Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Fred McAfee's

This shot kind of sums up Fred McAfee's career with the Steelers. While with our beloved team from '94-'98, McAfee was strictly a special teams guy who occasionally stood in as a third down RB (and even rarer as a kick returner). McAfee ended up making the Pro Bowl with the Saints in 2002 (for his ST play), and actually hung around the league for parts of 16 seasons. He played 194 career games, accumulating 1273 yards on 304 carries, which adds up to a respectable 4.2 yards per carry but an even more impressive 6.6 yards per game.

Other interesting facts about McAfee, he was born and raised in Philadelphia, Mississippi (hopefully it's not as destitute as Pennsylvania's), and attended Mississippi College, which is the oldest university in Mississippi and the second-oldest Baptist affiliated university in the world. Other notable alums of MC include WWE wrestler Ted DiBiase Jr. and former NFL player Major Everett (I have no idea who this guy is, but I just wanted to point out a cool thing about the South; whether you're black or white, your legal name could be Major).

Another interesting note I came upon while searching for McAfee, during Bill Cowher's 15 years as HC of the Steelers, he had only three seasons in which his team finished with a negative point differential (one of those being the '99 season when the 'Lers finished at -3). I actually did a little math and over Cowher's 15 years, his teams posted a total point differential of +886 (+59.07 per year, which comes out to an average Expected Win-Loss record of 9.7-6.3). No matter what you think about Cowher, that is impressive. Anyway, his worst season was -40 in 1998. Check out that year, pretty interesting stuff, especially because we lost to the Bengals twice... who ended up finishing 3-13!! Wow. How do I not remember that?

I have no real links just yet, hopefully more to come tomorrow morning/afternoon.

The Pens lost to the Sens last night at the Igloo 4-1. Recap here, here and here. I'm starting to have less and less confidence in the Penguins ability to come back from a multi-goal deficit. To be honest, I didn't catch the first period on TV, but I listened to it on the radio and I think the old-29er summed it up best after the second goal, "That one was on the Flower." After I saw the replay, I don't think there was any doubt. The Pens just couldn't get one past Sens' goalie Brian Elliot. And then when the Pens gave up that goal to Jason Spezza (who was flying last night), I kind of lost hope. Though the Senators may be playing the best hockey out of anyone out there right now, it's still a disappointing loss considering the Pens should have been rested and were coming off two solid wins against division rivals. Let's hope the Pens can hop back on the horse for this Sunday's rematch of the Cup Finals when they host the Red Wings (I'll have a longer post on the match-up sometime this weekend).

Pitt beat St. John's at the Pete last night 63-53. Let's get past the ugly shooting display by both teams, the horrible idea that is an ESPNU broadcast, and the fact that the game was closer than the final score. It's a Big East win, 'nuff said. Pitt took care of the ball (only 9 TO), hit their free throws at a very un-Pitt like clip (21-24, 87.5%), and played solid defense throughout (holding St. John's to a 32.8% FG percentage). I could go into how Pitt was out-rebounded by ten, including a 17 to 5 margin in the offensive board department, but I think a lot of those rebounds were because of the bricks that the Johnnies were tossing up. And I could give Ashton Gibbs the business for his continued shooting funk (5-13, 0-4 from 3), but my friend Drew pointed out to me how tired Gibbs must be considering he has not played less than 35 minutes in a game since Christmas. So I'll lay off Gibbs a bit (and if you watch the games, it's not like his shots are way off, half of his misses are in-and-out), and hope that Travon Woodall can cover some minutes for him (actually, it looks like he may have to cover Dixon's minutes, as he left the game late with an injury, update later). And no, Woodall didn't light the world on fire last night, but he managed a steal without turning the ball over, while also sinking his FT. Next up, Pitt plays USF on Sunday at 1 p.m.

CofC has dropped right back into the middle of the SoCon race by losing two straight to Western Carolina and Davidson. They're still at the top of the standings being the only team with just two losses, but they need to get Jeremy Simmons back quick, as he's their only solid inside presence. Without him, the Cougars are too dependent on their perimeter play, including their outside shooting.

Everton travel to Wigan tomorrow, and the game is showing on Fox Soccer Channel on delay at 7 p.m. This is a game they should win, especially if the Toffees are serious about finishing in the top six of the table by the season's end.

Lastly, I'd like to address some of the rankings of the Pirates minor league system that I have been linking to recently. Charlie over at BD has some good words to say about this, but I think the key is that Huntington has only had two drafts, and almost all of his draftees were in A ball or lower the past two seasons. This year should be a make or break year for most of these guys (the jump from A to AA is usually what separates the prospects from the filler), and if they do succeed and the Buccos have another good draft, it should boost them into top ten.

Another thing I'd like to comment on was ESPN's Keith Law and his sobering ranking of Pedro Alvarez from his top 100 prospects (insider only). Law, who I respect and love to read, ranked Pedro 35th, while most other rankings have him in the top ten. Law lays it out why he does this, Pedro can't hit lefties, has K issues, was helped by an abnormally high BABIP (batting average of balls in play) while in AA, and doesn't have the defensive skills to stay at 3rd base. They are all legitimate questions to have, and in fairness, Law has had the same reservations about PA since the draft in '08.

This should temper our expectations for Alvarez somewhat, although for me, his initial play as a professional tempered my expectations last April. I still think PA can be a star, but more in the Ryan Howard mold than a Miguel Cabrera one. The key is to whether he can stay at third, because if he can play average defense, his bat will be much more valuable over there. Which is why the news that Alvarez has taken this off-season seriously and lost weight to add quickness is very good news for all Pirate fans. I still think that McCutchen is more important to the future as he will be the more valuable player (all-around) and we have a better chance of retaining him into his free agent years (I think Alvarez, like all other Scott Boras clients, will test FA after his initial six-year run with the Bucs... but that's way down the road). On a more positive note, ESPN does justice to the Pirates that so many other national news outlets have not, predicting that they are on their way up and out (insider only, sorry).

And finally, there is the unveiling of the new Maz statue. Pretty cool stuff, although it would be even cooler if it was this shot that includes my Uncle Sam's long lost twin following him from behind...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday Tamer's

Chris F'n Tamer (please wait for the Matthew Barnaby beating sans equipment. Side note, whatever happened to those light blue undershirts?)

The interesting part about moving back to Pittsburgh when I was 8 was that for all the excellence Pittsburgh Sports have achieved in the past 20 years, that was a fairly boring time. The year was 1993, the Pens were coming off back to back Championships, the Pirates were coming off three straight division championships, and the Steelers were led by their second year/whippersnapper coach Bill Cowher (not to mention Sean Miller, Chuck Smith and send it in Jerome were out at Pitt). Little did we know it would take more than a decade to win a 'ship in the city of champions.

So when I showed up in Pittsburgh, I had a lot to choose from. Fortunately I chose the Pens as my go to, since they would go on to consistently win throughout the decade (weirdly, I ended up a bigger Pirates fan, and out of all the teams, I'm least interested in the Steelers- the steadiest of the group). I'd like to say it was random, but we all know the truth (back-to-back championships!).

Out of everybody on those post-cup teams, I remember Chris Tamer the most (although I did have a Jagr jersey.. thanks Dad). What a bad ass. The years he was with the Pens (93-98) were the heyday of my early Pens fandom. His best year with the 'Guins was the 95-96 season when he had a +20 and collected 153 PIM (how good was that team once you consider Tamer was a career -75 in 644 games... that was the year Mario scored 2.3o points per game, .48 more than second place Jagr and .72 more than third place Lindros... ridiculous).

Also, Tamer's number with the Pens was #2. It's like being close enough to #1 that guys might call you a pansy... just so you can drop the mitts. As you can tell, I'm pretty jelly of this guy:

Links will come tomorrow, but just to get you going, John Stewart makes fun of the Palmetto State. I love South Carolina, spent the better part of five years there, love the people... but like any other place, it has some issues. That might be understatement.

Here is a link to other links, Tim at BUCCOFans has a round up of the recent prospect rankings. It's pretty amazing how far the Pirates system has come in the last two years, yet it is still in the middle of the pack. It was important to build depth first, which they have, but the system will not be considered in the top echelon until they add some upside.

The Pensblog has an awesome write up on their guide to hockey fans. Do not skip over that one. Meanwhile the Pens host the Senators at the Igloo tonight, 7 p.m. sharp (FSNP). The Sens have been playing some good hockey of late, so they're no push over, while the Pens need to keep up the solid hockey they've displayed in the past two games. Get all the news you need over at the Empty Netters blog at the PG, which includes the news that Eric Godard will be out for 4-6 weeks (cue Bob Smizik writing a blog entry on how this is a good thing because it will keep Godard rested for the playoffs). And if anybody is looking for some used upholstery with a little history...

Pitt hosts St. Johns tonight at the Pete, with a 7 p.m. start as well (hello, DVR), the game will be on ESPNU while ESPN2 plays World Series of Poker reruns. No game is easy in the Big East, but this is a must win for the Panthers. The PG has a good article on former Schenley star and current Johnnie D.J. Kennedy and his own path to the NBA.

If you need to know, I'll be watching the Pens game live and recording the Pitt game. I was a Pens fan before I followed Pitt basketball, allegiances are allegiances.

Here's a link to the highlights from yesterday's Everton game in which US star and PROPECIA spokesman Landon Donovan scored his first European goal.

This made me laugh
. Is that wrong?

Wednesday Woodley's

I did it again! Unfortunately I can't find a photo of David Woodley in a Steelers jersey, even though he played for the team during the '84 and '85 seasons. Woodley is a pretty interesting story, he has always been seen by Miami Dolphins fans as the QB that bridged the gap between Bob Greise and Dan Marino. In fact, he started for the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII, and at the time, was the youngest QB to ever start a SB.

Woodley was traded to the Steelers after the '83 season once the Fins knew they had the goods in Marino. Woodley played two uninspiring seasons with the Steelers, battling with Mark Malone (quick trivia, Malone was the last QB to be drafted by the 'Lers in the first round until we drafted who? That's Easy!) for the starting job. And then, despite being the highest paid player on the team, Woodley retired after the '85 season. The rest of his story is a sad one, but if you're interested, here is a good write up from a few years ago.

COYB! Everton won today in impressive fashion, dominating Sunderland in the first half, building a two goal lead before the break, and then playing a steady defensive game in the second half while cruising to three points in the Prem. It's a big three points for the Blues, but for all those US fans, it's even better news since Landon Donovan scored his first goal with the Toffees. LD made a great run off of a long ball to Tim Cahill, collecting the ball with his chest and then coolly slotting the ball low and hard. It was classic Donovan. It really can't get much better for him right now. Highlights and more later...

At the PG, there are a lot of angry people responding to Bob Nutting's Q&A at the PG earlier this week. I will channel Jeremy Roenick: we don't need you. Or maybe Bryce Harper: If you don't like the show, don't buy the ticket (man, I really hope we don't draft this kid. I don't care if he is just 17, he sounds like a grade-A douscher). And then Bob Smizik hops on the hate-train, and then gets made a fool in the comment section by MarkinDallas.

My buddy Drew sent this over to me, a pretty cool look at James Harrison's dash.

This open letter to Haiti from blogger and former basketball mercenary Paul Shirley has stirred up quite the controversy. I'm gonna stay away from politics on this blog, but this will surely stir up some strong emotions on both sides.

I got nothing else, more later.

UPDATE: Actually, I still got nothing else, but I do want to take a flame thrower to the people posting on Smizik's piece. The question that seems to be ignored again and again by dissenters, "Okay, the Pirates suck, now what would you do differently?" And please do not say "spend"; in what business does spending solve the problem that simply? Idiots. And don't get me started on Smizik's magic quotes in the comment section. I would love to see him debate a knowledgeable Pirate fan in public, it would be like Cicero vs. Nero.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Tomlin's

I know what you're thinking, but Mike Tomlin was not the first Tomlin to grace the Pittsburgh sports scene. That would be Randy "Whispers" Tomlin, former Bucco southpaw who won 14 games for our last winner, the '92 Pirates. Whispers is most famous for his performance in game 4 on the '91 NLCS, throwing a quality start that allowed the Pirates to take the game into extra innings and eventually win in the 10th when Andy Van Slyke scored on a Mike LaVallierre single (wow, what a beautiful sentence).

Unfortunately, I can't find much more information on Tomlin like why his nickname is Whispers or why he flamed out after '92 (my guess is a combination of too many innings at a young age and his inability to strike guys out). Tomlin is currently the pitching coach of the Harrisburg Senators (Washington Nationals) in the Eastern League (AA). Also, if anyone can make out what is scribbled under Tomlin's signature on that baseball card, please let us know.

A few Bucco links to get you pumped. Matt Bandi has some interesting posts over at Pittsburgh Lumber Co. on the bench and the bullpen. I'm with him on the bench, it doesn't make sense to keep Ramon Vasquez around while I still have hopes for Brandon Moss, which would mean Delwyn Young is the odd man out. As for the bullpen, his post does curb my enthusiasm a bit, but going from 27th in the league to 16th is no small feat. I think Evan Meek will be better than his projection, and doubt that Chris Jakubauskas will pitch 50 innings (at least let's hope not), but this bullpen will be much better thanks to jettisoning two guys who most Pirates fans have complained about losing- Matt Capps and Jesse Chavez.

Pat over at WHYGAVS has a nice little post on his top 21 pitching prospects. But if you really want the lowdown on Pirate prospects, check out Tim's list over at BUCCOFans. Two years ago, I wouldn't even be able to come up with 15 worthwhile prospects in the Pirates organization, and even though there still isn't much star power in the system, it's depth makes it one of the stronger in baseball.

Over at John Sparrow's blog, he takes a look at the importance of being lucky, particularly when it comes to the draft. And then Dale Berra's Stash takes a good look at the importance of WAR, if you were unconvinced by my earlier explanation, Dale does a much better job.

And now for a few US Soccer links. Stuart Holden is finally making it official by signing with Bolton until the end of the year. As long as he plays, I like the signing. But that's a big if. US players have not had the best of luck going from the MLS to the EPL. Although Holden was brought in by the new coach at Bolton, and he is versatile. Only time will tell, but Stuart has the talent to make a major impact for the US in the upcoming World Cup.

Holden's former teammate in Houston, Ricardo Clark, has also found a new team in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt. I like this move for Rico, who is physical enough to hang in the Bundesliga. Again, the almighty question is will he play? One can hope.

And then there is this great update from Ives Garcelep on Charlie Davies recovery from his terrible car crash this past Fall. I think you can now bet on Chuck D. making the trip to South Africa, which would be a big boost for the Yanks. Ives also has some extra material on his blog.

More tomorrow morning/afternoon, which will probably include Ron Cook's next attempt at quality journalism.

The Pens won last night. The original six can suck it. Recap from me here, but better recaps are here, and here. Oh yeah, this is pretty cold, Chris Conner, we hardly knew ye.

Ron Cook published a column basically saying that Max Talbot's lack of output is due to his shoulder injury, that the Pens should not trade him at the deadline (because so many people think the Pens really need to get rid of Talbot and his albatross of a contract... 2 years at $1.05 million a season), and that come April, May, and June, Talbot could be a "superstar" much like those awesome A&L commercials (nice angle, Ron). Whatever. I love Max Talbot and hope all those things do happen, but I'm a fan, that's my job. Ron Cook's job is to actually support his thoughts with facts. Which is why I get nauseous when he says things like this:
I'm going to do something right here that Talbot never will do. I'm going to blame his frustrating season on his bad left shoulder. He missed the first 21 games after surgery in July to repair multiple tears in his labrum. Talbot isn't into making excuses, but, clearly, he hasn't been right since he came back. Who knows? Maybe his injury will turn out to be like an elbow problem for a pitcher or a knee problem for a running back. Maybe he won't be really right until next season.
"Maybe" Ron, you should do some work and find out what the typical recovery time for that surgery is, maybe you should find a comparable situation (didn't Gonchar have a similar surgery to begin the 08-09 season?), maybe you should stop making up medical diagnoses, maybe you should stop hypothesizing all together, or maybe... just maybe you should do your job correctly.

And if you think I'm being tough on old Ron, just wait until he starts writing about the Pirates...

Here's an argument from BTSC towards the Steelers not drafting a cornerback in the first round of this year's draft. I wholeheartedly agree. As always, we should be taking the best available talent, but a focus should be on the offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, and possibly a safety to compliment Troy.

Pens 4 Rangers 2

The first two periods of this game resembled Sunday afternoon's game (sans the penalties)- tight defensive play, not a lot of scoring opportunities, and evenly played. That all changed when the third period started.

Right off the bat, Jordan Staal got called for the dreaded double minor high-sticking penalty. Four minutes on the penalty kill to start the 3rd. Amazingly, the Pens dominated those four minutes, limiting chances and even creating a few on the opposite end. Just as the penalty was to expire, Matt Cooke got called for roughing because he was made a fool by Callahan (first by back checking on Cooke's breakaway and then by flattening him near the boards). Another two minutes on the kill, which slightly coincided with the end of Staal's penalty creating a short 5-3. The Rangers were able to create a few more chances, but were held. You would think that coming up empty on six straight minutes of power play would swing momentum to the Pens, but instead the Rangers scored on a cheap goal a few minutes later and at that point, I was not very confident. The Pens had played a tight game to that point and didn't seem like they had it in them to create enough chances to get one past a good goalie in Lundqvist.

And then Geno pulled a Geno, taking on the entire Rangers team and drawing a penalty on his way to the net. In the ensuing PP, Geno rocketed one over Lundqvist's shoulder near post to tie the game. An absolute monster of a shot that would make Fulton Reed blush. It was one of those moments that helps you realize that this guy is still one of the most talented players in the game, inconsistencies notwithstanding. Putting Geno back up top to Gonchar's right has completely transformed the PP. It get's Sid closer to the goal and puts Geno in the right position to take advantage of his left handed slapper.

And then it was Sid's turn. He carried the puck into the Rangers zone and did a bit of an Ovechkin- he deked once, and then used the defender as a screen while putting a wrister on net. The rebound was collected by Chris Conner, who for the second time on the night, slipped one past Lundqvist's near-post side.

Dupes added an empty netter later to make it official. Bing, Bang, Boom.

I think if you ask King Henrik about the two Chris Conner goals, he would want both back. But that doesn't take anything away from Conner; on both goals he put the puck on net from good angles, which I know sounds simple, but sometimes that's all it takes. When Conner came up earlier in the season, he impressed in his first game with his speed and hustle, but sort of fell off after that. Tonight he did the same by showing off his speed, but it looked like he put himself in better position to take advantage of that speed. I know it's just one game, but my theory is that earlier in the season he was still getting used to the Pens system (which they run in Wilke-Barre and Pittsburgh), but now that he has had about forty games in the system, he may have a better idea of where to be. Now I could be completely wrong, it could have just been him getting two lucky shots set up by one of the best players in the game. But either way there's a lot of speed flanking the kid right now in Duper and Chris Conner.

Little known fact about Chris Conner, he is an alum of Michigan Tech, whose mascot is named Blizzard T. Husky. Other notable MTU alums include the great goaltender (and former Pens GM) Tony Esposito as well as Dick Robbins, the guy who built the machine that dug the Chunnel and caused an earthquake in Las Vegas thanks to an English Don Cheadle. Michigan Tech is located in the small town of Houghton, MI, which is located near the Canadian boarder on the Upper Peninsula, and was rated as one of the 100 best small towns in America... although Myrtle Beach was also named in that list, so, take that with a grain of salt. Don't tell me I never taught you anything.

Also, a nice game from the Flower for his first one back. Even though the second goal was cheesy, he controlled his rebounds, positioned himself well, and almost got an assist on the first goal (it was stolen from him by Letang... French-Canadian on French-Canadian crime).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Guido Merkins

I found about Guido Merkins last night, when somebody listed the QBs who have played for the Saints in between Archie Manning and Drew Breese. Probably the greatest name ever. If you don't know what a guido is, obviously you have not been watching these people (on another note, is Angelina going to be on the second season? Needless to say she doesn't deserve it, but just her appearing at the reunion show is like Mike Zigomanis getting a day with the cup). And if you don't know what a merkin is, I just feel sorry for you.

The Pens beat the Flyers 2-1 yesterday afternoon in a fairly boring game, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Despite all the penalties, the Pens played some pretty good defense, really limiting the scoring opportunities for the Flyers. Recaps here, here, and here. Another big game tonight at MSG against the Rangers (7 p.m. on Versus, looks like all you DirecTV customers must go to a bar to catch this one), and I will be keeping a very close eye on how the Pens defend against Marian Gaborik.

Pitt Basketball played an absolutely terrible game yesterday while losing to the Seton Hall Pirates 64-61. Despite turning the ball over 20 times, shooting 35.3% from the field, and getting all the help they could ask for from the refs, Pitt stayed in the game late thanks to their rebounding and the Pirates' shooting down the stretch. This wasn't an easy game, Seton Hall is better than their record (most of their Big East losses were close games), but it's more frustrating considering how terrible they played. Ashton Gibbs needs to snap out of this shooting funk as well, because the Panthers can't expect to consistently win when Gibbs shoots 11-43 over three game stretches. Pitt plays St. Johns on Thursday night back at the Pete, and hopefully they can get back on track.

As I mentioned yesterday, the US lost to Hondurus 3-1. Player ratings can be found here and here. My quick thoughts, Bornstein did play pretty well, but I still am not confident with him starting at left back for the US come June. He's got pace, and that's it. Everything else (touch, passing, crossing, defending) is inconsistent. But to be fair, who else can play LB? If it were me, I'd do what we did in the Confederations Cup, put Bocanegra at LB and play Gooch with Demerit in the middle. We'll see.

Robbie Rogers is talented, and though there are still some things he needs to work on (crossing, defensive positioning) there is no reason to leave him off the US roster. His blast off the post from distance in the second half was special, and something that the US lacks.

Conor Casey's performance against Hondurus in qualifying may have single handily won the US a berth in the WC '10, and I thank him for that. But he is just not good enough to take a roster spot for the upcoming World Cup. He has zero touch, no pace, and lacks any danger from outside the box. I'd much rather have Brian Ching as a target forward (something I never thought I would say). He's just not that good.

The next game for the US is nearly a month away against El Salvador on February 24th. Hopefully, those players that were so lackluster on Saturday will not see the field that much. More soccer news later.

I might have more to say on the Saints/Colts match up for the Super Bowl later, but I must say that my picks have been superb so far. In the playoffs, I am now 1-9 (my only correct pick was Ravens over Pats), although I was very prescient yesterday in saying that both picks "will be wrong". I'll be rooting for the Saints of course (how can you not), but in the meantime, I think the spread will end up at around Colts at 6.5?

I have to go take care of some stuff, more later. But in the meantime, here is Aziz Ansari talking to Jimmy Kimmel about R. Kelly.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


... more on Sunday. Big day for Pittsburgh fans; Pens/Flyers at 12:30 pm on NBC, Pitt/Seton Hall at 2 pm on ESPN full court, and the football games. I like the Jets (+7.5) and the Saints (-3.5). Both will be wrong.

Meanwhile, Everton got knocked out of the FA Cup by Birmingham 2-1, CofC beat Wofford despite their best efforts on Friday night, and USA got demolished by Honduras 3-1, which included my darkest memory of US soccer... Jonathan Bornstein wearing the Captain's armband.

All in all, not a great weekend so far.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This just in...

The Caps are really good, Sammi and Ronnie are still lame, and I'm too tired to go into either. More tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Therrien's

What an odd looking dude. My Dad always liked Therrien, but I was indifferent. He didn't seem to adjust to the players at hand, instead trying to force his system on the roster. Only in hockey can a man take you to the championship series one year, yet get fired seven months later. Fun fact about Michel, in 1985, he won the Calder Cup with the Sherbrooke Canadiens as a teammate to future HOF and huge asshole Patrick Roy. This clip pretty much explains why the old man has a bromance with Mike. He tells it like it is.

Pitt lost last night, boo f'n hoo. If anybody thought the Panthers were gonna go undefeated in Big East play, you're just not that intelligent. Pitt plays at Seton Hall on Sunday (2 pm/ESPN Full Court), former gun shot victim Herb Pope will be facing his hometown team. The only time I watched Seton Hall play, Pope looked really lazy, but of course, I said the same thing about Greg Monroe and look how that worked out.

The Buccos have officially signed Octavio Dotel to a one-year contract that includes an option year. The terms have yet to be announced, but supposedly he will make around $3 million for the first year, which is fair. Octavio is fun to watch, as he challenges guys with high heat and misses a lot of bats, unfortunately with the high heat comes a propensity to let up the long ball. Let's hope PNC Park neutralizes that just a bit. The Bucs dropped Anthony Claggett from the 40-man roster, which was inevitable. We'll see what the Pirates do with their glut of out-fielders, but in the meantime, check out what FanGraphs has to say about out most recent acquisitions. Also, this is a pretty plain and simple explanation of wOBA (weighted on-base average), a stat that helps us figure out how many runs a batter creates at the plate and on the base paths.

The Pens play the Crapitols tonight. Follow the game on the Empty Netters blog over at the PG, or join the discussion at the PensBlog. Or you could just do yourself a favor and watch the game. JS. Right now this the best individual rivalry in sports- forget Kobe/LeBron, Sid/Ovie is where it's at. And let us not forget Geno and Ovie aren't exactly butt buddies. While scrolling through the PensBlog, I stumbled upon these beauties. You best know I'm a gets mines.

In Steelers news, BTSC has a good look at who the 'Lers might take in the draft. I love C.J. Spiller, but if the Steelers draft him in the first round, I am going to be mightily pissed off. No more skill players on the first day; you can get good WR/RB later, but good linemen and secondary players come early (key word here is "good").

Also, if you have time, go rent The Hurt Locker. Just a really good movie. It's intense from start to finish, and it's the first movie I can remember that gives us a look at what war is like in the 21st Century. It's not political either (of course, you can make it political, but you can do that with anything), just a very honest telling of what goes on for American troops in the Middle East.

Jersey Shore finale tonight, and then the reunion show afterward. I wish they just did this like the Biggest Loser, where a new season started immediately after the finale. Although not too many people visit the Jersey Shore outside of the summer. Which makes me wonder, where do these people vacation in the winter? Cozumel?

Pitt 66 G'Town 74

This was the Pitt team I had been expecting to show up since Big East play started. I don't really want to talk about it right now, but the Panthers were terrible at situational basketball in the last 8 minutes. The most frustrating moments were the two timeout, shot-clock violating possession and also the free layup given up with just one second left on the shot-clock. I guess we should just count our blessings that Pitt is 5-1 to start the Big East, but that's loser talk.

I might comment later, I may not. In the meantime, turn the channel over to ESPN and hear Dick Vitale drool all over Dejuan Blair and Carlos Boozer.

Wednesday Wendell Young's

This is probably my favorite shot of Wendall so far. Look at that beard! Not much going on today, but here's a few links.

The Pens won last night. Recap here, here, and here. Also, Andy Sutton got a two game suspension for his hit on Pascy Dupuis last night. I think that's fair. It wasn't a malicious hit, but the NHL has to send a message out to guys that you can't do that. Oh, and according to Dupuis' agent via twitter (what a country we live in), Pascal is okay.

Pitt plays Georgetown tonight at the Pete, game starts at 7 and it's on ESPNU (really?). I don't need to say it, but this is a big game.

Lastly, I got a few comments about my use of WAR and the like. Sorry if it flew over your head, but that is taken from FanGraphs, and it refers to Wins Above Replacement. The idea is that if you take a roster full of your average AAA player and put them up against a major league schedule, they might win 45 games (out of 162), so a player that is worth 2 WAR will bump that up to 47 wins. That wasn't a great explaination, but if you want more information, check out the glossary at FanGraphs, especially the part on win shares towards the bottom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pens 6 Isles 4

There were so many good things to say about this game going into the third period, and then the Pens had to make it interesting. Let's get the frustrating stuff out of the way first.

The first two goals were mostly Geno's fault, both were scored by defensemen at close range with the first when Gene was out of position and the second coming when he was late getting back. Geno is an unbelievable takeaway artist due to his hand-eye coordination, but he doesn't have the defensive sense or positioning to be considered a good defender right now. He's kind of like a shot-blocking specialist in basketball, it's either an unbelievable play or he leaves someone open.

The third goal was just a dumb turnover in their own end by Gonchar. It seemed like Tyler Kennedy had the puck and was about to skate up ice but Gonchar mistook the puck for a pass, was caught off guard and coughed it up. Gonch has been pretty good with the puck this season, after making some blunders last season, so I'll give him a pass.

The fourth goal was all about not being tough enough in our own crease, the puck went to the net and there were two Islanders planted in there, and all it took was some nifty stick skills by Park to get the puck in the net. You have to be tougher in your own crease, it was too easy.

For me, all their goals weren't because the Pens were getting dominated or the Islanders were stringing passes together, it was mostly keyed by a mental mistake from a Penguin (they turned the puck over 12 times). If the Pens buckle down in that third period and play smart hockey, this game would not have been as close as it ended up.

But other than that, we saw a lot of good signs from the Penguins. Sid was unreal and ended up with 6 points, Letang looked confident with the puck all night while his hard work led to the Pens fourth goal, Brent Johnson played a very solid game while not deserving the four goals tallied against him (his three consecutive stops on Okposo breakaways in the second period were critical), Geno scored a hatrick that included two impressive slappers from distance, and the most frustrating power play ever was 4-6 (even if the last one was an empty netter)! There were a lot of positives in this game, but it's always more interesting to look at the flaws.

One final note would be Pascal Dupuis getting checked into the boards late in the third causing a cut on his face and a pool of blood on the ice. Hopefully Pascal will be fine, but it was a scary moment and it makes you realize how easily that can happen on plays behind the net.

Dodging a Bullet

This is really good news. Clint Dempsey will not need surgery on his injured knee, which means he should return before the World Cup. As I said before, Clint is not always as spectacular for the US as he is for Fulham (part of that I think is due to positioning), but his loss would be a huge blow to the US in the World Cup Finals (this is a solid take on the situation). With projected starters Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu already questionable for the WC, this US team cannot afford to lose too many more guys, so consider us lucky for Deuce avoiding the knife.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pirate Tid Bits

According to the PBC Blog over at the PG, Zach Duke and the Pirates have agreed to a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration, which is always good. Duke made 2.2 million this past year, so I could see him getting around 3.8 mil this year, which is very good value, as he was a 2.5 WAR player this past year, which would hypothetically get him around 11 million if he were a free agent. Either way, it's just a technicality but it's always nice to avoid the arbitration process, as those can be nasty. I should have the official terms of the contract later. (UPDATE: terms of the deal are 4.3 million, more than I expected, but still a very fair deal).

But the more interesting news to me would be the addition of Brandon Jones off of waivers from the Braves. By itself, I'm always for adding someone with his pedigree (CHONE projects him as being a 1.7 WAR player this year), but he must take a spot on the 40-man roster, and that's where it gets tricky.

The Pirates already have guys like John Raynor, Brandon Moss, John Van Every, and Ryan Church to back up the projected starting OF of Milledge/McCutchen/G. Jones. Now maybe they don't think Jeff Clement will be ready to start at 1B by opening day, but even then, you have only one spot to fill in RF. Or maybe they don't have confidence in Milledge (like I do)... One things' clear, this most likely spells the end for John Raynor; as a rule 5 pick, Raynor has to stay on the 25-man roster most of the season, but (now) with the glut of options, I can't see him making the team and sticking around.

The Pirates will have to make room for Jones, which won't be easy either. They could return Raynor now, but I don't see that happening. They could make a trade like they did with Donnelly by shipping off Brian Bixler (Delwyn Young, Moss, Jakubauskus, or hopefully Ramon Vasquez). I could also see them remove one of the minor leaguers who they don't think will be claimed by another team (Claggett, Diaz). I think it's an interesting move though, as the Pirate's could have an extremely athletic OF of Milledge/McCutchen/B. Jones (coincidentally, all were Florida state HS stars). More later...

UPDATE: The Bucs designated Steven Jackson for assignment which makes room for Brandon Jones (actually Jones was already on the 40-man, while Ryan Church was actually added in this move). I don't really understand this as I think Claggett would make more sense since Jackson has actually proven he can pitch in relief at the ML level. Initially, there was talk of trading Jones immediately with someone else in order to make room on the 40-man, but that hasn't happened yet.

We'll have to wait and see, because something is not right here, although I hope the Pirates can hold onto Jackson, because he adds depth to the bullpen (but the more I look at his stats, he was a bit lucky last year and is probably nothing more than replacement level- he walked more than he struck out and his HR/FB % was an unsustainable 3.8. He could get better, but he will be 28 this year).

Tuesday Tony Pena's

Tony Pena was the Bucco's starting catcher for those fairly non-descript early-80's teams. He was a fan favorite while in Pittsburgh, beloved for his style behind the plate, which included his unique low, one-leg-out crouch, and also because he made it through the cocaine years unscathed.

He was surprisingly traded to the Cardinals in April of 1987 for Andy Van Slyke, Mike LaValliere, and Mike Dunne, a move that many long-time Pirate fans have compared to the Nate McClouth trade. Let's hope it turns out just as well- the Bucs ended up winning three consecutive NL East titles from 90-92 with AVS and LaValliere playing keys parts. One last fact about Pena, to heal sore arms, he would make a mixture of lamb grease and oil and apply it to the limb. Yummy.

Ron Cook thinks it's a good idea to resign Jeff Reed before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. And based on Cook's notion that the Steelers should have extended Willie Parker over Heath Miller, we should definitely listen to this guy. But seriously, I agree with the idea, although it's certainly not the number one priority, I would be working on extensions for LaMarr Woodley and Santonio Holmes first. But even back when Reed blew the game against the Bears, as everyone was cursing his name I thought it was the time to buy low and extend his contract. Now, with the apparent playoff kicking crisis, Reed's value has never been higher. But at that same time, kickers in the NFL have never been as accurate as they are now, and there are plenty of kickers available, so there's no reason to overpay like the Colts did with Adam Vinatieri.

The Steelers are on the verge of hiring a new ST coordinator, Al Everest. I know nothing about this guy, but that his contract was not renewed by the 49ers can't be a great sign. Although he was hired there by Mike Nolan, so it's probably more of a case of Singletary wanting his own guy. More to come later.

The Pens play the Islanders tonight, which as I said yesterday, is no gimme. Follow the game on the Empty Netters blog over at the PG, who has mercifully announced that neither John Curry or Alexander Perchuowksawitzoberger will be letting in softies... Brent Johnson will be doing that. Check out that sweet picture EN has of Ralph Macchio in Isles garb.

Deadspin received an interesting photo that has been circulating around UT's campus of Lane Kiffin and Mike Tomlin. I could care less about this stuff, but I know some of you Tomlin haters out there might like this.

My friend Trevor sent this along to me. Pretty disturbing stuff, don't watch the video right after you eat. This kid should fit in well with the Devils.

I'm sure you may have already seen this, but Greeny from Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN radio had a bit of a slip up yesterday. I'm sure it was an honest slip of the tongue, but Jebus, what a bad slip. Although, apparently it wasn't the first time.

And finally, a quick note on the new season of 24. If you didn't watch the back to back double episodes the last two nights, you didn't miss anything amazing. The cavalcade of actors from various roles we remember continues: Benjamin "Bubba" Blue plays the director of New York's CTU who is constantly wrong and a hard-ass; the hacky-sack dude from She's all That plays a CTU field agent who is dating the analyst with a sketchy past; Herc from The Wire plays the corrupt cop who is a total meat-head; Percy Wetmore from The Green Mile plays a creepy bad guy he does oh-so-well (also, is his character name in Green Mile a subtle attempt at comedy by Stephen King?); the host from Slumdog playing the promiscuous but peaceful president of a made up Middle Eastern country (what?); the President's brother who is played by an Arab Jason Schwartzman, but you knew was sketchy from the get-go because of his flavor saver; the Russian mob boss/terrorist played by General Radek from Air Force One (or Grandpapa from Beer Fest); and then in the preview for next week, we get the return of Lou Ashby from Californication as another Russian mobster. They really outdid themselves this season.

Other than that, the first 234 minutes of the season were just like any other season with betrayal, plot twists, and JB Paul-Bunyoning a terrorist with an Ax. The only development that makes the rest of the season worth watching is the complete transformation of Renee Walker into a nut-job, female version of Jack (circa seasons 1-3). I'm really looking forward to her going rogue and then pulling out some guy's tongue during an interrogation. Good times.

Donovan a Permanent Toffee

As I noted earlier, Landon Donovan recently said he could see himself extending his stay with Everton. There are some interesting aspects to a few of his quotes, especially regarding Bayern Munich. But what I want to do is look at whether or not this would be a good idea.

When the loan deal was announced, I was pretty fired up. Arguably the greatest American soccer player ever was coming to my favorite club. This is what I had to say then, and I stand by that, especially considering how well he has performed in his first two games. I thought he would do well because he is smart and productive. He wouldn't set the league on fire, but he'd fit in well with the likes of Pienaar, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov, and Osman.

The problem with Donovan on the international level, is that US fans expect him to be the focal point and for everything to run through him, but that's just not his game. He's much more suited as a complimentary player, playing on the flanks and attacking from the wings. The better the team, the more you appreciate his play; we saw this when Beckham came to LA, you saw it with the Confederation Cup team (never has so much skill been on a US squad), and you're seeing it with Everton; a team that has finished in the top 6 of arguably the best league in the world the past three years (Everton's table placement when Donovan joined them is not indicative of their talent level).

But I digress. Let me get back to the original question, would Donovan staying at Everton be good for him and the club? Let's look at it from Donovan's angle first. LD will be in his age 28 season for this upcoming World Cup and should be at his peak (athletically). So the 2014 WC will come when he is 32, at which point most athletes are on the down-side of their careers. I wish there was a place that compared soccer players the way baseball-reference does for baseball players, but how worse could he get from ages 28 to 32?

LD's never had any serious injuries and keeps himself in top shape. He will be on the wrong side of thirty, but the only aspect of his game that will digress over those years would be his pace, everything else has a chance to improve (and there is still room for improvement). Basically, the way I look at it is there's a good chance that by staying in Europe over the next four years, he will be a better player (performance wise) at age 32 than 28. Being in leagues (and possibly playing in European competitions) with more distinguished players, faster play, and more diversity will only help Donovan improve to the point where he is a better overall player in 2014. After '14 would be the time for him to come back to the States (or Mexico), and keep in form to play in the '18 WC as a 36 year old (at which point he will most likely be the super-sub Coby Jones type player).

As for Everton, it wouldn't hurt to have a guy of Donovan's capabilities on their roster over the next few years, but with youngsters like Jack Rodwell, Dan Gosling, Fellaini, and James Wallace on the roster and Mikel Arteta returning from injury, not to mention possible additions through the transfer window, it's not a given that Donovan will always have a spot in the starting 11.

I guess what I'm saying is that I think LD should stay in Europe even after this summer's World Cup, because it will benefit him and the US national team, but if loses his spot at Everton, or outgrows the club, he should move on. This is definitely the honeymoon period (when LD took corners this past Saturday, Everton fans showered him with chants of U-S-A), so there was bound to be this type of talk, but it's important to keep a long-term perspective on the situation. I would love to see LD and Everton grow together and he become a staple on the right flanks at Goodison, but it's just not that likely to happen.

Brian Bixler, We Hardly Knew Ye

Actually, we knew ye all too well. Bixler was another one of those terrible draft picks by Dave Littlefield who had no plate discipline whatsoever, but had a little pop and was fast. There were worse second round picks by DL (Ahem! Mike Felix), but Bixler was the one who was continually rammed down our throats as the replacement for Jack Wilson. All I have to say is in the past two years at the ML level, Bixler had 166 PA with 62 SO and 8 BB... That is extraordinarily awful (5% BB rate and a 40.8% K rate).

In so doing, the Pirates opened up a spot on the 40-man roster for new reliever Brendan Donnelly (read up on him here), and more unbelievably, get something interesting back from the Indians. Jesus Brito finished fifth among all minor leaguers by hitting .353. My work has already been done for me at BucsDugout, who looks at the deal as a steal. My take is: yes, he was a little old for his leagues and he doesn't have a position, but he has room to fill out and he has excellent plate discipline. All in all, I just pray he makes it all the way to Pittsburgh so we can make tee shirts that say, "Nobody fucks with the Jesus."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Mundy's

Did you know that Mundy was an all-American wide receiver at Woodland Hills, where his quarterback was current Arizona Cardinal Steve Breaston? What a ridiculous pairing. As bad as Mundy looked this year, he's still relatively young (going into his age 25 season) and could act as a good place holder for Ryan Clark's spot until another option can be groomed for the position. That is, as long as Troy stays healthy. After this year, I truly believe that Polamalu could make me look good opposite him at safety.

A lot happened this weekend, with the highlight obviously being the Pitt game against Louisville, one for the ages. As I said on my quick weekend post, Pitt was pretty lucky due to Louisville missing it's FT toward the end of regulation. But after reading up on the game and thinking about it a little more, Pitt played a pretty good game, as they dominated the boards, shot pretty well from the floor and the line, and did a decent job on defense. Louisville played a hell of a game as well, so I'll give Pitt a bit more credit now than I did immediately after the game.

Another huge game against Georgetown on Wednesday. The only time I've seen the Hoyas in action was when they had that huge comeback win against UConn at home (by the way, thanks to UConn for losing this weekend to a mediocre Big Ten team in Michigan and weakening the Big East's reputation, way to go). Austin Freeman can really shoot, and they play the Princeton-style offense where it's a free flowing motion with a a lot of back door cuts. Monroe really did not impress me in that game; he looked lazy and uninterested, although he still has all the physical gifts to dominate a game. The McGhee-Monroe match-up will be an interesting one, as the two sit on opposite ends of the big man spectrum.

The Pens lost 6-2 on Saturday night, and it was all John Curry's fault (9 saves on 14 shots). Actually, no one played all that well. The two highlights as I remembered them were Geno finally scoring a goal, and 19-year old Alexander Pechurski coming out of nowhere (actually, he comes from Geno's hometown in Russia) and providing some unintentional comedy. His goalie helmet consisted of just a few Penguins stickers that anyone might get at the Pens' Station store in the Igloo, and the fact that he looks like he is 14. All in all, not a bad road trip for the 'Guins considering where they were when they left Pittsburgh. Next game is on Tuesday against the up and coming Isles, a team that beat Detroit 6-0 last week, and just beat the Devils today 5-0. This isn't your typical Islanders team.

The PensBlog looks at Rob Rossi's newest article and raises the question of whether Pittsburgh journalists hold it against European players for their broken English. Their answer is yes, and they back it up quite convincingly. As someone who has interviewed foreign speaking athletes before, it's definitely not easy and tougher to get interesting content. But that's part of the job, deal with it.

If it were not for the late game yesterday, that could have been the most boring round of playoff games in years. Three blowouts, and then finally an awesome game from the Chargers and Jets. Out of this final four, I would most like to see the Jets play against the Saints in the Super Bowl, but we'll see where the lines are come Friday. I don't know what to think of this Jets team. They are very similar to the Steelers in '04, but Sanchez doesn't even come close to BB as a rookie, and I'm afraid that if the Colts take a decent lead (10+ points) against them, Sanchez will not have the ability to make the plays necessary to come back. But I don't want to bet against this Jets defense either; and how good is Derrelle Revis?

I just hope both games next Sunday are more competitive, because it's hard to justify spending three and a half hours (per game) this weekend when you're only really watching about thirty minutes of action.

This is quite scary. Clint Dempsey may not always play as well for the US as he does for Fulham, but he's playing the best soccer right now (including an amazing bicycle kick that hit the cross-bar on Saturday) out of any US player. I really hope the injury isn't long-term, because his skill would be tough to replace at the World Cup this summer.

The Pirates ended a fairly insignificant mini-camp, and the PBC Blog has all the coverage you need to get your Bucco's fix. The biggest thing that caught my eye was Lastings Milledge showing up in excellent shape. Every team has these types of stories, and it doesn't always translate into that player having a great year. But as for Milledge, with way he ended last season, this is really a pivotal up coming year in which he establishes himself as either an average player (2 WAR), or an above average caliber guy (3+ WAR). I'm of course hoping for the latter, but he is on my shortlist of breakout candidates (along with Andy LaRoche). In other parts, Titletahn takes apart another terrible national article written on the Pirates.

This is a nice little recap on Everton's dismantling of Manchester City this past Saturday. It was really a dominating effort, with Donovan playing well again. I'll have a longer post later on this subject, especially considering his thoughts on a permanent move, but in the meantime, check out these extended highlights which include most of LD's touches.

And how can I not mention the Steelers at least once. For all of you Tomlin haters out there, just stop. And Cotter over at OFTOT looks at the Steelers' coaching carousel.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Lucky, lucky, bastards.

Pitt pulled one out. And Everton put the screws to Man City 2-0. No to mention that CofC is winning by 11 at halftime. Good times all around.

Before the games start, here are my picks. I like AZ +7 and Ravens 6.5. JS

Also, if you need to laugh, check this out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Freddy Sanchez's

Freddy was born with a pigeon-toed left foot and a clubbed right foot. Now that, my good friends, is perseverance.

The Pensblog looks at last night's solid "come from behind" win against the Oilers. Apparently Charlie got kind of excited based on the banner.

The Buccos are on the verge of signing Octavio Dotel, I'll wait to hear what the terms of the deal are before I render an initial opinion. But in the meantime, a different Charlie looks at the deal over at BucsDugout.

I mentioned them in an earlier post, but if you haven't purchased Vampire Weekend's new album Contra, do yourself a favor and go to iTunes and spend the $10. If you don't trust my word, check out what the New York Times has to say about it. "California English" and "White Sky" are two my early favorites.

Everton have sold Lucas Neill for a bit of money (750k Euros), which I think is a good deal considering they got him on a free transfer. But like David Moyes, I am a little concerned over who might replace him. Like the link says, there are good options the will be ready to step in next month, but what to do in the meantime? Shane Duffy looked really good when he had to step in during the Europa League, but he is just 18. It's important that they don't invest too heavily since they have so little time before Jagielka and Yobo will be back soon.

I have already provided two links regarding the Steelers' new offensive line coach, but here is a third more comprehensive one put together by Blitzburgh over at BTSC. I didn't realize how important this hire is, and I hope a lot of work was put into it, at least more than it seems based on how quickly they hired a replacement. My buddy Kass and I have been discussing the Big Ben/O-line debate under the Pens Flames post, and I dug up a couple of different links that might interest some of you. Check it out if this sounds intriguing and join the discussion if you'd like. I would like to see more people use the comments section to voice their opinions on subjects, so we can get a pretty good dialogue going here, or at least be able to call Peyton Manning a "pussy."

Pens 3 Oilers 2

If you're an Oilers' fan right now, you have to be asking yourself, "What the hell just happened?" How did they blow the break away, and two-on-one to begin the third period? If they score on one of those, the game is pretty much over. How did they shut out a PP including Malkin and Crosby, but then let up a goal to the vaulted Staal/Cooke/Kennedy line? How did they let that line single handily beat them? How did they let a team that was pretty much stagnant for the first forty minutes, completely dominate for the last 20?

Say what you want about this one, but the Oilers' lost this one more than the Pens won this one. Don't get me wrong, the Pens deserve credit for not-giving up, and playing tough/smart hockey after being down by 2-0. But man, I'd be dissapointed right now if I was an Oilers' fan right now.

But as a Penguins fan, I'll take it. A few thoughts.

Malkin played a hell of a game, even though he was held scoreless. Despite taking a dumb boarding penalty that led to a 2-man advantage which eventually led to a goal, Geno was all over the ice setting up chances and causing havoc. He was held pointless, but still earned the third star from the media. A huge step forward for Mean Gene, and if he builds on it, the points will come.

MAF let up a pretty soft second goal, but it was a PP nonetheless. But as I mentioned earlier, he kept the Guins in the game with a couple huge stops early in the third (for the second time in two nights). He stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced despite playing for the second time in 28 hours. Way to put a bad stretch behind him. Viva la Flower.

How big has Dupes been this year? He got another goal tonight (the game winner), which he certainly deserved. He went full tilt into the boards, knocking the puck loose for Staal to collect, and then positioned himself in front of the net for the puck to take a (lucky, but well earned) bounce off of him and into the net. A fine example of how to earn a goal.

The third line... what more needs to be said.

Road wins are road wins, it doesn't matter against who or how we get them. Solid win.

Check out Empty Netters for the live blog and eventually, highlights.

Here's another link about the Steelers' new hire
. It shed's a little more light on the situation as compared to my earlier post.

For now, I gotta catch up on some JS.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pens 3 Flames 1

Big win for the 'Guins. MAF really stepped up and delivered when we needed one. It wasn't picture perfect, but it didn't have to be, especially considering it was on the road against a tough opponent.

As I mentioned, MAF was huge, stopping 37 shots while letting only one get by him, which you can peg on the penalty kill, who were completely dominated for about a minute and a half, before the Flames finally buried a shot set up by a cross-rink pass. But the biggest play of the game was the Flower's save on Nigel Dawes' breakaway right out of the box in the third period. If Dawes scores there, the game would be tied and that arena would have blown up. Just a huge save.

Sid continued his spectacular play, scoring the opening goal on another powerful move to the goal. He also set the screen for the game winning second goal (give credit to Bill Geurin's presence in front of the net as well... actually credit was given as he must have tipped the puck because he was given credit for the goal).

On the power play, the Pens have reluctantly returned Malkin to the right side and moved Sid closer to the net, positions that benefit both of them. It did Malkin no good to put him on the left side, where his position completely neutralized his powerful slapper, while Sid, whose shot is much improved from previous seasons, is still much more suited to be near the net, where he can use his fantastic eye-hand coordination and quick hands to redirect shots and find rebounds. Let's hope they stick to this configuration in the upcoming games.

Geno still didn't play as well as we should expect, but he drew a few penalties and wasn't quite the turn over machine he has been the last few weeks. As simple as it sounds, one goal could do wonders to his confidence and really lift him out of this funk he's been in.

The third line continues to be the picture of stability they've always been. It's nice to know that every shift they come out for, you're guaranteed a solid minute of checking, defense, and puck cycling. They put the game out of reach late in the third with a nifty take away by Jordan Staal and feed to TK out front, who showed patience with the puck by waiting for the goalie to overreact and then burying the puck far-side.

All in all, a very solid effort from the Pens, although one would hope they limit the opponents opportunities a little more scarcely this evening, when they face the Oilers at 9:30.

The Pirates signed D.J. Carrasco to a one year deal, but since it's a minor league contract, he won't count to the 40-man roster... yet. It will be interesting to see who they remove from that 40-man when the time comes (my guess would Anthony Claggett, Brian Bixler, or John Raynor/Brandon Moss/Delwyn Young- whoever doesn't make the team). Either way, Carrasco is a good sign; he generates ground balls, prevents HR, and has a decent k/bb rate- a good combination for a reliever.

In the meantime, ESPN's Rob Neyer has some good things to say (on top of the good things FanGraphs had to say) about the Ryan Church signing.

The Steelers hired a new offensive line coach, one Sean Kugler. I wonder if he can teach Ben how to get rid of the ball earlier, or would that be the the QB coach's job? Or... throw the damn ball, Ben!

Pitt 67 UConn 57

Ron Cook can suck it. Please Ron, keep doubting, because apparently people are noticing. If Geno pops off for an HT tonight, I'll start a campaign for a Dapper Dan award.

Quick thoughts. Gary McGhee played very well tonight, both on defense and the glass, he was due for a solid performance and I'm glad to see him get it. Wannamaker was trying to do too much early in the season, but when he sticks to the basics and gets to the rim, he performs at a much more consistent level (and 9/10 at the line was huge). Gibbs played well again, as UConn clearly made him their number one priority, which Gibbs handled appropriately by letting the game come to him and not forcing anything (I can't blame him for missing that FT towards the end, it's the law of averages that he has to miss eventually). Taylor and Woodall were non-existent, but this can be expected from time to time due to their lack of experience (although I would prefer that it didn't occur on the same night). Unfortunately this put too much of the load on the other six players, and it showed with the progression in both halves (Pitt came out flying in the first eight minutes, then hit a funk from minutes 12-6, but finished the strong).

I'll have more to say later, but there's one final point that I'd like to make. Tonight was the first time I didn't feel like Pitt was playing with house money when they had the lead. During both the 'Cuse and Cinci games, I never felt completely comfortable when Pitt was leading. I always felt like it was only a matter of time before the lead evaporated, or even worse, a deficit might be built. Maybe it was just because I had watched too much of the ugly/non-conference Pitt, that I couldn't believe they would be able to stick with those teams on their court, let alone hold a consistent lead (I came to minor epiphany a few hours after the game; I think part of my hesitancy comes from the after-effects of the 'Nova game last year. I still can't believe they lost that game). But Pitt thoroughly outplayed UConn tonight (check out the game game flow chart), and they deserved to win. I could get used to this.

And to make things even better, Dejuan had what Jay Bilas likes to call, a "man night." 28 and 21 (10 offensive). A good night all around for Pitt hoops.

A few more thoughts:

How good is Jerome Dyson? He just took over in the last 12 minutes. The Panthers could do almost nothing against the pick and roll they kept running. The only time they defused it was when Gibbs stole the ball and then drew a foul on top of it. Gibbs defense has been something that has flown a little under the radar, especially when you consider he committed just his first foul in forever.

Pitt needs to improve it's transition defense, of which I think the most important part is getting men back in the paint first. There were too many missed jump shots that lead to fast-break points for the Huskies.

This was probably Jermaine Dixon's worst game I've seen since he got back from injury. He couldn't get a jumper to fall, didn't look comfortable or confident, had trouble with Dyson and Walker all night, and then almost blew the game when he missed that free throw and then layup with a little more than a minute left. Just not a good game, but I have confidence he'll bounce back.

Why does Nasir Robinson keep shooting threes? He does so many other things well (particularly the fundamentals), but he keeps on insisting that he take these wild shots. And it's not like it goes unpunished, as soon as he bricks one, he is immediately taken out. He's got an ugly looking shot too. Hopefully Jamie will break him of this habit, before it costs us more than just a groan.

What a fortunate way to end the first half. Momentum had shifted completely with the crowd back into it and Pitt looking a complete mess on their last offensive possession, only to have Gibbs bail us out like the houses of Congress. And then UConn slams it home right after the buzzer. That's a four point swing that could have made the score at halftime 30-31 Huskies, instead of 32-29 Pitt.

As I said earlier, I thought Pitt was going to blow it at the end after Dixon missed that FT, but thank God UConn was just as sloppy. That last minute of play was a clinic on how not to finish a close conference game.

How bad was Fran Fraschilla? I didn't learn a single thing from that broadcast... all but for Broken Play Ability (BPA). Thanks for coming up with the most irrelevant acronym ever. He got one thing right, which was about transition defense, although he would not let it go and harped on it continually. Now you know why I hoped for Jay Bilas.

What a break to have the game in Hartford. That place is like a Church Christening compared to Storrs. If I was UConn, I'd much rather play the have-not's in Hartford (teams like USF, DePaul, Rutgers) and leave the big boys for Storrs.

When was the last time Pitt hit at 85% from the foul-line with a minimum of 20 trips? Unreal, good for us.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Sid/Geno Debate

The key to this post, is to point out that there shouldn't be a debate. I started thinking about this while I was listening to Mark Madden on the radio, and he was discussing the debate about who is better. His point was to say that Sid is clearly playing better right now, and he believes that Sid is the better player overall, because even when he is in a point drought, he's doing the other little things that he can control (back-checking, grinding, leading, etc.), while when Geno has a point slump, the rest of his game goes down hill as well. I don't know if I completely agree with MM, as I think Geno is still one of the better turnover defenders in the NHL despite losing his scoring tough, but it's clear that he does try harder when the points aren't dropping, which leads to the simple mistakes. But the more important point Madden made, was that they are both great players, and it does us no good to put one down just to build the other one up.

I liked the way that sounded. Especially for us fans; little good can come out of this debate as a supporter. We should be pulling for both of them, and hoping they rank as the numbers 1 and 1a players in the world. There's nothing wrong with pointing out the flaws in a player's game, but a fan should not feel joy in seeing those flaws manifest themselves. I guess there is also nothing wrong with being a fan of a singular player (as Madden is with Big Ben), but if you're going to do that, then don't call yourself a Penguins' fan (just as Madden doesn't call himself a Steelers' fan).

I think this is what bothered so many people about Ron Cook's column, it's stirring up a lot of unnecessary conversation, and it's pitting Penguins' fans against each other. I guess Cook was just doing his job, which is to voice his opinion through his column (no matter how terrible he is at doing so). Again, I'm not going to get into why I disagree with the column, but I think Pens' fans should not buy into the debate (and I think that for the most part, no one takes Cook seriously- the guy has been to exactly one Pens game this season). I know I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I hope no one feels the need to root for one player or the other, but for the entire team. Let us hope that the Pens come out tonight and score a few Geno-Sid goals, and we can all tell Cook to STF.

On another note, I found this little tidbit to be quite compelling. Say what you want about Ovie, but I think this proves a few things: he is still a cheap-shot artist and will eventually end up costing someone their season with his knee-on-knee hits, he is too good of a player to be fighting, and he is still one tough SOB. Although, as the link points out, Sid is too good of a player to be fighting as well, but that has never stopped him from dropping the mitts. And to be quite honest, I would be pissed if someone pulled a Bradley and flew in like his mother. The point is, next time you hear a Caps fan call Sid a pus, just pull up this.

Wednesday Wendell Young's

The only cool thing I could find on the great Wendell Young, he is the only hockey player to have won a Memorial Cup (in 1982 with the Kitchener Rangers), a Calder Cup (with the 1988 Hershey Bears), a Turner Cup (with the 1998 and 2000 Chicago Wolves), and a Stanley Cup(with the 1991 and 1992 Penguins). That's a lot of hardware. Good for him.

Look out Sandcastle, there's a new center for disease in town. I'm just looking forward to the people watching.

Huge night in Pittsburgh Sports, as the Panthers take on UConn in Hartford, CT (much easier place to play than in Storrs) at 7 pm and it will be on ESPN2 (I'm hoping for Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas). The last time the Panthers were in Hartford, Dejuan Blair almost ripped off Hasheem Thabeet's arm like it was a Zach Snyder movie:

Then the Pens take on the Calgary Flames in Calgary at 9:38 pm. I just want to see a solid game from the Pens, which will be tough against a good team like the Flames. Score a PP goal, no soft goals, cycle the puck, and please get Geno a few points. I don't ask for much... Follow the game at the Empty Netters Blog over at the PG.

I found this last night and thought it was pretty funny:

How does no one catch that?

As everyone already knows, Lane Kiffin used the University of Tennessee like the lonely girl at the after-prom party. I'm pretty sure most UT fans are still crying, balled up on the floor of their shower- well either that or defacing a rock with profanities. I don't blame Kiffin, it's a free country, but this just solidifies his reputation as a bit of a scum bag, so he'll fit right in at USC- as will that smoke-show wife of his.

What a reunion! Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weiss, and Scott Paoli are all together again in Kansas City. My initial reaction is that I like Todd Haley, and Weiss is a hell of an offensive coordinator and professional eater. But Crennel never really impressed me. Belichick and Ernie Adams are the brains behind those great Pat defenses of the early 2000s, Crennel seemed to have just taken the credit, and Cleveland's defense under Romeo was never that special. Should be an interesting dynamic in KC.

As I said before, sometimes seeing the other guys stumble is more satisfying than seeing your guys succeed. At Anfield, to a Championship team, losing Torres & Gerrard to injury in the process... wow, just wow.

Ryan Church

Dude played for the Expos, how can you not appreciate that? A lot has already been said throughout Pirate Blogdom (John Sparrow, BucsDugout, Bucco Fans, WHYGAVS) on this signing.

My thoughts, much like all of my opinions, are a combination of my initial reaction, and other people's more well-thought out beliefs. Apparently, Church was signed to be the primary back up in the outfield, which isn't a terrible idea, but if Garrett Jones is our full-time RF, then I don't see the point. Jones is a dreadful fielder in RF, although he could improve, because he has the speed to get to more balls- perhaps he just needs more experience. But the defense would be much better with Church and his 14.2 UZR/150 in RF, and Jones in a fairly insignificant spot at first-base. Is Jeff Clement that much better of a hitter than Church to offset the difference in defense between Church and Jones? I don't think so.

On top of that, none of those guys can hit left-handed pitching well, which makes it necessary to have John Raynor, Brandon Moss, or Steve Pearce around to play against lefties (Moss has a reverse split). But there are not enough roster spots, especially if the Bucs plan on keeping 12 pitchers and just six bench bats. Depth is a good thing, because you never know what might happen (look at what happened to the Mets last year), but with the way it is now, they are going to have to think about trading away Moss or Clement, because they still have value in that they are young/cheap/above replacement level. I think the Pirates will go into Spring Training with open competition for the RF/1B spot (I'm pulling for Church/Jones), and the odd man out will (hopefully) get traded for something of value.

For the money, Church is good value whether he is an everyday guy, or just a 4th OF.

This is the most interesting thing I could dig up about Church, he doesn't have a problem dating members of the chosen people, but he does have questions about them.

On another note, the MLB didn't give the business to the Buccos about spending more money on payroll like they did to the Marlins earlier. As much as most people like to claim that the Pirates are pocketing all the revenue sharing money they get from the Sox and Yanks, this is another hole in that argument.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What the hell happened?

I leave for 36 hours to rip up the slopes like Reid Janssens, and all hell breaks loose. Actually, only a few things happened. Here's my take on those topics, and a few other links from Sunday/Monday.

First is La Big Mac and his admittance. It was only a matter of time, and I guess this is not surprising at all. It's like the opposite of the Tiger Woods scandal, and just for that reason, it won't be news for that long, as every one saw this coming. My thoughts... what already hasn't been said? I thought his apology was lame and it reeked of excuses, but at the same time, I think it was his genuine reaction. But it was pretty obvious that this would have to happen because he was coming back into MLB as the Cardinals' hitting coach, which makes him look worse, as it really was not up to him. It wasn't like if Roger Clemens came out of seclusion for no reason and admitted to taking PEDs. I guess some credit is due, because it was his decision to come back into baseball, but I would have a lot more respect for him if he would have said this five years ago, or even one year ago. The only other part of his remarks that really irked me was the whole "Steroids don't help you have that eye-hand coordination" part. Yes, that is true, but steroids help every other factor when you are swinging a bat. Congrats, you can hit a major league fastball, but how far would that ball go if it were not for PEDs? You were not a fighter jet pilot, you were a major league hitter... and you cheated.

Update: Somehow, I missed McGwire's assertion that steroids did not help him at the plate, just in the trainer's room. I don't think there is anyone other than Mark McGwire who actually thinks that is true. It's ridiculous, and I feel insulted that he would try and feed that to the public. I've never read anywhere else that steroids don't improve one's strength, and in turn, a baseball swing. It's quite obvious that either Big Mac is in total denial or not telling the whole truth- my guess would be a combination of the two.

Second Update: I read a reaction from Deadspin that made me rethink how I look at the whole thing (for all the guff that Deadspin gets for running it's site like TMZ, every now and then they can surprise you with some well thought-out commentary). This is the part I really liked:
People say they want steroid users to be honest, but that's not really true at all. They want McGwire to say that he agrees with them, even if he doesn't mean it. They would prefer that he lie to validate their own viewpoint, rather than say what he truly believes. It's not about an accounting for crimes against baseball. It's about creating consensus, so we can end the argument.
I think there's some truth to that, and I'll be the first to admit that I wanted McGwire to admit that steroids were responsible for his records because I think that's the truth, and validation is what everyone wants in their own beliefs. But there is another side to the argument, and I should at least respect that. Although I would like to see a valid argument from that angle before I can even take that view into account. But one final question, do you think McGwire was telling the truth, that steroids didn't help him hit HRs?

The Pens lost last night, and while I only got to listen to the final 25 minutes on the radio (Lange and the old-29er were a breath of fresh air), it sounded like a terrible game played by the 'guins. 0-6 on the PP, including almost two minutes of 5-3 play that led to nothing, and MAF let in four goals in just 24 shots... not good. I also got a few emails regarding Ron Cook's terrible column from Sunday. I'll let the PensBlog do the work for me.

Pitt basketball is in the top 20 in both polls, and they have a huge game against UConn coming up on Wednesday. The Huskies are coming off a terrible loss to Georgetown on Saturday, a game in which they were leading by as much as 18 in the second half but forgot how to play defense in the last 16 minutes. Pitt has not played in 10 days, so this should be a good game either way. I cannot state enough, how important the return of Gil Brown and Jermaine Dixon have been to this team. Having them play the minutes that Dwight Miller and Chase Adams would have has turned this team from NIT to NCAA bound.

The Buccos are on the verge of signing Ryan Church. I like this signing a lot, because he is a cheaper and comparable player to Rick Ankiel. The key is him staying healthy, but if he does, he will provide a great glove in right, and also something the Pirates really struggle at... drawing walks. I will have a longer post about this later.

Nothing says, "You'll never walk alone" like "blow me ****face." No matter what happens to Everton this season, it might be just as enjoyable to watch Liverpool completely self-destruct. This is why rich Americans should not buy European football teams, leave that to rich Saudi Princes.

BoMo hockey beat Miami (OH) again this weekend to complete the sweep of the #1 team in the country (enjoy that while it lasts Red Hawks). Let's go, Bobby Mo!

More links later... Maybe.

Oh, yeah, Charles Woodson stole the Defensive Player of the Year award from Fightin' Quip almuni Derrelle Revis, a guy who once asked me during a basketball game, "You got beef? I'll grind." Woodson made more big plays with the sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, and TD's, but Revis was the more valuable player, all you have to do is look at how other teams #1 receivers fared against the Jets. I'm probably bias (correction, I am biased), but I would have rather had Revis this year (could have happened, Revis > Timmons), than Woodson. Another thing to kick around in the old noggin', if you want to talk about value, how valuable was Troy to the Steelers' defense? This valuable.

Also, word from Seven Springs was that Steelers' human resources representative Ben Roethlisberger and his posse (including Steelers' players Brett Keisel, Max Starks, and Willie Colon) were partying at the Foggy Goggle and Matterhorn (the finest bars Seven Springs have to offer) this weekend. The good news, Ben is still a good tipper (he tipped a security guard a c-note for escorting him from the Goggle to the Matterhorn). The bad news, our $100 million quarterback parties at third-tier resorts. If I were him, I would be in Aspen, or Lake Tahoe... wait, scratch that last one.

CofC followed up their mammoth win against UNC with a solid win against rivals The Citadel. This puts them at 4-0 in the conference and the only undefeated team left in the SoCon. It really does not matter, because the Cougars are not getting in the tournament without winning the conference tourney as they already have six non-conference losses, but it's nice to see them beat The Citadel after being swept by them last year. I would like to see the minutes spread out a little bit more, as it's a long season and as I said, the Southern Conference Tourney is where the games really count.

The rust belt was left out of the US's bid for the 2018 World Cup bid
. Pittsburgh, Cincinatti, and Cleveland were all left off the list, while Indianapolis and Baltimore made the cut. I had issues with some of the other cities, including leaving Chicago off the list, but more importantly, I would not have included any venues that have field turf. Unfortunately, it's about selling seats and boxes, not about the actual play on the field.