Saturday, January 06, 2007

Psyco's Dirt wins!

All hail the 2006 HW NFL Pick 'em Pool Swami, Psyco's Dirt, who ran away with a .562 record against the spread. Azibuck came in 2nd at .541. The two placed 6th and 14th ATS for the season at the free host, pigskin. As we crown PD champion, in hindsight it seems like there should've been a prize (other than bragging rights and a free one year subscription to HW). Like a post, or a free 5000 word post by Rowdy on any topic of interest. Anyway, raise your cup to the champ.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Rate Cowher's tenure

He scores 96% good or excellent on this PG poll.

The characteristic that most defines his tenure with the Steelers, for me, was his incredible intensity. He burned the candle at both its ends, as the saying goes. He took the team to the top rapidly, was the youngest coach to ever appear in the Super Bowl, and lost a real heartbreaker. After that disappointment, he went all Captain Ahab with this silent, smoldering intensity that just kept burning through multiple AFC Championship disappointments. When the Steelers finally swept through the playoffs as a road underdog and won the Super Bowl, I wondered how he would maintain that level now that he finally had a ring. The first half of 2006, it looked to me like he had lost it. He was a different coach. Much wiser than when he started, but I did not see the same drive that he had maintained for an incredibly long time.

So, to my eyes, he burned out. But not before he brought home the Lombardi trophy.

I expect he'll return to coaching, somewhere, in a few years, and I doubt he'll be a Steeler again, which makes me sad. It makes me remember: hey, didn't he begin his career with the Cleveland Browns? If we ever see him on the other side of the sidelines, I'll use that to explain how he could go and lead another team.

But I won't forget he's a champion. And I will always appreciate that. If I had to grade his tenure with the Steelers, I'd give him an A plus for that alone. You can't argue with the ring.

Cowher resigns

Today at 1. No surprise, but still a sad day for Steelers fans as the organization loses one of the greatest coaches of all-time. Best of luck, Coach, and thanks for all the memories.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Brian Lawrence

Or B-Law, we used to call him--which suggests how long ago he was effective--strikes me as the kind of 30-year-old back-of-the-rotation signing that would make it possible to trade a young starter.

I do not think that will happen. But if the Pirates collect some guys like Lawrence, all the talk about "blowing a hole" in the rotation by trading one of those guys will sound silly. The dropoff from the young guys we have to starters like (a healthy) Lawrence is not so great.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Stepson returns

Jose Hernandez signs. Everything is starting to fall into place.


One of these days this week, I expect we'll hear that Cowher is leaving, as Ed Bouchette's report suggests.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Year in Review

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Sickels' list

John Sickels' 2007 Pirates Prospects list is up:

"The Pirates System in One Sentence: A thin system that lacks impact talent as well as depth.

I like the top three guys but after that it thins out very, very quickly. There isn't much difference between the C+ and C guys, all of them have major questions or project as spare parts and not impact guys."

NFL week 17: Steelers at Bengals

Well, I suppose it does have some "one of us" appeal. The Steelers (7-8) can drag the Bengals (8-7) down to their level with a victory.

Puzzling Tracy

Dejan Kovacevic reports some things that Tracy said to him. I am not sure how to make sense of these comments.

On the 2007 Pirates: "We're not starting over. That's the important thing. We finished with a winning second half for the first time since 1992, and we want to carry it over. And I'll tell you what: I feel really, really good about it."

Did the team tell us they were "starting over" when Tracy came on board? This explains the unspeakably horrible first half of 2006. I was under the impression that McClendon had them in position to achieve mediocrity, but the Pirates were retreating to zero and starting over.

On the goal: "I understand there are people who want to see us win 82 [games]. I appreciate that. It's been 14 years. But that's not the goal here. That's not what I signed up for. This group has a chance to be pretty good for the next several years. Let's get pretty good first, then go from there."

If 82 wins is not the goal, what is? 92? 72? This frightens me, since it appears possible that Tracy is defining "success" as something less than mediocrity. And what is "pretty good"? 82 wins is not "pretty good" in my book--unless this gets a team into the playoffs.

On the losing streak: "This group has been together 162 games, not 14 years. Let's remember that."

No problem, but if this is the mindset, let's be consistent and not brag about having "a winning second half for the first time since 1992."

On the team's reluctance to trade a starting pitcher for that coveted left-handed bat: "For us to fill a void and create a hole in the rotation ... you just can't do that. Also, you have to look around baseball at what people are paying -- maybe overpaying -- for pitching right now. And we're going to give that up? Can't do that.

Here's where I disagree with those guys. Trading one of our starting pitchers to acquire a slugging first baseman is not blowing a hole in the rotation to fix a hole in the lineup. Our starters are not that good, and they have not done enough to show that it is reasonable to expect them to be that good. I'd trade one of those starters for a player like LaRoche, and then I'd go sign a journeyman back-end starter - for whatever the market price might be - to replace the starter we lost.

There are so many reasons why this would be prudent. We could talk about injury rates for young pitchers vs. the same for young sluggers, we could talk about the scarcity of power hitters, we could talk about the wisdom of dealing from a strength to acquire the kind of player the organization has not been able to develop on its own. I'll make the long story short, though, and simply say that the coaches and the front office have an irrational attachment to these four young starters. It is good to be loved; I hope the young starters appreciate the undue respect they receive from their bosses.