews on the Bills (a gut-wrenching tale of a boy, his Bills sign, and his drunk dad) and the Eagles (funny conversation between an Eagles fan and his parents on midgets and gorillas). The Seahawks preview gets an honorable mention for being heartfelt and not whining once about the refs.

Don of Mondesi's House has the honor of representing the Steelers, and he delivers with his hilarious Top 50 List. My personal Top 50 List would've made room somewhere in the Top 10 for The Catch. My childhood obsession with John Stallworth has a history: my two older siblings had claimed Bradshaw and Swann, both of whom I was forbidden to cheer for. Anyway, all hail Don!

St. Pierre returns

PG reports that the Steelers signed 2003 draftee Brian St. Pierre, who will join the practice squad and compete with rookie Omar Jacobs for backup QB duties now that Ben is out. Keep working out, Tommy Gun, anything could happen.

Monday, September 04, 2006

How about them Marlins?

From this ESPN recap:

The resilient Florida Marlins became the first club in major-league history to climb above .500 after being 20 games under.

Whoa. This while the Pirates are talking about climbing above the Cubs.

Game 138: Pirates at Cubs

Maholm and Zambrano this afternoon.

Take it easy this Labor Day.

Yesterday's game

As usual, Dejan Kovacevic has a well-written recap of yesterday's game, in which certain predictable tendencies again manifested themselves & sent the team to defeat.

Snell could think a little more seriously about the long ball.

Pujols is now 4 for 6 against Snell, all of those hits being home runs, and that might not be a coincidence. Partly because he owns a 96-mph fastball and 144 strikeouts, Snell's approach is to do anything but tiptoe around the plate. No matter the opponent.

"If you lose your aggressiveness, you might as well call it quits," he said. "I'll never lose that."

Snell has been the Pirates' best starter, without a doubt, but the home run has represented his one nagging trend: He has given up 15 in his past dozen starts, and his season total of 25 is fifth-most among all National League pitchers.

Cause for concern?

"Not at all," Snell said. "I don't care who you are, you're going to give up the long ball unless you're Chris Carpenter."

Even if he can shave off ten percent of that home run rate - have 2 or 3 fewer allowed at this point in the season - it would be a big help for the team.

His admiration for Pujols strikes me as comic. Pujols went deep three times off him.

if there was any sign of scarring with Snell, it was extraordinarily well hidden. Truth be told, he sounded more like a wide-eyed kid in search of an autograph.

"I mean, that's unreal, man," Snell would say afterward, with a smile and a playful roll of the eyes. "It's like freaking Superman playing baseball. After the third one, I was going to go high-five him myself."

Buried at the end is this:

St. Louis rookie pitcher Anthony Reyes, freshly recalled from Class AAA Memphis, worked 6 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out nine.

When are they going to stop making this kind of rookie pitcher look like an All-Star? It's tiresome.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Roethlisberger owie

So Ben won't play in the opener because of this appendix thing.

No big deal. The Steelers will run the ball anyway. Run right, run left, run right, punt. It's not rocket science.

Get well, Ben.

Game 137: Pirates at Cardinals

Ian Snell and Anthony Reyes just after two. Reyes has struggled to throw strikes in last few outings. So ... I think we know what the Pirates will do today.


Sundays are starting to get that Steelers feeling for me now that it's 56 degrees outside.

Weird schedule for the season this year, however: the Steelers don't play on a Sunday until September 24. Nuts. Then they are on bye October 1st, and they start a stretch of nine consecutive Sunday games (with four home games but only two west-coast games) on October 8th. The first of the series (10/8) is a Sunday night game. The rest begin at one or four. Then the Thursday night game against the Clowns and three more Sunday one o'clock starts.

The season is going to start pretty strangely, with games on Thursday and Monday, but will settle into the kind of every Sunday regularity I like best by October.

Van Benschoten hurtin'

Dejan Kovacevic's notebook has the bad news that's new in JVB's comeback.

It also notes that the payroll will be "flat" for next year.

No crisis

Kevin McClatchy says things are pretty swell all around the diamond. No crisis here with this team, he says. David Littlefield gets a big thumbs-up too. Dejan Kovacevic reporting there for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.