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.

 

 

 

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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

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

Pitt is not it, the Military Bowl is not legit.

I sat in my Aunt Deb’s living room watching the Military Bowl with two college kids from Penn State who were young enough to not know that there was a time when Pitt was in fact it.  I am barely old enough to know, and most of what I know comes from youtube videos and legends.  I remember Alex Van Pelt as a child, but I was too young to really get it.  The Walt Harris run to Dave Wanstache era I remember vividly, well some of the games I remember vividly, and others I remember a general blur.  I cross-eyed view of a moment in time that could have met something if they could have won one more game a year.  I time when you were more afraid of Toledo than WVU, because those weren’t the types of games we lost.  What we have now is some weird hybrid of tradition and the truth.  Pitt is no longer it, and in the ACC they seem out of place, and out of their element.  Gone is the days of the Big East.

The Military Bowl saw Pitt face Navy, at Navy.  Yes, you read that right.  Our 9 wins this season got us a road game at a military academy, while th midshipmen were on Christmas break.  So not a ton of people were there, they couldn’t fill a smaller stadium.  Pitt ran the opening kickoff back and it was downhill from there.  They seemed unprepared for the Triple Option at worst, and at best they simply couldn’t stop it.  As always Pitt was out of their element, playing a gimmick team in a cold weather bowl game that happens to be at the opponents stadium instead of neutral ground.  They represented the ACC although they are past the mountains, against an AAC team that has been independent until recent history.  There were no traditions at all.  Pitt was once a warm up team that Pitt would roll over before starting their Big East schedule.  Now they were thoroughly outmatched, all though it was the most successful team the school had in the better part of a decade.

Tyler Boyd played his last game as a Panther and went out in a fashion that reminded me of Jonathan Baldwin.  I hope Boyd succeeds in the NFL, in spite of his status as an elite prospect Baldwin did not.  Maybe Boyd will, but I’ve seen it before.  There is something small missing.  It’s all or nothing with that kid.  Just as it is with Pitt.

At least we are going in the correct direction, that is until Pat Narduzzi is gone and we have to rebuild.  Once again used as a stepping stone, by men who are going to fail at the next level, but have earned their way onto the center stage.  Pitt isn’t even off-broadway in comparison to a show like Michigan State’s.  It’s outer Newark.  Near the port, before the toll road.  In a renovated gas station owned by a wall street guy turned drug addict turned reformed drug addict, turned Newark resident.  Pitt is a childs play in that guys backyard compared to the elite schools.  It wasn’t always that way, but now it is.  It’s fairly plain to see, and it is extremely disappointing.

They do not have a campus stadium, they do not have a rabid fan base.  The casual fan has tuned out on Pitt football.  It’s not what it used to be, to the point it’s not worth noticing.  Pitt is on that Cincinnati, University of South Florida, University of Memphis level of non-relelvent, where once in a blue moon they will get mentioned by some sports pundit as a sleeper who months later admit he was wrong on that one, and Pitt isn’t the kind of team that comes through in the clutch.

I miss the good old days of Rod Rutherford and Larry Fitzgerald,  Tyler Palko and Darelle Revis, Shady McCoy and H.B. Blades.  It’s all gone now, and that is OK.  Because life should not revolve around Pitt football, and the Pittsburgh sports fan is better off having one less distraction from the teams worth being a fanatic of.

1960 World Series Game 7: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees

It’s the moment I grew up hearing about, but never saw, other than the last little clip of Yogi Berra watching Maz’s homer going over the left field wall.  MLB network showed the Kinescope of the broadcast that was made for Bing Crosby, part owner of the Pirates, a few years ago and I do not have the rights to show it, but let’s be honest, absolutely no money is made off of this website, it is only lost, so lets just play it cool and sit back and watch Game Seven of the 1960 World Series.

 

The Moment I Realized That Gerrit Cole Is A Bad Mother Fucker

Which one is it?
It’s the one that says bad motherfucker…

I was at work in Brooklyn watching the Pirates game on a laptop via MLB.TV.  Carlos Gomez hit a long ball to center off of Gerrit Cole and flipped his bat.  He ran slowly at first like he had hit a home run in that obnoxious way that he does.  As he came into third Cole has some words for him and then Gomez flips his shit and Gerrit Cole turns into Jules Winnfield’s wallet.

cole

It was the moment I realized that Gerrit Cole was a bad motherfucker.  If you’ve never seen it, or you would like to view it again here it is in all of its glory.

The look on Cole’s face says it all. He’s not taking it from that sack of shit Carlos Gomez.  He’s a bad, bad man.

With Cole it’s not just the arsenal of pitches, or his complete command, its something much more than that.  Gerrit Cole is a bad mother fucker at a time when baseball needs as many as it can get.

Pitt vs. #18 Ohio State — 1988

It is crazy to think that for a majority of the history of college football Pitt vs. Ohio State was a legit rivalry.  These two teams are in such different places in the college football landscape these days with Ohio State being a destination for the elite coaches of the football world if and when a job opens up and Pitt being a stepping stone to schools once tiers beneath them.  Even in the 90’s when these two teams still played it was one-sided and awful if you were rooting for the Panthers.

So let us take a look back to a simpler time, the late 80’s, when Pitt was still respected and their games against the Buckeyes both still existed and were competitive.  From the New York Times, who has taken a similar route as Pitt in terms of reputation since 1988 if I may say so myself, like that little zinger fellow snobby sports fans?

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 17— Adam Walker ran for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns, scoring twice in the first six minutes of play following Ohio State mistakes, as Pitt routed the Buckeyes, 42-10, tonight.

Walker, a junior who played sparingly last season behind the tailback Craig (Ironhead) Heyward, scored on runs of 4, 23 and 2 yards as Pitt raced to a 28-3 halftime lead.

The quarterback Darnell Dickerson, constantly beating Ohio State’s defense to the outside on option plays, scored twice and rushed for 88 yards on 11 carries as the Panthers beat Ohio State for the first time since 1952. The Buckeyes had won seven of the last eight meetings, including three in a row.

The 42 points were the most against Ohio State since the Buckeyes’ 49-42 victory over Illinois in 1980. The loss was Ohio State’s worst since a 40-7 defeat to Washington in 1986.

Some Ohio State players said before the game that they had wanted to get even with Pitt (2-0) for routing its former coach, Earle Bruce, and his Northern Iowa team, 59-10, two weeks ago.

Ohio State’s Carlos Snow returned a kickoff 100 yards, the third-longest kick return touchdown in Ohio State history. Penn State 23, Boston College 20

 

The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Steelers Fans Reaction to the Mike Vick Signing

So Mike Vick now plays for the Steelers and everyone has an opinion, and they are all entitled to that opinion, an equal amount as everyone is to have an opinion on said opinion…and so on, and so on.  This is a subject in which I immediately have this feeling maybe I shouldn’t touch on, so I will make it short and sweet.

Michael-Vick1My first reaction was that it was a bad signing due to the distraction it would bring.  People are going to be upset, and they really, really are.  The few points I’ll leave out but feel as if should be mentioned are that, as noted by Marky Billson of Athlon Sports, that this is not the first time the Steelers have had a player of questionable character on the team.  In fact take a look at our starting quarterback and the questionable things he has done in his past.

There is also something to be said about the argument that Mike Vick isn’t really all that good anymore, which is likely true, but I don’t think many people actually want to see him play, because that would mean Ben was hurt. Backup quarterbacks are backups for a reason.

So let’s make this little article about Steelers fans reaction to the signing and how not surprisingly myopic it was.

First of all… I do not condone Mike Vick’s actions.  I think they were way past the grey, wavy, spotted line of moral and immoral, but let’s be honest he went to jail, he did his time, and his life has been completely ruined.  As far as we know he’s never done it again, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to forgive him. To each their own.  They can do as they please.

In trying to piece together my thoughts I had a moment of clarity in a Facebook post from future DECA contributor CJ Johnson who simply wrote:

I’m going to say this and leave it alone.

I hope, one day, someone is able to grant you forgiveness and the opportunity to redeem yourself. No matter what you’ve done. No matter whom you’ve hurt, I hope you’re granted that gift.

‪#‎thatsamightyfinelookinhighhorse‬

People of Pittsburgh, I’m sure that you are all perfect human beings unlike me.  I’m sure you’ve never made a regrettable decision and you never will.  Personally I’ve made a few mistakes a long the way, including one major mistake that I won’t bring up but you may be familiar with if you know me well enough.  What I learned from that mistake is that you have to apologize and admit that you were wrong, not only for your action but for the pain and embarrassment it caused others, and if you are lucky you will be forgiven.

Perhaps not by everyone, but by the people closest to you.  You take that forgiveness and use the positive energy to ensure you never repeat your actions.  It makes you think differently about life.  It makes you realize that you don’t need to be the one pointing out others flaws.  We are all flawed individuals, its OK.  You just got to try to be a little better each day.

If you are in the camp of you will never forgive Mike Vick that is fine. That is your right to be that way.  Dog fighting is deplorable.  It is truly sickening.

If you are in the camp of you are never going to forgive the Steelers for signing Vick I per-forgive you for your hypocrisy.  It is all right.  We all get worked up from time to time and say things we don’t mean.  Some of the worst things I have ever said have been to the people I love the most.  Thank gosh for forgiveness, eh?  Or I would be quite a lonely gentleman.

In general football players are kind of immoral. The NFL is immoral.  Until earlier this year it was a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry that enjoyed tax exempt status.  You want to get on your high horse?  Get angry about that.  Seriously, just think about that for a brief moment.

What about the children?  Well…. if you’re a parent who allows your child to make professional athletes role models than that is on you, not the athlete, when your child becomes disappointed in their actions.  Believe me, I was Mark McGwire’s biggest fan as a young one. Lesson learned.

I’m not saying you have to forgive Mike Vick, I’m not saying you have to like him.  However you did forgive Big Ben, and what is the difference between the two? Hmmm….

I just hope when you make your big mistake in life you get to experience the forgiveness Mike Vick never will, because it will make you a stronger person. And really life is too short to get worked up about the backup quarterback of your favorite football team.