Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nerd compiles list of Jack Bauer kills

By Jeff

The headline makes fun of this individual, but I'm very excited that someone took the time to list every bad guy Jack Bauer killed during eight seasons and a TV movie of "24". The man even gave us short descriptions of how Jack killed the person. My personal favorites being, "Stabbed in chest by a screwdriver thrown by Jack", "Jack killed this terrorist by biting down on his neck and ripping out his jugular" and "Jack killed this soldier with his final stick of dynamite." That last one is great, because you know he must have killed a few people with his other sticks of dynamite (he did).

When all is said and done, the researcher concluded that Jack had a hand in killing 266 people during the eight years "24" was on the air. Including the movie, that's almost 30 people per day, as each season of "24" took place in a single day.

The link is here.

What the show never depicts is all the paperwork Jack, or someone, had to file after all these kills. I know the F.B.I. makes their people file a report for every shot they fire. C.T.U. must have some similar procedure in place considering they are a government-run agency. They must have a whole level of their office dedicated to reports Jack had to file for shooting lots of bullets and killing lots of people.

Bruce Springsteen - Murder Incorporated

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fantasy Football draft results

By Jeff

I've caved. Like so many other blogs and fantasy sports sites, I'm posting a link to a recent fantasy football draft.

The league is a 14-team, Point-Per-Reception league. We also only give one point for sacks. I think that's all you need to know to have some idea as to why we all did what we did.

Blog contributors Mike (Anatomical Snuffbox), Greg (Tool Time) and Joe (99 Problems) were in the draft. My team is Cooler Kings.

You can look at the draft results here.

I'm not going to call out others for good picks or mistakes I think they made. They probably had their reasons for who they picked, and I have no room to make fun when I have been in a fantasy drought for about two years.

I can comment on my own draft, though.

Originally, I planned on having the No. 8 pick, so Frank Gore, Randy Moss and Steven Jackson were all on my radar. But Fun Bags was late to register and our draft order reset, giving me No. 11. I figured all the elite running backs would be gone, and they were, so I went receiver heavy. Looking back, I may have gone with Wes Welker or even Dwayne Bowe before Steve Smith, but I'm not sold on Welker being 100 percent.

My running backs could suck. Matt Forte and Jahvid Best have potential to excel in a PPR league, but they are on bad teams and could leave me screwed. If that does happen, I'll have to trade one of my receivers.

The rest of my draft is boring. I missed out on the top quarterbacks and had to settle for a Matt Ryan-Kyle Orton combo. Looking back, I could have waited and grabbed another running back or receiver. Ryan and Orton are going to put up solid numbers, but they are going to be similar. I got Orton five rounds later. Oh well.

My favorite pick was Bernard Berrian. With Sydney Rice out for at least half the season, Berrian could become Brett Favre's favorite deep threat. The again, Favre tends to pick one guy and focus on him. If that target isn't Berrian, he may settle for another mediocre season.

I ask Greg and Mike to share their strategies and thoughts on their own drafts. Joe was on auto-pick. The rest of you may feel free to make fun of us and tell us how you would do things differently. I encourage you to give Mike a hard time for taking Sidney Rice in the fifth round.

The Beatles - Ticket to Ride

Friday, August 27, 2010

Phenom Pitcher Stephen Strasburg likely to undergo Tommy John surgery

Add Strasburg’s name to the long list of pitchers that have had Tommy John surgery. The Washington Nationals’ number one overall pick in 2009 was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings before being shut down for the season with a torn UCL. Tommy John surgery can be a great thing for some pitchers. It has saved the careers of Mariano Rivera, Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, Rick Ankiel, AJ Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Tim Hudson, CJ Wilson, Francisco Liriano, Billy Wagner, Joakim Soria, Rafael Soriano, Kerry Wood, Carl Pavano, Anibal Sanchez, and of course, Tommy John.

So why is this surgery so frightening to baseball fans? Well, for one thing, it’s being performed way too often. But more importantly, the 10 to 15 percent failure rating for Tommy John surgery mainly occurs in younger pitchers. Most fans fear their favorite pitcher having this surgery because he will be out at least one season and then it will take a couple years more for them to pitch at the level that they did before the surgery. However, there are many prospects that have had this surgery that leave us wondering what they could have accomplished. Additionally, Tommy John surgery has relegated most of those success stories to the bullpen, which in many minds means a failed pitcher to some extent.

So why has this injury become more common today than it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s? During this time it was normal for pitchers like Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal, and Nolan Ryan to rack up 280 to 330 innings pitched every year. The pitchers were able to achieve these high totals because they pitched every fourth day, but very few were slowed down by injuries. Obviously a torn UCL (the injury that requires Tommy John surgery) still happened before the surgery was invented, but they simply called it "blowing out your arm" and it meant that you had to go home and find a real job. But the point is that they were pitching much more often and had much longer outings (there were about six times more complete games per year in the 1960’s and 1970’s than there have been in the 2000’s). Pitch counts really didn’t exist back then. Now fast-forward to the year 2010. Possibly the most hyped pitcher in baseball history has been kept on a strict pitch count since the day he stepped onto the mound for Class AA Harrisburg and he is looking at a surgery that will keep him out of action for 12 to 18 months. It appears that even the most protective approaches to keeping a pitcher healthy can fail. Could it be that the Nationals babied him too much? How durable can an arm be when it is kept on a strict pitch count that restricts the very same activity that he is supposed to be doing to build a stronger arm?

There are two articles that I recommend reading if you are interested in this “pitch count” phenomenon. The first one was written in Sports Illustrated earlier this year about the Rangers’ approach to handling his pitchers without “coddling them” and restricting them to a pitch count. It seems that Nolan Ryan has had a really positive impact on that pitching staff, which has started to strengthen their pitchers’ arms by long tossing much more than most other MLB pitchers. Another excellent read is Tim Kurkjian’s piece last year on the “magic number 100,” which analyzes the history of the pitch count.

One thing is for sure, there is overwhelming evidence that has shown sliders usually cause elbow injuries and curve balls are more known for damaging a pitcher’s shoulder. The stress that these breaking balls cause on a pitcher’s arm just isn’t natural. It is widely regarded to be unsafe to throw a curve ball or slider before the age of 16, although some say 18 is a much safer age to begin throwing these pitches. Another interesting theory on how pitching injuries occur was presented in the hit book Moneyball. Billy Beane claims pitchers that play in college will blow out their arms more frequently throughout their career. His reasoning is pitchers have to throw too many breaking balls because batters can foul off fastballs too easily with aluminum bats.

There is one theory that I have not heard enough about though. It all goes back to the year of the pitcher, 1968. The AL hit .230, the NL hit .243, Bob Gibson set a modern era record with a 1.12 ERA, and Denny McClain became the last pitcher ever to win more than 30 games. Since almost every change in the history of baseball has favored the hitter, this offseason would be no different. The strike zone was cut down and, more importantly, the mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches. In 1999, former Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager, Cam Bonifay, made a great point that lowering the mounds after the 1968 season has created more stress on a pitcher's arm. The Cincinnati Reds’ team doctor had this to say about the subject, “Throwing a baseball is one of the most strenuous things you can do to your body, it's a very unnatural act. Having the mound higher puts the pitcher at an advantage because the ball naturally wants to go down. Now he can do that better with less stress on the shoulder. The lower the mound, the more stress that goes on your back, your shoulder and ultimately your elbow for the same result.”

There are a number of things wrong with baseball right now. The Yankees are spending $216 million, the All Star Game counts for something, Tim McCarver is still calling games on FOX, and Bud Selig is somehow still the Commissioner. But I really think this should be the number one priority. Stars are dropping like flies and it’s hurting the game. When Strasburg hit the Major Leagues, games that he was scheduled to start were immediately selling out wherever he went. I even traveled to Altoona to see him pitch his first AA game and it was absolutely worth it to drive five hours to see a minor league game. Pitchers like Strasburg don’t come along very often and he might never be the same again. Maybe it’s just how he throws the ball and this would have happened regardless, but I think there are many beneficial measures that can be taken by pitching coaches (more long tossing to strengthen the arm) and the Commissioner (raising the mounds to reduce stress on the arm). I really hope the best for Strasburg, but to me his future doesn’t look all that bright. It’s really sad when you think about it. He went from being an untouchable pitcher with the nickname of Jesus to a guy that’s going to be watching baseball from the suites until 2012. Get better Stephen. You were the best thing that has happened to baseball since the home run race in 1998. Well, maybe if you stayed healthy you would have been. We might never know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More thoughts on Pirates finances

By Jeff

The story of Pittsburgh Pirates ownership profiting from a losing baseball team is not going away any time soon. Fans and critics of the team have been making these claims for years, and now there are actual reports that can be used to support them.

Here is an interesting article from SI.com, that blames MLB as a whole for letting the Pirates ownership get away with making money at the expense of putting together a winning baseball team.

One issue I have with the column, though, is the author makes a statement as if it were fact, yet he does support it with statistics. Joe Sheehan writes in the first paragraph, While positioning themselves as the victim of 'the system' and trading away an entire starting lineup, the Pirates have been one of the most profitable teams in MLB, pocketing $29.3 million in 2007 and '08 combined, years in which they cashed revenue-sharing checks for a whopping $69.3 million."

Deadspin.com released financial information from just a handful of teams including the Pirates. How can he say that the Pirates are one of the most profitable teams in MLB when he doesn't provide any numbers from other teams to compare the Pirates' profits to? It could be true that the Pirates were near the top in profits, but no proof was provided in the article.

The Pirates are the punch line of many baseball jokes, and they deserve to be so. The problem I have is when members of the national media make statements like this and act like they know more than they do. It reminds me of a "ESPN First Take" anchor making fun of the Buccos last summer when they were trading away all their veterans. The anchor recited a list of names that included Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche, and finished it by saying "That's a great team". Obviously he never watched a Pirates game in his life or he would have realized the team had all those guys on one roster and they were still well below .500 baseball.

We're all guilty of making such statements. I recall telling a friend I thought the Nationals gave Ryan Zimmerman way too much money considering he was injury prone. For some reason, I thought I heard or read that he got injured a lot. In reality, Zimmerman has played in at least 157 games in every season he's been a regular except for 2008 when he only played 106. But that doesn't excuse individuals, myself included, for making these uneducated proclamations. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in thinking we know everything about sports, we get carried away, rather than admitting we are not familiar with every player and organization in sports.

Sorry, I kinda digressed.

The Police - Walking on the Moon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pirates Profitable with Last Place Teams

The Post-Gazette reported yesterday that the Pirates have had a $34.8 million profit over the last three seasons. Additionally, the Pirates paid out $20.8 million to the team's ownership group in 2008. Approximately half of that covered taxes on profits and the other half was interest on a loan made by the Nuttings to the Pirates. I realize that some of this money was used to pay taxes and reduce debt, but when you combine these two figures the Pirates have actually managed to make $55.6 million in three years with last place teams. Now here’s my first question, should Bob Nutting and the Pirates organization be faulted for running a business well? Would you rather see that they are just scrimping by and spending every dollar they have on the team or does it comfort you to know that they will not have a gun to their head any time soon to unload a player like they did with Aramis Ramirez.

Here’s the next question, what is the motivation for the Pirates to compete if they are making huge profits with a last place team? It’s common sense that trying to win is a much greater financial risk at this point. A reasonable salary range that a Pittsburgh Pirates fan could hope the team would spend is about $70 million. This will not happen next year, but it should happen in the next few years if management has any confidence in their plan.

Another way of thinking about this (and I know this has been said many times before), is you can build a winning team with less than $80 million. Look at the Padres ($38.2 million, 2nd lowest), Rangers ($55.2 million, 5th lowest), and Rays ($72.3 million, 12th lowest). These teams are pretty much locks to be playing this postseason and there is still a month of the season left. It’s obvious that this CAN be done, but the Pirates just don’t seem to be able to have the same results. Now look at the Cubs ($146.6 million, 3rd highest), Mariners ($86.9 million, 14th highest), and Orioles ($81.2 million, 17th highest). All of these teams spend a lot of money and all of them are atrocious. How are these teams able to waste so much money on players that aren’t helping them win games? In fact, that might be a better question. What is worse for baseball, the payroll habits of the Yankees or the Pirates? In a recent poll on ESPN.com, it looks like people feel that they are each pretty bad for the game. This is kind of a hidden poll so it only has 1300 total votes so far, but the Yankees received 52% and the Pirates received 48%. I really think each side is very troubling. The Yankees spend insane amounts of money each year to do their best to put a winning team on the field (they have contributed over 95% of all luxury tax payments since it began in 2003). I’m sure they also look at their bottom line, but it comes second to winning. The Yankees are putting their hard earned money right into Bob Nutting’s bottom line (he doesn't accept a salary so I can't say his pocket), which is not the intention of a luxury tax. On the other hand, how are the Pirates supposed to compete with teams that put up $10 million per year for an average pitcher? The Yankees have signed a few busts to large contracts over the last decade, but take Jason Giambi’s contract for example. If the Pirates signed a player to a 7 year, $120 million deal and he hits like crap, it would set our franchise back ten years.

This is my message to Pirates ownership. You have a marketing strategy this year with the theme of, “Pride. Passion. Pittsburgh Pirates.” This accurately describes what the Pirates once were. From Honus Wagner to Roberto Clemente to Willie Stargell to Barry Bonds, some of the greatest players in MLB history have worn a Pittsburgh Pirates jersey. That was then and this is now. Is anyone in Pittsburgh proud to be a Pirates fan right now? I know I’m not. The Pittsburgh Pirates have an amazing 123 year history. They have accomplished many things that few other teams have. But for the last 18 years (14.6% of their history) they have been an embarrassment. Put a winning team on the field or sell the team. It’s that simple. The people of Pittsburgh deserve a team that we can be proud of as fans. Respect the game of baseball and stop running a fireworks and bobbleheads business.

DVE Morning Show - Hey Pittsburgh Pirates

Monday, August 23, 2010

SDEE Field Trip – MLS GAME

By Joe Ryan

This past weekend some friends and I attended the Columbus Crew vs. Colorado Rapids at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The following is a recount of the day’s events for you; the SDEE reader.

The Drive
Six of us piled into the Toyota Highlander, braced for what we knew would be slightly less than comfortable three hours of interstate driving. There was a mandatory stop at Sheetz to buy gas and snacks. We discussed the theory that Jim Davis (Garfield artist/author) is actually a miserably pessimistic, human-race-despising, gloommonger. This is evident by covering up the word bubbles and reading the comic backwards. It can be done with most comics, try it out sometime. Discussion shifted from new phones and old TV shows. At least we had the foresight to plan a good lunch.

Lunch at City BBQ
Having spent much time in Columbus during my college days, I knew exactly where to take the guys for lunch. City Barbeque is a regional chain that serves authentic barbeque of various genres (Texas, Memphis, Carolina, etc). Resident foodies, Marc and Chris, were impressed with their selections. We enjoyed brisket, pork sausage, pulled pork with mustard sauce, green beans, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, and Sean’s favorite; cornbread. If you’re traveling through Columbus, make sure to hit up a City BBQ.

When you can decide, go with the sampler. Right, Matt?

One last thing; one of the pleasant Latina workers sent her manager over to ask if Josh played for the Crew. I mean, two of us were wearing jerseys, and he did have his hair pulled back in one of those silly rubber band thingys…We decided to go with it. I caught her trying to sneak a quick photo of him/us and offered to take one for her. I just hope she’s not heartbroken when she realizes Josh peddles for Aflac, and hasn’t played competitive soccer for 10 years. Nice folks from the Gahanna City BBQ, if you’re reading, please send that photo.

Time to Kill
With the skies still gray and two or so hours to kill we had to make a decision. What to do? What to doooooo? Walking around campus was out (rainy and class isn’t even in session). The mall was out (didn’t really need anything, didn’t want to feel like a mallrat). So when you’re in a new city, the best place to kill some time is always a local watering hole. And I knew just the place; Bier Stube on High Street near OSU campus.

Chris, nervous. Bartender, shape-shifting.

Understandably, the group was a little apprehensive when I said, “Slow down, turn right down this alley.” The place is archetypal dive bar with sports on the TVs, cheap drinks, and an amazing juke box. As there are no windows in the entire place, Bier Stube is one of those places where it’s kinda hard to tell if it’s open. As luck would have it, it was. We met the bartender, Jen, and she was more than happy to pour a few pitchers for us while she opened the joint. She teased us about “rolling six-deep on Saturday afternoon”. Whatev, Jen. We had the whole place to ourselves for about 20 minutes before some other thirsty Columbusians joined us. Several AmberBach and Bud Heavy pitchers later, it was time to scoot. Kick Off was approaching, where had the time gone?

ahh, that's where.

After some haggling with a convenience store clerk, missing our exit, and parking, it was time to tailgate! Josh and I headed over to the Crew Supporters Union tailgate to purchase the tickets we had reserved in the raucous portion of the stadium. The MLS first timers were impressed with the amount of people in the parking lot and their enthusiasm. The fans were all very friendly. There is a whole “this isn’t mainstream but it’s still awesome” camaraderie among those gathered to eat, drink, and watch soccer. We headed to what looks like a mini Heinz Field.

Strolling towards the gate. Full of Red Stripe and BBQ

The supporters section in Crew Stadium is called the Nordecke. Pronounced "Nord-eck-eh", it's a German translation of the term "the North End" and pays tribute to Columbus' German heritage. I would estimate 3,500 of the 16,000 fans in attendance are concentrated in the Nordecke. We sang and chanted in both English and Spanish. The chants were simple but catchy, and we started to feel like Europeans or Central Americans. I enjoyed watching the new Crew fans in the group truly embrace the entire atmosphere. Just six minutes in, Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven drew a penalty which was promptly converted by Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Bedlam...Crew lead 1-0

Joe and Matt, our third Crew match.

The Rapids tied the game in stoppage time. A lapse in the back line sent us to half tied at 1-1. The supporters were losing our momentum to be honest. The Rapids were having the better of the possession. Jason Garey capitalized on an errant pass and blasted a shot past the Colorado 'keeper to give the Crew a 2-1 lead. The skies opened back up, the rain turned the crowd giddy. Nobody scurried for cover. The chants ramped back up and the songs got louder. The beer, after all, never stopped flowing.

The rain came, and no one left.

Super-sub Steven Lenhart came on in the 77th minute, and took only 3 minutes to tally the third Crew goal of the match. He hammered home a Chad Marshall header which was, of course, all started by a service from the diminutive Argentine, Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Soaked but delirious our taunts rained down on the visitors; "You Came a Long Way Just to Lose" sung to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and when victory was eminent and we were 2 minutes into injury time, "One More Whistle (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)".

3 points to the home side. Victory made it all worth the effort.

All credit and thanks to Matt for soldiering through a long drive home. I crashed from a drunken exhaustion, sleeping for the final two hours.

We've already discussed a trip back to Crew Stadium, probably for a playoff game. I'll admit, it's not the English Premier League or the German Bundesliga, but MLS isn't a bunch of jokes either. The fans make the atmosphere that will bring in more fans. The players aren't spoiled superstars, they're trying to make it in the competitive world of professional football. Make it out to an MLS game if you've never been. Oh, and stand with the supporters group.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blinkerton tour in the works?

By Jeff

Weezer fans are a unique bunch. They are similar to Pittsburgh sports fans in that they love the band, but are always tearing them down.

In Weezer's case, fans constantly harp on the fact they have not replicated the greatness on their first two albums; the self-titled debut album commonly known as "The Blue Album" and Pinkerton, respectively. It's true that their other five albums are not on the same level as the first two, but it's unfair for people to think they will ever be able to capture the same sounds and feel of that album.

They're grown men who are happily married and have kids. They aren't going to be writing songs about how they are struggling with their personal lives. That would be more of a lie and sell out their their most recent recordings.

With all that being said, MTV is reporting that the band is contemplating a Blinkerton tour. Weezer would play two nights in each city, one show they would play the entire "The Blue Album" and the next night they would play all of Pinkerton.

No matter how you feel about Weezer today, this would a most excellent set of shows that I would not want to miss.

Weezer - El Scorcho

Pittsburgh establishes Arena Football League team, give it lame name

By Jeff

With the new Consol Energy Arena comes a new Arena Football League team for the city Pittsburgh. The team will be called the Power, which to me is a sin in professional sports.

The city deserves better. Professional sports teams should end in an "s" unless they are the White Sox or Red Sox. Don't ask me why I'm so passionate about this, but I am.

The Power sounds like a rejected WNBA team. Heads are going to roll if they start playing "I've Got the Power" during home games.

I haven't read anything stating that the ownership team of Matt Shaner and Lynn Swann picked the named because the team will be playing in the Consol Energy Arena, but I'm sure it was their inspiration. Actually, I don't care how they came up with the name. It's lame.

The people who came up with the Pittsburgh Pipers are probably shaking their heads somewhere. Rumors were spreading on the radio yesterday that they would be called the River Wizards. That name sucks, and I was really hoping it wasn't true when I heard the reports. Now I'd take it in a heartbeat over Power.

What do you think a better name would be for the Power? Off the top of my head I came up with Miners, One & Dones, Piranhas (in tribute to this story) and Admirals. They're not great, but they're better.

The Presidents of the United States of America - Video Killed the Radio Star

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pirates sign 16-year-old pitcher

By Jeff

In another un-Pirates like move, the Buccos signed 16-year-old pitcher Luis Heredia from Mexico. The deal is worth $2.6 million, but Heredia will only see about $520,000 of that. The rest goes to the Mexican team that owns his rights.
Will he make it
to PNC Park?

The full story can be read here.

The signing is encouraging. Combined with recent drafts, it appears as though this management team is moving in the right direction for the first time in more than a decade. Pirates general managers of the past would not have signed this kid, who is already hitting around 93 on the radar gun, because of the money involved.

The work is nowhere near finished, though. Last offseason the Cincinnati Reds guaranteed more than $16 million for the services of Aroldis Chapman, and teams like the Boston Red Sox spend millions every year on international players. The Pirates are behind in the game. They must continue this recent trend and keep spending in the draft and overseas/across the border.

Once a solid core is developed, they then have to spend the money on good and established players if they hope to build a playoff team. That is the only way to bring winning baseball back Pittsburgh and Pirates fans to PNC Park every night.

AC/DC - Money Talks

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Obligatory Dixon vs. Leftwich post

By Jeff

Sports fans only care about two things right now. One is how sweet the Consol Energy Arena is (I might be the only Pittsburgh blogger not invited to tour the building or eat the food). The second is who will be starting the first four weeks of the NFL season for the Steelers.

The players competing are Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. The first preseason game saw Dixon light up the Detroit Lions' backups, while Leftwich couldn't get the first-team offense moving. In Leftwich's defense, Rashard Mendenhall killed a drive that looked promising with a fumble.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said months before training camp that the job was Leftwich's, with Dixon backing him up. The Steelers traded a draft pick to the Tampa Bay Bucs for Leftwich's services because he played in the system in 2008. He is a former first-round pick and had a decent, but injury plagued career in Jacksonville.

Dixon has all of one NFL start, which he lost.

On paper, it makes sense for Tomlin to want Leftwich to be the man in Ben Roethlisberger's absence. But as Lee Flowers taught us, paper (champions) don't mean squat in the NFL (Excuse the horrible reference, I just really wanted a Lee Flowers shout out somewhere in this blog). And despite it was a preseason game, Dixon's performance cannot be ignored.

So let's weigh the pros and cons of each player.

A preview of Week 2?
The Steelers offensive line the past few seasons has more resembled the paper doors contestants ran through at the end of The Gauntlet on "American Gladiators" (chalk up obscure reference No. 2!), than it has a wall. Roethlisberger shoulders his fair share of the blame for all the sacks he's taken in that span, but it's widely known throughout the league that the Steelers line wasn't exactly helping him. I bring this up because Leftwich is one of the slowest quarterbacks in the league. He can't escape rushers and buy himself time like Roethlisberger does on a weekly basis. If the line doesn't improve, the Steelers will be carrying Leftwich off the field.

If Leftwich does have time, he is a serviceable quarterback. He has a cannon and gets the ball where it needs to go very quickly. That big arm also allows him to take advantage of the speedy Mike Wallace and rookie receivers on deep balls.

Dixon is basically the complete opposite of Leftwich. He is very quick and can make plays with his feet. He has little NFL experience and is thought to have an weak arm. In his one start, which many Steelers fan thought was very impressive, Dixon was predictably inconsistent. The first half against Baltimore was very good. I think he was something like 8 for 10 with a touchdown pass and no turnovers. The second half was another story. He was 4 for 16 and threw the interception that led to the Ravens' game-winning field goal. He did scamper for a 24-yard touchdown, though, showing his potential to be a threat to run or pass.

And soccer players
are considered gay?
I think Steelers fan overrate Dixon's performance in this game. It was by no means terrible, especially when you consider he didn't know he was starting until the day before, but it wasn't all that good either.

So who starts Week 1? To me, we have to see what happens in the next two preseasons games. The team and fans can't overreact to the first preseason game of the year. While I think Dixon deserves a longer look with the first team from the coaching staff, I'm not ready to declare him the better choice for Week 1.

Of course, these players are not just playing for the right to start Weeks 1 through 4. They are also playing for the right to be the guy fans will be screaming for when Ben has a bad week later in the year. It's kind of a Pittsburgh tradition. Forget all the great games your starter has played and just focus on the few bombs he drops. I Guarantee the local radio shows will be flooded with callers begging to put Leftwich or Dixon in late in the season after Ben has a two-interception game.

BoDeans - Closer to Free

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taillon and Allie signings are step in right direction

By Jeff

Continuing with their recent trend of spending money during the draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates proved doubters wrong when they signed their first- and second-round draft picks Monday.
Apparently Taillon pitches
for Mexico

Both players, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, are high school players who will skip college to enter the Pirates organization. They both will also be very rich individuals. Taillon, the first-round pick, received $6.5 million and Allie received $2.25 million. The two deals brought the tab for the Pirates' 2010 draft to more than $12 million and more than $30 million over the past three seasons.

Spending money in the draft is new to the Pirates. For years fans regretted the high draft selections the team received because management always seemed to select the guys who wouldn't demand much money. The team was basically telling its supporters that they cared more about saving money than getting the best player available. Not what you want from your hometown team.

By signing Taillon and Allie, the Pirates ownership is making progress in in showing fans that they actually care about the product on the field. Three years of spending during the draft doesn't make up for the previous seasons of penny-pinching, though. It also is just a step in the right direction. Now the Pirates need to sign free agents that can actually help the team move forward, not just to fill the roster.

When did not bending your hat
become the cool look?
Of course, signing these players means little if they turn into busts. Multiple posts on this blog have pointed out the Pirates have failed in developing top of the rotation starting pitchers. Fortunately, these young men were highly regarded by many Major League Baseball organizations. The Pirates scouts saw what everyone else did, and were not reaching as they have been known to do.

The only problem with this year's draft, on paper at least, is that fans won't know if this was truly a success for at least two years, probably three. What will keep fans interested for the next two to three seasons? The young lineup has promise, but the rotation is crap and has little to be excited for in the near future. Can fans remain patient as Taillon and Allie make their way through the minors?

I hope the answer to that second question is yes. After 18 years of disappointment and embarrassment, what's two more?

Guided by Voices - Hold on Hope

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where Are They Now? A Tribute to the Lloyd McClendon Era (Part IV)

2004 Pittsburgh Pirates

By Marks and Lil Marks

The Pirates didn’t exactly get gems in the Aramis Ramirez trade (strikeout king Jose Hernandez, some guy named Matt Brubeck that doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, and Bobby “I’m a switch hitter but that’s all I bring to the table” Hill), but they made out like bandits in the Brian Giles trade. They asked for Xavier Nady, but the Padres insisted on shipping the Buccos some Canuck named Jason Bay and a struggling pitcher named Oliver Perez. The Aramis Ramirez debacle wasn’t exactly forgotten, but at least the Pirates fans finally had an ace. Oliver Perez was absolutely dominating batters in 2004. He finished the season with 239 strikeouts, a 2.98 ERA, and a league leading 11 SO/9. You have to understand that Pittsburgh fans had NEVER seen this type of pitching from their team in its entire history. It brought people to the ballpark that wanted to see this wily Mexican get in his “praying mantis stance” before he made another batter his victim.

"Oops, I burnt them again!"

Not only was Ollie torching batters, but Jason Bay was making Pirates fans say, "Brian Giles who?" Bay finished the season with a .282 AVG, 26 HR, 82 RBI, and the Rookie of the Year Award (first ever by a Pittsburgh Pirate). It looked like the Pirates finally had a few pieces to build on. How many times have I thought that in the last 18 years?

Jose Mesa: How could you not love Joe Table? The main story of Mesa’s career after he left the Pirates was his feud with Omar Vizquel, who claimed that Mesa was to blame for the Indians not winning the World Series in 1997. Mesa claimed that he would bean Vizquel every chance that he had, "Even my little boy told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him." Mesa stuck to his promise and plunked Vizquel twice after these comments were made.

Which one of these pictures features a SDEE blogger and which one is on Joe Table’s Wikipedia page? Notice the many similarities in these pictures: same team, ballpark, sunglasses, and the left arm wrapped around the shoulder.

Ian Snell: His Pirates career has been the definition of inconsistent. In AAA he threw a no hitter in May 2005 and he earned his first win as a major leaguer against Roger Clemens pitching 8 innings and allowing only 3 singles. Snell pitched pretty well for the Pirates in 2006 and 2007, but in 2008 and 2009 he really struggled and actually requested to be sent down to AAA in June 2009, where he struck out 17 of the 21 batters he faced in his first start after being “demoted.” The front office didn’t want to keep dealing with this AAA First Ballot Hall of Famer/Major League failure anymore and started shopping him around. A month later the Pirates traded Snell and Jack Wilson to Seattle for Jeff Clement and Ronny Cedeno. Every Pirates fan will miss Jack to some extent, but they did us a favor by taking Snell off of our hands. He finished the 2009 season fairly well, but the Mariners designated him for assignment on June 15, 2010 after going 0-5 with a career high 6.41 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, and 1.94 HR/9 in 2010.

John Van Benschoten
: First round pick? Yep. Arm surgeries? You better believe it. This is a player that many look to when citing examples of how bad the Pirates’ management really is. Van Benschoten led all of Division I with 31 homers his junior year at Kent State, so naturally the Pirates chose to convert him to a pitcher. Van Bullshtein, as he is often referred to by Pittsburghers that are too lazy to learn his name, suffered three shoulder surgeries within two years (2004 – 2006). In 2008 Van Benschoten pitched his final game with the Pittsburgh Pirates and he currently has the MLB record for highest career ERA with a minimum of 75 innings pitched (9.20). At least he’ll go down in the record books for something. Van Benschoten pitched for the White Sox AAA squad in 2009, where he continued to suck. The Yankees signed JVB to a minor league contract for the 2010 season. He started out in AA and after three days was promoted to AAA. Van Benschoten seemed to be cruising along and eying up a World Series ring as Mariano’s setup man when all of a sudden he limped off the field during an outing in early May. He missed two months with the injury and joined the Yankees’ rookie level team for nine days before being promoted to their high A team, where he has been pitching for a month.

Sean Burnett: Drafted by the Buccos in 2000, Burnett was a highly touted prospect. Known for an above average change-up and great control, Burnett was named the Pirates minor league pitcher of the year in 2001 and 2002. He was also named Baseball America’s #1 prospect in the Carolina League during this time. In 2003 Burnett had a 14-6 record with AA Altoona, then made his way to AAA Nashville in 2004, and shortly made his major league debut in May 2004. Burnett finished 2004 with a 5-5 record with a 5.02 ERA. He missed the entire 2005 season due to Tommy John’s surgery, then remained in the minor leagues with AAA Indianapolis in 2006 and 2007. In May 2008 Burnett made his first MLB start since August 2004 against the San Francisco Giants. His outing was unimpressive, two earned runs over 2/3 of an inning. The rest of his time spent with the Pirates was in the bullpen until he was traded to Washington along with Nyjer “I’ve led the league in caught stealing two years in a row but I’m still considered a good base stealer” Morgan for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. Burnett is currently pitching out of the bullpen with a career best 2.88 ERA.

Maybe if you turned your hat straight you could find the strike zone.

Mike Johnston: Fun fact: Mike is only the second player in the history of baseball to play with Tourette syndrome. That’s all I got.

José Castillo: Following the 2003 season, Castillo made the rare jump from AA to the major leagues. This was mainly attributed to his defensive capabilities. Being a former shortstop, he had better range and arm strength than most second baseman. During Castillo’s four years as a Bucco he never put together a solid season. His inability to be patient at the plate combined with his habit of swinging for the fences prevented him from ever hitting for a high average. Castillo was released by the Pirates after the 2007 season, in which he was primarily used as a pinch hitter after losing his starting job at second base to Freddy Sanchez. José signed with the Florida Marlins before the 2008 season but was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants before the season started. Castillo began the season as the Giants starting third baseman, but was designated for assignment in August. The Houston Astros picked up Castillo a week later and he played 15 games for them. Castillo signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals before the 2009 season, but he did not make the team. With his major league career behind him just as he turned 28 years old, José headed to Taiwan to play for the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions. Really? Is there a Slurpee machine in the dugout? At some time during the season, Castillo headed to Venezuela to play for the Caracas Lions, a team he often played for during the winter early in his career. Castillo had an interesting encounter with armed men on motorcycles in Venezuela. Surprisingly Mondesi’s house was the ONLY website IN THE WORLD that cared about this. Castillo is currently moving his world tour of mediocrity to Japan, where he plays for the Yokohama BayStars.

Slowpoke Rodriguez as Jose Castillo in Pittsburgh Pirates, The Movie.

Chris Stynes: The Buccos were somehow able to snatch Chris Stynes from the free agent pool in 2004. I don’t know what the other General Managers were thinking. His stat line that year: 74 G, 162 AB, 16 R, 35 H, 1 HR, 16 RBI, .216 BA, .266 OBP, .296 SLG. Now THAT’S the kind of production I want out of my third baseman. Needless to say, he retired after the 2004 season.

José Bautista: His career started in a very interesting manner when the Pirates left him off their 40 man roster and the Orioles nabbed him in the Rule V Draft. Thank God we signed Chris Stynes instead of giving Joey Bats a chance at third base…vomit. In his rookie year, Bautista became the first player ever to play for five teams in a season, so basically the only thing he learned that year was his way around various airports. He was picked up off waivers by Tampa Bay on June 3, traded to Kansas City on June 28, traded to the New York Mets on July 30, and without playing a game in New York he was traded back to the Pirates. Bautista played for the Pirates from 2004 – 2008 and consistently hit between .230 - .260 with 15 home runs per year. He had a great glove at third, but no one shed a tear when he left. Fast forward to 2010 and he is absolutely raking the ball, leading MLB in home runs with 36 (on pace for 51) and third in RBI with 88 (on pace for 125). Am I pissed that the Pirates gave up on Bautista? Of course I am. But Bautista is a free agent after next year, so it wouldn’t have done anything except give us two more prospects to mess up.

Rubén Mateo: Mateo only played 19 games with the Pirates so it’s easy to forget about him. He was shipped off to Kansas City in July 2004, which marked the end of his major league career. In 2007 Mateo played for Milwaukee’s AA team for 24 games, then joined an Independent League team later in the season called the Newark Bears. He started the 2008 season with a Mexican League AAA team named Vaqueros Laguna and returned to the Newark Bears later that season to join forces with Randall Simon and Bobby Hill. Seeing those three together in an Independent League must have been a real treat. Mateo was last seen playing on a Mexican League team called the Broncos de Reynosa, where he played eight games. I assume they told him to leave the country because his OBP was .236.

Freddy Sanchez: Freddy’s breakthrough year came in 2006 where he received 850,000 write-in votes to make his All-Star debut at PNC Park and won the NL batting title beating out Miguel Cabrera on the last day of the season. In 2007 he made his second All-Star appearance and finished the year batting .300 and a career high 11 home runs. The Pirates signed Sanchez to a two year deal in 2008 with an option for 2010. That year Sanchez batted .271 with 9 home runs. Freddy was selected to his third All-Star Game in 2009 and a few weeks after the mid-summer classic, the Pirates sent Sanchez close to his home in Hollywood to play for the San Francisco Giants for minor league prospect Tim Alderson. Freddy is currently having a subpar season for the Giants hitting .255 to which San Francisco responded by acquiring Mike Fontenot from the Cubs to fill in at second base when needed.

Do you have any more gum?

Daryle Ward: The only player to hit a homerun on the fly into the Allegheny at PNC Park got his start in Pittsburgh by being called up to replace Raul Mondesi in 2004. Ward started off strong by hitting for the cycle (the last Pirate and only father-son pair to do so). Ward signed with the Washington Nationals in 2006 and was traded to the Braves in August. He signed one year deals in 2007 and 2008 with the Cubs to occasionally fill in for Derek Lee and pinch hit. Since 2009 Ward has been playing for various minor league teams and is now batting .295 with 14 HRs and 71 RBIs for the Newark Bears. Do yourself a favor and look at the 2009 Newark Bears roster. For those of you that are not familiar with the Independent League, it is primarily made up of guys that played at Division III schools and never played a day in the minors. There were about 15 former major league players on the 2009 Newark Bears roster!

Ty Wigginton: Wiggy was dealt to the Pirates as a part of the Kris Benson trade. Ty was bad offensively and even worse defensively. In 2005 Wiggy made a case for the Pirates to hang on to him, batting .365 in his final 22 games, but it wasn’t enough and he was released. Ty signed a one year deal with Tampa Bay in 2006 and then signed a three year deal with them after the season. Half way through the 2007 season Wigginton was traded to Houston for Dan Wheeler. Houston allowed Ty to become a free agent after the 2008 season by failing to tender his contract, a move that did not sit well with Astros fans similar to the Pirates decision to non-tender Matt Capps before the 2010 season. At this point Wiggy had three straight 20+ home run seasons and was hitting for average as well. In 2009 Ty signed a two year deal with Baltimore where he has discovered the only perk of playing for a last place team…an easy trip to the All Star Game. He is currently batting .260 with 18 HRs and 60 RBIs.

Fun fact: Wigginton delivered his own son in 2006 when his wife unexpectedly went into labor.

Get Wiggy wit it!

Raúl Mondesí: Known for his 6 years in Los Angeles where he was a fan favorite displaying speed, ‘belly buster’ dives, and a cannon for an arm, Mondesi won ROY in 1994 and two Gold Gloves (1995 and 1997). In 2003 he hit .272 with 24 HR and 71 RBIs with the Yankees and Diamondbacks. Now here’s where the comedy starts and there was even a Pittsburgh sports blog dedicated to the player that escaped the McClatchy/Nutting reign. From Mondesi’s House: Just 26 games after signing with the Pirates, Mondesi told the front office that he was the victim of an extortion plot by former hitting instructor Mario Guerrero and that his family in the Dominican Republic was in danger, claiming that he would have to leave and may never play baseball again. The Pirates allowed Mondesi to return home during the season but quickly grew tired/skeptical of his story and ultimately released him a week later. With his life fully in order, Mondesi signed a contract a mere 10 days later with Anaheim, a deal that was quickly investigated by Major League Baseball due to the questionable circumstances. Shortly after he signed with the Angels, he tore his quad (karma?) and was placed on the DL. He was released by the Angels in July of '04 for not showing up for his rehab therapy.

Mondesi tried to make a comeback with Atlanta in 2005, but hit .211 with 4 HR in 41 games and retired. In Raul’s post-baseball life he has kept pretty busy by stealing power and running for office in the Dominican Republic. His political career (from Wikipedia): In May 2006, running on the ballot of the Dominican Liberation Party, he was elected to a seat in the Dominican Republic's Chamber of Deputies, representing his home province San Cristóbal. In November 2007, he switched sides aligning himself with the Dominican Revolutionary Party after discrepancies with the government over humanitarian aid to be given to his province after Tropical Storm Noel. Newly elected mayor for his hometown with the Dominican Revolutionary Party on May 16, 2010 for 6 years.

"Hit and run, eh? Looks like I'm taking this pitch."

Hope you guys are all still enjoying the series. The last installment will be Part V.

Beck – Loser