The Pirates at the All Star Break

 

Greetings from the All Star break.

Sitting in 4th place in a throughly disappointing division the Pirates currently have a 42-47 record.  What started as a promising season was quickly derailed through injury, suspension, and visa issues with the Korean government.  Now the Buccos must look to shape their roster for the future, with the goal of getting a head start on competing in the 2018 season.

Their first opportunity will be the upcoming trade deadline.

At the heart of the trade discussion is face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen, in his 9th major league season, heating up after a harsh start to 2017.

The truth is it is impossible to say whether or not trading Cutch is a good or bad decision without knowing who the Pirates would get in return, making the definite opinions of fellow Pirates fans be it pro or con fairly ridiculous.

To keep McCutchen is to have your veteran leader in tact for the 2018 run, it is to keep a wary fan base appeased, it is to finally shed the small market malaise and commit to paying an icon.

The Pirates can pick up McCutchen’s $14.75 million option and have him in place for the upcoming season, allowing them the time to secure Cutch for the remainder of his career on a team friendly contract.  While his best years are behind him, he still provides value. His WAR his plateaued to 2+ and while that is nowhere near the 7+ level he enjoyed in the five-year span in which he was an all-star and the 4 years in which he was a top 5 vote getter for the NL MVP it is still a solid output.

While I am not one who believes the Pirates should pay for either sentimentalism nor past performance if there ever was a scenario in which it was appropriate I would have to believe this to be it.

The counterpoint to keeping Cutch is much more based on performance and efficiency.  The fact is that he is past his prime and the Pirates cannot be weighed down by his contract as they try to shape a second run to the World Series in the Huntington era.  In short it makes total sense to trade McCutchen.  Except this one little thing… there is really no one to trade him to.

The team most often mentioned is the Washington Nationals who showed strong interest in McCutchen over the past winter meetings.  However, in trading for Adam Eaton the Nats sent most of their valuable assets to the White Sox.  They also mostly eliminated their long-term need in center field.

So instead lets look at the Dodgers, the ever spending fountain of cash and prospects that currently reside atop the ultra competitive NL West.  During the winter meetings the Dodgers were reported to be willing to include prospects Cody Bellinger or Jose de Leon in a package for McCutchen.  Looking back having Bellinger on the team would give the Pirates a power bat in the outfield for the upcoming decade.  Given his early career success it is all too likely that Bellinger is a no go in any deal for McCutchen.

However McCutchen’s ability to improve on the Dodgers main offensive weakness, their inability to hit lefties, makes him valuable.  If the Pirates could land some pitching prospects and a bench outfielder maybe this would be worth looking at.

As for other teams the Yankees seem like a fit, but what would they be willing to give away being that they are technically in a rebuilding year?

The Rangers showed interest but said on the record that the Pirate asking price was far too high.

So where should we look?  Perhaps the best fit is the Seattle Mariners.  Fighting for a wild card spot perhaps Seattle would be willing to lose some prospects for a chance to go at it this year and deepen their outfield greatly with McCutchen.

Lets just say they were to offer RHP Andrew Moore (#4 ranked prospect), Millersville product Brandon Miller RHP (#16 ranked prospect), and Outfielder Boog Powell (4th outfielder).  Would that do it?

So what would I do with Cutch in the end?  

If you can’t find a package of pitchers than I would highly suggest keeping him for next year.  Of course seeing him go for nothing brings back memories of the Barry Bonds departure that shipwrecked the Buccos for two decades.  However times have changed, and making a solid run in 2018 may be worth the possibility that Cutch walks for nothing.

What about Gerrit Cole?

I’ll make it short, the Pirates aren’t going to trade Cole in season.  Expect that move to come in December.

So if the Buccos are to keep Cutch what should they do at the deadline?

First off:  David Freese, Juan Nicasio, and Tony Watson all have value and no place in our future.  All three should go for pieces that can be of value next season.

David Freese to the Red Sox has been widely reported and makes total sense.  If the Sox strike out on a top tier third baseman (Todd Frazier) Freese is a quality get.  While some seem to believe this trade should net an undervalued prospect I feel as if this should bring back a piece for next year’s bench.

Also, if any team would give you anything for Jaso send him.  He may be the best bass player from a third wave ska band to play in the majors, but he is simply in the way.  Also removing him from the equation means that ol’ Clint Hurdle will start going with young guys at the end of the game to give them experience rather than letting old dread juice eat up valuable late game at bats.

 

What the Pirates need in return:

A leadoff hitter, an outfielder, PITCHING.

They may not be able to get what the need with what they are willing to give, but clearing the way and getting rid of dead weight could go far towards being successful next season.

Some thoughts from my dad:

Charlie B thinks that the Pirates should use the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training to turn Jose Osuna into a third baseman.

I think that Osuna is definitely a pretty solid weapon off the bench, however his defense is less than ass.  Also, I feel as if he may be completely unable to slide.  This makes me think that he cannot bend over to be a real third baseman.

However, if he can field the position at least near average it would give Osuna even more value.  It seems clear that Osuna has earned himself a spot on the Buccos, just not at first, his real position.  Maybe third base is a step in the correct decision.

Is anyone untouchable?

In reality anyone can be traded if the price is right.  Looking at the current roster it seems that there are very few people who can be labeled “untouchable.”  McCutchen is being actively shopped.  Marte is perhaps our best position player, but has seen his value drop dramatically due to his PED suspension.  Cole is never going to resign long-term given his agent and as good as Taillon is his injury past would make it hard to turn down a solid package.

That leaves just one player:  Josh Bell

bell

Switch hitting power bats don’t come along as often as one would think and the Pirates have seemed to land their first baseman of the future.  This is a team that may not have had a real first baseman since Willie Stargell.  Three decades of the Adam LaRoches, Brad Eldreds, and Daryle Wards of the world.

It is entirely possible that Kevin Young’s steroid years where the best by a Pirate at first base since pops left.  It has most definitely been a problematic position.

So why would you trade the first real deal in a lifetime?  Once again there is a price for everyone.  I just feel as if it would have to be ridiculously high to get the Buccos to part ways with Bell.

 

 

 

The Pitt vs. Penn State Rivalry and Other Things Best Left in the Past

I helped the Pitt Panthers defeat the Penn State Nittany Lions for the national championship in 1994.  I was Eleven.

It was played in the stadium made up of both my parents and the neighbors backyards.  I rolled out from intense pressure and threw my neighbor Johnny Lavia the game winning pass in the corner of the end zone.  He had to dive around my neighbors tree to haul it in.

Funny thing is that just two weeks later we both defeated Penn State to win the NCAA basketball tournament, which that year was played in his parents backyard.  He was the starting shooting guard that made the last second shot under pressure and I was the power forward who tipped it in for the win.

We played for Pitt and we played against Penn State because that was the rivalry, and even though it was no longer the year’s marquee game of the eastern football schedule we were surrounded by family members and neighbors who remembered when it was.

I remember the last Pitt/Penn State game at Three Rivers Stadium. Yes, THAT Three Rivers Stadium.  Pitt won 12-0.  It was a weird game.

A freshman at Pitt or Penn State would have been 2 years old when it occurred.  The rivalry hadn’t been meaningful for a solid decade before that.  Perhaps that is why this current version of the rivalry feels slightly meaningless.

The kidz don’t know their history.

I remember sitting at old Pitt Stadium when my cousin Mark would take me to games in the mid to late 90’s.  I remember singing along with the thousand deep student section as they changed the words to the Pitt Fight song so that it said “Freshmen suck! Penn State sucks!  P E N N S T SUCKS!”

It really didn’t make much sense.  They hundreds of kids that make up the current student section don’t sing it anymore.

Pitt Penn State Pitt Stadium 1998
A view of a sold-out Pitt Stadium for the Pitt-Penn State game in 1998. (John Beale/Post-Gazette)

Let’s get to the point…….

The rivalry is never going to be what it used to be, because for very different reasons neither Pitt or Penn State will ever be what it used to be.

Continue reading The Pitt vs. Penn State Rivalry and Other Things Best Left in the Past

Donny from up the street has died

 

I grew up in suburban Pittsburgh on a dead end street lined by trees.  It ventured downhill steeply and then leveled off before ending at a cliff that again fell sharply and then terraced down to Little Pine Creek.  I lived right there at the end of Braun Street. I lived there until I went away to college and then a few times more.  My parents still live there.  It is my home base.

In the middle of the street, on the same side, was a house just a little older than the others where Donny Dankmyer spent his entire life.

He was born there; he returned from Korea there; he spent the rest of his life there.

To some Donny Dankmyer was a war buddy, to some a family member, and to some he was the cantankerous old man in the RV who liked to walk the track behind the intermediate school.

To the kids on Braun Street he was Donny from up the street. The old man who sat on his porch, often with no shirt, and joked with us.

He was a great man.

He was simple.  He was kind.  He cared about his neighbors.

Donny Dankmyer died without fanfare.

Just as simple as his life was his end, a small ceremony on a Thursday in the Mt. Royal Mausoleum at 11 AM.  No visitations.

He spent his life at the center of Braun Street, both physically and figuratively.

It was always his home base.  It was the place he prayed to return to when he was half away around the world as teenager experiencing first hand the true horror of war.

He played many roles.  Though he lived his whole life on one street he was a traveler who saw much of the U.S.   He was a lifelong bachelor.  In later years he was a reminder of a previous time.

He was the historian of Braun Street.  He saw the whole thing happen.  He knew exactly who was who, when was when, and what was what.

Most of all he was an individual.

We always got along.

In the elementary school years he would hide behind his screen door just visible enough to be slightly seen and use an old train whistle to startle me as I passed his house on my way home from the bus stop on Mt. Royal.  I would look around and he would do it again, but louder, as if the train was coming at me.

Then he would laugh and open the door and come out onto the porch and ask me how my day went.  We would talk for a minute or two and I would go home.

As I got older the train whistle stopped, all though in my college years he loved to remind me of it for a laugh.

When I would pass his house in middle and high school we would talk about the weather or the Steelers or what was going on in Shaler for a few moments.

It was always pleasant.

When I went to college I would always go out of my way to talk to him.  Really, to visit him.  Honestly, at points it was to check in on him.

I’d park my car and unload a month of laundry from my trunk and take them to the basement of my parent’s house.  Then I would walk up Braun Street to say hi to Donny, and see what was new.

I always enjoyed our talks.

The tradition went on when I moved away after college, first to Colorado and eventually to Brooklyn.  Seeing Donny on his porch when I came home became more and more important to me.

It was a signal to me that all though everything was changing rapidly there was still something constant.

No matter what was happening in my life I could rest assured that Donny was on his porch, likely with no shirt, looking out at the landscape he had seen since his birth silently pleased.

As time passed I came home less and less.  

 

When I returned to get married I made sure to find time to tell him.  As always he smiled and said “That’s great!”

He was always nice to me.

 

Perhaps because he just saw me as me.  A kid and then guy who went out of his way to say hi and be nice to him.

While he had joked with the children of Braun Street for his entire life I was one in a handful that never got too old to talk to him.  I think we both enjoyed our talks.

There is no doubt that I will always remember Donny Dankmyer.  Just as there is no doubt that I will always view him as a great guy.

 

Donny Dankmyer lived in one house his entire life.  He watched both a street and a community grow from a spattering of houses that had popped up on old farms to a suburb and then to an extension of metropolitan Pittsburgh.  

 

He never appointed himself the Mayor of our street.  He never tried to lead a resistance to the changes being made that erased his family’s history or sullied the landscape he had watched over for a lifetime.  He instead decided to remain a constant.  

 

Constantly an individual.  Constantly present.  Constantly pleasant to those who took a moment out of their day to say hello and shoot the breeze with Donny up the street.

His neighbors who always liked him and in the later years collectively checked in on him, making sure he was ok, will miss him.

Going back to Braun Street knowing that Donny won’t be on his porch waiting for a quick chat is disheartening.  However, the memory of Donny will go on in the hearts and mind of every kid that ever grew up on Braun Street as the nice man who liked to say hi and would waive, or sometimes make train whistle sounds, as you passed.

For some of us he will be remembered as a man who had an effect on our lives, just by sitting there on his porch and being nice.

Just for being Donny from up the street.

May his spirit live on forever in the neighbors who knew him and may they make sure to smile and wave at the children of Braun Street, so they too can have a calming presence in an ever-changing world on some kid who may need it.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Day 2 Draft Predictions

Note: I’m just going to be honest.  I ran out of time today.  I am taking my wife out to dinner tonight and I didn’t have time to finish this.  So it kind of trails off at the end. Apologies.

So the Steelers got their cornerback.  It’s quite likely it wasn’t the one they wanted.  William Jackson III of Houston went off the board with pick 24 to the Bungles and Burns was likely the next on the board.  So now he is a Steeler.

Can we please start calling him Mr. Burns?

While he is a project at least he is a project worth taking on.  It might take a bit, but at this point it doesn’t matter.  They needed a corner for quite sometime.  Unfortunately, the truth is we still need more corners.

Before I get into my day 2 predictions I’d like to reflect on a conversation I had with the one and only Juan Kool the day after the draft a year or two ago.  About what fuels the obsession with the NFL draft.  Perhaps with drafts in general.  It’s really the only event in which all franchises play a role.  It’s the merger between college football and pro football.  It’s an event.  I have always loved the draft.  Even if it means watching the Steelers defy logic at all times.

Day 2 Predictions

The needs are still the same.  The Steelers need more help in their secondary, likely a safety, and they need a DT.  The Burns selection is a signal that this year they are drafting for need.  So I expect the two choices made today to be at these positions.  However there is still the wild card possibility if there is a guy the Steelers are really high on.  I would say that Hunter Henry would be a possibility if he were to fall.  But the Green signing makes that pretty unnecessary.

The name of the day seems to be Jeremy Cash of Duke. He is a safety the Steelers are high on and would fill a major need.  Unfortunately the chances of him still being there in round three are now slim and they may have to reach with their second round pick to get him.  That is if he is still on the board.

Round Two:

I expected the Steelers to go Defensive Tackle in the first and they did not.  Now I expect them to go DT in the second, but again, they may not.  Because Cash may be too tempting.  And if that is the guy they want than they should do it.  Even if it’s a reach.

Franchises are god at certain things.  As good as the Steelers are at selecting wide receivers in later rounds they are equally as bad at selecting defensive backs.  If Cash is an NFL player than get him.  If he is gone go value to make up for the First round reach and pick a DT.  Here is a look at who may be available with pick #58.

Andrew Billings, Baylor

Does Billings drop to pick 58?  If so the Steelers could get value in the second to make up for their slight reach in the first.

Austin Johnson, Penn State

If this pick happens expect all out Yinzer pandemonium.  While Johnson might not be in the top-tier of prospect he is a solid member of tier 2.  He is better than what they have currently, which is nothing.

Jarran Reed, Alabama

While A’Shawn Robinson has grabbed the attention perhaps Reed is the better prospect.  At least he is on par with Robison.  Could be a good selection.

Of course, this could be the draft they go all out on the secondary.

So let’s look at safeties other than Cash.

How about Justin Simmons of Boston College?  Here is a preview of Simmons from the PG:

Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin talked about “hearts and smarts” this week when discussing the failures they’ve had in drafting corners and safeties in recent years. Well, Simmons is smart, tall (6-2) and athletic and could be a perfect fit as a free safety for the Steelers. Simmons’ selection means Mike Mitchell would move to strong safety, but that’s OK. Mitchell is a physical player with the skill set to bounce back and forth between both safety positions.

Well… Let’s get to it.

With the 58th selection of the NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select:

Jeremy Cash, Safety, Duke

Continue reading Pittsburgh Steelers: Day 2 Draft Predictions

Steelers Draft Prediction: First Round

Here we go….

My annual predictions on who the Steelers will select in the NFL Draft/my annual adding to the record that either I don’t know anything about football or the Steelers draft whoever they want no matter their needs.

Yes.  I started my writing career as a football writer.  No.  I am no longer a football writer.

Take that in consideration when you make your comments.

So even though it likely won’t mean anything to those in the Steelers war room, let’s take a look at the Steelers main needs and how they compare to the draft class’ strengths.

Primary need: Cornerback/Safety

Secondary need: Defensive Tackle

It is so obvious that the Steelers need a cornerback that it is unlikely they will draft one.  Hell, be honest, would you be shocked if they took yet another linebacker?

This year could be the year for a cornerback though. (The Steelers last CB taken in the first round was Chad Scott in 1997)  Things seem to align. The Steelers have the 25th selection of the first round, putting them in prime position to get the 3rd or 4th best corner on the board.  Jalen Ramsey is a top 5 pick and Vernon Hargreaves will be gone soon after.

This leaves Mackensie Alexander of Clemson, Eli Apple of Ohio State, William Jackson of Houston, Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech, and Artie Burns of Miami.

Of this group the two that interest me the most are Apple of Ohio State and Burns of Miami.

Apple is a winner.  The Steelers have a penchant for selecting Buckeyes.  He fills a serious need.

Of the cornerbacks my selection would be Apple.

But the Steelers could also go the Defensive Tackle route, and to be honest this may be their best bet.  This is the strongest defensive tackle draft class in some time and with the loss of Steve McLendon, who wasn’t very good anyway, they have a giant hole right in the center of their defense.

The three most likely targets for the steelers will be Andrew Billings of Baylor, Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, and A’Shawn Robinson of Alabama.

Of these three I see Billings as the most likely choice.  All three are 3-4 nose tackles.  All three will likely be solid.  Butler may be a bit of a stretch at a position where there is no reason to reach and Robinson has been trending downward in recent mocks.

Here is a brief bio of Billings from DraftTek:

Billings slots into the void at Nose Tackle left by Steve McLendon’s departure in Free Agency. The Steelers would like a NT who can play some as a one-gap DT in sub-packages to spell Heyward and Tuitt. Billings shows on tape as an explosive penetrator, almost unblockable one-on-one, but he’s of the stature and powerful build to play a 2-gap NT in the base defense. The Steelers did not bring him in for a visit but sent everybody but the groundskeeper to his Pro Day and took him out to dinner to see what he’s about. The Steelers take lots of fliers on late-round defensive linemen like LT Walton, Nick Williams, and Dan McCullers who are Size/Weight/Agility prospects with decidedly mixed results. Here in the first, they can pick up a player with good tape from a power-5 conference who has similarly-unworldly agility for his weight (4.94- 40, 32″ vertical at his Pro Day) without the long odds.

Continue reading Steelers Draft Prediction: First Round

The Pittsburgh Dream Team

Happy Birthday Pittsburgh!  Looking sexy at 200 I must say…

pittsburgh.jpeg

As part of the birthday podcast I am doing the Pittsburgh Dream Team, think 92′ Olympics basketball team made up of non-athletes from Pittsburgh who play other city’s squads in a rock and jock basketball style tournament.

For more in-depth analysis on this team check out the podcast.  Here is the roster announcement, for those who are interested in the roster that we put forward for my imaginary tournament.

Here it is.  The roster, front office and all…

Center: Jeff Goldblum: West Mifflin/Chaos U (Prep to Pro)

goldblum

Standing 6 foot 4 out of Chaos U.  Jeff Goldblum!  Holding down the front court is one of America’s true treasures, repping Pittsburgh in the perfect way, by never mentioning it and just being a cool ass dude.

Power Forward: Dan Cortese: Quaker Valley/UNC

dancortese_l

With the rock and jock format the Pittsburgh Dream Team’s biggest advantage may be having Mr. Rock and Jock himself.  Former backup quarterback at UNC and ageless heart-throb, Dan Cortese is Pittsburgh’s Stamos, and I feel like he could bring down some boards while winking at broads.

Continue reading The Pittsburgh Dream Team

Let’s Tell The Truth About Trump Supporters

So it hit me, like a bolt of “really great, really really great” lightning.  The thing that makes Donald Trump’s campaign strong is that it is fueled by the social outcasts of America, who want to punish the rest of us who are happy and content so that we have to feel their pain.

Each street has houses that may as well have been abandoned.  You never see anyone outside of them.  No cars in the driveway, but the yards aren’t overgrown.  The properties aren’t dilapidated.

Someone has to live there.  Sitting alone in a hidden room, watching Fox News by themselves, scared of the outside world.  Wanting it to go back to the old days when they still were a part of society.  Before they shut themselves off from everything.  Before they gave into the fear.

That person is a Donald Trump supporter, and they want you to pay for not also giving into the fear.

Let’s be honest in a way the happy and content deserve it, a little bit, for not helping their neighbor.  For not inviting them over for tea or a beer.  Now we will pay.  Our children will pay.  Things are about to get real.

The truth is that we area nation on the brink of collapse and Trump is going to push off us the cliff.  Straight into a civil war with no geographical sides, race vs. race, neighbor vs. neighbor.  It is going to be a living hell, and its exactly what the outcasts of America want.

They want to watch their fantasies of the world outside of their houses collapse on live tv.  They want us all to pay for flaunting our happiness as we walk down the street with our families as they view us through the blinds covering a window that faces the street, shuddering from the light.

These are dangerous people.  They have been brainwashed by Fox News.  They likely have deep religious beliefs.  They will make Donald Trump our president.  They will watch the world burn.  They think they will ascend into heaven to meet their maker instead of dying like the rest of us.

They hate us.  Donald Trump supporters hate the content and happy.  They hate the free thinkers.  Most of all, they hate those who do not allow themselves to be governed by fear.

So let’s be honest.  Unless we all vote for another candidate.  Trump becomes the president.  The nation collapses.  The world burns.  We all die, and that is it.  Because that is what happens.

Death is final and the creatures that lurk around America hating everything that moves, they are going to lead us to our demise, and a little bit of it is our fault.  Because we didn’t stop the crazies.

So say hi to weirdos.  Tell those who hate to have a nice day.  Smile as you pass the house you’ve always wondered about.  Maybe they will feel included.  Maybe they will call off the dogs.

It might be the only thing that saves us from a free fall into brutal horrible death.

trump

The New Pod, Some 90’s Nostalgia, and the Fear of a New American Century

A few updates from Chaz Bolte central, the secret headquarters of all things mildly OK tucked in the pines near the quarry lake in Slippery Rock, PA.  Wait….. no, that’s not where it is, don’t look for me there, it’s somewhere else.

Anyway, the new podcast is still working out the bugs.  I recorded an episode and it just wasn’t right.  There were many problems with it, so I didn’t release it.  Most of all I noticed that having only one host makes for boring listening.  So to remedy that scenario I am pleased to announce that I will have a co-host, the one and only Greg Ernzer.

With some new technology on board and with a new direction this thing will be off the ground in no time.  Of course that is also what they said about the space shuttle Challenger.

On Super Bowl sunday I released the first of many essays about the 90’s, what they mean, what life means, and what we as a generation should try to remember about them.  It got a little bit of discussion going on Facebook, but was mostly swallowed up and lost in the media mess that is the Super Bowl.  To be honest I did it on purpose.  I kind of want to limit the discussion on this one, because too much feedback from people I didn’t want feedback from would stop me from moving forward.  I really hate hearing from people who have dumb things to say.  This got some good discussion going so I will continue, and the next essay will likely be up over the weekend.

Tonight is the New Hampshire primaries.  I have completely kept my voice out of the election cycle, all though let’s be honest: this is what I was born to write about.

I am not allowed to write about the things I would like to write about due to the people who pay me to write about the things I am forced to write about .  However without naming names, well I guess I have to name a name, I have to admit the scariest candidate of all to me is Marco Rubio. He is basically the republican Obama.  he seems dangerously inexperienced.  He scares the shit out of me.  His campaign slogan is seriously “A New American Century.”  As in the thinktank piece written in the late 90’s by the neo-con’s who made up the Bush Administration that said the only way conservative goals could be achieved was with a “new Pearl Harbor.”  The cover of the report showed the Twin Towers with a target on it and an airplane flying into the buildings.  It was written before 9/11.  Most of the power players in the period between 9/11 and the march to war in Iraw wrote it.  It’s scary stuff.  Rubio either knowingly or unknowingly is using this as his theme.  I seriously wonder who controls him, because he just seems to be a robot on repeat.

So let’s see what happens tonight in New Hampshire.  Let’s see if his moment in the sun is over.  Because he is some scary sauce in a sea of scary sauces, and I don’t like babies or sauces, I’m not G. Love.